Israel Forged in Furnace of Egypt


“But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.” KJV (Deuteronomy 4:20) “Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace . . . ” (Jeremiah 11:4)

The years Israel spent in Egypt were significant. Their deliverance from Egypt was more significant. The blessing of their rescue from the land of oppression eclipsed the time of their sorrow. Although they had worked strenuously as slaves in Egypt, they had not received appropriate wages. But the night they were delivered, God made it up to them. That night the Lord saw to it they received all back-pay, so to speak. It is written, “they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians” (Ex 12:35-36).

For Israel, their time in Egypt was time in “THE IRON FURNACE.” This is a term for a place where strong metal is fabricated. It is a place where the heat is turned up and strength is the result. The NRSV translates the phrase “iron-smelter,” and the NIV says “iron-smelting furnace.” It was not a furnace made out of iron, but a furnace where iron was made. Through heat, undesirable materials were removed, and desired ones fused together to make strong and durable iron. Egypt was Israel’s “iron furnace,” where they were made strong.

While slaves in Egypt, “the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor” (Ex 1:13). It is written, “they made their lives bitter with hard bondage; in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor” (Ex 1:14). The time came when the Israelites had to gather their own straw for making bricks. The quota of bricks they had to produce remained the same, even though additional work was added to them (Ex 5:7-9). No idle time was given to them, and no provision made for worshiping God.

In all of this hardship, something was happening. The Israelites, like iron, were becoming stronger, more capable of endurance. They were, in fact, being prepared for their deliverance, when they would traverse a desert, and be required to endure hardship. Egypt was, indeed, an iron furnace in which they were made fit for their journey. And what soul cannot see that the same thing is happening to saints in this world. Our hardship is making us stronger–like iron.

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