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Bible: What Does Exodus 1-2 Teach Us About Persecution, Infanticide, and Moses?

Updated on September 9, 2016


Foreigners Who Ruled the Israelites

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Pharaoh's Plan

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Pharaoh: Edict to Murder Babies in Egypt

Exodus 1

After recording Joseph’s death (cf. Gen. 50:26), Moses continues (“Now”) his report by reviewing both the names and the number of people who accompanied Israel to Egypt (vv. 1-5).

He mentions the passing of Joseph and his generation (v. 6), as well as the nation’s exceeding fruitfulness in Egypt (v. 7).

This great population explosion causes the Hyksos king to fear their antagonism if war should break out with neighboring enemies (vv. 8-10).

[Gleason Archer provides reasonable evidence, showing that this king “who did not know Joseph” was not Egyptian, but Hyksos—Asiatic invaders who infiltrated northern Egypt and eventually ruled the land (Old Testament Introduction, 15)].

To keep Israel in line, he enslaves them (v. 11a).

[The Hebrews built these supply/storage cities for a Pharaoh (v. 11b).

Did the Hyksos call their king “Pharaoh,” or have the Egyptians overtaken the Hyksos and installed the next Pharaoh by this time?]

Oddly, by afflicting Israel Egypt causes God’s people to multiply (v. 12).

[How and why did this happen? Why do believers multiply, though persecuted?]

Because of this growth, these masters make Israel’s life harsh, forcing the people to make bricks (vv. 13-14).

To avoid any future uprisings, the king commands Hebrew midwives to kill male babies (vv. 15-16).

Fearing God more than man, they nevertheless disobey Pharaoh, offering him a rational excuse (for all Pharaoh knew) for not carrying out his order [vv. 17-19; cf. Acts 4:19 for another example of civil disobedience].

[Apparently, the midwives were supposed to murder the babies before the mothers could recover from giving birth].

God rewards the midwives by providing households for them; meanwhile, Israel continues to increase (vv. 20-21).

[The reference section explains “provided households” as “gave them families.”

Does this mean that they became pregnant, that they found husbands, or that they found private employment?]

Foiled by the midwives, Pharaoh commands every Egyptian to murder Israel’s male children (v. 22).

[Did he seriously think that his own people would commit these atrocities?

How could Pharaoh hope to enforce this decree?]

The Rescue of Moses from the Nile


The Early Life of Moses

Exodus 2

Levites Jochebed and Amram, Moses’ parents, show that they did fear the king’s command, for they hide their infant son for three months (vv. 1-2; cf. Heb. 11-23-24).

After that time, Jochebed needs to send little Moses “up the River” in an ark of bulrushes; Miriam, Moses’ sister, watches to see where the vessel goes and what would happen to her little brother (vv. 3-4).

Noticing the ark floating among the reeds, Pharaoh’s daughter commands a maid to retrieve it (v. 5).

Inside this “crib” she finds the weeping Moses, whom she recognizes as a Hebrew child, yet does not kill (v. 6).

[Even Pharaoh’s daughter does not obey the king’s mad, genocidal edict!]

Sensing her opportunity, young Miriam steps up and asks the princess if she should find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby; Pharaoh’s daughter permits her.

Obviously, Jochebed arrives on the scene, Pharaoh’s daughter permits her to take Moses away, and she receives “federal” wages to nurse her own son! (vv. 7-9).

After she weans Moses, he becomes the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and she names him Moses (“Drawn Out”) because of what she had to do to acquire him (v. 10).

[Jochebed and Amram apparently had no time to give the child a name; not until he became Pharaoh’s daughter did Moses become Moses.]

Moses: Man of Justice


Moses as a Young Adult

The narrative leaps ahead many years to Moses’ young adulthood (v. 11a).

[Perhaps to show a similarity with Moses’ great Antitype, the Lord Jesus, God omits revealing various details from the prophet’s early life].

Two decisions shape the next stage in Moses’ life.

First, he sees an Egyptian mistreating a Hebrew slave, one of his brethren.

Moses’ strong inclination toward justice motivates him to kill the aggressor and bury his body in the desert (vv. 11-12).

[Moses knows his heritage. Does Pharaoh know that Moses is a Hebrew?]

Second, he sees two Hebrews quarreling.Moses’ strong feelings about peacemaking move him to try to mediate between them (v. 13).



Moses in Midian

However, when they reject him as their judge, and reveal that they witnessed (or at least knew about) his murder of the Egyptian, Moses flees from Pharaoh’s wrath into Midian (vv. 14-15).

While resting by a well, Moses comes to the rescue of the seven daughters of the Midianite priest Reuel (Jethro), whom shepherds harass while the women are drawing water for their flock (vv. 16-17).

Seeing his daughters arrive home earlier than normal, their father seeks an explanation (v. 18).

They tell him that an Egyptian saved them and drew their water for them (v. 19).

Not seeing this kind foreigner present, their father scolds his girls for not inviting him in for a meal (v. 20).

Some indeterminate period passes during which time Moses marries Zipporah, Jethro’s daughter, and she bears him Gershom (“Stranger There”) [vv. 21-22].

The final paragraph in this chapter highlights God’s concern for His people Israel as they cry out to Him in their cruel bondage after Pharaoh dies (v. 23).

He hears their groaning (v. 24a); He remembers His covenant (v. 24b); He looks upon them (v. 25a); and He acknowledges them (v. 25b).

[Apparently, the new king is far harsher than was his predecessor].

© 2013 glynch1


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