In the last lesson, we looked at the life of Abraham, the man who God called out from the world and blessed above all men. Most importantly, we looked at the promise God gave to Abraham: that Abraham would possess the land of Canaan and that he would become the father of many nations. We noted in our last lesson that at his death, Abraham had not received all of what was promised to him and that we ought to seek its fulfillment among his descendants.
We learned that Abraham and his wife Sarah became the father of Isaac, upon whom Abraham’s blessing passed. Isaac married Rebecca and had two famous children of his own–Jacob and Esau. These two were known for their endless fighting, which began in their mother’s womb. After praying to God about the trouble within her, the Lord told Rebecca:
“Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be divided out of thy womb, and one people shall overcome the other, and the elder shall serve the younger.”
Jacob was the second born and he did come to rule over Esau, as we’ll learn at a later time in this course. We must understand at this point that Abraham’s blessing passed through Isaac onto Jacob, who was later named Israel, which means “God prevails”. Thus, the children of Abraham, who bear his blessing and promise from this point are called Israel. We may then refer to them as the children of Abraham, the sons of Jacob, the children of Israel or simply, Israel.
Israel Enters Egypt
Jacob (Israel) had twelve sons, who later became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. The youngest of these sons was Joseph, who was Jacob’s baby. Joseph received special treatment from Jacob, which made his brothers jealous, but also received visions from God. These visions came through dreams in the night. One night, Joseph saw all of his brothers bowing down to him and serving him in a dream. The following day he told his family the dream and his brothers decided to get rid of him once and for all. They sold him into slavery to traders going into Egypt, then lied and told Jacob he was killed by a wild animal.
Joseph, who was a holy young man, ended up in the service of one of the king’s officers. The wife of this officer was in love with handsome Joseph and tried to attract him. When Joseph rejected her, she decided to lie and accuse Joseph of attacking her. Her accusation was believed and Joseph was thrown into prison, adding to his undeserved troubles.
In God’s plan, two of the king’s servants were in prison and Joseph explained to them the meaning of dreams they had. Joseph’s wisdom was reported to the king himself, who was at that time troubled by a strange dream. Joseph was called out from prison to explain the dream and he did–shocking the king and winning his favor. Joseph’s explanation warned the king of a coming famine and how to prepare for it. Joseph’s message saved Egypt, and the king made Joseph the governor of all the land of Egypt.
Seven years later, the famine came upon Egypt and the surrounding lands, including Canaan, where Jacob and his eleven sons were living. They had no food, yet they knew there was food in Egypt. Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain for bread. When they arrived in Egypt, it was Joseph they met, though they did not recognize him. Joseph decided to play a trick on them and threw them into prison. He offered to let them go only if they brought their youngest brother back, which they later did. When all the brothers returned, Joseph revealed himself to them in one of the most beautiful scenes in the history of the world. Joseph forgave his brothers for their evil, and they all realized that his dreams were from God–for all now bowed down to him in Egypt. Joseph sent his brothers home with food and an invitation for all to return and live in Egypt, in his care. Joseph sang God’s glory in Egypt with his famous words:
“You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
Israel then moved into Egypt with his children. Unfortunately, Israel’s happy days in Egypt were numbered. After moving into Egypt, Israel and Joseph both died. A new king took power and decided to enslave the children of Israel.
Could things actually get worse for the children of Israel? To escape famine only to enter slavery is to “jump out of the frying pan and into the fire”. The children of Israel were pressed into the most bitter and painful slavery. The elders passed down the story of the creation of the world, and God’s promise to their father Abraham, yet their slavery continued for over 400 years. They cried to the Lord to remember His promise to their father Abraham and save them–and God heard their cry.
The Hebrew Exodus
Fearing the children of Israel, the king of Egypt commanded that all baby boys be put to death. One of these babies was saved after being hidden and sent across the Nile River in a basket. God led the baby into the arms of the princess of Egypt, who was bathing in the spot where the basket stopped. She named the baby “the one drawn out”, that is, Moses.
Moses received a royal Egyptian education as the son of the princess, but knew that he was a relative of the slaves in Egypt. After receiving a royal education in Egypt, he was forced to escape after killing an Egyptian officer who was beating a Hebrew slave.
Moses ended up in Midian, where he served as a shepherd to a priest there named Jethro, whose daughter Zipporah, Moses married. While tending the sheep one day, God appeared to Moses in a terrifying image (the burning bush). God revealed to Moses his ancient name “I AM”, and announced that He had heard Israel’s children crying for help and had now come to set them free. God told Moses that he would be the man God used for this mission and God gave to him miraculous powers to work awesome signs that would bring Egypt to destruction.
Despite Egypt’s place as one of the world’s most powerful nations, the children of Israel walked out of Egypt–this is the meaning of the word Exodus. They had no army, no weapons, no horses, yet they were free. The king of Egypt could no longer bear the punishments God sent by Moses and the king had to surrender. Once again, the promise God made to Abraham changed world history:
“I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee, and in thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”
After setting the Israelites free, the king of Egypt had to make one last attempt to reclaim them. He assembled his royal army and chased the Hebrews, only to have his entire army routed by the waters of the Red Sea. The message was clear: no power, however great, could stand against the children of Israel, for the LORD fought for them.
Unfortunately, despite seeing all of the miracles performed by Moses, the Israelites did not believe in God’s promise to them as children of Abraham. At times, they even wished they could return to Egypt! As a result, God chose to never let the unfaithful enter the land of Canaan. He caused them to wander, lost, in the desert between Egypt and Canaan for 40 years. When the new generation rose up, God brought about His promise to Abraham through another hero–Joshua.
Thus, we continue through history from the creation of the world through the Hebrew Exodus. Can you re-tell the story?