That’s the way I’ve always read the opening of the book of Exodus. A new pharaoh comes along, doesn’t like the Hebrew people, so he makes them slaves.
But I’m not so sure it happened that way. I can’t imagine that two million people would just say, “Oh well, it was good while it lasted. I guess it’s time to pay the piper.” That doesn’t make sense to me.
I wonder if it was a deliberate, meticulously thought out process on the part of the Egyptians. I can see Pharaoh and his advisors sitting in the palace discussing the “problem of the Hebrews.” They were growing in number. They were a mighty people. What if one day, they decided they’d had enough of being a second class group in Egypt? What if they decided to rebel? You don’t avoid revolution by declaring your enemy slaves overnight. It had to happen slowly.
So Pharaoh summons the leader of the Hebrews. He explains that the Egyptians feel that their generosity has been taken for granted. It’s time for the Hebrews to carry more of the load. Would the people be willing to work for them? In exchange for dwelling in Goshen – one of the most fertile areas in the land – would they help with the building process? That’s not asking too much, is it?
So the Hebrew leader returns and discusses this with the people. They have a great life in Egypt. Don’t screw up a good thing. After all, the Pharaoh is right. They’ve been grazing their flocks and living off of the goodness of the Egyptians for years now. All they’re asking for is a little help.
And so it starts. Just like the proverbial “frog in the pot,” the water begins getting warmer and warmer. More work hours. More requirements. More expectations. More penalties for falling short. And without even realizing it was happening, the Hebrews are slaves.
I’m sure this is how it worked, because I’ve seen it this way in my own life.
I’ve seen myself get comfortable. I enjoy the life that I’m living. I enjoy my stuff. I’ve become accustomed to a certain lifestyle. So what if I need to start doing things that aren’t the best for me and my family in order to maintain it? It’s only a few more hours at work. It’s only a small purchase on credit. It’s only missing church one Sunday. That’s not asking too much, is it?
As the water gets warmer and warmer, I don’t even notice it. Then, seemingly overnight, I’m a slave. I’ve become so obsessed with trying to maintain my life that I’ve completely lost it. I have no freedom. And I didn’t even see it coming.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. – Matthew 16:25 NIV
I can count more times than I want to admit when I’ve seen this happen. The tighter I hold onto what I think makes me happy, the more I lose what really does: intimacy with God; my relationship with my wife and kids; the ministry God has called me to.
Maybe things would be different if I were just willing to leave Egypt? I may not have the good life, but I would be free.
Anyone want to come with me?