Exodus 1:1-7 After the first generation (Joseph and his brothers) are dead, the children of Israel continue to thrive in Egypt (Goshen). The Lord blessed them with many children and they grew strong.
Notes: The growth of the nation was phenomenal! It grew from 70 men to 603,000 males, 20 years of age and older, thus allowing for a total population of about 2 million at the time they depart from Egypt.
Exodus 1:8-13 After many years, a new Pharaoh rose to power that did not know about Joseph and his family and the greatness and favor that was bestowed upon him by the current Pharaoh of his time. This new Pharaoh saw the Hebrews as a threat to his kingdom and worried that because they were different in race, culture, and religion could one day join with their enemies in future wars. Something needed to be done to weaken the Hebrews and reduce the possible threat they could impose on Egypt. The Pharaoh decided to inflict them with heavy burdens with the hope that the harsh conditions would stifle their strength and their ability to reproduce. The plan backfired, because the more Pharaoh oppressed them, the more God blessed them, multiplying even more than before.
Notes: It is probably best to take this new Pharaoh, who did not know Joseph, as a Hyksos ruler. Furthermore, the term “arose” signifies “rose against,” which accords well with a foreign seizure of the Egyptian throne. The Hyksos came from outside Egypt.
Slavery would, therefore, control the danger and maximize their usefulness.
Exodus 1:14-16 The Pharaoh resolved to be more ruthless by making the Hebrews slaves. Their lives were made very bitter, working in the fields using mortar and brick to build Egyptian cities. Enslaving the Hebrews still did not reduce their potential to reproduce, so he ordered the midwives to kill all male boys born to the Hebrew women (As soon as they were born - secretly of course). Females were spared for only males fought in armies where the real threat lied.
Exodus 1:17-21 Fearing God, the midwives refused to obey Pharaoh. When questioned by Pharaoh as to why they did not carry out his orders, they said that the Hebrew were so vigorous, they gave birth before they had a chance to arrive and help with the delivery.
Notes: The text does not state whether the midwives statement was true or not. No moral judgment is passed on the mid-wives. Even if they did lie, which is wrong, choosing to obey God over an unrighteous law from government is a better choice. The point is that the midwives did not carry out Pharaoh’s command and they were blessed by God for their faithfulness in choosing to not commit murder. God even blessed the midwives with families of their own.
Exodus 1:22 Despite all Pharaoh’s efforts to squash the Hebrew’s spirit and control their birth rate, God continued to bless His children and grow ever stronger. Pharaoh’s final resolution was a command to all his people to cast every newborn Hebrew male child into the Nile River in order that they may be drowned to death.
Summary: The faithfulness of the midwives help in the preservation of the coming deliverer (Moses) of the children of Israel. Furthermore, it is ironic that Pharaoh’s own daughter will be used by God as a vessel to preserve the life of Moses as we will see in the next chapter.