Eternal God, Alpha and Omega, my beginning and end, here I am in this time and place, ready to worship You.
Read EXODUS 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.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9).
I think most of us begin reading the Exodus story looking for the perspective of Jacob’s descendants who had settled in Egypt. I know I have done that, jumping straight into the plight of oppressed Israelites and rejoicing in the bravery of the midwives. So it was something of a surprise in reading it again to notice how much this chapter focuses on the Egyptians and their attitude to the long-term migrants that were living among them. The huge benefits that had come to Egypt through Joseph and that had originally brought these people to the area had been forgotten. The “us and them” mentality took over. The Israelites were different; their community was growing and apparently flourishing; so they were viewed as, and only as, a problem and a threat. How should a society deal with this kind of
immigrant community? There were obviously two main threats, one that they may get stronger and take over from the original inhabitants and the other that they may leave and not be there to do the jobs that the natives did not want to do!
As the conviction that these people were a threat to the Egyptian way of life got stronger, so did the view that they did not really need to be treated as people. The means to keep them under, which were seen as legitimate, got more and more cruel and oppressive. The move from setting up a forced labor system to wholesale, heartless killing of all baby boys did not happen in one step, but it did happen. The author is clearly portraying this as completely unacceptable—and a question for today’s readers is, “Was it unacceptable solely because they were mistreating Abraham’s descendants or because what they were doing was just wrong?!”
Immigration is a hot-button issue today. This chapter encourages us to ask questions about how our society responds to migrant communities living among us. How should we as Christians react to large-scale immigration?
Loving Father, You have always been concerned for the disadvantaged and marginalized in our communities. Show me practical ways in which I can respond to the needs of those around me.
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