The new Pharaoh in Egypt did not know Joseph or Joseph’s God. He watched the Lord bless the Israelites. They multiplied greatly and prospered in everything they did, and Pharaoh began to fear them. Joseph’s Pharaoh joined forces with Joseph, and the land was saved from famine. He enjoyed prosperity all the days of Joseph’s life and probably all the days of his own life. In a paranoid frenzy, the new Pharaoh gathered his advisors together and incited the Egyptians to subjugate the Israelites. The ultimate result will cause the downfall of this Pharaoh and devastation to the nation as a whole through ten horrific plagues.  Exodus 1:10 tells us what the new Pharaoh says, “Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” One commentary says, “Like most dictators, the new Pharaoh was insecure (not to say paranoid). Despite his military superiority, he was worried about getting overthrown. And the more foreigners there were in his country, the more alarmed he became. Soon the immigrant population grew so large that it threatened to destabilize his entire government. Pharaoh worried that the next time he was attacked, the Israelites would join forces with his enemies, outnumber his own army, and bring his dynasty to an end. Someone has described an excuse as a ‘thin skin of reason wrapped around a lie,’ which is exactly the kind of excuse this was. Pharaoh used the threat of warfare as a pretext for persecuting foreigners.”[1] Pharaoh wanted to “deal shrewdly” with the Israelites. Pharaoh’s plan was to subjugate the non-militarized Israelites to his will. It wasn’t only his fear that they would become his enemy. It was greed that caused him to want to misuse and abuse the Israelites. Maxie Dunnam comments, “Never mind justice. Don’t worry about kindness. Human life isn’t the issue.” We must pursue our own interests regardless of what it might do to others.

The abuse of others for personal gain is nothing new in the world, and it is nothing old. It’s still active and aggressive today. I can’t help but think of those who cannot stand up for themselves in the womb. They are considered less than human even though it’s only time that separates them from those outside the womb. Only those who have already been born support abortion today. It’s a major issue around the world. Merida applies it to other current practices as well. “The injustice we read about here bears some resemblance to our day. People of power continue to abuse the weak for their own devilish reasons. Some report upwards of thirty million slaves in the world today ( Tragically, human trafficking is now the second-largest organized crime in the world. What motivates this atrocity? Two of the main roots of this evil include sexual perversion and financial greed. Despite the existence of injustice like this, we believe that God remains a God of justice, standing on the side of the oppressed. God’s people should also aim to glorify Him by imitating His character.”[2]

On the receiving side of such harsh treatment, we must not forget that God has a personal plan for each of us for our good. Even our friend Job, who suffered greatly, suffered for a purpose that God revealed in the end. We can get comfortable in our lives and be complacent. Harsh treatment serves to rile us up. God allowed Pharaoh to make life “bitter” for the Israelites in Egypt because he had a bigger plan and purpose for them. They had matured greatly in the land of Goshen and prospered greatly. It would not be easy to move them to action. Maxie makes an application, “Isn’t it true that conflict, especially life’s sorrows, and burdens, gives us perspective that nothing else will? It’s easy to be at home in Egypt, easy to settle down in the comfort and security of our way of life, easy to cling tightly to the earth. Perhaps we need to be detached from all that in which we trust, all that upon which we depend for security, in order that we might depend wholly upon God. As long as we are happy in Goshen, we will not yearn for Canaan.”[3]

[1] Ryken, Philip Graham, and R. Kent Hughes. 2005. Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] Merida, Tony. 2014. Exalting Jesus in Exodus. Nashville, TN: Holman Reference.

[3] Dunnam, Maxie, and Lloyd J. Ogilvie. 1987. Exodus. Vol. 2. The Preacher’s Commentary Series. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.