1 [a] These[b] are the names[c] of the sons of Israel[d] who entered Egypt—each man with his household[e] entered with Jacob: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,
Exodus 1:1sn Chapter 1 introduces the theme of bondage in Egypt and shows the intensifying opposition to the fulfillment of promises given earlier to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The first seven verses announce the theme of Israel’s prosperity in Egypt. The second section (vv. 8-14) reports continued prosperity in the face of deliberate opposition. The third section (vv. 15-21) explains the prosperity as divine favor in spite of Pharaoh’s covert attempts at controlling the population. The final verse records a culmination in the developing tyranny and provides a transition to the next section—Pharaoh commands the open murder of the males. The power of God is revealed in the chapter as the people flourish under the forces of evil. However, by the turn of affairs at the end of the chapter, the reader is left with a question about the power of God—“What can God do?” This is good Hebrew narrative, moving the reader through tension after tension to reveal the sovereign power and majesty of the Lord God, but calling for faith every step of the way. See also D. W. Wicke, “The Literary Structure of Exodus 1:2-2:10, ” JSOT 24 (1982): 99-107.
Exodus 1:1tnHeb “now these” or “and these.” The vav (ו) disjunctive marks a new beginning in the narrative begun in Genesis.
Exodus 1:1sn The name of the book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible is שְׁמוֹת (shemot), the word for “Names,” drawn from the beginning of the book. The inclusion of the names at this point forms a literary connection to the book of Genesis. It indicates that the Israelites living in bondage had retained a knowledge of their ancestry, and with it, a knowledge of God’s promise.
Exodus 1:1tn The expression בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל (bene yisraʾel, “sons of Israel”) in most places refers to the nation as a whole and can be translated “Israelites,” although traditionally it has been rendered “the children of Israel” or “the sons of Israel.” Here it refers primarily to the individual sons of the patriarch Israel, for they are named. But the expression is probably also intended to indicate that they are the Israelites (cf. Gen 29:1, “eastern people,” or “easterners,” lit., “sons of the east”).
Exodus 1:1tnHeb “a man and his house.” Since this serves to explain “the sons of Israel,” it has the distributive sense. So while the “sons of Israel” refers to the actual sons of the patriarch, the expression includes their families (cf. NIV, TEV, CEV, NLT).
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