Exodus: Israel in Egypt

Exodus 1:1‑7  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 11
It was a wondrous act of grace when the God of glory called Abram in Ur of the Chaldees to Himself. The fathers of the chosen race no less than the accursed of Canaan then “served other gods:” a then new and destructive evil, striking directly at God's truth and honor, of which we never hear in scripture till after the deluge. In the early days of Seth, particularly from the birth of his son whom he called Enosh with a due sense of what man is now, frail and mortal, we know that people began to call on the name of Jehovah. Eminent among those who believed later were Enoch and Noah; but all these walked with God where they were. Their spirit was separate to Him whom they knew by His word and Spirit, and they looked onward in confiding hope for Him, the mysterious Seed of the woman who should crush the enemy of God and man. They, or some, called on Jehovah's name with a reality which a new nature alone gives.
But idolatry as an open affront to God could be met by nothing less than His call to open separation unto Himself, not only from the nearest ties of kin and nature but also from the providential order He had Himself lately set up in tongues, countries, and nations. His call was sovereign grace but imperative and paramount, with promises to an earthly seed and to a spiritual, only to be fully accomplished in Christ's day above and below. O how feebly realized meanwhile by faith!
As Abram went down into Egypt under natural pressure, so he was given to know in prophetic vision with a smoking furnace and a flaming fire, that his seed should be a sojourner in a land not theirs, and be in bondage and affliction four centuries, to emerge with great property and divine judgment on their oppressive masters, when the time approached to deal with Amorite iniquity (Gen. 15). Having come down under the prestige of Egypt's greatest governor and the warmest royal favor, Israel might have looked for nothing but ease and honor, settled as they were in the best of the land, in Goshen, the extreme province of Egypt toward the south frontier of Palestine. But spite of appearances Egypt in Jehovah's eyes betokened servitude and affliction; and so it came to pass when Joseph's bulwark no longer subsisted. The word of God abides, and cannot fail, whatever the weakness of man, or the pride of unbelief. For the mind of the flesh is enmity against God, and His word is the proof of His goodness toward man, and of counsels of grace and glory unfailing when man comes to the end of his folly and sin, and the divine judgment is proved as sure as is His grace.
“And these are the names of the sons of Israel who came into Egypt: with Jacob came they, the man and his household, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls; and Joseph was in Egypt [already]. And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. And the children of Israel were fruitful and swarmed and multiplied and became exceeding strong; and the land was filled with them” (vers. 1-7).
Egypt was the providential nursery provided for the chosen race whilst growing up from a great patriarchal family, the sons and sons' sons of one father, into a people for their destined inheritance. They were sheltered mercifully for a season, that they might grow all the more under adversity when it came, as it must, under man's antipathy to any who claimed relationship with the true God, not without dread as we shall soon find.
Let none deem it carping or unkind criticism, if I cite the words of so excellent a Christian as M. Henry in order to save souls from following him where he shows his utter ignorance of God's church, which he confounds, one while with the saints before or during or since Israel, and as here with Israel as such. This is to ignore all the N. T. light on what is found exclusively there, and impossible to exist alongside of Israel, which supposes the middle wall of partition to have God's sanction; whereas He took it down as an essential act for the being of the church, wherein is neither Jew nor Greek, but Christ is all and in all. The family of faith again was a fact throughout the world's history, and independent of it with increasing degrees of light from God. But the church of God was a wholly new thing, which only began with the Jew's rejection of the Christ, whom God raised and exalted to His right hand, and then and there gave Him to be Head over all things to the church which is His body.
Judge then the profound lack of intelligence in these words which open his Exposition of Exodus, “Moses..., having in the first book of his history preserved and transmitted the records of the church (!), while it existed in private families, comes in this second book to give us an account of its growth into a great nation (!!); and as the former furnishes us with the best Economics, so this with the best Politics.” It is not that other divines of any school are more reliable: they all agree in the display of the same misconception. Nor is it a question of an idea or a theory. The truth of the church is bound up with Christ's glory in heavenly places, and immediately acts on our judgment and our affections; because this is what God is now occupied with, along with the gospel sent to all the creation. Now we, without right understanding of our church relation and of God's revealed will as to it, cannot but drift helplessly from what is of the deepest importance to His glory and the blessing of all concerned. The misunderstanding is through the like Judaizing that was the earliest and widest spread of all the forms of unbelief with which the apostle Paul had his life-conflict. It is no less persistent and ensnaring to-day, blinding not a few of the excellent of the earth against our highest privileges.
Here we have exclusively the sons of Israel brought before us under circumstances favoring an extremely rapid increase to which ver. 7 directs our special attention. There is not the most distant allusion to the church throughout.