As is the Torah tells us that Bnei Yisrael in Egypt multiplied greatly. To deal with this great increase in the number of Jews, Pharaoh says (1:10) “Hava Nitchakmah Lo,” which means, “come, let us act shrewdly with them.” The question is asked: why would Pharaoh need to outsmart Bnei Yisrael and put them to work instead of just wiping them out with force?
As the decision was being made, Pharaoh had an interesting dilemma. The people were growing too quickly and would soon outnumber the residents of Egypt, but Bnei Yisrael were so useful to Pharaoh that there was no way he could send them away. This, is in actuality, one of the first instances of a phenomena that is far too well known to us, anti-Semitism. Although the Jews were a true threat to the Egyptians, at the same time they had too much purpose as an irreplaceable part of Egyptian society.
The Ramban offers three other reasons that the Jews could not simply be exterminated. First, Pharaoh thought that declaring war on Bnei Yisrael would be some sort of treason. After all, Yosef, one of Bnei Yisrael, had saved Egypt from suffering through the famine as well as making them rich through it and the Jews were invited to the land by Yosef. Second, the people of Egypt would not agree with such a radical act of war. Pharaoh would at least have to consult with his advisors before undertaking such a large project. Finally, if Pharaoh were to make a war with Bnei Yisrael, they would not die willingly. Odds are that they would stage an attempt to fight Pharaoh and defend themselves. Even though the Egyptians would probably win, it would be an unnecessary use of manpower.
The decision to just act shrewdly or trick Bnei Yisrael was meant to keep them calm and not alarm them. Pharaoh’s action against Bnei Yisrael could be limited to himself and the midwives, whereas a war would involve far too many people who did not need to get involved. Secondly, killing the males at childbirth would not look suspicious, and nobody would be able to pin the deaths on Pharaoh. Tricking the people was a safer political route for Pharaoh to take.
Throughout our generations people have risen against us to try to exterminate us, just as Pharaoh did. The most recent case is Hitler and the Nazis. Although they took a different (but eerily similar) route than Pharaoh, the destination was still the same. Innocent Jewish lives were taken. Hitler also, tricked the Jews into their deaths while waging a war on them. One of the reasons that the Nazis switched to gas chambers as opposed to mass shootings is that there were residents of the countries he was occupying who disagree with him and spoke against him. This is an idea that the Ramban pointed out in saying why Pharaoh chose trickery. However there is another side to the story. We all know how after all of Pharaoh’s subjugation Hashem miraculously saved our nation and led it to ever greater heights. So, too, in our time, Hashem will continue to produce a fantastic salvation that will continue to make us greater than ever.