So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.
The book of Exodus is about two very clear things: 1) God’s ability to deliver people and 2) God’s ability to raise up leadership among His people. In order for those two realities to be seen, there must be circumstances of dependence upon God. Chapter 1 sets the scene for the reader. And it is a scene of definitive need. Yet, God is in control.
Israel had gone to Egypt under God’s plan. The severe middle eastern famine had driven Jacob and his sons there. God had prepared them for this by sending Joseph ahead of them, putting him in charge of the land and food management, and taking care of His people. But then a generation changed. And eventually a pharaoh arose who did not remember Israel’s past with Egypt. And fear and ethnic prejudices began to control Egyptian policy. The result was oppression for God’s people. They became slaves. This eventually escalated to a governmental policy of control, eventually leading to a decree of infanticide for Hebrew male children. This was bad. The official policy toward Israel was slavery, persecution, and government mandated infanticide. Yet God sovereignly allowed His people to continue multiplying.
In the midst of these circumstances and despite these circumstances God began to work. He took forty years to begin to deliver Israel. Seems like a slow process, but it was God’s plan and wisdom and not human impatience. The situation lasted at least two generations. And it would begin in the worst circumstances. But deliverance would come through a plan God devised. He would show Himself strong to His people, through a leader He had prepared, to a people who would resist Him. But God always delivers on His promises.