Exodus 1:12
But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.
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(12) The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.—This result was not natural. It can only be ascribed to God’s superintending Providence, whereby “the fierceness of man” was made to “turn to his praise.” Naturally, severe and constant labour exhausts a nation, and causes its numbers to diminish.

They were grieved.—This is scarcely strong enough. Translate, “They were sore distressed.”

Exodus 1:12. The more they multiplied — To the grief and vexation of the Egyptians. The original expression, rendered grew, is very emphatical, יפרצjiphrots.

They broke forth and expanded themselves with impetuosity, like a river swollen with the rains, whose waters increase and gain strength by being confined, Here we see how vain and fruitless the devices of men are against the designs of God: and how easily he, in his providence, can turn their counsels against themselves, and cause the very means which they employ to oppress his people, to become the greatest helps and advantages to them. Times of persecution and affliction have often been the church’s growing times: Christianity spread most when it was most persecuted.1:8-14 The land of Egypt became to Israel a house of bondage. The place where we have been happy, may soon become the place of our affliction; and that may prove the greatest cross to us, of which we said, This same shall comfort us. Cease from man, and say not of any place on this side heaven, This is my rest. All that knew Joseph, loved him, and were kind to his brethren for his sake; but the best and most useful services a man does to others, are soon forgotten after his death. Our great care should be, to serve God, and to please him who is not unrighteous, whatever men are, to forget our work and labour of love. The offence of Israel is, that he prospers. There is no sight more hateful to a wicked man than the prosperity of the righteous. The Egyptians feared lest the children of Israel should join their enemies, and get them up out of the land. Wickedness is ever cowardly and unjust; it makes a man fear, where no fear is, and flee, when no one pursues him. And human wisdom often is foolishness, and very sinful. God's people had task-masters set over them, not only to burden them, but to afflict them with their burdens. They not only made them serve for Pharaoh's profit, but so that their lives became bitter. The Israelites wonderfully increased. Christianity spread most when it was persecuted: the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. They that take counsel against the Lord and his Israel, do but imagine a vain thing, and create greater vexation to themselves.Taskmasters - The Egyptian "Chiefs of tributes." They were men of rank, superintendents of the public works, such as are often represented on Egyptian monuments, and carefully distinguished from the subordinate overseers. The Israelites were employed in forced labor, probably in detachments, but they were not reduced to slavery, properly speaking, nor treated as captives of war. Amosis had special need of such laborers, as proved by the inscriptions.

Treasure cities - "Magazines," depots of ammunition and provisions 1 Kings 9:19; 2 Chronicles 8:4; 2 Chronicles 32:28.

Pithom and Raamses - Both cities were situated on the canal which was dug or enlarged in the 12th Dynasty. The former is known to have existed under the 18th Dynasty. Both were in existence at the beginning of the reign of Rameses II, by whom they were fortified and enlarged. The name "Pithom" means "House or temple of Tum," the Sun God of Heliopolis (see Exodus 13:20). The name of Raamses, or Rameses, is generally assumed to have been derived from Rameses II, the Sesostris of the Greeks, but it was previously known as the name of the district. See Genesis 45:10; Genesis 47:11.

11. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters—Having first obliged them, it is thought, to pay a ruinous rent and involved them in difficulties, that new government, in pursuance of its oppressive policy, degraded them to the condition of serfs—employing them exactly as the laboring people are in the present day (driven in companies or bands), in rearing the public works, with taskmasters, who anciently had sticks—now whips—to punish the indolent, or spur on the too languid. All public or royal buildings, in ancient Egypt, were built by captives; and on some of them was placed an inscription that no free citizen had been engaged in this servile employment.

they built for Pharaoh treasure cities—These two store-places were in the land of Goshen; and being situated near a border liable to invasion, they were fortified cities (compare 2Ch 11:1-12:16). Pithom (Greek, Patumos), 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; and 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 [Hengstenberg].

They multiplied, through God’s overruling providence and singular blessing, which God gave them purposely to hasten first their sorer affliction, and next, and by that means, their glorious deliverance.

They were grieved, through envy and fear. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew,.... Became more numerous, "and broke out" (b), as it may be rendered, like water which breaks out and spreads itself; so the Israelites, increasing in number, spread themselves still more in the land; the Egyptians thought, by putting them to hard labour in building cities, to have weakened their strength, and made them unfit for the procreation of children; but instead of that, the more hard labour they were put unto, the more healthful and the stronger they were, and begot more children, and multiplied exceedingly: and so it is that oftentimes afflictive dispensations are multiplying and growing times to the people of God, in a spiritual sense; who grow like the palm tree, which the more weight it has upon it the more it grows; when the church of God has been most violently persecuted, the number of converts have been greater, and saints under affliction grow in grace, in faith and love, in holiness, humility, patience, peace, and joy; see Acts 12:1.

and they were grieved because of the children of Israel; because of their multiplication and increase, and because their schemes for lessening them did not succeed; they were as thorns in their eyes, as some interpret the word, as Jarchi (c) observes.

(b) "erumpebat", Junius & Tremellius, Drusius, Tigurine version. (c) "in fractione", Cajetan. apud Rivet.

But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And {e} they were grieved because of the children of Israel.

(e) The more God blesses his own, the more the wicked envy them.

12. But the measure proved ineffectual: the more the Israelites were oppressed, the more they increased, so that the Egyptians felt an uneasy dread of them.

spread abroad] Lit. brake through (limits): fig. for expanded, spread abroad. So Genesis 28:14; Genesis 30:30; Genesis 30:43 (all J), Isaiah 54:3 al.

were grieved because of
] Render felt a loathing for. Both ‘grief’ and ‘grieve’ were used formerly (see DB. s.vv.; and cf. on Exodus 8:24) in various acceptations which have now passed out of use,—Tindale for instance uses it in Exodus 7:18 ‘shall grieve to drink of the water of the river,’ where AV. has ‘loathe.’ Here, at least to a modern reader, it conveys an entirely false idea of the meaning intended: RVm. abhorred (so Numbers 22:3 RVm.; Isaiah 7:16) is better; felt a loathing for (lit. because of) would be better still, as it would be also in Numbers 22:3, Isaiah 7:16 : cf. the same verb in Numbers 21:5 (EVV. ‘loatheth this worthless bread’).Verse 12. - They were grieved because of the children of Israel. The word grieved very insufficiently renders the Hebrew verb, which "expresses a mixture of loathing and alarm" ('Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 1. pt. 1, p. 251). Kalisch translates forcibly, if inelegantly - "They had a horror of the children of Israel." After the death of Joseph and his brethren and the whole of the family that had first immigrated, there occurred that miraculous increase in the number of the children of Israel, by which the blessings of creation and promise were fully realised. The words פּרוּ ישׁרצוּ (swarmed), and ירבּוּ point back to Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 8:17, and יעצמוּ to עצוּם גּוי in Genesis 18:18. "The land was filled with them," i.e., the land of Egypt, particularly Goshen, where they were settled (Genesis 47:11). The extra-ordinary fruitfulness of Egypt in both men and cattle is attested not only by ancient writers, but by modern travellers also (vid., Aristotelis hist. animal. vii. 4, 5; Columella de re rust. iii. 8; Plin. hist. n. vii. 3; also Rosenmller a. und n. Morgenland i. p. 252). This blessing of nature was heightened still further in the case of the Israelites by the grace of the promise, so that the increase became extraordinarily great (see the comm. on Exodus 12:37).
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