17 “But when the time of the promise drew near which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt 18 till another king arose who did not know Joseph. 19 This man dealt treacherously with our people, and oppressed our forefathers, making them expose their babies, so that they might not live.
Stephen told the story of Moses’ deliverance of Israel to the Sanhedrin in verses 17-36. In this section, he defends himself against the accusation of rejecting Moses’ authority. He divided Moses’ life into three sections of 40 years:
-the first 40 years were about his growing up in Pharaoh’s household (Acts 7:17-22);
-the second 40 years covered his rejection by his fellow Jews and his sojourn in Midian (Acts 7:23-29);
-the last 40 years were God’s call of Moses from the burning bush to the Exodus and wilderness wanderings (Acts 7:30-34).
“But when the time of the promise drew near which God had sworn to Abraham,
The “promise” here is the covenant God gave to Abraham in Genesis 12-15 (Acts 7:5).
the people grew and multiplied in Egypt
The population of Jews grew and explosively multiplied while they were in Egypt. This growth was a partial fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.
till another king arose who did not know Joseph.
Another Pharaoh arose who did not know about the accomplishments of Joseph for the nation of Egypt. He became alarmed by the growing numbers of Israelites (Ex 1:10-11).
This man [a successive Pharaoh] dealt treacherously with our people, and oppressed our forefathers, making them expose their babies, so that they might not live.
With Pharaoh’s fear of the numerical growth of Israel, he decided to deal treacherously with God’s people. One of his methods was to kill their infants (Mt 2:16). This hostile Pharaoh enslaved them and put them in forced labor (Ex 1:11, 15-16, 22).
The fulfillment of God’s promises sometimes takes time.
After 400 centuries of exile in Egypt, God was faithful to His promise that Israel would multiply Abraham’s seed and that He would give him land in Canaan. God fulfilled this promise after much suffering by the Israelites. The Pharaoh and the Egyptians exploited them.