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The People of Israel Suffer

1-5 When Jacob went to Egypt, his son Joseph was already there. So Jacob took his eleven other sons and their families. They were: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. Altogether, Jacob had seventy children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren[a] who went with him.

After Joseph, his brothers, and everyone else in that generation had died, the people of Israel became so numerous that the whole region of Goshen was full of them.

Many years later a new king came to power. He did not know what Joseph had done for Egypt, and he told the Egyptians:

There are too many of those Israelites in our country, and they are becoming more powerful than we are. 10 If we don’t outsmart them, their families will keep growing larger. And if our country goes to war, they could easily fight on the side of our enemies and escape from Egypt.

11 The Egyptians put slave bosses in charge of the people of Israel and tried to wear them down with hard work. Those bosses forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses,[b] where the king[c] could store his supplies. 12 But even though the Israelites were mistreated, their families grew larger, and they took over more land. Because of this, the Egyptians hated them worse than before 13 and made them work so hard 14 that their lives were miserable. The Egyptians were cruel to the people of Israel and forced them to make bricks and to mix mortar and to work in the fields.

15 Finally, the king called in Shiphrah and Puah, the two women who helped the Hebrew[d] mothers when they gave birth. 16 He told them, “If a Hebrew woman gives birth to a girl, let the child live. If the baby is a boy, kill him!”

17 But the two women were faithful to God and did not kill the boys, even though the king had told them to. 18 The king called them in again and asked, “Why are you letting those baby boys live?”

19 They answered, “Hebrew women have their babies much quicker than Egyptian women. By the time we arrive, their babies are already born.” 20-21 God was good to the two women because they truly respected him, and he blessed them with children of their own.

The Hebrews kept increasing 22 until finally, the king gave a command to everyone in the nation, “As soon as a Hebrew boy is born, throw him into the Nile River! But you can let the girls live.”

Moses Is Born

A man from the Levi tribe married a woman from the same tribe, and she later had a baby boy. He was a beautiful child, and she kept him inside for three months. But when she could no longer keep him hidden, she made a basket out of reeds and covered it with tar. She put him in the basket and placed it in the tall grass along the edge of the Nile River. The baby’s older sister[e] stood off at a distance to see what would happen to him.

About that time one of the king’s[f] daughters came down to take a bath in the river, while her servant women walked along the river bank. She saw the basket in the tall grass and sent one of the young women to pull it out of the water. When the king’s daughter opened the basket, she saw the baby and felt sorry for him because he was crying. She said, “This must be one of the Hebrew babies.”

At once the baby’s older sister came up and asked, “Do you want me to get a Hebrew woman to take care of the baby for you?”

“Yes,” the king’s daughter answered.

So the girl brought the baby’s mother, and the king’s daughter told her, “Take care of this child, and I will pay you.”

The baby’s mother carried him home and took care of him. 10 And when he was old enough, she took him to the king’s daughter, who adopted him. She named him Moses[g] because she said, “I pulled him out of the water.”

Moses Escapes from Egypt

11 After Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were hard at work, and he saw an Egyptian beating one of them. 12 Moses looked around to see if anyone was watching, then he killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand.

13 When Moses went out the next day, he saw two Hebrews fighting. So he went to the man who had started the fight and asked, “Why are you beating up one of your own people?”

14 The man answered, “Who put you in charge of us and made you our judge? Are you planning to kill me, just as you killed that Egyptian?”

This frightened Moses because he was sure that people must have found out what had happened. 15 When the king[h] heard what Moses had done, the king wanted to kill him. But Moses escaped and went to the land of Midian.

One day, Moses was sitting there by a well, 16 when the seven daughters of Jethro, the priest of Midian,[i] came up to water their father’s sheep and goats. 17 Some shepherds tried to chase them away, but Moses came to their rescue and watered their animals. 18 When Jethro’s daughters returned home, their father asked, “Why have you come back so early today?”

19 They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds, and he even watered our sheep and goats.”

20 “Where is he?” Jethro asked. “Why did you leave him out there? Invite him to eat with us.”

21 Moses agreed to stay on with Jethro, who later let his daughter Zipporah marry Moses. 22 And when she had a son, Moses said, “I will name him Gershom,[j] since I am a foreigner in this country.”

Footnotes

  1. 1.1-5 seventy children. . . great-grandchildren: See Genesis 46.8-27.
  2. 1.11 Pithom and Rameses: This is the only mention of Pithom in the Bible; its exact location is unknown, though it was probably in the northern Delta of Egypt. Rameses is the famous Delta city that was the home of Rameses II; its exact location is also unknown.
  3. 1.11 the king: The Hebrew text has “Pharaoh,” a Hebrew word sometimes used for the title of the king of Egypt.
  4. 1.15 Hebrew: An earlier term for “Israelite.”
  5. 2.4 older sister: Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron.
  6. 2.5 the king’s: See the note at 1.11.
  7. 2.10 Moses: In Hebrew “Moses” sounds like “pull out.”
  8. 2.15 the king: See the note at 1.11.
  9. 2.16 Jethro, the priest of Midian: Hebrew “the priest of Midian.” But see 3.1; 4.18; 18.1,2-4 where his name is given. In the Hebrew of verse 18 he is spoken of as “Reuel,” which may have been the name of the tribe to which Jethro belonged.
  10. 2.22 Gershom: In Hebrew “Gershom” sounds like “foreigner.”