Exodus 1:11

1:11 So they put foremen over the Israelites to oppress them with hard labor. As a result they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.

Exodus 1:22

1:22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “All sons that are born you must throw into the river, but all daughters you may let live.”

tn Heb “princes of work.” The word שָׂרֵי (sare, “princes”) has been translated using words such as “ruler,” “prince,” “leader,” “official,” “chief,” “commander,” and “captain” in different contexts. It appears again in 2:14 and 18:21 and 25. Hebrew מַס (mas) refers to a labor gang organized to provide unpaid labor, or corvée (Deut 20:11; Josh 17:13; 1 Kgs 9:15, 21). The entire phrase has been translated “foremen,” which combines the idea of oversight and labor. Cf. KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV “taskmasters”; NIV “slave masters”; NLT “slave drivers.”

tn Heb “over them”; the referent (the Israelites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

sn The verb עַנֹּתוֹ (’annoto) is the Piel infinitive construct from עָנָה (’anah, “to oppress”). The word has a wide range of meanings. Here it would include physical abuse, forced subjugation, and humiliation. This king was trying to crush the spirit of Israel by increasing their slave labor. Other terms in the passage that describe this intent include “bitter” and “crushing.”

tn The form is a preterite with the vav (ו) consecutive, וַיִּבֶן (vayyiven). The sequence expressed in this context includes the idea of result.

sn Many scholars assume that because this city was named Rameses, the Pharaoh had to be Rameses II, and hence that a late date for the exodus (and a late time for the sojourn in Egypt) is proved. But if the details of the context are taken as seriously as the mention of this name, this cannot be the case. If one grants for the sake of discussion that Rameses II was on the throne and oppressing Israel, it is necessary to note that Moses is not born yet. It would take about twenty or more years to build the city, then eighty more years before Moses appears before Pharaoh (Rameses), and then a couple of years for the plagues – this man would have been Pharaoh for over a hundred years. That is clearly not the case for the historical Rameses II. But even more determining is the fact that whoever the Pharaoh was for whom the Israelites built the treasure cities, he died before Moses began the plagues. The Bible says that when Moses grew up and killed the Egyptian, he fled from Pharaoh (whoever that was) and remained in exile until he heard that that Pharaoh had died. So this verse cannot be used for a date of the exodus in the days of Rameses, unless many other details in the chapters are ignored. If it is argued that Rameses was the Pharaoh of the oppression, then his successor would have been the Pharaoh of the exodus. Rameses reigned from 1304 b.c. until 1236 and then was succeeded by Merneptah. That would put the exodus far too late in time, for the Merneptah stela refers to Israel as a settled nation in their land. One would have to say that the name Rameses in this chapter may either refer to an earlier king, or, more likely, reflect an updating in the narrative to name the city according to its later name (it was called something else when they built it, but later Rameses finished it and named it after himself [see B. Jacob, Exodus, 14]). For further discussion see G. L. Archer, “An 18th Dynasty Ramses,” JETS 17 (1974): 49-50; and C. F. Aling, “The Biblical City of Ramses,” JETS 25 (1982): 129-37. Furthermore, for vv. 11-14, see K. A. Kitchen, “From the Brick Fields of Egypt,” TynBul 27 (1976): 137-47.

tn The substantive כֹּל (kol) followed by the article stresses the entirety – “all sons” or “all daughters” – even though the nouns are singular in Hebrew (see GKC 411 §127.b).

tn The form includes a pronominal suffix that reiterates the object of the verb: “every son…you will throw it.”

tn The first imperfect has the force of a definite order, but the second, concerning the girls, could also have the nuance of permission, which may fit better. Pharaoh is simply allowing the girls to live.

sn Verse 22 forms a fitting climax to the chapter, in which the king continually seeks to destroy the Israelite strength. Finally, with this decree, he throws off any subtlety and commands the open extermination of Hebrew males. The verse forms a transition to the next chapter, in which Moses is saved by Pharaoh’s own daughter. These chapters show that the king’s efforts to destroy the strength of Israel – so clearly a work of God – met with failure again and again. And that failure involved the efforts of women, whom Pharaoh did not consider a threat.