The book of Exodus picks up where Genesis left off. By means of God’s plan and providence, Jacob’s entire family is now in Egypt due to the events occurring in Joseph’s life. We begin with a brief survey of the Book of Exodus. The name Exodus comes from the Greek word meaning “exit” or “departure”. This is a fitting title because the book of Exodus recounts God’s great deliverance of the people of Israel from the hands of the Egyptians and records God’s required duties of His people. The narrative of Exodus shows us how God is going to fulfill His promise made to Abraham. The events in this book are about the first generation Israelites that left Egypt. However, the audience this book (along with the other books of the Pentateuch) was first written to the second generation of Israelites that were about to enter the Promised Land (this is recorded in Joshua). The books Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy cover four major themes that we will encounter on this part of our journey through the Bible: Deliverance (the Exodus), Duty (the Law), Delight (the Tabernacle), and Disobedience (the Wanderings).
Deliverance: The Exodus
There were seventy people in the family of Jacob living in Egypt. Over the course of 430 years (Ex. 12:40) this large family has now grown to a considerable number known as the people or children of Israel. During this time the people were slaves and were afflicted by the Egyptians. This duration of affliction in the land of Egypt ought not to be a surprise. When God made His covenant with Abraham, He stated that the people would experience this (Genesis 15:13). The time has now come when God will deliver His people, and prepare them for life as a nation, and lead them to the Promised Land. In this section, God raises up a leader (Moses) who will confront Pharaoh. There will be great conflict as Pharaoh refuses. Despite the hostility, the Lord reveals His power and crushes His enemies and takes His people out of Egypt. This is a dramatic part of the journey through the Bible. The reader must not lose sight of the fact that God does all this to display the glory of His name. This great section teaches us that God is powerful and He alone is able to save.
The Preparation of Moses (Exodus 1-6)
The opening chapters of Exodus set the stage for a spectacular deliverance. If the nation of Israel is going receive the land God promised their forefathers, it is essential that they be delivered from their bondage in Egypt. In this section the reader learns about three key events that help set the stage for the spectacular deliverance: the Crisis in Egypt (1:1-22), the Calling of Moses (2:1-4:31), and the Confrontation with Pharaoh (5:1-6:30).
The Plagues on Egypt (Exodus 7-11)
Over a period of about nine months, God sent ten plagues upon the people of Egypt. These ten plagues directly affected areas of life that the Egyptians believed were overseen and ruled by their gods. So this is a display of the Lord’s power over the gods of Egypt. The Ten Plagues are as follows: Blood (7:14-25), Frogs (8:1-15), Lice (8:16-19), Flies (8:20-32), Diseased Livestock (9:1-7), Boils (9:8-12), Hail (9:13-33), Locusts (10:1-20), Darkness (10:21-29), and Death of the firstborn (12:29). In the process of these plagues being unleashed on Egypt, Pharaoh stubbornly hardens his heart. After the tenth plague, Pharaoh relents and then releases the people. The purpose of these plagues was to reveal that God is powerful, God punishes sin, and that God protects His people (7:3-5).
The Passover – Exodus 12-13
The plague was the worst of all. God had promised to sweep through Egypt at night and slaughter all the firstborn who were not protected by the following of God’s commanded procedure. The procedure was simple. A spotless lamb or goat was to be slaughtered, and then its blood sprinkled on the doorposts and lintels of the doorways to their house. If this was done, the Lord would Passover their house sparing their firstborn. This carefully followed procedure provided salvation that night. Later in our journey through the Bible, we will read about the moment Jesus arrived on the scene to commence His public ministry. That day as he approached John the Baptist, John declared, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus will become the Passover lamb that deals with sin once and for all. All who take refuge in Christ receive complete salvation from God’s eternal wrath.
The Parting of the Red Sea – Exodus 14-15:21
Pharaoh relented and let the people go. Following the command of God, Moses led the people to the Red Sea. Just as God had told Moses, Pharaoh had a change of mind and perused the people of Israel (Ex. 14:5-9). Faced with water on one side, and wrathful soldiers on another, the people complained and feared their deaths (Ex. 14:10-12). Moses called for the people to not fear, and trust in the power and salvation of the Lord (Ex. 14:13-14). Then in obedience to the Lord’s instruction, Moses raised his staff over the sea, and the waters divided so the people could go through on dry ground. The Lord blocked the Egyptian soldiers with the pillar of cloud allowing the people of Israel to make it to the other side (Ex. 14:15-20). The Lord removed the pillar of cloud, and the solders continued their pursuit. Again, in obedience to God’s command, Moses stretched out his hand and the walls of waters collapsed onto the soldiers and they drowned. The Lord fought for His people and they were delivered (Ex. 14:21-30).
In response to what had just happened, Moses and the people of Israel sang and praised God for His mighty deliverance (Ex. 15:1-18). It is interesting that in the book of revelation, John receives revelation of a future scene where the saints sing “the song of Moses” and “the song of the lamb” (Rev. 15:3). Though it does not directly quote from either of those songs (Exodus 15 and Revelation 5), it combines the themes by giving testimony to both the works and the ways of God and ends with a call to worship. This is the ultimate song of deliverance.
The Provision and Protection for Israel – Exodus 15:22-17:16
The people of Israel now begin their journey, which will last 40 years. Early on they encounter some difficulties. These difficulties included the need for water and food (15:22-17:7), and the need for protection against the Amalekites (17:8-16). In all these events, despite the grumbling of many of the people, God showed kindness and care as He provided for and protected His people. God guides and provides for His people.
Duty: The Law
Under the leadership of Moses, the people of Israel have come to the wilderness of Sinai and camped at the foot of a mountain. This is about seven weeks since the exodus from Egypt (Ex. 19:1) and this occasion is the fulfillment of what God said to Moses when He called him to lead His people (cf. Ex. 3:12). At this mountain, the Lord meets with Moses. The Lord reminds Moses of His faithfulness to His people and of their duty to Him. He said,
Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel” (Exodus 19:3-6)
The Lord invites the people to enter into a special covenant with Him, which will result in blessing. Moses told the people and they agreed and chose to enter into this covenant (Ex. 19:7-8). The Lord then commands Moses to prepare the people, and then presents to them the Law of God. In receiving the Law of God they will learn about what He requires of them. This law will instruct them of how they can approach God and how they can abide with God.
God spoke and revealed the summary requirements of the covenant (Ex. 20:1-17). This summary is called the Ten Commandments or “the ten words” (Ex. 34:28). The first four commands relate to the people’s duty towards God (20:1-11) and the final six commands relate to the people’s duty toward one another (20:12-17). These commandments are later on repeated to the new generation of Israelites by Moses that prepare to go into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership (Deut. 5:6-21). These commandments reveal the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, but also provide benefits to humanity when they are followed. Nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated throughout the New Testament.
This was a significant moment as God provided them with special revelation concerning Himself and what He required of them. After this the people responded with fear when they saw “the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking” (Ex. 20:18). They requested that Moses tell the people what God had said, rather than hearing it from Him directly. Moses assured them that God isn’t going to kill them, but that He is tested them so that they fear the Lord (Ex. 20:19-21). Moses then goes up the mountain and God reveals to him the specific requirements of the covenant (Ex. 20:22-23:33).
After the Lord gave these commandments to Moses, the summoned Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu (Aaron’s two sons), and seventy elders of Israel (Ex. 24:1-2). Moses tells them what God has said, and they agree to them. So the people agree with the covenant terms (Ex. 24:3). Moses then reads the Law of God to the people and they again agree to live by the covenant. Moses sprinkles them with blood (Ex. 24:5-8). This act symbolically reveals that they are cleansed and that a substitute makes it possible for them to enter into such an agreement. Later on we learn that Jesus is the fulfillment of this (Matt. 26:28). Moses is then invited by the Lord to climb the mountain and there he will receive a copy of the covenant on tablets of stone. Joshua went up with Moses, and he asked Aaron and the elders to stay back and wait.
Delight: The Tabernacle and Priesthood
God chooses to dwell with His people as they journey through the wilderness and the go to the Promised Land. They way God does is through he tabernacle and the priestly system. The tabernacle was a temporary dwelling designed by God. It was a large tent that could be dismantled, transported, and reassembled. Various names are given to the Tabernacle in the Scriptures: Sanctuary, Tent, Dwelling, and House. It was a symbolical picture of how a Holy God will dwell with a sinful people. The Lord was particular with regards to the tabernacle. We read, “ And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it” (Exodus 25:8-9).
The tabernacle was to be located in a courtyard, which was 46m long and 23m wide. An outer linen curtain, which was about 2.3 m high, surrounded the courtyard. Only the priests could enter the courtyard and they were to offer sacrifices and maintain the tabernacle. In the inner courtyard was the Bronze Altar for sacrificing animals. These offerings were to be continually offered for the dwelling of God among the people (Ex. 29:42). Next to the altar was the Bronze Basin. This was for ceremonial washings. The priests would wash after an offering before they entered the tabernacle. Failing to do this could result in death (Ex. 30:21)
The actual Tabernacle was 13.5 M long, 4.5 M wide, 4.6 high. It was covered with curtains of blue, purple, and scarlet. They were covered with weather resistant goats hair, which was then covered with ram and badger skins. The tabernacle consisted of two rooms. The first room was the Holy Place. On the left was the lamp stand, which was to burn continually, and on the right was the table for the bread of His presence (12 loaves of bread). Straight ahead was the altar of incense, which would be burnt every morning and evening. The back wall was a curtain leading to the second room. This room was the most holy place, also known as the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest could enter once a year (Leviticus 16). Inside that room was the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 25:10-16). This object was 1.1 m long, 0.7 wide, and 0.7 high. Inside of it was the Ten Commandments, a pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod.
The tabernacle provided rich imagery pointing to the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, and the grace of God. It demonstrated to the people how they could approach with God and abide with Him. Later on in the journey through the Bible we learn that this tabernacle is a picture of Jesus Christ. He came into the world and dwelt among us (John 1:14; the word “dwelt” in that verse is literally “pitched His tent”). In Hebrews 8-9 we learn with great clarity how the ministry of Jesus Christ actually accomplishes what the tabernacle in described in Exodus pointed to.
The priesthood was to participate (in accordance to the specific instruction of God) in the tabernacle and the sacrifices. The priest functioned as a mediator. He mediated between Israel and God and God and Israel. Aaron was the first High Priest and his sons were to be the priests. They were to wear special garments. These garments distinguished them from the other Israelites, and carried rich symbolic meaning. The High Priest was to wear different garments again. The priests were instructed by the Lord to follow carefully prescribed duties relating to the sacrificial system. The priesthood is discussed with great detail in Exodus 28:1-30:3.