ADS BY GOOGLE
Highlights From Bible Reading ‒ Exodus 1 ‒ 6
Highlights From the Book of Exodus 1 - 6IT IS a true story of the deliverance of those who were made to “slave under tyranny.” (Exodus 1:13) It is also an exciting account of the birth of a nation. Astounding miracles, superb legislation, and the construction of the tabernacle are among its absorbing features. In essence, this is what the Bible book of Exodus contains.
Written by the Hebrew prophet Moses, Exodus relates the experiences of the Israelites over a period of 145 years—from Joseph’s death in 1657 B.C.E. to the completion of the tabernacle in 1512 B.C.E. Yet, the account is of more than mere historical interest. It is a part of God’s word, or message, to mankind. As such, it “is alive and exerts power.” (Hebrews 4:12) Exodus, then, has real meaning for us.
“GOD HEARD THEIR GROANING”(Exodus 1:1–4:31)
Jacob’s descendants living in Egypt increase so rapidly that by royal mandate they are made to suffer as slaves. Pharaoh even decrees death for all Israelite male infants. Escaping such an end is a three-month-old baby, Moses, who is adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. Although he is brought up in the royal household, at the age of 40, Moses sides with his own people and kills an Egyptian. (Acts 7:23, 24) Forced to flee, he goes to Midian. There he gets married and lives as a shepherd. At a miraculously burning bush, Jehovah commissions Moses to return to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of slavery. His brother, Aaron, is appointed to be his spokesman.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
3:1—What kind of priest was Jethro? In patriarchal times the family head served as a priest for his family. Jethro was evidently the patriarchal head of a tribe of Midianites. Since the Midianites were Abraham’s descendants by Keturah, they were perhaps exposed to the worship of Jehovah.—Genesis 25:1, 2.
4:11—In what sense does Jehovah ‘appoint the speechless, the deaf, and the blind’? Although Jehovah has on occasion caused blindness and muteness, he is not responsible for every case of such disabilities. (Genesis 19:11; Luke 1:20-22, 62-64) These are the result of inherited sin. (Job 14:4; Romans 5:12) Since God has allowed this situation to exist, however, he could speak of himself as ‘appointing’ the speechless, the deaf, and the blind.
4:16—How was Moses to “serve as God” to Aaron? Moses was a representative of God. Hence, Moses became “as God” to Aaron, who spoke representatively for Moses.
Lessons for Us:
1:7, 14. Jehovah supported his people when they were oppressed in Egypt. He similarly sustains his modern-day Witnesses, even in the face of intense persecution.
1:17-21. Jehovah remembers us “for good.”—Nehemiah 13:31.
3:7-10. Jehovah is sensitive to the outcry of his people.
3:14. Jehovah unfailingly carries out his purposes. We can therefore be confident that he will turn our Bible-based hopes into reality.
4:10, 13. Moses displayed so much lack of confidence in his ability to speak that even when assured of divine backing, he begged God to send someone else to speak to Pharaoh. Still, Jehovah used Moses and gave him the wisdom and strength needed to carry out his assignment. Instead of focusing on our inadequacies, may we rely on Jehovah and faithfully fulfill our commission to preach and to teach.—Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20.
ASTOUNDING MIRACLES BRING DELIVERANCE(Exodus 5:1–15:21)
Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh, asking that the Israelites be permitted to celebrate a festival to Jehovah in the wilderness. The Egyptian ruler defiantly refuses. Jehovah uses Moses to bring about one telling blow after another. Only after the tenth plague does Pharaoh let the Israelites go. Soon, however, he and his military forces are in hot pursuit. But Jehovah opens an escape corridor through the Red Sea and delivers his people. The pursuing Egyptians drown as the sea closes in on them.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
6:3—In what way had God’s name not been made known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? These patriarchs used the divine name and received promises from Jehovah. Yet, they did not know or experience Jehovah as the one who caused these promises to be fulfilled.—Genesis 12:1, 2; 15:7, 13-16; 26:24; 28:10-15.
“HOLY, holy, holy is Jehovah.” (Isaiah 6:3) Those inspired words indicate that Jehovah God is clean and pure to the superlative degree. ‘Does his holiness make him cold or aloof?’ you may ask. ‘Could such a holy God really care about me—a sinful, imperfect human?’ Let us examine the reassuring words that God spoke to Moses, as recorded at Exodus 3:1-10.
While tending sheep one day, Moses came upon a most unusual sight—a thornbush was on fire but “was not consumed.” (Verse 2) Intrigued, he approached to investigate. By means of an angel, Jehovah spoke to Moses from the midst of the fire: “Do not come near here. Draw your sandals from off your feet, because the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Verse 5) Just think—because the holy God was present representatively, the ground itself became holy!
The holy God had a reason for drawing Moses into conversation. God said: “Unquestionably I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their outcry as a result of those who drive them to work; because I well know the pains they suffer.” (Verse 7) God was not blind to the misery of his people; nor was he deaf to the voice of their pleadings. Rather, their anguish became his own. Notice that God said: “I well know the pains they suffer.” Regarding the words “I well know,” one reference work notes: “The expression implies personal feeling, tenderness, and compassion.” Jehovah’s words to Moses reveal a deeply concerned and caring God.
What would God do? He did not merely look with pity or hear with compassion. He was moved to act. He purposed to deliver his people out of Egypt and to bring them “to a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Verse 8) To that end, Jehovah commissioned Moses, saying: “Bring my people . . . out of Egypt.” (Verse 10) Faithful to that commission, Moses led Israel out of Egypt in 1513 B.C.E.
Jehovah has not changed. His worshippers today can be sure that he sees their adversities and hears their cries for help. He well knows the pains they suffer. But Jehovah does not just feel compassion for his devoted servants. The tender God is moved to act in their behalf “because he cares” for them.—1 Peter 5:7.
God’s compassion gives us reason for hope. With his help, we imperfect humans can attain a measure of holiness and become acceptable to him. (1 Peter 1:15, 16) One Christian woman who has struggled with depression and discouragement found comfort in the account about Moses’ experience at the thornbush. She says: “If Jehovah can make even the dirt holy, then maybe there is a little hope for me. This thought has helped me profoundly.”
When Moses was 80 years of age, God gave him a weighty command: “You bring my people the sons of Israel out of Egypt.” Moses responded respectfully with a question, one of profound significance. In effect, Moses asked: ‘What is your name?’ Considering that God’s name was long known, what was the point of Moses’ question? Evidently, he wanted to know more about the person represented by the name—facts that would convince God’s people that He really would deliver them. Moses’ concern was warranted, for the Israelites had been slaves for some time. They would likely wonder whether the God of their forefathers could deliver them. Indeed, some Israelites had even taken up the worship of Egyptian gods!—Ezek. 20:7, 8.
5 How did Jehovah reply to Moses’ question? In part, he said: “This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘I SHALL PROVE TO BE has sent me to you.’” Then he added: “Jehovah the God of your forefathers . . . has sent me to you.” God revealed that he will become whatever he chooses to become so as to accomplish his purpose, that he will always prove true to his word. Hence, in verse 15 we read that Jehovah himself said: “This is my name to time indefinite, and this is the memorial of me to generation after generation.” How that revelation must have strengthened Moses’ faith and filled him with awe!
JEHOVAH LIVED UP TO HIS NAME
6 Shortly after commissioning Moses, Jehovah fully lived up to his name by ‘proving to be’ Israel’s Deliverer. He humiliated Egypt with ten devastating plagues, at the same time exposing the Egyptian gods—including Pharaoh—as impotent. (Ex. 12:12) Then Jehovah opened up the Red Sea, led Israel through it, and drowned Pharaoh and his military force. (Ps. 136:13-15) In the “great and fear-inspiring wilderness,” Jehovah proved to be a Preserver of life as he provided food and water for his people, perhaps numbering from two to three million or more! He even caused their garments and their sandals not to wear out. (Deut. 1:19; 29:5) Yes, nothing can stop Jehovah from proving true to his incomparable name. He later stated to Isaiah: “I—I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no savior.”—Isa. 43:11.
21 How does Jehovah, like a loving parent, show compassion? This quality is clearly seen in the way he dealt with Israel of old. By the end of the 16th century B.C.E., millions of Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, where they were severely oppressed. (Exodus 1:11, 14) In their distress, the Israelites cried out to Jehovah. How did the God of compassion respond?
22 Jehovah’s heart was touched. He said: “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their outcry . . . I well know the pains they suffer.” (Exodus 3:7) Jehovah could not see the sufferings of his people or hear their outcries without feeling for them. Jehovah is a God of empathy. And empathy—the ability to identify with the pain of others—is akin to compassion. However, Jehovah did not just feel for his people; he was moved to act in their behalf. Isaiah 63:9 says: “In his love and in his compassion he himself repurchased them.” With “a strong hand,” he rescued the Israelites out of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 4:34) Thereafter, he provided them with miraculous food and delivered them into a fruitful land of their own.
Exodus 1:15, 17
3 At the Nuremberg trials, held in Germany after World War II, many who were convicted of mass murder tried to excuse the crimes they committed by arguing that they were simply obeying orders. Now compare these individuals with two Israelite midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who lived in ancient Egypt during the reign of an unnamed but tyrannical Pharaoh. Fearing a burgeoning Hebrew population, Pharaoh ordered the two midwives to make sure that every newborn Hebrew male was killed. How did the women respond to that heinous command? “They did not do as the king of Egypt had spoken to them, but they would preserve the male children alive.” Why did these women not succumb to fear of man? Because they “feared the true God.”—Exodus 1:15, 17; Genesis 9:6.
4 Yes, the midwives took refuge in Jehovah, and he, in turn, proved to be “a shield” to them, protecting them from Pharaoh’s wrath. (2 Samuel 22:31; Exodus 1:18-20) But Jehovah’s blessing did not stop there. He rewarded Shiphrah and Puah with families of their own. He even honored these women by having their names and deeds recorded in his inspired Word for future generations to read, whereas the name of the Pharaoh has been lost in the sands of time.—Exodus 1:21; 1 Samuel 2:30b; Proverbs 10:7.
Ex. 2:11, 12
14 Unlike all the idols representing the lifeless gods of Egypt, Jehovah, the true God, was real to Moses. He lived his life as if he could see “the One who is invisible.” Moses had faith that God’s people would be liberated, but he did not know when that would be. (Heb. 11:24, 25, 27) His strong desire to see the Hebrews set free was manifested by his defending an Israelite slave who was being abused. (Ex. 2:11, 12) However, it was not Jehovah’s time, so Moses had to live as a fugitive in a faraway land. No doubt it was difficult for him to go from enjoying the comfortable surroundings of the Egyptian court to living in the wilderness. Still, Moses proved himself ready by keeping awake to every instruction Jehovah gave him. Thus, God could use him to bring relief to his brothers after he spent 40 years in Midian. At God’s direction, Moses obediently returned to Egypt. The time had come for Moses to carry out a divine commission and to do God’s work in God’s way. (Ex. 3:2, 7, 8, 10) Back in Egypt, Moses, ‘the meekest of all men,’ needed faith and courage to appear before Pharaoh. (Num. 12:3) He did so, not just once, but time and again as the plagues proceeded, not knowing from one plague to the next how many more times he would need to go before Pharaoh.
MOSES had been reared in the household of Pharaoh and had been educated in the wisdom esteemed by the nobility of Egypt. Yet, Moses realized that he was not an Egyptian. He was born to Hebrew parents. In his 40th year, he went out to make an inspection of his brothers, the sons of Israel. When he saw an Egyptian mistreat one of the Hebrews, Moses was not indifferent. He struck down the Egyptian. Moses chose to side with Jehovah’s people and thought that God was using him to provide deliverance for his brothers. (Acts 7:21-25; Hebrews 11:24, 25) When this incident became known, Egypt’s royal house viewed Moses as an outlaw, and he had to flee for his life. (Exodus 2:11-15) If Moses was to be used by God, he had to become better acquainted with Jehovah’s ways. Would Moses be teachable?—Psalm 25:9.
2 For the next 40 years, Moses lived as an exile and a shepherd. Instead of letting himself be consumed with bitterness because his Hebrew brothers apparently did not appreciate him, Moses submitted to what God permitted. Although many years passed during which he received no apparent recognition, Moses allowed Jehovah to shape him. Not as a personal estimate, but under the influence of God’s holy spirit, he later wrote: “The man Moses was by far the meekest of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground.” (Numbers 12:3) Jehovah used Moses in outstanding ways. If we too seek meekness, Jehovah will bless us.—Zephaniah 2:3.
13 At age 40, Moses had to fend for himself in a wilderness. In Midian he met Reuel’s seven daughters and helped them draw water for their father’s large flock. On returning home the young women delightedly explained to Reuel that “a certain Egyptian” had delivered them from the shepherds causing them trouble. At Reuel’s invitation, Moses resided with the family. The adversities that he had suffered did not leave him bitter; nor did they prevent him from learning to adjust his life-style to his new surroundings. His desire to do Jehovah’s will never wavered. Through 40 long years, during which he cared for Reuel’s sheep, married Zipporah, and brought up his sons, Moses developed and honed the quality that came to characterize him. Yes, through adversity, Moses learned mildness.—Exodus 2:16-22; Acts 7:29, 30.
THE CHOICES OF AN EGYPTIAN PRINCE
5 Next, let us look at the example of Moses. He was raised in an Egyptian palace as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. As a young prince, he was educated “in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” (Acts 7:22; Ex. 2:9, 10) This education was likely intended to prepare him for a career in Pharaoh’s court. He could have become prominent in the most powerful government of the day, having the luxuries, privileges, and pleasures that such a position would afford him. But was enjoyment of these things Moses’ objective?
6 Because of the training that he received from his real parents early in life, Moses likely knew what Jehovah had promised his ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses exercised faith in those promises. He must have thought carefully about his future and his loyalty to Jehovah. So when the time came to choose between being an Egyptian prince or an Israelite slave, what did he decide? Moses chose “to be ill-treated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin.” (Read Hebrews 11:24-26.) Later, he followed Jehovah’s guidance regarding how he should use his life. (Ex. 3:2, 6-10) Why did Moses do that? Because he believed God’s promises. He concluded that there was no future for him in Egypt. Indeed, that nation was soon thereafter crushed by ten plagues from God. Do you see the lesson in this for those dedicated to Jehovah today? Rather than focusing on a career or any pleasures of this system of things, our focus must be on Jehovah and his service.
“What We Have Done Is What We Ought to Have Done”
10 Doing God’s will is not always easy for imperfect humans. The prophet Moses was reluctant to obey when Jehovah asked him to go and bring the sons of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. (Exodus 3:10, 11; 4:1, 10) Upon receiving an assignment to proclaim a judgment message to the people of Nineveh, Jonah “proceeded to get up and run away to Tarshish from before Jehovah.” (Jonah 1:2, 3) Baruch, the scribal secretary of the prophet Jeremiah, complained of growing weary. (Jeremiah 45:2, 3) How should we respond when our personal desire or preference conflicts with the doing of God’s will? An illustration that Jesus gave provides the answer.