Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.Exodus 1:1. These are the names — This list of names is here repeated, that by comparing this small root with the multitude of branches which arose from it, we may see and acknowledge the wonderful providence of God in the fulfilment of his promises. Every man and his household — That is, his children and grand-children.
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,
Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin,Exodus 1:3. And Benjamin — Who, though youngest of all, is placed before Dan, Naphtali, &c., because they were the children of the hand-maidens.
Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.
And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.Exodus 1:5. Seventy souls — Or persons, according to the computation we had, Genesis 46:27, including Joseph and his two sons. This was just the number of the nations by which the earth was peopled, (Genesis 10.,) for when “God separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel,”
And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.Exodus 1:6. All that generation — By degrees wore off. Perhaps all Jacob’s sons died much about the same time, for there was not past seven years’ difference in age between the eldest and the youngest of them, except Benjamin.
And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.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.
Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.Exodus 1:8. There arose a new king — One of another family, according to Josephus; for it appears from ancient writers that the kingdom of Egypt often passed from one family to another. That knew not Joseph — All that knew him loved him, and were kind to his relations for his sake; but when he was dead he was soon forgotten, and the remembrance of the good offices he had done was either not retained or not regarded. If we work for men only, our works, at furthest, will die with us; if for God, they will follow us, Revelation 14:13.
And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:
Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.Exodus 1:10-11. Come on, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply — When men deal wickedly, it is common for them to imagine that they deal wisely, but the folly of sin will at last be manifested before all men. They set over them task-masters, to afflict them — With this very design. They not only made them serve, which was sufficient for Pharaoh’s profit, but they made them serve with rigour, so that their lives became bitter to them; intending hereby to break their spirits, and to rob them of every thing in them that was generous; to ruin their health, and shorten their days, and so diminish their numbers; to discourage them from marrying, since their children would be born to slavery; and to oblige them to desert the Hebrews, and incorporate with the Egyptians. And it is to be feared the oppression they were under did bring over many of them to join with the Egyptians in their idolatrous worship; for we read, Joshua 24:14, that they served other gods in Egypt; and we find, Ezekiel 20:8, that God had threatened to destroy them for it, even while they were in the land of Egypt. Treasure-cities — To keep the king’s money or corn, wherein a great part of the riches of Egypt consisted.
Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.
But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.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.
And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour:Exodus 1:13. With rigour — בפרךְbepareck, with cruelty, or tyranny; with hard words and cruel usage, without mercy or mitigation. This God permitted for wise and just reasons: 1st, As a punishment of the idolatry into which, it appears, many of them had fallen: 2d, To wean them from the land of Egypt, which was a plentiful, and, in many respects, a desirable land, and to quicken their desires after Canaan: 3d, To prepare the way for God’s glorious works, and Israel’s deliverance.
And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.Exodus 1:14. In mortar and brick — It has been supposed by many, that, besides the treasure-cities, mentioned Exodus 1:11, and other similar works, the Israelites were employed in raising those enormous piles, termed pyramids, which remain to this day, and probably will remain to the end of the world; “monuments, not so much of the greatness and wisdom, as of the folly, caprice, exorbitant power, and cruel tyranny of the monarchs who projected them. It cannot indeed be denied, that the skill wherewith they were planned equals the vastness of the labour with which they were completed; but then it is evident they never could be useful in any degree adequate to the toil and expense with which they were erected. The supposition, however, is entirely groundless; for the Israelites were employed in making brick; while it is well known the pyramids were built of hewn stone.” — Scott. “The great pyramid,” says Herodotus, “was covered with polished stones, perfectly well joined, the smallest of which was thirty feet long. It was built in the form of steps, on each of which were placed wooden machines to raise the stones from one to another.” Diodorus adds, that “the stories were of very different workmanship, and of eternal duration. It is preserved to our days (the middle of the Augustan age) without being in the least injured. The marble was brought from the quarries of Arabia.” Pliny bears the same testimony: “It is formed of stone brought from the quarries of Arabia.” — Encycl. Brit. So that, it seems evident, the Israelites, who were employed in brick and mortar, had no hand in erecting the pyramids. All manner of service in the field — In cultivating the ground, and, according to Josephus, in cutting canals and trenches, to convey to different parts of the country the waters of the Nile, to raise up mounds, lest the waters overflowing should stagnate, and in other laborious services.
And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah:Exodus 1:15. The king spake to the Hebrew midwives — The two chief of them. They are called Hebrew midwives, probably not because they were themselves Hebrews; for sure Pharaoh could never expect they should be so barbarous to those of their own nation; but because they were generally made use of among the Hebrews, and being Egyptians, he hoped to prevail with them.
And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.Exodus 1:16-19. The stools — Seats used on that occasion. But the midwives feared God — Dreaded his wrath more than Pharaoh’s, and therefore saved the men-children alive. The Hebrew women are lively — We have no reason to doubt the truth of this; it is plain they were now under an extraordinary blessing of increase, which may well be supposed to have had this effect, that the women had quick and easy labour, and the mothers and children being both lively, they seldom needed the help of midwives: this these midwives took notice of, and concluding it to be the finger of God, were thereby imboldened to disobey the king, and with this justify themselves before Pharaoh when he called them to an account for it.
But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.
And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive?
And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.
Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.Exodus 1:20-21. God dealt well with the midwives — he made them houses — He blessed them in kind: for as they kept up Israel’s houses or families, so God, in recompense, built them up into families, blessed their children, and made them prosperous. But a late learned writer interprets the passage as follows: Pharaoh, resolving effectually to prevent the increase of the Israelites, built houses for them, that so they might no longer have it in their power to lodge their women in child-bed out of the way to save their children, by removing them from place to place, as they had before done when they lived in the fields in tents, which was their ancient way of living. But the other seems the true interpretation.
And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.
And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.