Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi
Early in the Torah, we learn about a preordained decree of slavery that will befall Bnei Yisrael while on their path to becoming a diving nation. This decree was made to Abraham Avinou, before anyone even thought of Egypt:
וַיֹּאמֶר לְאַבְרָם יָדֹעַ תֵּדַע כִּי גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה:
וְגַם אֶת הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲבֹדוּ דָּן אָנֹכִי וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יֵצְאוּ בִּרְכֻשׁ גָּדוֹל:
Then Hashem said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.(Genesis 15:13-14)
Having understood that Bnei Yisrael "had" to eventually become slaves, there a famous question that is asked regarding the punishment that the Egyptians received: If Hashem was set to punish Bnei Yisrael, why punish the nation that was serving as the extension of the divine will? Why punish the Egyptians for fulfilling Hashem's decree? Simply put, was the extent of their punishment fair?
Most commentators answer that the Egyptians, in their ruling over the Jewish people, were more harsh than they were supposed to. The Egyptians used cruel and unforeseen methods of servitude that transcended the slavery that Hashem decreed that the nation was destined to endure. We read of examples of such behavior:
הָבָה נִתְחַכְּמָה לוֹ פֶּן יִרְבֶּה וְהָיָה כִּי תִקְרֶאנָה מִלְחָמָה ו