DIG: How could someone rise to power in Egypt and not know about Joseph? Why is the story of Egypt’s rule over Israel tied to the story of Joseph’s rule over Egypt (and God’s rule over Joseph)?
REFLECT: The Psalmist lamented when he saw the prosperity of the wicked compared to his own trials, until he entered the sanctuary of God; then he understood their destiny (Psalm 73:17). When the ungodly seed of the serpent is oppressing you, do you recognize him for who he is? Or do you blame God?
Then a new king from another dynasty, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt (1:8). As Prime Minister, Joseph had risen to second in command in Egypt. Only Pharaoh was greater. But there was not merely a change in pharaohs, there was a change in dynasties altogether. Ahmose was the new Hamitic king, and the first king of the Eighteenth Dynasty. He hated the Semites, and he threw out the Hyksos rulers. As Stephen pointed out in his speech before the Sanhedrin: Then another king, who knew nothing about Joseph, became ruler in Egypt (Act 7:18). This Greek word for another is heteros, and means another of a different kind. So this was not a Hyksos king, he was a different kind of king. He was an Egyptian king who overthrew the hated Hyksos that ruled Egypt during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Dynasties.
After Ahmose had gained control of Egypt, what would he do with the Semites who were now in the land as a result of the Hyksos rule? Some Semites he expelled from the land (such as the Hyksos), but other Semites he enslaved. So under the rule of Ahmose, the enslavement of Israel began. Notice that mose is the particular name for the Eighteenth Dynasty.
Pharaoh did not trouble himself with the past, and did not want to remember the good things that Joseph had done for Egypt, nor did he feel any indebtedness to him or his descendants. So the new king of the new dynasty spelled out the problem when he said: Look, the Israelites have become much too numerous for us (1:9). Even though the Israelites had lived in Egypt for four generations by this time, they had remained distinct. They had not assimilated into the Egyptian population, nor would they be assimilated into the Babylonian population in their captivity there. Neither the dispersion in 70 AD after the fall of Jerusalem, or Nazi Germany could destroy them. Even until the present day, the Jews have not been assimilated into the Gentile population. ADONAI will never let the Israelites disappear as a race.
King Ahmose said to the royal court: Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous. The war against the Hyksos had just recently been won, but the Egyptians worried that if war with the Hittites broke out, the Israelites would join their enemies, fight against the Egyptians and leave the country (1:10). Egypt responded to Israel’s growth with enslavement. As evil Cain killed his righteous brother Abel, so did Egypt try to destroy Israel by reducing their numerical strength. The ungodly seed of the serpent (Genesis 3:15) acts the same way in every generation.
First, he appointed slave masters over the Israelites to oppress them with forced labor (1:11a). The beating of a slave by such an overseer is vividly portrayed on a wall painting in the Theban tomb of Rekhmire (dated to the time of Thutmose III), and an associated inscription uses the Egyptian equivalent of the Hebrew word used here for slave master or sar.5 The slavery in Egypt is compared to an iron smelting furnace in Deuteronomy 4:20.
This slave labor was used to build Pithom and Rameses as treasure cities for Pharaoh (1:11b). They became centers for Egyptian idolatry. Pharaoh said: Come, we must . . . These are the same introductory words that were used by the men of Babel who conspired to build a city (Genesis 11:4). Here, the Israelites are pictured as building cities out of brick and mortar just like the people of Babel. The point is that the ungodly act the same way throughout history. They reject God and build structures to their own glory and honor.6 Although Pharaoh’s slave masters made their lives bitter (a fact later remembered in the Passover meal), the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread. So the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly (1:12-13). The reaction of the Egyptians shows that sin, as it were, creates its own momentum: the feeling of dread did not cause them to leave the Hebrews alone. Rather, they now became ruthless in their oppression and made the Israelites’ lives bitter by increasing the demands placed on them, both in building and in the fields. And along with all of this, they mistreated them.7
They made their lives bitter, later to be remembered with bitter herbs (12:8), with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the field. In all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly (1:14). The word hard is used later in the book of Exodus when ADONAI hardens Pharaoh’s heart (7:3). Because Pharaoh made the Israelite’s labor hard, the LORD made his heart hard. More on that later.
Peter told the early community of believers: Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange was happening to you (First Peter 4:12). Persecution is the way that the unbelieving world treats the children of God. Let’s not be naive in this matter; if we do not see it in our own first hand experience, it is because of God’s restraining, gracious hand. Even then, the hatred is there, festering and ready to pounce. We would be foolish to think otherwise. Yet ADONAI will bless His righteous ones, either in this world or the next, in times of adversity, as he blessed those who believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob during the time of the Exodus.8
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2017