Prisoners Of War - Part I
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me…to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” —Isaiah 61:14
As the viceroy of Egypt, Joseph brought Jacob, his father, and his family to Egypt to avoid the famine. As decades passed, the number of Israelites grew and multiplied into the millions. When a new pharaoh came to the throne—one who did not regard Joseph—he felt threatened by the growing population of Israelites. He was afraid that if Egypt was attacked, the Israelites might join the enemy and fight against Egypt. So he came up with a plan to put them into forced labor to make bricks and build his treasure cities.
Bitter Hard Bondage
Although there was no battle between the Egyptians and the Israelites, the Israelites eventually submitted control of their lives to the Egyptians. They allowed themselves to become involved in idol worship and became slaves (Romans 6:16) to the Egyptians. The Egyptians were grieved by the great number of Israelites and made their lives bitter through hard bondage. The Israelites were forced by their taskmasters to serve with “rigour” which means “to break in pieces and to crush” (Ex. 1:11-14).
Even though there was no military battle with weapons, the Israelites were spiritually defeated and became prisoners of war. They lost all of their possessions, and they were tortured with repeated physical and verbal abuse. Because they were afraid of their growing numbers, the Egyptians did not care if the Israelites lived or died. In fact, the pharaoh told the midwives to kill all of the Israelite boy babies when they were born. The Israelites were treated as slaves, and every aspect of their lives was controlled. They were given only the bare essentials of food, clothing, shelter, and medical help—just enough to survive and do hard manual labor. They were treated worse than animals.
I Am Come Down To Deliver
But God had not forgotten them. When they cried out to Him, He heard them. He told Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians” (Ex. 3:7-8).
Through the plagues, God defeated the idol gods of Egypt and won deliverance of the Israelites. In doing so, He convinced Moses, the Israelites, the Egyptians, and Pharaoh that He was the true God.
Even though Pharaoh let the Israelites go, he changed his mind and sent his army after them. They caught the Israelites at the Red Sea, but God, again, miraculously delivered them. Pharaoh told his army to chase and destroy the Israelites through the Red Sea, but after the Israelites were free on the other side, God closed the Red Sea and destroyed the Egyptian army, which was, at that time, the greatest army in the world.
Song Of Triumph
On the wilderness side of the Red Sea, the Israelites sang: “I will sing unto the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea” (Ex. 15:1).
Later, in the Roman Empire, when a general won a great victory by killing more than 5,000 enemy soldiers and expanded the empire, he was given a great victory parade called “a triumph.”
The victorious general would ride in a chariot wearing a purple tunic and a jeweled crown, and he carried an ivory scepter. He was followed by members of the senate and other government officials. Next came some of the spoils of the battle: pictures of the conquered lands and ships, musicians, priests, a white bull to be sacrificed, and the captives of the defeated enemy.
This was similar to the joyous celebration of the Israelites for the triumph of God over the Egyptians at the Red Sea. Also, this is an example of what it is like to be a prisoner of war to sin and the victory and freedom from captivity and bondage that was won by Jesus on the Cross.
Next month, we will look at the release of another group of prisoners of war.