1. Preliminary Basics
The Book of Exodus records the redemption of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. It also shows the establishment as a nation governed by terms of God’s covenant and God’s laws.
Israel was in Egypt for about 430 years. In that time, the Israelites grew in number. They entered Egypt with 70 people (Genesis 46:27;Exodus 1:5). At the time of the Exodus, they had grown to between 2-3 million people.
Exodus means going out or departure.
The traditional Hebrew name of the book is simply Now these are the names, which is the first words recorded in the Book.
Exodus 19:1 (ESV)
19 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.
Chapters 1-18) Israel departs Egypt
Chapters 19-40) God comes to dwell with His people
The entire Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) has been traditionally ascribed to Moses. Parts of Exodus attribute Moses as the author.
Exodus 17:14 (ESV)
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
Other Scripture writers assign mosaic authorship to Exodus.
John 1:45 (ESV)
45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Romans 10:5 (ESV)
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.
Jesus ascribes authorship to Moses…
Mark 7:10 (ESV)
10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’
Exodus along with the rest of the Pentateuch was written during Israel’s time in the wilderness. The standard view is that Moses kept records of everything that took place and then officially wrote the Book during the time in the Plains of Moab shortly before his death.
The date is between 1400-1450 BC.
Some have dated it as early as 1275 BC. However, there is strong evidence of a 1400-1450 BC date.
Where scholars arrive at literally, a 1446 date of the Book is from 1 Kings
1 Kings 6:1 (ESV)
6 In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the Lord.
Here, The Exodus took place 480 years before the Temple was founded and that was in 966 BC. This gives us a date of 1446 BC for the Exodus.
Solomon reigned from 970 to 930 BC, then he began building the temple in 966 BC
Solomon’s first year, according to this chronology, was 970/969 B.C., and his fourth year (in which he began the construction of the temple) was 967/966 B.C. Based on these dates, we may conclude that the Exodus occurred in or very close to the year 1447/1446 B.C.
4. Themes and Literary Structure
Central to the Book of Exodus is the idea of God’s redemption. Because He is faithful to His people because of His covenant promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob God delivers His people from slavery. He preserves them through the wilderness and prepares them to enter the Promised Land.
To make the people ready to one day become a great nation, God gives Moses His Law. This Law is God’s moral, civil, and ceremonial laws. It will also include the specific patterns for the Tabernacle.
Another important theme is the focus on knowing God.
Exodus 5:1–2 (ESV)
5 Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’ ” 2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”
Pharoah did not know God.
The plagues are designed, for example, by God to make Himself known to the Egyptians and to the Israelites.
Even though Moses shared an intimate relationship with God and knew Him better than anyone else, there was still an aspect of God Moses could not know…He could not see God’s face.
Exodus 33:17–20 (ESV)
17 And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”
One day that barrier will be taken away. At the death of the perfect Passover Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ made a way for us one day to see God and behold His glory. Sin’s barrier is being removed.
Exodus can be divided into two main sections.
Redemption From Slavery-Chapters 1-18
Revelation from God- Chapters 19-40
Exodus involves movement…There is the movement of the Israelites from Egypt to Mount Sinai and then there is the movement of God who takes up residence within the camp of the Israelites. It is at Sinai that God and His people come together officially.
At Sinai God and His people are reunited in a way that shows partial restoration following the sin of Adam. Sinai also anticipates more in terms of restoration when God’s presence will one day fill the earth in the New Heavens and New Earth.
6. Interpreting Exodus
The Book of Exodus presupposes that the reader has some understanding of the Book of Genesis. Exodus begins without explaining who the people are nor does it tell us that Israel and Jacob are the same person.
Exodus 1:1–5 (ESV)
1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt.
Another issue Exodus assumes is that the reader already understands God’s Covenant that He made with Abraham and then to all the patriarchs.
We remember the Covenant and how God worked through sinful man and dire situations to maintain the promise.
Genesis 12:1–3 (ESV)
12 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So, Exodus shows further how it is that God moves His Covenant forward through history even when things from a human perspective look bad. God’s people are slaves now in Egypt how can the Covenant possibly survive?
When we look at the big picture of Exodus, we see that God’s action in coming to dwell among the Israelites has every appearance of reversing, at least in part and on a small scale what He will finally do at the end of the age. In this reversal of Eden, we see Sinai and the Passover as key elements.
If God is going to dwell with us one day, we must exhibit godliness. This was the Law of God given on Sinai. One day when our glorification is completed, we will reflect everything God desires us to be.
Passover is another element where God redeems His people. He shows that the shed blood of the sacrificial substitute is required to allow God to Passover and rather than pass judgement, God can extend mercy and grace.
7. Exodus and the New Testament
So much of Exodus points to our Lord. If the Lord wills it, we will cover these in detail in the months to come. So I don’t want to reveal these quite yet.
However, in a more general sense, the Book of Exodus sets forth an OT paradigm for salvation. The Exodus account serves and informs the NT writers’ understanding of the death of Jesus at the time of the Passover Celebration.
1 Corinthians 5:7–8 (ESV)
7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
All the Gospels draw on the Book of Exodus to help inform how it is they are to view Jesus’ death; the Book of John is the richest on this topic as he highlights many specific similarities between Jesus and the Passover Lamb.
Here’s an example…
John 19:33–37 (ESV)
33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
Why would John mention this?
None of Jesus’ bones were broken…
Exodus 12:46 (ESV)
46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones.
John makes sure we make the connection.
I pray that as we begin our study in the Book of Exodus, we will know God better and we will see His Son even more clearly.
Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts
The Old Testament Explained and Applied by Gareth Crossley
Exodus from Teach the Text Commentaries by T. Desmond Alexander