Day 17: Exodus 1-4; Enter Moses

Welcome to the book of Exodus and the beginning of the story of Moses and the “nation of Israel” which we now refer to as the Hebrews or Israelites.  There is much to talk about in these first four chapters that sets up the whole rest of the book, and in many ways lays the groundwork for future stories and people in the Bible.  This post is longer than the others to date because of the abundant amount of background in these first chapters.

Before we get to Moses, we read a little recap of the Hebrews post-Jacob and post-Joseph.  Remember that yesterday we went through the genealogy of Jacob and his sons, totaling 70 people in all.  This is important because it shows now how much they have grown and prospered in the land of Egypt.  We don’t know the full extent of it until the numbers are given to us when the Hebrews leave Egypt, but suffice to say, it is a lot more than 70.  So what was the point of being in Egypt?  Couldn’t this have happened in Canaan?  Well, the answer is… likely no.  As this people group grew, it is likely that the indigineous people of Canaan would have started imposing on them, the Hebrews would have inter-married with them, and/or there would have been an all-out war against the Israelites due to their size.  In Egypt, the people lived in a specific area, protected by the Egyptians (who were the world power of the time), and yet not intermingled with them because the Hebrews were mostly shepherds (which we read yesterday were detestable to Egyptians).   Therefore, the people of Israel grew, unfettered, uninterrupted, and unmixed from the people around them.

Enter slavery and Moses.

God is clearly blessing the people despite the ruthless treatment of the Egyptians, so much so that Pharaoh orders the killing of all the males of the Israelite babies.  This is the situation that Moses is born into, and it is in this situation that God rescues Moses.  The man Moses is very much a “messianic figure” in the Old Testament.  In a way, he is a type of foreshadowing of things to come.  Though not the Messiah (aka. Jesus Christ), we do see marked similarities in their lives, the way that act, and the events that take place.  I would encourage you, especially in the next few days (Exodus 1-20ish) to think about how Moses and Jesus are similar in nature, in action, and in leading.  Leave a comment on some of the things that you find!!

There are two other things that are important in this particular passage that I feel just need to be pointed out.

First I would like to talk about the parts of Exodus 1 and 2 that talk about Israel being oppressed and the point at which “God hears their groaning and remembers the covenant.”  I think that first and foremost it is important to note that, though the Hebrews couldn’t see it at the time, God was blessing them through this in many ways, one of which is the drastic increase in their physical numbers.  They are no longer a small family, they are quite literally a small nation; several hundred thousand people.  The other part in here is the point at which is seems that it has taken a while for the groans to reach God but then all of the sudden He hears them and remembers them.  It isn’t as if God couldn’t hear them before… we know that God is ever present and always listening.  Why the author uses this particular type of wording is somewhat unknown.  I don’t think that it translates well into English.  What we do know is that it does have something to do with the mystery of God’s perfect plan and timing for all things.  Like in Genesis 15:16 when God says that “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”  We ask, what does this mean?  Isn’t one sin as bad as many sins?  We would say that a sin is a sin… but apparently in this time, for whatever reason, there was perhaps more sinning to be done before God decides to punish them?  Or later when the Israelites go into Exile, it takes a long time before that actually happens.  Why?  There is something to God’s timing that we don’t always understand, but we trust that He knows what He is doing and that He is working everything out according to His will.  So, did God not hear Israel?  No… God heard them… but it didn’t seem to be time yet.  Other things had to happen before it could be time to come out of Egypt.

Finally, there is the burning bush narrative.  moses burning bush icon

This is an extra-ordinary experience for Moses, as he is called directly by God.  The first thing, and maybe the most obvious if you are looking for it, is that God basically tells Moses everything that is about to happen right down to the letter.  Lots of wonders, killing of the first born, Israel leaving and plundering the Egyptians… its all right there in Exodus 3:13-22.  The other thing, significantly more important, and perhaps a bit more perplexing, is God giving Moses His name.  I AM WHO I AM.  or in some translations: I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.  They Hebrew word is YHWH.  A name so reverent to the Hebrew people that they never speak it and have come up with an abundance of names to be used for God in place of it.  Like the re-naming of Jacob in Genesis 35, which we talked about on January 11, the name of God is significant because of the power and intimacy that is attached to it.  God is no longer just the God of their ancestors, God is THEIR God.  The name itself is significant.  While a person is always something (I am Jon, you are hungry, that tree is tall), God is I AM… God in a continual state of being… which really says something to the fact that He is the eternal one, the creator and sustainer of all things… with no beginning and no end.  Later in the year, when we get to the book of John, we’ll see Jesus using this name for himself as well.

There is very important meaning in the name of God… and yet it is so abundantly reverent as well.  Sometimes I wonder about our use of the word God, or the taking of the name of God… we float it around like its nothing, just another word.  What do you think about this?  Should we be so careless with the name of God?

7 Responses to “Day 17: Exodus 1-4; Enter Moses”

  1. […] number of people that left.  Roughly 600,000 men plus women and children.  As we talked about a couple days ago, the people had grown from a group of 70 people into this large number, easily over 1 million. […]

  2. […] this with Abraham, the vision of the smoking fire-pot, and through Isaac, Jacob, and again through Moses.  All of these have been times when God has either “established a covenant, […]

  3. […] list in quite some time: wilderness.  Remember back with me to the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, the Exodus, David, and then forward to the exile.  All of these narratives in Scripture depict […]

  4. […] a little bit, all the way to Exodus and the story of Moses’ first encounter with God at the burning bush.  Remember with me that when God first reveals Himself to Moses, calling Him to be the leader of […]

  5. […] forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive.  At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his […]

  6. […] faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and […]

  7. […] as they are all intimately related to the shaping of identity.  Israel leaves Egypt as a group of slaves and enters Canaan as a nation, the people of God.  David enters into the wilderness as an anointed […]

Leave a Reply