Lesson 41: Exodus 1–2

“Lesson 41: Exodus 1–2,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 41,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 41

Exodus 1–2


The children of Israel increased in number while in Egypt, and a new pharaoh placed them in bondage. Pharaoh decreed that every newborn Hebrew male be killed. Moses’s mother saved him from the decree, and he was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter. When Moses was grown, he slew an Egyptian while defending a Hebrew slave. Moses fled Egypt and dwelt in Midian, where he married Zipporah. Meanwhile in Egypt, the Israelites cried unto the Lord because of their bondage.

Suggestions for Teaching

Exodus 1:1–22

A new pharaoh places the children of Israel in bondage

Ask students to think of situations they have been in when others have wanted them to do something that was contrary to Heavenly Father’s will.

  • Why is it sometimes difficult or frightening to keep the commandments when others want you to do something different?

As students study Exodus 1, invite them to look for a principle that will help them understand the blessings of following God’s commandments, even when it is difficult to do so.

Ask a student to briefly remind the class about the circumstances that led to the children of Israel living in Egypt (see Genesis 37–47). Summarize Exodus 1:1–8 by explaining that eventually Joseph and his generation died and a new pharaoh rose to power. By this time the children of Israel had greatly increased in number.

  • How did the pharaoh in Joseph’s day regard Joseph? (Pharaoh trusted Joseph and placed him as second-in-command in Egypt.)

Write the following references on the board: Exodus 1:9–10; Exodus 1:11; Exodus 1:12–14; Exodus 1:15–16; Exodus 1:17; Exodus 1:18–19. Give a half sheet of paper to each student. Invite students to open to Exodus 1 and cover the page with the paper. Instruct students not to uncover the verses until you direct them to.

Write the following question on the board: What happens next? Explain to students that they will be asked to predict some of the events recorded in Exodus 1 before they read about them. Ask question 1 below, and invite students to write their predictions of what happened on their pieces of paper. Invite one or two students to share their predictions, and then ask students to uncover and silently read the first set of verses listed on the board (Exodus 1:9–10) to discover how well their predictions match what really happened. Invite students to report what they find. Repeat this process for the remaining references on the board.

  1. How do you think the new pharaoh felt about the increase in the number of Israelites? (See Exodus 1:9–10.)

  2. What do you think Pharaoh did about the increasing number of Israelites? (See Exodus 1:11.)

  3. What do you think occurred after the Israelites were put in bondage? (See Exodus 1:12–14.)

  4. Since placing the Israelites in bondage did not slow their growth in numbers, what do you think Pharaoh did next? (See Exodus 1:15–16.) (To help students understand these verses, you may need to explain that [1] the term Hebrew refers to an Israelite, [2] a midwife is a woman who assists in childbirth, and [3] the phrase “upon the stools” refers to a device [a birthing stool] on which women gave birth.)

  5. What do you think the Hebrew midwives did in response to Pharaoh’s edict? (See Exodus 1:17.)

  6. How do you think Pharaoh responded when he learned that the midwives had not obeyed his command? (See Exodus 1:18–19, 22.)

Invite students to look back at Exodus 1:17, and ask:

  • What does it mean that the midwives “feared God”? (To fear God means to revere or have great respect for Him.)

  • How did the midwives show that they revered God?

  • What might the midwives have risked by choosing to revere God more than Pharaoh?

Invite a student to read Exodus 1:20–21 aloud, and ask the class to look for what God did as a result of the midwives’ choice to revere Him rather than obey Pharaoh’s command. Invite students to report what they discover.

  • According to these verses, how did the Lord “[deal] well” with the midwives? (You may want to point out that verse 21, footnote b, indicates that the Lord blessed the midwives with descendants.)

  • What principle can we learn from this account about what God will do when we revere Him and put His will above that of others? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following principle: As we revere God by putting His will above that of others, He will bless us.)

To help students begin to identify ways to apply this principle in their lives, ask the following question:

  • What are some modern-day challenges that could be likened to what the Israelite midwives faced?

Invite a student read aloud the following statement by Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, Presiding Bishop of the Church. Ask the class to listen for counsel that can help them choose the will of God over the will of others.

Stevenson, Gary E.

“There will be times when you … will have to demonstrate your righteous courage in plain view of your peers, the consequence of which may be ridicule and embarrassment. … He will reward you for your courage and righteous behavior—with happiness and joy. Such courage will be a byproduct of your faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, your prayers, and your obedience to commandments” (“Be Valiant in Courage, Strength, and Activity,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 52).

  • According to Bishop Stevenson, what does it take to choose the will of God over the will of others?

  • When have you or someone you know chosen to revere God by putting His will above the will of others? How did God deal well with you or this person?

Invite students to list in their class notebooks or scripture study journals some things they are currently doing to put the Lord first in their lives. (You may want to suggest an example or two to get them thinking, such as the fact that their attendance in seminary shows reverence for God.) Also ask them to write how God has dealt well with them because of their decision to put His will above the will of others. Invite them to ponder how they can improve in showing reverence for God.

Explain that because Pharaoh was unable to convince the midwives to kill the newborn Hebrew males, he issued a decree to his people. Invite a student to read Exodus 1:22 aloud, and ask the class to look for Pharaoh’s decree. Ask students to report what they find. You may want to ask students what they would do if such a decree were in place and they or someone in their family were about to have a baby.

Exodus 2:1–10

Moses is born to a Levite woman and raised by Pharaoh’s daughter

Explain that one Hebrew mother took steps to preserve the life of her son. Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Exodus 2:1–4, and ask the class to look for what this mother did to save her son. Invite students to report what they find. You may want to point out that both Jesus Christ and Moses were in danger of being killed in infancy and were preserved through the power of God (see Matthew 2:16). Pharaoh’s decree to kill the newborn males and Moses’s miraculous survival foreshadowed (was a type of) Herod’s decree to kill the infant children in Bethlehem and surrounding areas and Jesus’s survival through divine intervention. (See Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [1978], 446.)

Invite students to take turns reading Exodus 2:5–10 aloud with a partner, and ask them to look for the answers to the following questions (you may want to write these questions on the board):

  • Who discovered the child? What did she name him?

  • How was the child’s mother still able to be involved in his upbringing?

After sufficient time, invite students to share their answers to these questions.

Exodus 2:11–22

Moses flees to Midian, marries Zipporah, and becomes a father

Invite students to open to Bible Maps, no. 9, “The World of the Old Testament,” in the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible and locate the land of Midian. Summarize Exodus 2:11–15 by explaining that when Moses was grown, he defended a Hebrew slave by killing an Egyptian who was attempting to beat or kill the slave. When Pharaoh learned about the death, he sought to kill Moses, but Moses fled to Midian.

Summarize Exodus 2:16–22 by explaining that while in Midian, Moses married a woman named Zipporah, with whom he had a son.

Exodus 2:23–25

The children of Israel cry to the Lord in their bondage

Explain that while Moses was in Midian, the children of Israel remained in bondage in Egypt. Invite a student to read Exodus 2:23 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what the children of Israel did because of their bondage. Ask students to report what they find.

Invite another student to read Exodus 2:24–25 aloud, and ask the class to look for what the Lord did when the children of Israel cried to Him. You may want to explain that the phrase “God had respect unto them” means that the Lord was mindful of the children of Israel and their trials (see verse 25, footnote a).

  • What do you think it means that “God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (verse 24)?

  • What doctrines do these verses teach us about God? (Students may suggest a variety of doctrines, but be sure to emphasize that God hears and answers our prayers and God keeps His covenants with His people.)

Explain that although God does hear the prayers of all of His children, His answers and His keeping of His covenants with us are dependent upon our faithfulness (see D&C 82:10). Testify that as students study the remainder of the book of Exodus, they will see evidence of the truthfulness of these doctrines.

Ask students to think about something they have been praying about. Point out that even though Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers, He will not necessarily answer them immediately or in the way in which we hope or expect He will answer them. For instance, at this point in the account in Exodus, the children of Israel were still in bondage and God had not yet delivered them. However, He had begun to prepare the way for them to be delivered through Moses even before they cried unto Him for help. Testify that in a similar way, God may currently be preparing the way for our own prayers to be answered, although we may not be aware of it at this time. Invite students to ponder how God may be doing this in their lives.

To conclude the lesson you may want to testify of the truths you have discussed today.

Commentary and Background Information

Exodus 1:17. “The midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them”

Sometimes the laws of man conflict with God’s commandments. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained our responsibility when this occurs:

“Man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. Commitment to our highest priority—to love and serve God—requires that we look to His law for our standard of behavior. For example, we remain under divine command not to commit adultery or fornication even when those acts are no longer crimes under the laws of the states or countries where we reside. Similarly, laws legalizing so-called ‘same-sex marriage’ do not change God’s law of marriage or His commandments and our standards concerning it. We remain under covenant to love God and keep His commandments and to refrain from serving other gods and priorities—even those becoming popular in our particular time and place.

“In this determination we may be misunderstood, and we may incur accusations of bigotry, suffer discrimination, or have to withstand invasions of our free exercise of religion. If so, I think we should remember our first priority—to serve God—and, like our pioneer predecessors, push our personal handcarts forward with the same fortitude they exhibited” (“No Other Gods,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 75).

Exodus 2:11–15. Why did Moses slay an Egyptian?

“‘Smote’ and ‘slew’ in King James English are both translated from Hebrew nakhah, meaning ‘to beat down’; it is the word used in describing the action taken by soldiers in combat against each other. It would be correct to say that Moses slew a man who was slaying another, or took a life in saving a life. His looking ‘this way and that’ before doing so, simply indicates that he was aware that the Egyptians would not condone his defense of a slave” (Ellis T. Rasmussen, An Introduction to the Old Testament and Its Teachings, 2 vols., 2nd ed. [1972], 1:74).

“The historian Eusebius says that the slaying was the result of a court intrigue in which certain men plotted to assassinate Moses. In the encounter it is said that Moses successfully warded off the attacker and killed him. (Eusebius IX:27.)

“In the Midrash Rabbah, the traditional Jewish commentary on the Old Testament, it is asserted that Moses, with his bare fists, killed an Egyptian taskmaster who was in the act of seducing a Hebrew woman. This is confirmed in the Koran.

“Certainly there must have been good reason for Moses’ act, and most assuredly the Lord would not have called a murderer to the high office of prophet and liberator for his people Israel” (Mark E. Petersen, Moses: Man of Miracles [1977], 42).

Exodus 2:18. Who was Reuel?

“The more common name for Reuel is Jethro (see Exodus 3:1; Numbers 10:29). Jethro was a descendant of Midian, who was a son of Abraham and Keturah (see Genesis 25:1–6). Through this line Moses received the priesthood (see D&C 84:6–13)” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 105).