The story of God’s plan in action continues through the beginning of Exodus.
God had a plan for Abraham’s descendants to inhabit the Promised Land, and Jacob and his family were indeed settled there. But famine struck the region, and God led Jacob and his family down to Egypt where Joseph was in charge of the food supply. The Israelites settled there and prospered for many years.
How did a prospering people become slaves of a foreign ruler?
Apparently, lack of education among the leaders of a country is not confined to America and current times. The history of the people was not shared:
8 Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. 9 He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. 10 We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.
So, in a brutal form of population control, the Egyptian king ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill every boy baby they delivered. Is this not much different than the Chinese authorities who set the “one child” policy in place? Millions of girl babies were either adopted out or aborted so the families could have a boy — with the unfortunate consequence of millions of young Chinese men who can’t find a wife because there aren’t any women left. I’m guessing from what happened next that the king wanted them to secretly kill the boys…perhaps with a sharp instrument like those used in today’s partial birth abortions.
The midwives were more afraid of God than of the king, so they refused to do as he ordered. The baby boys continued to be born, and God gifted the midwives with cleverness so they could defend themselves when questioned by the king about their failure to kill the babies.
“Why have you done this?” he demanded. “Why have you allowed the boys to live?”
19 “The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women,” the midwives replied. “They are more vigorous and have their babies so quickly that we cannot get there in time.”
Pharaoh turned the Hebrews into slaves and made them suffer with backbreaking work. But the Lord continued to bless the Israelites, and many more Hebrew babies were born despite the cruel slave conditions. Finally, Pharaoh ordered that all Hebrew baby boys be thrown into the Nile River. Can you imagine the heartbreak? The gruesome scene? If someone snatched my girl out of my arms, I would have been tempted to jump in right after her, letting the Nile take me as it took her. I wonder if any women jumped in and saved their children? I sure would have tried!
At any rate, Moses’ mother managed to keep him hidden until he was three months old, and then she put him in the Nile. Her son Moses grew up as Pharaoh’s adopted grandson — and the Hebrews continued their groaning under the weight of slavery.
If history had been preserved, the course of life as we know it may have been very different. The Egyptians and the Hebrews might have come to some sort of settlement earlier on when the Hebrew population exploded. Perhaps the Hebrews would have moved back to their homeland. Instead, the glory of God was displayed in just the way He planned. He used the ignorance of the people to point the way towards His glory so that even unbelievers would respect him.
I noticed that many of these OT stories have a water well as a central figure. When a servant was sent to find a wife for Isaac, he met her at a well. Joseph was thrown into an empty well. Similarly, Moses met up at a well with what would be his family when he ran away to Midian. Water was and is an essential part of life. Jesus calls himself the Living Water. Perhaps the well is a literary symbol of God’s provision for our lives. In the OT, we learn through the events surrounding the wells that
- God answers prayers (he answered the servant’s specific prayers in exactly the way he was asked)
- God redeems us from empty places (he drew Joseph out of the empty well and eventually set him up as second in command)
- God meets our needs (Moses found companionship and a family when he rescued girls from a well in a foreign country)
It will be interesting as I work my way through the Bible this year to add to this list of the significance of wells in the Scripture. As I do so, I will ponder the significance of the metaphorical wells in my own life.