The narrative begins with the names of twelve sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob. Eleven sons went with him to be reunited with Joseph to make the number twelve. The total number of persons who accompanied Jacob, we are told was seventy.
Numbers have significance in biblical writings but so do names. What caught my attention reading this prologue to the Exodus today, was the fact that Jacob was twice referred to by that name- the schemer, while with reference to the collective, the name Israel and Israelites was used. In the long run, it was the Israelites, a fruitful and prolific people, who would inherit the promise.
Along the way, they experienced hardship and oppression. Like all migrants, they were used to the advantage of the receiving people. They provided the slave labour ; and like all slaves who would be free, they became subversive in the resistance .Foolish King Pharaoh expected the Hebrew midwives to obey him. Well, ‘divide and rule’ has been around for a long time; so I would guess there might have been midwives who did Pharaoh’s bidding. But they were not worth the mention. It was Shiphrah and Puah who made it into the annals of history, and into the record of God’s word. They were daring and they were much smarter than Pharaoh. They knew whom to fear.
So Pharaoh had to resort to another dirty plan. “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”
By now, the name ‘Hebrews’ is in vogue. Scholars have much to say about the mixed Habiru- a mixed bunch of oppressed. Well, whether or not God told them so, one takeaway is this. You don’t oppress God’s people forever.
You don’t oppress God’s people and get away with it.
A thousand years may well be a day in God’s sight. And if God waits a thousand years, your dirty story is still undone, because this life and this world is not the end of God’s story and Gd’s dealing with us humans.