And the Lord said: I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.
Oppression in the Israel means the same as depression. God saw that his people were depressed and crying.
Have you ever been so depressed it made you cry? I have! What happens to God’s people that they become depressed and cry?
There are many reasons God’s people become depressed and cry. We will look at one reason.
When the Lord told me what to do with my life I tried to obey him but didn’t believe God could take care of me. I had to have a real job that paid money, so I could pay my own way through life. In disobedience to God’s command I found a job making sandwiches and frying chicken. I also spent the next ten years going from one minimum wage job to another never making enough money to take care of myself. The day I spurned God to work for man, I fell into a depression.
Working for man can be very depressing. Especially if that man thinks he is better than you are. God’s people were depressed and crying for the same reason I was depressed and crying. They spurned God to work for man.
The word slavery is harsh and repulsive to us because of the slavery that took place in America. When I think of slavery, the first image that comes to mind are the Africans that were kidnapped, brought to America under deplorable conditions, stripped of all rights, sold for money without regard to family relationships and beaten into submission. Yet many wealthy plantation owners in America used the Bible to justify slavery. If they used the Bible to justify owning slaves, why didn’t they obey God’s laws for owning slaves? The Bible does not speak against slavery, because the problem is not in slavery but in the slave owner.
The Old Testament does not condemn slavery. To the contrary, it provided laws for slavery with dignity. To name a few,
- Kidnapping a man to sale as a slave was punishable by death.
- Only a foreigner or people defeated in war could be permanent slaves.
- A fellow Israel could become a slave through theft or debt to repay what he owed but not permanently, generally not more than 7 years and all slaves were freed in the year of Jubilee every 50 years.
- If a man came into your service with a wife he left with his wife. Tearing families apart was not allowed.
- You could beat your slaves but not harm them. If your slave lost an eye or tooth, they were automatically set free. If a slave died because his owner beat him, the owner would be punished.
We are not studying slavery so this is not a thorough examination of the God’s law regarding slavery. Just a few items to verify God does not have a problem with slavery. How can a slave owner condemn slavery? We are a purchased possession. The difference between God who buys slaves and the forefathers of America who bought slaves was the intent. God purchased us with the intent of making us his children and giving us an inheritance. Neither does God keep slaves forever. You either become his beloved son or one day you will be shut out of his house.
My information comes from the Old Testament the New Testament does not condemn slavery either.
1 Corinthians 7:19-22, NIV
Each one should remain in the situation, which he was in when God called him. Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you-although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave.
Paul’s attitude toward slavery was indifferent. If a slave could gain his freedom, Paul advised him to do so, but it wouldn’t change the fact that he is still a slave. Slave or free we are all God’s slaves. It’s not a curse to be a slave. It’s a curse to be a slave of a slave. Yet if you are a slave of a slave, the Bible still demands you to be a good slave not only toward God but toward your earthly master.
Eph 6:5-9 NIV
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
Paul never made an appeal to end slavery. His appeal was to treat one another fair and honest because in Christ you are both God’s slaves and will be treated with equality by God. He shows no favoritism to the master or the slave. If you own a slave, you better treat him right because you are a slave too. Whether you like it not, whether you believe it or not, being a slave is a fact of life. You’re gonna serve somebody!
Becoming a Christian does not free you from slavery. It only changes your master. Paul called himself a slave of Jesus Christ. He also says,
1 Corinthians 9:15-17 NKJV
16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! 17For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship.
Paul did not have a choice about preaching the gospel because he was a slave. Willing or not, God gave Paul a job to do. Paul knew he would have to give an account for the life he lived. If Paul preached willingly, there would be a reward. If he did not preach, there would be woe. Slaves obey or suffer.
Paul is not the only one who called himself a slave.
Mark 10:42-45 NIV
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,……”
The chief priest paid Judas thirty pieces of sliver for Jesus to be delivered into their power. They purchased a slave. According to God’s law thirty pieces of silver is the price of a slave. Being a slave in God’s kingdom is an honor! Jesus obtained the honor of being first and great by becoming a slave. If you want to wear a crown, you must learn how to be a good slave first. Slavery in God’s hands, following God’s ideas, becomes a blessing because becoming a slave of God gives you the opportunity to be adopted as a son and an heir.
There are people in ministry who want to be first and revered as great, but they do not want to be a servant. They serve God using man’s ideas about rulers and authority. Ultimately, they become taskmasters who make the sheep so depressed they cry! The problem is not with serving because being a servant is a fact of life you will not escape. The problem is with the Master you sale your self to. When God delivered Israel, he did not deliver them from being servants. He delivered them to be his servants. After they entered the Promised Land God still called them his servants. That may be one reason the Israels could not make a slave of another Israel except to pay off a debt and that slavery was temporary by law. God delivered Israel by redeeming them, which means he bought them.
God’s message to Pharaoh was more than “let my people go”. He repeatedly said let my people go into the wilderness and serve me. Let them be my servants Pharaoh. They were the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Their fathers taught them about God. Jacob went to Egypt with God’s approval and blessing. So! How did God’s people become Pharaoh’s people?
They choose to be Pharaoh’s people. The Israelites were not slaves of Egypt in the same way the African people were made slaves by white Europeans in America. They were not kidnapped and brought to a strange land against their will under deplorable conditions. To the contrary, Pharaoh invited them to live in the land of Egypt.
Now the report of it was heard in Pharaoh’s house, saying, Joseph’s brothers have come. So it pleased Pharaoh and his servants well. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, Say to your brothers, Do this: Load your animals and depart; go to the land of Canaan. ring your father and your households and come to me; I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you will eat the fat of the land. Now you are commanded do this: Take carts out of the land of Egypt for your little ones and your wives; bring your father and come. Also do not be concerned about your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.
This is very different from the way Africans were brought to America. Joseph and his family were honored with the best Egypt had to offer. This was a happy marriage between the Egyptians and sons of Jacob with one exception!
When Joseph’s family came to Egypt, he gave them specific instructions.
So it shall be, when Pharaoh calls you and says, What is your occupation? That you shall say, “Your servants occupation has been with livestock from our youth even till now, both we and also our fathers, that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.
Even though Pharaoh favored Joseph’s family with the best Egypt had to offer, the citizens of Egypt always considered them inferior. Abomination is the Israel word `ebah. It “defines something or someone as essentially unique in the sense of being ….”repulsive” to another individual because of religious convictions. This word is first used when Joseph’s brothers returned with Benjamin.
Genesis 43:32 NJK
So they set him a place by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Israels, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.
Joseph came home to eat lunch with his brothers, but they could not sit at the same table. Joseph held the exalted position as second only to Pharaoh, yet the Egyptians would not sit at the same table with him because of their religious convictions. The Egyptians religion caused them to be offended by Joseph’s family because Joseph’s family did things their religion called abomination, like being shepherds. Anyone who was somebody in Egypt would never be a shepherd.
Joseph’s family could live in the land. They could enjoy the best of all Egypt’s abundance because Joseph’s God given wisdom made the house of Pharaoh all-powerful. But Joseph and his family will never sit at the same table and eat with the Egyptians.
What is it about religion and food that drives wedges between us? The Egyptians would not eat with Joseph’s family because of their religion. Jewish Christians would not eat with Gentile Christians because of their religion. The Egyptians and Jewish Christians suffered from the same problem. PRIDE! I am superior. I am acceptable to God. You are not. I cannot associate with you but at a distance because you are not my equal! Pride will make you an unbearable tyrant. That is why God is not a tyrant. He is not proud. He knows he is better than you are. Yet he does not have a problem sitting at the table with you. We are invited to “come and dine.”
God’s people were depressed and crying because they stopped waiting for God’s equality and tried to obtain it from this wicked world. Israel’s desire to be fully accepted by the men they lived among turned them into slaves of the men instead of the shepherds God called them to be. All man’s equality is a filthy rag compared to God’s.
Let’s back track a little and see if we can figure out how Israel became a servant of Pharaoh.
God told Abraham,
…Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.
If you are reading but not studying it sounds like God condemned them to 400 years of slavery. They were strangers in a land “not theirs” for 400 years. They were not servants of strangers who afflicted them for 400 years. The 400 years, which really came to 430 years, began when Abraham came to Canaan. About 215 years later, Jacob, with God’s approval, moved his family to Egypt to be strangers in a land “not theirs” and were honored with the best of all Egypt had to offer. When you honor God by obeying him he will make heathen governments to honor you.
Aside from the Egyptians superiority complex, Abraham’s children were doing fine. According to my Chronological Bible they were servants of Egypt for 80 years out of the 215 years they lived in Egypt. If they had accepted Moses the first time he came to them, it would have only been 40 years of slavery. So how do a privileged and honored people end up servants of a man depressed and crying?
The same way I did. Forsake your calling to serve man because you don’t believe God can take care of you!
God told Moses my people are depressed and crying because of their taskmasters. When Pharaoh saw the family of Joseph becoming more and mightier than the Egyptians he said to his people, “let us deal shrewdly with them.” The key word is shrewdly.
Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses.
The Israel word for taskmasters in this verse is sar ^8269^, it means “official; leader; commander; captain; chief; prince; ruler” – basically someone important!
We have already established that the Israel’s were not slaves in the same sense that the African people were slaves in America. They were welcomed into the land and honored but always treated as inferior because of the Egyptians religious convictions. Now add to that scenario that Joseph’s family is dead the Israelites this generation were born in Egypt.
The Israels purpose and destiny as a people had grown dark. They had forgotten where they came from and where they were going. They had forgotten or no longer believe they would leave one day because their shepherds stopped teaching the covenant God made with Abraham. After all! That happened 400 years ago. What does that have to do with us today?
The depressed and crying Israel’s were born in Egypt. Why aren’t they an Egyptian with all the same rights and privileges? What could they want more than being accepted as an equal by the people in the nation they were born in and live in? But they are not accepted as equals. They are never allowed to sit at the same table because they are shepherds and that makes them repulsive to the Egyptians.
One day an important high-ranking Egyptian prince visited Ghosen with a very appealing offer. He left the whip in the chariot because he came to deal shrewdly with them. He came to the shepherds, those in authority, with an offer. “How would you guys like to work with us? We need some help building our cities. We will bring the straw. You bring the mud and we’ll make bricks together. Glory to God! Surely God was in this opportunity too finally be one of the boys and be accepted at the table because we don’t have to serve the sheep anymore. They were being led into a proud new day where everyone is respected and accepted by this world’s religion, so the shepherds forsook their calling and its stigma. They are no longer shepherds who lead. They are sheep that serve Pharaoh.
The Israelite foremen appointed by pharaoh’s slave drivers were beaten,…
Pharaoh is dealing with them shrewdly. The Israelite foremen were the only people Pharaoh had to deal with because you enslave a multitude by enslaving their leaders. The people are following the shepherds into error because they don’t know that their shepherd’s have become foremen appointed by Pharaoh’s slave drivers. Slavery came upon the people through their own brothers just like slavery came upon the Africans. Study a little history. White men did not hunt them in Africa. White men brought ships to the shore of Africa where African’s sold their own brothers into slavery. Egypt used Israels to be officers over Israels. Foolish Israels who lost sight of their God and his purposes convinced their brothers to serve harsh and cruel masters. Why should we be shepherds waiting for the city God is building? No one has seen God in more than 100 years anyhow. How do we know God is still building the promised city Abraham waited for? Come brothers! Why wait when we can build a city now.
The Israel’s start dressing like Egyptians, talking like Egyptians and in their quest for Egypt’s approval build Egypt’s cities. The Bible specifically called them Pharaoh’s supply, store or treasure cities. Foolish Israels! Whose treasure is stored in the city you built? That is what happens when you work for man instead of waiting for God. You do all the work so someone who does not even like you can store up his treasures.
The Egyptians dealt shrewdly with Israel because the Egyptians were afraid of them. Israel entered a partnership that turned into slave labor. The Egyptians supplied the light straw. The Israels brought the mud and made the brick. Israel thought it was an equal partnership but all they really did was sale themselves into the power of a foreign king.
They were not slaves like the Africans were slaves in America. They were still living on the best land when Moses came. Aaron was free to leave Egypt and return with Moses. They retained their own government because Aaron and Moses had the agreement of the elders to go to Pharaoh with God’s request. The Egyptians deceived them. They made things appear better than they turned out to be.
Have you ever started a new job with great and precious promises from your boss? But the promises are never realized. You continually get passed over when promotion time comes. Raises are few, far between and small. Yet every now and then something good happens that keeps you hanging on. The Egyptians gave the Israels fleshpots. Because the Israels complained to Moses,
… Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full;…
Is thy belly thy God O Israel? In the book, Exodus and Revolution the observation is made that “…Meat throughout most of human history has been the food of the privileged, and fleshpots in the plural, doesn’t refer to a lot of pots but to luxuries and sensual delights.”  Remember! Pharaoh told his princes we must deal shrewdly with the people.
The Egyptians built whatever Pharaoh wanted. When they tapped this new resource of labor, they kept the light straw and put heavy mud on the backs of the Israels. Wake up Israels? Who is working harder, the ones carrying the straw or the ones carrying the mud? Can’t you see that you are being played for a fool? The desire to be accepted by people who don’t even like you has blinded your eyes.
But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel. So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor.
The Israel word translated afflict means to humble and is more appropriately translated dishonor. Egypt had honored the Israels for more than 100 years but not anymore. The Egyptians manipulated the Israels into a place where they don’t have a choice but to work for them. Egypt gave them fleshpots (luxuries) and the straw to make the bricks. The Israels thought they had made a good deal but it ended up getting harder and harder to work for man giving them less time to serve the sheep. They neglected service to the sheep for the fleshpots of Egypt. Now the shepherds are stuck on welfare because the sheep don’t respect them and refuse to support them.
Have you ever been stuck in a job? Can’t find another one. Can’t quit because you have to eat and pay bills. This is slavery but it’s better than nothing.
When they were in the wilderness the Israels said to Moses,
Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
Better to serve man and eat than starve in the wilderness! Did God deliver them so he could starve them in the wilderness? No. That is their evil opinion about God.
You will never come out of the wilderness until you overcome your problems with God. Their words proved what was more important to them – their belly not their God. Yet God still delivered all of them because once God made up his mind to do something their behavior became irrelevant.
When Moses came to help them the first time, they said, “Who made you a prince and judge over us?” Who made you a “sar”, which means a prince, the same word Pharaoh used “sar” translated taskmaster in Exodus 1:11 is translated prince when used by the Israels who spoke to Moses in Ex 2:14.
Moses came to them on his own initiative, without Pharaoh’s blessings, so the leaders of Israel refused to recognize him. Israel had abandoned God to serve a man. You will not find deliverance until you are delivered from the man you sold yourself to! When Israel mocked God’s authority, they died servants of a man who exploited and manipulated them.
Israel had already been given the best of all Egypt had to offer as servants of God. Man will give you good things too, but you will never be satisfied serving a man. You will end up sitting by your fleshpots depressed and crying because you are not an Egyptian and never will be. I speak from experience when I say God will let you cry a long time, but he will not forsake you. When Israel sold themselves to be servants of a man and fell into a depression, God came to Egypt to deliver them.
So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jubusites.
What moved or motivated God to act on Israel’s behalf when he saw them depressed and crying but the covenant most of them either forgot about or lost hope it would ever come to pass. Your behavior is irrelevant to your deliverance because God is motivated by his own covenants not your wise or foolish behavior. God did nothing new when he came to Egypt to deliver them, any more than God is doing something new when he delivers you. Our deliverance has been on God’s mind for a long time. God acts according to his own will. Israel was delivered because it was God’s will that he would have a people to serve him as his children.
God has the same intent when he delivers us. We are saved to serve. We are delivered to be God’s slaves but more than that God wants his slaves to become children who love him. The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart soul and mind. How can we love him if we don’t know him. God raised up Pharaoh so we could.
For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.
God raised up Pharaoh so all the earth, not just the land of Egypt, not just the land of Israel. ALL THE EARTH past, present and future would know God’s power and name. But God destroyed Pharaoh and all of Egypt. NO! I will prove to you that Pharaoh destroyed Pharaoh and all of Egypt before we finish this series. God desires all nations to know the truth about him so they can choose if they want to serve man or God. God raised Pharaoh up so you and I can know God and make an educated decision. Do we want to serve God or man? Whose slave do you want to be? I don’t have a formula to set you free from slavery because freedom is found in slavery. The problem is not in you service but who you choose to serve.
 from International Standard Bible Encylopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (C) 1996 by Biblesoft
 (Exodus and Revolution by Michael Walzer pg34)