The setting at the beginning of the book of Exodus shows us a very prosperous nation of Israel living in Egypt. As long as Joseph and his brother were alive the Egyptians seemed to have been favorable to them. What was more important was that God richly blessed the children of Jacob. Exodus 1:6-7 tells us, “Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong so that the land was filled with them.” These two verses connect us with three of God’s promises in Genesis. The first one is the promise to Adam and Eve to be fruitful and fill the earth and the second one is to Noah after the flood, and the third one is to Abraham and his descendants.

Back in Genesis 1:28, “God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” As Jacob and his family moved to Egypt during the great famine in Canaan this blessing of God continued on Jacob and his descendants. Then after the flood, in Genesis 9:1-3, “God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand, they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” Then, in Genesis 12:2-3, God tells Abram to leave his home in Ur, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Jacob’s descendants now had become as God had promised was on their way to becoming a great nation. There are three things needed for a nation. The first one is fulfilled in these verses of Exodus. The Israelites had multiplied into a large population. Gingrich observes, “During the whole of their 215-years stay in Egypt, the Israelites grew from a family of 70 souls to a nation of over 2,000,000 souls.”[1] David Mescheloff, Orthodox community rabbi, Ph.D. Mathematics & Ph.D. Talmud, wrote, “The key is the Jewish traditional observation that the families averaged 6 children during that period of slavery. A high birth rate among slaves is a well-known fact, due, among other things, to the comfort from the horror of their slavery that men and women who are slaves may find in each other’s arms. In any event, just think of the number of generations in, say a 200-year period. Say eight. So, if you start from one and just take 6 to the eighth power you get almost 1,700,000. So, given that they started in Egypt at 70, there’s not the slightest difficulty in throwing in other factors that can change the size of a population to conclude that the population report in the Torah of how many Israelites were saved from their slavery in Egypt is completely reasonable.”[2] But to fulfill God’s promise of becoming a great “Nation” Israel needed a common constitution. That would be given in other parts of the Pentateuch. They also needed a common land to live in together. That would come in the book of Joshua. God promised a seed, children. A land, Israel. The blessing the Law which would be fulfilled by the Messiah to become a blessing for the whole world.

[1] Gingrich, Roy E. 2001. The Book of Exodus. Memphis, TN: Riverside Printing.