Stephens Sermon Part 2b of 7
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Which knew not Joseph.
“Which knew not Joseph” has also been interpreted in several ways; some of which are noted here:
1. There is the opinion that this king did not know about the great things Joseph had done, which were so advantageous to the Egyptian nation.
2. He was acquainted with him through recorded history, but he did not have the regard for the Hebrew people that the other Pharaoh had.
3. Josephus says the kingdom was transferred to another family, which might be the reason why he was not known, and why those who did know and admire Joseph were not taken notice of. Another historian says, he was not of the royal family; therefore it is written, "and there arose". He came to power in an unusual way, and did not have the right to the title, so he was a stranger, and it is no wonder that he would not know Joseph.
4. Jarchi writes, “It can hardly be supposed that he would be ignorant of the name and deeds of Joseph; and this expression, therefore, probably means that he did not favor the policies of Joseph; he did not remember the benefits which he had conferred on the nation. He made it seem that he did not know about Joseph, he pretended ignorance of him, because he would show no respect unto his people.”
5. He was not merely a successor, but a monarch of a different character, who did not know about Joseph—That is, did not approve of him, of his method of governing the kingdom, or of his people, or of his God.
19 The same dealt subtly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.
The same dealt subtly with our kindred.
“Subtly” means with “with cunning and deceit.”
“Our kindred” refers to “our nation,” or “our ancestors.”
Stephen means to say that the king of Egypt used underhanded methods and wicked deception (Exodus 1:1012) to lay heavier and heavier burdens upon the Hebrew people, which is something almost all tyrants do. No doubt, Pharaoh didn’t reveal his real reasons for the hardships he laid upon them; that they were sojourners and didn’t deserve to have a home in his realm for nothing, or to be free from all burdens, especially since they lacked worldly goods and influence. Therefore, he deceitfully made them despicable bondslaves of Egyptian men and the Egyptian nation. He used cunning, and yet cruel methods, to diminish the children of Israel, and to humble them; weakening their strength by strenuous labor, so that they might not be able to produce children; ordering the Hebrew midwives to kill all the males that were born (Exodus 1:2213); and ordering all his people to drown all male children that escape the hands of the midwives.
When Stephen said that this tyrant did not know Joseph, it shows how soon men forget those good things done for them when those who benefitted them pass out of this world. We may all detest unthankfulness, but there is not a vice that is more common today.
And evil entreated our fathers.
The king’s treatment of the Jews is described here as “evil.” He forced them into hard labor, mostly involving the use of mortar and brick as building materials. He made their lives bitter and harsh; employing them in building cities, pyramids, walls, and towers; digging ditches and trenches, cutting waterways, and rerouting rivers; and he set taskmasters over them, to punish them for every real and imagined misunderstanding or fault.
So that they cast out their young children.
This refers to Pharaoh’s orders to his officers and people, to throw the male children of the Israelites into the rivers; and not to the parents of the children, which this clause seems to say. Moses's mother, after she had hidden him for three months, put him into an ark of bulrushes, and put him among the flags by the river's bank, but she did it in order to save his life: while the reason Pharaoh had for casting out of these young children was to increase the suffering of the Hebrews, reduce their number, keep them in subjection, and to maintain their status as slave labor.
To the end, they might not live.
All male children were to be killed, so that the population of the Hebrew nation would decline. Pharaoh was concerned that they might become too many to control; there was also the thought that they might join an invading army that might come against Egypt. This could be prevented if the male children did not grow up to be men.
Stephen does not bring up all their evil treatment of his people, but he does give this one example of extreme cruelty, so that we might comprehend how near the whole seed of Abraham was to destruction. If the midwives and the people had obeyed Pharaoh’s edict, he would have essentially murdered them all with one stroke of his pen. But such violent barbarism cannot win when it is opposed by the incredible power of God; because when Pharaoh has, by all means within his power, striven against God, it is all in vain.
20 In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months:
In which time Moses was born.
“In which time” refers to the state of the Hebrews at the time of Moses’ birth; which was a time of severe hardships and oppression, and to make matters even worse, Pharaoh commanded his people to kill all the male Hebrew children.
“Moses was born” is an important announcement, since he was the destined deliverer of the Hebrews.
The word Moses, came from the Hebrew word, which signifies "to draw" (Psalm 18:16); Pharaoh's daughter explains why she gave him this name in Exodus 2:1014 ; “She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water.’” Several noted Bible scholars disagree with this theory, because they insist that Moses is an Egyptian name; they say the Egyptians call water "Mo", and those who are saved from water are "yses", and when the two words are compounded the word formed sounds a lot like Moses. At least one Jewish scholar maintains that his name in the Egyptian language was Monios, and they offer this explanation—“For ‘Mo’, in the Egyptian language, signifies ‘water’, and ‘Ni’ is ‘out’; and so both together signify, ‘out of the water’”, which agrees with the Hebrew etymology of his name.
A Jewish chronologer states: “Moses had many names; “Pharaoh's daughter called his name Moses; his father called him Chabar, or Heber; his mother called him Jekuthiel; and his sister called him Jether (perhaps Jared, since this was one of his names); and his brethren called him Abizanoah; and Kohath called him Abi Socos; and the Israelites called him Shemaiah ben Nathaneel, and sometimes Tobiah, sometimes Shemaiah, and sometimes Sopher; but the Egyptians called him Monios.”
Moses was born during the time that Pharaoh ordered all the male children of the Israelites thrown into the rivers, to drown them. His parents were Amram and Jochebed, of the tribe of Levi. According to the Jews, he was born on the seventh day of Adar, or February.
And was exceeding fair.
As a child, he “was exceeding fair” or “fair to God”; divinely fair and beautiful—he was sanctified from the womb, and this made him beautiful in God’s eyes. God gave him a unique beauty, partly to inspire his parents to do everything they could to preserve his life, and partly to foster feelings of affection within Pharaoh's daughter when she saw him.
And nourished up in his father's house three months.
Moses was hidden by his mother, Jochebed, for the first three months of his life (Exodus 2:215), to prevent his death at the hands of the Egyptians, who would have thrown him into the river. She showed great faith by hiding him, since there must have been some punishment for disobeying Pharaoh’s orders. But after three months, his parents placed him in the river to save their own lives; only they put him into a little ark made of reeds so he would not perish immediately.
21 And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.
And when he was cast out.
This makes it seem like his parents threw him into the river (Nile), which would be hard to even imagine. Actually, the Bible has all the details: his mother realizing she couldn’t keep him any longer without someone seeing him or hearing him cry, made an ark of bulrushes, daubed with slime and pitch, and placed him in it; and then she laid it in the flags, by the river's bank, and told his sister Miriam to watch from a distance until she could report what happened to him (Exodus 2:316).
Pharaoh's daughter took him up.
This princess had come down to the river to wash; as she and her maidens were walking along the river bank, she saw the ark in which the baby was laid, lying among the flags. She ordered one of her maids to bring it to her; and he was saved by her orders, his rescue is attributed to her. When she opened the ark, she was struck at once with the loveliness of the babe, and being filled immediately with compassion for him, she took him to raise as her own. Her name, according to Josephus, was “Thermuthis,” but she is commonly called “Bithiah” by the Jews.