Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.
This prosperity was not a mere appearance, nor a passing spurt of fortune. It was a deep, abiding, and significant reality. Nor was it something exaggerated in order to make an excuse for the cruelties of a suspicious tyrant. There was indeed only too much to make Pharaoh uneasy; but altogether apart from his alarms there is a plain and emphatic statement of the prosperity of Israel in ver. 7. It is a very emphatic statement indeed, summoning us m the most imperative way to a special notice of this remarkable prosperity. Let us therefore take a general view of Israel's prosperity as it is set before us in all the extent of this first chapter. Note -
I. THE INDICATIONS OF THIS PROSPERITY. The prosperity is not only plainly stated, but the chapter abounds in indications of Jehovah's favour towards Israel, and his peculiar watchfulness over it.
1. The wonderful way in which God had brought a whole family into Egypt, and provided for their comfortable settlement in the land. Families usually get scattered; but here are the children of Israel and children's children all kept together. The very means which they had employed in order to get rid of one of their number who was an offence to them, had ended in their being brought together more closely than ever. Joseph went before, and all unconsciously made a solid foundation for the building of their prosperity. Through all domestic jealousies, in the perils of famine, and in their journeyings between Canaan and Egypt, the Lord had preserved these twelve men so that not one of them was lacking in his contribution to the future excellency of Israel.
2. The name by which they were described - the children of Israel. God had said to Jacob (Genesis 32:28), "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel," and yet down to the end of his life he is sometimes called Jacob and sometimes Israel, as if to keep before our minds both his natural character and also his new position and privileges gained in the memorable wrestling at Peniel. These twelve men, the fathers of the tribes, were children of Israel as well as sons of Jacob. Jacob himself had done many things to show the meanness and corruption of fallen human nature, and his sons had been not one whir better than himself (consider the revengeful action of Simeon and Levi in Genesis 34:25; the conduct of Reuben in Genesis 35:22; and especially the conduct of the brethren towards Joseph and the father who so doted upon him). But these sons of Jacob, with all their personal demerits, were also the children of him who by his sublime, persistent, courageous, and successful struggle had gained the name of Israel. It was a name to be transmitted from them to their children, full of significance, recalling a glorious experience in the past and promising a still more glorious experience in the future. It was a name not to be forfeited even in the greatest apostasies, and perhaps its chief splendour lay in this, that it pointed forward to a still more glorious fatherhood enjoyed by those who through the gracious work of him who taught Nicodemus concerning regeneration, are permitted to say, "Now are we the children and heirs of God."
3. The apprehensive attitude of Pharaoh. He is a witness to the greatness of Israel's prosperity, and to the Divine and miraculous origin of it, all the more valuable because he gives his evidence unconsciously. The more we consider his unaffected alarm and his continuous and energetic efforts to crush Israel, the more we feel what a real and Divine thing Israel's prosperity was, how it was nourished by the secret and unassailable strength of God. It should be a matter of great rejoicing to God's people when the world, in its hatred, suspicion, and instinctive sense of danger, takes to the instruments of persecution, for then there is unmistakable indication of prosperity within.
II. WHEREIN THE PROSPERITY CONSISTED. It did not consist in the accumulation of external possessions. The Israelites might have remained comparatively few or have increased in a way such as to excite no attention. Their increase might have been in external wealth, and this would have been reckoned, by many, true prosperity. But it would not have been prosperity after a godly sort. It was the purpose of God to show in Israel how our true resources come, not from things outside of us, but from the quality of the life which he puts within. Hence the prosperity of Israel was not the result of industry, personal ability, and fortunate circumstances. It was shown by the manifestation of a miraculous fulness of life. The husbandman does not reckon it anything wonderful that there should be among the trees of his vineyard a certain increase of fruitfulness, corresponding to the carefulness of his cultivation. But if all at once certain trees begin to put forth a fulness of fruit altogether beyond expectation, the husbandman would not claim that such a result came from him. There is the greatest possible difference between the prosperity lying in mere external possessions and that which comes from the energy of a Divine life working in us. It needs no special help from God to make a man a millionaire. There are but few who can be such; but place them in favourable circumstances, and the immense results of their industry and attention are quite intelligible. But to produce such a result as appears in the peculiar prosperity of Israel in Egypt required a special influx of Divine energy. We have not only unmistakable indications of the prosperity of Israel; it is an equally important thing to notice that this prosperity in its peculiar character is an indication of the presence of God. He was doing what none but himself could do. Learn then that our spiritual prosperity must be something produced by God manifesting his power in Our hearts. There is no chance of attributing it to our unaided industry, attention, and prudence. It is a growth more than anything else, and must show itself in the abundant and beautiful fruits of a Divine life within us.
III. A PAINFUL ACCOMPANIMENT OF THE PROSPERITY. Such prosperity as is indicated in ver. 7 could not but produce apprehension and opposition on the part of Pharaoh - inevitably assuming, as it did, the appearance of a menace to his kingdom. But it was better for Israel to go on increasing with the increase of God, even in the midst of persecutions, than to be without the persecutions on condition of being without the increase. Spiritual prosperity not only may be, but must be, accompanied with afflictions of the natural life. That is a very doubtful spirituality which manages to keep clear of all temporal troubles. They that will live godly must suffer persecution. Let us pray for spiritual prosperity, and hail its coming, and secure its stay, whatever pains be suffered and whatever lesser comforts be lost. The more the life of God is in us, the more we must expect the powers of evil to be stirred against us. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.