Redemption Through Exile
We were slaves to Egypt. We were slaves to the Pharaoh. Why would I even admit such a thing? Why proclaim we began as a lowly people who served and were beaten down by those more powerful than ourselves? Why you may ask? Because it is our story. It is the story of our redemption through exile. We were slaves, gained freedom, enslaved ourselves through forgetting our past and turning away from God, then became free again. We did not gain freedom and liberty by our own account and actions. It was our God who freed us and redeemed us despite our own sinful ways. We remember because it is our story. It is who we were and who we are.
I do not remember much of being a slave in Egypt because I was born into it and before I was an adult Moses led us away. I remember some of what happened as a young child and other things I was told because we as a people needed to remember and so we tell each generation so that we will never forget. In order to understand, we must start at the beginning.
Before we became slaves. one of our ancestors, named Joseph, son of Jacob, was favored by the Pharaoh and was made chief minister in the land of Egypt only second to the Pharaoh himself. Joseph had family isses when he was young because he was favored by his father and his other brothers were jealous. His brothers betrayed him and Josepgh ended up in Egypt and eventually was put in the dungeon until God favored him by providing him dream interpretations that would bring him before Pharaoh so that Pharoah would rely on him to save the people of Egypt. Joseph had saved Egypt from a great famine and his family eventually moved to Egypt to live there. Joesph and his family were few in numbers. As time passed the Jewish people who had come to live in Egypt became a great people in the land. Eventually the Pharaoh who had known and favored Joseph had died and new pharaohs reigned who after time knew not Joseph and his great deeds he had done for the Egyptian people. They felt threatened by our people. They feared we were becoming too many and that we might rebel against Egypt and try to overcome it. Finally one Pharah decided to enslave our people in order to break our spirits and our strength so that we would know longer be a threat to them. We suffered backbreaking labor and were forced to be lowly servants. We were spit upon and threatened. We were whipped and beaten. Anyone who stood up to the Egyptians received their wrath. We were like dogs to them. Our nation was born in Egypt while we were yet slaves. God had promised through Abraham that we would inherit a land of milk and honey. We were to be a favored people and have many riches but this was hard for many to believe and to remember God’s promises as we were treated and lived no better than livestock.
Despite all of this we thrived and our numbers still grew. Phaorah was perplexed and worried that we would rise up against him and join his enemies and overtake the Eqgptians. He schemed and plotted ways to make sure this would not happen. He decided to ensure there were no more males born to us. Well the Hebrew midwives were told when sons were born to the Hebrew women that they were to kill the sons and leave the girls to live. The midwives were too afraid of their God to so they told the mothers to hide their sons from the Egyptians. When Pharoah had found out that the sons had lived he broghtr thw midqives before him so he could question them. When they came before him, they told Pharaoh that the Hebrew women were not like the Egyptian woman and the babies were already born by the time they got there to assist them. This displease Pharaoh even more. He met with his advisors. Behind close doors he developed a plan to deal with te threat to his people. Our numbers still grew and the Egyptians became afraid that our people would rise up and help their enemies and go against the Egyptians. It was then that one awful day came. Pharoah had decreed that all Hebrew baby boys were to be killed. The Egyptians went out to every home and into all of the land and find all the sons. They were brutally thornw into the Nile to drown right before the eyes of their fathers, mothers and sisters. My mother said she remembered the crying and the tears. The screams as they tore from inside of mothers as a decree came down from the Pharaoh. He ordered all Hebrew baby boys to be killed. I was not born yet. Even when my mother had told this to me many years ago when I was young, I could not fully understand what she meant. I could not know how much anguish and suffering that brought to so many families. It was decreed that all Hebrew sons were to be thrown into the Nile and drowned. No one knew at that time, but we found out later that a mother, Jochebed, gave birth to a baby boy during that time. The parents, Amran and Jochebed, hid their son for 3 months until they could no longer hide him form the Egyptians anymore. It broke their heart but they took their son and put him in a basket which they waterproofed, hid him within the basket among the reeds in the Nile, and had his sister, Miriam, watch over him from close-by. The Pharaoh’s daughter went down as was usual to the Nile that day. She heard a baby crying and sent her handmaiden to inivestigate. The pharoah daughter came down to see what the handmaiden had found and herself also found the baby and took him in as her own. She named him Moses which meant “drawn from the water.” She needed a wet nurse and Moses’s sister mentioned to her that her mother could take care of her baby. The Pharaoh’s daughter agreed and so Jochebed was allowed to care for Moses and to instill in him our values and teach him. No one ever knew why the Pharoah’s daughter had been allowed to save the life of Moses. All we knew that it was within God’s plan to save that baby from certain death.
In the meantime we worked for the Pharoah building pyramids and great buildings. We served the Egyptian people as servants in their homes and the palace. We worked the filds and took care of their children. For Jockeyed , she was able to enjoy a reprieve from her normal duties in order to take care and raise Moses. She did all she could to enure Moses knew his heritage and knew his God. She knew the day would come when he would be totally immersed into the Egyptians culture and household fo the Pharoah’s daughter. She would then no longer be a able to influence his thinking and his education. That day came and Moses was clothed as an Egyptians and brought into his new home and family. He was treated as an Egyptian and no longer would be allowed to think of himself as anything less. He was given the best of everything as a member of Pharaoh’s household. I can’t imagine the conflict that rose inside of him. God must have protected him and in some way ensured that he would not forget who he was. We do not know what Moses had thought day in and day out as he witnessed the people of his birth being slaves to those that adopted him as their own. I can not imagine the conflict as he saw his people being beaten and worked to near death day in and day out. Many people soon forgot Moses. They forgot he was anything but an Egyptian. How it must have broken his mother’s heart not being able to touch her son and talk to him.
When Moses grew up he became an Egyptian but deep down in his heart he remained a Hebrew of the tribe of Levi. As a son of the Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses had the best of everything from his education to the splendors of the court of the Egyptian Pharaoh . Asa young man, Moses still had maintained a compassion and was kindred to his roots and when witnessing a Hebrew slave being brutally beaten by an Egyptian master, Moses, in fury, killed the Egyptian then fled fearing punishment. He escaped to the Midian desert where he became a shepherd for a Midianite priest named Jethro. Later he married Jethro’s daughter, Zipporah where he stayed until one day while tending a flock on Horeb Mountain, he discovered a burning bush. God spoke telling Moses he was on holy ground and that He had chosen Moses to lead His people out of the land of the Egyptians and out of slavery. God wanted the Israelites to turn away form the many gods that they had been worshipping back to Himself as the one true God. Moses was humble and tried to tell God that he was wrong and should choose another to lead His people but God was insistent and so Moses went on to Egypt to face the Pharaoh.
It could not have been easy thing for Moses to do. He had last left Egypt after murdering the Egyptian Master and now he was going back after having married and having a son of his own. The people of Israel had become settled in their role as slaves for the Egyptians. Most did not want ot risk leaving. They were afraid to defy the Egyptians and feared the punishment that they thought would come form attempting to leave. Some knew what Moses had done before he left and mocked and ridiculed him. They did not believe God sent him and did not have enough faith to believe God would save them from their current situation. Many accepted the man gods as their own and did not have a close relationship to their God. It took much to convince them before Moses appeared before the current Pharaoh. The Pharaoh who was reigning when Moses was still in the courts of the Egyptians no longer lived and this was a new one. One whose heart was hardened against the plight of the Israelites and against their God. Finally Moses stood before the new Pharaoh and told him that the God of the Hebrews wanted Pharaoh to free His people. Disobeying, God’s request to free His people, the Pharaoh brought on 9 plagues on to his Egyptian people. The people of Egypt suffered water turning into blood, vast numbers of frogs everywhere, swarms of gnats or lice, flies, diseased livestock, boils, thunder and hail storms, and locusts that destroyed the land. Rather than letting God’s people go, the Pharaoh hardened his heart further and denied the freedom to the Hebrews. God gave his last ultimatum through Moses. God would send the angel of death to kill every first born male among the Egyptians. God instructed Moses to have every one of His people to slaughter their best lamb and smear blood upon the door posts so that the angel would pass over their homes and keep their sons safe through the night. In the morning there was wailing heard through out the land of the Egyptians. Households woke up to the deaths of firstborn sons. The Egyptians begged for the Pharaoh to release the Hebrew slaves. The Pharaoh himself finally saw the power of God and demanded them to leave his sight.
Though the Hebrews were now free to go, they still faced the wrath of the Pharaoh. The Israelites fled Egypt and traveled from Ramesses to Succoth and then to Etham on the edge of the desert. They were led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God instructed Moses ot have them camp by the sea at Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, directly opposite Baal-zephon. Before they left the land, Pharaoh sent his men after them in chariots. The Egyptians caught up with them at Pi-hahiroth and Moses stretched his rod over the Red sea so that it parted allowing the Hebrews to cross.
With the Egyptians close at hand the Isarealites crossed through the waters with the sea’s walls towering over them on both sides. The Egyptians fearlessly charged forward to try to overtake them. As soon as the Hebrews crossed to the other bank of the Red Sea, the walls of water came sweeping down ver top of the Egyptians abnd their chariots. The horses we re heard neighing and the men screamed as they were carried away by the great fearsome waters and pulled underneath its surface drowning each and every one of the Egyptians. The Israelites were saved by God and now no one was after them. It was even rumored that the Pharoah had drowned in the turbulent waters. It was not the end bu tstill the beginning of many long years ahead. God through Abraham had promised that hey would journey the land of milk and honey but they were not there yet. First they still had a long way to travel. There were many of us, men, women and children very young and very old. We never had a home to speak of or anywhere even to really call our own. We were living on faith. We were following where our God was leading us and doing so blindly for we knew not what to expect.
Finally there was hope for tomorrow. Still we wondered if they would come for us. At first we were still fearful but after days passed and we moved forward with what little we had and a few treasures we had taken with us we soon started to relax and worry les. After all God was with us. He had done many things for us. He raised up Moses who now led us forward to a greater destiny and a land of hope. We had few possession and even less food with us. We soon realized the land we were going into was not very prosperous or fruitful. At first there were only a few who murmured among us. As night fell you could hear a few people complaining to each other about the lack off food and water. More and more the talk grew like a wildfire spreading from family to family until it seemed a huge fire was setting our camp on fire. The flames of discontent reached through the clouds toward God in the heavens. Many of us prayed asking God to be with us as we traveled. As the grumblings contmued it seemed like His presence slowly faded from amongst us. His light slowly dimmed and we worried that He was no longer favoring us and wondered what would become of us. The other though thought we were fools. God had only saved us to send us on to a worse fate they said. They complained. Moses went out and asked God to provide for us. He fell on his face before God asking Him for food . God told them that he would send manna from heaven and they were to trust and have faith that He would provide for us so we were to only taken and gather what we needed and to leave the rest. Still afte reverything God had dne for us there were those who still did no believe and hoarded more tha they could eat each day. Overnight the bread leftover would spoil. Soon we knew God was becoming angry oovver oru people because of their unbelief and because of the sins that we were committing as a people. We often heard people saying they wished they were back in Egypt. They would say Why did we levae such a good place? I did not undersand what they meant. Why we were slaves. We were beaten and lived a meager life with nothing of our own. We worked for the Egyptians in the heat of the day and all we had were leeks and barely enough to eat for our own. They had killed many of our sons and many died at the hands of either the hard labor we bore fo rthem or by their own hands when we did no twork hard or well enough fo the,. How could anyone want to go back to that? But they did. God soon was to become tired of our murmurrings and teach us a very hard lesson. He had saved us and we as a people were becoming ungrateful and forget what He had done for us. At one point Moses had gone up to the Mountain to talk and plead with God. He reminded God of the promises He gave to our people and God
Yet this story is not over but still continuing today.