Exodus Overview: Redemption of a Covenant People


1. Name

The Hebrew title of Exodus means, “And these are the names of,” and is derived from the opening words of Exodus 1:1. The Septuagint title, exodos (“exit, departure”), is the origin of the Vulgate’s term Exodus, and refers to Israel’s departure from Egypt, the main event of the book.

2. Theme

Delivery from slavery and laws for life.[footnote]G Crossley, The Old Testament Explained and Applied (England: Evangelical Press, 2002), 77.[/footnote]

3. Purpose

To affirm the divine authority of Moses’ leadership and of covenant law and worship regulations.[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 97[/footnote]

4. Key verses

Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation (Ex. 15:13).

I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Ex. 20:2-3)

5. Key truths

• The Lord authorized Moses as Israel’s leader to bring the blessing of deliverance from Egypt.
• The covenant laws given by Moses were divinely authorized to lead to blessings for God’s people.
• Moses and regulations for worship at the Tabernacle were divinely ordained to lead to blessings for God’s people.[footnote]Ibid., 97.[/footnote]

I. Author

See Lecture 1 regarding Mosaic authorship of Pentateuch.
Exodus, like Genesis, was substantially written by Moses. He may have used oral sources (e.g.; birth and infant deliverance narratives), memories, written sources (10 Commandments [Ex. 20:1-17], the Book of the Covenant [Ex. 20:18 – Ex. 23:33]), and scribal records. There is explicit reference to Mosaic writing activity in Exodus 24:4; Exodus 24:7; Exodus 34:4; Exodus 27-29. Joshua 8:31 refers to the words of Exodus 20:25 as being written in the Book of the Law of Moses. Also, Jesus called Exodus “the book of Moses” (Mark 7:10; Mark 12:26; Luke 2:22-23).

II. Date

Although the book stretches from the time of Israel’s bondage in Egypt to their receiving God’s law at Mount Sinai there are hints that the book reached its final form at a later date.
You will remember that we could not be sure if Genesis was addressed to the 1st or 2nd generation of Israel which came out of Egypt. But, in Exodus, two verses hint at the later date for the composition.

And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan (Ex. 16:35).

Moses knew they had eaten manna for 40 years. This takes them to the Plains of Moab on the border of the Promised Land and so indicates that the book was written later in the wilderness wanderings.
The other important verse is:

For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys (Ex. 40:38).

This suggests that the travels had ended, or were near the end, by the time of the writing of this book. So we assume that it was written primarily to the second generation of Israel which came out of Egypt and were now on the border of Canaan.
The date for writing would then be between 1446-1406 BC and more likely to be nearer 1406 BC.

III. Historical Analysis

1. Chronology

There is a rather complicated debate between advocates of an “early” Exodus (1446 BC) and those who argue for a later date (1236 BC). It is very tempting to ignore this debate and simply to move on to “better things.” However, the dating of the Exodus has important consequences.

The data of the Exodus is crucial not only because the exodus itself is so central a historical and theological event, but also because our interpretation of both antecedent and subsequent history will be greatly affected by the date we assign to the Exodus.[footnote]E Merrill, Kingdom of Priests (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992), 67.[/footnote]

The two main options are an “early” date of 1446 BC or a “later” date of around 1275 BC. Below you will find an assimilation of the Biblical evidence and Egyptian chronology which supports the “early” Exodus.

1900 BC Hyksos begin to invade Northern Egypt
1876 BC Jacob and family enter Egypt
1859 BC Jacob died
1805 BC Joseph died
1730 BC Hyksos control Egypt with new Hyksos Pharaoh who did not know Joseph (Ex. 1:8)
1729 BC Hyksos compel the Israelites to work at Pithom and Rameses (Ex. 1:11)
1570 BC Egyptians under Amosis drive out Hyksos
1546-1526 BC Amenhotep I reigns and anti-foreign sentiment grows
1526-1512 BC Thutmose I reigns and anti-foreign sentiment turns against the Hebrews (Ex. 1:15-22)
1527 BC Moses born (Ex. 2:1)
1512-1504 BC Thutmose II reigned
1504-1450 BC Thutmose III reigned
1486 BC Moses fled Egypt to Midian (Ex. 2:15-22; Acts 7:23)
1450-1425 BC Amunhotep II ruled
1448 BC Moses returned to Egypt (Ex. 5:1)
1446 BC Exodus during reign of Amunhotep II (Ex. 13)
1444 BC Tabernacle completed
1425-1417 BC Thutmose IV reigned
1318-1304 BC Seti I reigned
1279-1236 BC Rameses II on throne
1275 BC Alleged date for later Exodus

What are the supporting arguments in favor of such a sequence of events.

a. 1 Kings 6:1

The first and most direct biblical statement with reference to the date of the Exodus is in the book of Kings (1Kings 6:1).

And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD (1 Kings 6:1).

This passage places the years before the 4th year of Solomon’s reign, which was 967 B.C., making the date of the Exodus about 1446/7 B.C.

The advocates of a 1275 BC Exodus regard the numbers in this verse as ideal and figurative.

b. Judges 11:26

The second relevant passage is which teaches that 300 years had passed since Israel had entered Canaan.

While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns, and in Aroer and her towns, and in all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon, three hundred years? why therefore did ye not recover them within that time? (Judges 11:26).

Other chronological notices in Judges places Jephthah about 1100 BC. So, this places the Exodus around 1440 BC.

The advocates of a 1275 BC Exodus say that Jephthah had no historical records and was making a broad generalization. However, the late date chronology compresses the period of the Judges into an impossibly short period of 70-100 years.

c. Exodus 1:11

This states that the Israelites built the city of Rameses. Advocates of a late Exodus argue that this city was named after Rameses II who reigned 1279 BC to 1236 BC. This would appear to support an Exodus around 1275 BC. However, Genesis 47:11 suggests that the name “Rameses” was used long before this. Albright has shown that the Ramessides could be traced back to Hyksos ancestry in the 1700’s. Some evangelical scholars have argued that minor inspired revisions were made to Exodus in later years, including the possibility of giving cities the name at the time of writing rather than at the time of the events themselves.

Furthermore, the Bible indicates that much time passed between the building of the cities and the Exodus itself. The Israelites were forced to work on the project, but the more the Egyptians mistreated them, the more they multiplied and filled the land. There is clearly the impression of generation following generation. Furthermore when all else failed, the Pharaoh killed the children, an event which must be dated at the time of Moses birth. Another 80 years passed before the Exodus. If Rameses II was the Pharaoh of the Exodus and the city of Rameses was named for him, his reign included these years of construction, the years between the building of the cities and the child-murder decree, and the first 80 years of Moses’ life. A total of well over 100 years is clearly in view which is impossible.

d. Exodus 2:23

This verse states that at the end of Moses’ sojourn in Midian the king of Egypt died. This clearly suggests that it was the same Pharaoh who had earlier sought Moses’ life. Of all the rulers only Thutmose III survived long enough to qualify. This fits an “early” Exodus date. However, the only Pharaoh who lived long enough around the time of the “late” Exodus was Rameses II. If it was Rameses II death that brought Moses back to Egypt the Exodus would have had to have taken place after 1236 BC which no one accepts.

e. Mernepta’s stela

The 13th century Pharaoh, Mernepta, wrote about “the people of Israel” as inhabitants of Palestine. Since he mentioned them by name, it would suggest that the Israelites must have been there for an extended period of time. The 1275 BC approach does not leave enough time for Israel to be recognized by Egypt in this way. However, late date advocates claim that the wording of the stela calls Israel a “people,” which contrasts with how it describes established territorial city-states. They say that this shows Israel was a relative newcomer to the area and so the date fits the 1275 BC approach.

f. Archaeology

Archaeologists used to argue that the trans-Jordan had no sedentary populations between 1900 and 1300 BC. The references to settled peoples encountered by Moses and Joshua necessitated a date after 1300 BC for the wilderness journeys. It follows that the Exodus also could not have been much earlier than that date. However more recent scientific excavations have found that many of the places integral to the Moses and Joshua stories were populated and powerful in 1400 BC.

Another common argument in support of a 1275 BC date for the exodus is archaeological evidence of a massive and widespread devastation of the cities and towns of central Canaan during that period.

Archaeologists argue that the only thing that can account for this is the Israelite conquest of Canaan. In addition to this is the lack of evidence of an early 14th century conquest. However there is no archaeological sign of an early 14th century conquest precisely because the Canaanite cities and towns were, with few exceptions, spared material destruction as a matter of policy. In other words, signs of major devastation in the period 1400 to 1375 would be an acute embarrassment to the traditional view because the Biblical witness is univocal that Israel was commanded to annihilate the Canaanite populations, but to spare the cities and towns in which they lived. And the records explicitly testify that this mandate was faithfully carried out.[footnote]E Merrill, Kingdom of Priests (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992), 73.[/footnote]

The destruction of the Canaanite cities of the 13th century can be accounted for in this way. The Book of Judges makes it very clear that Israel was over-run time and time again by enemy peoples both from within and outside the land. At no time was this more devastating to Israelite life than in the 13th century.

In conclusion, the archaeological arguments that some take to lead inexorably toward a late date of the Exodus are questionable or wrong. If Bimson’s critical work does anything, it leads to a better perspective on archaeological results. They are not brute facts with which the biblical material must conform and that can prove or disprove the Bible. Archaeology rather produces evidence that, like the Bible, must be interpreted.[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 60-62.[/footnote]

The archaeological evidence may be harmonized with the most natural reading of biblical texts that describe a fifteenth-century Exodus and conquest.

2. Length of the Sojourn (Exodus 12:40)

This verse states that the sojourn totaled 430 years from the migration of Jacob’s family until the Exodus itself. However, the Septuagint version of this verse reads that the 430 years included the sojourn of Abraham and his descendants in Canaan as well as Egypt. This would result in an Egyptian sojourn of about 215 years, and would bring Joseph’s career into the Hyksos period. As noted in the previous lectures in Genesis this is very unlikely. Further arguments that may be used against this position are:

a. Abraham was told that after oppression in a foreign land, his descendants would return to Canaan “in the fourth generation” (Gen. 15:16). This follows shortly after verse 13, which states that the foreign oppressors “shall afflict them four hundred years.” At Abraham’s time it seems that a generation was computed at one hundred years, and this was appropriate enough in view of the fact that Abraham was precisely one hundred when he became the father of Isaac. At least four centuries, then, and not a mere 215 years, would mark the Israelite Sojourn in the foreign land.

b. Although in many of the family lines of prominent figures in the Exodus generation are indicated by only three or four links, there are some which feature as many as ten generations. In the Ancient Near East it was common to miss out some genealogical links. Later biblical genealogies of the same period are fuller and would support the 400 year sojourn.

c. The increase from seventy or seventy-five persons in the immigrant family of Jacob to a nation of more than two million souls makes a mere 215-year sojourn unlikely. If there were indeed only four generations then the rate of multiplication would have been “astronomic.”

We conclude that the notion of a longer sojourn is to be preferred. It best accommodates the biblical chronological requirements, and it suits the Egyptian historical background in a much more satisfactory way as well.[footnote]E Merrill, Kingdom of Priests (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992), 78.[/footnote]

3. Geography

The Book of Exodus describes Israel’s troubles and travels under the direction of God, from Egypt through the desert to the foot of Mount Sinai. So the book has a geographical arrangement.

Israel in Egypt (Ex. 1:1 – Ex. 12:36)
Israel in the desert (Ex. 12:37 – Ex. 18:27)
Israel at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19-40).

Though the general route of the Exodus is known, opinions differ as to the exact location of the crossing of the Red Sea, the exact location of the encampment in the Sinai mountains, the direction of the journey around the land of Edom. These differences of opinion exist partly because the locations of various places mentioned in the Bible are not now known, and, in the case of the Red Sea, because the sea is thought to have extended farther northward in the time of the Exodus than it does at the present time.

The sea that has been known as the Red Sea since the days of the Septuagint is actually the “Sea of Reeds” in Hebrew. Presumably the body of water Israel miraculously crossed is one of the freshwater lakes of the Nile delta where such reeds were found once across the sea. Once across the sea and out of Egypt there were three basic options for the trek across the Sinai peninsular: northern, central, or southern routes. Advocates of the southern route usually accept the identification of Mount Sinai with the Jebel Musa, the mount of Moses where today there is a monastery and a basilica. However the rugged granite mountains of the Sinai peninsular offer several other possibilities for the mountain of God.

The Israelites often gave names to places in the desert as they passed through the area. But without a continuous population in the region to carry on the traditional names, we are unable to identify locations precisely. Furthermore, the Israelites lived a nomadic lifestyle during these years in the desert. Their tents, animal skin clothing, and containers would leave behind few artifacts for modern archaeologists to discover. As a result we have no specific information on the route, and are unlikely to acquire any soon. However the traditional southern route answers more questions than the other.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 108-110.[/footnote]

The geography of the Pentateuch, then, may be represented as follows:

(1) Upon their release, the Israelites departed from the Land of Goshen, miraculously crossed the Red Sea and arrived at Sinai.
(2) Departing from Sinai, they followed a route northward to Kadesh–barnea which ended in the disastrous attempt to invade Canaan without God’s assistance.
(3) The next 40 years were spent wandering in the wilderness, an area generally believed to have included Moses’ previous homeland of Midian.
(4) Under God’s direction, the Israelites successfully advanced into Canaan, first capturing the lands east of Jordan before invading into Palestine.

4. The most important Old Testament event

Exodus is the most significant historical and theological event of the Old Testament because it marks God’s mightiest act in behalf of his people, an act which brought them from slavery to freedom, from fragmentation to Solidarity, from a people of promise-the Hebrews-to a nation of fulfillment – Israel. To it the book of Genesis provides an introduction and a justification, and from it follows all subsequent Old Testament revelation, a record which serves it as inspired commentary and detailed exposition.[footnote]E Merril, A Kingdom of Priests (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992), 57.[/footnote]

IV. Literary Analysis

1. Comparative Outlines

The outline is determined by the criteria used. Different criteria result in different structure. Durham is geographical, Casutto is more thematic.

Durham Cassuto Pratt
Israel in Egypt (Ex. 1:1 – Ex. 13:16)
Israel in wilderness (Ex. 13:17 – Ex. 18:27)
Israel at Sinai (Ex. 19:1 – Ex. 40:38)
Bondage and Liberation (Ex. 1:1 – Ex. 17:16)
Torah and its precepts (Ex. 18:1 – Ex. 24:18)
Tabernacle and its Service (Ex. 25:1 – Ex. 40:38)
God’s Deliverance Led by Moses (Ex. 1:1 – Ex. 18:27)
God’s Covenant Law Mediated by Moses (Ex. 19:1 – Ex. 24:18)
God’s Tabernacle Erected by Moses (Ex. 25:1 – Ex. 40:38)

Pratt’s emphasis is on “Under Moses” because he argues that the purpose of Exodus is to exalt Moses as the leader of Israel and to make it clear that Israel was delivered by Moses, given law by Moses and given worship regulations by Moses. The book’s primary concerns are with salvation, law and worship.

The following structural suggestions are made by J E Smith.

Persecution (Ex. 1-6)
Plagues (Ex. 7-12)
Pilgrimagechs (Ex. 13-19)
Designed (Ex. 25-31)
Delayed (Ex. 32-34)
Dedicated (Ex. 35-40)
EXODUS 1–19 EXODUS 20–24 EXODUS 25–40

The Book of Exodus can be summarized in the caption ‘Plagues and Precepts’. The first half of the book concentrates on the plagues which resulted in the release of God’s people. The latter half of the book contains the precepts by which God governed his people.[footnote]J E Smith, The Pentateuch (Joplin, Mo: College Press Pub. Co., 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

2. Original Message

What would the original readers have understood when they read this book. The 2nd generation of Israel were asking: “Why should we follow the teachings of Moses? He is old. Only Joshua and Caleb have made it under his leadership. Who made him our leader anyway?”

And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known (Ex. 2:14).

See also Ex. 5:19-21; Ex. 14:10-12; Ex. 16:1-3; Ex. 32:1; Num. 12:1-16.

Exodus was written to demonstrate that God himself authorized Moses to lead, and to give God’s legal, social and worship regulations for Israel.

3. Genre

a. Theological History

The main genre of Exodus is prophetic or theological history, which means that it is history with a particular intention to reveal the nature of God in His acts.

b. Narrative and Law

The overall genre of “theological history” may be divided into narrative and law genres. There is a unique interrelationship between them. Narrative is often a “didactic prop for the laws” and laws often appear as “events” in the narrative.[footnote]L Ryken and T Longman III, A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 122.[/footnote]

The books of Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy certainly constitute a marvelous unity of narrative and legislative genres, a fusion expressing indirectly the biblical axiom that principles and actions are inseparable.[footnote]L Ryken and T Longman III, A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 122.[/footnote]

Reflecting this broader pattern in the four books, there are two main parts to Exodus: the primary narrative (chs. 1-19) describing Moses’ early life and calling, the ten plagues and subsequent liberation from Egyptian bondage, and the journey to Mount Sinai; and the legal material pertaining to the giving of the Ten Commandments and to tabernacle worship (chs. 20-40). Each part contains insertions of the other genre, mixing storytelling and lawgiving…The topic of true worship unifies each segment.[footnote]Ibid., 123.[/footnote]

The law is not just an appendage or separate part of the book but flows within the history of redemption.[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 64.[/footnote]

c. Other Genres

Other genres found in Exodus are song (ch. 15), genealogies, lists, and prayers.

4. Literary keys

J E Smith suggests that five literary keys open up the meaning of Exodus.[footnote]J E Smith, The Pentateuch (Joplin, Mo: College Press Pub. Co., 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

a. Key Passage

The key passage in the book is 19:4–6a :

Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

b. Key Word

The key word in Exodus is deliver which occurs in various forms some nine times.

c. Key Expression

The key expression is “As the Lord commanded Moses.”

d. Key Thought

The key thought is redemption. God redeemed his people from the bondage of Egypt.

e. Key Character

While Genesis focuses on several human actors, Exodus highlights only one, Moses. He is the key character in this book.

5. Literary Continuity

As the second part of the Pentateuch, the book of Exodus continues the story that began in Genesis.

a. The book begins with the conjunction “and” showing that it is a continuation of a preceding narrative.

b. The opening phrase repeats a phrase in , both passages naming those “children of Israel” who went down to Egypt at the time of Joseph.

c. The concluding episode in Genesis (Gen. 50:22-26) also highlights the connection between Genesis and Exodus. At his death, Joseph requested that his bones be carried up from Egypt. When Israel finally left Egypt, the text mentions that Moses took the bones of Joseph (Ex. 13:19).

Thus, Exodus continues the story of Genesis. There is, however, a considerable time lapse between the two books. When the curtain closes in Genesis, the people of God are a moderate-sized extended family prospering in the land of Egypt. When the action begins in Exodus, they are a large group, nation-sized, living in bondage and cruel oppression.[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 57.[/footnote]

V. Thematic Analysis

1. Deliverance

Just as Genesis teaches that God elects, or chooses, for salvation, so Exodus teaches how God saves: by redemption, that is, by costly deliverance. Genesis ends with Joseph delivering God’s people when they entered Egypt. Exodus begins with Moses delivering God’s people as they leave Egypt.

The overriding theme of the book of Exodus is deliverance. The events recorded cover a period of Israel’s history from slavery in Egypt to emancipation and consolidation on Mount Sinai (approximately 1524-1443 B.C.). The book opens in darkness and gloom, yet ends in glory, it commences by telling how God came down in grace to deliver an enslaved people, and ends by declaring how God came down in glory to dwell in the midst of a redeemed people.[footnote]G Crossley, The Old Testament Explained and Applied (England; Evangelical Press, 2002), 81.[/footnote]

The general contours of the Book of Exodus are erected around this movement from slavery to the concluding picture of worship. The transition from slavery to worship is accomplished through a very great redemption, which is at the centre of the book. Basic to all of Israel’s later theology is the redemption of the exodus.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 32.[/footnote]

Exodus begins with the groan of man and ends with the glory of God.

Using this theme of redemption, Arthur Pink draws out a five-fold division for the book of Exodus:

The need for redemption – a people enslaved Ex. 1-6
The might of the Redeemer – displayed in the plagues of Egypt Ex. 7-11
The character of redemption – purchased by blood, emancipated by power Ex. 12-18
The duty of the redeemed – obedience to the Lord Ex. 19-24
The provisions made for the failures of the redeemed – tabernacle and services Ex. 25-40

2. Liberation Theology and Civil Rights

Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery has been used as the foundation of “liberation theology.” Gustavo Gutierrez gave this movement initial momentum with his book “A Theology of Liberation.” Others have built on this and dedicated their writings to the liberation of the poor and oppressed by social revolution. This highly political “theology” usually identifies capitalism as the villain and Marxism is usually the deliverer. The black civil rights movement in America has also appealed to Exodus to support its anti-discrimination agenda. Their often-heard slogan is Moses’ request to Pharaoh, “Let my people go” (Ex. 5:1).

There is no doubt that social justice is an important theme in Exodus. After their deliverance God urged Israel to show particular kindness to poor people and aliens (Ex. 23:6; Ex. 23:9), because of what they suffered themselves at the hands of the Egyptians. The proper treatment of servants and employees was important to the Jews.

However, liberation theologians miss the main point. The Israelites were not delivered by revolting against Pharaoh but by the sovereign power of God alone. Also, the aim was not to set up a new form of government but to worship in the wilderness. It should also be noted that some of those who were “delivered” actually desired to return to Egypt (Ex. 16:3). The salvation of the Bible is from sin and not from political oppression. It is concerned with man’s relationship to God firstly, and only then man’s relationship to man.

In their zeal for political reform, liberation theologians tend to overlook the need for the salvation of the individual soul. Evangelism is not important because, for them, good living conditions in the present world constitute salvation. Eternal realities fade into insignificance before the all-consuming needs of the here and now.[footnote]H Wolf, An Introduction to the Old Testament Pentateuch (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

3. Covenant

The deliverance effected in Exodus had a cause. The cause was God’s covenant promises to Abraham. Among the promises to Abraham was the assurance that his descendants would be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 35:11-12), which did indeed happen in Egypt (1:7). When the covenant was instituted, however, Abraham was also told that his descendants would be enslaved and mistreated in a foreign land for 400 years (Gen. 15:13). That also was fulfilled in Egypt. But God did not forget His covenant with Abraham and, through the mediation of Moses, delivered His people from the house of slavery. That deliverance is repeatedly described as the fulfillment of God’s promise to the Fathers (Ex. 3:10; Ex. 3:12; Ex. 6:4; Ex. 6:8; Ex. 13:5). Just as the Abrahamic covenant involved promises of land and descendants the Sinai covenant fulfils those promises partially and continues them. (Ex. 19:4-5)

The theme of the book is the commencement of Israel as a covenant nation. It relates how God fulfilled His ancient promise to Abraham by multiplying his descendants into a great nation, redeeming them from the land of bondage, and renewing the covenant of grace with them on a national basis. At the foot of the holy mountain, He bestows on them the promises of the covenant and provides them with a rule of conduct by which they may lead a holy life, and also with a sanctuary in which they may make offerings for sin and renew fellowship with Him on the basis of forgiving grace.[footnote]G L Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

4. God’s Grace

When people think of Exodus, they immediately think of rules and law. However, the rules are preceded by a mighty redemption. The general context of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 19:1-5), and the preface to them, emphasizes that God had mightily and graciously redeemed them and therefore they should show gratitude by obeying him. The sovereign redemption is first, the human response comes second. So the foundation of the covenant between God and Israel was mercy and forgiveness. The election of Israel was not conditioned on obedience to the Law, but derived solely from the kindness of God (Ex. 19:4). So also the continuing relationship between God and Israel was grounded in God’s grace, not Israel’s faithfulness (see chapters Ex. 32-34).

5. God’s Presence

The three major events in the book are the Exodus, the Law, and the Tabernacle. Each of these events emphasize one important truth – God is present with Israel as its Savior and King.

An emphasis on the presence of God runs throughout the whole book. The purpose of the exodus from Egypt and the covenant at Sinai with its law and Tabernacle can be summarized in this way: God was preparing Israel for his arrival in their midst. The patriarchal covenant had contained the promise of descendants and the land. An element of that Genesis Land Promise was living in the presence of God. When the promise was confirmed to Abraham’s children God assured them I am with you (Gen. 26:3, Gen. 28:15). Joseph’s life illustrated the principle of living in God’s presence. But at the beginning of Exodus the land was not yet a reality and the descendants of Jacob were in danger of extinction. Even worse…the Israelites were not ready for life in God’s presence because they have not yet learned of his great character. This was one of the lessons of the plagues.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 110-111.[/footnote]

6. God’s Self-Revelation

One of the great themes of Exodus is that of the self-revelation of God. He made himself known in the mighty acts which he performed against Egypt and for Israel. When commanded to release Israel, Pharaoh replied: “I do not know Yahweh.” The events which followed were designed to teach Pharaoh, the Egyptians, and even Israel who Yahweh was, the eternally existing One, the only deity (7:5, 17; 8:10; 9:14; 9:29; 10:2; 14:1-4, 18, 31).

7. Perpetual Sinai Theme

Thirteen chapters of Exodus describe the preparation for and the actual building of (chs.35–40) the Tabernacle. This constitutes about thirty-seven per cent of the book. Why is so much attention focused on this portable religious shrine? The answer comes in the final chapter of Exodus. The purpose of the Tabernacle was to perpetuate the Sinai experience. In f, the “glory of Yahweh” settled atop Sinai in the form of a devouring fire. The same imagery is used of the Tabernacle in 40:34 . Moses had been able to ascend the mountain. He could not, however, enter the glory of Yahweh which filled the Tabernacle (40:35). The sons of Aaron, however, could approach God’s altar after they had gone through certain ritual (40:31). Just as Moses served as the mediator between Israel and God at Sinai, so the Aaronic priesthood would serve in that capacity perpetually.[footnote]J E Smith, The Pentateuch (Joplin, Mo: College Press Pub. Co., 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

VI. New Testament Analysis

Although Exodus contains no direct prophecies of Christ, it is packed full of Christological significance.

The pattern of divine victory over enemies, the establishment of the divine dwelling place and the abundance of blessings find their greatest fulfillment in Christ’s first and second comings (1 Cor. 10:1-13; Eph. 2:14-22; Rev. 20:11 – Rev. 22:5).[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 98.[/footnote]

We especially see Christ in the “Types” of Exodus. A “Type” is a preview or fore-glimpse of Christ which may be seen in Old Testament people, places, objects and events. A type is more than an analogy. It was deliberately created by God to foreshadow the future.

Here the foundational truths of salvation are established, not so much in the form of explicit and systematic doctrine, but rather through types, symbols and Israel’s history. In the book of Exodus the glorious types of our Savior and Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, shine forth. We meet him on every page, in every event. The New Testament guards us against excess and error by leading us to see, with the eye of faith, the Christ who is ‘in all the Scriptures’ (Luke 24:27). We see Christ as the spotless Lamb, the water-giving Rock, the manna from heaven, the cloud and fire of the constant presence of the living God. We see him at Sinai in the tabernacle, the altar, the shewbread, the lamp-stand, the veil, the ark, the mercy seat — in the priesthood, its garments and breastplate. In Exodus we see our deliverance from the slavery of sin (Rom. 6:6), and our hazardous journey to the promised land (1 Peter 1:4-6), following after the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 12:1-2).[footnote]G Crossley, The Old Testament Explained and Applied (England; Evangelical Press, 2002), 102.[/footnote]

The central role that Moses plays in this book also points to Christ. As the Israelites were baptized into Moses (1 Cor. 10:2), when the people were led through the Red Sea, so Christians are baptized into Christ. Moses was the great servant of the Lord who received God’s words directly. The Gospel of Matthew especially presents Jesus as the fulfillment of this role of Moses by portraying Jesus as the one who underwent his own Exodus (Mat. 2:14-15), taught God’s law on a mountainside (Mat. 5:1), and stood in complete harmony with Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mat. 17). As Moses was willing to die for the sake of the people (32:10) so Jesus substituted himself for his people. The glory of God that reflected in the face of Moses (Ex. 34:29; 2 Cor. 3:8) is now reflected in those transformed by Christ’s Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 98.[/footnote]

VII. The Message of Exodus

Original Message: Israel should continue to follow Moses because God clearly authorized him to be Israel’s deliverer, law-giver, and worship-leader
Present Message: The Church should continue to follow Christ’s fulfillment and application of Moses’ teaching because God clearly authorized him to be the Church’s deliverer, law-giver and worship leader.