Baby Moses opened his eyes on a world very different from our own. Although neither his mother nor father knew it, the birth of this man-child launched a series of events that would change the course of nations and shape the destiny of millions. History would turn like a hinge on that birth. The world would never be quite the same again.
The day came, after the deaths of Joseph and the Pharaoh who had promoted him, that a new Pharaoh stepped onto the throne. He, too, ruled, then passed the crown to the next Pharaoh. Finally, after several centuries, the name Joseph became virtually unknown. Few remembered the famine. Less recalled the golden oceans of stored grain. No one recollected how a wise, young Jewish prime minister had stepped out of obscurity to save the day. That was ancient history. Irrelevant. And the bilateral policy established between Joseph and some long-gone Pharaoh? Completely forgotten.
This new Pharaoh despised the growing Hebrew population. How had they even come to be there? No one knew for sure; the reports had been filed away in some obscure, dusty archive.
But one thing about these multiplying Hebrews could not be ignored: They seemed to pose a threat. And a threatened Pharaoh was not a pleasant Pharaoh to have around.
The Egyptians looked upon the growing number of Israelites (a “mighty people,” Pharaoh called them) with dread. The Hebrew word translated “dread” is kootz. It means “to have an abhorrence for and horror, a sickening feeling.” When the officers of Egypt noted the swelling population of Hebrews from month to month and year to year, they felt sick in the pit of their stomachs. Had there been coffee shops in those days, John and Jane Egyptian might have sat at those little round tables and said over their lattes, “Man, this problem is getting out of hand. Our demographic plan isn’t working. We’ve got to stop their growth! If we don’t limit these foreigners now, they’ll be running the country in a few years.”
And so the hammer blows fell as the brutality increased. When Pharaoh saw that the harsh conditions of slavery didn’t achieve his ends, he turned up the persecution dial yet one more terrible notch.