What does Exodus 1:10 mean?
ESV: Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.”
NIV: 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.'
NASB: Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, otherwise they will multiply, and in the event of war, they will also join those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.'
CSB: Come, let's deal shrewdly with them; otherwise they will multiply further, and when war breaks out, they will join our enemies, fight against us, and leave the country."
NLT: We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country. '
KJV: Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.
Verse Commentary:
Pharaoh continues his discussion with his people (Exodus 1:9) by declaring the answer to the problem of the large Hebrew population is to "deal shrewdly" with the Israelites. He bases his decision on the fear that the Israelites will become so numerous they will join Egypt's enemies during war and escape from the land. This policy was likely enforced for many years since two cities were built following this command.

This effort to "deal shrewdly" included forced labor, or what we today would define as slavery. This would serve as the first of three phases of oppression noted in this chapter. After this first phase of enslavement verse 12 notes that the population of Israel continued to grow. Second, the Egyptians "ruthlessly" forced the Israelites to work as slaves, making "their lives bitter" with harsh labor as brick makers and workers in fields (Exodus 1:12–14). Third, the Pharaoh will later tell Hebrew midwives to throw newborn Hebrew sons into the Nile. This infanticide was intended to reduce population growth (Exodus 1:15–22). Yet the midwives let the children live out of fear of God, causing Pharaoh to extend this murderous command to all of the Egyptian people (Exodus 1:22). Despite these efforts, nothing could stop God's plan to turn the Jewish people into a mighty nation (Genesis 12:1–3).
Verse Context:
Exodus 1:1–14 describes the explosive growth of the nation of Israel and the erosion of their relationship to Egypt. Joseph's efforts in the past saved Egypt from ruin, and his family was welcomed into the land. Generations later, the drastic increase in their population is seen as a threat to the Egyptian people. Motivated by a combination of fear and disgust, the king of Egypt brutally enslaves the people of Israel in an attempt to reduce their numbers. This effort fails, and the following passage shows Pharaoh resorting to infanticide in an effort to control the Hebrews.
Chapter Summary:
The children of Abraham and Jacob grow rapidly, forming a prosperous nation made up of twelve tribes, one for each son of Jacob. This inspires fear and hate from the Egyptians. Their king first tries to slow down the Hebrews' growth by enslaving them. Next, he increases the brutality of their work. Then, he tries to command Jewish midwives to kill their own people's newborn baby boys. When these all fail, he openly orders the murder of all Jewish infant boys. Inadvertently, this creates the very situation which leads to the rise of Israel's eventual leader, Moses.
Chapter Context:
Exodus chapter 1 establishes the difficult reality faced by the nation of Israel. At the end of Genesis, Abraham's descendants were finally safe. In this passage, they become prosperous and expand rapidly. This, however, results in fear and hatred from the native Egyptians, who enact a program of slavery and infanticide against the Hebrews. This sets the scene for the arrival of Israel's greatest leader, the prophet Moses, who will speak for God during this time of Israel's rescue. The next chapter explains Moses' dangerous childhood and exile in the desert.
Book Summary:
The book of Exodus establishes God's covenant relationship with the full-fledged nation of Israel. The descendants of Abraham prosper after settling in Egypt, only to be enslaved by a fearful, hateful Egyptian Pharaoh. God appoints Moses to lead the people out of this bondage. Moses serves as God's spokesman, as the Lord brings plagues and judgments on Egypt, leading to the release of Israel.
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