Have you ever paid attention to the language of Exodus chapter 1? Some of us read it like an introduction of a novel without noticing something dramatic is taking place.
After Moses completes writing Genesis, he sets to work presenting to the Israelites their contemporary history. It is not that Exodus chapter 1 is an introductory chapter, rather all of the book of Genesis is the introductory chapter leading up to the book of Exodus. And Moses takes great pains in the language he uses to show Israel exactly what God is doing. What is he doing? Read Exodus 1 and take note that 8 times Israel’s multiplication is mentioned center stage. Moses uses the words fruitful, multiply, and spread out. Three times he refers to Israel as mighty.
Why is this important?
Because, this is covenant language that harkens back to Genesis chapter 1, when God gave mankind the cultural mandate. Look at what God commanded to Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28).
In Exodus chapter 1 the pharaoh was not unduly concerned about Israel’s growth, rather, he was rightly concerned about their growth. Israel’s growth, even while suffering from slavery, was a fulfillment of what was originally commanded in Genesis chapter 1. Pharaoh believed that Israel was a threat to the Egyptians. And he was correct, because part of the cultural mandate, and promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3, 17:1-8), was that Israel would multiply, spread out, and take dominion.
Now, travel forward to modern times. The numbers of people coming to Christ globally have never been as high as it is right now. Whether a government violently oppresses Christians, like North Korea or Iran, or commits a soft oppression, as in North America, the growth of Christianity is a threat to the world system. It is a world system that is under Satan’s domination, “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (I John 5:19). Just as Israel’s growth could have swept over the Egyptians, given enough time, so too, the church of Jesus is commanded to grow and spread out mightily.
Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” This too is covenant language that harkens back to the original commands in Genesis 1. Thus, when we obey the Great Commission we are on the offensive, rescuing those trapped under Satan’s domination, even this world system, “To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in [Jesus]” (Acts 26:18).
When you read the Bible, keep Genesis 1:28 in mind as a filter through which you read everything. This covenant language is used throughout many parts of scripture. It is like a thread weaved through every book of the Bible helping us to make sense of everything we read.