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Four hundred years is a long time for God’s people to be experiencing dark days in Egypt – oppressed and afflicted. The covenant promises must have seemed empty and so far away. Yet God was still at work to prepare the way for divine deliverance and for the fulfilment of everything He had promised to the patriarchs about a land and a multitude of a people for His own possession. God does His best work in the darkest of times – bringing blessing and protection to His people and thwarting Satan’s efforts to fight against God’s purposes.

The Book of Exodus is the continuation of the story began in Genesis. The direct connections are clear and significant. The story lines played out in Exodus will initiate threads you can trace throughout the rest of history – with direct application to our times today. God sees the desperate plight of His people and cares. He is with His people to accomplish His purposes even in the most oppressive circumstances. We should never lose hope or doubt His ability to deliver.

Constable: The central idea [in this pericope] is that God faithfully fulfills His covenant promises in spite of severe and life-threatening opposition. Even Pharaoh, the most powerful man on earth could do nothing to thwart God’s purpose. In fact, God actually used Pharaoh’s opposition as a means of carrying out His promises.


A. (:1-5) Reminder of God’s Covenant Promises — Names of the Sons of Jacob / Israel

1. (:1) Summary Statement of Israel’s Background

“Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with

Jacob; they came each one with his household:”

Tim Chester: The book of Exodus begins with the word “and”. It’s missed out in most English translations, but it’s there in the original Hebrew, in which Exodus was first written. . . It immediately alerts us to the fact that this story is part of a bigger story, The end of the previous book, Genesis, has already hinted at a sequel (Genesis 50:24-25), and the first nine words of Exodus are an exact repetition of Genesis 46:8: “These are the names of the sons of Israel”. The book of Exodus is in many ways chapter two of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. And so the whole book needs to be read in the light of what has gone before. . . the promise of a people and the promise of a land.

John Hannah: the use of the simple copulative “and” to begin a book (cf. Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, 2 Chronicles). This feature appears to indicate that the writer was conscious of the fact that he was contributing to an ongoing sequence of revelation and narration.

2. (:2-4) Eleven Sons of Jacob Heading Up the Tribes

a. (:2-3a) First 6 Sons of Leah

“Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah;

Issachar, Zebulun”

b. (:3b) Second Son of Rachel

“and Benjamin;”

[Joseph, Rachel’s second born son, not mentioned because he was already in Egypt]

c. (:4) Four Sons of Maidservants

1) Two Sons of Rachel’s Maidservant Bilhah

“Dan and Naphtali,”

2) Two Sons of Leah’s Maidservant Zilpah

“Gad and Asher.”

3. (:5a) Total Number of Descendants of Jacob

“And all the persons who came from the loins of Jacob

were seventy in number,”

Speaking of the total number of males – cf. Gen. 46:27; Deut.. 10:22; Acts 7:14

David Thompson: Now it is specifically mentioned that these are the ones who came from the “loins of Jacob,” who were 70 in number. Now if we look at Genesis 46:26, the number says 66 persons came to Egypt. So how do we arrive at the number 70?

The solution is found in Genesis 46:27. If you include “Jacob,” that makes 67 and then if you include Joseph and his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh, who were already in Egypt, that makes 70. So the total number is exactly right, 70 Israelis are in Egypt.

Also if you take the number 66 (Gen. 46:26) and leave out Joseph and Jacob, but add Ephraim and Manasseh, you get 68. Then if you add the seven grandsons of Joseph–Manasseh had three sons – Machir; Asriel; Zelophehad (I Chron. 7:14-15) and Ephraim had four sons – Shuthelah, Shuthelah, Ezer, Elead (I Chron. 7:20-24) – the total number is 75 (68 + 7 = 75), which is exactly the number Stephen cited in the book of Acts (Acts 7:14).

4. (:5b) Unique Status of Joseph

“but Joseph was already in Egypt.”

Key – study how Joseph ended up in Egypt so that you can review the faithfulness and providence of God in His goodness taking what looked like evil and transforming it for good for Joseph and his brethren

B. (:6-7) Record of God’s Abundant Blessing

1. (:6) Expiring Generation

“And Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation.”

2. (:7) Explosive Growth

“But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly,

and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty,

so that the land was filled with them.”

John Hannah: God providentially protected the children of Jacob (also called Israel) and increased their descendants from a small group to a large segment of the population in Egypt.


A. (:8-10) Israel Viewed as a Major Threat by the New King of Egypt

1. (:8) New King

“Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.”

This king of Egypt (or Pharaoh) must be viewed as a type of God’s ultimate enemy = Satan – who is constantly trying to fight God’s kingdom agenda and thwart His purposes

John Hannah: no appreciation for Joseph’s character or achievements

2. (:9-10) New Antagonistic Stance Towards God’s People

a. (:9) Motivation of Fear

“And he said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we.’”

b. (:10) Mission of Opposition

“Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply and in the event of war, they also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us, and depart from the land.”

The logic of the king is easy to understand; they gave safe haven to these relatives of Joseph and now the numbers have increased exponentially so that they pose a definite threat to Egypt

John Hannah: The situation called for an extremely delicate balance: Pharaoh needed to maintain the Israelite presence as an economic asset without thereby jeopardizing Egypt’s national security.

B. (:11-14) Israel Continues to Grow Despite Increasing Oppression by Slave Labor (Satanic Strategy #1)

1. (:11) Work Them to Death

a. Afflictions

“So they appointed taskmasters over them

to afflict them with hard labor.”

b. Accomplishments

“And they built for Pharaoh storage cities,

Pithom and Raamses.”

Deffinbaugh: Pharaoh’s plan, which was readily adopted by the people, was to enslave the Israelites, and to tighten their control over them. A substantial part of this plan seems to be that of intimidation and oppression, so demoralizing and frightening the Israelites that they would not dare to resist their masters. In addition, their value as slave labor would be utilized to strengthen the nation both economically and militarily. The storage cities of Pithom and Rameses were built by the Israelites with brick and mortar, and the fields were worked by them as well. Josephus claims that Israelite manpower was also used to dig canals. . . The Egyptian response to the continued phenomenal numerical growth of the Israelites was to increase the workload and to intensify the harassment and cruelty imposed on them by their taskmasters (1:14). It is apparent that these tactics did not work, which led to an even more evil plot directed against the people of God, as outlined in verses 15-21.

2. (:12) Watch Them Multiply

“But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel.”

Constable: The first plan (plan A) was to make the Hebrews toil hard in manual labor. Normally a population grows more slowly under oppression than in prosperous times. However, the opposite took place in the case of the Israelites (“the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied”; v. 12). Physical oppression also tends to crush the spirit, and in this objective the Egyptians were somewhat successful (2:23-24).

3. (:13-14) Work Them Harder

“And the Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously;

and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks

and at all kinds of labor in the field,

all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.”

John Hannah: “bitter” – a fact that would later be commemorated in the Passover meal, which was eaten “with bitter herbs” (12:8). The emphasis of vv. 8-14 falls on the “ruthlessness” of the work and servitude imposed on Israel.

C. (:15-21) Israel Continues to Grow Despite Government Attempts at Population Control via Infanticide and Genocide (Satanic Strategy #2)

1. (:15-16) Cruel Command of Pharaoh to the Hebrew Midwives

“Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah, and the other was named Puah; and he said, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birth stool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.’”

Deffinbaugh: What a gracious gift of God to these two God-fearing Hebrew midwives—He records their names for an example to believers throughout the centuries. God doesn’t really care that much about the name of the king, king “what’s his name,” but He is intimately concerned with Shiphrah and Puah, for they trust and obey Him. What better honor than to be known and remembered by God.

Bob Roe: Shiphrah, which probably means “beauty” and Puah, which probably means “splendor.”

2. (:17) Commendation for the Midwives

a. Motivated by Fear of God

“But the midwives feared God,”

John Hannah: Their reverence for life reflected a reverence for God.

b. Disobeyed Pharaoh

“and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them,”

First example in the Scriptures of civil disobedience where the laws of the political ruler were in clear violation of the laws of God and had to be disobeyed. Rom. 13:5

c. Protected the Infant Boys

“but let the boys live.”

3. (:18-19) Confrontation between Pharaoh and the Midwives

a. (:18) Interrogation

“So the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said to them, ‘Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?’”

b. (:19) Interpretation of the Circumstances

“And the midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous, and they give birth before the midwife can get to them.’”


– this could be a clever cover-up

– this could be the simple explanation of what happened

4. (:20-21) Corresponding Divine Blessing to the Midwives

a. (:20) Multiplied Them

“So God was good to the midwives,

and the people multiplied, and became very mighty.”

From this blessing it would seem that the midwives were directly responsible at least in part for the protection of the Hebrew infants

b. (:21) Established Households for Them

“And it came about because the midwives feared God, that He established households for them.”

John Hannah: God blessed the Israelites in general with increased fertility (cf. v. 7), and bestowed mercy on Shiphrah and Puah in particular. God’s purpose in granting the increase seems to have been to stir the ire and fear of the Egyptians so that they would more severely discomfort God’s people and thus cause them to desire deliverance. So immediate blessing effected a negative action that later precipitated a larger future blessing.

D. (:22) Israel Continues to Grow Despite Intensified Government Attempts at Population Control via Infanticide and Genocide (Satanic Strategy #3)

“Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying,

‘Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile,

and every daughter you are to keep alive.’”

John Hannah: A single concluding and transitional verse summarizes chapter 1. Pharaoh needed to openly command by decree what had proved abortive by mere speeches. “All his people” were made agents of this crime in order to nullify the divine work of increased Hebrew children. This clearly parallels Herod’s action at the birth of Christ. Thus the third program began.