Increase of the Israelites.
1. Now these are the names—(See Ge 46:8-26).
7. children of Israel were fruitful—They
were living in a land where, according to the testimony of an ancient
author, mothers produced three and four sometimes at a birth; and a
modern writer declares "the females in Egypt, as well among the human
race as among animals, surpass all others in fruitfulness." To this
natural circumstance must be added the fulfilment of the promise made
8. Now there arose up a new king—About
sixty years after the death of Joseph a revolution took place—by
which the old dynasty was overthrown, and upper and lower Egypt were
united into one kingdom. Assuming that the king formerly reigned in
Thebes, it is probable that he would know nothing about the Hebrews;
and that, as foreigners and shepherds, the new government would, from
the first, regard them with dislike and scorn.
9, 10. he said … Behold, the …
children of Israel are more and mightier than we—They had
risen to great prosperity—as during the lifetime of Joseph and
his royal patron, they had, probably, enjoyed a free grant of the land.
Their increase and prosperity were viewed with jealousy by the new
government; and as Goshen lay between Egypt and Canaan, on the border
of which latter country were a number of warlike tribes, it was
perfectly conformable to the suggestions of worldly policy that they
should enslave and maltreat them, through apprehension of their joining
in any invasion by those foreign rovers. The new king, who neither knew
the name nor cared for the services of Joseph, was either
Amosis, or one of his immediate successors [Osburn].
11. Therefore they did set over them
taskmasters—Having first obliged them, it is thought, to pay
a ruinous rent and involved them in difficulties, that new government,
in pursuance of its oppressive policy, degraded them to the condition
of serfs—employing them exactly as the laboring people are in the
present day (driven in companies or bands), in rearing the public
works, with taskmasters, who anciently had sticks—now
whips—to punish the indolent, or spur on the too languid. All
public or royal buildings, in ancient Egypt, were built by captives;
and on some of them was placed an inscription that no free citizen had
been engaged in this servile employment.
they built for Pharaoh treasure
cities—These two store-places were in the land of Goshen; and
being situated near a border liable to invasion, they were fortified
cities (compare 2Ch 11:1-12:16). Pithom (Greek, Patumos), lay on
the eastern Pelusiac branch of the Nile, about twelve Roman miles from
Heliopolis; and Raamses, called by the Septuagint Heroopolis,
lay between the same branch of the Nile and the Bitter Lakes. These two
fortified cities were situated, therefore, in the same valley; and the
fortifications, which Pharaoh commanded to be built around both, had
probably the same common object, of obstructing the entrance into
Egypt, which this valley furnished the enemy from Asia [Hengstenberg].
13, 14. The Egyptians … made their lives
bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick—Ruins of
great brick buildings are found in all parts of Egypt. The use of crude
brick, baked in the sun, was universal in upper and lower Egypt, both
for public and private buildings; all but the temples themselves
were of crude brick. It is worthy of remark that more bricks bearing
the name of Thothmes III, who is supposed to have been the king of
Egypt at the time of the Exodus, have been discovered than of any other
period [Wilkinson]. Parties of these
brickmakers are seen depicted on the ancient monuments with
"taskmasters," some standing, others in a sitting posture beside the
laborers, with their uplifted sticks in their hands.
15. the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew
midwives—Two only were spoken to—either they were the
heads of a large corporation [Laborde],
or, by tampering with these two, the king designed to terrify the rest
into secret compliance with his wishes [Calvin].
16. if it be a son, then ye shall kill
him—Opinions are divided, however, what was the method of
destruction which the king did recommend. Some think that the "stools"
were low seats on which these obstetric practitioners sat by the
bedside of the Hebrew women; and that, as they might easily discover
the sex, so, whenever a boy appeared, they were to strangle it, unknown
to its parents; while others are of opinion that the "stools" were
stone troughs, by the river side—into which, when the infants
were washed, they were to be, as it were, accidentally dropped.
17. But the midwives feared God—Their
faith inspired them with such courage as to risk their lives, by
disobeying the mandate of a cruel tyrant; but it was blended with
weakness, which made them shrink from speaking the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth.
20, 21. God dealt well with the
midwives—This represents God as rewarding them for telling a
lie. This difficulty is wholly removed by a more correct translation.
To "make" or "build up a house" in Hebrew idiom, means to have a
numerous progeny. The passage then should be rendered thus: "God
protected the midwives, and the people waxed very mighty; and because
the midwives feared, the Hebrews grew and prospered."