“The more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread.” (Exodus 1:12)
The ancient Israelites thrived in the land of Egypt, despite harsh conditions. Slave masters forced them to work in fields and make bricks. Ruthless overseers required them to build entire cities for Pharaoh. The king of Egypt even tried to use infanticide to reduce their numbers. However, because God sustained them, “the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread”. Many Bible scholars estimate that the population of Israelite men, women, and children grew to two million or more during their time in Egypt.\God, who preserved His people then, is upholding us today as well. He can help us in any environment. We may worry about enduring through another season. But the Bible assures us that God, who “cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and are gone tomorrow,” can provide for our needs.
- Why is it so hard to trust God during life’s “dry” seasons?
- How has God provided for you in the past, and how might the story of His faithfulness encourage someone you know?
Father, sometimes it’s so hard to keep going. Please meet our needs today, and help us to persevere through the power of Your Holy Spirit.
Exodus 1: 6-14
Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.
Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”
So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.
From around 1650 to 1550 BC, Semitic foreigners the Egyptians called “shepherd kings,” or Hyksos, took over and ruled the northern part of Egypt where the Israelites lived. It’s possible that the expulsion of these rulers around 1540 BC form the background of Exodus, in which a “new” dynasty shows extreme suspicion towards remaining Semites in Egypt. Remnants of the Hyksos may be the “enemies” Pharaoh fears the Israelites will ally with.
Pharaoh’s proposed solution was oppressing the Israelites in increasingly severe ways, beginning with forced labor in the dynasty’s ambitious construction projects. Because the only stone available in Egypt was to be found in the far south of the country, the Israelites were given the intense work of making bricks with clay mixed with a binder like shells or straw. In the dry, hot climate of Egypt, these bricks were quite durable once dried.