Exodus 1:7
And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.
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(7) The children of Israel were fruitful.—A great multiplication is evidently intended. Egypt was a particularly healthy country, and both men and animals were abnormally prolific there. Grain was so plentiful that want, which is the ordinary check on population, was almost unknown. The Egyptian kings for many years would look favourably on the growth of the Hebrew people, which strengthened their eastern frontier, the quarter on which they were most open to attack. God’s blessing was, moreover, upon the people, which he had promised to make “as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore, for multitude” (see Genesis 22:17). On the actual extent of the multiplication and the time that it occupied, see the comment on Exodus 12:37-41.

The land—i.e., where they dwelt—Goshen (Genesis 47:4-6)—which seems to have been the more eastern portion of the Delta.

Exodus 1:7. And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly — Like fishes or insects, as one of the words here used signifies, and being generally healthful and strong, they waxed exceeding mighty, so that the land was filled with them — At least Goshen, their own allotment. This wonderful increase was the product of the promise long before made to their fathers. From the call of Abraham, when God first told him he would make him a great nation, to the deliverance of his seed out of Egypt, were four hundred and thirty years; during the first two hundred and fifteen of which they were increased to seventy, but in the latter half, those seventy multiplied to six hundred thousand fighting men.1:1-7 During more than 200 years, while Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived at liberty, the Hebrews increased slowly; only about seventy persons went down into Egypt. There, in about the same number of years, though under cruel bondage, they became a large nation. This wonderful increase was according to the promise long before made unto the fathers. Though the performance of God's promises is sometimes slow, it is always sure.In no province does the population increase so rapidly as in that which was occupied by the Israelites. See the note at Genesis 47:6. At present it has more flocks and herds than any province in Egypt, and more fishermen, though many villages are deserted. Until the accession of the new king, the relations between the Egyptians and the Israelites were undoubtedly friendly. The expressions used in this verse imply the lapse of a considerable period after the death of Joseph.

The land was filled with them - i. e. the district allotted to them Genesis 45:10.

7. children of Israel were fruitful—They were living in a land where, according to the testimony of an ancient author, mothers produced three and four sometimes at a birth; and a modern writer declares "the females in Egypt, as well among the human race as among animals, surpass all others in fruitfulness." To this natural circumstance must be added the fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham. Here are many words, and some very emphatical, to express their incredible multiplication. They

waxed exceeding mighty; which may relate either to their numbers, which greatly added to their strength, or to their constitution, to note that their offspring was strong as well as numerous. Atheistical wits cavil at this story, and pretend it impossible that out of seventy persons should come above six hundred thousand men within two hundred and fifteen years; wherein they betray no less ignorance than impiety. For, to say nothing of the extraordinary fruitfulness of the women in Egypt who oft bring forth four or five children at one birth, as Aristotle notes, Hist. Animal. 7.4, nor of the long lives of the men of that age, nor of the plurality of wives then much in use, nor of the singular blessing of God upon the Hebrews in giving them conceptions and births without abortion, all which are but very reasonable suppositions, the probability of it may plainly appear thus: Suppose there were only two hundred years reckoned, and only fifty persons who did beget children, and these begin not to beget before they he twenty years old, and then each of them beget only three children. Divide this time now into ten times twenty years. In the first time, of 50 come 150. In the second, of 150 come 450. Of them in the third, come 1350. Of them in the fourth, 4050. Of these in the fifth, 12150. Of these in the sixth, 36450. Of them in the seventh, 109350. Of them in the eighth, 328050. Of these in the ninth, 984150. And of them in the tenth, 2952450. If it be objected, that we read nothing of their great multiplication till after Joseph’s death, which some say was not above fifty years before their going out of Egypt, it may be easily replied:

1. This is a great mistake, for there were above one hundred and forty, years between Joseph’s death and their going out of Egypt, as may appear thus: It is granted that the Israelites were in Egypt about two hundred and ten or two hundred and fifteen years in all. They came not thither till Joseph was near forty years old, as is evident by comparing Genesis 41:46 with Genesis 45:6. So there rests only seventy years of Joseph’s life, which are the first part of the time of Israel’s dwelling in Egypt, and there remain one hundred and forty-five years, being the other part of the two hundred and fifteen years.

2. That the Israelites did multiply much before Joseph’s death, though Scripture be silent in it, as it is of many other passages confessedly true, cannot be reasonably doubted. But if there was any defect in the numbers proposed in the first fifty-five years, it might be abundantly compensated in the one hundred and forty-five years succeeding. And so the computation remains good. And the children of Israel were fruitful,.... In their offspring; became like fruitful trees, as the word signifies:

and increased abundantly; like creeping things, or rather like fishes, which increase very much, see Genesis 1:20.

and multiplied; became very numerous, whereby the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were fulfilled:

and waxed exceeding mighty; were hale, and strong, of good constitutions, able bodied men, and so more dreaded by the Egyptians: a heap of words is here used to express the vast increase of the people of Israel in Egypt:

and the land was filled with them; not the whole land of Egypt, but the land of Goshen: at first they were seated in a village in that country, but now they were spread throughout the towns and cities in it.

And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the {b} land was filled with them.

(b) He means the country of Goshen.

7. The continuation in P of v. 5.

[P] were fruitful, and swarmed, [J] and multiplied, and waxed mighty, [P] exceedingly] To ‘be fruitful,’ as Genesis 1:28; Genesis 9:1; Genesis 9:7, &c., and in the promises to Abraham and Jacob of an abundant progeny, Genesis 17:6; Genesis 35:11 (Genesis 48:4), cf. Exodus 28:3 (all P). ‘Swarmed,’ as Genesis 1:20-21; Genesis 7:21; Genesis 8:17 (all P); used here of men, as Genesis 9:7 (P). ‘Multiplied and waxed mighty’ (the last expression not elsewhere in P), as v. 20: cf. the corresponding adjectives in v. 9. ‘Exceedingly,’—here, in the Heb., an expression peculiar to P and Ezek., lit. with muchness, muchness,—qualifies all the preceding verbs.

Hebrew tradition loved to tell of the wonderful increase of their ancestors in Egypt: cf., of an earlier stage of their residence there, Genesis 47:27 (P) ‘were fruitful, and multiplied greatly.’

the land] viz. of Rameses, Genesis 47:11 (P), or of Goshen, Genesis 47:4 (J).Verses 7-14. - Here the real narrative of Exodus begins. The history of the Israelites from and after the death of Joseph is entered on. The first point touched is their rapid multiplication. The next their falling under the dominion of a new king. The third, his mode of action under the circumstances. It is remarkable that the narrative contains no notes of time. How long the increase continued before the new king arose, how long it went on before he noticed it, how long the attempt was made to cheek it by mere severity of labour, we are not told. Some considerable duration of time is implied, both for the multiplication (ver. 7) and for the oppression (ver. 11-14); but the narrator is so absorbed in the matters which he has to communicate that the question what time these matters occupied does not seem even to occur to him. And so it is with the sacred narrative frequently - perhaps we should say, generally. The chronological element is regarded as of slight importance; "A thousand years in the Lord's sight are but as yesterday" - "one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Where a profane writer would have been to the last degree definite and particular, a sacred writer is constantly vague and indeterminate. We have in the Bible nothing like an exact continuous chronology. Certain general Chronological ideas may be obtained from the Bible; but in order to construct anything like a complete chronological scheme, frequent reference has to be made to profane writers and monuments, and such a scheme must be mainly dependent on these references. Archbishop Ussher's dates, inserted into the margin of so many of our Bibles, are the private speculations of an individual on the subject of mundane chronology, and must not be regarded as in any way authoritative. Their primary basis is profane history; and, though taking into consideration all the Scriptural numbers, they do not consistently follow any single rule with respect to them. Sometimes the authority of the Septuagint, sometimes that of the Hebrew text, is preferred; and the result arrived at is in a high degree uncertain and arbitrary. Verse 7. - The multiplication of the Israelites in Egypt from "seventy souls" to "six hundred thousand that were men" (Genesis 12:37) - a number which may fairly be said to imply a total of at least two millions - has been declared to be "impossible," and to stamp the whole narrative of Exodus with the character of unreality and romance. Manifestly, the soundness of this criticism depends entirely on two things - first, the length of time- during which the stay in Egypt continued; and secondly, the sense in which the original number of the children of Israel in Egypt is said to have been "seventy souls." Now, as to the first point, there are two theories - one, basing itself on the Septuagint version of Exodus 12:40, would make the duration of the Egyptian sojourn 215 years only; the other, following the clear and repeated statement of the Hebrew text (Exodus 12:40, 41), literally rendered in our version, would extend the time to 430 years, or exactly double it. Much may be said on both sides of this question, and the best critics are divided with respect to it. The longer period is supported' by Kalisch, Kurtz, Knobel, Winer, Ewald, Delitzsch, and Canon Cook among moderns; by Koppe, Frank, Beer, Rosenmuller, Hofmann, Tiele, Reinke, Jahn, Vater, and J. D. Michaelis among earlier critics; the short period is approved by Calvin, Grotius, Buddeus, Morinus, Voss, Houbigant, Baumgarten; and among our own countrymen, by Ussher, Marsham, Geddes, and Kennicott. The point cannot be properly argued in an "exposition" like the present; but it may be remarked that both reason and authority are in favour of the simple acceptance of the words of the Hebrew text, which assign 430 years as the interval between Jacob's descent into Egypt and the deliverance under Moses. With respect to the number of those who accompanied Jacob into Egypt, and were assigned the land of Goshen for a habitation (Genesis 47:6), it is important to bear in mind, first of all, that the "seventy souls" enumerated in Genesis 46:8-27 comprised only two females, and that "Jacob's sons' wives" are expressly mentioned as not included among them (ib. ver. 26). If we add the wives of 67 males, we shall have, for the actual family of Jacob, 137 persons. Further, it is to be borne in mind that each Israelite family which went down into Egypt was accompanied by its "household" (Exodus 1:1), consisting of at least some scores of dependants. If each son of Jacob had even 50 such retainers, and if Jacob himself had a household like that of Abraham (Genesis 14:14), the entire number which "went down into Egypt" would have amounted to at least 2000 persons. According to Malthus, population tends to double itself, if there be no artificial check restraining it, every twenty-five years. At this rate, 2000 persons would expand into 2,048,000 in 250 years, 1000 would reach the same amount in 275 years, and 500 in 300 years; so that, even supposing the "seventy souls" with their "households" to have numbered no more than 500 persons when they went down into Egypt, the people would, unless artificially checked, have exceeded two millions at the expiration of three centuries - that is to say, 130 years before the Exodus! No doubt, the artificial checks which keep down the natural tendency of population to increase began to tell upon them considerably before that time. The "land of Goshen."a broad tract of very fertile country, became tolerably thickly peopled, and the rate of increase gradually subsided. Still, as the Delta was a space of from 7000 to 8000 square miles, and the land of Goshen was probably about half of it, a population of two millions is very much what we should expect, being at the rate of from 500 to 600 persons to the square mile. It is an interesting question whether the Egyptian remains do, or do not, contain any mention of the Hebrew sojourn; and if they do, whether any light is thereby thrown on these numbers. Now it is admitted on all hands that, about the time of the Hebrew sojourn, there was in Egypt a subject race, often employed in forced labours, called Aperu or Aperiu, and it seems impossible to deny that this word is a very fair Egyptian equivalent for the Biblical עצרים, "Hebrews." We are forced, therefore, either to suppose that there were in Egypt, at one and the same time, two subject races with names almost identical, or to admit the identification of the Aperu with the descendants of Jacob. The exact numbers of the Aperu are nowhere mentioned; but it is a calculation of Dr. Brugsch that under Rameses II., a little before the Exodus, the foreign races in Egypt, of whom the Aperu were beyond all doubt the chief, "amounted certainly to a third, and probably still more," of the whole population ('History of Egypt,' vol. 2. p. 100, E.T.), which is usually reckoned at from 7,000,000 to 8,000,000, One-third of this number would be from 2,300,000 to 2,600,000. The writer of Exodus does not, however, as yet, make anything like a definite calculation. He is merely bent on having it understood that there had been a great multiplication, and that the "family" had grown into a "nation." To emphasise his statement, he uses four nearly synonymous verbs ("were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed-mighty"), adding to the last a duplicated adverb, bim'od m'od, "much, much." Clearly, an astonishing increase is intended. To place the multiplication of the children of Israel into a strong nation in its true light, as the commencement of the realization of the promises of God, the number of the souls that went down with Jacob to Egypt is repeated from Genesis 46:27 (on the number 70, in which Jacob is included, see the notes on this passage); and the repetition of the names of the twelve sons of Jacob serves to give to the history which follows a character of completeness within itself. "With Jacob they came, every one and his house," i.e., his sons, together with their families, their wives, and their children. The sons are arranged according to their mothers, as in Genesis 35:23-26, and the sons of the two maid-servants stand last. Joseph, indeed, is not placed in the list, but brought into special prominence by the words, "for Joseph was in Egypt" (Exodus 1:5), since he did not go down to Egypt along with the house of Jacob, and occupied an exalted position in relation to them there.
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