Matthew Poole's Commentary
Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.The names and numbers of the children of Israel that came into Egypt, Exo 1:1-5. Joseph, his brethren, and that generation die, Exo 1:6. A new king, who knew not Joseph, Exo 1:8, goeth about by affliction, & c. to suppress the Israelites, Exo 1:9-11. They increase, Exo 1:12. Pharaoh commands the midwives to kill the male children, Exo 1:15,16. They fear God, and obey not the king, Exo 1:17. For this God blesseth the midwives, Exo 1:20. Pharaoh commands all the male children to be drowned, Exo 1:22.
This list is here repeated, that by comparing this small root with so vast a company of branches as grew upon it, we may see the wonderful providence of God in the fulfilling of his promises. And his household, his children and grandchildren, as the word house is taken Rth 4:11 2Sa 7:11 1Ki 21:29.
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,
Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin,Who, though the youngest of all, is placed before Dan, Naphtali, &c., because these were the sons of the handmaidens.
Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.No text from Poole on this verse.
And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.Seventy souls, including Jacob and Joseph, and his two sons. See Genesis 46:26,27 Deu 10:22. Or if they were but sixty-nine, they are called seventy by a round number, of which we shall have many instances. i.e. All that were of the same age with Joseph and his brethren.
And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.1635 No text from Poole on this verse.
And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.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.
Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.A new king, i.e. another king; one of another disposition, or interest, or family; for the kingdom of Egypt did oft pass from one family to another, as appears from the history of the Dynastics recorded in ancient writers.
Which knew not Joseph, or, acknowledged not the vast obligations which Joseph had laid not only upon the kingdoms of Egypt, and the king under whom Joseph lived, but upon all his successors, in regard of those vast additions of wealth and power which he had made to that crown. This phrase notes his ungrateful disowning and ill requiting of Joseph’s favours. For words of knowledge in Scripture commonly include the affections and actions; as men are oft said not to know God, when they do not love nor serve him; and God is said not to know men, when he doth not love them.
And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:This was not a true, but an invidious representation and aggravation of the matter, the better to justify the sororities which he designed.
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.War was not unusual in that country. So get them up out of the land, which they might easily learn from some of the Hebrews, that they were in due time to do. And they were very unwilling to pint with them, because of the tribute and service which they did receive and expect from them.
Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.Taskmasters, Heb. masters of tribute, who were to exact from them the tribute required, which was both money and labour; that their purses might be exhausted by the one, their strength by the other, and their spirits by both. To afflict, or, oppress, or humble; to spend their strength by excessive labours, and so disenable them for the procreation of children.
Treasure cities, where they laid the king’s money or corn, which is reckoned among treasures, 2 Chronicles 17:12 32:27, and wherein a great part of the riches of Egypt consisted; for they had corn enough, not only for themselves, but to sell to other countries; so that Egypt was accounted the granary of the Roman empire. Or,
defenced cities, in which garrisons were to be placed, which seems best to agree with the place and use of them. For they were in the borders of the land, and among the Israelites, which appears concerning the one from Genesis 47:11, (where the land in which they were placed is called Ramases, which in Hebrew consists of the same letters with this
Raamses, and seems to be so called then by anticipation from the city of that name now built in it,) and may be reasonably presumed concerning the other; and therefore it is most probable that they were built to keep the Israelites in subjection, and to hinder them from going out of the land.
But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.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.
And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour:Or, cruelty, or, tyranny; with hard words and cruel usage, without mercy or mitigation. This God permitted for wise and just reasons.
1. As a punishment of their idolatry, into which divers of them fell there. Joshua 24:14 Ezekiel 20:5,7,8 23:8
2. To wean them from the land of Egypt, which otherwise was a plentiful and desirable land, and to quicken their desires after Canaan.
3. 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.Service in the field was the basest and most laborious of all their 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:The Hebrew midwives; such as not only were employed about the Hebrew women, but were Hebrews themselves, not Egyptians, as some suppose; as may appear,
1. Because they are expressly called, not the midwives of the Hebrews, but
the Hebrew midwives.
2. The Egyptian midwives would not willingly employ their time and pains among the meanest and poorest of servants, as these were. And if they were sent in design by the king, he had lost his end, which was to cover his cruelty with cunning, and to persuade the people that their death was not from his intention, but from the ellarices and dangers of child-bearing.
3. The Hebrew women, as they had doubtless midwives of their own, so they would never have admitted others.
4. They are said to fear God, Exodus 2:17,21.
You are not to think that these were the only midwives to so many thousands of Hebrew women, but they were the most eminent among them; and it may be, for their excellency in that profession called to the service of some Egyptian ladies, and by them known to Pharaoh, who might therefore think by their own interest, and by the promise of great rewards, or by severe threatenings, to oblige them to comply with his desires; and if he met with the desired success by them, he meant to proceed further, and to engage the rest in like manner.
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.The stools; a seat used by women when ready to be delivered, conveniently framed for the midwife’s better discharge of her office.
Ye shall kill him, which it was not difficult for them to do without much observation.
If it be a daughter, then she shall live; either,
1. Because he feared not them, but the males only; and some add, that he was advised by one of their magicians, that a male child should be born of the Israelites, who should be a dreadful scourge to the Egyptians. Or,
2. They reserved them for their lust, or for service, or for the increase of their people, and the raising of a fairer breed by them.
But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.1635
They feared God more than the king, and therefore chose to obey God rather than the king, their commands being contrary each to other.
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?No text from Poole on this verse.
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.They are lively, or, vigorous and active in promoting the birth of their own children; or, like the beasts, which without any help of others bring forth their young. So the Hebrew word signifies; and so there is only a refe of the particle of similitude, which is frequent, as I have noted before.
This might be no lie, as many suppose, but a truth concerning many of them, and they do not affirm it to be so with all. And so it might be, either because their daily and excessive labours joined with the fears of the execution of the king’s command, whereof they seem to have gotten notice, did hasten their birth, as the same causes do commonly in other women; or because they, understanding their danger, would not send for the midwives, but committed themselves to God’s providence, and the care of some of their neighbours present with them. So here was nothing but truth, though they did not speak the whole truth, which they were not obliged to do.
Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.Therefore, because they feared God, and spared the children, Exodus 1:17, whereby they exposed themselves to the king’s displeasure; because they would not offend God by murdering the children, which they might have done many times secretly, and therefore it was only the fear of God which restrained them from it.
And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.i.e. God greatly increased their families both in children and posterity, and in wealth, and other outward blessings. So this phrase is used Genesis 30:30 Deu 25:9 1 Samuel 2:35 1 Kings 2:24 11:38 Psalm 127:1. As
houses are commonly put for families, so building is put for procreating of children, Genesis 16:2 30:3.
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.1573 No text from Poole on this verse.