Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Exodus 1:15-22 Pharaoh's Attempt to Diminish the Israelites

"The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives,
whose names were Shiphrah and Puah,
'When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth
and observe them on the delivery stool,
if it is a boy, kill him;
but if it is a girl, let her live.'

The midwives, however, feared God
and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do;
they let the  boys live.

Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, 
'Why have you done this?  Why have you let the boys live?'

The midwives answered Pharaoh,
'Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women;
they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.'
So God was kind to the midwives
and the people increased and became even more numerous.
And because the midwives feared God,
he gave them families of their own.

Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people:
'Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, 
but let every girl live.' "

Exodus 1:15-22 (NIV)


At first, the new Pharaoh seemed to be trying to be secretive in his attempt to thwart the rapid increase of the Israelites.  This is not surprising; he is a new ruler and  it would probably serve his own need to take care of this perceived threat quietly.  He tried to enlist the help of the Hebrew midwives in killing any Hebrew boys who were being born.

Pharaoh was used to unquestioning obedience from his subjects.  However, did he really expect the Hebrews to annihilate their own people?  Besides, they were subject to a higher authority.  Because the midwives feared God more than Pharaoh, they found a way to get around his decree by claiming that the Hebrew women would already have given birth before the midwives even arrived on the scene.  There may be some truth to this claim, for the hard labor to which Pharaoh had subjected all the Israelites may have made the women more physically fit and better able to give birth without complications.

This reminds me of what Joseph had said to his own brothers years after they had sold him into slavery:  "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20 NIV)  Pharaoh's plans were no match for the covenant blessings and promises of God.

The Israelites became even more numerous.  In the future, God would have some dealings with another Pharaoh regarding the firstborn sons of his own household and the households of the rest of the Egyptian people.  Was that later Pharaoh related to this one who ordered the deaths of the newborn Hebrew baby boys?  If so, there is a kind of ironic justice to the upcoming end of this Pharaoh's family line.  Remember God's covenant promises to Abraham? -- "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse..." (Genesis 12:3 NIV)  Since God always keeps His promises, I believe this Pharaoh is in for a lot of trouble.

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