But the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.” –Genesis 1:7
You may read Exodus 1 here: Bible Gateway.
Connecting the Past to the Present (vs. 1-7)
The Old Testament books of Genesis and Exodus are meant to be understood in relationship to one other. Genesis sets the stage for Exodus by reminding the Israelite nation not only of her roots, but also the grounds for blessing that would come soon. The first six verses summarize Israel’s history as a clan, detailed in Genesis 12-50.
In Genesis 15:12-14, God told Abraham: “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.”
Verse 7 spans this 400 year gap from Joseph’s death to the Exodus. God’s covenant promise to Abraham of blessing his descendants and greatly multiplying them is also evidenced during this time (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:5; 17:2, 6; 22:17). Direct descendants from Jacob’s family now number nearly two million people!
Pharaoh’s Plan of Affliction (vs. 8-14)
The new Pharaoh—under the Eighteenth Egyptian Dynasty—fears the booming Hebrew population will threaten his kingdom. True to God’s word, the Pharaoh implements controlling measures in hopes to set them back.
So he places slave masters over the Hebrews. They work them ruthlessly to build cities with bricks and mortar, and use them for grueling field work. But instead of destroying their spirits, the Hebrews forge into a mighty nation (Gen. 46:3).
Pharaoh ups his game plan to a disgusting level.
Killing the Jewish Boys at Birth (vs. 15-22)
Some scholars suggest that women who were barren were often used as midwives. Pharaoh orders the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, to kill all the Jewish male babies at birth.
But their fear of God is stronger than their fear of Pharaoh. They show great courage and refuse to do his dirty work of killing innocent children.
God rewards these ladies by blessing them with families of their own. The fact that their names are mentioned, unlike Pharaoh’s, also presents them as honorable examples of ones who follow God.
Pharaoh stoops even lower when he orders all the Egyptians to throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile.
As it probably seemed to the Hebrews during their 400 year stretch in Egypt, God appears silent at times. But He is constantly at work through history, our present, and the awesome future planned for those who unashamedly walk with Him.
During the furnace of trials, God was preparing His people for the following purposes: being a witness to the true and living God; writing the Holy Scriptures, and bringing the Messiah into the world.
Although Pharaoh sought to destroy the Hebrews spirit, they multiplied and grew stronger instead. Pharaoh’s reason for his cruel treatment was because of the threat of their large population. However, Scripture tells us about the underlying conflict of spiritual warfare: “Enmity between God’s people and Satan’s children,” (Genesis 3:15).
Persecution isn’t a fun topic. You won’t hear about it in prosperity gospel circles. But God uses persecution to refine, strengthen, and grow His church. America hasn’t experienced persecution, not like in middle-eastern countries. But while tolerance is exalted in our society, we’re seeing an increase of intolerant attitudes toward Christianity.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise when persecution knocks on our doors.
Now is the time to decide: Will I follow God when forces of evil pressure me to disobey or disown Him? Or will I give in to what is easy and popular? We can’t be overcomers without obstacles to overcome. We know who wins in the end. Let’s ask God for His eternal perspective, pray for strength to be faithful, and encourage one another as we see the day of Christ’s return drawing closer (Heb. 10:25).