Slaves in Egypt  


Exodus 1-18  At the end of Genesis, Abraham’s grandson Jacob and family have moved to Egypt where they prosper and multiply. They are enslaved by Pharaoh until God raises up a deliverer to set the Israelites free. From Egypt they set out into the wilderness on the way to Mt. Sinai and the Promised Land.

Bondage and Midwives

In the last chapters of Genesis, Joseph the Vizier of Egypt brought his family down to Egypt due to the severe seven year famine.  Jacob and his entire family settled in the land of Goshen in direct fulfillment of the covenant promise God gave Abraham:

Genesis 15: 12-16  As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure”

God brought Jacob’s family to Egypt to create a nation from them. It is in Egypt they would become the nation of promise. Thus God fulfilled this promise to Abraham by bringing them to Egypt-to be strangers in a country not their own.

Genesis 12: 1-3 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Had they remained in Canaan the possibility of intermarriage with surrounding tribes would have diluted their identity as the chosen people of God.  Godless faiths from spouses would have deterred God’s people from worship of the one true God. As a result of the move to Egypt, their identity as a nation was strengthened. Because Egyptians detested shepherds, the sons of Jacob/Israel were left to their own. As a result, they were able to maintain their own culture apart from the Egyptians. It was in Egypt, God blessed them drawing them to depend upon each other and from one family they grew strong in number and became the nation of Israel fulfilling the prophecy of God.

At the end of chapter 50 in Genesis-Joseph dies at age 110 and was embalmed.  Because he believed the covenant promise that one day the Hebrews would return to the Promised Land, before he died Joseph made his family swear an oath to carry his body back with them when they left Egypt to return home.  In this regard, if Joseph had not been embalmed, it would have been difficult to remove a dead body four hundred years old for a return trip through the desert.  In every detail, God was in control and had designed a plan to carry out His covenant promises to Abraham.

Exodus 1-2: 10 

In chapter one of Exodus, the names of the sons of Jacob are once again stated and counted as seventy in all coming to Egypt plus Joseph and his family who were already there. Joseph and all his brothers die and all their generation and a new king comes to power many years later as the Israelites continue to grow in number.

Exodus 1: 7-8 but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.  Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.

This new king who did not know Joseph came to power. There is much speculation as to this king’s identity.  We do not know exactly who this king might be.  Archeologist have found clues but do not agree.  Some suggest 1) Hyksos kings were Semitic people similar to Joseph in background and in 1300-1250 BC brought Joseph to power.  They were then expelled by the Egyptian Pharaoh and turned against the Hebrews. or 2) An Egyptian Pharaoh installed Joseph as vizier and when the Hyksos arrived they enslaved the Hebrews around 1450 BC

It was at this time, the enslavement prophecy was fulfilled. Genesis 15: 13  Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.

Exodus 1: 11-14 “Therefore, they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel. So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor.  And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage—in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.”

Pharaoh became increasingly jealous of the numbers of Hebrews that were being born.  He feared they would outnumber the Egyptians and take over the kingdom of Egypt.  So he devised a plan: 

Exodus 1: 15-22 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.”  But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?” And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.” Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty.  And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that He provided households for them.

22 So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.” 

Although Pharaoh tried to reduce the number of children being born to God’s people, they continued to multiply. and soon he enslaved them.  And soon, a boy baby is born to 

Exodus 2: 1-10 “And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi. So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank. And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him.

Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river. And her maidens walked along the riverside; and when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it. And when she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”  

Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the maiden went and called the child’s mother.  Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. So she called his name Moses, saying, “Because I drew him out of the water.”


 Take the quiz below and see how much you know about Exodus 1-2: 10

Discussion Questions

1. Refer back to the Genesis 15: 12-16.  How many years were predicted that Israel would be in a foreign land?  How many years of enslavement did the descendants of Jacob experience in Egypt?  What does this speak about God?

2. Why was Pharaoh fearful of the Israelites/Hebrews?

3.  What did Pharaoh do to ensure the numbers would cease to increase?  Did it work? Why?

4. Shiphrah and Purah disobeyed Pharaoh.  Disobeying Pharaoh was punishable by death.  Why did they take the risk?

5. List examples of people that have disobeyed rulers and governments for the kingdom of God.

6. Moses’ Mother recognized that her son was a special child. Indeed, he would grow to be a leader. Detail God’s intervention into the life of this child from the time he was born until he met God in the desert.