290:1, 5-8 - (emphasizing that stanzas
6-7 speak of the sins of Israel while in Egypt)
301:1-4 - (drawing attention to stanza 4)
289:1, 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 - (drawing attention to stanza 11 as a versification of the text)
357:1-4 - (drawing attention to stanza 1)
Beloved saints in Christ, the church's interest in the history
of the Old Testament must always be to see how God, also in the
Old Testament, worked for the salvation of His church and the
realization of His covenant. We must see that what God did then
for Israel, He still does now for His church. To understand this,
we must know that Israel was the church in the Old Testament.
Many today argue that Old Testament Israel and the New Testament
church are two different entities. If this is true, our
examination of Old Testament history can only serve the purpose
of helping us understand a story which really has no application
to us. But Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church are
one and the same; Israel is the church in the Old
Testament, and the church of the New Testament is the spiritual Israel. Scripture shows this to be true; Stephen, in
calls Israel "the church in the wilderness." And the
apostle Paul by inspiration says to the New Testament church regarding
the history of Israel's wilderness wanderings, "Now all these
things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written
for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come"
(I Corinthians 10:11).
The church of Jesus Christ is as old as history. The history of
Israel is the history of the church. The history of Israel's deliverance
from Egypt is the history of the church's deliverance from the
bondage of sin, portrayed in a type. For the deliverance from
Egypt through the Red Sea was one typical victory that God gave His church, in fulfillment of His promise in
We are the more impressed with this history of Israel's deliverance,
when we understand the need for that deliverance, and how God
was preparing the way for that deliverance long before Israel
knew of it. Often we wonder why God does not immediately realize
His promises to save His people and destroy our enemies; and we
often wonder if God may have forgotten His promise. Always the
answer is that He does not tarry; He fulfills His promises as
quickly as possible; and when it seems to us that He tarries,
He is in fact preparing the way to fulfill those promises.
This point already begins to emerge in our text.
of the cruel bondage of Israel in Egypt. It speaks explicitly
of Pharaoh's sinful motivation for bringing Israel into bondage.
It allows us to speak of Satan's devilish masterminding of this
bondage. But even more, it requires us to ask the question, "What
was God's design and purpose in this bondage?"
ISRAEL'S BONDAGE IN EGYPT
I. Sinfully Motivated
II. Devilishly Masterminded
III. Divinely Designed
I. SINFULLY MOTIVATED
Notice that the bondage which Israel endured in Egypt, as described
in our text, progressed from being severe, to being cruel,
to being downright deadly.
The first stage in that bondage was severe. It consisted of Pharaoh
forcing the children of Israel to do hard labor. Of this we read
in verse 11: "Therefore they did set over them taskmasters
to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh
treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses." These treasure cities
were cities in which Pharaoh could store and preserve the fruits
of the fields. He would use these either for trading, or for reserves
in wartime. War was common in those days; Pharaoh had some reason
to be concerned that the Israelites might ally themselves with
his enemies (verse 10; "that, when there falleth out any
war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us.").
To build these cities the Israelites were forced. They were not
employed in this endeavor according to their will, and given a
fair wage. They were forced. The word "burden" in verse
11 means "forced labor." Over them were placed taskmasters,
not simply to supervise the work, but to afflict the people -
to make them work harder and faster by whipping them. Verse 12
notes that this severe bondage did not accomplish Pharaoh's objective
- the people continued to grow, and this grieved the Egyptians.
Verses 13 and 14, therefore, do not merely repeat the fact of
the severity of the bondage, but speak of its development from
being severe to being cruel. Scripture speaks of
more labors that were expected of the Israelites - they were to
do "all manner of service in the field." Likely this
refers to the tedious work of irrigating the fields, by carrying
water from the Nile River, or by digging irrigation ditches in
the fields. At the same time, the labors expected of them both
in the field and in building the cities was made harder. We read
in both verses 13 and 14 that the Egyptians made the Israelites
to serve "with rigor," that is, with cruelty; and that
the Egyptians made the lives of the Israelites "bitter."
But even this cruelty apparently did not stop the Israelites from
The last part of the chapter speaks therefore of another progression
in this bondage - from being cruel, it became deadly.
Pharaoh required that the male Israelite babies be killed. He
required this first of the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah,
who were likely the head midwives, and who must give the same
command to the other midwives. Pharaoh specifically commanded
the midwives to observe during childbirth whether the baby was
a boy or girl, and to kill the boys immediately. When it became
apparent that the midwives were obeying God rather than Pharaoh,
and that God was still blessing the Hebrew women with fertility,
Pharaoh commanded all the Egyptians to lend their hands to his
cause, by killing any Hebrew boy whom they knew to be born.
What was Pharaoh's motivation in this bondage?
His stated motivation was to protect himself and his nation against
the Israelites, according to verse 10: "Come on, let us deal
wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that,
when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies,
and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land."
It did not escape Pharaoh's attention that the Israelites had
increased abundantly and multiplied since entering Egypt. Referring
to what happened after the death of Joseph, and his brethren,
and all that generation, we read in verse 7: "And the children
of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied,
and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them."
When Jacob entered Egypt, he came with 70 souls. When Israel left
Egypt 430 years later, she numbered over 600,000 men who were
able to war; adding to this the number of women and of children
under 20, one can imagine that the nation numbered upwards of
3 million. Pharaoh realized that they were more in number, and
stronger in might, than the Egyptians themselves, and that they
posed a threat. He apparently knew that God had promised Canaan
to them, for he speaks of their getting up out of the land (vs
10). His motivation in bringing them into bondage was, therefore,
to prevent them from being a threat to Egypt. He cared not for
the promises made to Joseph by a past Pharaoh. He was a new king,
which knew not Joseph (vs 8); this does not mean he did not know
about Joseph or the promises made to him, but means that
he had no regard for those promises; he didn't care. He cared
only about himself and his own people.
Even more, his motivation in bringing Israel into bondage was
to destroy them. This is clear from the deadly measures he took,
of commanding all male children to be killed. Were this done,
the women of Israel would have to marry Egyptian men, and the
nation of Israel would have died out. But even the hard bondage
itself indicates that Pharaoh desired Israel's destruction. Hard
work is deadly. Even today, construction sites are hazardous places
at which to work. Pharaoh calculated that by forcing the Israelites
to do such hard work, some would die on the job site, while the
others would become so physically weakened that they would be
in no condition to continue multiplying, or to escape; and their
spirit would be broken. They would cry out to him for mercy, rather
than to God.
Ultimately his motivation was hatred. He hated the church! He
hated the church's king who was promised! He hated the church's
God! Motivated by such hatred, he determined to "deal wisely"
with them (verse 10), that is, to use earthly wisdom to accomplish
his sinful purpose.
To begin applying this history to us, we must see that what Israel
endured in bondage was nothing else than the persecution which
the church in the world is called to endure. The world's harsh
treatment of the church, and her attempts to kill and destroy
the church, is persecution.
Throughout the history of the world, the church has suffered this
bondage of persecution and hatred. Even we suffer the same today
in our land - though the persecution has not developed to the
point of the government putting us to death. That day is coming.
But though it is not yet here, we do suffer persecution in some
way and to some degree. The world hates us; she tries to make
us look silly, and mocks us; and she does all of this to crush
our spirit, and make us assimilate with her.
The history of Israel in our text reminds us that, when the world
begins persecuting the church, she uses mild tactics; but when
those do not work, she develops new forms of persecution, and
uses them with greater intensity, until she finally begins to
kill the believers. Expect such development of persecution, beloved!
This bondage was not merely one of persecution, though; it was
a picture of the church's bondage to sin. To understand this,
we must see that behind Pharaoh's sinful motivations were Satan's.
For this bondage was devilishly masterminded.
II. DEVILISHLY MASTERMINDED
Pharaoh was a tool of Satan, to accomplish Satan's purpose.
We do not read of Satan in this passage. But we do know that Satan
is behind every effort to destroy the church of Jesus Christ.
The destruction of this church has been Satan's goal from the
beginning of the world, for he also hates the church's King, and
the church's God! Satan desires to be God himself! So he tries
to thwart God's purposes, and establish his own kingdom. To do
this very thing, Satan masterminded this bondage of Israel in
Satan's purpose in this bondage was to destroy the church. Satan knew the promise of
the promise of a Savior for
the church, who would crush Satan's head. He knew that God had
announced the victory of the seed of the woman, and the destruction
of the seed of the serpent. He knew that this Savior, Jesus Christ,
would come in the line of generations. So he knew that the best
way to destroy the church would be to prevent the Savior from
coming, by destroying the male children. If Christ did not come,
there would be no church! And God's promises could not be fulfilled!
But Satan also masterminded Pharaoh's plan to begin small. In
fact, Satan had already been working to destroy Israel, by causing
her no longer to hope for the promises, but making her complacent
in the land of Egypt, and causing her to worship Egypt's gods.
God says to Israel through Ezekiel, that when he came to bring
Israel out of Egypt, He said unto them: "Cast ye away every
man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the LORD your God"
When this didn't work, Satan caused Pharaoh to make the Israelites
slaves. And when that didn't work, Satan caused Pharaoh to try
to kill them.
Let us remember Satan's attacks on the church. He begins small.
Beware the small ways in which Satan deceives you! And he attacks
the males of the church. Let the men of the church be strong!
And teach your sons as well as daughters to war against
Satan for the cause of the kingdom of God, that the church of
Jesus Christ might have godly, strong men to continue the battle.
Understanding that Satan masterminded this bondage of Israel,
we can see better that it was a picture of the church's bondage
to sin. Especially in two ways this picture shows itself.
First, that we are in bondage to sin by nature means that we are
servants of the devil. Ultimately Israel served the devil, for
he was the mastermind behind Pharaoh; Pharaoh was Satan's spokesman
and representative. We were created God's servants; but when Adam
fell, and we in him, we became the slaves of the devil. As the
devil's servants, we are compelled to do what he would have us
do. That is, we are forced to sin! When we say we are "forced
to sin," we do not mean that we sin against our will;
rather, we mean that we can only sin, of ourselves, apart from
God's grace. Sin is a cruel taskmaster, in that it allows no competition;
it will not allow us to serve any other master.
This bondage of Israel in Egypt, as a picture of the bondage of
sin, reminds us of the twin doctrines of the total depravity of
our nature, and the bondage of our will. Our nature's depravity
is total and complete - we are unable to do any good of ourselves,
just like the Israelites were unable to do anything of their own
accord, but forced to do exactly what Pharaoh told them to. And
our will is bound also! Let none claim that we can choose to do
good of ourselves - the Israelites could not choose to do anything
but serve Pharaoh; and our natural condition is such that we cannot
choose to do anything but serve Satan
Second, that we are in bondage to sin means that we experience
the bitterness and the cruel rigor of sin. Sin causes pain and
sorrow. God had said it would do so; He warned Adam in the Garden
of Eden, as He warns us today in His Word, that the wages of sin
is death. He is a fool who gives himself over to sin, for he looks
only at its outward pleasure, ignoring the sorrow which it will
bring. The sorrow is that of misery - physical misery, for certain
sins have physical effects; and spiritual misery, for God sees
to it that the sinner experiences God's wrath. The sorrow is also
that of death - physical death, for before sin there was no death;
and spiritual death, existence apart from God. Satan knows that
such is the wages of sin; and therefore, wanting to destroy us,
he leads us into sin.
Though he is a cruel taskmaster, and will bring us into sin which
leads to sorrow and death, the fact is that natural man - you
and me by nature - still enjoy sin, and seek its sensual pleasures.
So it was that Israel, as she wandered in the wilderness, cried
out to go back to Egypt! She had forgotten the cruel bondage from
which she had been delivered, and thought only of the good food
and nice times she had enjoyed in Egypt! Sin has its appeal for
us, and that appeal covers up the harsh reality of sin's bondage.
Let us be warned by this, and let this principle be ever fixed
in our minds: whenever sin appeals to our flesh, it is mocking
us; it presents itself as appealing; but it will surely snare
us. This is why the devil masterminds sin to accomplish his purpose.
The good news is that sin serves a higher purpose yet!
III. DIVINELY DESIGNED
We know and believe that God was sovereign over this aspect of
Israel's history, and over this bondage into which Israel was
This is clear from the fact that God is God; He is sovereign over
all things. Apart from any specific Scriptural reference to His
sovereignty over Israel's bondage, we would believe He was sovereign.
But Scripture directs our attention to God's sovereignty in this
particular bondage of Israel. God had said to Abraham, "Know
of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is
not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them
four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve,
will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance"
Furthermore, God said to Pharaoh, "And
in deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee
my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth"
This sovereignty of God over Israel's bondage is even indicated
in our text, by the fact that He did not allow Satan and Pharaoh
to accomplish their goals. Pharaoh's design was to destroy Israel;
but whenever he took steps to do that, Israel grew yet more. We
read of this in verse 12: "But the more they afflicted them,
the more they multiplied and grew." Pharaoh's efforts were
counterproductive. The same idea comes out of verses 20-21: "Therefore
God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and
waxed very mighty. And it came to pass, because the midwives feared
God, that he made them houses." Though Pharaoh by now sought
actively to destroy Israel, they grew and became mighty; and the
midwives, whom Pharaoh would have used as the cause of death,
God blessed, and gave them families, so that they were a cause
of the continued growth of His church. Evidently God, not Pharaoh,
was sovereign; for Pharaoh could not realize his purposes, while
God did realize His.
What, then, was God's design in this bondage?
First, His design was to chastise His people. Bondage to sin is
always part of God's punishment for sin; and though God punished
the sins of His people by the death of His Son on the cross, still
the bitterness which sin works is part of God's chastisement of
us for sin.
By this bondage, therefore, God reminded Israel that she also
was sinful, and that such bondage is what she deserved. She was
the people of God, the descendants of Abraham, the recipients
of God's promises. Did she deserve them? Was it that she was better
than any other nation, that made her receive these promises? Not so. Moses reminded her of that later,
Deuteronomy 9:4, 6:
not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast
them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD
hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness
of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee.
. . Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not
this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art
a stiffnecked people." Already in Egypt, before she had entered
the wilderness, she sinned. For these sins God chastised her. So He says in
"Then said I unto them, Cast
ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not
yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. But
they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they
did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither
did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour
out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in
the midst of the land of Egypt." There God Himself says that
He chastised Israel, while yet in Egypt, for her sins.
This is a reminder to us. We, the New Testament Israel, the church,
the body and bride of Christ, have also received the promises,
and are also brought into favor with God. Why? Do we deserve salvation
any more than any other person does? Indeed not! Adam brought
us also into the bondage of sin, and we deserve everlasting
destruction! Our deliverance from this bondage is entirely of
His grace! And when, from time to time, we experience His chastisement
in the way of suffering from the effects of sin, we must know
that He is reminding us of our unworthiness to be called His children,
and of the love He has for us as a Father, to chasten us.
Secondly, God's design in this bondage was to prepare Israel for
her deliverance. Why did she need such preparation? Partly, because
she was not ready of herself to leave Egypt. True, God had His
remnant according to election, and preserved that remnant in faith;
so we must understand that some longed for Canaan, because it
was the promised land. The majority of Israel, however, was carnal.
They loved Egypt. God had to prepare them to leave Egypt. He did
so by awakening in them a desire to escape the suffering of Egypt's
bondage. Through this suffering, He would sanctify His people
and cause them to look to Him for salvation.
And partly, Israel needed preparation for her deliverance because
the way of deliverance would seem to be a hopeless, foolish way.
How was the Red Sea going to save her? She wondered first how
she would ever get through the Red Sea. She would drown! Then
God wonderfully opened a path. But the question then was, how
would that prevent Pharaoh from following and attacking Israel?
And God wonderfully closed the Sea upon them. The answer to the
"how" she would only know AFTER the deliverance. Beforehand,
the way God had chosen to save her seemed doomed to failure. Therefore,
she must be brought to such despair, by her bondage, that she
was ready to follow God's guidance and to seek His way, even though
it seemed wrong.
The same is true of our salvation in the cross of Christ, and
our final redemption when He returns. The ways God has said He
would save His church seem to be foolish, ineffective ways. The
cross is foolishness to the natural mind! How would Christ's shed
blood and death save? How will His return do it? God assures the
church that He will save in these ways, but they seem silly. However,
God will use the persecution we endure to prepare us for deliverance
His way to cause to look to Him, and desire deliverance
His way, because our situation is so hopeless. Persecution will
sanctify us in that sense.
Thirdly, God designed this bondage to fill up the world's cup
of iniquity. God always delivers His church in the way of destroying
her enemies. This destruction must clearly be just. The justice
of it would be grounded in the hatred and persecution which the
world manifested toward the church. So God was ripening Egypt
for her destruction.
We see that God all along is mindful of His covenant of grace.
He was fulfilling His promise to Abraham, by preparing to deliver
Israel from Egypt's bondage.
What a word of comfort for us! Persecution and chastisement will
come upon us, too! And the Lord designs such so that our enemies
will fill up their cup of iniquity, in order to prepare them for
Meanwhile, He prepares us for our deliverance by sanctifying us,
so that we more and more hate our sins, and hate the sorrow that
our sins bring upon us in this vale of tears, and makes us long
for the heavenly Canaan, where sin will be no more.
Zion is redeemed through judgment! Through judgments upon us,
for our sins; and through judgments upon the wicked, for theirs!
But surely, she is redeemed. God promised to redeem her, and does
not forget His promises. He promised Christ! He would send Christ!
The baby boys of the church of old must not die! They would live,
that Christ might be born, to live, and to die, to redeem His