Exodus 1 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Exodus 1)

Verse 1

[1] Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.

Every man of his household — That is, children and grand-children.

Verse 3

[3] Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin,

And Benjamin — Who tho' youngest of all is placed before Dan, Naphtali, etc. because they were the children of the hand-maidens.

Verse 5

[5] And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.

Seventy souls — According to the computation we had, Genesis 46:27, including Joseph and his two sons. This was just the number of the nations by which the earth was peopled, Genesis 10:1-32, for when God separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel, Deuteronomy 32:8.

Verse 6

[6] And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.

All that generation by degrees wore off: perhaps all Jacob's sons died much about the same time, for there was not past seven years difference in age between the eldest and the youngest of them, except Benjamin.

Verse 7

[7] And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.

And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly — Like fishes or insects, so that they multiplied; and being generally healthful and strong, they waxed exceeding mighty, so that the land was filled with them, at least Goshen, their own allotment. This wonderful increase was the product of the promise long before made to the fathers. From the call of Abraham, when God first told him he would make him a great nation, to the deliverance of his seed out of Egypt, was 430 years; during the first 215 of which, they were increased to 70, but in the latter half, those 70 multiplied to 600,000 fighting men.

Verse 8

[8] Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.

There arose a new king (after several successions in Joseph's time) which knew not Joseph - All that knew him loved him, and were kind to his relations for his sake; but when he was dead he was soon forgotten, and the remembrance of the good offices he had done was either not retained or not regarded. If we work for men only, our works at farthest will die with us; if for God, they will follow us, Revelation 14:13.

Verse 10

[10] Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.

Come on, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply — When men deal wickedly it is common for them to imagine that they deal wisely, but the folly of sin will at last be manifested before all men.

Verse 11

[11] Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.

They set over them task-masters, to afflict them — With this very design. They not only made them serve, which was sufficient for Pharaoh's profit, but they made them serve with rigour, so that their lives became bitter to them; intending hereby to break their spirits, and to rob them of every thing in them that was generous: to ruin their health, and shorten their days, and so diminish their numbers: to discourage them from marrying, since their children would be born to slavery; and to oblige them to desert the Hebrews, and incorporate with the Egyptians. And 'tis to be feared the oppression they were under did bring over many of them to join with the Egyptians in their idolatrous worship; for we read, Joshua 24:14, that they served other gods in Egypt; and we find, Ezekiel 20:8, that God had threatned to destroy them for it, even while they were in the land of Egypt.

Treasure-cities — To keep the king's money or corn, wherein a great part of the riches of Egypt consisted.

Verse 12

[12] But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.

But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied — To the grief and vexation of the Egyptians. Times of affliction, have oft been the church's growing times: Christianity spread most when it was persecuted. v. 15.

And the king spake to the Hebrew midwives — The two chief of them. They are called Hebrew midwives, probably not because they were themselves Hebrews; for sure Pharaoh could never expect they should be so barbarous to those of their own nation, but because they were generally made use of by the Hebrews, and being Egyptians he hoped to prevail with them.

Verse 16

[16] And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.

The stools — Seats used on that occasion.

Verse 17

[17] But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.

But the midwives feared God — Dreaded his wrath more than Pharaoh's, and therefore saved the men-children alive.

Verse 19

[19] And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.

I see no reason we have to doubt the truth of this; it is plain they were now under an extraordinary blessing of increase, which may well be supposed to have this effect, that the women had quick and easy labour, and the mothers and children being both lively, they seldon needed the help of midwives; this these midwives took notice of, and concluding it to be the finger of God, were thereby emboldened to disobey the king, and with this justify themselves before Pharaoh, when he called them to an account for it.

Verse 20

[20] Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.

Therefore God dealt well with them — That is, built them up in families, and blessed their children.