Exodus 1 – Israelites Multiply and are Enslaved
The story of the life of Joseph and his brothers is wrapped up pretty quickly in v.6.
We are told that the generations of the children of Israel become more numerable than the people of Egypt. The timeline of BibleHub gives about 100 years span between the death of Joseph (1800 BCE) and the enslavement (1700 BCE). Think about that in a mere 100 years the Israelites go from about 70 people (v.5) to outnumbering the Egyptians (v.9).
v.8 talks of a new king coming to power in Egypt who doesn’t know Joseph. It doesn’t say how many kings have taken the throne since the famine only that this is the king who didn’t know of Joseph. Two things must be questioned:
1-Similar to Jacob/Israel, why is this king called king and not Pharaoh? The most likely answer is that the word Pharaoh is an anachronism. It is the title that WAS used for the ruler of the Egypt but we must look at the fact that the title wasn’t in use until about 1400 BCE.
2-How does this ‘king’ not know of Joseph? Joseph saved the country from a seven year famine with a dream interpretation and was placed in power over all the land. Even if the king hadn’t met Joseph in person, he would be familiar with the story of that person, its only been about 100 years after all.
The new king warns his people that if the Israelites continue to multiply and they side with an enemy that Egypt would fall. As a result the Egyptians enslaved the children of Israel. Is it correct to think now that the ratio of slaves per capita is greater than 1:1? The population of slaves is greater than the population of the country of Egypt? That would definitely be something that would be recorded in history in more than this single source, but in fact it can’t be found in any of the records of the Egyptians.
The lives of the children of Israel were made rough, it says everything they were made to do they had to do with rigour. In this instance the bible speaks of the harsh parts of servitude that were never covered when it was the Hebrews that had the slaves.
The king tells the midwives (only two midwives for all of them) that when they birth a baby they are to kill the boys. But the midwives feared god above the king and did not obey him. The king brings the midwives back to ask why they have not listened to him. They responded with little jab at the Egyptians saying that the Hebrew women weren’t like the Egyptians, they give birth to their children before the midwife gets there. Because the king couldn’t get the midwives to kill the sons he commands all of the people to kill the sons and save the daughters.
It seems that he was trying to keep this little bit of infanticide under cover if possible but the midwives wouldn’t listen to him so he had to make it public. Perhaps this is why he didn’t punish the midwives more than talking to them as we would expect him to.