First Act of Oppression of Israel
From the days of Abraham to the present Egypt has played a major role in the history of Israel. The first oppression of Israel occurred in the land of Egypt after the death of Joseph the eleventh son of Jacob. The first oppressor of Israel was probably AhmoseI the king who did not know Joseph (Exodus 1:8).
When the king began his oppression of the sons of Israel while they were in the land of Egypt there were no existing problems between the Israelites until the king created one. Note how the king created the problem, He went to his political and religious advisors and said, "The people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we" (Exodus 1: 8). Note what the king is doing; he is creating fear, a tool used by political and religious leaders today. The foundation he will build the fear on is the increase in the number of the children of Israel living in the land of Egypt.
According to the king, if the number of the sons of Israel continues to grow, their growth will create two major problems, first if the enemies of Egypt attack Egypt, the sons of Israel will join the enemies of Egypt, and Egypt will not be able to defeat her enemies. Second, the sons of Israel will leave Egypt because there is not enough land in Egypt to support both the Egyptians and the sons of Israel. Third, if the sons of Israel leave Egypt a major portion of the labor force in Egypt will be greatly reduced in occupations Egyptians will be reluctant to fill.
First Act of Oppression of Israel
The king's program to reduce the Hebrew population in Egypt begins with reducing the status of the sons of Israel from free men to slave, set production quotas that were almost impossible to meet, and set taskmasters over them. The responsibility of the taskmasters was seeing to it the production quotas were met. When a man did not meet his production quota or when the taskmaster viewed the performance of his duties inadequate he was severely beaten by the taskmaster. The treatment of the sons of Israel by the taskmasters can be compared to the treatment by the guards of the prisoners that worked on chain gangs.
The purpose of this treatment was to make life unbearable, break the spirit of the sons of Israel, rob them of their self-esteem, ruin their health and shorten their life span, reduce the number of sons of Israel in Egypt by discouraging them from marrying and having children, because their children would be born into slavery, and turn them away from the worship of Yahweh. According to Joshua this inhumane treatment of the sons of Israel caused many of the sons of Israel to turn from the worship of Yahweh and worship the gods of Egypt (Joshua 24:14).
The Lord told Ezekiel, because the sons of Israel did not cast the detestable things of their eyes and defiled themselves with the idols of Egypt, He resolved to pour out His wrath upon them when they were in Egypt, but for the sake of His name that it should not be profaned in the sight of the people among whom they lived He took them out of Egypt into the wilderness (Ezekiel 20:7-10).
Israel: God's chosen people
When AmenhotepI became the king of Egypt, he used genocide as a means to reduce the birth rate among the sons of Israel (Exodus 1:15-22).
Regardless of what man may say the sons of Israel are God's chosen people and He promised the fathers of His chosen people and His chosen people they will dwell in the land of Canaan. If He does not keep the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Israel, His authority over history is no greater than that of the pagan gods and goddess.
When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, He told Moses, He has seen the affliction of His people (Exodus 3:7). God did not say He has seen the affliction of the sons of Israel; He said My people. God also told Moses, He has heard their cries because of their taskmasters and He is aware of their sufferings and He is going to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians and take them to the land flowing with milk and honey, to the land of the Canaanites, Hittite, Amorite, Perizzite, Hivite, and Jebusite (Exodus 3:8).
The Canaanites were the descendants of Canaan the youngest son of Ham, and settled in what is known today as Israel and Lebanon. The Hittites were the descendants of Heth a son of Canaan. The Amorites were the descendants of Canaan that lived between the Jordan and Euphrates Rivers until at least 20000 BC. The Hivites were descendants of Canaan. The Jebusites were descendants of Canaan who lived in the area known as Jebus. The Perizzite lived in Canaan during the time of Abraham and Lot (Genesis 13:7).
Burning bush to Pharaoh
From the burning bush, God commanded Moses to go to Pharaoh and tell him, "Let My people go, that they might hold a feast to Me in the wilderness." When Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh as they were told to do, they said to Pharaoh. "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, "Let My people go, that they might hold a feast to Me in the wilderness." The response of the king of Egypt is a response made by the ungodly, unrighteous, and persecutor of the people of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, both Jew and Christian, even today "Who is Yahweh that I should listen to Him." The king of Egypt and those who have asked the same question the king has asked either verbally or in their actions will soon experience the consequences for refusing to obey His commands.
In the response to the king's question, while it says, "they," it was Aaron who probably responded, with a request that was a proper thing to do, the king let the sons of Israel go a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer a sacrifice to the Lord, otherwise the Lord will punish the sons of Israel for not offering a sacrifice to Him. In the request the word feast was omitted and the word sacrifice added, and a penalty added to command of God to the king of Egypt (Exodus 5:1).
The moment Aaron used the word "sacrifice," any farther dialogue between the king, Moses and Aaron ended, and the king turned his attention toward Moses and Aaron. The king asks Aaron and Moses why they are taking the people away from their work. There is something implied, although it is not stated in the Bible, the king is viewing the reject to let the sons of Israel go into the wilderness as a sign of a work stoppage or the preparation of a rebellion against the king, something the king has feared would happen. The king orders Aaron and Moses to get back to work.
We often hear the statement in troubled times; things are going to get worse before they get better.
The same day Aaron and Moses came to the king, he commanded the taskmasters and officers of the sons of Israel they are no longer to give straw to the people used in the making of bricks, instead the people are to gather the straw; this is an addition to the work load of the sons of Israel. In addition the production of bricks is increased. A second part of the command from the king is the taskmasters and officers of the sons of Israel are to prevent the sons of Israel from paying attention to lying words. What are the lying words the king refers to; they are words spoken to the people by Aaron and Moses. This attitude toward the Word of God prevails in our society today.
The consequence of the command not to give straw to the people, and the requirement they gather the straw resulted in the people being scattered throughout the land of Egypt and this resulted in a reduction of the work force. This resulted in the reduction in the production of bricks, and the beating the officers the taskmasters set over the workers. We can compare the officers the taskmasters set over the workers to a foreman; who takes the heat when production falls; the foreman.
When the officers went to the king and complained, he made it very plain, he considered what the taskmasters were doing was the proper thing to do and he blamed the officers for the decline in the production of bricks. However, there is something more involved in the beating of the officers. The beatings will result in the officers turning against the people and against Aaron and Moses (Exodus 5:20-21).
Then Moses returns to the Lord, here we go with the same old blame game that has been played from the Garden of Eden to this day. Moses asks the Lord why He has permitted this trouble to come upon the people and in a round about way, upon Moses. A second charge is made, the Lord has not only permitted this trouble, but He has not delivered the people from Egypt as He has said He will do.
Not a bed of roses
Moses is like many people today, they think when they serve the lord and work in His harvest it will be a bed of roses. What they don't consider is roses have thorns and if you walk on a bed of roses you are going to have bloody feet. When things don't go our way we need to understand one thing, our way is not the Lord's way. When we are tempted to doubt the goodness of the Lord we need to remember what the Apostle Peter told the first century Christians who were going through a troubled time, "The Lord is not slow about His promises, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9 NASB).
There are two things the Lord is doing in the land of Egypt in the days of Moses, first He is dealing with a pagan king according to His plan for the nation of Israel. Second, He is going to defeat the gods of Egypt, proof of His sovereignty and as a lesson for the sons of Israel and the whole world and they will flunk the test.