As we read the opening lines of the Book of Exodus, we might be saying to ourselves, “What was God thinking when he decided that Joseph should go to Egypt and eventually see his entire family migrate there?” The king or pharaoh has died, and a new king has taken his place. He chooses to disregard all that Joseph did to save Egypt from famine. Was it really a good idea to send God’s chosen people to Egypt where they were enslaved and oppressed by the new Egyptian king?
The Book of Genesis seemed to have such a happy ending, but the opening verses of the Book of Exodus dull the echo of those verses that told of the reunion of Joseph with his father and his brothers. As if it were not enough that the people became slaves, the king orders all the male babies to be slaughtered so that these people will not be able to rise up in rebellion. Curiously, the king seems to forget that such a decree will also curtail the number of able-bodied slaves to build his cities. The women of Israel demonstrate that the pharaoh’s power is not all encompassing.
Before we question whether it was a good idea to send Israel and his children to Egypt, it is incumbent upon us to remember that God’s plan of salvation is at work in Egypt. The oppression and misery of which we read in the opening verses of Exodus are merely the stepping-stones to freedom and the establishment of the covenant on Mt. Sinai.
Just as the cross of Jesus was necessary to bring about the resurrection, the plight of the Israelites in Egypt is necessary to bring about the evolution of the people that will be called peculiarly God’s own. As we celebrate the new covenant at the table of the Lord today, we remember all that God has done to bring us to this relationship.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator