Exodus Day Four
July 6, 2020, 5:00 AM

Of Pharaoh(s), Capital Cities and Bricks.
As we begin this new week, there’s something that’s been bugging me all weekend, and I really had to force myself NOT to write anything on Saturday or Sunday! I’ve noticed that the Pharaoh of the Exodus who always gets the credit for being the bad guy is Rameses II (“The Great”) -pictured above, in all his glory. Think of the terrible edict to murder all newborn Hebrew males just out of the womb, Rameses. The death decree by drowning for all newborn Hebrew males in the Nile River – again, Rameses. The daughter of Pharaoh who drew Moses out of the Nile must be Rameses’ daughter— although we would never know exactly which one it was since this Rameses fathered fifty-nine daughters. (He lived into his 90’s and reigned 66 years. Lots of wives, and very fecundiferous.) Then, fast-forwarding forty years to Moses and his return to Egypt on the mission to “draw out” his people from bondage. Again, Rameses the stubborn prince who takes the brunt of God’s broadside with the plagues.

But there’s a problem with this narrative. Note back in chapter one, it says, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” (1:8). This would be the king who tries to murder the Hebrew boys. This is the Pharaoh whose daughter rescued Moses. But this could not have been Rameses the Great, in my estimation. Look at 2:23— “During those many days [when Moses was in exile in Midian] the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.” This means the Pharaoh who faces-off against Moses and Aaron cannot be the king who began the oppression of the Hebrews. I DO think this latter king is Rameses.

But who was the first king? The XIX Dynasty in Egypt came to power (roughly) at the beginning of the 13th century B.C. (1200’s) and ruled that century and into the next. The first king being Rameses I, who ruled not quite two years. His son, Seti I, came to the throne and ruled nearly ten years. The capital city of Egypt at the time, was centered in Memphis, which was quite a long way from the eastern Nile Delta, where the Hebrews resided in Goshen. It was Seti who moved the royal operation back to Goshen to build his summer residence upon the ruins of Joseph’s capital city Avaris (the despised Hyksos’ kingdom HQ – 18th to 16th century B.C. – XV Dynasty). Apparently, Seti was quite a builder and it would have been Seti who conscripted the foreign labor to begin his new city. Where you going to get that labor? Land of Goshen!

When Seti died, Exodus 2 lets us know, in no uncertain terms, things did not get better for God’s people. In fact, it got worser. (To the left is his mummified head... and kind of looks like someone from the Blue Man Group.) Rameses was a greater, more aggressive builder than his father, which is saying loads. The Divine (from Scripture) interpretation is of Rameses as a stubborn, maniacal Pharaoh. However, historians have been much kinder to Rameses, which makes sense— if you expunge this embarrassing Exodus chapter from his life!

The entire Exodus drama will play out with the Kingdom of Egypt and the Hebrew people in Goshen, on the eastern-most turf of the Nile Delta, practically as next-door neighbors. This is how the sister of Moses can watch him float into the arms of Pharaoh’s daughter, then run home quickly to tell his mother. The palace must have been situated very close in Goshen.

Of Bricks…
There’s one other miscellaneous matter that I’d like to take up on this Monday morning: The matter of bricks. I’d never really given it much thought, but making bricks was a hard task, even if all the raw materials for brickmaking are available. I understand the process for brickmaking in Egypt today is roughly the same process used in ancient days! Listen to a description of the brickmaker from an ancient source— from an Egyptian text on the drudgery of agricultural work called, “Satire on the Trades”— “He is dirtier than vines or pigs from treading under his mud. His clothes are stiff with clay; his leather belt is going to ruin… he is miserable. His sides ache… his arms are destroyed…and he washes himself only once a week. He is simply wretched through and through.” (N. Sarna, Exploring Exodus, p.23). Obviously, this description was meant to dissuade Egyptian youths from entering into this trade for a living!

In chapter two of Exodus, we find the Hebrew people languishing in the pit of brickmaking despair. It is in this pit that God finds them. It is from this pit that God will work through Moses to draw them out. When we come to the work of Jesus, we must know that God in Christ must draw us out of our own brickmaking drudgery. We don’t need to have a copy of the “Satire on the Trades” to know our great need. I’m thinking of a great passage from Ephesians here: (2:1-7)
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked,
following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air,
the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh,
carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,
and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—
by grace you have been saved [drawn out!]— and raised us up with him
and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
so that in the coming ages he might show
the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

We will continue to explore the details of chapter two this week.

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