“The way out.” That is the meaning of the title of the book we begin today. It is named for the central event of the book, when God provided “a way out” of slavery for His people.
When I begin reading a book like Exodus, it helps me to think of it in terms of its place in the grand story of the gospel. Here we find that God was building a nation through which He would display His power to save, demonstrate His steadfast love, write His Law, and (eventually) bring forth the Savior.
Exodus begins with a link to the book of Genesis as the names of Jacob’s sons are listed. These men, the custodians of God’s covenant with Abraham, had originally come to Egypt to escape a famine. Four centuries later they were still there, but the 70 had grown to perhaps millions (v.5,7).
Verse 8 sets the stage for the first of many Jewish persecutions in history. The Pharaoh did not know about Joseph, the Jew who had once saved his ancestors from starvation. So rather than respect them, he enslaved them and feared them.
Pharaoh enacted a plan to reduce the Israelite population. He gave orders to literally work them to death in the backbreaking labor of building new cities. The plan backfired, however, and the oppression produced an Israelite baby boom.
Pharaoh’s “Plan B” involved two Jewish midwives whom he told to kill half of the Jewish babies. The implication (v.16) was that when they were called to a delivery, they should “fake” stillbirths as soon as they detected that babies were male. But the midwives feared God, the giver of life, and refused to murder the newborns.
Whether or not their shrewd excuse in verse 19 was based on fact is immaterial; they saved many lives and God blessed them for it. In a day when many midwives were either unmarried or barren, God gave them families, presumably with children of their own (v.21). This is one of many examples in Scripture of how God can use and bless people who fear Him, stand for justice, and defend life.
“How strange that the names of the two humble midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, Semitic names that mean “beauty” and “splendor,” are preserved in the Scriptures, but not the mighty Pharaoh!”
-F.B. Huey, Jr.
The cold-blooded “Plan C” of Pharaoh (enlisting every Egyptian to commit infanticide) revealed the depth of his wickedness and fear (v.22). In his rage he seemed determined to exterminate the Jewish nation. But God had already planned to raise up a deliverer to rescue His people! We will meet him tomorrow…