By Brooke Holt
“These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” Exodus 1:1-8 ("The Great "I AM'" Study Reading: Exodus 1:1-22)
The genealogy at the beginning of Exodus is so much more than a list of names; it is a powerful demonstration of God’s covenantal faithfulness. Just as he promised, the children of Abraham had become more numerous than the stars of the sky. An aged man with a barren wife had fathered a nation! And, just as God told Abraham, his descendants had come to dwell in the land of Egypt. As the reading closes, the Israelites are about to become servants to the pharaoh, but their story would not end there. God always has a plan of redemption for his people!
Joseph would have identified with his descendants and their new plight. He, too, was once a slave in Egypt, having been sold by his jealous brothers. His family betrayed him; his masters mistreated and eventually imprisoned him. But he was never abandoned or forgotten. Even in the darkest hours, God was working his plan for Joseph to save Egypt and the surrounding nations from famine. Through the Lord’s providence, an act of evil against one man led the saving of millions of lives.
Renowned for his work preparing Egypt for the famine, Joseph became quite powerful. The grateful pharaoh made him second in command. He welcomed Joseph’s family, providing rich land for them to cultivate. God blessed his people, and they continued to multiply, just as he had promised. The Israelites enjoyed peace and prosperity in Egypt until Joseph’s generation passed away, and the pharaoh, under whom he served, died.
At that time, a new king arose who did not know Joseph or his family. To him, the Israelites, an ever-expanding nation of foreigners dwelling within his land, posed a threat. He worried they might one day turn against Egypt and ally themselves with an enemy to wage war against him.
First, Pharaoh tried to control them through slave labor and harsh oppression. Despite the hardships, however, the nation of Israel continued to expand in size and strength. Next, he ordered the Egyptian midwives to kill all male Hebrew babies, but the women feared God and refused to comply. Thwarted again, the king finally ordered his subjects to kill every Hebrew male at birth.
Exodus 1 begins with the patriarch Jacob and his sons, who would become the twelve tribes of Israel, prospering in Egypt. The Israelites were experiencing God’s blessings and fulfilled promises. In just the first ten verses, however, their lives changed completely. Once welcomed and embraced, they suddenly found themselves enslaved and persecuted. Why? The new pharaoh did not know the people or the God of Israel.
While the earthly king did not know or value the Israelites, the heavenly king did. The Lord was faithful to them even in the midst of their adversity. He blessed the Israelites who continued to multiply, as well as the Egyptian midwives who obeyed God rather than the pharaoh. And he continued to work his plan for the nation of Israel, just as he promised. Sometimes God is unseen by his people, but he never turns his eyes from them. He sees them and he knows them.
Have you ever felt that God has forgotten you or turned his face from you? How does this first chapter of Exodus remind you of his covenantal faithfulness? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Come explore the grand story of God as the one who knows and loves his people. In one of the greatest love stories ever told, The Book of Exodus reveals God as Yahweh, the Great “I AM.” He is the transcendent, all-powerful creator of all things who defeated the greatest powers of the earth. This same God would have his people know and love him in an intimate and personal way. The Great “I AM” – A Study of the Book of Exodus is a 9-week study consisting of a small group study guide combined with weekly video teachings. Come and meet The Great “I AM”.
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