Exodus: Leaving Egypt

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Leaving Egypt

Redemption from Egypt, Revelation of the Covenant.

Background: Written by Moses soon after the Exodus (after 1446 BC)

Theme: The establishment of a National Covenant

Outline: Redemption from Egypt and Revelation of the Covenant

Key Verse: "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exod 19:4-6, NIV)

Title: Exodus is from the Greek title, meaning 'Going Out'. This title describes the Hebrews departure from Egypt, and this historical event is also called 'The Exodus'. The Hebrew title is Shemoth, 'Names', from the first verse "These are the names of the sons of Israel". While the title Exodus is appropriate for leaving Egypt, over half of the book is devoted to the encampment at Mount Sinai and the building of the Tabernacle.

Author: Moses probably wrote this book following the Exodus, during the wilderness wanderings, beginning about 1446 B.C. He was eyewitness and the primary participant in these events.

Time: The book begins before the birth of Moses, who was 80 years old at the time of the Exodus in 1446 B.C. There are some disputes as to the timing of the Exodus, with some scholars dating it about 3 centuries later. However, I hold to the traditional dating of 1446 B.C., allowing time for the wanderings, conquest of Canaan, and the rule of the Judges before the historically verified dates of the Kingship of David.

Purpose: To show the power of God to save his people.

Significance: Exodus records the redemption of the sons of Israel from bondage in Egypt, and the establishment of a national covenant.

Synopsis: Centuries have passed since the story of Joseph, with Jacob and his descendants in Egypt. A new dynasty has taken control of Egypt, and has no treaty with the Hebrews. Egyptians enslave the Hebrews and oppress them. Moses is born and adopted by Pharoah's daughter. As an adult, he kills an Egyptian and flees to Midian. Years later, God speaks to Moses from a burning bush, telling him to return to Egypt.

Moses demands that Pharoah let the Hebrews (Israel) leave Egypt. God performs miracles and plagues of increasing severity (the Ten Plagues of Egypt) until Pharoah relents. After Israel leaves, Phaorah changes his mind and pursues Israel to the Sea of Reeds, which Israel crosses but the Egyptians are trapped in and the army destroyed.

While Israel camps at Mt. Sinai, God gives Moses His laws and plans for the Tabernacle. Aaron makes a golden calf for Israel, which engages in an orgy. Moses returns from the mountain, breaks the tablets of the law, and executes swift punishment on Israel. Moses then intercedes for his people.

God again meets with Moses, and writes on a second set of tablets. Moses returns and the Tabernacle, utensils, ark, altar, and priestly vestments are made and consecrated.

Exodus Chapter Index


Redemption from Egypt


Revelation of the Covenant


Israel in Bondage


Consecration at Sinai


Early Life of Moses


The Ten Commandments


The Burning Bush


Laws of Servants and Injuries


Moses Returns to Egypt


Laws of Theft and Fairness


Harder Labor at Brick Making


Sabbaths, Feasts, and God's Help


God Promises to Redeem Israel


Moses Ascends Mt. Sinai


Nile Changed to Blood


Plans for Ark and Tabernacle Utensils


Frogs, Gnats, and Flies


Plans for Tabernacle


Livestock Plague, Boils, and Hail


Plans for Altar and Courtyards


Locusts and Darkness


Plans for Priestly Vestments


Warning that Egypt's Firstborn will Die


Consecration of Priests and Tabernacle


The Passover


Incense, Census Tax, and Annointing Oil


Leaving Egypt


Craftsmen, Sabbaths, and Tablets of Stone


Crossing the Sea of Reeds


The Golden Calf


The Song of Moses


Moses Intercedes for Israel


Manna - Bread of Heaven


Second Set of Tablets


Battle with Amalek


Moses Commands that Tabernacle be Built


Jethro's Advice


Building of the Tabernacle




Building of the Ark and Utensils




Building of the Altar and Courtyards




Making Priestly Vestments




Tabernacle Set Up and Consecrated

The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Vol I, Old Testament) is an excellent resource which I recommend for more in-depth explanations. My fairly brief notes are included in the following outline.

I. Redemption of God's People (ch. 1-18)

A. Oppression in Egypt (ch. 1)

1. The Setting (1:1-7)

1:1-5 The book of Genesis concluded with the sons of Israel and their servants in Egypt.

1:6-7 About 350 years have passed since the end of Genesis, and the descendants of Israel are a large number.

2. The Oppression (1:8-22)

1:8-10 The Hebrew word for 'know' often refers to a covenantal relationship. The new founder of the 18th Dynasty did not have the family agreement or obligations with (did not 'know') Joseph and his family as the previous dynasty did. We may assume that the Pharaoh was familiar with recent Egyptian history, but was not obligated to keep any agreements with the Israelites.

B. The Deliverer (ch. 2-4)

1. Birth and Protection of Moses (2:1-10)

2:3-4 The Hebrew word for Ark is used to refer to three items in the Bible, Noah's Ark, Moses' basket-ark (boat), and the Ark of the Covenant.

2. Escape of Moses (2:11-4:17)

2:22 Gershom, traditionally translated as 'a stranger in a strange land', has frequently been referred to in popular literature and has even been the title of a science fiction novel. This phrase typifies believers of all ages, because we are citizens of Heaven and are not permanent residents here on earth.

3:14 I AM - related to the divine name represented in the Hebrew by four letters (YHWH) and variously pronounced by non-Jews as Jehovah or Yahweh. Jews substituted the word Lord instead of pronouncing the divine name. With other names of God this was not so. In our English Bible this special name of God is indicated by the word LORD (all capitals). Lord (not all capitals) is a translation of the Hebrew word for Lord, LORD represents 'YHWH'.

Various groups, notably the Jehovah's Witnesses, advocate using God's divine name and their 'New World Translation' puts this into practice.

4:11 Observe the role of creator and sustainer who gives man his mouth, makes him deaf or mute, gives him sight or makes him blind. Our 'natural' abilities as well as spiritual ones come from God. It is also important to keep this verse in mind when considering the 'physically challenged'. Whatever abilities or lack of abilities we have are ultimately determined by God for His glory.

3. Return of Moses (4:18-31)

4:31 "...And when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped." (NIV)  In every age, it one thing to know that God exists in a philosophical way, but quite another thing to  really know that the Creator of the Universe is concerned for us and knows what we are going through ... that is a real cause for worshiping. Because He is concerned for us and knows ... he will deliver us.

C. Struggle of Moses and Pharaoh (5:1-12:36)

1. Confrontations (5:1-7:13)

5:5-15 Note the work with bricks. The Israelites did not work on either temples, pyramids, or monuments, which were made of limestone or sandstone blocks. Bricks were used for storehouses and common buildings.

7:1-5 As indicated, Aaron was Moses' mouthpiece or 'prophet'. Some infer from this that the speeches of Moses to Pharaoh later in the story were spoken through Aaron, perhaps as an interpreter (although Moses spoke both Egyptian and Hebrew).

2. Judgment of God (7:14-12:36)

12:1-2 The religious year starts in the month of the Passover, near our Easter. The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hoshanah) is the start of the civil year around September. The Jewish calendar is not in sync with our calendar, so Jewish holidays appear to move around on our calendar.

12:3-6 Note the Passover was and is celebrated in the home. It was not originally an act of public worship, but a family service.

12:34-36 The hurried people took the unleavened dough, unbaked. If it had been leavened, it would sour on the journey before they had time to bake it.

D. Deliverance (12:37-18:27)

1. Flight (12:37-13:22)

2. Crossing (ch. 14)

14:1-4 See the map on page 253 of the BKC for possible location of the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea).

14:10-14 They were not confident that God could help them, although they cried out to Him. This should not be a model for our prayers, which should be offered in faith. However, in times of doubt, we should remember that God acts in mercy towards us, even if we are weak in faith. This great deliverance was due to God's great mercy, not prompted by great faith.

3. Praise (15:1-21)

15:19-21 One of several times in the Bible where spontaneous praise to God includes singing with instruments (tambourines) and dancing. This was, obviously, an outdoor event.

4. Journey to Sinai (15:22-18:27)

15:27 It is easy to focus on the main persons and forget the logistics of providing for 2 million people of all ages. Seventy palms and twelve springs must be shared by 2 million people.

16:21-30 There is no natural explanation for manna spoiling after one day except on the Sabbath. This miracle of providing the food supplement of manna would continue for about 40 years, a long and sustained miracle of mercy. Again, this was provided for 2 million people!

II. Revelation at Sinai (ch. 19-40)

A. Covenant (ch. 19-31)

1. Setting (ch. 19)

19:5-6 One must reflect on the staggering idea here. God, creator of the universe, will enter into a written contract with his people.

2. Decalogue (20:1-21)

20:1-21 Even today, when something is negotiable we say "It is not written in stone!" referring to this law which was written in stone and was not open to negotiation.

BKC has numbered the commandments according to most Protestants. For Jews, it is the Ten Words, not Commandments, as the First word or saying is "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, a land of slavery". The second word is the command "You shall have no other gods before me and you shall not make an image." which is the Protestants 1 and 2 combined. The first word according to the Jewish numbering is not a command at all!

For Catholics and Lutherans, The second Word of the Jewish reckoning is the first command (1 and 2 of the Protestants). They make up for this by splitting the Protestant tenth into "You shall not covet your neighbors house" as nine and coveting your neighbor's wife and other possessions as ten. The real purpose of this appears to be relegating the 2nd command on images to a subscript of the 1st command.

At any rate, outside evangelical circles you will get different answers to what the ten commandments are, if they know them at all. It is only the numbering and division that is in dispute, not the content.

20:7 The degree of protection of God's name is extreme in the Jewish faith. Jews did not pronounce the divine name YHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah) at all, substituting LORD (Adonai in Hebrew, Kyrie in Greek) in reading or quoting scripture. If a written copy of the four Hebrew letters for YHWH is soiled or damaged, the document is burned. The treatment of written copies of this name (YHWH, not other names such as El Shaddai) is similar to our treatment of the national flag. For this reason, few ancient manuscript copies or portions of the Hebrew scriptures exist today.

For us, it is important not to use God's name or that of his Son, Jesus, as if they are common words or have no meaning.

20:8-11 Apparently Jews who became Christians, such as Paul, still went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and gathered with Christians (Jews and Gentiles) on the following day, Sunday. Later, as the faiths separated and especially after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Romans, Jewish Christians became unwelcome in the synagogues.

20:13 This commandment is often quoted by conscientious objectors (non-participants in war) and those who oppose the death penalty. Those issues are not at issue in this verse, note especially verses 21:12-17 where the death penalty is prescribed for Israel. The NIV translation of 'murder' is therefore more appropriate that the traditional 'Thou shalt not kill'.

3. Book of the Covenant (20:22-24:11)

21:22-25 A key verse to consider on the issue of abortion rights. Here the killing of a fetus is equivalent to murder.

21:26-27 The servitude described here is quite short of the slavery with which we are familiar. The servant had rights, and in particular if a master permanently injured a servant the servant was set free. This is closer to the indentured servitude of Colonial America than to the slavery of Africans as practiced in this country.

22:1-4 Note that if a person broke into a house and stole, he was sold into servitude. This penalty provided him with work (obviously required), discipline (under the master's direction), and food and shelter. This goes beyond our modern system of 'punishment' where we confine the guilty, providing them food and shelter free of charge and do not require labor. Presumably the servant in this case went free after six years, having learned to apply himself to fruitful labor in place of stealing, or he could indenture himself to the master for life.

22:16-17 In either circumstance, pre-marital sex was forbidden. The act of sex is a most holy union within the marriage partnership. In the case of a betrothed couple, the parties have broken a pre-marriage vow. In the case of an unpromised female virgin, it is a presumptuous act initiating a marriage bond but without taking the appropriate vows or establishing the agreements with the bride's father to assume the life-long responsibilities of caring for the bride. Our society has devalued sex as a matter of play, God has honored it as a holy bond reserved for husband and wife.

4. Ceremonial Regulations (24:12-31:18)

28:29-30 The Hebrew letters beginning the words Urim and Thummim are the first and last letters of the alphabet. This is like Alpha and Omega in Greek or A and Z in English. It perhaps suggests completeness of knowledge or knowing from beginning to end. Regardless, the Urim and Thummim are a mystery to us.

B. Failure and Restoration (ch. 32-34)

1. Covenant Breaking (32:1-33:6)

32:2-4 Another possibility is that the calf was considered a mount, God would be pictured as riding or standing on the calf. Even if it was intended this way and not as a direct image of God, it was clearly forbidden.

32:19-20 The burning of the idol may indicate it was gold over a wooden frame.

32:21-24 Whatever construction method was used, it was a considerable effort by craftsmen to process the gold and create the idol.

32:30-35 On the view that Moses would prefer to have his name taken from the book of life rather than see the nation of Israel destroyed, it is similar to Paul saying "For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel." (Rom 9:3-4 NIV) I do not view this a the Lamb's Book of Life (Revelation), but simply a list of the living. I do not think Moses was referring to losing eternal salvation, but simply dying prematurely.

2. Covenant Renewal (33:7-34:35)

33:7-11 The literal Hebrew for 'face-to-face' is 'mouth-to-mouth'. In English we emphasize meeting or seeing someone, the Hebrew idiom empathizes talking directly with someone. The literal Hebrew does not imply seeing God's face, which would result in death.

34:39-45 Some medieval art pictures Moses with two horns, other art shows two rays of light, coming from his forehead. Apparently this is from a mistranslation from the Greek Old Testament, reading horn in place of ray or beam.

C. Building the Tabernacle (35-40)

1. Preparation (35:1-36:7)

36:2-7 This type of offering, based on willingness, is a model (not the only one) for giving in the Church Age.

2. Building (36:8-39:31)

3. Completion (39:32-43)

4. The Gathering (40:1-33)

5. Dwelling of God (40:34-38)

Please send comments or suggestions to ron@iStudyBible.com
Updated March 2012

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