This week begins the book begins the book of Exodus, and continues the story of the Israelites in Egypt. From the beginning it juxtaposes the success and blessings Joseph had earned for his family in Egypt with the slavery they were forced into. Yet, while the picture is bleak, it is not without its irony.
Pharaoh, out of fear for of the Israelites stated:
Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.Exodus 1:9b-10 (NASB)
One wonders if Pharaoh’s true concern was for himself, rather than his people. At the end of Genesis we read how as the famine continued the Egyptians sold everything they had to by food from Pharaoh’s storehouses, and still did not have enough. In the end they sold their animals, their land, and finally themselves into the service of Pharaoh (Genesis 47:13-26). Yet, the indication is that the children of Israel did not have to do this. Living under Joseph’s protection they were able to remain separate and successful despite the famine. It is possible that this new Pharaoh’s true concern was of a people in the land who were not beholden to the throne. All Egypt was sold into slavery to Pharaoh, except this group of outsiders in Goshen. And they were multiplying.
And so Pharaoh decided to act “wisely” with them. Yet his wisdom ended like most human wisdom does, in folly. His first response was to make the Israelites like the rest of Egypt, slaves. What they did not do willingly, they were forced to do. The parallels with a world today that attempts to force conformity while proclaiming tolerance for difference is clear. We, like the Israelites, must continue to be like the witness given about the Israelite women who, “were not as the Egyptian women.” And thus we see that Pharaoh’s second attempt ended as the first will, in failure.
When faced with the failure of his first attempted genocide, Pharaoh turns to more brutal methods. Yet with this decision, he seals the consequences he will eventually face.
Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.”Exodus 1:22 (NASB)
It is undoubted that many innocent children died at the cruel command at Pharaoh. But Scripture only records one child who was actually put into the Nile. Moses, cast into the Nile, saved by Pharaoh’s daughter, became the one to tell Pharaoh (albeit the current ruler’s successor) that just as the firstborn of Israel were singled out, so would be the firstborn of Egypt. Bitter irony.
Yet sin, so often ends this way. In an attempt to remove ourselves from danger, better our lives, or protect ourselves or others, we end up doing the opposite. It has been said that the worst consequence of sin is the consequence sin naturally leads to. Perhaps this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote:
Therefore Elohim gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of Elohim for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.Romans 1:25-25
May we always be reminded of the true consequence of sin, death. It does not lead to whatever it is we hope for as we commit it. It will always and only lead to pain, suffering and eventually death. This is what James reminds us in James 1:14-15. But the wonderful news of faith is that Elohim, through His son Yeshua, has given us a good gift. The gift of life. Just as Moses was protected from the river that was to be his deathbed, so too are we through the work of our Creator and King.
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”(James 1:16–18 NASB