We cover a lot of ground in the first two chapters of Exodus! Joseph’s generation are still alive (just) at the beginning, their demise being announced in 1.6; and by the end of chapter 2, Moses is an adult, and maybe 400 years or so have passed – and much has happened.
Firstly, the ruling dynasty has changed, to one that is at first unsympathetic towards the Israelites (1.8) and ultimately potentially fatally antagonistic (1.16). The Israelites in that time become slaves (1.11), are worked ruthlessly (1.14) and their very continuation as a people is threatened (1.15-22). Finally, in chapter 2, we read of the birth of Moses (2.1-2), his growth to adult-hood (2.3-11a), and his flight from Egypt following the discovery of his murder of the Egyptian (2.11b-15). Moses marries and becomes a father (2.16-22) and today’s passage ends with a re-statement of the plight of the Israelites in their captivity (2.23-25).
There’s so much we could dig into today. Sometimes it can be really helpful to read longer chunks to gain an overview of what’s going on; sometimes short, sharp passages of just a view verses are what’s in order. The word limit compels us to be brief – but in fact, that’s okay, because there’s one phrase that jumps out at me as I contemplate this passage – and that’s the final verse: “So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them” (2.25).
We’ll see tomorrow how this began to change things, but sticking to today’s passage, we can see, firstly, that God’s concern is a direct result of the Israelites’ “groaning”, which God hears and, which, in turn, we are told, prompts him to remember his covenant (v.24). It’s really tempting, knowing the story as we (probably) do, to wonder if God really had forgotten his covenant (having miraculously provided for Moses at his birth and whisked him away in young adulthood in order to prepare him to return).
What we can be certain about is that from the perspective of the Israelites, it certainly seemed as though he had forgotten. Most agree that they’d spent roughly 400 years in Egypt, a significant part of it as slaves: from the evidence of the text, at least two generations, or the life-span of the king (1.8, 2.23). it’s a long time, and God’s absence and silence must have seemed deafening.
And yet, the Israelites cry out, and God hears – and is concerned. Perhaps we don’t need to know what happened next; maybe, sometimes, it has to be enough to know that God sees, is concerned, and remembers his covenant…
Father God, please help me to trust you even when it looks impossible. Amen.