God’s hand was apparently on the Hebrews. Everything they did prospered. Exodus 1:7 says they were “exceedingly strong,” and the word “multiplied” is used three times in the chapter. Over the centuries the Hebrews grew exponentially, doubling, tripling, quadrupling in size every generation.
The new Pharaoh had to know something of their history, that they were children of Abraham, a people who worshipped one God, the creator of heaven and earth. He saw the writing on the wall – a mighty nation, an influential people doing wonders to the glory of their God. The more he thought about this, his fear and insecurity turned into anger and hatred. He made it his mission to oppress, persecute, and destroy their God-given destiny. In his pride, he thought he could go toe to toe with the Lord of creation and win.
Who was this Pharaoh? Most conservative Biblical scholars agree on a thirteenth-century date for the Exodus. That being so, the Pharaoh at this time could have been Seti I (1303-1220 B.C.). After Seti came Rameses II (1290-1224 B.C.). During both of their reigns, mammoth building projects were launched. Also, in the Leiden Papyrus dating from the time of Rameses II, there is an order to give grain rations to the “Apiru” who were dragging stones to the great pylon. Scholars believe “Apiru” was an early form of the word “Hebrew.” Without exaggeration, it is a historical fact that a people of Semitic origin were working as slaves in Egypt during the time of the exodus (Saved for God’s Glory, pg. 21).
Whatever his name, this new Pharaoh ranks as one of the evilest leaders in history. He set in motion a Hitler like program to strip the Hebrews of their freedoms. In his soul, seething with racism, he took pleasure from the pain and suffering he would inflict. In Exodus 1 his plan unfolds in the three stages.
First, after sewing lies and false allegations, he simply decreed that every Hebrew in the land was a slave. Educated, civilized, gifted people whose hands had written books, counted money, made clothes, and crafted art now worked in the mud while whips cracked overhead. In verses 11-14 we find words like oppress, forced, ruthless, bitter, and harsh. Exodus 1:14b sums it up, “…in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.” What was the result? Exodus 1:12 says, “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied…”
Let’s make an observation. Pharaoh’s oppressive attempts to weaken and decrease the Hebrew population had the opposite outcome. Logically, more oppression produces more weakness. But because of God’s favor, it could only yield more multiplication. Every time Pharaoh turned up the trouble God poured out the increase. It was a little like the “Wack a Mole” game at Chuck-E-Cheese. Pharaoh would wack the Hebrews over here, but God popped up three new blessings over there.
More on God’s favor in the next post…