The first chapter of Exodus is introductory. It describes the intolerable conditions which came upon the Israelites in Egypt which inspired the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. The name of the book is most fitting, for it is chiefly concerned with the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and some things which followed because of the exodus. Exodus 1 can be divided into three major parts as follows:
The text begins with a summary of the Israelites in Egypt. It is a good introduction to this first chapter of the book and makes a smooth transition from Genesis to Exodus.
"These are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt" (Exodus 1:1). The first thing we learn about the souls of the Israelites is their location or place of dwelling. They are in Egypt, not Canaan. Genesis informs us why they are not in Canaan—there was a very bad famine and Joseph invited them to come to Egypt where he would take care of them. Thus a knowledge of Genesis is necessary to understand Exodus.
Some details are given regarding the Israelites that were in Egypt and how they are organized.
•The names of the people. "These are the names of the children of Israel... Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher" (Exodus 1:2-4). The names are given according to the tribes, a practice followed throughout the Old Testament. The order of the names here lists the sons by the concubines (Bilhah and Zilpah the maids of Leah and Rachel) last. Joseph is not mentioned but will be in a footnote of the numbering.
•The number of the people. "All the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls; for Joseph was in Egypt already" (Exodus 1:5). This speaks of those who came from Canaan. The number does not include the wives and children. Joseph is footnoted after the number because he was already in Egypt when the family moved there during the famine, but he is counted in the total number.
"Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation" (Exodus 1:6). Scripture quickly moves from the generation that moved to Egypt on to later generations who came under slavery which prompted the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. This verse reminds us that death is a Divine appointment for all people (Hebrews 9:27).