Where the Story Begins
We generally start this evening with the birth of Moses (Exodus 2:2-3; “And the woman conceived , and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. 3 And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.”) or at the earliest the declaration of Pharaoh (1:22; “And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.”) But understanding only comes if you start a bit earlier, and realize the demographic dilemma, highlighted by Exodus 1:5-10:
And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already. 6 And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. 7 And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. 8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. 9 And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: 10 Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply , and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies , and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.
which does not work out as planned (Exodus 1:11-14):
Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew . And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. 13 And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.
And is only compounded by the actions of Shiphrah and Puah, in the first documented example of traison de clercs, Exodus 1:15-21:
And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives , of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: 16 And he said , When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live . 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive . 18 And the king of Egypt called for the midwives , and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive ? 19 And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. 20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives : and the people multiplied , and waxed very mighty . 21 And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.
Given the choice between democracy and rule, Pharaoh opted for the latter. And so the story begins at the table–though not of the Exodus.
I wish I found this story more uplifting. Perhaps from the point of view of the Jews, and their ultimate influence on civilization, it is.
But it takes a lot of exegesis.