The Goshen Captivity
by Wayne Blank
"These are the names of the sons of Israel [see Children of Jacob] who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. All the offspring of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt." (Exodus 1:1-5 RSV)
"Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us"
As described above, Israel's entry into Egypt was under very favorable conditions. They had escaped a famine back home; one of their own, Joseph, was the Prime Minister of Egypt; and they were allowed to settle in a lush area of the Nile Delta as free people. It was that prosperity however that eventually caused a later leader of Egypt to view the Israelites as a security threat.
"Then Joseph died [see also Joseph's Bones], and all his brothers, and all that generation. But the descendants of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong; so that the land was filled with them.
The former honored guests were forced into slavery, but the Israelites were a vigourous people - "the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad."
"Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens; and they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they made the people of Israel serve with rigor, and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field; in all their work they made them serve with rigor." (Exodus 1:11-14 RSV)
The new Pharaoh's tactics then became more deadly, but the Israelites continued to grow as a nation within a nation i.e. "the people multiplied and grew very strong."
"Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, "When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, she shall live." But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives, and said to them, "Why have you done this, and let the male children live?"
The midwives refused to murder infants, so the Pharaoh commanded "all his people" to drown all male infants of Israel.
"Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, "Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live." (Exodus 1:22 RSV)
Fact Finder: How did the Pharaoh's order to kill all of the male infants produce the man who would lead the Israelites out of Egypt?