The History of Israel

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"The History of Israel" is a historical incident sermon by Mark Hollingsworth.

Exodus 1:1-5

Exo 1:1 Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.
Exo 1:2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,
Exo 1:3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin,
Exo 1:4 Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.
Exo 1:5 And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.


In these first verses in the book of Exodus we see the section of the history of Israel as the children of Jacob come into Egypt and leave the nation of Israel.

1. First we get a retrospective view.
These verses lead us back to the history of Israel when Jacob came with his family to Egypt. It was a time of great distress from famine in Canaan. It was a crisis-time in the history of Israel, God's chosen family (Genesis 45:17-28; 46:1-4).

It was a time of great encouragement from what had been disclosed in Joseph’s history. These verses summarize the history of Israel from the time of Jacob’s emigration to Egypt till the bondage of the Israelites — about 115 years.

This was a time of great happiness and prosperity in the history of Israel. The entire period, from the call of Abraham to the Exodus, was 430 years. Up to the descent into Egypt, a period of 215 years, the family had increased to only “seventy souls.” From the going down to Egypt to the Exodus — 215 years — the 70 had multiplied to 600,000 males, giving a population of nearly 2,000,000.

2. Second we see a change of administration. (ver. 8).
This is not merely another, but a “new” king, implying a change of dynasty. Now, probably, this commenced the rule of the “shepherd kings.” The phrase, “who knew not Joseph,” suggests the prestige of Joseph’s name to the former Pharaohs. A good man’s influence dies not with the death of his body.

3. Third we see a change of government policy. (vers. 9-14). The nature of this change is a change from being a fostering government to being cruel and repressive. Unwise policy became suicidal. We see the reason for this change (ver. 10) and the result of this change (ver. 12).

Such a result is according to God’s law of nations. Working classes are always more fruitful than others. And such a result was according to God’s covenant law.

There are some lessons to be learned from the history of Israel:
1. God’s children in Egypt are a type of God’s children in the world.
2. The policy of the new king was a type of the godlessness, selfishness, and inhumanity of those who work from a worldly standpoint.
3. The frustration of this policy was a type of God’s overruling power in the history of Israel.

God’s knowledge of man’s domestic life, back then in this part of the history of Israel, is encouraging to us today:

First, He knows the children of the family (vv.2-4) “Reuben, Simeon,” etc. He knows the character of each. He knows the friendly relations, or otherwise, existing between them, and the intentions of each.

Second, He watches the journeying of the family. — “which came,” etc. Do not journey into Egypt without an indication of the Divine will. All family changes should be under the instruction of heaven. This insures safety, protection, development — though sometimes discipline.

Third, He marks the death of the family. (ver. 6).

The history of Israel in Egypt: With Israel in Egypt we see the beginning of a new era in the world’s progress. The biography of Jacob as a family becomes the history of Israel as a nation. Instead of individuals or a tribe, God has now a nation with which to work.

God has undertaken a vast purpose. This people — united by common parentage, common faith, and common hope — He is to weld still more compactly by fellowship in disaster and deliverance into a nation which shall be the miracle of history, as intensely and persistently individual as its founder.

With this nation He enters into covenant and, through its faith and experience, reveals to the world the one holy God, and brings in its Redeemer. Such a mission costs; its apostles must suffer. Yet this relief intervenes: personal blessing is not lost in national pains. The strong word covering this process is discipline: the development of character and efficiency under rigorous conditions.

Notice the elements God used in the history of Israel and uses in the progression of our lives to develop spiritual discipline:

I. FAITH - Exodus 1:1

Faith is taking as real what cannot be seen, accepting as sure what has not come to pass.

Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Heb 11:2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
Heb 11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
Heb 11:21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshiped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
Heb 11:22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

It took faith for Jacob to take that family of 70 to Egypt and it took faith for Joseph to prepare the way before them. Then Joseph, by faith, predicts the deliverance of the nation. God developed the family of 70 into a nation of 2,000,000 in a land of bondage. Faith does wonders anywhere but seems to do better when we need the Lord the most...when oppressed.

Seemingly, this fruit of heaven cannot grow on earthly soil unless it be wet with tears. In other words, true faith will always be tested and tried to prove it as such. And of course, the history of Israel and the Church prove this.

II. HOPE - Exodus 1:1-4

Heb 11:22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

The hope of the ages lay in freeing Israel, not from Egypt, but from what Egypt represents. Heathenism is a bitter and bloody thing. But heathenism filled the world outside the chosen nation. Only stern guidance could lead away from it, for over its deformities were spread distortions of natural needs and blandishments of sanctioned lust.

God can accomplish vast things with a soul wholly consecrated to Him; but how rarely He finds such a soul, except as He leads it through affliction to make it loose its hold on all but Him!

Heb 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;
Heb 11:25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
Heb 11:26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.
Heb 11:27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

III. LOVE - Exodus 1:1-5

Heb 11:26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.

The nation which was Jacob the Supplanter passes its Peniel and becomes Israel, the Prince of God, having power with God and men. Into its hands are put the direction of earth’s history and the hope of its redemption.

The distresses of those early generations in the history of Israel are as the straining and rending of the crust or the grinding march of glaciers, unsparing but beneficent, preparing a fertile soil on which at last men shall dwell safely, lifting thankful hands to heaven.

Egypt is a type of the world: — Sodom is associated in our minds with wickedness only, though no doubt it was a great place in its day; but Egypt stands out before us as a fuller and more adequate type of the world, with her glory as well as her shame.

And from Israel’s relation to Egypt we may learn two great lessons: one of counsel how to use the world, the other of warning against abusing it. From God’s purpose in regard to Israel let us learn that just as Egypt was necessary as a school for His chosen people, so the world ought to be a school for us. We are not to despise its greatness.

No word of contempt for Egypt’s greatness is found in the sacred records of the history of Israel. The nation was intended to learn, and did acquire, many useful arts which were of much service to them afterwards in the Land of Promise.

Moses, the chosen of God, was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was thereby qualified for the great work for which he was called. In these examples in the history of Israel, we may see how to use this world, making it a school to prepare us for our inheritance and the work the Lord may have for us there to do.

On the other hand, let us beware of so yielding to the eductions of this evil world as to lose our love of God, and His covenant, and so incur the certainty of forfeiting our spiritual birthright and becoming the world’s slaves, helping perhaps to rear its mighty monuments.

It may come with the prospect possibly of having our names engraved in stone among the ruins of some buried city, but without the prospect of having them written “among the living in Jerusalem,” the eternal city of God. Earth’s great ones belong to the dead past; but heaven’s great ones have their portion in a glorious future.


Making history: We are making history when we least think of it. That which seems a little matter to us may be a link in a chain that binds the ages. What we do today or tomorrow is done for all time. It cannot be undone. It and all its countless results must stand entailed to the latest generations; and we are to have honor or shame according as our part is now performed.

The poor boy who drives the horse along a canal tow path may think it makes little difference whether he does that work well or poorly. But forty years after, when he is in nomination for the presidency of a great nation, he will find that men go back to his boyhood story to learn whether he was faithful in that which was least, as proof that he would be faithful also in that which is much.

There is no keeping out of history. We have got to be there. The only safe way of standing well in history is by doing well in all things. You are just now going to Boston, or to New York, or to Chicago, or to Savannah, or to London — will the record of your spirit and conduct as you go there read well ten years hence, or a hundred? That depends on what your spirit and conduct are at the present time.

And if you stay at home, your place in history — in God’s record of history — is just as sure as if you went to Egypt or to the Holy Land. That record is making up today: “Now, these are the names of the children of —, which came into —, or, which stayed at —“ If you want a record which shall redound to your honor, and of which your children’s children shall be proud, you have no time to lose in getting things straight for it now.

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