Saturday, May 12, 2012

Living on Joseph’s Legacy Exodus 1:1-7

Note To Readers: Welcome back.  Today we are continuing our study of the Old Testament, verse by verse, and where necessary phrase by phrase, and even word by word.  We approach it as ordinary laity who care about the gems that God has hidden in His Word for us.  Please join me on this journey as we begin today, Volume III, commencing with Exodus 1:1-7.   As always, today, and tomorrow, I welcome your thoughts and comments -- they are part of what energizes me.  Please sign up to get updates from my blog Epistoli -- this will include our studies in Exodus as well as some other thought-provoking topics I cover from time to time.  Please share our study with friends and family.   I know you'll enjoy it.  -- Ken Godevenos, Toronto, May 11, 2012.

Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; they came each one with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; Dan Naphtali, Gad and Asher.  And all the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt.  And Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation.  But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them.

As we start this third volume of our study through scripture, nothing can better describe how I feel more than this first passage in Exodus.  A good word for it may be “over-whelmed”.  In just seven verses the author of Exodus covers life from the time the Israelites went to Egypt during the famine, the death of Jacob, the death of Joseph, the death of all Joseph’s brother and their generation, and the prosperity of those that followed them.  It is a vast amount of history just in this first pages and that causes me to tremble as we embark on this book.  But if we ‘stay the course’, I believe we’ll be blessed with some of God’s greatest gems for life that He hid in this incredible account of the Children of Israel when they were both in the land of Egypt and in the wilderness.  This whole volume covers the first part of Exodus – the redemption from Egypt.

So let’s get right to it.  In these first few verses we are given some interesting facts.  The number of people who came to Egypt originally and counted in Jacob’s family (who were born to him or to his children) numbered seventy.  This number did not include Joseph and his two sons who were already there. 

Daughters are not mentioned in historical accounts at this point in history.  God’s perspective on the equality of woman was still to be revealed to man.  We can see its progression later in the Old Testament.  It was brought to its fullness in the New Testament.  In modern society, there were/are three major issues which got/get the attention of many.  The first was the issue of slavery; the second was/is the issue of female equality; and the third is the issue of homosexuality.  As part of our free will, I believe God allowed us to use our own judgment with respect to both slavery and female equality.  We did not do a good job and so you have, through scripture, a progression of how we as God’s people are to treat both our slaves (servants, employees) and the wonderful female companions, or women in general, God gave to us.  God’s view on these topics evolve and ultimately culminate in the New Testament when God tells us how to deal with our employees, and when God through the epistles of Paul and others, tells us how to lovingly treat and consider our wives.  Where you do not see a progression or evolvement in thinking is on the issue of homosexuality.  God’s position throughout the Bible remains the same – He is against it.  While He loves the homosexual as one of His own, He abhors the lifestyle that the homosexual chooses to follow.  There is no wavering of that position anywhere in the Scriptures.   So, while many liberals may think that Christians are on the wrong side of this issue as they claim we were on the slavery and women’s issues – and admittedly we were at one time – that is certainly not the case when it comes to homosexuality.  That is, it is not the case if our standard is God’s Word on the matter.  An excellent book on this subject is Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Culture Analysis by William J. Webb, Inter-Varsity Press, 2001.  I strongly recommend it.

Our passage goes on to say that in the period covered by the first seven verses of Exodus chapter one, Joseph dies, and so do all his brothers, and all ‘that’ generation, I would assume, referring to their peers in age.  The story could have ended there.  The Children of Israel could have died off.  But that was not the case.  That was not the purpose for which God led them to Egypt.  There was still a Covenant He had made with them and He intended to keep it.

So, instead, we read that the sons of Israel (in this case the sons of the sons of the sons of Jacob), his grandchildren and the generations that followed them prospered very well.  They multiplied in numbers and they became powerful in many ways.  They had spread out even further than in Joseph’s days and now they were to be found throughout the entire land of Egypt.

The first thing we need to note here is just what was meant by “increased greatly”.  May I suggest, as others do, this was an understatement.  The reality is that they started with 70 and some few hundred (either three or four) years later, subsequent parts of this book will tell us that they had grown to over six hundred thousand males over the age of 21.  Now, that’s more than a mere “great increase”, wouldn’t you say?

We also must note that the family’s “golden son” Joseph had died.  He was their original passport to favor in the sight of the Pharaohs and therefore in the sight of all Egyptians.  Life was good for many years.  But with Joseph’s death came the an element of fear and with it, the question of “what will happen to us now?”  To be fair, the Children of Israel had been concerned with this before, but Joseph had been able to assure them of God’s presence and protection, even after he himself was no longer going to be amongst them.

Will things get worse from here or better for the Children of God?  For now, they were prospering, but how long would that really last?

Thus opens the book of Exodus, also believed to be written by Moses.  It is in Egypt that this small band of seventy turn into a full-fledged nation.   Like all organisms that are destined to live, the nation of Israel had to pass through the birth canal and for them that was Egypt.  And the birth-pains they were about to experience, as the authors of the introduction to the New American Standard Bible, Open Bible, Expanded Edition suggest, were indeed very severe.

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