Author: Unknown; (See Introduction to Genesis)
Date Written: c. 1450 BC - 517 BC
Exodus tells the story of the Hebrew people's enslavement in Egypt, their miraculous deliverance by the hand of the LORD and the launching of their new relationship with God. The first section of the book (1-18) narrates the people's escape from Egypt while the second section (19-40) describes the formation of the new covenant with God at Sinai.
In the first section, we find the Israelites stuck in an oppressive Egyptian system. The Hebrew people are enslaved, but Pharaoh's daughter secretly adopts the baby Moses, a great-grandson of Levi. Moses eventually rises to prominence in Pharaoh's household and feels called to deliver the Israelites (2:11). He makes a misguided attempt at rescuing the people by murdering an Egyptian, but he quickly flees the nation to avoid legal repercussions. Yet after many years, God calls him to deliver the Hebrew people at the famous encounter of the burning bush and he reluctantly returns to Egypt. Moses demands that Pharaoh release the Hebrews, but he obstinately refuses since the LORD has hardened his heart (7:3). To illustrate his power and convince Pharaoh to let the people go, God sends ten plagues on Egypt. Only after the last plague in which the angel of the LORD slays first-born sons of Egypt (the Passover), does Pharaoh relent. The LORD protects his people from the slaying of the first-born by commanding them to celebrate a special meal and place lamb's blood on their doorposts (12). This Passover meal is fulfilled in the life of Jesus and his institution of the Eucharist. As the people make their journey out of Egypt, Pharaoh changes his mind and comes after them with a great military force (14:5-9). God intervenes and opens a way for them through the Red Sea and drowns the Egyptian army behind them (14:28). Even though the LORD provides manna and quail for the people's sustenance (16), they sin by complaining to Moses at Massah and Meribah (17).
In the second section (19-40), the Hebrew people arrive at Mount Sinai to worship the LORD. From the mountain, the LORD reveals the Ten Commandments, which become the foundational moral principles of Judaism and Christianity. Then after giving a few more laws, he establishes a covenant with his people in a special ceremony (24). What had been one Holy Tribe becomes one Holy Nation. The rest of Exodus (25-40) describes the plans and construction of the tabernacle except for a brief section which tells of the sin of the golden calf (32-34). While Moses is on the mountain receiving the plan for the tabernacle from the LORD, the people make a golden idol shaped like a calf and worship it. The LORD almost destroys the people because of their infidelity, but Moses' intercession on their behalf evokes his mercy. The Book of Exodus concludes with the setting up of the tabernacle and God's presence coming to dwell in it as a cloud (40).
In Exodus, God reveals his name to Moses and deepens his relationship with his people. He makes known his power to intervene in history by freeing the Israelites from Egyptian oppression. God shows that he wants to have "a kingdom of priests, a holy nation" (19:6). He desires for his people to love and worship him. Beyond that, he establishes a way for his people to relate to him. Beginning with the Passover meal, which Jesus fulfills, God gives his people a law to teach them how to live well. Then he gives them a plan for his house of worship, the tabernacle. The tabernacle instructions are detailed and precise in order to beautifully express who God is and how he is to be worshipped. The people construct it on the pattern of the heavenly sanctuary which Moses saw on Mt. Sinai (25:40). God intends for his holy people to live in a holy land and worship in a holy place.
Exodus illustrates God's power to redeem his people from oppression and his willingness to forgive sin. It shows his desire for a loving relationship with his people and the shape he wants that relationship to take.
By Mark Giszczak