Big Picture

With regard to the calling of Moses as shared in Exodus 3, what was the context of this encounter? Jacob’s family (70 in all) moved to Egypt while Joseph was second-in-command. They were given the land of Goshen and they settled there. When Exodus opens, about 400 years have passed. The situation is much different as Exodus 1:8 declares, “Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.”

Interestingly, the book of Exodus opens in the original Hebrew with the word, “and.” This is a signal to the reader that this story connects to the story found in Genesis and is a continuation of what happened to God’s people. In fact, Exodus 1:1 is a quotation from Genesis 46:8. Further, the language of Exodus 1:6-7 hearkens back to the creation narrative in Genesis 1 when Adam and Eve were instructed to be fruitful and multiply.

However, the people of God had grown to such an extent that Pharaoh feared they would side with any invading enemy (1:10). He decided to enslave them and use them to construct his major building projects. Pharaoh finally decided to have all Jewish male babies put to death at birth. Due to the faithfulness of the Hebrew mid-wives, this did not actually occur (1:15-19). Pharaoh then ordered all Hebrew male babies to be thrown into the Nile.

You are familiar with what happened to Moses – he was placed in the Nile, but in a small basket that floated! Upon discovery by one of Pharaoh’s daughters, Moses was rescued and grew up in the King’s palace. He eventually would murder one of the Egyptian men while rescuing a Hebrew in a fight. He fled for his life to Midian and found a wife there.

Meanwhile, back in Egypt, conditions worsened for God’s people. They were suffering under the hand of Pharaoh and they cried out to God. God heard their pleas and remembered His covenant with Abraham and decided to intervene on their behalf. He had not forgotten Israel. He was preparing a special servant to lead them out of captivity and into the future (2:23-25).

Jacob (Israel) and his family migrated to Egypt during a great famine and found favor in Pharaoh’s eyes. Joseph had paved the way for his father’s family to re-locate to Egypt. However, neither Jacob nor Joseph believed that God’s people belonged in Egypt. They both held to the promise that God would provide His children with the Promised Land. Jacob left strict instructions to not bury him in Egypt – but bury him at home in Canaan (Genesis 49:29-32). Genesis 50 records the keeping of this promise as Joseph took his father’s body back to the Promised Land for burial.

Joseph left similar instructions with his brothers while he was on his deathbed about his own burial (Genesis 50:25). He didn’t have a burial plot like Jacob, but he wanted to make sure that Israel took his remains with them when they left Egypt.

God was at work fashioning Israel into a nation under the shelter of the wings of Egypt. Israel grew from one family into a nation during its sojourn in Egypt. They had no army, no government and no real threat – because of the shelter and provision of the Egyptian dynasty. However, as the book of Exodus reveals, the time came for Israel to leave the shelter of a pagan culture and move home to the land promised to Abraham. God devised a plan of deliverance that would shape every generation of Israelis to come.