Complaining the wilderness – Exodus 15-17

Moses led Israelites from Red Sea to the desert of Shur, they found the water at the oasis of Marah very bitter. The water in the oasis of Marah (瑪拉)is a big contrast with the springs in the oasis of Elim(以琳). Marah represents for the unbelieving attitude of those who would not trust God, while Elim stands for God’s bountiful provision.

One month after leaving Egypt, they arrived the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. The entire community complained Moses and Aaron.The Lord promised to rain down food from heaven. Moses told the Israelites: “In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaints, which are against him, not against us.” God promised to meet Hebrews’ need for food in desert, but he decided to test their obedience.

Omer of Manna

Omer of Manna

The Israelites called the food “manna” (嗎哪), it was white like coriander seed (芫荽子)and tasted like honey wafers. Manna appeared on the ground each day as thin flakes like frost. The Israelites gathered as much as they needed, the Lord commanded them to set aside what was left on the holy Sabbath day and never go out to pick up food on the seventh day, therefore the Lord provided two-day supply on the sixth day.

Israelites were instructed to fill the jar with two quarts of mannar, put it in a sacred place before the Lord to preserve it for future generations. Aaron placed it in the Ark of Covenant in front of a stone inscribed with terms of covenant. Israelites ate manna for 40 years until they arrived the land of Canaan.

Water from the rock

Eventually the Israelites left the wilderness of Sin and camped at Rephidim (利非訂), but there was no water. The Lord instructed Moses to strike the rock with his staff, and water did gush out from the rock. Moses named this place Meribah (meaning arguing) because the Israelites argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying “Is the Lord here with us or not?”

Israel defeats the Amalekites

Warriors of Amalek attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses commanded Joshua (約書亞)to assign some men to fight against the enemies. Whenever Moses held up the staff in his hand, Israelites had the advantage, but when he dropped his hand, the Amalekites(亞馬力人) had the advantage. The Amalekites were descendants of Amalek, a grandson of Esau. They were a fierce nomadic tribe living in the desert region of the Dead Sea.

Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro(葉忒羅), priest of Midian, knew about how God rescued Israelites from Egypt. Moses first son was named Gershom (meaning foreigner) and second son was named Eliezer (meaning God is my helper). Jethro visited Moses in the wilderness, together with Moses’ wife Zipporah and his sons. Moses told everything about the what the Lord has done. Jethro offered burnt offerings to God and said:

“Praise the Lord, for he has rescued you from the Egyptians and Pharaoh. The Lord is greater than other gods, because he rescued his people from the oppression of the proud Egyptians.”

 

Israel is rescued from Egypt – Exodus 12-15

Israelites asked Egyptians for clothing and articles of silver and gold as they were urged by the Egyptians to get out of the land, as instructed by Pharaoh. The Lord caused Egyptians to look favorably on Israelites, and eventually they stripped off all the Egyptians’ wealth. Around 600,000 Israelites left Rameses (蘭塞)and started for Succoth(疏割), they have lived in Egypt for 430 years. On that night, the Lord kept his promise to bring his people out of the land of Egypt.

The map showing the route of Exodus.

The map showing the route of Exodus.

Dedication of the Firstborn

“Dedicate to the Lord every firstborn among the Israelites. The first offspring of both humans and animals belongs to the Lord… On this day in early spring, in the month of Abib, you have been set free. You must celebrate this event in this month each year after the Lord brings you into the land of Canaanites, Hitties, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites. For seven days, the bread you must eat without yeast.”

What does this mean to our future generation?

“The annual festival will be a visible sign to you, like a mark branded on your hand, let ir remind you always to recite this teaching of the Lord: with a strong hand, the Lord rescued you from Egypt.”

“With the power of his mighty hand, the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the place of our slavery. Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, so the Lord killed all the firstborn males in the land of Egypt. This ceremony will be a mark branded on your hand, it is a reminder that the power of the Lord’s mighty hand brought us out of Egypt”

Crossing the sea

God did not lead the Israelites through Philistine territory which was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God took them by a longer route through the wilderness toward the Red Sea in order to avoid fighting with the Philistines. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph made the sons of Israel swear to do this.

Israelites left Succoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the wilderness.The Lord guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud and at night a pillar of fire, which were examples of theophany (God appearing in physical forms), in this form, God lighted Israel’s path and protected them from their enemies, also provided reassurance. The Lord asked them through Moses to turn back and camp by Pi-harhiroth (比哈希錄)between Migdol (密奪)and the sea, across Baal-zephon(巴力洗分). Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by the Lord, he would think the Israelites were trapped in the wilderness, and planned to chase after them. The Lord has planned to display his glory through Pharaoh and his army.

Escape through the Red Sea

In modern times, the Red Sea (In Hebrew called Sea of Reeds) refers to an arm of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and the Middle East, about 1350 miles long and averaging 180 miles wide. When Pharaoh was told that the Israelites had fled, he realized he lost their slavery services for the country. Then he took 600 best chariots with officers to chase and overtake them as the Israelites camped by the sea near Pi-harhiroth, opposite Baal-zephon. Israelites were terrified, but Moses answered the people:

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” – Exodus 14:13

The pillar of cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps, as the angel of God moved to the rear of the camp. As darkness came, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. Moses raised staff over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. The Lord opened up a path through the water with the strong east wind. Israelites walked through the middle of the sea with walls of water each side.

When the Egyptian chariots attempted to pass through the channel to chase after the Israelites, they felt that the Lord was fighting the battle against Egypt. After Moses and the Israelites reached the land, Moses raised staff over the sea again and waters rush back, drowning Egyptian chariots. This was how the Lord rescued Israel from the hands of Egyptians. When Israelites saw the mighty power that the Lord ad unleashed against the Egyptians, they feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Song of Moses and Miriam

Moses and Israelites sang to the Lord, Aaron’s sister Miriam played a tambourine.

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously.
The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
He is my God and I will praise him, my father’s God and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is his name.”
耶 和 華 是 我 的 力 量 、 我 的 詩 歌 、 也 成 了 我 的 拯 救 . 這 是 我 的   神 、 我 要 讚 美 他 、 是 我 父 親 的   神 、 我 要 尊 崇 他 。

“Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power.
Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.
By the blast of your nostrils, the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood firm like a wall; the deep waters became hard.”

“Who among the gods is like you, O Lord?
Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?
You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them.
耶 和 華 阿 、 眾 神 之 中 誰 能 像 你 、 誰 能 像 你 至 聖 至 榮 、 可 頌 可 畏 、 施 行 奇 事 。

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.
The nations will hear and tremble, anguish will grip the people of Philistia.
The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling,
the people of Canaan will melt away, terror and dread fall upon them.
By the power of your arm, they will be as a still as a stone until your people pass by, O Lord.
你 憑 慈 愛 、 領 了 你 所 贖 的 百 姓 . 你 憑 能 力 、 引 他 們 到 了 你 的 聖 所 。
外 邦 人 聽 見 就 發 顫 、 疼 痛 抓 住 非 利 士 的 居 民 。
那 時 以 東 的 族 長 驚 惶 、 摩 押 的 英 雄 被 戰 兢 抓 住 、 迦 南 的 居 民 、 心 都 消 化 了 。
驚 駭 恐 懼 臨 到 他 們 . 耶 和 華 阿 、 因 你 膀 臂 的 大 能 、 他 們 如 石 頭 寂 然 不 動 、 等 候 你 的 百 姓 過 去 、 等 候 你 所 贖 的 百 姓 過 去 。

The Passover – Exodus 12-

The Lord gave this instructions to all Israelites in the land of Egypt: On the tenth day of this month, each family must choose a lamb or young goat (one-year-old with no defects) for sacrifice, one animal for each household. Divide the animal according to the size of each family. The whole community of Israel must slaughter their lamb at twilight, take some blood and smear it on the top of the doorframes of the houses. They were not allowed to eat raw meat or boiled in the water, instead the entire animal should be roasted over a fire. Meat should not leave until the next morning and burn whatever not eaten.

On that night, the Lord would strike down every firstborn male son and animal in the land of Egypt. The Lord would execute judgement against all the gods of Egypt. But the blood on the doorposts wil serve as a sign, the Lord would pass over the family, and the plague of death could be avoided.

Moses called all the elders of Israel to slaughter a lamb or young goat, drain the blood into basin, then take a bundle of hyssop branches and dip it into blood, brush the hyssop across the doorframes of the houses. No one may go through the door until morning, for the Lord would pass over their houses, He would not permit his death angel to enter their houses. When they entered the land the Lord has promised, they would have to observe the ceremony, which would be the Passover sacrifice to the Lord. Loud wailing was heard in the land of Egypt, the Lord killed the firstborn of the Egyptian families and animals.

Israelites smeared some animal blood along the frame of the doors during the Passover.

Israelites smeared some animal blood along the frame of the doors during the Passover.

Instructions for eating the Passover meal:

  • Be fully dressed
  • wear your sandals
  • carry walking stick in hand
  • eat the meal with urgency, for this it the Lord’s Passover
  • celebrate as a special festival to the Lord from generation to generation
  • bread must be made without yeast. (anyone who eats bread made with yeast during seven days of the festival will be cut off from the community of Israel)
  • observe an official day for holy assembly on the 1st and 7th of the festival
  • no outsider are allowed to eat the Passover meal, unless the males were circumcised
Passover Meal

Passover Meal in Jewish tradition.

Should Christians celebrate Passover (Pesach in Hebrew)?

The blood of the Passover lamb foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which passes over the sins of people who repent in order to spare them from eternal death. The New Testament makes clear that Christ is the true Passover Lamb.(compare Exodus 12:21 with 1 Corinthians 5:7).

In observing His last Passover with His disciples, Jesus explained that the symbols of bread and wine represent His body and blood, offered by Him for the forgiveness (or passing over) of our sins and the death penalty our sins have earned for us (Matthew 26:26-28).

Ten Plagues on Egypt – Exodus 7-11

Even though Moses and Aaron performed miracles with the staff in front of Pharaoh, but Pharaoh’s heart was still stubborn. God unleashed ten plagues upon the land of Egypt.

Plague of blood

“I will show you that I am the Lord. I will strike the water of the Nile with this staff in my hand, and the river will turn to blood. The fish in it will die, and the river will stink. The Egyptians will not be able to drink any water from the Nile,” said the Lord.

Plague of blood along the river Nile.

Plague of blood along the river Nile.

Since the magicians could also turn water into blood, Pharaoh’s heart remained hard. All Egyptians dug along the riverbank to find drinking water as they couldn’t drink the water from the Nile.

Plague of frogs

“If you refuse to let my people go, I will send a plague of frogs across your entire land. The Nile River will swarm with frogs. They will come up out of the river and into your palace, even into your bedroom and onto your bed.”

Seven days later, Aaron raised his hand over the waters of Egypt, and frogs covered the entire land. Pharaoh pleaded with the Lord to take the frogs away and he would let Israelites to go by tomorrow. But as the relief came, Pharaoh’s heart remained stubborn.

Plague of gnats

Aaron raised his staff and struck on the ground, the dust turned into swarms of gnats throughout the land of Egypt. The Egyptian magicians tried to do the same, but they failed and said, “this is the finger of God.” Pharaoh remained stubborn.

Plague of flies

“The Egyptian homes will be filled with flies, and the ground will be covered with the,. But this time I will spare the region of Goshen, where my people live. No flies will be found there, then you will know that I am the Lord and that I am present even in the heart of your land. I will make a clear distinction between my people and your people. This miraculous sign will happen tomorrow.”

Commitment and obedience to God’s commands cannot be negotiated. God commanded the Hebrews had to leave Egypt. When it comes to obeying God, half measures would not work. Pharaoh initially agreed to let Israelites to offer sacrifices only on the land of Egypt but Moses knew that they would be stoned by the Egyptians. As the Lord removed the plagues, Pharaoh’s heart remained stubborn.

Plague against livestock

“If you continue to hold them and refuse to let the people go, your horse, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep and goats with a deadly plague. But the Lord will again make a distinction between the livestock of the Israelites and that of the Egyptians. Not a single one of Israel’s animals will die.”

Pharaoh sent officials to investigate and they discovered the Israelites had not lost a single animal, but Pharaoh’s heart remained stubborn.

As each plague descended upon the land, the Egyptians realized their own gods were powerless to stop it. Hathor, the crafty cow-goddess was helpless as Egyptian livestock died in drives.

The goddess Hathor wearing her headdress, a pair of cow horns with a sun disk.

The goddess Hathor (left) wearing her headdress, a pair of cow horns with a sun disk.

Plague of festering boils

Moses took handfuls of soot from a brick kiln and stood in front of Pharaoh. The ashes did spread like fine dust over the land of Egypt, causing festering boils to break on people and animals throughout the land. The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and Pharaoh refused to listen.

Plague of hail

“By now I could have lifted my hand ans struck you with a plague to wipe you off the face of the earth. But I have spared you for a purpose – to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth. But you still refuse to let my people go, so tomorrow I will send a hailstorm more devastating than any in all the history of Egypt.”

Pharaoh’s officials were afraid and brought their livestocks away from their fields. Devastating ail struck down everything people, animals and plants. Pharaoh quickly confessed, “This time I have sinned, the Lord is the righteous one and my people and I are wrong” He asked Moses to beg to Lord to end this hail. Moses agreed, but he knew that Pharaoh was not fearful of the Lord at this point. When the hail stopped, Pharaoh sinned against God again, his heart remained stubborn.Pharaoh’s repentance was not real.

Plague of locusts

“For tomorrow I will bring a swarm of locusts on your country, they will cover the land so that you won’t be able to see the ground. They will devour what little is left of your crops after the hailstorm, including all the trees growing in the fields. They will overrun your palaces and houses in Egypt. Never in the history of Egypt have your ancestors seen a plague like this one.”

Pharaoh’s officials asked Pharaoh, “How long will you let this man hold us hostage? Let the men go to worship the Lord their God, don’t you realize that Egypt lies in ruins?” Pharaoh then confessed sins and pleaded. God again hardened Pharaoh’s heart, refusing to let the people go.

Plague of darkness

Moses lifted his hand to the sky and deep darkness covered the land of Egypt and people could not see each other. Pharaoh permitted the people leave but not letting them to bring along the flocks. Moses said all livestocks must go with the people as they had to offer sacrifices to the Lord. The Hebrews were Egypt’s free labor who helped building great cities, Pharaoh was reluctant to let such a great resource go. Even the sun-god, Amon-Re, could not stop such entire darkness from covering the land for several days. The Egyptian gods were numerous but the God of Hebrews was the only true God who should be worshiped.

Death of Egypt’s firstborn

“All firstborn sons will die in every family in Egypt, from the oldest son of Pharaoh who sits on his throne,to the oldest son of his lowliest servant girl who grinds the flour. Even the firstborn of all livestock will die. Then a loud wail will rise throughout the land of Egypt, a wail like no one has heard before or will ever hear again. But among the Israelites it will be so peaceful that not even a dog will bark, then you will know the Lord makes a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites.”

Moses and Aaron performed the miracles in Pharaoh’s presence, but the Lord hardened his heart and he wouldn’t let the Israelites leave the country.

Did God really harden Pharaoh’s heart? Before the ten plagues began, Moses and Aaron announced what God would do if Pharaoh didn’t let the people go. But their message only made Pharaoh stubborn, he was hardening his own heart. In so doing, Pharaoh defied both God and his messengers. Through the first 6 plagues, Pharaoh’s heart grew more stubborn, but after that, God passed judgement, evil people will be punished for their sins. God confirmed Pharaoh’s decision and set the painful consequences of his actions.

 

Moses escaped to Midian – Exodus 2-6

It was not easy to witness the birth of Hebrew boy at that time after Pharaoh made such order to kill all Hebrew boys. Pharaoh’s daughter saw a basket floating on the river when she was bathing, she saw a Hebrew boy in the basket. She asked someone to nurse for her til the boy grew older. She adopted him as her own son and named her Moses (meaning lifted him out of the water).

Moses killed the Egyptian officials who forced the Hebrews to work, he buried his body in the sand. To escape the punishment for killing the Egyptian, he ran away to Midian, became a stranger in the land. Moses rescued the girls from the shepherds. He was an Egyptian prince, trained in the Egyptian military, he could manage with the sophisticated fighting technique.

Moses accepted the invitation from the girls’ father Reuel to their home for dinner. At the same time, Reuel gave Moses daughter Zipporah to be his wife. Later their son Gershom (meaning foreigner in a foreign land) was born.

Israelites continued to cry out for help under the burden of slavery. God’s rescue does not come along with our time table but according to God’s plan.

Moses and the burning bush

Moses was taking care of the flocks owned by his father-in-law Jethro or Reuel, who was the priest of Midian. He led the flock into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. The angels appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush.

When Moses was walking closer, God warned him not coming any closer as he was standing on holy ground. Moses covered the face as he feared looking at God.  The Lord told him:

I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt. 我 的 百 姓 在 埃 及 所 受 的 困 苦 、 我 實 在 看 見 了 . 他 們 因 受 督 工 的 轄 制 所 發 的 哀 聲 、 我 也 聽 見 了 . 我 原 知 道 他 們 的 痛 苦 。我 下 來 是 要 救 他 們 脫 離 埃 及 人 的 手 、 領 他 們 出 了 那 地 、 到 美 好 寬 闊 流 奶 與 蜜 之 地 、 就 是 到 迦 南 人 、 赫 人 、 亞 摩 利 人 、 比 利 洗 人 、 希 未 人 、 耶 布 斯 人 之 地 。現 在 以 色 列 人 的 哀 聲 達 到 我 耳 中 、 我 也 看 見 埃 及 人 怎 樣 欺 壓 他 們 。故 此 我 要 打 發 你 去 見 法 老 、 使 你 可 以 將 我 的 百 姓 以 色 列 人 從 埃 及 領 出 來 。﹣ Exodus 3:7

God told Moses, “Say this to the Israel: Yaweh the God of your ancestors – the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations. The Lord has been watching closely, and he saw how the Egyptians were treating you. He promised to rescue you from your oppression in Egypt. He would lead you to a land flowing with milk and honey.” God reminded Moses of his covenant with Abraham, Issac and Jacob and he used the name I AM to show his unchanging nature. His wisdoms spans across the ages and his promises give meaning and direction to our lives. God guided Moses how to tell the people about God’s message, the most convincing way to tell others about God was to describe what he did and how he spoke to his people.

God instructed that the elders of Israel would listen to Moses that the God of Hebrew met him, and requested them to let Moses take a three-day journey to the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord. God knew the elders of Israel would accept the message but the elders of Egypt would not. God would would give a hand performing all kinds of miracles among them, then they would let Moses go. The promise of being able to strip the Egyptians of their wealth seemed impossible to Moses at this time.

Then God performed miracles turning Moses’ staff into a snake. God asked Moses to perform this sign by throwing the staff onto the ground and picked it up again. The second sign was to put his hand into his cloak turning his hand from one of the most dreadful disease, leprosy, into healthy one. The third sign was to bring water from the Nile and pour it to the dry ground, then water would turn to blood.

However Moses pleaded with God to let him go out of this mission, he asked God to send someone else as he was not a good speaker and would probably embarrass himself and God. It is easy to focus on our weaknesses, but if God asks us to do something, then he will help us get the job done. We trust God that he will provide words, strength, courage and ability where needed.

God sens Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh

God suggested his brother Aaron the Levite (亞倫)to speak for him, and Moses would stand in the place of God for him. Before Moses left Midian, God told him that whoever wanted to kill him has died. Lord told Moses that he would let Moses to perform all the miracles but he would harden Pharaoh’s heart so he would refuse to let the people go.

On Moses’ way to Egypt, the Lord confronted him and was about to kill him. His Midian wife Zipporah circumcised their son immediately. As Moses spent half of his life in the Midianite wilderness and Pharaoh’s palace, he might not have been familiar with God’s laws. Lord instructed Aaron to meet Moses at the mountain of God. Both of them performed miracles and told God’s messaged to the elders of Israel, they were all convinced.

Moses and Aaron asked Pharaoh to let them spend three days into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord, otherwise he would kill us with plagues or swords. Pharaoh refused to accept the God of Hebrew as Egypt was filled with different kinds of gods. In the meantime, Pharaoh instructed the Hebrew slaves to work more and whipped the Israelite foremen to meet harsh quota of bricks without any provision of straws.

God promises deliverance

Unfortunately, these Israelite foremen came to Moses and Aaron and blamed them for telling Pharaoh about God’s miracles, giving the king an excuse to kill them. Moses then protested against God for sending in more trouble and hardship against his people. When God is at work, suffering and setbacks may still occur. God told Moses:

“I am Yahweh—‘the Lord.’ I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. And I reaffirmed my covenant with them. Under its terms, I promised to give them the land of Canaan, where they were living as foreigners. You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them.” 我 是 耶 和 華 .我 從 前 向 亞 伯 拉 罕 、 以 撒 、 雅 各 、 顯 現 為 全 能 的   神 、 至 於 我 名 耶 和 華 、 他 們 未 曾 知 道 。-Exodus 6:2-5

Moses reported this to the Israelites but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage. The Lord commanded Moses and Aaron to lead Israelites out of Egypt.

Family record of Moses and Aaron

Family record of Moses and Aaron

Slavery in Egypt – Exodus 1

It was 1805 BC when Joseph died, Israel was still an extended family settled in the region of Goshen in Egypt. As they multiplied into a nation, they were forced into slavery by the Egyptians and were brutalized by the Egyptian leaders.

Region of Goshen, where Hebrews were segregated from the Egyptians.

Region of Goshen, where Hebrews were segregated from the Egyptians.

Sons of Israel (Jacob): Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher. Joseph and all of his brothers died, their descendants, who were Hebrews, were physically separated from from the Egyptians.

Pharaoh was afraid the Israelites were becoming so numerous and threatening his kingdom, he made an oppression to kill their spirit and stop the growth. He said to his people, “We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us.”

Israelites were forced to build the cities of Pithom (比東)and Rameses (蘭塞)as supply centers for the king. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more Israelites multiplied and the more alarmed the Egyptians became. All slaves were watched by the slave drivers and supervisors.

Pharaoh gave his order to Hebrew midwives Siphrah (施弗拉)and Puah(普阿), “If the baby is a boy, kill him, if it is a girl, let her live.” Since the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. He also gave his order to the people: “Throw every newborn Hebrew by into the Nile River. But you may let the girls live.”

Jacob and Joseph died in Egypt – Genesis 47-50

Jacob died at the age of 147 years old, before he died he blessed Joseph’s sons Ephraim (以法蓮)and Manasseh(瑪拿西).  Jacob gave the younger son Ephraim greater blessing:

May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham and my father, Isaac, walked—
the God who has been my shepherd all my life, to this very day,
the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm— may he bless these boys.
May they preserve my name and the names of Abraham and Isaac.
And may their descendants multiply greatly throughout the earth.
- Genesis 48:16

Jacob’s last words to his sons

The twelve sons eventually become the 12 tribes of Israel.

Reuben: “The child of my viyou are as unruly as a flood and you will be first no longer, for you went to bed with my wife; you defiled my marriage couch.”

Simeon and Levi: “Their weapons are instruments of violence. May I never join in their meetings, for in their anger they murdered men… I will scatter them among the descendants of Jacob, I will disperse them throughout Israel.”

  • Ancestors of Levi: Aaron, Moses, Eli, John the Baptist

Judah: “my son is a young lion that has finished eating its prey. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness, who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor.”

  • Ancestors: David, Jesus

Zebulun: “he will settle by the seashore, his borders will extend to Sidon.”

Issachar: “When he sees how good the countryside is, he will bend his shoulder and submit himself to hard labor.”

Dan: “He will govern his people, but he will be a snake beside the road, a poisonous viper along the path that bites the horse’s hooves so its rider is thrown off.”

Asher: “He will dine on rich foods and produce food fit for the kings.”

Naphtali: “He is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.”

Joseph: “Archers attacked him savagely, they shot at him and harassed him, but his arms remained strengthened by the Mighty One of Jacob, by the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel. May the Almighty God bless you with the blessings  of the heavens above.

Jacob’s death and burial

Jacob buried with Abraham, Sarah, Issac, Rebekah and Leah in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittie, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which is currently located at the Tomb of Patriarchs. Joseph asked the physicians to embalm his father Jacob (Israel), then Egyptians mourned for 70 days. Egyptians embalm to preserve the bodies so they could function in the world to come. Joseph then went with the officials at the threshing floor of the Atad, near the Jordan River, the Canaanites renamed the place Abel-mizraim (亞伯麥西,meaning mourning of Egyptians).

After burying his father, the brothers became fearful of revenge from Joseph. They were thinking whether they could be forgiven for selling Joseph into slavery. Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God that can punish you? You intended to harm me but God intended it all for good, he brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people from famine.” He continued, “Soon I will die but God will come to lead you out of this land of Egypt, he will bring you back to the land he solemnly promised to give to Abraham, Issac and Jacob.” God was going to make Jacob’s family into a great nation and lead them out of Egypt.

Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath, he said to them, “When God comes to help ou and led you back, you must take my bones with you.” Joseph died at the age of 110, he was embalmed by the Egyptians.

Jacob’s family arrives in Goshen – Genesis 46

Jacob started his journey to Egypt from Beersheba, together with seventy-five members of his family:

With Leah in Paddam Aram (33 members)

Sons of Reuben: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, Carmi.

Sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar and Shaul (Son of a Canaanite woman)

Sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, Merari.

Sons of Judah: Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez, Zerah. (Er & Onan died in the land of Canaan)

  • Sons of Perez: Hezron, Hamul

Sons of Issachar: Tola, Puah, Jashub, Shimron

Sons of Zebulun: Sered, Elon, Jahleel

With Zilpah, whom Laban gave his daughter to Leah (16 members)

Sons of Gad: Zephron, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi, Areli

Sons of Asher: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi, Beriah

  • Sons of Beriah: Heber and Malkiel

With Rachel (14 members)

Sons of Joseph: Manasseh and Ephraim (with Asenath, daughter of Potiphera, priest of On)

Sons of Benjamin: Bela, Beker, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim, Ard.

With Bilah, whom Laban gave his daughter to Rachel (7 members)

Sons of Dan: Hushim

Sons of Naphtali: Jahziel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem

After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, he was assigned the best land of Egypt – region of Rameses.

Joseph made ruler of Egypt – Genesis 41-45

After interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph gave the king a survival plan for the next 14 years. Joseph suggested:

  • Pharaoh should find an intelligent man and put him in charge of the entire land of Egypt.
  • He should appoint supervisors over the land and let them collect one-fifth of all the crops during the first seven good years.
  • The supervisors should bring all the food produced to the storehouses.

Joseph’s suggestions were well-received by Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Joseph: “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent as you are.” Pharaoh appointed Joseph to be in charge of the court, and all the Egyptians would take orders from Joseph, his rank was probably vizier. Only Pharaoh would have higher rank than Joseph. Pharaoh removed his signet ring and placed it on Joseph’s finger. Joseph was hung a gold chain around his neck. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “No one will lift a hand or foot in the entire land of Egypt without your approval.”

Joseph first shaved and properly clothed in front of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.

Joseph first shaved and properly clothed in front of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.

Joseph was given a new Egyptian name Zaphenath-paneah (撒發那忒巴內亞,meaning God speaks and lives), and his wife Asenath(亞西納,daughter of Potiphera and priest of On). He was thirty years old.

Joseph then named his elder son Manasseh(瑪拿西), for he said “God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.” And his second son Ephraim(以法蓮), for he said “God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.”

When famine struck the land of Egypt as Joseph predicted, he opened up the storehouses and distributed grain to the people.

Joseph met his brothers in Egypt

Jacob and his sons heard grains were available in Egypt, for famine was in the land of Canaan as well. Jacob was fond of the youngest brother Benjamin because that was the son of his beloved wife Rachel. Therefore Jacob did not allow Benjamin to travel with them.

When they arrived Egypt, Joseph recognized his brothers but he decided to hide his identity. Joseph told the brothers that they were spies, coming to Egypt to see how vulnerable the land has now become. Joseph put the brothers in prison for three days, and said:

“I am a God-fearing man. If you do as I say, you will live. If you really are honest men, choose one of your brothers to remain in prison. The rest of you may go home with grain for your starving families. But you must bring your youngest brother back to me. This will prove that you are telling the truth, and you will not die.” 我 是 敬 畏   神 的 、 你 們 照 我 的 話 行 、 就 可 以 存 活 .你 們 如 果 是 誠 實 人 、 可 以 留 你 們 中 間 的 一 個 人 囚 在 監 裡 、 但 你 們 可 以 帶 著 糧 食 回 去 、 救 你 們 家 裡 的 饑 荒 .把 你 們 的 小 兄 弟 帶 到 我 這 裡 來 、 如 此 、 你 們 的 話 便 有 證 據 、 你 們 也 不 至 於 死 . 他 們 就 照 樣 而 行 。- Genesis 42:17-20

Joseph’s brother Reuben said, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy. But you wouldn’t listen and now we have to answer for his blood.” He thought they were being punished by God for what they had done to Joseph. Selling Joseph into slavery amounted to death in their minds for they never expected to see Joseph again.

Joseph’s brothers returns to Egypt

As famine continued to ravage the land, the brothers decided whether or not to return to Egypt to buy more grains. But they were afraid of the governor of Egypt as he had imprisoned Simeon and requested to send their youngest brother Benjamin to show him that they were not lying. Judah accepted full responsibility for Benjamin’s safety. But at this point, they could not see God’s overall plan of sending them to Egypt was to reunite with Joseph. Jacob was in pain, but he said to Judah,

“May God the Almighty give you mercy as you go before the man, so that he will release Simeon and let Benjamin return. But if I must lose my children, so be it.” 但 願 全 能 的   神 使 你 們 在 那 人 面 前 蒙 憐 憫 、 釋 放 你 們 的 那 弟 兄 和 便 雅 憫 回 來 . 我 若 喪 了 兒 子 、 就 喪 了 罷 。- Genesis 43:14

Joseph welcomed his brothers to enjoy a feast with him at the palace, but when he saw his youngest brother Benjamin, he went to his room and overcome with emotion where he broke down and wept. As a Hebrew, Joseph could not eat with Egyptians, as Egyptians refused to eat with them.

Benjamin accused to have stolen Joseph’s silver cup

Joseph instructed his palace manager to chase over his brothers after they were set off to Canaan. The manager told the brothers: “Why have you repaid my kindness with such evil? Why have you stolen my master’s cup which uses to predict the future? What a wicked thing you have done!”

Judah answered, “How can we prove our innocence? God is punishing our sins.” He told Joseph that he was willing to work as slaves together with his young brother Benjamin because Jacob (Israel) ordered them to bring Benjamin back home safely. But Joseph ordered only the one who stole the silver cup would be his slave, who was Benjamin.

Joseph revealed his identity

Judah gave a long speech to defend against his brother Benjamin, as he promised Jacob to protect Benjamin, showing great courage in keeping his promise. Judah was the brother who stepped forward to sell Joseph into slavery, but now he was the one who stepped forward to take up Benjamin’s punishment.  Joseph graciously forgave his brothers. Here’s the most touching part when Joseph revealed his identity:

“I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery into Egypt. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.” God has made me master of Egypt. So ask my father Jacob to come down immediately.”

Joseph was thrown into prison and interpreting dreams – Genesis 39-41

Joseph was now with Potiphar, an Egyptian guard for Pharaoh, since the Lord was always with him, he succeeded in everything he did. This pleased Potiphar, his master, Joseph was then put in charge of the entire household and made him his personal attendant.

Potiphar’s wife began to look at Joseph with lust, she demanded Joseph to sleep with her. Joseph replied: “My master trusts me with everything in this household, how could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.” Joseph realized it was an act of disobedience against God.

Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph’s cloak and told the others that she was raped by the Hebrew slave Joseph. Potiphar was furious and threw Joseph into prison. The Lord was with him and caused him to succeed.

Joseph interprets two dreams

Pharaoh put two other officials into prison, and Joseph was assigned to look after them. Each of them dreamed, and told Joseph about the dreams.

“I saw a grapevine in front of me, the vine had three branches that began to bud and blossom and soon it produced clusters of ripe grapes. I squeezed the juice into the cup, then placed it in Pharaoh’s hand.” Joseph interpreted this way: “The three branches means three days. Within three days, Pharaoh will restore you to your position as chief cup-bearer.” Joseph asked the officials to mention him in front of Pharaoh. Another official told Joseph the dream:

“In my dream, there were three baskets of white pastries stacked on my head. Birds came and ate one of them.” Joseph interpreted: “Three baskets means three days. Pharaoh will lift you up and your body would be on the pole, birds came and peck your flesh.” At the end, Pharaoh impaled (pierced with sharp instruments) at the chief baker, one of the most trusted men of Pharaoh, just as Joseph had predicted in the dream.

Pharaoh’s dreams

God was with Joseph through all of his difficulties, and God created an opportunity for him to rise to a place of great influence and prestige. Pharaoh dreamed seven fat and healthy cows began grazing in the grass, then another seven more thin cows coming from behind. Then the seven thin cows ate all the healthy cows. He had another dream that thin heads swallowed up the seven plump. He was distressed about his dreams. He asked all the magicians for the meaning of his dreams.

The king’s chef cup-bearer recalled that one night he was imprisoned with a young Hebrew man (who was Joseph), who had the ability to interpret dreams, and that everything happened was just as he had predicted. Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “It’s beyond my power to do this, but God can tell you what it means and set you at ease.” Joseph listened to Pharaoh’s dreams, and said the seven healthy cows represent seven years of prosperity; while seven thin cows represent seven years of famine.

“This will happen just as I have described it, for God has revealed to Pharaoh in advance what he is about to do. The next seven years will be a period of great prosperity throughout the land of Egypt. But afterward there will be seven years of famine so great that all the prosperity will be forgotten in Egypt. Famine will destroy the land. This famine will be so severe that even the memory of the good years will be erased. As for having two similar dreams, it means that these events have been decreed by God, and he will soon make them happen.”