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Exodus 1:15-22

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“The extermination of children.” - The Bible Knowledge Commentary

II. The Egyptians’ wickedness to them, 1. Oppressing and enslaving them (v. 8–14). 2. Murdering their children (v. 15–22). Thus whom the court of heaven blessed the country of Egypt cursed

15Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah;

16and he said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.”

17But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.

18So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?”

19The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.”

20So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty.

21Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them.

22Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.”

Summary:

The king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew Midwives. (v.15)
He told them to kill all of the sons being born and to allow all of the daughters to live. (v.16)
But the midwives feared God and did not listen to the king, thus the sons lived. (v.17)
The king called the midwives and questioned them, asking them why they allowed the sons to live. (v.18)
The midwives lied to the king and told him that it was because the Hebrew women gave birth before they could get there. (v.19)
God was good to the midwives and the people multiplied. (v.20)
God established households for the midwives because they feared HIm. (v.21)
Then Pharaoh commanded his people, telling them that every son born of the Hebrews should be cast into the Nile but every daughter should live. (v.22)

Commentaries and Study Bible Notes:

1:15,16 “The failure of rigorous bondage to suppress population growth necessitated that different measures be taken; hence, the royal order to the Hebrew midwives to murder male infants at birth.” - MacArthur Study Bible
“The king’s instructions were explicit; male babies were to be killed and female infants kept alive.” - The Bible Knowledge Commentary
1:16 birthstools. “Lit. ‘two stones’ on which the women sat to deliver.” - MacArthur Study Bible
“… the midwives, fearing God (cf. v. 21) more than the laws of an earthling, though a monarch (cf. ), did not obey the command.” - The Bible Knowledge Commentary
1:22 “The failure of the extermination program demanded of the midwives finally caused Pharaoh to demand that all his subjects get involved in murdering newborn boys.” - MacArthur Study Bible

The Egyptians’ indignation at Israel’s increase, notwithstanding the many hardships they put upon them, drove them at length to the most barbarous and inhuman methods of suppressing them, by the murder of their children.

Two bloody edicts are here signed for the destruction of all the male children that were born to the Hebrews.

Key Points/Application:

God’s People Threatened

Note, 1. There is more cruelty in the corrupt heart of man than one would imagine, Rom. 3:15, 16. The enmity that is in the seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman divests men of humanity itself, and makes them forget all pity.

God’s people were threatened by many plots in Egypt. The first was harsh labor and oppression. Second, the order to the Hebrew midwives to kill all male babies upon birth. Finally the order to throw all male babies into the Nile. Nonetheless, the Lord provided deliverance for His people. He increased Israel’s population despite slavery and despite the king’s orders to the Hebrew midwives. In these verses particularly, the midwives disobeyed the king’s orders; evidence of God’s provision, especially considering the Hebrew midwives were likely not Hebrew themselves.
“God was directly involved in this affair of birth and national growth. That’s the key to understanding why no decree of Pharaoh would work out as he intended it… ” - MacArthur Study Bible

Note, 1. There is more cruelty in the corrupt heart of man than one would imagine, Rom. 3:15, 16. The enmity that is in the seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman divests men of humanity itself, and makes them forget all pity.

All of this to say that God provides deliverance for His people when in accordance with His will. The Lord will have His way among men and His plans will not be thwarted.

Fear of the Lord

The Hebrew midwives feared the Lord and it was for this reason that they disobeyed the king’s orders.

17But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.

Consider ...

29But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

Their pious disobedience to this impious command, v. 17. They feared God, regarded his law, and dreaded his wrath more than Pharaoh’s and therefore saved the men-children alive. Note, If men’s commands be any way contrary to the commands of God, we must obey God and not man, Acts 4:19; v. 29. No power on earth can warrant us, much less oblige us, to sin against God, our chief Lord. Again, Where the fear of God rules in the heart, it will preserve it from the snare which the inordinate fear of man brings.

Their fear of the Lord led to their obedience and thus the blessing of God’s people and even the blessing of themselves.

20So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty.

21Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them.

Like the Hebrew midwives, we too must fear God and obey His commands in all circumstances, so as not to sin against Him.
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