Exodus opens where Genesis leaves off: Jacob and his family settled in Egypt (Exod 1:1-5), and Joseph and his generation died (1:6). Although Joseph’s generation died, their descendants were fruitful and multiplied and filled the land (1:7), far beyond all normal, natural expectations.
In so doing, they were fulfilling the ancient mandate and pattern offered in creation: God commanded his creatures to be fruitful, multiply, and fill their spheres of existence (Gen 1:22), including humans (1:28). God reiterated these commands after the flood (8:17; 9:1, 7). God promised Abraham that he would make him fruitful and multiply his descendants (17:6; cf. 22:17), a promise also reaffirmed to Ishmael (17:20), Isaac (cf. 26:4, 24), and Jacob (28:3; 35:11; 48:4). Their multiplication is already noted in Gen 47:27, and now reaffirmed here in the opening lines of Exodus. God will reaffirm this promise again in Lev 26:9.
As for “filling the land” (Exod 1:7), Jacob’s descendants are again fulfilling the mandate at humanity’s creation; the Hebrew term for “land” is the same Hebrew term for “earth” in Gen 1:28. Paul later apparently applies this biblical principle of multiplication to spiritual progeny. As believers today, we want to be fruitful and grow (Col 1:6, 10, using a word for “grow” from the most common Greek translation of Gen 1:28). We can do this in part by raising children in the faith (cf. Gen 18:19; Deut 6:7) but also by evangelism (Acts 6:7; 12:24; 19:20; which uses the same term for “grow” as in the description of the Israelites growing in Egypt in Acts 7:17).
The Israelites were becoming comfortable in their new homeland. Yet God had promised them a different land, and the time would be coming when they would need to be happy to leave, despite the difficulties of translocating an entire people and their livestock. A new pharaoh, and possibly a new dynasty of pharaohs, was about to shake things up for Jacob’s descendants (Exod 1:8-14).
(For other posts on Exodus, see http://www.craigkeener.com/category/old-testament/exodus/.)