Growth and Bondage in Egypt

Exodus 1–2

This section contains a series of vignettes that set the stage for the remainder of the book. It is certainly a composite, drawing on various traditions. Yet the pervasive use of irony and the almost complete absence of God language help tie the section together literarily and theologically. (See especially the studies of Ackerman, Isbell, and Exum.)

God’s creational and historical promises are fulfilled among the people of God in Egypt. But this resolution is threatened by chaotic forces embodied in an oppressive Pharaonic regime. Initially, God works behind the scenes against this creation-threatening situation in and through the wisdom and courage of five lowly women. Their creative disobedience preserves a future for Israel and enables the emergence of a leader in the person of Moses. His early life experiences both embody Israel and anticipate the divine action. A new intensification of divine activity (2:23–25) gives promise for a changed future.

The wide-ranging scope of these chapters is breathtaking. They move back and forth from the familial to the national, from the personal to the cosmic, from courageous women to arrogant kings, from endangered babies to a concerned God.