Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.…
Introduction to the Book of Exodus. How much summed up in so few words. When men live history, every month seems important; when God records history a few sentences suffice for generations. Man's standpoint in the midst of the tumult is so different from God's: he "sitteth above the waterflood" and seeth "the end from the beginning" (Psalm 29:10; Isaiah 46:10). From God's standpoint we have here as of main consequence -
I. A LIST OF NAMES, vers. 1-5. Names of certain emigrants. More in them than seems at first sight. If I say, "William, Arthur etc., came to England at such and such a time," not much. If I say, "William, a great warrior; Arthur, a great inventor; we feel at once that with them elements are introduced which may prove important. In these early times names are connected with the characters of the men who bear them. All these names are significant. Illustrate from their meaning as given in Genesis 29., etc., and expanded in Jacob's blessing, Genesis 49. We are supposed, too, to know something of the men from the previous history. The whole, taken together, shows us, as it were, a nation in embryo - a nation of which the characteristics were wholly different from those of the Egyptians. "Seventy souls," but -
1. Seed souls; bound to develop through their offspring the characteristics they exhibited.
2. United, not isolated; a nation in embryo, not a collocation of units.
II. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BEARERS OF THE NAMES, ver. 6. All died-Joseph and all that generation. The common lot, but, from God's standpoint, the ordained method of development (John 12:24). What wailing, as each patriarch, in his own time, passed away! Yet with each death the harvest of the future was being ever more securely sown. Death, as it were, rounds off the life; pedestals it; sets it where it can become exemplary. So set it becomes fruitful; the old husk drops away, and the true life-grain is enfranchised, Gad, Asher, and the rest, very ordinary men, or, if not ordinary, not very high-class men; and yet, once dead, they are rightly reverenced as the fathers of their tribes. Which is better, the day of death or the day of birth? The day which makes life possible for us, or the day which, by sanctifying our memory, makes that life an ennobling influence for others?
III. HOW THE DESCENDANTS PROSPERED, ver. 7. So - through the vicissitudes of life; the varieties of character; the monotony of death - God works on, slowly but certainly, to his destined end. New generations, each more numerous, succeed the old. Power and prosperity, for a time, go hand-in-hand with increased numbers - the people "waxed exceeding mighty." [The shepherd life, even in Egypt, ensured some knowledge of warfare. Goshen, the border land - cf. "the borders' in the wars with Scotland. Perhaps Joseph had purposely placed his brethren as a defence to Egypt against raids from the desert.] Families grew into tribes, and the tribes learnt their first lessons in discipline and war. Egypt, God's Aldershot - the training-ground for his armies. Canaan had to be conquered and cleared, but God could take his own time about it. When at length the hour should come, it would find his preparations perfected. Application: - Would that man - God's child - would be content to copy his Father's methods - slow; thorough; a definite end in view; quiet, persistent preparation. No haste, no hurry, no delay (Isaiah 28:16). - G.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.