James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.Exodus 1:1-2:22
JOSEPH’S DEATH, MOSES’ CALL
In Exodus we have the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt and the establishment of their relationship with Jehovah their Deliverer.
It opens by rehearsing the names of Jacob’s sons and the passing away of Joseph and his generation (Exodus 1:1-6) matters considered in Genesis. Then follows a statement of the numerical development of Israel. Count the adverbs, adjectives and nouns describing it, and see how God has fulfilled already one part of His prediction to Abraham (Genesis 15:13-14).
ANALYSIS OF CHAPTER 1
What circumstance is mentioned (Exodus 1:8)? What course does the king pursue toward Israel and why (Exodus 1:9-11)? What effect had this on the development of the people (Exodus 1:12)? How further did the Egyptians oppress Israel (Exodus 1:13-14)? How was the execution of the last-named method of oppression subsequently extended (Exodus 1:22)?
DEFINITION, EXPLANATION AND APPLICATION
Exodus begins with “Now” which might be translated “And,” suggesting that the book was not originally divided from Genesis, but constituted a part of it. This is true of all the first five books of the Bible, which were originally one unbroken volume and known as The Law or The Law of Moses (Luke 16:31; Luke 24:44).
“The new king.., which knew not Joseph” means a new dynasty altogether, the result of some internal revolution or foreign conquest. If that of Joseph’s day was a dynasty of shepherd kings from the East or the neighborhood of Canaan, we can understand their friendship for Joseph and his family outside of any special debt of gratitude they owed him. For the same reason we can understand how the new regime might have been jealous and fearful of his clan in the event of a war with the people of that region (Exodus 1:10). Perhaps, “more and mightier than we,” is not to be taken in a literal but comparative sense.
Notice concerning the Hebrew midwives that while the names of but two are given these may have been heads of schools of the obstetric art. “Stools” (Exodus 1:16) might be translated “stones” and suggests a vessel of stone for holding water like a trough, the application being to the children rather than to the mothers. When a newborn child was laid in the trough for bathing may have been the time for the destruction of the male issue.
Exodus 1:21 will be better understood if we know that “them” is masculine and refers not to the midwives but Israel. “The midwives feared God,” and because of this they did not execute Pharaoh’s orders, and those orders remaining unexecuted, God built up Israel. “He made them houses” refers doubtless to the way in which the Israelites begat children and their families grew. It was for this reason that the king now gave commandment to his people generally to engage in the destructive work.
ANALYSIS OF CHAPTER 2
The story now descends from the general to the particular and the history of one family and one child is given. To which tribe did this family belong (Exodus 2:1)? For the names of the father and mother, see 6:20. What measures were taken to preserve the child (Exodus 2:3)? Compare Hebrews 11:23 for evidence of a divine impulse in this action. What is the meaning of “Moses” (in Hebrew, Mosheh, Exodus 2:10)? While Moses was to have the advantage of all the wisdom and learning of the Egyptian court (Acts 7:22), what arrangement is made for his instruction in the traditions of his fathers (Exodus 2:7-9)?
Do you see any relation between this training of Moses and his action in Exodus 2:11-12? May it have been that Moses was fired by a carnal desire to free his people at this time and in his own way? What led to his flight from Egypt (Exodus 2:13-14)? Were his fears well grounded (Exodus 2:15)?
Identify Midian on the map, and from your studies in Genesis recall what Abrahamic stock had settled in that neighborhood. Is there anything in Exodus 2:15 and the following verses to recall an ancestor of Moses, and if so, which one?
DEFINITION, EXPLANATION AND APPLICATION
It is probable the marriage of Moses’ parents had taken place previous to the order for the destruction of the male children, for Aaron, the brother of Moses, was older than he and there is no intimation that his infancy was exposed to peril.
Speaking of the wisdom and learning of the Egyptian, Dr. Murphy has a paragraph explaining it as follows:
The annual overflow of the Nile, imparting a constant fertility to the soil, rendered Egypt preeminently an agricultural country. The necessity of marking the time of its rise led to the study of astronomy and chronology. To determine the right to which it rose in successive years and the boundaries of landed property liable to be obliterated by these waters, they were constrained to turn their attention to geometry. For the preservation of mathematical science and the recording of the observation needful for its practical application, the art of writing was essential; and the papyrus reed afforded the material for such records. In these circumstances the heavenly bodies, the Nile and the animals of their country became absorbing objects of attention and eventually of worship.
This part of Moses’ history should be studied in connection with Acts 7:20-29 and Hebrews 11:23-27, where we have an inspired commentary on his actions and motives.
It would appear that he declined all the honor and preferment included in his relation by adoption to Pharaoh’s daughter, and for all we know the throne of Egypt itself, in order to throw in his lot with the Hebrews, and this before the incident recorded in this lesson. And if this be so, no man except Jesus Christ ever made a choice more trying or redounding more to His credit; for it is to be remembered that the step was taken not in youth or old age, but at the grand climacteric of his life when he was forty years of age.
The Midianites being descended from Abraham by Keturah, had doubtless to some degree preserved the worship of Jehovah so that Reuel (elsewhere called Jethro) may, like Melchisedec, have been a priest of the Most High God, and Moses in marrying his daughter was not entering into alliance with an idolator.
1. What are the two main subjects of Exodus?
2. What is suggested as to the original form of the first five books of Moses?
3. How would you explain the opposition of the Egyptians?
4. Can you give the history of their learning and wisdom?
5. How do the events of this lesson exalt Moses?