Exodus 1: The Fear of the Israelites and the Fear of God

The book of Exodus contains some of the most powerful examples of God’s power to save His people. Coming off of the reunion in the latter chapters of Genesis, Exodus 1 starts us off with the reminder that Jacob’s (Israel’s) sons still live in Egypt. Even though Joseph has passed away, Israel’s other sons and their respective families have begun to prosper.

The former Pharaoh that had gained so much respect for Joseph and his family has now passed away and a new Pharaoh is at power. This new Pharaoh recognizes the prosperity of the Israelites in Egypt, but he does not recognize the source of their prosperity, Almighty God. Pharaoh fears that they will become so strong as to take power away from him. Pharaoh believes that he can put the Israelites under his control and hinder their prosperity. He drives them to harsh labor, “in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service with which they made them serve was with rigor.” This is surely the beginning of the enslavement of the Israelites by the Egyptians: an enforcement born out of fear and based on fear. While the Israelites worked hard and were happy, they were blessed by God and prospered greatly. Pharaoh did not see this as a boon to his local economy and culture, and this belief leads to actions that will ultimately mean disaster for all of Egypt. Such is often the same for nations, cultures and individuals today that go against the grain of God’s design.

When Pharaoh devises a plan to have all of the male Israelite children killed by the Hebrew midwives, it fails because the midwives feared the retribution of Almighty God. They told Pharaoh that they were unable to kill the male children because the Hebrew women were having the babies quickly, before the midwives arrived to assist. Because of their fear, God blesses the midwives and provides for their respective households.

After failing via the midwives, Pharaoh simply commands all of his people to kill every male Israelite child and leave the females behind. In this way, he hoped to starve off the male progenitors and assimilate the Israelite culture into Egyptian as the Israelite women would marry Egyptian men.

But the truth is that God will not allow this to happen.

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