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Exodus 1 – Jacky Lam

by Jacky Lam

Jacky blogs at The Sent One - an awesome Christological commentary on the whole bible.  He has collected together his pentateuch comentary (including Exodus) here.  A real treasure trove.

And do read Exodus 1 first...

From Genesis to Exodus

In Genesis we saw promises.  They reach back from the promise made through Joseph - the mediator of peace with Pharoah on behalf of his brothers.  We trace it back further through his forefathers Israel, Isaac, Abraham, Noah, Enoch, Seth, and back to the head, Adam.  He received the first promise (Genesis 3:15) - the good news to be founded upon his Seed.  There was never any confusion as to the object of these promises – the Christian saints of Genesis looked squarely at the Promise of the Redeemer God-man.

The continuation of this great Promise is borne in the title of the second book of Moses -"ex-hodus" - referring to the exit.  This is the 'going-out' of the Israelites from Egypt after they had settled there at the end of Genesis.  The Hebrew title of this book also brings out the theme of continuation in the name "we’elleh shemoth" – which literally means “And these are the names of.”  This is a repetition of the phrase appearing in Genesis 46:8.  This commenced the genealogy of those who came into Egypt just the same way Exodus 1 begins.  Moses' adoption of this phrase reminds us of the Promise carried forward in each generation.

Joseph was confident in Genesis 50:24-25:

"…God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob… God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here"

As Exodus begins (v1-5), each Israelite is named in the lineage of Abraham.  And so we see the book Exodus as a fulfillment of the LORD bringing the Israelites out of this land and into the land of those born in the name of Abraham as forefather.

Chapter 1 explains how awesome Israel has become.  From a mere seventy persons to an exceedingly strong and fruitful congregation united by the Promise. Where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died without seeing the promise come to fruition (1 Peter 1:10-12), Exodus immediately introduces us to the fulfilling of the covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12, 15).

Verse 6 says that the land "was filled with them" – and though it would seem that the Israelites and the Egyptians are to co-exist (with the Egyptians learning of this Promised Seed of Adam); the Hebrew men and women are waiting for God to visit them.  They await their exodus out of the land of Egypt where the Promise is neither fulfilled nor found.

Yet, not all people stood under the great Promise, and v.8 immediately opens with Pharoah, the new king "who did not know Joseph".  He is the head, and the very representation of those who stand against the coming One by his very denial of Joseph's mediatory role.  Unlike the previous Pharoahs, this king comes in the name of oppression, a faint type of Herod's oppression of the Jews after 400 years of silence.

Pharoah's fear is that the Israelites would "join [their] enemies and fight against [them] and escape from the land".  Indeed, this fear is a nearly accurate diagnosis of the prophecy of Joseph in Genesis 50.  The Israelites are either the Pharoah's people, or belonging to another.  They will either fight for Pharoah, or fight against him.  They will either stay in the land or escape from the land.

It is therefore clear that the Promised One will effect the latter on behalf of the Israelites.  Therefore those cryptic words of v.22 – that "every son that is born to the Hebrews… shall [be] cast into the Nile" - are words aimed at extinguishing the coming Redeemer.

Yet, this threat is empty in the face of the Promise.  It is only through the resurrection of Israel from Egypt; only through the ascension, the revival of Israel from Egypt can we see the grander picture of Christ’s ascension from affliction.  This is all within the Father’s ordination - think of Genesis 15:3 when He knew that Abram’s sons would be afflicted in Egypt; or Genesis 3:15 when He knew the Promised Son would have His heel bruised; or Genesis 2 when Adam’s bride would be raised up through a pierced side and a death-like sleep.

Therefore v. 8-14 is but a microscopic picture of the cosmic battle between the Satan and the Christ.  It is the serpent, typified by Pharoah the serpent worshipper (c.f. the swallowing up of the serpents in Exodus 7), against the Promised Seed, the serpent-crusher (Genesis 3:15) - typified in part by Joseph, and in part, by Moses.  It would be a mistake to assume that the Israelites are to solely rely on these shadows.  Their faith is not in mere men whose bones remind them of their death (Genesis 50:25).  Their faith is defined by the greater Object - the Redeeming God who will visit them and bring them into life.

The way in which Israel is made fruitful is a lesson for us all.  The more we are afflicted for the purpose of Christ, the more it fulfils God’s prophecies, and the more we are assured of being part of the Promised One (1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 4:13).

Actually the rapid expansion of Israel (repeated in v.7 and v.20), her persecution, and Joseph's promise reveal to us that the battle between Satan and Christ is not one of equal opposites.  In fact Christ entirely overwhelms.  Christ uses the Pharoah's oppression and works salvation from it.  Pharoah is the proverbial Roman soldier, Pharoah is the angry and prideful cherub (Ezekiel 28/ Isaiah 16) who wishes to remain on a lonely self-exalted (and self-made) throne, attempting to cut Christ on the cross.  Yet, it is the Father's will that new life is born from dead seed; that Israel is "brought up" out of Egyptian captivity; and that Christ is resurrected from the pit to the right hand of the Father.

We are the midwives of other new-born

And it is in the context of such slavery that we are brought to the scrutiny of both the beautiful and the splendid – of both Shiphrah and Puah, the two Hebrew midwives.  They are but one of many stories of the struggles of the Israelites – and it is in their faithfulness that we see His kingdom being advanced.  It is in the lives of the Israelites, in the lives of Shiphrah and Puah, that we see God's preservation of this remnant.  The Seed is not destroyed.  In these two women we see a faint glimpse of Elizabeth and Mary, preserving Elijah and the coming Son.

Who you are

Exodus 1 poses a number of crucial questions which will shape our understanding of how the rest of Exodus plays out.  Are you the:

  • Pharoah, who denies Joseph, Moses and above all the true King of Kings, and rather pledge allegiance to the Father of liars (John 8:44) and schemers (Psalm 1:1, 2:2; Proverbs 24:8)?
  • Mid-wife, who denies the false authority of the evil one in favour of bringing to life more souls, as coheirs and workers of the kingdom greater than Egypt?
  • Hebrew, who is bitterly enslaved in the world thirsting for the return of the Promised One?

There is no clear-cut distinction amongst the three parties.  At times we are more one than the other; at times we are all three, a living contradiction.  Yet, the identities of all three revolve around the "God who will surely visit".  The God who will surely bring us salvation:  He will surely bring in a new creation of a fortress where Gentiles and Israelites co-exist (Pithom v.11), where we stand before him as true children of the Son (Raamses v.11).

To conclude, the Promise-centric nature of Genesis and the Christocentric focus of the Old Testament is our framework for Exodus.  Let us then understand the challenge which the Spirit of God poses in the written word of Exodus.   Let us not accommodate to the daily death of slavery.  Let us be daily captivated by the coming One, who brings new life in the redemption from Satan's slavery, who will resurrect us from the death of Egypt into the life of Canaan.  Let us walk in the blood of Christ through the refiner's fire of the wilderness and into the loving arms of the Father in heaven.  Finally, let us recognise that we are his beloved sons and daughters because of the Promised One, and are co-heirs of a glory far greater than the riches of the edenic Garden.

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