The last point of application is that it would be better to have been one of the Hebrew midwives than to have been pharaoh. You see, the world exalts the great and it despises the lowly. But in God’s way of doing things, it’s usually the exalted people that are brought low and the lowly people that are exalted, at least if they do the right thing out of reverence for God. Are you willing to be among the foolish and the weak and the despised people of this world? That’s what most Christians are. So when God works through you, it won’t be you who will be glorified but the glory will go to God. In order to be that, you have to pay a price. That’s costly, sometimes it even brings you into danger, which was certainly the case with the midwives. But if you stand for God, God will notice it. God notices every act of righteousness; nothing ever escapes Him. He writes the names of those people in His book. And not only that, God will reward you in His own right time. 

This story also teaches us that even in times of great sophistication and power, a nation can be cruel. What we read about in the first chapter is the way pharaoh began to oppress the people, and we find two stages in it. First of all, you see slave labor. Now, there wasn’t anything unusual about that. In the ancient world; there were always slaves. People have estimated that at any given time in the ancient world, about half of the people were enslaved to the other half. Even the Egyptians themselves operated under forced labor groups at times. But what’s different about this in Exodus 1 is that it involved a whole people, that is, it was ethnic. It wasn’t just a convenient way of getting something built, it was directed against the Jews as Jews, and it involved all the people. 

When we read our text for this study, starting with 1:8, the first question we have is who is this king who did not know Joseph? Who is the pharaoh of the exodus? There were two different men involved, and scholars are divided on it because when you read the book of Exodus it doesn’t tell you who the pharaoh was. And when you turn to Egyptian records, they don’t have any record of the Jews except to a reference to them in a stele set up by Pharaoh Merneptah, in about 1220 BC, that describes a victory that the pharaoh had over the Jews in the southern area of Canaan. But this is well after the Jews had left Egypt and settled in Canaan.

Egypt may have been sophisticated and wealthy, and the wonder of the ancient world. But it was also a very pagan land. They worshiped animals such as bulls, cows, birds, snakes, and crocodiles, which they kept in sacred enclosures. When people read Paul’s description of the depravity of mankind apart from God in the first chapter of Romans, they could naturally think of a description of Egypt. As Paul writes, “Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him. And their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom. 1:21-23). Now that debased religion of the Egyptians, for all their sophistication, enabled them to persecute the Jews in the way we find in the very first chapter of the book of Exodus. 

The story of Moses begins in the book of Exodus. Now “exodus” means “exit,” or “going out.” And it’s called that because it’s really the story of the deliverance of the people from Egypt. Yet it’s more than that. What we read in Exodus is not only the story of the deliverance of the nation, we also read about the creation or birth of the nation. The reason I say that is that when we read the opening verses, we find that the ones who went down to Egypt initially in the time of Joseph numbered only around 70. They were just a large family. But by the time the people left Egypt they must have numbered about two million.