In the original the first word (not translated in the NIV) is “And”, which indicates that this book is part of a bigger ongoing story. Actually there are lots of allusions here back to Genesis (indeed the opening verse is a quotation from Genesis 46:8). The promises to Abraham, which drive so much of the narrative of the book of Genesis, are clearly to be kept in mind – a promise of a land (Canaan), a numerous people, and blessing, blessing that would be the means of blessing for the whole world.
For now they are in a different land, Egypt, but three times (1:7, 12, 20) reference is made to how the Israelites were becoming more and more numerous – indicative of the way God was fulfilling his promises to Abraham. Though this was to be the means of God’s blessing coming to the world, Pharaoh saw it only as a threat. Each reference to numerical blessing is followed by increasing hostility and oppression by Pharaoh. First (1:8) the Pharaoh, seeing a potential threat from the Israelites, enslaved them. When they only increase in number all the more, despite ever harsher treatment by their slave masters, Pharaoh instructs the Hebrew midwives to kill all newborn Israelite boys. When that fails and God continued to bless the Israelites, the Pharaoh enlists the help of all his people, ordering them to throw any newborn Israelite boy into the Nile.
There’s cruel oppression, and yet even in the midst of that suffering God continues to bless his people (though they probably didn’t feel blessed). Actually they suffer because of God’s blessing. It might be worth pondering how that can be true for us today.
I guess every Israelite couple would have been praying for daughters in the light of 1:22, and the birth of a son must have been made hearts sink, but Moses’ mother sees that this baby was “a fine child”, and that word “fine” is one of a number of echoes of the opening chapters of Genesis, where it comes repeatedly, translated “good” – God’s creative purposes are being worked out. The NIV footnote to verse 3 indicates that the word for “papyrus basket” is the word used for the Ark in Genesis 6, so we are reminded of God’s saving grace. In the midst of this terrible suffering, God is at work, wonderfully so: Moses is brought up with all the privilege and protection of the palace, knowing the care of his own mother (who gets paid for doing what she wanted to do). Pharaoh is setting himself against God’s purposes, but his plans are thwarted by his own daughter.
Pharaoh’s daughter had heard the cry and been moved by the sight of the baby Moses, and now he sees and is moved by the plight of his people (verses 23-25 will come as no surprise therefore). It’s natural to wonder whether Moses acted wisely or foolishly in killing the Egyptian. Positively, he was identifying with his own people (as is supported by Hebrews 11:24-27a), and the rejection by his own people and hostility of the Egyptians is but a foretaste of what is to come. However, the question thrown at him – “Who made you ruler and judge over us?” – is a fair one. For now he is self-appointed and seeking to act in his own strength and own way; not till the next chapter does God appoint him to this task.
The mention of the well in Midian brings to mind occasions God had clearly guided at wells in the book of Genesis (chs.24, 29); once again a marriage results, but the child’s name brings to the fore the issue which not just Moses but his people back in Egypt face: they are foreigners in a foreign land. Verse 24 reminds us of the covenant with Abraham, the promises that had been made. God has scarcely been mentioned in these two chapters until this point (the story of the Hebrew midwives is the only incidence), but now we are told he “remembered his covenant”, which does not imply that it had previously slipped his mind, but that he will now act to fulfil it. Not that God has been idle throughout these chapters: though he hasn’t been explicitly mentioned, we are to recognise his hand, his blessing, even in the midst of all the hardship.
Given that many groups will be quite familiar with Exodus, one might be able to get away with just a very few questions:
Alternatively, those could be summing up questions at the end, having first asked e.g.