Introduction to Exodus

Exodus 15:11

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
February 2016

We spent several years studying the Book of Genesis. Today, we will be starting a new book study. We are beginning a study of the Book of Exodus and I want to focus on the life of Moses. We spent a lot of time studying Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph and we come to a new major character, Moses. I am looking forward to studying this book.

Today will be a general introduction to the book. I want to cover some basic questions about this book that every Christian should know. Some have completely misunderstood what this book is all about. We will get into chapter one next week.

Why is this Book Important?

Carol Meyer, who is a biblical scholar at Duke, called Exodus “the most important book in the Bible”. I do not know if I would go that far but it is important. It is a foundational book. Every Christian should know this book. The Book of Exodus is just as foundational as the Book of Genesis.

God created the world in Genesis. He created a nation in Exodus. Exodus describes the birth of a nation. The Jews went down to Egypt as a family. They came out as a nation. Exodus means “departure” or “going out.” It is similar to our word “exit.”

You cannot understand the rest of the OT unless you understand Exodus. The rest of the OT is about the Nation of Israel. This book tells us how they became a nation. It describes several foundational events. It describes the birth of the Nation of Israel. It describes the Exodus from Egypt. It also describes an important covenant that God made with Israel (called the Mosaic Covenant).

Another reason this book is important is that there are many pictures of Jesus in this book. If you read Exodus, you see Jesus. Let me mention six types of Jesus in Exodus.

Pictures of Jesus in Exodus

1. The Passover Lamb

In Exodus, a Passover lamb saved the Jews from the death angel who went by each house to kill the firstborn son. The lamb killed had to be “without fault or blemish”. Paul says in the NT that Jesus is our Passover lamb (I Corinthians 5:7). As John the Baptist said, Christ is “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Animals were sacrificed in Exodus. Jesus is our sacrifice in the NT.

2. The Burning Bush

The burning bush is a picture of Jesus. Jesus is the one who met Moses at the burning bush. It was a theophany. The one Moses met was called “the angel of the Lord” and was also called “the Lord.” It was the pre-incarnate Christ.

3. Manna from Heaven

God supernaturally provided manna from heaven. It was not manufactured by man. It kept the Jews alive. It came from heaven and every person had to gather it on a daily basis. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:32).

4. The Rock

In Exodus, God commands Moses to strike a rock, and promises to make water flow in the desert. Water came out of the rock. Paul says in the NT that the rock was Jesus (I Corinthians 10:4). He is the rock of our salvation from which the waters of life flow.

5. Moses

Moses is a big type of Jesus. Moses came from a poor family and so did Jesus. Moses. Moses’ life was in danger as a baby and so was baby Jesus. Herod tried to kill baby Jesus and Pharaoh tried to kill baby Moses. Moses delivered his people from Egyptian slavery. Jesus delivered His people from another house of bondage, the bondage of sin (a different kind of slavery).  Moses gave the old covenant.  Jesus instituted the new covenant.

When Moses first tried to deliver his people, they rejected him. Jesus was also rejected by his own people and crucified. He was misunderstood by his own family, like Jesus was. Moses’ sister brother and sister accused him of pride (Numbers 12:1-2) and it was completely false. He was actually the meekest man in the earth (Numbers 12:3). Jesus’ own family thought he was crazy. Mark 3:21 says that they thought he was out of his mind.

6. The High Priest

God gives explicit instructions in Exodus on how to worship Him. Exodus describes an elaborate system of worship with priests and high priests. It looks very different than how we worship God today (a portable tabernacle, animal sacrifices, priesthood) The NT, says that Jesus is our high priest (Hebrews 4:14).

Who Wrote Exodus?

Christians would say that Moses wrote Exodus but how do we know Moses wrote Exodus? Does it even matter? We will see why it does matter. Liberals would say that Moses did NOT write Exodus. In fact, he could not have written Exodus.

Liberals say that Moses could not have written the first five books of the Bible. It is impossible. Why? Deuteronomy records Moses’ death and burial. Moses did not write an account of his death in advance. In fact, the last chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy records his eulogy.

He could not have written his own eulogy. Did Moses write his own obituary? No. Liberals go to the other extreme. Just because Moses did not write the last chapter does not mean that he did not write any of it. He is the substantial author of the Pentateuch. He wrote ninety-nine percent of it. How do we know that he wrote Exodus? There are many reasons.

1. Moses was qualified to write the book. He was an eye-witness to these events and was highly educated. He was trained in “all of the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). He was trained in Pharaoh’s court.

2. Exodus claims to be written by Moses (Exodus 17:14; 24:4, 12; 34:27-28). For example, Exodus 34:27-28 says “And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.”  

3. The Jews believed that Moses wrote these books. Jewish tradition supports mosaic authorship.

4.  Most importantly, Jesus says that Moses wrote Exodus. We can see this in two passages in the Gospel of Mark.

The Sadducees came to Jesus with a trick question about marriage in heaven. Jesus answered their question and said, “Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ (Mark 12:24-26).

Now this is very interesting. Jesus talks about the burning bush and even quotes a passage from Exodus 3:6 and says that it came from THE BOOK OF MOSES. In Mark 7:10, Jesus says, ‘For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ Again, Jesus quotes Exodus and says the author is Moses. He said that Moses said it.

That is why this question is a big deal. If Moses did NOT write Exodus, then Jesus is wrong. He is not only wrong, He is a liar.  If He is a liar, he could not have been sinless. If He was not sinless, He could not have been a savior for sin.  He was a fallible human like the rest of us. If Moses did not write Genesis, then the Bible is not inspired, because that is who the Bible says wrote it. That makes this question very important.

Major Themes in Exodus

What is the Book of Exodus about? Several major themes run through the book.

1) It is a book about REDEMPTION

The book begins with the Jews in slavery and they were set free. They were delivered from their bondage. The theological term for deliverance is “redemption.” Exodus is all about redemption. Genesis focuses on creation. Exodus focuses on redemption. It is the book of redemption in the Bible. It contains first great act of redemption in the Bible.

Exodus is the gospel in the OT. It is a little different from the redemption we are familiar with. This is not personal redemption. It is national redemption and it did not have to do with salvation. The whole nation is redeemed from slavery in Egypt but it did not mean that they were all saved. It marked the beginning of Israel as a nation.

In the NT, we see another kind of redemption on the cross. Both redemptions involved blood. They were blood purchases. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt (12:13). In Exodus, blood sprinkled on the doorposts in Egypt and in the NT we have redemption through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7). We are redeemed by the blood of the lamb.

Some have completely missed the whole point of the book. Many have tried to make political statements from this book, especially in the black church. African-Americans have the unfortunate background of slavery in this country and Exodus is a book that deals with deliverance from slavery.

Moses is a freedom fighter and Exodus is viewed by some as a guide to political activism.  Harriet Tubman was called “the Moses of her people” but it does not really fit that narrative. The ones who are doing the oppressing are the Africans. Egypt is in Africa. The Egyptians enslaved the Hebrews.

The Jews did not revolt against their slave masters. There was not revolution. Moses killed one Egyptian and fled the country but no one else did.  They asked permission from the Pharaoh to leave Egypt and did not leave until he gave it to them. In fact, Moses does not use moral arguments before Pharaoh. He does not say that slavery is unjust. It is evil and all slaves should be immediately freed. That is not what Moses said.

Everyone misquotes Moses. All the movies do. He did not just say, “Let my people go”. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me” (9:1). God is not just liberating slaves in Exodus but reclaiming worshipers, as Christopher Wright points out. Redemption was not just political; it was religious and spiritual.

2) It is a book about MIRACLES

There are a lot of miracles in Exodus: the burning bush, the ten plagues, pillar of fire, pillar of cloud, the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of Pharaoh’s army, water from a rock, manna from heaven, the theophany at Mount Sinai with God speaking out loud to the whole nation.

That is one reason why critics attack this book, because it is a book full of miracles. They say Moses could never part the Red Sea because that violates the law of physics. If you do not believe that God exists or that miracles are possible, you will have a problem with Exodus, because it is full of miracles. The Exodus is THE great miracle of the OT. It is the greatest event of the OT.

The Jews were in a bad situation in Egypt. They were slaves there and there was no way out. They could not fight their way out. They were in a hopeless situation and were completely helpless. They were powerless to deliver themselves. God had to show up and perform a miracle for them to leave Egypt.

3) It is a book about GOD

Exodus 15:11 says, “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” God sent all of the plagues on Pharaoh so that His name would be proclaimed. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth (9:16). God wants His name proclaimed in the earth. What do we learn about God in this book? What type of a being is God in Exodus?

He is PERSONAL

He has a name (3:14). He wants to dwell with his people (29:45). He talked to Moses face to face as a friend (33:11). He may not have a body but He is still a person. When God manifested Himself to the nation of Mount Sinai, they heard a voice but did not see anyone on the mountain.

He is POWERFUL

We see the power of God in Exodus. He is more powerful than Pharaoh, the leader of the most powerful country on the planet at the time and who was even believed to be god in human form. God wins. Pharaoh loses.

He was more powerful than the Egyptian gods. He was more powerful than nature. He was more powerful than the forces of nature. He has control over the sea (blood, Red Sea), insects (gnats, flies), amphibians (frogs), weather (thunder and hail), disease (boils), birth (fertility, population explosion), death (firstborn).

God is powerful in Exodus. He was the one who delivered the Jews out of Egypt. It was not Moses. It was God. He said, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (20:2).

The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I HAVE COME DOWN TO RESCUE THEM from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey–the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites” (3:7-8).

Exodus says that he delivered the Jews out of Egypt with a STRONG HAND (6:1; 13:9). He redeemed the Jews with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment (6:6).

He is COMPASSIONATE

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin (34:6-7a). How do we see this in Exodus? What does God do that is compassionate?

He delivered his people out of slavery. He saw what was happening to them. He heard their cries and He was concerned about them and answered their prayers. The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers” (3:7).

“During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them” (2:23-25). He sends them Moses to lead them out of Egypt, even when they did not want to go.  He also showed compassion to the Jews in the wilderness for forty years.

He is FAITHFUL

How do we see that in Exodus? God keeps his promises. Exodus is a demonstration of the faithfulness of God to fulfill his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “I will bring you into the land that I SWORE to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.’ (6:8)

He is HOLY

When God appeared to Moses in a burning bush, He said “Take off your sandals, for the ground you stand on is holy ground” (3:5). How do we know God is holy? He has all kinds of rules for his people in Exodus and the rules are not optional. The Ten Commandments are Ten Commandments, not ten suggestions. In fact, the book is divided into two parts.

The first part of the book deals with the Exodus. The Jews leave Egypt (Genesis 1-19). It is narrative (history). The second part of the book deals with the revelation at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20-40). It is law (instructions).

After God redeemed his people, He spoke to them and told them how to live. People should live different after they have been redeemed. That is still true today. God does not just save us to save us. There are some things He wants us to do. Our lives should be changed, totally transformed. We are bought with a price. Our life should reflect our redemption. This is the book that contains the Ten Commandments.

Many do not like the word “rules.” It has become a dirty word in some circles. It has a negative connotation. It is true that Christianity is not about rules but we still have some to follow. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Even Christians have commandments in the NT. John says that they are not burdensome.

There is another way we see God is holy in Exodus. He judges sin. God judged Pharaoh with the Ten Plagues. The Jews do not do anything. They do not fire a shot. God does everything. He did not just judge Pharaoh, he judged the Jews who wandered in the wilderness for forty years.

He judged those who worshiped the golden calf. He is intolerant when it comes to other gods and other religions. He even judged Moses when he sinned and said that he cannot enter into the Promised Land. In fact, God almost killed Moses (4:14, 24-26).  Next week, we will look in detail at the first chapter of Exodus.

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