OK, a bit of an overstatement in the title there. But not much!
The first chapter of Exodus (2nd book of the Law/Torah/Old Testament) opens with an account of Israel’s experience in the nation of Egypt. And the themes that are described are a lens through which we can easily see great movements throughout history.
As the book of Genesis closes, Israel and his tribe of 70 have been welcomed into Egypt, since one of his sons, Joseph, has become second-in-command to Pharoah and ruled with such wisdom and grace that the halo of esteem surrounding him extended to his entire family. The Israelites would spend hundreds of years in that land, always with the goal of returning the promised land of Canaan, but meantime, multiplying greatly into nation within a nation.
Wherein lay the problem.
As generations passed, memories of Joseph faded, and the Israelites became so numerous that the Egyptians began to feel threatened. They feared that if war came, this huge population group would turn on them and fight against them. The answer was not to strengthen mutual bonds, but to concoct a plan to subdue those no longer viewed as desirable, take away their freedom, and threaten those perceived to be a threat.
And so they began to oppress the descendants of Israel. Life moved from co-existence to conquest, from collaboration to oppression. How many times, among people groups all over the world and all through time, have we seen this pattern?
The Egyptians felt that they must maintain possession of their land. They needed to ensure their postion of power. And so, they embraced the idea that they had a right to oppress others, because (fill in the in blank: “we belong, you don’t” “we’re superior to you” “we have the power of arms”). Woven through this chapter is a picture that may vary in the details and circumstances, but in substance, is a microcosm of what we see throughout human history.
Wars, genocide, slavery…it always flows from this misguided, selfish, arrogant, and evil perspective. But as Exodus unfolds, we’ll see that there is a far greater power at work – a God determined to fulfill His promises and purposes by subduing the subduers, and liberating His oppressed people. The initial promises to create a great nation and plant them in the land of Canaan may have been hundreds of years ago, but they are not in the least decayed in the eyes of Him who made them. The first Passover is just over the horizon…