Enslaved in Egypt

March 21-27

If you prefer to listen over reading an article, keep an eye on Autumn Dickson on YouTube or various podcast platforms. I post video and podcast versions of my blog posts on my Youtube channel and on the podcast platforms: Apple, Anchor, Breaker, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.

This week, we begin the story of how Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. But first, I want to talk about the Israelites as a people. 

The concept of the Israelites is an interesting one. Often when we think of the Israelites, we think of the people of God who were led by a prophet. They had a temple, worshiped, and followed commandments (sometimes). They were all the same race, and they had the same religion. It was more than just a church; it included an entire system of governance. The Israelites lived under a theocracy.

But it wasn’t always this way. It started with Abraham. Abraham wasn’t born into a gospel-centered home; he learned directly from God and then passed the knowledge on to his son. It started with just a small family teaching what they had learned from God. There was no church organization. What you learned about the gospel of Jesus Christ came directly from your parents. There were no leaders or teachers. There were no bishops and stake presidents. It was just family.

And this family lived in a dangerous place with lots of fighting for territory…until one day, a teenage boy was sold into slavery and found himself in Egypt. Joseph, this teenage boy, rose to power and saved the Egyptians from starvation. He also eventually brought his family into Egypt where they thrived. They thrived so much that they became a “people.”

So…Egypt plays a fascinating role in God’s plan for this family. Traditionally, in the story of Moses and the exodus of the Israelite people, they are seen as an enemy. And this is true, they are an enemy to God’s people. However, are they an enemy to God’s plan?

As if Egypt never happened

I want you to imagine that Joseph was never sold into Egypt, and let’s also imagine that the famine never actually occurred. Joseph grows up with his family. The brothers continue to bicker. They learn to live with each other. Jacob dies and leaves the birthright with Joseph. Joseph takes this double-portion-birthright and does his best to take care of the family which has grown rather large. Some of the brothers are still resentful of Joseph being the leader, and Joseph’s birthright only goes so far to take care of everybody. Eventually everyone starts to grow into their own families. Now I can’t say this would have happened for sure, but I imagine that some of the families would have broken off. They lived a nomadic lifestyle, and it wouldn’t have made sense to try and stay together (especially when there was so much strife amongst the brothers). In these times, nomadic tribes often started to break apart when they reached numbers anywhere from 50-100 people. 

If the families had broken off into different nomadic clans, the twelve tribes of Israel would have never been able to become a “people.”

Egypt as a tool

When Joseph rose to power in Egypt, scholars suggest that he came in at a time during the reign of the Hyksos. The Hyksos were not native Egyptians; they were a foreign occupation of Egypt and had Semitic (or Hebrew) blood. It would make sense that Joseph would be fine standing next to a Semitic Pharaoh. It was under these circumstances that the Israelites flourished.

Exodus 1:7 And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.

But the story goes on. The Hyksos are overthrown, and a new Pharaoh arises. This new Pharaoh does not know Joseph, and he is afraid of the Israelites growing too powerful (this makes sense because Egypt had just overthrown a Semitic occupation). This new Pharaoh turns the Israelites into slaves and makes their lives miserable in an attempt to cut off their rising numbers and power. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work very well.

Exodus 1:12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.

I want you to imagine this scenario happening differently. Pharaoh, instead of turning them into slaves, decides that he is going to look past his own fear and welcome the Israelites as citizens. What happens to the House of Israel then? Well, if nothing is broken, it’s not likely that people are going to work to fix it. The House of Israel continues on in Egypt, eventually adopting their ways and intermarrying. The Israelite blood becomes so diluted that there isn’t much of a House of Israel at all. They become Egyptians in almost all aspects of the word.

The Israelites flourished when Egypt was not an enemy. Things change and Egypt becomes an enemy. Despite all the trials, the House of Israel continues expanding. Because of the trials, the House of Israel keeps their identity. Because of Egypt enslaving them, they grow into their identity. They become a people. They are separate from the Egyptians because the Egyptians made it so.

Even after Egypt became an enemy, Egypt remained a blessing. 

So what?

It’s awesome to learn about how the Lord worked so purposefully with Egypt. He set up an occupation so that his people could grow, and then He allowed that occupation to fall so that His people could keep their identity. He handles so many moving parts that it stresses me out. 

And this is all good and great, but why does it matter for us? What does it imply for our lives?

Sometimes it helps to label different seasons in our lives. This is my own personal experience, but the principles remain for you to apply to your own life.

My family and I were flourishing in Utah where we used to live. We had a great setup. We had everything going for us. That was our “Egypt in the times of Joseph.” 

Things fell apart very quickly. There were multiple avenues that we tried to take to make things work in Utah, but it seemed like we got a closed door anywhere we turned. It felt like every step was a misstep. Nothing would come together for us even though there was plenty of potential for things to come together. That was our “Egypt in the times of Israelite slavery.”

I remember sitting in the car one day talking to my husband. We had found ourselves with another disappointment. I remember turning to him and saying something along the lines of, “Maybe God is setting up these issues so that it’ll be easier to leave when it’s time to leave.” My husband admitted that he had thought the same thing. 

As I look back at the chain of events that propelled us to where we’re at, I see the Lord’s hand.

As I look towards the coming chapters for next week, I remember that even after the Israelites escaped slavery, they got to wander around in a wilderness for a long time. Living in a hotel can sometimes feel a little bit like wandering, but I know the Lord’s hand is in this. 

Perhaps you are in a flourishing period of Egypt. Perhaps you’re in a place where doors are getting closed, or perhaps you’re wandering. Whatever stage you might find yourself in, learn this from the Israelites. God is preparing everything perfectly for you. He is setting up every resting spot, watering hole, desert, and trial. Just as He used Joseph, God used a hard-hearted Pharaoh to bring about His purposes. Trust Him. He knows exactly what He’s doing, and He is so very good at it. 

He knew what was occurring with the governments in ancient days, He knows what’s occurring in the big governments “controlling” the world right now, and He is manipulating it in our favor (even if it doesn’t look like it). Some may feel that’s cruel. If He can manipulate entire armies, why isn’t He simply setting up peace?

This feels especially poignant with what’s happening in Ukraine. If the Lord could manipulate Egypt for the House of Israel, He can manipulate Russia. Why isn’t He stopping this war?

The Lord has set His own bounds for how much He’s willing to interfere with our agency. Too much interference would hurt us more than any war ever could. However, I can promise this much. All of the bad occurring in this world can be utilized as a step up. No matter what forces are working around you or against you, the Lord can turn everything in your favor and He will. Even death becomes grace with Jesus Christ. 

Nothing in this world has the power to permanently remove your peace or happiness. Nothing in this world has the capacity to remove the promises that the Lord has promised you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s