Sometimes called "The Giving of the Law", in Hebrew it is "These are the Names" (from the first verse).
What were the Israelites doing in Egypt in the first place?
In Gen 15:13-16, God had already told Abraham that his descendants would be strangers in an alien land and would be enslaved for 400 years. We also know that it was God who allowed Joseph to enter Egypt, so that the Israelite clan could later follow to escape the famine. Why, then, the delay before Israel returned to the land of Canaan? One reason is found in Gen 15:16, that God wanted to use the Israelites as His tool of judgment and punishment on the Amorites. Another more important reason is for the Israelites to be physically separated out from their neighbours, for a national identity to be forged through hardship. If Israel were still in Canaan, they might, as they grew in numbers, simply be assimilated into the surrounding Amorite culture. The people would have no national identity. It is like Singapore. Unless we have a national crisis or war which requires all of us to fight and survive together, we would still think, live, and act according to our racial lines, and not as Singaporeans. Similarly for denominations and Christians in a time of persecution. Even Abraham had to be called out of Ur of the Chaldees. And it had to be as a nation and people that God would meet and reveal Himself to them at Sinai, not just a hodge-podge of family clans.
Why was Joseph so favourably received by the "Egyptians" then?
The reason is that Egypt at the time of Joseph was ruled by the Hyksos, a people of Semitic origin similar to the Israelites. Egypt, or Mizraim, was descended from Ham, Noah's youngest son. Therefore, the ruling Pharaoh would have no problem appointing a Semitic prime minister, as contrasted to an Egyptian whom the Hyksos had conquered. Later, the Hyksos dynasty was overthrown by the native Egyptians, and now the Semitic Israelites became aliens in the land of the Hamites. Because of their past political prominence in the overthrown foreign dynasty, they were naturally now oppressed for fear that they would rise up against the new rulers. As a result, the Israelites were oppressed as a group, and this served to forge in them a sense of identity, and an enforced separation from the pagans. When the time had come for the Israelites to move out, things had developed to a point of genocide, and nothing and no one other than God could help the Israelites. It was at this point of desperation that Moses came upon the scene.
Who was Moses?
Moses was the fourth generation from Levi (Ex 6:16-20), the generation that had gone down into Egypt, exactly as the Lord had prophesied in Gen 15:16. So he was a Levite, of the clan of Kohath.
THE BOOK OF EXODUS
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© Nicholas Tay 1996