We’ve all heard stories about Israelites in Egypt.
But what really happened? How did the Israelites get to Egypt? And what’s up with that burning bush everyone keeps talking about?
Well, last time we talked about the beginning of the Jewish history in Israel – the promise God gave to Abram.
Today we’ll explore the next major event in the history of the Jewish people (who were called Israelites in those times).
Due to hunger in the promised land (then called Canaan), the Israelites came to live in Egypt, where an Israelite named Joseph had become a high official in the court of the Pharaoh. The Israelites entered Egypt around 1520 BC, and life was good.
Unfortunately, it did not last long. The deaths of Joseph and the Pharaoh, and the ascension of a new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph made things bad for the Israelites.
The Egyptians enslaved the Israelites (which they called Hebrews), having them do excruciating and backbreaking construction labor.
And that’s not even the worst part. What is it then, you wonder? It is the fact that the Pharaoh also orders the slaughter at birth of all male Hebrew children!
Luckily, one male Hebrew makes it alive. You may know him as Moses.
Moses is one lucky child. He is placed in a basket on the river Nile, found and then adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter.
As a young man, Moses sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave. What does our hero do? Protects the slave, while killing the Egyptian. So without much choice, Moses flees to a place called Midian, where he falls in love and gets married.
But our hero cannot rest for long, as in Midian God appears to Moses in a Burning Bush. God commands Moses to go to Egypt, free the Hebrew slaves and bring them to the promised land of Canaan (Israel).
“Did it go smoothly?”, you wonder?
No. it did not.
Moses and his brother Aaron go to the (yet again, new) Pharaoh and ask him to let the Israelites go into the desert for a religious festival, but the Pharaoh refuses – and punishes the Hebrews by commanding them to make bricks without straw as well as increasing their workload.
Moses and Aaron don’t give up. They go back to the Pharaoh, and this time ask him to free the Hebrews, by the name of God.
The Pharaoh decides to test Moses. If Moses really is speaking by the name of God, he should be able to perform miracles, right? So the Pharaoh demands for Moses to perform one.
Aaron throws down Moses’ staff, which turns into a snake. Cool stuff, don’t you think? Pharaoh didn’t think so. Pharaoh’s magicians are also able to do this (but not as well, as Moses’ staff-snake devours the others). Sadly, the Pharaoh still refuses to let the Hebrews go.
How can Moses free the Hebrews? How can he convince the Pharaoh to let his people go?
Enter the Plagues of Egypt!
Whaaaaat? Plagues of Egypt?!
Yes my friend, as our story about Israelites in Egypt continues on part two of Chapter Two – Israelites in Egypt (Part II)!