Chapter 1.
The Paranoid Pharaoh

Exodus 1:1-14

The opening books of the Bible are filled with illustrations of the great doctrines of our faith which are set forth in the New Testament.

Romans 15:4—For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Because of this truth, the study of the Old Testament is vital for understanding the New Testament. Preachers mistakenly say, "There is nothing in the Old Testament for us." On the contrary, it is a wonderful treasure chest of truths waiting to be discovered. I love the Old Testament! It is also the Word of God.

We now enter the hallway of the book of Exodus, one of the most exciting books in the Bible. Its forty chapters and 1213 verses are inspired by the Holy Spirit of God who moved Moses to pen the words of this book. Within its pages we will find the overall truths.

  1. An Enslaved People are Saved- Ch. 1-12
    1. God develops His man... Moses- Ch. 1-4
    2. God displays His might- Ch. 5-11
    3. God declares His mind- Ch. 12
  2. A Saved People are Separated- Ch. 13-18
  3. A Separated People are Sanctified- Ch. 19-40

The events of this book will cover a period of about 145 years. Exodus continues the account begun in Genesis, although there has been a lapse of 3 1/2 centuries between the books. The word "exodus" means "the way out" and is about Israel's departure from Egypt after 430 years of residency. They arrived in Egypt in the first place when Joseph was sold as a slave in Egypt and eventually became Pharaoh's prime minister. Joseph was used by God to deliver the nation through a famine. Joseph brought the family to Egypt to care for them.

One of the key players in Exodus is Moses. His name pops up around 720 times. Moses' life had three main periods.

  1. Forty years in Pharaoh's palace.
  2. Forty years in the desert of Midian. It was here that the Lord gave Moses a B.D. degree which is the "Backside of the Desert" degree.
  3. Forty years in the wilderness leading the nation of Israel.

D.L. Moody said that Moses spent forty years thinking he was somebody; forty years learning he was a nobody; forty years discovering what God can do with a nobody.

A number of symbolic pictures or types are in the book of Exodus.

Exodus is the Old Testament book of "Redemption." There are several, great redemption books in the Bible. The foundation of redemption is seen in this book. The foregleam of redemption is viewed in the book of Hosea as Hosea redeems his wife. The fact of our redemption is evident in the Gospel of John. The force of redemption is displayed in the wonderful book of Romans. The future of our redemption is placed on the table for us to see in the book of Revelation. Redemption is the theme that flows through the chapters of Exodus.

  1. The Need of Redemption is in chapters 1-6. (bondage, enslavement)
  2. The Might of the Redeemer is in chapters 7-11. (displayed by plagues)
  3. The Character of Redemption is in chapters 12-18. (purchased by the blood)
  4. The Duty of the Redeemed is in chapters 19-24. (obedience)
  5. The Provisions made for the Failures of the Redeemed is in chapters 25-40. (seen in the Tabernacle and services)

There are some interesting contrasts between Genesis and Exodus.

1. The history of a family.1. The history of a nation. This book is called the birthday book of Israel.
2. Abraham's descendant's are few in number.2. There are several million descendants now.
3. The Hebrews are honored and welcomed in Egypt.3. They are feared, hated, and persecuted by Pharaoh.
4. Pharaoh said, "God hath showed thee all this."4. Pharaoh said, "I know not the Lord."
5. A lamb is promised.5. A lamb is slain.
6. The entry of Israel into Egypt.6. The exodus of Israel from Egypt.
7. It ends with Joseph in a coffin.7. It closes with the glory of the Lord filling the Tabernacle.

When did Exodus take place? A clue is found in 1 Kings 6.

1 Kings 6:1—And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord.

The Temple was built 480 years after the Exodus. The Temple was built around 966 b.c. putting the Exodus at 1445 b.c. The ruler at this time was believed to be Amenhotep II.

The book of Exodus also gives us a glimpse of what will take place in the future as history will repeat itself.

Why did God allow His people to stay in Egypt so long? God's people were in Egypt for a total of 430 years, of which, 400 years were years of oppression. Notice these verses.

Genesis 15:13—And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;

Exodus 12:40—Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.

Acts 7:6—And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.

The first thirty years after they arrived evidently went well under Joseph's influence. Things went well for God's people until Joseph was somewhere in his seventies. Then matters take a turn for the worse. A new Pharaoh came into power which did not know anything about Joseph. He may have been a foreign conqueror. Notice Exodus 1:6-8.

Exodus 1:6-8—...And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. [7] And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. [8] Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.

If Joseph died before the new king took power, then he would be dying in his seventies, not at the age of 110. However, the Bible translation textual notes from the NET Bible provide an answer to this problem. I could be wrong, but I think Joseph was alive when this new Pharaoh took power. Here are the translation notes from the NET Bible on this verse: "The text simply uses the vav (‏ו‎) consecutive with the past tense statement, "and Joseph died." While this construction shows sequence with the preceding verse (vs. 5), it does not require that the death follow directly the report of that verse. In fact, readers know from the record in Genesis that the death of Joseph occurred after a good number of years. The statement assumes the passage of time in the natural course of events."

Exodus 1:6 is making a general statement that Joseph eventually died, his brothers, and his generation. Based on the findings of Hebrew scholars working on the NET Bible, verse 6 does not necessarily mean that Joseph was dead when the new king took power. When the new king took power, he did not know anything about Joseph or what he had done many years earlier. Joseph was a stranger to him. For this reason I believe he may have been a foreign conquering king. I believe Joseph was still alive when matters got worse for the children of Israel after the first 30 year and he lived somewhere around 30 years more during these initial difficult times until he died at the age of 110. This would help clear up a lot of confusion between the 400 years and the 430 years in the above verses. They were in Egypt for 430 years, but they were afflicted for 400 years (Genesis 15:13; Exodus 12:40; Acts 7:6).

The four hundred and thirty years were the number of years from the time Jacob entered Egypt until Israel escaped at the Exodus and can be seen from:

  1. The clear statement of the Hebrew text in this passage;
  2. God's prediction to Abraham that his descendants (seed) would be a stranger in a foreign land, serve the foreigners, and be afflicted by them "four hundred years" (Gen 15:13);
  3. The multiplication from seventy to over two million is easiest to reconcile within this time structure.
  4. Concerning the 430 year total, the Septuagint and Samaritan texts added the words "and in the land of Canaan" to the Hebrew text, thus making the total sojourn in Egypt only 215 years. This figure is allegedly supported by the genealogy of Moses and Aaron in Exodus 6:16-20 and the Pauline statement in Galatians 3:17.

Galatians 3:17—And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

So which number is it? It is a mistake to suppose that the genealogy of Moses was intended to be complete. One only needs to consult the genealogy of Joshua (1 Chronicles 7:22-27) to see that there were many deliberate omissions of generations in Moses and Aaron's genealogy, for Joshua's genealogy has ten generations covering the same time span as Moses' four generations!

With respect to Paul's 430 years in Galatians 3:17, it is important to notice that "the law" came "430 years later" as "an addition" to "the promises... spoken to Abraham and to his seed." The starting point for the 430 years in Paul's thinking would seem to be when Jacob received the last of those repeated patriarchal promises (Gen 46:2; 47:27) as he arrived in Egypt. For this reason, I believe this is why the total amount of years was 430 years, not 215.

So the question again is "Why so long?"

  1. The Lord was preparing Israel for an inheritance. The rigid treatment of the workers toughened them up physically.
  2. The bitterness of Egypt would make them appreciate the land of milk and honey.
  3. God gave His people time to multiply so they could take over Canaan.
  4. The time for God to deal in judgment with the Amorites was not fully ripe in the days of Abraham. Their iniquities had not reached God's boundary.

Genesis 15:16—But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

With all this background on the book, let's now dig in to a very wonderful book in the Bible. May you enjoy the luster of its precious jewels.

I. The People Who Came to Egypt—1:1-5

The word "Now" means "And." It is a joining word that links Genesis to Exodus. G.Campbell Morgan said, "In the book of Exodus, nothing is commenced and nothing is finished." The book is part of the wonderful chain of books in the Pentateuch.

The first line mentions the names of the children of Israel. The name of the book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible is Shemot, the word for "Names," drawn from the beginning of the book. The inclusion of the names at this point, form a literary connection to the book of Genesis. It indicates that the Israelites living in bondage had retained a knowledge of their ancestry, and with it, a knowledge of God's promise. Verse five mentions seventy souls from the loins of Jacob. From one man and his twelve sons came an entire nation. Wow!

II. The Passing of Joseph—1:6

Joseph, all his brothers, and his generation died. Again we are reminded of death.

Hebrews 9:27—And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: Are you ready for death when it comes your way?

III. The Prospering of God's People—1:7

God's hand of blessing was upon His people. The census at Sinai (Numbers 1) showed 603,000 males, 20 years and older. If they represented about 1/4 of the total population, which is a conservative estimate, then the Israelites numbered as many as two to three million people. They were "fruitful" just like fruit trees. They also "increased abundantly" which comes from the Hebrew word sharats (shaw-rats'). It means "to swarm like bees or fish." They increased in strength and might.

IV. A Problem Develops—1:8

Anew king comes into power that does not know anything about Joseph. Acts 7:18 says this was "another king of a different kind." In the Greek language there are two words for "another." The word allos means "another of the same kind." Then there is the word heteros means "another of a different kind" used in Acts 7:18.

The new king was from a different people, race, or dynasty. There is a dispute of whether he was from Egypt or a foreigner. History tells us that about this time the "Hyksos" invaders took over in Egypt. They were Semites, probably from Assyria. They were also shepherds. The Egyptians could not stand them and they were eventually driven out. The timing of this is disputed too.

If this new king was a foreign king, he warned his own people (not the Egyptians) that the presence of so many Jews was a threat to their own rule; so they decided to deal vigorously with the Israelites. Since Joseph had been the savior of Egypt, it is unlikely that an Egyptian king would not know him. This is why it is believed he was a foreign king.

From verse eight, we find some vital lessons. We are reminded of our responsibility to teach God's Word to each generation. A Bible knowledge test was given to five classes of seniors. Most of them failed miserably. Some thought Sodom and Gomorrah were lovers. They thought that the Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luther, and John. Eve was believed to be created from an apple. Sixty percent did not know the identity of the Trinity. They thought the epistles were the wives of the apostles.

Beloved, neglect of God's Word leads to ignorance and the forgetfulness of the next generation. Ignorance of the Word leads to sinful living and terrible choices that scar a person's life. When men do not know Jesus Christ, as the king did not know Joseph, they will have difficulty in discerning situations correctly and making proper deductions of them. What God calls good, they will call evil. What God condemns, they will commend and justify. What God forbids, they will require and what God requires, they will forbid. The prophet Hosea spoke of the peril of ignorance in spiritual matters.

Hosea 4:6—My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.

Israel lacked spiritual knowledge in Hosea's day, and it ruined them. It ruined their character and brought Divine judgment upon them. They eventually went into captivity and for several thousand years the Jews had no national status. All because they lacked in spiritual knowledge. The time of the Judges faced this ignorance too.

Judges 2:10—And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.

We are facing this same problem in America. Parents and their kids are growing up, not knowing the Lord.

We are also reminded that the bondage in Egypt is but a picture of the sinner's spiritual bondage to this world. The Jews went down to Egypt and lived in the best of the land, but this luxury later turned into trial and suffering. How like the path of the lost sinner today. Sin promises pleasure and freedom, but it eventually brings sorrow and bondage.

V. The Persecution of the Pharaoh—1:9-14

A. The Perception—1:9

And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:

This new king feels very insecure and is worried.

B. The Presumption—1:10

Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land

The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. The king presumes that Israel will join their enemies, a presumption that is going to create huge problems for Egypt. Our presumptions can get us into trouble too. Assuming what people are and what they think leads to error in judgment and harm to others. You can end up misjudging people. Let me say that assuming you can go to Heaven by your works, memberships, or not having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will lead to an eternal disaster for you.

Pharaoh was not comfortable living with the Israelites, nor comfortable without them. They did not want them to leave the land. These were the concerns of the Egyptians. This explains why a shrewd policy of population control was required. They wanted to keep Israel enslaved. They did not want them to become too numerous and escape.

C. The Plan—1:11-14

Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. [12] But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. [13] And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigor: [14] And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigor.

Israel is afflicted by taskmasters. They were enslaved to build treasure cities. Ancient records indicate that these cities were built in 1290 b.c., which is why some scholars believe the exodus occurred early in the 13th century. Looking at other evidence, however, other scholars believe the Hebrews left Egypt in 1446 b.c. How could they build two cities 150 years after they left? These scholars suggest that Rameses II, the Pharaoh in 1290 b.c., did not build the cities of Pithom and Rameses. Instead, he renamed two cities that actually had been built 150 years previously. It was a common practice for an Egyptian ruler to make improvements on a city and then take credit for building it, thus wiping out all records of previous founders.

These two places were in the land of Goshen and being situated near a border that was liable to invasion, they were fortified cities. Pithom lay on the eastern Pelusiac branch of the Nile, about twelve Roman miles from Heliopolis, and Raamses, called by the Septuagint Heroopolis, lay between the same branch of the Nile and the Bitter Lakes. These two fortified cities were situated, therefore, in the same valley. The fortifications, which Pharaoh commanded to be built around both, had probably the same common object, of obstructing the entrance into Egypt, which this valley furnished the enemy from Asia.

The affliction, as bad as it was, led to Israel's growth. They multiplied and grew which means they "swarmed," but this is the effect that trials can have in our lives if we respond to them properly. The plan of affliction backfired in the Pharaoh's face. Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. Where Satan's tool tries to rule, God over-rules.

A beekeeper once told F.B. Meyer how some of the young bees are nurtured to ensure their healthy development. The queen lays each egg in a six-sided cell which is filled with enough pollen and honey to feed upon until it reaches a certain stage of maturity. The top is then sealed with a capsule of wax. When the occupant has exhausted its supply of nourishment, the time has come for the tiny creature to be released from its confinement, but what wrestling and straining it endures to get through that wax seal. The opening is so narrow that in the agony of the exit, the bee rubs off the membrane that encases its wings. Thus, when it finally does emerge, it is able to fly!

The man telling F.B. Meyer the story said that one time a moth got into the hive and devoured the wax capsules. As a result, the young bees crawled out without any effort or trouble, but they couldn't fly. Soon the mature insects, seeing the pitiful, unproductive state of the new arrivals, instinctively proceeded to sting them to death. Beloved, God uses our trials to strengthen us whether we realize it or not.

Psalm 119:67—Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.

Psalm 119:71—It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

As the Jews multiplied, the Pharaoh increased the pressure. They made them serve with rigor. The word translated 'rigor' is a very rare one. It is derived from a root which means 'to break in pieces, to crush, to be severe, harsh or cruel. Israel's slavery was inhumane. They were treated in the same beastly manner as the war prisoners of the Nazis and Communists. Under this cruel, forced labor, the Israelite slaves built for Pharaoh treasure or storage cities for food supplies and weapons for the army.

Their lives were bitter with hard bondage in making brick. Ruins of great brick buildings are found in all parts of Egypt. The use of crude brick, baked in the sun, was universal in upper and lower Egypt, both for public and private buildings; all but the temples themselves were of crude brick. Parties of these brick-makers are seen depicted on the ancient monuments with "taskmasters," some standing, others in a sitting posture beside the laborers, with their uplifted sticks in their hands.

Concerning their oppression in Egypt, is this not a description of a life without Christ? Sin breaks us into pieces and has a cruel, crushing effect on our lives. The sweetness of sin soon sours and has a bitter taste as many become enslaved in addictions. It is true that sin does bring pleasure for a season, but that season is mighty short; and after it is over, bitterness sets in on a very long or permanent basis unless one comes to Christ for cleansing from sin.

We first make our own habits, then our habits make us. Sinners often think that godly people lack freedom to do as they please because the godly do not indulge in evil habits, but it is the sinner, not the godly, who lacks freedom. The Egyptians burdened God's people with harshness and cruelty. Sin does the same thing, robbing us of joy and draining our strength away.