Home > Bible Journal > February 2nd, Exodus 1-4: Egyptians enslave Hebrews and Moses is born

February 2nd, Exodus 1-4: Egyptians enslave Hebrews and Moses is born

I’ve heard that humans are forgetful people. As we will discover throughout the Bible, we can forget about God even after witnessing some of the greatest miracles in history.

The account of Exodus begins with a reminder of Israel’s genealogy, a review of the twelve tribes of Egypt. Now Joseph and his generation of brothers died, but the Israelites continued to be fruitful and multiply greatly, so that the land was filled with them. Then a new king of Egypt, who did not know about Joseph, saw that the Israelites were becoming too numerous and could revolt, so he enslaved them.

But, even as they enslaved the Israelites, the Israelites actually multiplied even more and spread. Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them bitterly in the fields.

The king of Egypt told the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, to observe Hebrew women giving birth. He commanded them to kill the boys but let the girls live. However, the midwives feared God and let the boys live. When asked about the boys surviving by the king of Egypt, the midwives replied that Hebrew women were vigorous and gave birth before the midwives arrive.

So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased even more in number. Because the midwives feared God, He granted them families of their own. Then Pharaoh commanded his own people to kill the Hebrew boys and let the girls live.

Exodus 2 tells us that a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a healthy child, she hid him for three months. [Ed note: How exactly you hide a crying baby is beyond me.]

But when she could no longer hide him, she made a papyrus basket and coated it with tar and pitch. She placed the child in it and put it among the reeds of the Nile. His sister observed him from a distance.

It so happened that the Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She spotted the basket and sent her slave girl to go get it. She opened it and felt sorry for the Hebrew baby.

Then his sister asked the Pharaoh if she could get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby. Pharaoh’s daughter replied in the affirmative. so the baby’s sister took him back to his mother. When the child grew older, his mother took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, which sounds like the Hebrew for “draw out”, for she drew him out of the water.

Skipping ahead in time, one day an older Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. Glancing all around him, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting, and he inquired why one was hitting his fellow Hebrew. The man asked in reply who had made Moses ruler and judge over the Hebrews. Was Moses going to kill him as he had killed the Egyptian?

Hearing this, Moses became afraid and realized that someone had seen him murder an Egyptian, so he must flee before word reached Pharaoh’s ears. And Pharaoh did indeed hear about it and tried to kill Moses, but Moses had fled to Midian, where he sat down by a well.

Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, who came to draw water for their father’s flock. Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses came to their rescue. The girls returned to Reuel their father and told him that an Egyptian had rescued them. Their father told them to invite him over for something to eat.

Moses agreed to stay with Reuel, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. Zipporah gave birth to a son, who Moses named Gershom, which sounds like Hebrew for “an alien there”, for Moses had become an alien in a foreign land. During that time, the king of Egypt died and the Israelites cried out in the misery of their slavery. God heard their groaning and remembered the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Exodus 3 tells us that Moses was tending to the flock of Jethro his father-in-law when he encountered the famous burning bush. [Ed note: I think of the Charlton Heston version here.]

And so the LORD told Moses that he was going to send him to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. This recalls that old him, “Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt land…Tell old Pharaoh, to let my people go…”

Now we learn the fragile nature of humanity. Moses wanted all kinds of signs. How would he know that the Lord was truly with him?

Exodus 3:13-14 says:
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

The Lord commanded Moses to throw his staff down, and he did and the staff became a snake, which startled Moses. Then the Lord commanded Moses to pick up the snake by its tail, and once again it became a staff. Then the Lord commanded Moses to put his hand inside his cloak, and when Moses did and took it out, it was leprous and white like snow. Then the Lord commanded him to put it back into his cloak, and Moses’s hand was restored.

The Lord told Moses that if they do not believe the first or second sign, then take some water from the Nile and pour it on dry ground. The water would then become blood on the ground.

Towards the end of his conversation with God, Moses pleaded for help on the account of his slow speech and tongue. The LORD reminded Moses that the one who gave man his mouth and sight would help Moses speak and teach him what to say. But Moses for a second time pleaded for the Lord to send someone else to do it.

Exodus 4:14-17 says:
14 Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. 15 You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. 16 He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. 17 But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.”

Questions: Have you ever been surprised to find out that someone saw something you did that you thought no one had seen you do? How much are we like Moses, constantly asking for signs and assurance, only to ask the Lord to send someone else to do what he asked of us?

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