Read Exodus 1
The Israelites Oppressed
1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4 Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. 5 The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; Joseph was already in Egypt.
6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7 but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.
8 Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”
11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor,and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly.14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.
15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”
19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”
20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
As the Bible transitions from Genesis to Exodus, we also see a transition of life in Egypt. Through Joseph, the Israelites had just saved Egypt from famine and therefore received tremendous honor in the country. However, as the years go by, the prior generation’s actions are forgotten. With a new King in charge, Egypt now sees the Israelites as a problem rather than a provision. In order to deal with the growing number of Israelites, Pharaoh places them under slavery and directs two midwives to kill every baby boy.
This is a painful reminder of the evil of humanity. However, underneath this painful new leadership sits a fascinating story of courage. Two women, Shiphrah and Puah, come through as heroes. Verse 17 recounts their story: “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do.” These women literally put their lives in danger because they feared God more than they feared their king.
It is an incredible relief that this chapter does not end with the butchering of baby boys. Because these women had the courage to do what was right, Scripture says that God was kind to them. Every single day, we have choices that will prove where our allegiances lie. We will either fear God or we will fear some other king. While our decisions might not feel as costly, any decision that is made apart from God will similarly lead to destruction. Be reminded today that following God takes courage. We can follow Him through dangerous places because we know that God’s kindness will be there with us every step of the way.
Why do you think Joseph was forgotten in Egypt?
Why do you think these women were able to choose to trust God in the face of Pharaoh?
Where have you lacked courage recently to do what is right? Why do you think that is?
Did You Know?
The book of Exodus picks up about 400 years after the final events in Genesis. Several Pharaohs had come and gone since Joseph had died, and the Israelites had fallen out of favor since Joseph had been that Pharaoh’s right hand man, so this new ruler had no use for this growing group of people.