I am excited to get up to the Book of Exodus in the detailed studies. Starting with Exodus, God plays a more interactive role with part of mankind for a little while. So here you get to better know the Christian God to an extent that would not happen again until the times of Jesus.
Since their God-made-famine-induced entry into Egyptian slavery, the Israelites have been rapidly reproducing. The Pharaoh fears their numbers, and orders all male baby Israelites killed to control the population. Moses' mom puts the baby Moses on the Nile in a basket, where he happens to catch the eye of Pharaoh's daughter, who then adopts him. As an adult, Moses killed an Egyptian who was oppressing some Hebrews. Moses then fled to Midian to avoid Pharaoh's justice for the murder; a death sentence. In Midian, Moses marries Zipporah and has a son named Gershom.
God Gets Reminded
God is said to be omniscient in the past, present, and future tenses. So if God provides a prophesy, it should be infallible. There is such a prophesy which relates to the Exodus in Genesis 15:13-16:
Then the LORD said to [Abraham], "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." NIVThe “country not their own” turns out to be Egypt. The enslavement comes from Joseph, who was doing God's bidding during a God-made-famine. (I find it particularly twisted that God is planning on punishing Egypt when it was due to His powers that the Israelites were enslaved there!)
The 400 years comes from God, as, according to the prophesy, He was the one that needed to deliver the Israelites from their oppressors. Why 400 years? As we see, God needed the Amorites to become as evil as they possibly could before He was to send His chosen people to wipe them out. And if His chosen people suffered in the mean time? So be it.
So, was God anxiously awaiting the day when He would deliver His people from oppression? Not exactly. We find in Exodus 2:23-25:
During that long period [when Moses had fled to Midian], the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. NIVWe find that God was reminded of His covenant and associated prophesy. It would seem as though God's mind works like the human mind; having incredible storage capacity, but sometimes needing triggers to recall memories. If it wasn't for the complaining of the Israelites, who knows how long they would have remained slaves.
In the next chapter, we see God spinning the situation to paint the best picture of Himself. Exodus 3:7-10
The LORD said [to Moses], "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." NIVGod leaves out the fact that He is the reason that the Israelites are in their oppressive slavery to begin with. Their slavery for the past four hundred or so years hasn't moved God enough to be concerned with their suffering until this point. That's quite sad. God's compassion in unreliable, or at least ill-timed.
Speaking of timing, that's another interesting point. You see, God didn't rescue the Israelites right at 400 years. According to Exodus 12:40-41, it was 430 years after the Israelites entered Egypt, to the day, that God delivered them from slavery. So I guess that should be a lesson for everyone: God's timing isn't always precise. So if you feel that God isn't acting according to His promised time line, start complaining! It just might work.