Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Therefore God dealt well with the midwives.—Heb., and God dealt well, &c. The reason is stated in Exodus 1:21. It was not because they equivocated and deceived the king, but because they feared God sufficiently to disobey the king, and run the risk of discovery. If they had been discovered, their life would have paid the forfeit.Exodus 1:20-21. God dealt well with the midwives — he made them houses — He blessed them in kind: for as they kept up Israel’s houses or families, so God, in recompense, built them up into families, blessed their children, and made them prosperous. But a late learned writer interprets the passage as follows: Pharaoh, resolving effectually to prevent the increase of the Israelites, built houses for them, that so they might no longer have it in their power to lodge their women in child-bed out of the way to save their children, by removing them from place to place, as they had before done when they lived in the fields in tents, which was their ancient way of living. But the other seems the true interpretation.Therefore, because they feared God, and spared the children, Exodus 1:17, whereby they exposed themselves to the king’s displeasure; because they would not offend God by murdering the children, which they might have done many times secretly, and therefore it was only the fear of God which restrained them from it.
and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty; became very numerous, and strong, and robust, being the offspring of such lively women.Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)20b. Assigned to J, because, while agreeing with v. 7, even in expression—‘âṣam, to wax mighty, occurs elsewhere in prose only in Genesis 26:16, also J—it seems to imply a far greater people than is done by vv. 15–20a.Verses 20, 21. - Therefore God did well to the midwives. Literally, "And God did well," etc. (see ver. 21). Because they feared him sufficiently to disobey the king, and take their chance of a punishment, which might have been very severe-even perhaps death - God overlooked their weak and unfaithful divergence from truth, and gave them a reward. He made them houses. He blessed them by giving them children of their own, who grew up, and gave them the comfort, support, and happiness which children were intended to give. There was a manifest fitness in rewarding those who had refused to bring misery and desolation into families by granting them domestic happiness themselves. 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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