And Joseph died, all his brothers, and all that generation. But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them. (Exodus 1:6-7)
After Jacob, his twelve sons and those original 70 passed away, the children of Israel began to increase in the land to the point that the land was filled with them. The Hebrew word used to describe this actually means “to swarm.” We know that, by the time of the Exodus, the population of Israel increased from seventy to millions. That they “multiplied” means that, most likely, they spread out beyond the boundaries of Goshen and dwelt everywhere in Egypt including Egyptian territories.
This “spreading out” through the land of Egypt suggests that, in time, they also began to assimilate into Egyptian life and culture. In fact, Jewish commentary goes to great lengths to describe how the Israelites began to decline spiritually after the death of Joseph and his brothers. A large number of Israelites forgot the beliefs and practices of their fathers and embraced the beliefs and gods of Egypt. The Golden Calf incident at Mount Sinai attests to this fact. It is logical to conclude that, while they lived in Egypt, at some point Egypt began to live in them. Many years later, Joshua told the descendants of the Israelites:
“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14)
Throughout Israel’s history we see a pattern develop; first they live a set apart life and are blessed. In time, they grow accustomed to the blessing and begin to relax their standards, allowing for small compromises at first which lead to greater compromises. These compromises lead to assimilation and forsaking the covenant which then initiates a time of oppression and bondage. The latter is unfortunate but seems to be the only way to truly bring God’s people to their senses. The point is, then, are we seeing a repeat of that pattern in our day and time?
Jewish tradition also teaches that the only tribe that remained true to the faith was Levi and this is why their deliverer, Moses, rose up from among their ranks. God has always had and will forever have a remnant of people who will not “bow the knee to Ba’al” so to speak. May it be that we are that remnant in this age and may it also be that God uses us as His oracles and witnesses to speak life in the face of death; restoration in the face of division and hope in the face of hopelessness. Amen.
Blessings and Shalom,