What’s the Story? – A New King in Egypt

In the same way that the beginning of this week was heavy with meaningful Saints, this weekend is shaping up to be heavy with Stories. The readings that many of us will hear in church on Sunday, while not absolutely essential to the narrative of faith (i.e. I don’t think they’ll be on the heavenly entrance exam) these are some of the most culturally important and frequently question-raising stories. So, bear with me as we wade through a couple of days. You’ll be glad you did.
By many accounts, the story of the Passover and the Israelite escape, through the waters of the Red Sea, from Egypt is the master narrative of the entire bible. It certainly is of central importance for Jews and, to the degree that it serves as a metaphor for the work of Jesus, it is also super-important for Christians. Some have even suggested that it the story that is “at the beginning” of the whole bible. All that comes before it provides reason and set-up for the dramatic action of the escape. I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but I can see the point.
Lot’s of folks still ask, though, “Why were the Hebrews slaves in Egypt in the first place?” Were they captured by the Egyptians in a war that we didn’t read about? Were they sold there by some other invading army? Surely they didn’t volunteer, did they?
The answer is “D”, none of the above.
Between the end of last week’s story about Joseph inviting his brothers and their families to come down and live with him in Egypt, escaping the famine that plagued their homeland, and the opening of today’s story, several generations have passed. We are left to assume that in the intervening years the Israelites and Egyptians lived in peace. But now something has changed.
“There arose a king in Egypt who did not know Joseph.”
And there you have it. Regime change. Evidentially, whatever agreement that the Hebrews had with the Egyptians expired within a few life times. The folks in charge simply “forgot” how things were supposed to be and God’s people suffered for it.  They were trapped, not in a cleverly designed scheme or through show of force, but by time and inattention and the decay of relationships.
How often do we get trapped in this way? For me at least, its more often than I’d like to admit.

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