|The Book of Exodus|
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Go to Bible: Exodus 1
|Exo 1:1||- (top)|
|Exo 1:2||- (top)|
|Exo 1:3||- (top)|
|Exo 1:4||- (top)|
“thigh.” An idiom. The “thigh” is euphemistic for the genital organs, and the idiom “came out of his thigh” refers to his direct descendants (see commentary on Gen. 24:2).
[For more information on sexual euphemisms, see commentary on Isa. 47:2.]
“70 souls.” The Masoretic Hebrew text says that 70 people went to Egypt when Jacob and his family went to Egypt to be with Joseph, and this agrees with Deuteronomy 10:22.(top)
|Exo 1:6||- (top)|
|Exo 1:7||- (top)|
|Exo 1:8||- (top)|
“more numerous and stronger than we are.” Scholars assert that Israel could not have outnumbered the people of Egypt, so this is almost certainly an exaggeration that comes from fear and a desire to control.a Some scholars believe Pharaoh was making an excuse to enslave Israel. George Bush suggests that perhaps Pharaoh had a specific area in mind in which Israel was more numerous than the Egyptians.b In any case, there were not more Israelites than Egyptians in Egypt, and Pharaoh did apparently want to enslave them or he would have just asked them to leave Egypt, and when they did want to leave he would not let them go. It is also possible that the Hebrew text should be understood as, “too many and too might for us” (ESV; JPS; RSV; cp. CJB; NIV, Rotherham, The interpreter’s Bible), which would be a statement made from fear, but not as clearly an exaggeration.
“wisely.” The Hebrew is chakam (#02449 חָכַם), and it is a common word for wisdom, to be wise. The Bible makes a distinction between godly wisdom (1 Cor. 1:21) and “worldly wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:20; 3:19). Worldly wisdom may succeed for a while on earth but in the end, it will fail; at the Judgment if not before then.(top)
“afflict.” The Hebrew is anah (#06031 עָנָה), and it means to make someone busy with something, afflict, to be bowed down or put down, made low, made humble, depressed, downcast. Thus the NLT has “to wear them down.” Pharaoh was worldly wise. The slave drivers did not just give the Israelites work to do, they wore them down and worked to break their spirits. No wonder Egypt was called “the iron furnace” (Deut. 4:20; Jer. 11:4) and the “house of bondage.”(top)
|Exo 1:12||- (top)|
|Exo 1:13||- (top)|
“serve as slaves.” The Hebrew is abad (#05647 עָבַד) and it means to serve, to work, to serve another. In this context it means to serve as a slave (cp. ESV).(top)
|Exo 1:15||- (top)|
|Exo 1:16||- (top)|
“did not do what the king of Egypt commanded them.” For more on civil disobedience, see commentary on Exodus 1:19.(top)
|Exo 1:18||- (top)|
“and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” This statement is a lie, an untruth. It has been debated for generations as to whether telling a lie is always wrong or whether there are times when telling a lie is acceptable to God. The philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that telling a lie was always wrong, while the Christian pastor and philosopher Dietrich Bonhoeffer believed that God supported people telling lies in certain situations. The biblical evidence is that Bonhoeffer was correct. God has always allowed people to defend themselves, their families, and other people. Self-defense is a basic tenet of God’s justice and biblical truth. For example, the general biblical tenet is to not kill, but killing is allowed if that killing is in self-defense. It would be incongruous for God to allow for killing in self-defense but not allow a person to lie in self-defense in order to defend their life or the lives of others. There are many times when evil governments would kill good people, such as we see here in Egypt, and those good people are often saved by untruths that people tell to the government or its representatives.
There are quite a few records in the Bible of people telling untruths to protect themselves or others. Here in Exodus 1:15-20 is the record of the Hebrew midwives. In Joshua 2:1-6 is the record of Rahab telling an untruth to the leaders of Jericho, who would have killed the men from Israel if they had found them, and she was blessed by God, marrying into the genealogy of Jesus Christ and being personally mentioned in Matthew 1:5. In 1 Samuel 19:11-18, David’s wife Michal lied to King Saul to save David’s life then her own. In 2 Samuel 17:15-20, a woman lied to the men of Absalom about young men who were hiding in her well and in so doing likely saved David’s life. In Genesis 38:11-19, Tamar acted out a lie and pretended to be a prostitute in order to avoid being kept from marrying and having the blessing of children by her selfish stepfather Judah, and God blessed her with a child in the genealogy of Jesus Christ and she herself is mentioned in Matthew 1:3. There are other records besides these where people misrepresented the truth to evil governments and leaders, and did so without any condemnation from God. In fact, in this record in Exodus, the Bible is very clear that the midwives who lied to Pharoah were blessed by God: “And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families” (Exod. 1:21).
Civil disobedience to protect one’s life and the lives of others is throughout the Bible because evil governments are throughout the Bible and history. Moses’ parents hid him when he was born rather than kill him like Pharaoh ordered (Exod. 2:1-2). When Jezebel was killing the prophets of Yahweh, the palace administrator Obadiah hid 100 of the prophets and saved their lives (1 Kings 18:1-4). The Apostles defied their evil Jewish government and continued to spread the word about Jesus even though they had been ordered not to speak about him (Acts 5:27-32).
Misrepresenting the truth to one’s government is serious, and it is an individual matter and an individual decision, and there are no “blanket policies” that cover every situation. But Scripture is clear that lying in self-defense can be acceptable to God in certain situations.(top)
|Exo 1:20||- (top)|
|Exo 1:21||- (top)|
“the river.” That is, the Nile.(top)