Who is Rahab?

Who is Rahab?  

Creative Commons: Distant Shores

She is mentioned three times in the New Testament, however, we know her best from her story which is found in the Old Testament book of Joshua.   If you aren’t familiar with the story of the prostitute from Jericho you can find it in Joshua 2 and Joshua 6

To the Israelites, everything about her is undesirable.  First and foremost, she is a woman living during a time of patriarchy.   Secondly, she is a Canaanite – a foreigner – one of the people living in the Promised Land that the Israelites have been told must be removed in order to take possession of the land.  Thirdly, her profession is that of a prostitute making her as immoral as they come.

But who is Rahab the woman, and what is she like?   She isn’t a made up character in a story book, but a real living, breathing woman.  Rahab is an outsider, or foreigner, living inside the Promised Land. We first meet her when two Israelite spies – insiders living outside the Promised Land – show up at her house.  The irony of this is that Rahab is also most likely also an outsider among her own people due to her “chosen” profession. Not that she willingly chose to be a prostitute. This is something women fall into as a result of having absolutely no other way of supporting herself.  


Although we read about the weaknesses and brokenness of  Rahab based on her career, which the writers of both and Old and New Testament just can’t let her overcome, we can discover a lot of about Rahab’s character and strengths.   In the pages of the book of Joshua we can also see the kind of person she is.


We know that she is intelligent, quick-witted,  and resourceful. She is able to think on her feet.  She sees the arrival of the spies for the opportunity that it is, and she is quick to take them in.  She is wise and perceptive. Rahab realized that God is giving her a chance at salvation with the arrival of the two Israelite spies on her doorstep.   

At the same time, Rahab is also able to quickly dismiss the king’s men.  She doesn’t hesitate to admit that she did indeed have company that day. She basically on the spot comes up with a story and says more or les, “Sure, the men you seek WERE here, but I had no clue they were from THOSE people.  And anyways, they are gone now. They finished their business with me and took off to make it outside of the gated to be on their way before the gates were closed for the night. But you look like strong, smart men! If you hurry you will surely still be able to track them and catch them!”

The very fact that she took the spies in shows that Rahab is hospitable.  At her own peril, safety and shelter are offered to the spies. As her guests, she knows that she is honor bound to care for them.  She protects them from being discovered by the king’s men – something the spies are unable to do on their own – despite the nasty consequences that she and her entire family can suffer from should the spies be discovered.   Rahab has the abilities to keep them safe and knows just where to hide these men. You see, Rahab doesn’t just entertain customers, she also is very industrious and spends time making linen. She has wet, soggy, smelly flax drying out on her roof for her next batch of linen on the very day these two bumbling spies show up on her doorstep.  She uses this big smelly drying pile of yuck to conceal the spies.

Once the king’s men are gone and is it safe to go back upstairs, we discover that Rahab is a skilled negotiator.   She goes in with a quid pro quo approach. I have dealt kindly with you, now you need to promise to deal kindly with me.   And what can the spies do? They know they are still neatly caught. They can either agree and negotiate with Rahab, or refuse and risk having her turn them over to the king.   We also discover during these negotiations that Rahab has a great love for others and she puts her love of others before love of self. Her request for salvation isn’t just for herself.  She ensured that her entire family will be spared and kept safe from the destruction that will inevitably come.


But most importantly, Rahab is a woman of incredibly strong faith.    Not just any faith either. She makes a confession of faith in the one true God of Israel , the  God of in heaven above and on earth below. A statement that is made by only two other people in the Old Testament – Moses and Solomon.  

Can you imagine how shocked the spies must have been by this Canaanite woman who is standing before them protecting them while at the same time declaring and confessing that she believes in their God?  And what a confession! It is perfect!

In his book, The Faith of the Outsider: Exclusion and Inclusion in the Biblical Story, Frank Anthony Spina sums up Rahab and her confession like this :


Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute, is familiar with the Israelite theological language as though she has graduated from an Israelite religious academy…she presents herself as fully and comfortably conversant with information that would typically characterize an Israelite insider completely knowledgeable about Israel’s religious patterns…In fact, Rahab’s confession is arguably the best one in the entire Book of Joshua, even better than anything offered by the great leader himself, Joshua.” 

 


Now how on earth would a pagan woman, who is lowly and poor with a horrible job, not only learn about the God of Israel, but also come to such an absolute and faith in him as her God as well?  Divine revelation is the answer.

All of the Canaanite people in Jericho  heard about the miracles the God of Israel had done and continued to do.  They knew about the other victories the Israelites had won battles over other powerful kings on their way to Jericho.  But only one Canaanite, Rahab, heard these stories and realized the strength that the won these battles came from the God of Israel, and she somehow sought to encounter and know him for herself.  God had a divine plan and purpose for Rahab just like he does for each of us. He met Rahab where she was in her current circumstances and accepted her belief in him. And just like Rahab, no matter what our circumstances our,  we to can have faith and trust in God to take us forward to our salvation.

And finally, we know that Rahab was a woman of great courage.  Can you imagine the nerves of steel it took for this woman to hide spies on her roof and then lie to the soldiers literally standing on her doorstep?  She took a ginormous leap of faith and courageously grasped on to the situation unfolding under and on her roof to secure salvation for herself and her entire family in exchange for her protection of the spies.

Then she has to wait, not knowing what is to come next or when whatever it is will come.  She really had no idea if the spies will keep their word once the battle has begun. All that she has to comfort herself with is her faith in the God of Israel.  Can you imagine the currents of terror that envelop the city of Jericho as the Israeli army arrives? The seven torturous days as the army marches around the city leaving the inhabitants inside shaking with fear wondering what will come next.  And then finally, the courage it takes to stay inside her house in the walls of Jericho as the great stone walls all around Rahab’s house come tumbling down?


Joshua gave the people of Israel God’s message to them in verse 1:9 to be strong and courageous.  Rahab, who hadn’t even been present to hear Joshua deliver this message, takes it to a whole now level.  Rahab shows us that absolute faith gives us the courage and strength we need to stand against anything.

Today we have been looking at a familiar story.    Before our time together today, have you ever given any thought to why Rahab the prostitute was given such a prominent place in this story?  A woman living in poor conditions trapped in an immoral job and a foreigner at that. Rahab’s story shows us that sometimes we are being prepared for a part in the story and really have no idea what it is or when we will need to use it. This past month I have spent a lot of time with Rahab and her story and feel like I have gotten to know Rahab as a person.  In doing so I have learned these two things as my takeaways, one is an encouragement and the other is a caution:

  1. No matter how marginalized you are, you have a place in the Kingdom, but it doesn’t always come easy.  You have to be ready and willing to move when God tells you it’s time to move. Have faith and be courageous.    No matter how bleak your current situation, you can have hope. God won’t leave you where he found you. No matter your circumstances, God will prepare you for whatever tasks he has for you.  Sometimes he is preparing you for a role that you would never dream you would have in the Kingdom. Rahab certainly didn’t know as she was learning who God was that she was going to play a prominent role in the Israelites taking of Jericho.  
  2. We can be too quick to judge a book by its cover.  Prior to taking a closer look at Rahab, I never realized that she had such a profound and deeply rooted faith in the God of Israel.  I guess that I just assumed that since she was a prostitute that she was a sinful person who just happened to get the right opportunity to ensure she survived the siege of Jericho.  I never looked beyond her title of prostitute to actually meet the woman of faith we have uncovered here today. We all have great potential in the Kingdom of God.

Going forward, I hope that when you hear the name Rahab, you aren’t so distracted by the title of prostitute that always seems to accompany it.   Instead my hope is for you to recall of a faithful woman filled with courage and strength who rose above her circumstances and found redemption and her place among God’s chosen people as well as a branch on the family tree of Jesus.                                                                            

Each of us has at least one Rahab moment in our lives.  A time when we have to choose to believe and trust in God and the promises he has made us despite our circumstances.  

My most recent Rahab moment came this past spring when my husband was suddenly incredibly sick, needing emergency surgery to clean out an infection that had found its way into his knee.   This resulted in him having to be off of work for a month. Perhaps in the greater scheme of problems in the world this wasn’t so big, but for me it was huge and seemed to be a recall of our financial hardships earlier in life.  In my past I would have been in complete despair and afraid that we would find ourselves without a home again. However, throughout the entire month I chose to lean into God and trust in him and I felt a deep sense of peace knowing that God would supply all our needs.  

This is just one of the Rahab moments in my life, what are some of yours?


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The Moses Five – Defiant Love (Part 4)

Part Four, the conclusion of the sermon entitled The Moses Five – Defiant Love which was originally given on Mother’s Day, May 14, 2017 at Midway Mennonite Church in Columbiana, OH.


Sermon Scripture Text: Exodus 1:15-2:10 (NRSV)

Four hundred and forty words make up our passage today.  While there may not be a lot of words, there is a lot we can take away from these verses of scripture and the story of the Moses 5.  We can see that God can use us when we least expect it.

He also uses those people that you would least expect to be used.  In this case, he uses all women behind the scenes.  It is the females that Pharaoh considered “safe” and not an enemy to his kingdom that protect the leader God is preparing.

We see that it is possible to be used in God’s work behind the scenes and never see the actual outcome of what God is working.  It is most likely none of the Moses Five except Miriam were still alive to see Moses return at the age of 80 to Egypt to lead God’s people out of bondage and into the Promised Land.

The Moses 5 are all women of true compassion and defiant love.  From them we learn about faith, courage, hope, perseverance, trust, and resourcefulness.  Moses’ mother Jochebed is an incredibly strong woman, but we see that she doesn’t complete her task of raising her child alone.  It takes several brave, strong women to do this.

It took a community then, and it still takes a community of strong women today.  People who choose do the right thing every time, not just when people are watching.  People who know God and who are willing to be part of his Kingdom work here on this earth.

Today we are celebrating Mother’s Day.  A day set aside for us to remember our mothers that are no longer with us and celebrate the ones that are still here.  Our passage of scripture today shows us a mother, a sister, an adoptive mother, and complete strangers who choose to serve God by doing the right thing despite the rulings of men or standards of their society.  Let us remember and celebrate these women today, and the example they set for us.  They all use compassion and defiant love to overcome the obstacles they encounter in their lives and carry out God’s love to those around them.

All around us are women of compassion and love.  We fill the roles of mothers, grandmothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, aunts, sisters or even as friends who are mentors and teachers.  To date in my life I have been blessed with many great and Godly women who have helped to shape me into the person I am today.  Some I am related too, some are women God has sent my way at the right times along my journey.  Women serving God who have helped me learn lessons of grace and humility.

We can all be people of compassion and love.  God’s people.  We see this same kind of message repeated in the New Testament as well.  In 1 Peter 5:5 we read, “In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders.  And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”’

Likewise, we read in 2 Timothy 2:24-25, And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness.  God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth.

In his book, Cure for the Common Life (pg. 132) Max Lucado phrases it like this, Jesus entered the world to serve.  We can enter our jobs, our homes, our church.  Servanthood requires no unique skill or seminary degree.  Regardless or your strengths, training, or church tenure, you can…”

The world today is looking for people of compassion and love.  God’s people – men and women who choose to do the right thing despite the consequence to them and who always have their trust in God.  Even during the hard times.

Our world is hungry for righteous voices.  Those willing to reach out and help others.  Perhaps it is giving support and encouragement to a young mother who is struggling.  Or it could be reaching out to a girl to help guide her through the turbulence of the adolescent years.  It could even be as simple as taking a child to the movies here and there and chatting with them on the car ride.

Our obedience to God’s call spans across racial divides and borders of countries.  Today we read about an Egyptian princess who showed compassion and love to her enemy, a Hebrew.  We see Jesus teaching this same love of enemy in the New Testament in the parable of the good Samaritan.  Egyptian or Hebrew, Samaritan or Jew, we are all God’s children and subject to his ways.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:31-40,

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

God uses us in unexpected ways.  We just have to be willing to answer his call, obeying his teachings and meeting the needs of those around us.  No matter what the personal cost is to us.   We, like the Moses 5, are all called to be strong and courageous people of God who spread compassion and love in a world that is hurting.

Be a person of defiant love.


If you missed Part Three it can be found here.

The Moses Five – Defiant Love (Part 3)

Part Three of the sermon entitled The Moses Five – Defiant Love which was originally given on Mother’s Day, May 14, 2017 at Midway Mennonite Church in Columbiana, OH.

Sermon Scripture Text: Exodus 1:15-2:10


Eventually Jochebed realizes that she can no longer keep her son hidden and safe.  She is a woman of tremendous faith, and comes up with a plan.  In verse 3 of chapter 2 we read, “When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river.  She is going to use the very water meant to kill her son to somehow bring about his salvation!  Jochebed is letting her baby boy go and trusting in God that he will provide safety for the boy.

Verses 4-6 introduce us to the final two women of the Moses 5, His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.  The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said.

Although we meet both Miriam, the sister of Moses, and the Pharaoh’s daughter towards the end of our passage today, their part in God’s plan is no less important than the parts carried out by Shiphrah, Puah, and Jochebed.

Miriam has been tasked by her mother to follow the basket the baby is in to see what becomes of it.  We don’t know how far she had to follow the basket, but I would be willing to guess it wasn’t very far.  Jochebed would know that the Nile was considered a sacred and religious source for the royalty of Egypt to bathe in. She knew the spot where the daughter of Pharaoh would be bathing.

Having protected her son for three months, I have no doubt the spot she launched his little basket ark from was very specifically chosen.  Perhaps the spot was even given to her or Miriam in a dream.  We know that in later life Miriam would be a prophetess for her people.

The basket does reach the area where the Pharaoh’s daughter has come to bathe.  It is she who opens the basket that is floating in the water.  She immediately comes to the right conclusion that this is a Hebrew baby and immediately is moved to compassion, but she has a choice to make.

Does she obey her father’s command and throw the baby in the basket into the Nile?  She may have been debating what to do with this baby when a strange girl of 10 or 12 appears out of the reeds.

Our final verses from today’s scripture reading, verses 7-10 give us the rest of the story of the Moses 5, “Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

This brave daughter of Jochebed shows no hesitation and has the intelligence to not betray her relationship to the baby in the basket.  Perhaps it was God’s nudging presence that propelled Miriam boldly forward up to the Pharaoh’s daughter where she brazenly offers her assistance to find a wet nurse.

The time for the Pharaoh’s daughter’s choice is at hand.  And she also chooses defiant love.  She immediately agrees, taking on the responsibility of the child.  She doesn’t stop to consider what could happen to her for disobeying her father.

Could it be that at some point in time she also, like the midwives, had been introduced to the God of Israel?  We have no way to know.  But her acceptance of the child set in motion the protection he needed to survive, as well as put into place his getting the education that would help him lead the Israelites out of Egypt and then across the desert for 40 years.

Jochebed is rewarded for her faith in God.  Not only does she get to take Moses back home with her, but she is paid to continue to care for her own son for a few more years.  She doesn’t just nurse him that day by the shores of the Nile.

During the time she is given with him, I would guess that Jochebed made sure to teach her son as much as she could about the God of Israel and his promise to Abraham.  She would be preparing him to not fall under the false teachings about Egyptian Gods.  Then she lets him go once more, giving him up to his adoptive mother and trusting his care to God.


If you enjoyed Part Three, please visit next week for the final post in this series, Part Four.  If you missed Part Two it can be found here.

The Moses Five – Defiant Love (Part 2)

Part Two of the sermon entitled The Moses Five – Defiant Love which was originally given on Mother’s Day, May 14, 2017 at Midway Mennonite Church in Columbiana, OH.


Sermon Scripture Text: Exodus 1:15-2:10 (NRSV)

Pharaoh is desperate to get this population under control before they take over everything, so he deploys plan A.  He enslaves the Hebrews and tries to basically get the population under control by working them to death.  Even with the harsh and grueling working conditions, the Hebrew people continue to grow.  Is this God’s providential hand we are seeing at work here?  When the powers of earth try to subdue his people, God continues to work behind the scenes to allow the people of God to grow.   He is building a nation out of the nomadic tribe of Israel.

Realizing Plan A has failed, Pharaoh moves on to Plan B.  This plan is a lot more devious.  If Pharaoh can’t subdue the population by working them to death, he will cut off the population before they have a chance to grow!  In verse 16 we read, “when you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.   The midwives are to help birth the baby, then somehow end the baby’s life should he happen to be male while they are cleaning him up after birth.  To cover this up they are to present him back to his parents as if he had not survived the birth or died as a complication of the birth.

Here is where we meet the first two of the Moses Five.  We are given their names in verse 15.  Shiphrah and Puah.  These women were not the only two midwives to the Hebrews, but they were most likely the heads of groups of midwives.

They are also most likely not Hebrews, but Egyptian women.  The text doesn’t tell us a whole lot about them. However, I think it would be safe to conclude these women are indeed Egyptian – why would the Pharaoh instruct Hebrew women to kill their own race?  He gives this order to Egyptian women because he feels he commands their loyalty.

Verse 17 tells us, “But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live.  Regardless of their nationality, these women make their living bringing life into the world, not taking life out of the world.  Whether Egyptian or Hebrew, these women know the God of Israel and they know that the order of Pharaoh to kill the innocent baby boys is wrong.  They knowingly choose to ignore his command.  Shiphrah and Puah know that eventually Pharaoh will most likely catch on to the fact that they are disobeying his command, but defiantly continue on with birthing Hebrew children rather than killing them.  Despite the consequences to themselves, they choose what is right and thereby choose to willingly serve God.


We are given the outcome of their choices in verses 18-21: “So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.

With Plan A to kill the Hebrews by working them to death a failure, and Plan B to have the midwives secretly kill off all male babies a disaster, Pharaoh now moves on to Plan C.  This is his boldest plan yet, and throws caution to the wind.  It is no longer a secret that Pharaoh wants to control the population size of the Hebrews but public knowledge.  Pharaoh calls on all of his subjects in the final verse of chapter one of the book of Exodus, Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.

It is in this political climate that Jochebed, the third of the Moses 5, finds herself pregnant for a third time.  She already has a daughter as well as a son who is around the age of three.  Jochebed must go through this pregnancy hearing the sounds of death patrol squads that are seeking out baby boys and tossing them to their deaths in the Nile River.  Does she hope for a girl?  Does she fear for a boy and cry out to God to protect her unborn child by making this child a girl?  The text doesn’t tell us.  Chapter two of the book of Exodus begins: Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months…”  What it does tell us is that the third child was indeed a boy.  And there was something special about him.

All new parents think their baby is the most precious baby ever born, but the word in the original language of the text tells us that what Jochebed sees is something more.  Somehow, she sees her child is marked for special work for God.

The word used for fine here is “tov”.  We hear that word still today in Jewish toasts of mazel tov!  Tov, which is translated as good or fine, is the same word that is used in the description of the creation in Genesis.

Filled with the defiant, protective love of a mother, and filled with trust in her God, Jochebed manages to hide her new born child for three months!  Perhaps she received some inspiration and support from the civilly disobedient midwives.  Can you imagine how hard this would be to do in such close quarters as the Hebrew slaves most likely lived in?  How do you hide or muffle the loud cries of a baby that is hungry or tired?  The scriptures don’t tell us how, just that she did.  Again, we see the hand of God in the midst of all of this bringing about HIS will.  She is willing to risk everything, her life and the lives of her family, to do what is right.


If you enjoyed Part Two, please visit next week for Part 3.  If you missed Part One it can be found here.

 

The Moses Five – Defiant Love (Part 1)

Part One of the sermon entitled The Moses Five – Defiant Love which was originally given on Mother’s Day, May 14, 2017 at Midway Mennonite Church in Columbiana, OH.


Sermon Scripture Text: Exodus 1:15-2:10(NRSV)

Imagine, if you can, what it must feel like to realize you are a persona non-grata where you live.  You are an alien living in a foreign land among people that consider you less than them.  You have no country to call your own.

Now, imagine you are this same person, and the citizens of the country you live in not only dislike you, but are also afraid of you and fearful of your husbands and sons.  You live in constant fear for the safety of yourself, your husband, and especially your children.

Then you find out you are pregnant again!  Something that should be cause for great joy is marred by great fear. You have little time for celebration as you are already worried about how to protect your child from the society you live in from the very first moment after giving birth.

I don’t know about you, but I would be pretty scared if I were to find myself in this situation.  I can only imagine that this must be exactly the way that Jochebed felt when she discovered she was pregnant for a third time.  Are you familiar with this name?

Jochebed’s story is found in the book of Exodus, where we are introduced to her as the mother of Moses.  She is a person of little importance, but she finds herself caught up in the story of God’s redemption for the people of Israel.  Through Jochebed’s willing obedience and faith in the God of Israel, her actions were instrumental in the protection of her son Moses.  That protection would allow for a great leader of the Exodus to reach adulthood.

But she was not alone in doing this.  It took five strong, courageous women, the Moses Five, to love, teach and raise Moses and ensure that he would survive his childhood.  A childhood that was stacked against his survival.  Women who lived lives of defiant love.


How did Jochebed and the Children of Israel find themselves in this rather scary place?  I believe we need to turn back a little in our Bibles.  Back to where it all begins with a covenant made with Abraham.

In Genesis 15 we find that God is making a promise to Abraham.   His descendants, that would start with his own child that he and Sarah will have together, will be as numerous as the stars.  But this promise is also followed by a prophecy.  In Genesis 15:12-15 we read, As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age.    And God is faithful to his word.  He always follows through with his promises.

I’m sure most of us are pretty familiar with the story from here.  Abraham’s son is Isaac, whose son is Jacob.  Jacob has several sons, but one of them becomes prominent and given a powerful position in the government of the Pharaoh of Egypt.

Joseph, who was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, finds himself in the land of Egypt.  But God uses this for good.  In the closing chapters of Genesis, peace has been restored within the family and forgiveness extended from Joseph to his brothers. All of the house of Jacob come to Egypt to live in this foreign land with Joseph in order to escape a famine in their own country.  All is well for the descendants of Abraham…

Remember the prophecy made to Abraham?  The one about 400 years of slavery in a foreign land?  In Exodus 1:5-14 we see,

The total number of people born to Jacob was seventy. Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers, and that whole generation.  But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.  Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.”

While there is some debate between scholars as to whether the 400-year timeline begins with Ismael persecuting Isaac when he is five or begins with the time of Jacob and his family going to Egypt, in these passages, we see clearly the prophecy coming true.  The new Pharaoh has forgotten the favor shown to Joseph and his family.

Not only has he forgotten this, but the sheer number of Israelites are making him nervous.  The original seventy Israelites that made up the number of Jacob’s family that immigrated to Egypt has exploded to a population of several hundred thousand!


If you enjoyed Part One, please visit next week for Part Two.