The Bondage
Exodus 1:11-14
Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities…

I. HOW EFFECTED? Doubtless, partly by craft, and partly by force. To one in Pharaoh's position, where there was the will to enslave, there would soon be found the way.

1. The Israelites were politically weak. "The patriarchal family had grown into a horde; it must have lost its domestic character, yet it had no polity a people in this state was ripe for slavery" (Maurice).

2. And Pharaoh had no scruples. Those engaged in tillage and keeping of cattle could easily be ruined by heaping on them tributes and exactions. Liberty once forfeited, they were at Pharaoh's disposal, to do with as he listed. Of the rest, large numbers were probably already employed - as forced labourers - on Pharaoh's works of construction. Over these (ver. 11), it was proposed to set "taskmasters" - "chiefs of tribute" - to afflict them with their burdens.

3. Complaint was useless. The Hebrews soon found, as expressed afterwards (Exodus 5:19), that they were "in evil case" - that a general conspiracy, from the king downwards, had been entered into to rob, injure, and oppress them. Their subjugation in these circumstances was easily accomplished. Learn -

1. A nation may outgrow itself. It will do so if intelligence and morals, with suitable institutions, do not keep pace with numbers.

2. Great prosperity is not always an advantage. It

(1) excites jealousy;

(2) tempts cupidity;

(3) usually weakens by enervating.

II. WHY PERMITTED? This question may be answered by viewing the bondage

1. Is a punishment for sins. The Hebrews had doubtless greatly corrupted themselves in Egypt, and had become in their masses very like the people around them. This was in them a sin that could not pass unpunished. God cannot suspend his moral Laws even for his own people. If they do wrong, they must, no less than others, suffer for it. Nay, they will be punished with even greater severity than others are for similar offences. It is this which explains the bitter servitude of Israel. The nation is allowed to sink into a condition which is at once a fit retribution for its own sin, and an apt image of the condition of the sinner generally. For sin is slavery. It is inward bondage. It is degradation. It is rigorous service, and bitterness, and misery. God's law, the soul's own lusts, an exacting world, become in different ways taskmasters. It is unprofitable service. It sends a man to the husks, to the swine-troughs. It is slavery from which nothing but the power of God Almighty can redeem us. We bless God for our greater Moses, and the grander Exodus.

2. As a trial of faith. It would be so in a very especial degree to the godly portion of Israel. For why this long hiding of God's face - this keeping silence while his people were broiling and perishing under their terrible tasks? Did it not seem as though the promise had failed and God had forgotten to be gracious? (Psalm 77:8, 9.) Truly we need not wonder at anything in God's dealings with his Church when we reflect on how long and how fearfully Israel was afflicted. The faith which endured this trial must have come out of the furnace seven times purified,

3. As a moral preparation. It is now manifest, though it could hardly have been seen then, how needful was this affliction, protracted through successive generations -

(1) To wean the people's hearts from Egypt.

(2) To make them willing to leave it.

(3) To make the thought of Canaan sweet to them.

(4) To break up trust in self and man.

(5) To lead them to cry mightily to God.

The same reasons, in whole or part, serve to explain why God lays trials on ourselves; indicate at least the ends which affliction is used to subserve. Had everything been prosperous, the hearts of Israel would naturally have clung to the fleshpots; their hopes would have been forgotten; even their God would in time have been abjured. - J.O.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.

WEB: Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. They built storage cities for Pharaoh: Pithom and Raamses.

Prosperity Under Persecution
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