Second Fiddle: Pharaoh and the problem of human worth

At my church, we’ve begun a sermon series focused on taking a look at popular stories throughout the Bible, and looking at them through the eyes of secondary Characters. We are doing this because, for many of us, we’ve heard these accounts so many times that we have lost the awe-factor in the narrative. This series is our attempt to rediscover that awe. Because of the length of each post, I’ll be breaking them down into smaller, more manageable sections that will post each day. I look forward to hearing your responses!


Second Fiddle Header


What we’ll be studying

This week we’re kicking off a new sermon series that I’m very excited to work through. With that, I want to start this morning with a question.

How many of you have spent a large portion of your life in, or around, church?

When you read the Bible, and you read, most of the major stories are very familiar to you. Sure, there are stories that you can always find new and exciting, but, if the Bible story standards were people, you would be on first name basis with them. Is that most of you?

That’s me. I was born the son of a pastor, grew up in Sunday School and Vacation Bible school, went to Christian Schools all my life, and graduated with a degree in Ministry.

My life has revolved around, in some way-shape-or-form, around the stories in the Bible.

Where once stories of Egyptian captivity, or sleep-overs with lions created excitement and intrigue, they become very dull and predictable.

But the Bible, and the stories, lessons and invitations are anything BUT dull and boring. This sermon series is all about re-discovering the excitement and intrigue in the pages of the Bible.

Today, we’ll be looking at the famous story of Israel and their captivity in Egypt.

We’ll be reading from Exodus 1:1-16

These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy[a] in all; Joseph was already in Egypt.

Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.

Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”

11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.

15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.”

Traditional Lesson

Nearly always, when studying and reading this passage, it is used as a set up for Moses, and for the coming plagues and exodus of the Israelites. It’s a verse usually designated for talking about the perceived silence of God, and how when we call on him and he seems to not hear, he is always at work…even if we cannot see or feel it.

All are very beautiful and true.


Today, however, we’re going to take our focus and our attention away from the Israelites and away from the coming of Moses and their miraculous freedom, and instead turn our attention towards this new Pharaoh.

In this passage, we see a new Pharaoh bent on ushering in a new dynasty in the land of Egypt. The old ways are gone, and the new ways are coming whether they wanted them or not.

Join us tomorrow as we delve deeper into this story.


One thought on “Second Fiddle: Pharaoh and the problem of human worth

  1. Pingback: Second Fiddle: Pharaoh and the problem of human worth. Part 2 | Michael Palmer

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