Read: Exodus 1:1–2:10
The arrival of the sons of Jacob—Joseph’s brothers—in Egypt was a deliverance from suffering. However, “there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). That loss of national memory allowed Pharaoh to “afflict [the Israelites] with heavy burdens” (1:11). The reasoning follows a familiar pattern. In Exod 1:9–11, the Israelites are singled out not only as an Other, but also as a threat. Their numerical size is portrayed as a threat. Their differences are a potential threat in the case of a hypothetical war. They may potentially join ‘our enemies’—a threat intended to be especially unnerving since the Israelites would be a potentially ‘hidden’ enemy already resident in the land. These threats are vague and hypothetical. The Israelites had done nothing to harm the Egyptians. No specific act or evidence of wrongdoing is mentioned. No specific war or named enemies is mentioned and no realistic threat of war was on the horizon. One wonders why anyone would believe such tissue-thin threats. The answer lies in the power of fear.
As part of the campaign against the Israelites, Pharaoh directs Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives for the Hebrews, to kill all the boys the second they come out of the womb (1:16). Because they “feared God,” the midwives refuse (1:17). One of those baby boys is going to be very familiar to us. His mother hides him for three months (2:2) before doing what Pharaoh commanded (casting him into the Nile River)—in letter but not in spirit. She takes her baby son and places him in a basket hidden in the reeds of the Nile (2:3). This sets up a theme that reappears throughout the Scriptures: the boy who lived. Many interpreters have pointed out the political overtones of this story, not just in its ancient Near Eastern context but also in the wider Exodus narrative. The king’s murderous grasps at self-preservation ironically bring about the ascendance of the savior who will eventually topple Egyptian imperial power. … In the historical literature, the motif can be detected in the lives of Joash (2 Kings 11:1–21 par. 2 Chr 22:10–23:21) and Jotham (Judg 9) and is particularly prominent in the stories of Hadad (1 Kings 11:14–22) and Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:26 43; cf. 12:25– 33).… The last aspect of the motif, the boy who saves, is heightened in the New Testament. Matthew’s Gospel, in particular, eagerly embraces it in Jesus’s escape from infanticide. … In Rev 12, we see the motif transformed again, this time mythologized in the story of a newborn who escapes from a dragon. The apocalyptic text makes explicit what was originally implicit: these events are meant to be taken as a ‘sign’ (Rev 12:1). … In this way, the boy who lived motif becomes not just an origin story of the defeat of a tyrant in the past but an inaugurated promise that the birth of a child will defeat primeval evil once and for all in the eschatological future.
In the entire story of scripture has themes like this one that shows that this is one larger story. The story of the Moses and how it all happened is another marker and evidence for the larger story of Jesus as Messiah.
- What is one thing that stood out to you from this week’s story?
- What do you think causes us to be afraid of people who are different than us? How can God help us overcome this?
- How did God use Moses to overcome Pharaoh’s attempts to weaken the Israelite people?
- How did God protect Moses when Pharaoh issued an order to kill all male children?
- What can we learn from God’s protection over Moses and the people of Israel?
- Looking back over your life, can you think of a time that God was working behind the scenes to bring something good into your life?
- How might finding and knowing repeating themes in scripture be beneficial to us as we read it?