It has been MANY years and several Pharaoh’s since Joseph saved Egypt. The Israelites are so numerous in the land that the new Pharaoh is afraid of them. He has a plan to put stop their growth.
Jacob’s family settled in the land of Goshen when they first came. By now they had multiplied to such a degree that they overflowed throughout the land. They were no longer contained in one consolidated area. “They spread abroad” (verse 12b). I don’t know if this was a spreading out in the land of Goshen or throughout all the territory of Egypt. Later on we will see them drawn back together in Goshen, but I’m getting ahead of myself again.
In normal, practical terms, Pharaoh had a sound idea but it was NOT going to work with God’s chosen people. In China there has been the 2 child limit law and even that has wreaked havoc with enforcement. That’s how “children of the night” were created. These are the extra children that are hidden and only allowed out at night to prevent their parent’s existence from being discovered. Pharaoh’s idea was even more drastic. His plan was to systematically sterilize the nation of Israel.
That plan did NOT line up with God’s plan and the women tasked with carrying it out were NOT going to go against Him. It is hard to imagine the audacity, or perceived influence, Pharaoh believed he wielded that would compel these women to act on his command. Yes, he was the highest office in the country; god like status to the Egyptians. But these were Hebrew midwives and they took their duties as a sacred calling.
God protected His people all along. He protected His bloodline from the very beginning. He kept Sarah unspoiled, even when Abraham left her open on two different occasions. He blessed a shriveled womb that had NEVER been in operation. He chose a wife for Isaac. He protected Rebekah the same as He protected Sarah when Isaac fell to fear. He allowed Jacob’s hand in securing the birthright and blessing. He watched over and blessed Jacob while he was away from the Promised Land. He set the stage for the family’s safety during the famine. He made the people fruitful and let them multiply to the size of a nation. And now He was standing against Pharaoh’s hand in wiping them out.
God needed Pharaoh to become uncomfortable with the Israelites too. Israel was comfortable in Egypt. They had no need to leave. God had to “make their nest uncomfortable” for them to finally be willing to leave. Everyone who had seen the Promised Land from before had already died. The current generation had been born in Egypt. They were quite comfortable living in the most prosperous part of the land. Up to this point they were not slaves. They were simply working and living in the land to their own betterment. They were lower class citizens than the Egyptians, in the Egyptians own minds.
Pharaoh didn’t go straight for the “kill shot.” He tried making them miserable first. He made their work as difficult as possible. I can imagine signs now of “Hebrew need not apply” posted in the better establishments. Their employment opportunities were being stripped away from them until all that was left were the extremely manual labor jobs. The ones no Egyptian wanted to do.
Pharaoh was hoping this change would dishearten the Hebrews to the point that they were too depressed to care about anything. When that failed to work as planned, Pharaoh had their workloads increased and their work environment made increasingly more hostile.
As the Hebrews were not originally slaves, there had to be other changes made to get them to this point. I’m assuming that when their work opportunities were funneled down so was their buying power. Pharaoh didn’t really want them to leave; he just wanted them under his thumb. It was difficult for them to acquire housing as again, “Hebrew need not apply” reigned there too. The housing they could get was probably above their income means and thus required them to “sell themselves” in order to survive. But even these dire straits didn’t stop the home life of the Hebrews.
Looking at the conditions Pharaoh took them from and where he led them to was remarkable. I don’t know why they didn’t up and leave on their own or revolt. I know I would have been looking for “greener pastures” for my family! But they stayed.
Their refusal to leave reminds me of cooking crabs. When you cook crabs you don’t just drop them in boiling water. You put them in cool water and slowly heat it up. They don’t notice the temperature change, because it is gradual, until it is too late. That is what happened with the Hebrews. They felt the change in attitude but didn’t really pay attention to it until it was too late; then they were stuck as slaves.
Pharaoh’s main goal from start to finish was to make the Hebrew people stop “multiplying like rabbits.” He wanted to keep them for their strong backs but needed there to be a limit in their numbers. What Pharaoh didn’t take into account was that when the Hebrew felt pressure from the outside he turned to his family to fulfill him. He was actually pushing the family tighter together with his campaign. And of course, a tighter family life meant more children born.
With that plan a failure, Pharaoh went for the “kill shot” instead. But as we noted earlier, the midwives didn’t buy into Pharaoh’s plan. They trusted God and feared his retaliation above that of Pharaoh’s. God rewarded the women for their loyalty to Him. He gave them something they had never had before; their own families. Their whole lives had been devoted to caring for the needs of other women. They were alone. They might have been married but they had no children of their own. God graciously changed this in their lives as a reward for their faithfulness to Him. What an unexpected blessing!
Pharaoh was desperate now! The Hebrews outnumbered the Egyptians by far and they were NOT going to stop growing as a people. He finally turned to his own people. “If you see a Hebrew boy, KILL HIM. If it is a Hebrew girl let her live.” These were his people and would follow his command. This brought real danger to the Hebrews. We will see next time how deeply that affected the people.
Father God, help me recognize the “slow boils” in my life. You answered that question before I could even finish it! Food has been one of my big “slow boils.” I wish it was as easy to “lower the temperature” as it was to turn it up. I don’t know how to get back from here without revisiting my unhealthy patterns. I refuse to go there again! So help me please to fix this mess.
I love how everything Pharaoh did backfired on him. Yes, You used him to make the Hebrews uncomfortable but everything he tried drover them closer to their families. It gave them a sense of unity and a reason to hold on closer to the ones they loved. Draw me closer to my family every day. I don’t need the trials to do that though! Thank You for protecting Jared last night and walking us through a new trial. Help him heal quickly father.