Exodus 1:16
And he said, When you do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them on the stools; if it be a son, then you shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.
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(16) Upon the stools.—Literally, upon the two stones. It has been suggested that a seat corresponding to the modern hursee elwilâdeh is meant. This is a “chair of a peculiar form,” upon which in modern Egypt the woman is seated during parturition. (See Lane, Modern Egyptians, vol. iii. p. 142.) But it does not appear that this seat is composed of “two stones;” nor is there any distinct evidence of its employment at the time of child-birth in Ancient Egypt. The emendation of Hirsch—banim for âbnaim, is very tempting. This will give the sense, “When ye look upon the children.”

Exodus 1:16-19. The stools — Seats used on that occasion. But the midwives feared God — Dreaded his wrath more than Pharaoh’s, and therefore saved the men-children alive. The Hebrew women are lively — We have no reason 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 had this effect, that the women had quick and easy labour, and the mothers and children being both lively, they seldom needed the help of midwives: this these midwives took notice of, and concluding it to be the finger of God, were thereby imboldened to disobey the king, and with this justify themselves before Pharaoh when he called them to an account for it.1:15-22 The Egyptians tried to destroy Israel by the murder of their children. The enmity that is in the seed of the serpent, against the Seed of the woman, makes men forget all pity. It is plain that the Hebrews were now under an uncommon blessing. And we see that the services done for God's Israel are often repaid in kind. Pharaoh gave orders to drown all the male children of the Hebrews. The enemy who, by Pharaoh, attempted to destroy the church in this its infant state, is busy to stifle the rise of serious reflections in the heart of man. Let those who would escape, be afraid of sinning, and cry directly and fervently to the Lord for assistance.Upon the stools - Literally, "two stones." The word denotes a special seat, such as is represented on monuments of the 18th Dynasty, and is still used by Egyptian midwives. 16. if it be a son, then ye shall kill him—Opinions are divided, however, what was the method of destruction which the king did recommend. Some think that the "stools" were low seats on which these obstetric practitioners sat by the bedside of the Hebrew women; and that, as they might easily discover the sex, so, whenever a boy appeared, they were to strangle it, unknown to its parents; while others are of opinion that the "stools" were stone troughs, by the river side—into which, when the infants were washed, they were to be, as it were, accidentally dropped. The stools; a seat used by women when ready to be delivered, conveniently framed for the midwife’s better discharge of her office.

Ye shall kill him, which it was not difficult for them to do without much observation.

If it be a daughter, then she shall live; either,

1. Because he feared not them, but the males only; and some add, that he was advised by one of their magicians, that a male child should be born of the Israelites, who should be a dreadful scourge to the Egyptians. Or,

2. They reserved them for their lust, or for service, or for the increase of their people, and the raising of a fairer breed by them. And he said, when ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women,.... Deliver them of their children:

and see them upon the stools; seats for women in labour to sit upon, and so contrived, that the midwives might do their office the more readily; but while they sat there, and before the birth, they could not tell whether the child was a son or a daughter; wherefore Kimchi (h) thinks the word here used signifies the place to which the infant falls down from its mother's belly, at the time of labour, and is called the place of the breaking forth of children, and takes it to be the "uterus" itself; and says it is called "Abanim", because "Banim", the children, are there, and supposes "A" or "Aleph" to be an additional letter; and so the sense then is, not when ye see the women on the seats, but the children in the place of coming forth; but then he asks, if it be so, why does he say, "and see them" there? could they see them before they were entirely out of the womb? to which he answers, they know by this rule, if a son, its face was downwards, and if a daughter, its face was upwards; how true this is, must be left to those that know better; the Jewish masters (i) constantly and positively affirm it: he further observes, that the word is of the dual number, because of the two valves of the womb, through which the infant passes:

if it be a son, then ye shall kill him; give it a private pinch as it comes forth, while under their hands, that its death might seem to be owing to the difficulty of its birth, or to something that happened in it. This was ordered, because what the king had to fear from the Israelites was only from the males, and they only could multiply their people; and because of the above information of his magicians, if there is any truth in that:

but if it be a daughter, then she shall live, be kept alive, and preserved, and brought up to woman's estate; and this the king chose to have done, having nothing to fear from them, being of the feeble sex, and that they might serve to gratify the lust of the Egyptians, who might be fond of Hebrew women, being more beautiful than theirs; or that they might be married and incorporated into Egyptian families, there being no males of their own, if this scheme took place, to match with them, and so by degrees the whole Israelitish nation would be mixed with, and swallowed up in the Egyptian nation, which was what was aimed at.

(h) Sepher Shorash. rad. (i) T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 11. 1. Niddah, fol. 31. 2.

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.
16. upon the two stones] This is the lit. rend. of the Heb.: the same word is used of the two circular stones, fixed horizontally on a vertical axle, to form the potter’s ‘wheel’ (see ill. in EB. iii. 3820). The allusion is in all probability to the two stones upon which the Hebrew women, in accordance with a custom attested for other nations, either knelt or sat at the time of their delivery: Ploss, Das Weib in der Natur u. Völkerkunde, 1887, ii. 174 f., 177 f., Schapiro, Revue des Études Juives, xl. (1900), p. 45 f. Spiegelberg (Aeg. Randglossen zum AT., 1904, p. 19 ff.) cites from old Egyptian and Coptic texts the expressions, to sit on the brick, and (once) on the two bricks, in the same connexion.Verse 16. - The stools. The explanation furnished by a remark of Mr. Lane ('Modem Egyptians,' vol. 3. p. 142) is more satisfactory than any other. In modern Egypt, he says, "two or three days before the expected time of delivery, the midwife conveys to the house the kursee elwiladeh, a chair of a peculiar form, upon which the patient is to be seated during the birth." A chair of the form intended is represented on the Egyptian monuments. "Let us deal wisely with them," i.e., act craftily towards them. התחכּם, sapiensem se gessit (Ecclesiastes 7:16), is used here of political craftiness, or worldly wisdom combined with craft and cunning (κατασοφισώμεθα, lxx), and therefore is altered into התנכּל in Psalm 105:25 (cf. Genesis 37:18). The reason assigned by the king for the measures he was about to propose, was the fear that in case of war the Israelites might make common cause with his enemies, and then remove from Egypt. It was not the conquest of his kingdom that he was afraid of, but alliance with his enemies and emigration. עלה is used here, as in Genesis 13:1, etc., to denote removal from Egypt to Canaan. He was acquainted with the home of the Israelites therefore, and cannot have been entirely ignorant of the circumstances of their settlement in Egypt. But he regarded them as his subjects, and was unwilling that they should leave the country, and therefore was anxious to prevent the possibility of their emancipating themselves in the event of war. - In the form תּקראנה for תּקרינה, according to the frequent interchange of the forms הל and אל (vid., Genesis 42:4), nh is transferred from the feminine plural to the singular, to distinguish the 3rd pers. fem. from the 2nd pers., as in Judges 5:26; Job 17:16 (vid., Ewald, 191c, and Ges. 47, 3, Anm. 3). Consequently there is no necessity either to understand מלחמה collectively as signifying soldiers, or to regard תּקראנוּ drager ot , the reading adopted by the lxx (συμβῆ ἡμῖν), the Samaritan, Chaldee, Syriac, and Vulgate, as "certainly the original," as Knobel has done.

The first measure adopted (Exodus 1:11) consisted in the appointment of taskmasters over the Israelites, to bend them down by hard labour. מסּים שׂרי bailiffs over the serfs. מסּים from מס signifies, not feudal service, but feudal labourers, serfs (see my Commentary on 1 Kings 4:6). ענּה to bend, to wear out any one's strength (Psalm 102:24). By hard feudal labour (סבלות burdens, burdensome toil) Pharaoh hoped, according to the ordinary maxims of tyrants (Aristot. polit., 5, 9; Liv. hist. i. 56, 59), to break down the physical strength of Israel and lessen its increase-since a population always grows more slowly under oppression than in the midst of prosperous circumstances-and also to crush their spirit so as to banish the very wish for liberty. - ויּבן - .ytrebil r, and so Israel built (was compelled to build) provision or magazine cities vid., 2 Chronicles 32:28, cities for the storing of the harvest), in which the produce of the land was housed, partly for purposes of trade, and partly for provisioning the army in time of war; - not fortresses, πόλεις ὀχυραί, as the lxx have rendered it. Pithom was Πάτουμος; it was situated, according to Herodotus (2, 158), upon the canal which commenced above Bybastus and connected the Nile with the Red Sea. This city is called Thou or Thoum in the Itiner. Anton., the Egyptian article pi being dropped, and according to Jomard (descript. t. 9, p. 368) is to be sought for on the site of the modern Abassieh in the Wady Tumilat. - Raemses (cf. Genesis 47:11) was the ancient Heroopolis, and is not to be looked for on the site of the modern Belbeis. In support of the latter supposition, Stickel, who agrees with Kurtz and Knobel, adduces chiefly the statement of the Egyptian geographer Makrizi, that in the (Jews') book of the law Belbeis is called the land of Goshen, in which Jacob dwelt when he came to his son Joseph, and that the capital of the province was el Sharkiyeh. This place is a day's journey (for as others affirm, 14 hours) to the north-east of Cairo on the Syrian and Egyptian road. It served as a meeting-place in the middle ages for the caravans from Egypt to Syria and Arabia (Ritter, Erdkunde 14, p. 59). It is said to have been in existence before the Mohammedan conquest of Egypt. But the clue cannot be traced any farther back; and it is too far from the Red Sea for the Raemses of the Bible (vid., Exodus 12:37). The authority of Makrizi is quite counterbalanced by the much older statement of the Septuagint, in which Jacob is made to meet his son Joseph in Heroopolis; the words of Genesis 46:29, "and Joseph went up to meet Israel his father to Goshen," being rendered thus: εἰς συϚάϚτησιν Ἰσραὴλ τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦκαθ ̓ Ἡρώων πόλιν. Hengstenberg is not correct in saying that the later name Heroopolis is here substituted for the older name Raemses; and Gesenius, Kurtz, and Knobel are equally wrong in affirming that καθ ̓ ἩρώωϚ πόλιν is supplied ex ingenio suo; but the place of meeting, which is given indefinitely as Goshen in the original, is here distinctly named. Now if this more precise definition is not an arbitrary conjecture of the Alexandrian translators, but sprang out of their acquaintance with the country, and is really correct, as Kurtz has no doubt, it follows that Heroopolis belongs to the γῆ Ῥαμεσσῆ (Genesis 46:28, lxx), or was situated within it. But this district formed the centre of the Israelitish settlement in Goshen; for according to Genesis 47:11, Joseph gave his father and brethren "a possession in the best of the land, in the land of Raemses." Following this passage, the lxx have also rendered גּשׁן ארצה in Genesis 46:28 by εἰς γῆν Ῥαμεσσῆ, whereas in other places the land of Goshen is simply called γῆ Γεσέμ (Genesis 45:10; Genesis 46:34; Genesis 47:1, etc.). But if Heroopolis belonged to the γῆ Ῥαμεσσῆ, or the province of Raemses, which formed the centre of the land of Goshen that was assigned to the Israelites, this city must have stood in the immediate neighbourhood of Raemses, or have been identical with it. Now, since the researches of the scientific men attached to the great French expedition, it has been generally admitted that Heroopolis occupied the site of the modern Abu Keisheib in the Wady Tumilat, between Thoum equals Pithom and the Birket Temsah or Crocodile Lake; and according to the Itiner. p. 170, it was only 24 Roman miles to the east of Pithom, - a position that was admirably adapted not only for a magazine, but also for the gathering-place of Israel prior to their departure (Exodus 12:37).

But Pharaoh's first plan did not accomplish his purpose (Exodus 1:12). The multiplication of Israel went on just in proportion to the amount of the oppression (כּן equals כּאשׁר prout, ita; פּרץ as in Genesis 30:30; Genesis 28:14), so that the Egyptians were dismayed at the Israelites (קוּץ to feel dismay, or fear, Numbers 22:3). In this increase of their numbers, which surpassed all expectation, there was the manifestation of a higher, supernatural, and to them awful power. But instead of bowing before it, they still endeavoured to enslave Israel through hard servile labour. In Exodus 1:13, Exodus 1:14 we have not an account of any fresh oppression; but "the crushing by hard labour" is represented as enslaving the Israelites and embittering their lives. פּרך hard oppression, from the Chaldee פּרך to break or crush in pieces. "They embittered their life with hard labour in clay and bricks (making clay into bricks, and working with the bricks when made), and in all kinds of labour in the field (this was very severe in Egypt on account of the laborious process by which the ground was watered, Deuteronomy 11:10), כּל־עבדתם את with regard to all their labour, which they worked (i.e., performed) through them (viz., the Israelites) with severe oppression." כל־ע את is also dependent upon ימררו, as a second accusative (Ewald, 277d). Bricks of clay were the building materials most commonly used in Egypt. The employment of foreigners in this kind of labour is to be seen represented in a painting, discovered in the ruins of Thebes, and given in the Egyptological works of Rosellini and Wilkinson, in which workmen who are evidently not Egyptians are occupied in making bricks, whilst two Egyptians with sticks are standing as overlookers; - even if the labourers are not intended for the Israelites, as the Jewish physiognomies would lead us to suppose. (For fuller details, see Hengstenberg's Egypt and the Books of Moses, p. 80ff. English translation).

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