“And the Egyptians put the Israelites to work at crushing labor, and they made their lives bitter with hard work with mortar and bricks and every work in the field— all their crushing work that they performed.”-Exodus 1:13-14
Verses 13 and 14 in Chapter One of Exodus is one of those places in Scripture where it really pays to know the original Hebrew if we want to grasp the spiritual significance of what God is trying to communicate us.
Note the underlined and bolded words above: crushing labor, hard work, and crushing work.
The original Hebrew root word for all of these English renderings is ABAD or עָבַד.
Literally, this word means “to serve“.
This word appears five times in verses 13 and 14 in different variations.
In the original Hebrew, the Bible writer emphasizes the harshness of slavery by repeating this central thematic keyword.
If we were to rewrite these verses more in tune with how it’s rendered in Hebrew, it would be something like the following:
“And the Egyptians made the Israelites SUBSERVIENT with crushing labor, and they made their lives bitter with hard SERVITUDE in mortar and bricks and every SERVICE in the field— all their SERVICE in which they made them SUBSERVIENT with backbreaking labor.”
The point is this.
The Hebrew word ABAD meaning “to serve” is neutral.
It has neither a negative nor positive connotation.
What makes the word positive or negative is WHO YOU ARE SERVING.
Did you get that?
When you serve the devil and his agents, you’re setting yourself up for a life of bitterness, even if it seems otherwise at the time.
On the other hand, service for the Lord, is joyful and fulfilling.
For example, if you’re just working in a profession for the money, you’ve already been duped by the devil.
You’re like a donkey following a carrot stick that will ultimately never satisfy.
At this point, we see only the negative side of “serving” or “being of service” to somebody.
Later on, we will be given positive examples.
NEXT TIME WE BEGIN EXODUS CHAPTER TWO