Exodus 1:22
And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(22) Every son that is born.—The LXX. add “to the Hebrews,” but without any necessity, since the context shows that only Hebrew children are meant.

Ye shall cast into the river.—Infanticide, so shocking to Christians, has prevailed widely at different times and places, and been regarded as a trivial matter. In Sparta, the State decided which children should live and which should die. At Athens a law of Solon left the decision to the parent. At Rome, the rule was that infants were made away with, unless the father interposed, and declared it to be his wish that a particular child should be brought up. The Syrians offered unwelcome children in sacrifice to Moloch; the Carthaginians to Melkarth. In China infanticide is said to be a common practice at the present day. Heathen nations do not generally regard human life as sacred. On the contrary, they hold that considerations of expediency justify the sweeping away of any life that inconveniences the State. Hence infanticide is introduced by Plato into his model republic (Rep. v. 9). Almost all ancient nations viewed the massacre of prisoners taken in war as allowable. The Spartan crypteia was a system of licensed murder. The condemnation to death of all male Hebrew children by Pharaoh is thus in no respect improbable. On the other hand, the mode of the death presents difficulties. For, first, the Nile was viewed as a god; and to fill it with corpses would, one might have supposed, have been regarded as a pollution. Secondly, the Nile water was the only water drunk; and sanitary considerations might thus have been expected to have prevented the edict. Perhaps, however, the children were viewed as offerings to the Nile, or to Savak, the crocodile headed god, of whom each crocodile was an emblem. At any rate, as the Nile swarmed with crocodiles throughout its whole course, the bodies were tolerably sure to be devoured before they became putrescent.

1:15-22 The Egyptians tried to destroy Israel by the murder of their children. The enmity that is in the seed of the serpent, against the Seed of the woman, makes men forget all pity. It is plain that the Hebrews were now under an uncommon blessing. And we see that the services done for God's Israel are often repaid in kind. Pharaoh gave orders to drown all the male children of the Hebrews. The enemy who, by Pharaoh, attempted to destroy the church in this its infant state, is busy to stifle the rise of serious reflections in the heart of man. Let those who would escape, be afraid of sinning, and cry directly and fervently to the Lord for assistance.The extreme cruelty of the measure does not involve improbability. Hatred of strangers was always a characteristic of the Egyptians (see Genesis 43:32), and was likely to be stronger than ever after the expulsion of an alien race. 20, 21. God dealt well with the midwives—This represents God as rewarding them for telling a lie. This difficulty is wholly removed by a more correct translation. To "make" or "build up a house" in Hebrew idiom, means to have a numerous progeny. The passage then should be rendered thus: "God protected the midwives, and the people waxed very mighty; and because the midwives feared, the Hebrews grew and prospered." 1573 No text from Poole on this verse. And Pharaoh charged all his people,.... Finding he could not carry his point with the midwives, he gave a general order to all his people everywhere:

saying, every son that is born ye shall cast into the river; the river Nile; not every son born in his kingdom, for this would have ruined it in time; but that was born to the Jews, as the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan; and it is added in the Septuagint version, to the Hebrews:

and every daughter ye shall save alive; for the reasons given See Gill on Exodus 1:16.

And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall {i} cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.

(i) When tyrants cannot prevail by deceit, they burst into open rage.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
22. The third measure. As the midwives refused to carry out the Pharaoh’s wishes, a command to the same effect is issued to the whole people: the Egyptians themselves are to throw every male infant of the Hebrews into the Nile. The command, if fully carried out, would have resulted obviously in the extermination of the Hebrews; it is thus inconsistent with the intention expressed by the Pharaoh in v. 10 to retain them as his subjects. Perhaps the thwarted and angry king did not heed the inconsistency: perhaps inconsistent traditions have been combined by the compiler. However that may be, the measure seems calculated for a people numbering far fewer than 2,000,000 souls (among whom the birth-rate would be something like 80,000 a year1[97], i.e. more than 100 males a day), and also all living within near distance of the Nile. It is intimately connected with the narrative following (ch. 2), and indeed supplies the conditions necessary for it.

[97] The birth-rate in Cairo in 1900 was 41 per 1000 of the population.

that is born] Sam. LXX. add, to the Hebrews: in any case, a correct explanation, and perhaps part of the original text.

the river (Nile)] Heb. yĕ’ôr, from the Egyptian yoor, ‘river,’ often used of the Nile, yĕ’ôr is the regular name of the ‘Nile’ in Hebrew.Verse 22. - Every son that is born. The words are universal, and might seem to apply to the Egyptian, no less than the Hebrew, male children. But they are really limited by the context, which shows that there had never been any question as to taking the life of any Egyptian. With respect to the objection sometimes raised, that no Egyptian monarch would possibly have commanded such wholesale cold-blooded destruction of poor innocent harmless children, it is to be observed, first, that Egyptian monarchs had very little regard indeed for the lives of any persons who were not of their own nation. They constantly massacred prisoners taken in war - they put to death or enslaved persons cast upon their coasts (Diod. Sic. 1:67) - they cemented with the blood of their captives, as Lenormant says ('Manuel d'Hist. Anc.,' vol. 1. p. 423), each stone of their edifices. The sacredness of human life was not a principle with them. Secondly, that tender and compassionate regard for children which seems to us Englishmen of the present day a universal instinct is in truth the fruit of Christianity, and was almost unknown in the ancient world. Children who were "not wanted" were constantly exposed to be devoured by wild beasts, or otherwise made away with (Dollinger, ' Jew and Gentile,' vol. it. p. 246); and such exposition was defended by philosophers (Plat. 'Pep.' 5. p. 460 c). In Syria and Carthage they were constantly offered to idols. At Rome, unless the father interposed to save it, every child was killed. It would probably not have cost an Egyptian Pharaoh a single pang to condemn to death a number of children, any more than a number of puppies. And the rule "Salus publica suprema lex," which, if not formulated, still practically prevailed, would have been held to justify anything. The river. Though, in the Delta, where the scene is laid throughout the early part of Exodus, there were many branches of the Nile, yet we hear constantly of "the river" (Exodus 2:3, 5; Exodus 7:20, 21; Exodus 8:3, etc.), because one branch only, the Tanitic, was readily accessible. Tanks (Zoan) was situated on it.



As the first plan miscarried, the king proceeded to try a second, and that a bloody act of cruel despotism. He commanded the midwives to destroy the male children in the birth and to leave only the girls alive. The midwives named in Exodus 1:15, who are not Egyptian but Hebrew women, were no doubt the heads of the whole profession, and were expected to communicate their instructions to their associates. ויּאמר in Exodus 1:16 resumes the address introduced by ויאמר in Exodus 1:15. The expression על־האבנים, of which such various renderings have been given, is used in Jeremiah 18:3 to denote the revolving table of a potter, i.e., the two round discs between which a potter forms his earthenware vessels by turning, and appears to be transferred here to the vagina out of which the child twists itself, as it were like the vessel about to be formed out of the potter's discs. Knobel has at length decided in favour of this explanation, at which the Targumists hint with their מתברא. When the midwives were called in to assist at a birth, they were to look carefully at the vagina; and if the child were a boy, they were to destroy it as it came out of the womb. וחיה for חייה rof ו from חיי, see Genesis 3:22. The w takes kametz before the major pause, as in Genesis 44:9 (cf. Ewald, 243a).
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