Jan. 18 Reading: Exodus 1-3 Commentary

Below is our Exodus 1-3 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s):

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:7-10)

Exodus 1 – The Oppression of Israel

commentaryJacob’s family lived in Egypt for many decades. In time, Joseph, his brothers and all that generation of people died. But God continued to be with his people, increasing their numbers generation after generation.

Eventually, a Pharaoh rose to power who did not care about the exploits of Joseph in saving Egypt. He looked around and saw the increasing number of Hebrews in his land and became afraid they might rise up against him. So he put slave masters over them and forced them into construct jobs to build his empire.

This wasn’t typical work. We are told that the Egyptians came to dread the Hebrews and “…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.” (Exodus 1:14)

But the more the Hebrews were oppressed, the more they grew and spread (v. 13). God continued to multiply their numbers, despite the harsh conditions. Even though it may have seemed like it, He had not forgotten them.

Population Control Measures

The population growth of the Hebrews became so great that Pharaoh took drastic action to control it. He instructed all the Hebrew midwives to kill any newborn male born to a Hebrew woman. This did not sit well with the midwives because they “…feared God…” (v. 16). So they did not do as Pharaoh instructed.

For their obedience and concern for the life of a newborn, the midwives themselves were blessed (v. 21).

Seeing he had been outwitted by the midwives, Pharaoh broadened the command to all his people saying, “Every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive” (v. 22). It seems as though all of Egypt was in on the task of searching down and killing male children. 

Exodus 2 – Moses’ Birth and Early Life

How intense did the baby killing become in Egypt? Times were so desperate that we are told at the beginning of Exodus 2 that a certain woman gave birth and tried to hide her child for three months. When she could no longer safely do so, she constructed an ark made out of bulrushes to hold her baby, made the ark waterproof, and placed it among the reeds of a river (where she must have known people frequented). She made the boy’s sister monitor the ark to see what would become of the child.

Just as the mother suspected, the daughter of Pharaoh and her maidens came to bathe in the river. When she spotted the ark and and heard the baby crying, she had compassion on him. She connected with the boy’s sister and instructed her to find a Hebrew woman to nurse the child.

So the child’s mother ended up being paid to nurse her child. And when he had been weaned, he went to live in the palace with Pharaoh’s daughter. She called him Moses “Because I drew him out of the water” (v. 10).

Moses’ Impulsive Nature

We don’t know much about Moses’ royal life. Was he raised in similar fashion as other Egyptian children? Did he ever get to visit his real parents or brothers and sisters? What jobs or royal roles was he groomed for, if any?

One thing we do know though is that Moses knew he wasn’t an Egyptian. His ethnicity was Hebrew. It would be interesting to know when and how he found that out and how he lived with that cultural heritage in the midst of other Egyptians.

How do we know he knew? Chap. 2 verse 11 says, “…it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.” 

Upon seeing this – in his anger or in his attempt to defend this person – Moses killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand. He thought no one had seen but the next day while trying to settle another dispute between two Hebrews, he’s confronted by them about the incident.

And then we read in verse 15 that Pharaoh also found out and wanted to kill Moses. So Moses fled from Egypt into the land of Midian. His actions led to a dramatic shift in life circumstances.

Anger and lack of self-control may have been an area with which Moses struggled personally. This would not be the last time he would react in anger and do something impulsive that would result in major life consequences.

Acts 7:23 tells us that Moses was 40 years old when this incident took place.

Moses in Midian

Moses always seems to come to the defense of others. One day while sitting by a well in Midian, he sees seven daughters of the priest of Midian having a quarrel with some shepherds over water. Moses comes to their aid and waters their flock.

When the daughters return home and tell their father Reuel (Jethro) about the incident, Moses is invited to come eat with them. He enjoys his time so much he is content to live there.

Over time, his relationship with the family grows and Jethro gives his daughter Zipporah to be his wife. They would have at least one son (Gershom) during Moses’ time in Midian (v. 22).

Meanwhile, the Hebrews are suffering back in Egypt. The king who had known Moses died. And at that time, “…the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” (vv.23-24)

Exodus 3 – Moses at the Burning Bush

In Midian, Moses became a shepherd and tended the flocks of his father in-law Jethro. One one occasion, he led the flock to the back side of the desert near Mount Horeb (aka “…the mountain of God…” – v. 1). It was here that God appeared to him in an unusual way:

“And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.'” (vv. 2-3)

It is interesting that God chose to appear to Moses in this unique way. It caught Moses’ attention. This should make us realize that God can reveal Himself to us in any way He chooses. Our focus should always be to live with an open spirit that would be sensitive to the ways God can speak into our lives. He is not a cookie-cutter God, always coming to reveal Himself in the same ways.

Moses Gets the Call

God explained to Moses how he had heard the oppression of the people:

“I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Ex. 3:7-8)

And then, God laid this on Moses:

“So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10)

When there is a need, God always equips someone to fill that need. In this case, Moses was that person. And God always makes known to that person why they are needed. In this case, Moses has a definite agenda – bring the Israelites out of Egypt and back to the Promised Land.

With God running the show, Moses will lead the most improbable exodus of people in the history of the world.

Moses Asks Questions

Talk about a significant and swift career change. Moses was about to go from shepherd to deliverer. He would no longer be leading sheep but an entire nation. He would go from staring down wild animals with his shepherd’s staff to pointing his staff at a ruthless, obstinate, angry Pharaoh determined to mock God and keep his source of labor in Egypt.

So why wouldn’t Moses have questions? He gets a bad wrap for questioning God in this passage and perhaps rightly so. But who among us would not feel the same way in this situation? Who among us would not want reassurance?

Moses’ first two questions deal with who he is and who God is. He asks:

1) Question 1: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11)

a. Implication: “I’m nobody God.”

b. God’s Answer: “I will certainly be with you.” (v. 12).

c. And as a further promise to be with him, God told Moses that he would again worship at Mount Horeb.

2) Question 2: “When I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” (v. 13)

a. Implication: “I don’t know who you are.”

b. God’s Answer: “I AM WHO I AM…I AM has sent me to you…the Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” (vv. 14-15)

c. Moreover, God told Moses that He would bring Israel into the Promised Land, that He would strike Egypt with all kinds of plagues and that the Hebrews would plunder the Egyptians of their wealth when they left. (vv. 16-22)

Questions to Consider:

The pain and suffering of the Israelites was not lost on God. He heard their cries for help and acted by sending them a deliverer, Moses. Do you ask God for help when you are in need? Or do you rely on your own strength? In your darkest hours, do you feel like God has forgotten you? Is there evidence from your own life that says He hasn’t forgotten? What call are you being asked to accept? 

What other points would you want to know about in our Exodus 1-3 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.