||These are the names of Israel's sons who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family:
||Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah,
||Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin,
||Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher.
||The [original] number of Jacob's direct descendants, including Joseph who was in Egypt, was seventy.
||Joseph, his brothers, and [everyone else in] that generation died.
||The Israelites were fertile and prolific, and their population increased. They became so numerous that the land was filled with them.
The New Order
||A new king who did not know of Joseph, came into power over Egypt.
||He announced to his people, 'The Israelites are becoming too numerous and strong for us.
||We must deal wisely with them. Otherwise, they may increase so much, that if there is war, they will join our enemies and fight against us, driving [us] from the land.'
||[The Egyptians] appointed conscription officers over [the Israelites] to crush their spirits with hard labor. [The Israelites] were to build up the cities of Pithom and Ra'amses as supply centers for Pharaoh.
||But the more [the Egyptians] oppressed them, the more [the Israelites] proliferated and spread. [The Egyptians] came to dread the Israelites.
||The Egyptians started to make the Israelites do labor designated to break their bodies.
||They made the lives of [the Israelites] miserable with harsh labor involving mortar and bricks, as well as all kinds of work in the field. All the work they made them do was intended to break them.
||The king of Egypt spoke to the [chief] Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shifra and Puah.
||He said, 'When you deliver Hebrew women, you must look carefully at the birthstool. If [the infant] is a boy, kill it; but if it is a girl, let it live.'
||The midwives feared God, and did not do as the Egyptian king had ordered them. They allowed the infant boys to live.
||The king of Egypt summoned the midwives and demanded, 'Why did you do this? You let the infant boys live!'
||'The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptians,' replied the midwives to Pharaoh. 'They know how to deliver. They can give birth before a midwife even gets to them.'
||God was good to the midwives, and the people increased and became very numerous.
||Because the midwives feared God, He gave them great families [of their own].
||Pharaoh then gave orders to all his people: 'Every boy who is born must be cast into the Nile, but every girl shall be allowed to live.'
Literally, 'souls emanating from Jacob's thigh.' See Genesis 46:26; note on Genesis 24:2.
See Genesis 46:27.
|A new king|
Or, 'regime' or 'dynasty.' According to tradition, this occurred around the time of Miriam's birth, which was 2361 (1400 b.c.e.). Hence, the name Miriam denotes bitterness (Seder Olam Rabbah 3). The 'new king' would then be Thutmose IV, who reigned 1411-1397 b.c.e.
If we accept the 163 year discrepancy (see note on Genesis 12:15), then this occurred around what would be considered 1563 b.c.e. The New Kingdom, starting with the 18th Dynasty, is known to have begun in 1575 b.c.e. This started with Ahmose (Ach-moshe), who drove the Hyksos out of Egypt. Although the Israelites were not driven out at this time, the Hyksos were a Semitic tribe, and therefore the changed political climate would have adversely affected the Israelites. A new surge of nationalism would also have resulted in prejudice against foreign elements. (cf. Josephus, Contra Apion 1:14,26. Also see Yov'loth 46:11).
|driving us from the land|
Literally, 'they will [make us] go up from the land' (Sotah 11a; Rashi; Saadia Gaon; Syriac). Or, 'they will leave the land' (Rashi; Ibn Ezra).
According to tradition, this is Tanis (Targum Yonathan). Tanis was an ancient Egyptian city on the north-east delta of the Nile. It was the chief commercial center of Egypt, and the capital of the Hyksos. It might have been razed when the Hyksos were expelled, and now it had to be rebuilt. Although the Hyksos had been driven to the north, supply depots would be necessary if a new campaign were required.
It might be possible to identify Pithom with Patumus, which is mentioned in ancient histories as being to the north of the Suez Canal (Herodotus 2:158). It may also be the Per-atum (house of the god Atum), a city near Tjeku (Sukkoth?) mentioned in ancient sources (Papyrus Anastasi 4:4:56). This is identified with Tell el Maskhutah, on the eastern edge of Wadi Tumilat.
The name Pithom may come from the Egyptian pi tem, 'the place of crying out.'
See Genesis 47:11. There, however, the area was named Rameses, while here it is Ra'amses (cf. Ibn Ezra). It is identified as Pelusium commanding the entrance to Egypt (see note on Genesis 47:11) (Herodotus 2:141). Others identify it as Qantir.
(Ibn Ezra; cf. Sforno). Some say that these midwives were Israelites (Rashbam), and Talmudic tradition associates them with Yokhebed and Miriam or Elisheva (Sotah 11b). Others say that the midwives were Egyptian (Malbim; Josephus, Antiquities 2:9:2) hence, the verse would be translated 'the midwives in charge of the Hebrews.' One source states that the midwives were proselytes (Midrash Tadshe 21; Yalkut Shimoni, Yehoshua 9).
Avnayim in Hebrew, literally, 'twin stones.' In those days, women gave birth sitting up, so that when the baby was delivered between the 'twin stones' of the birthstool, it would be held by the midwife. Others translate the verse 'you must look between their rigid (stone-like) legs' (Sotah 11b; Sh'moth Rabbah 1:14, 18); or, 'you will see them in heavy labor' (Hirsch).
|gave them great families|
(Targum Yonathan; Rashi; Ibn Ezra). Literally, 'He made them houses.' According to others, '[Pharaoh] set up clinics for them' (so that the Hebrew women would not be able to deliver at home; Lekach Tov; Rashbam; Tur).