Book of Exodus


Authorship, date, and background Exodus like the other books of the Pentateuch, takes its name in the Hebrew Bible from the opening words of the text which mean "these are the names of." The Septuagint, or Greek translation, uses the title Exodus, meaning "departure" and this title has come into our English Bible as Exodus. The book is the second of the five Books of Moses, to whom its authorship has been attributed (see the introduction to Genesis).

Scholars are divided about the date of Israel's flight from Egypt. Many conservatives place it around 1440 B.C., which fully fits the data of Scripture; others place it around 1290 B.C. Assuming that the exodus occurred around 1440 B.C., the composition of this book by Moses can be dated in the last two decades of the fifteenth century B.C.

The hard bondage to which the Israelites were subjected constituted a need for their liberation. God heard their prayers for help and chose Moses as their leader, through whom the liberation would take place. In preparation for that deliverance, Moses spent the first forty years of his life in the court of the Pharaoh, where he learned about politics and statecraft. He spent the second forty years on the backside of the desert, learning about God in preparation for the most important last forty years of his life. In the last part of his life Moses directed the destiny of the Israelites, during which time they became a nation under God, a theocracy governed by a covenant, which was pulled out in what might be called the constitution for the people if God.

Characteristics and content Probably the most notable event in Exodus is the crossing of the Red (Reed) Sea. This miraculous incident is referred to again and again in the Old and New Testaments. When the event takes place, Israel is a conglomerate mass of undisciplined slaves who need to be welded together into a nation. Moses describes how this comes to pass.

The exodus begins with the celebration of the Passover, at which time the firstborn of the Egyptians die. It is the story of redemption by blood which becomes the central motif of God's salvation for all men through animal sacrifices anticipating the death and resurrection of Lord Jesus. It had been God's intention to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land shortly after their liberation from Egypt When the people accept the adverse report of ten of the twelve spies, God condemns them to forty years of wandering before they are fit to enter the land; indeed, all Israelites thirty years or older are slated to perish. Only Joshua and Caleb of that generation will enter Canaan. Even Moses falls short when he sinfully strikes the rock in the wilderness instead of speaking to it.

During the long wilderness journey, God gives Israel the Law or the Ten Commandments by which they are to be governed. God establishes a covenant with Israel which binds the people to obey him. The Tabernacle in the wilderness is set up for the worship of God by the people and for the offering of the blood of bulls and goats for sin. Along with the Tabernacle God ordains the priesthood, choosing Aaron and his descendants to minister at the altar. When the Tabernacle is finished and dedicated, the glory of God enters the Holy Place, which is forbidden to all except the High Priest, who is to enter once a year to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat.

God marvellously provides for his people in the wilderness. He sends the cloud for day, and the pillar of fire by night. He gives then manna each day. Their clothes and their shoes never wear out. Yet they are a people who apostatize again and again. One divine punishment follows another as God seeks to teach them the truth that those who obey his voice prosper while those who disobey experience chastisement and sometimes even death.