The transition from Genesis to Exodus turns on the lives of two important individuals. The first was a man who began as a shepherd and became a prince. His name, Joseph. The second tells the story of a prince who became a shepherd. His name, Moses. The latter part of the book of Genesis gives an account of the life of Joseph, which is one of the most inspiring and encouraging biographies in human history.
Though a victim of jealousy and treachery, and sold into slavery, Joseph emerged to triumph over every negative circumstance in life he faced. Wrongly accused of improper conduct, Joseph was thrown into a lonely prison for several years to face all the hardships of that environment. Despite all the injustices he faced, Joseph never lost faith in God, and the promises of the Lord.
As the story unfolds, Joseph was eventually released from prison, to be elevated to one of the highest offices in the land of Egypt. He was appointed the prime minister of the land, at which time there was a terrible famine. People from distant lands traveled to Egypt to seek food relief from starvation. Among those who came to Egypt for help were the brothers of Joseph.
There was a dramatic scene, when the brothers discovered that the Prime Minister of Egypt was their brother whom they had sold into slavery, and then lied to their father that he was dead. The brothers were terrified that Joseph would take vengeance upon them, but he showed them mercy as he inquired of his father, and then invited the whole family clan to migrate to Egypt. In Egypt they would receive special privileges and protection.
As the book of Genesis comes to a conclusion, there is movement from Canaan to Egypt. The family of Jacob is given the Land of Goshen to enjoy the benefits provided by the son, Joseph. Then, Joseph also died. Before he departed from earth, Jacob passed on the family blessing, not to the eldest son, as might be expected, but to Judah. He is promised a kingdom. “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Gen. 49:10)
The kings of Israel must come from Judah, until we reach the ultimate King of kings in the New Testament in the person of Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah. He is crowned the Everlasting King. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:18-20)
The book of Genesis closes with the people of Israel enjoying special status in Egypt. The book of Exodus opens with the people of Israel losing their special status in Egypt, and being enslaved. This happened because a Pharaoh came to power who did not remember Joseph. “Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. 9 And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: 10 Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. 11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.” (Ex. 1:8-11) There was a shift in the historical status of Israel. They entered into a special status that was bad, for they were enslaved. They were subjected to four distinct forms of persecution.
First, task masters were appointed over the Hebrews. Initially the taskmasters functioned as policemen to watch over the activities of citizens on behalf of the states. This is always the first step in a systematic enslavement of a people. Government officials are appointed to monitor the behavior of targeted citizens.
Second, the task masters, appointed over the Hebrews forced them into servitude of a specific nature. They built for Pharaoh treasured cities, Pithom and Raamses.” There was no choice of occupation. The people did as they were told.
Third, not only were the Hebrew people watched, and enslaved, there was a rigor of burden added to their labor.
“And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.” (Ex, 1:13-14)
The government of Egypt became more and more oppressive. Individual rights were removed, and the people were forced to serve the state. The government officials were told to increase the goods of production, by decreasing the resources given to them for that purpose.
During World War II, William Speer was placed in charge of armament production. He learned that by giving the slave labor at his command only 700 calories of food per day, he could keep them at a level they could function. The Hebrew people were not allowed to have straw for their task, which made the work all the more arduous.
The First Holocaust
Fourth, the Hebrew people were targeted for extermination. Though they had settled the land with a status of privilege, the Hebrew people were targeted for elimination by the government, because they multiplied in number despite their hardships and circumstances.
“And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: 16 And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.” (Ex. 1:15-16)
What saved the Hebrews from genocide, was the fear of God by the women who delivered the children. “But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.” (Ex. 1:17)
When the Pharaoh inquired why the babies were not being terminated as the state ordered, the midwives were willing to trade lies for lives. “And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive? 19 And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.” (Ex. 1:18-19)
While lying is a sin, the LORD knew the heart of those who lied, and forgave. Then God “dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.” (Ex. 1:19) If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that God is to be feared. Fear of God will protect innocent lives. Fear of God will stop a person from committing greater sins. Fear of God, will not go unrewarded. God honors those who honor Him.
A Man Named Moses
In the providence of God, one baby who escaped the attempted Egyptian genocide of the Hebrew people was Moses. We read of this baby who was concealed, and hidden in an ark weaved by loving hands. Then, he was carefully watched over by his older sister, as the ark was placed in a tributary of the Nile River.
In the water one day the baby cried. It was a cry of Divine providence for nearby was a princess of Egypt, the daughter of Pharaoh. She heard the cry and sent her servants to find out the source. The baby was discovered.
The heart of Pharaoh’s daughter was touched. She could not kill the child. She could not drown the baby, or feed him to the crocodiles of the Nile. She would disobey the directive of her father. The child’s natural mother was summoned. And so it was, that Moses grew up to be a prince of Egypt. He who had been drawn out of the water, for that is the meaning of the name of Moses, would one day draw near to God, and then draw his brethren from the jaws of oppression and death.
The tender heart of Pharaoh’s daughter stands in stark contrast with the heart of the Pharaoh whom Moses would encounter in his maturity. The heart of Pharaoh would be hardened time and again. As Moses grew up in the household of Pharaoh, he learned of his spiritual and physical heritage. There was a dawning awareness as Moses moved towards maturity, that he should do something for his people.
The Madness of Murder
One day, Moses saw an Egyptian guard beating without mercy a Hebrew worker. Moses believed the moment had arrived for him to act. With righteous anger Moses killed the Egyptian, and hid the body in the sand.
“And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.” (Ex. 2:11-12)
Moses firmly believed the Hebrew people would be thankful to him. But he was wrong in this assumption. The people did not understand. “For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.” (Acts 7:25)
The next day, when Moses went out among the people, he encountered two Hebrew slaves becoming angry with one another. Moses stepped in to rebuke the man that was in the wrong, only to be rejected for interfering. “Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.” (Ex. 2:14)
Moses thought he had gotten away with murder. Moses thought the people understood he was looking out for their best interest. Moses sincerely believed he was helping his brethren in the official capacity, and in their personal lives. On all accounts, Moses was wrong.
Fear gripped the heart of Moses. He said to himself, “Surely this thing is known.” (Ex. 2:14) He had killed a member of the guard. What was he to do?
When word reached the court of Pharaoh, he was angry, to the point that he wanted to kill Moses. The man he had reared in his own household had betrayed him. He had sided with slaves against the authority of the ruler of the land. It was a complete betrayal of his trust. The murdering ingrate must die. Word was sent to that effect. “But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and she sat down by a well.” (Ex. 2:15)
In the land of Midian, Moses would live, decade after decade, in exile. Moses would live in humble obscurity, far from the struggle of the people in Egypt. All of his wealth and privileges vanished. He would no longer walk the halls of palaces, but would tread on the hot burning sand of the desert.
However, God was not finished with Moses. He would eventually become the mediator of a covenant with God.
There are only two mediators in the Bible. There is the mediator of the Old Covenant, Moses. There is the mediator of the New Covenant, Jesus. As a mediator, Moses would become a type of Christ.
It was Moses, who became the liberator of his people in Egypt.
It was Moses, who became the Law Giver.
It was Moses, who became the leader of the Jewish state.
It was Moses, who became the object of prophecy for it was said that another one like Moses would come to Israel.
The life of Christ recapitulates the life of Moses, and the whole Exodus experience. The person and work of Christ cannot be fully understood apart from the life of Moses.
Augustine once said that the New Covenant is in the Old concealed, and the Old Covenant is in the New revealed. As God called His son out of exile in Egypt, so God called His Greater Son out of Egypt. (Hosea 11:1; Matt. 2:14) The redemption of the Hebrew people is a prototype of the greater redemption, from sin, and shame, of all who shall be redeemed by the work of Christ at Calvary.
Moses is a titanic figure in the Old Testament, beginning with the moment God spoke to him out of the burning bush, and said to him, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; 8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.” (Ex. 3:7-10)
With that divine mandate in his heart, Moses did go to Pharaoh, and cried out, “Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me!” (Ex. 9:1) It was a message that the most powerful monarch on earth, at that time, could not refuse to obey.
Though a battle was engaged between two sovereigns, the sovereign God of the Universe, and the sovereign lord on earth, there was no question as to the final outcome. The Lord God omnipotent reigns. The clash between Moses and Pharaoh was a proxy conflict between God and Satan. The contest took place over the issue of whom the people would serve, man, or God.
The point of the Exodus was merely the liberation of a people from oppression. The main reason for the Exodus, was so that the people could serve the one and only true and living God. God does not redeem individuals just so they can enjoy freedom. That freedom must have a purpose. God redeems individuals to serve Him. Salvation is not another license to sin, but the freedom to serve the Lord who delivers from the power and pollution of personal bondage.
Redemption is really freedom to go into a new kind of slavery. A slave to righteousness. Paul said that he was a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 1:1) He did not mind at all, for there are only two choices in life. A person will either be a slave of Satan and sin, or a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is far better to be a redemptive slave, a royal slave, than to remain in bondage in the moral and physical darkness of Egypt. God created man to serve Him, not Satan. Moses told Pharaoh, “God made His people to serve Him, not Egypt, so you had better let them go, or else.”
When Pharaoh asked, “Or else what,” Moses simply said, “Flies. Maggots. Boils. Frogs. Lice. A river that turns to blood.” The contest was on. And all that Moses did to bring the power of God to bear on Egypt was duplicated by the magicians of Egypt. But then, one day, by the fourth plague, the Lord God prevailed. The Egyptians ran out of magic.
Step by step, God brought to bear many concentrated and legitimate miracles, to manifest divine power. The purpose was to show the Hebrew people that God was to be their Savior, and their Sovereign. In like manner, all that Christ does for a person is so that He can be their Savior, and their Sovereign. It is a truth worth learning, and honoring.