Bible Readings for February 18th
Exodus 1 explains the transition between the story of Joseph and the story of Moses. When Joseph died at the end of Genesis 50, he was the second most powerful man on the planet, a man seated at the right hand of the pharaoh of Egypt himself. As such, Joseph’s brothers and their families (the entire nation of Israel at the time) received preferential treatment in the Egyptian kingdom.
But Exodus 1:8 tells the story of how this special place in Egypt fell apart: “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph”—and worse, a king who hated Joseph’s family. With that change of guard, Israel was quickly demoted from a position of power and privilege to one of great weakness and vulnerability.
Making matters worse (humanly speaking) is the fact that the population of Israel has begun to explode, so that we read five times in the first chapter of Exodus (v. 7, 9, 10, 12, and 20) about the rapid increase of Israel—an increase that only exacerbates the new pharaoh’s hatred of Israel and his desire to subjugate them. In fact, Pharaoh’s revulsion toward Israel grows so great that he orders all male Hebrew children to be cast into the Nile River to die (Ex. 1:22).
So in Exodus 1, we see the fulfillment of two sides of the promises that God has been making to his people since the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. On the one hand, it is here in Egypt where God begins to multiply his people and to make them a great nation. And yet, it is also here in Egypt where God causes his people to pass through a cauldron of suffering, just as he had sworn to Abraham in Genesis 15:13: “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.”
But why does it have to be both? Couldn’t God have multiplied his people, making them into a great nation, without handing them over to suffering?
In fact, Israel’s multiplication and their suffering must necessarily go together. Through this entire story, God will protect and preserve his people, growing them numerically even as they pass through the valley of the shadow of death. And in the fullness of time, God himself will redeem his people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, displaying his power in the sight of all the nations and taking Israel to be his special people in all the earth.
And in doing so, God foreshadows the way he will ultimately redeem his people through Christ, conquering sin, death, and the devil—not only through Jesus’ own suffering on the cross but also through raising Jesus up from the dead on the third day.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.