Book_of_Exodus_Chapter_13-10_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media)What is in Exodus?
Exodus, the second book in the Bible and the second book of the five-book Pentateuch, focuses on a major stage of the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis. While Genesis takes place across many generations, Exodus is firmly rooted in one. At the end of Genesis, Joseph died in Egypt, where his brothers were too. Exodus picks up a few centuries later and quickly details the situation: the Israelites rapidly multiplied in number to the point where the Pharaoh feared their numbers so much he felt the need to oppress them to ensure they would not overrun him. After that introduction, things seem rather grim for the Israelites, but God chooses Moses to lead His chosen people out of Egypt. A stubborn Pharaoh refuses to acknowledge God as superior, but he finally relents after 10 plagues upon Egypt. The Israelites begin their long journey towards God’s promised land, and along the way, they receive God’s laws.

Who wrote it?
Traditionally it is believed that Moses wrote the book of Exodus, as he did the other books in the Pentateuch (with at least some minor exceptions like the account of Moses’s own death in Deuteronomy). In the New Testament, the Pentateuch is called the Law of Moses by Jesus Himself (Luke 24:44).

When was it written?
There are many textual and cultural clues present to believe that Exodus was written in the second millennium B.C., which supports the idea of Mosaic authorship. In Exodus, there are a number of times Moses is said to (or is told to) write things down (Exodus 17:14, Exodus 24:4, for example).

When does it take place?
The book of Exodus’s first chapter describes what happened after Genesis ended. Joseph and all his generation died, and then there was a period of great multiplication of the Israelites. Exodus 12:40 states there was 430 years until the time the Israelites were freed from Egypt, one of the events which Exodus is centered around. Dating these events, however, is harder because of the lack of clues to place Exodus, such as the absence of a given name for the Pharaoh. Two possible dates that the ESV Study Bible gives for the exodus are 1446 BC and around 1260 BC.

Why was it written?
God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis continues to be fulfilled in Exodus. The Israelite’s numbers grew by leaps and bounds (Genesis 13:16, Exodus 1:7), they were oppressed in a foreign land (Genesis 15:13, Exodus 1:11), and they successfully broke free because God brought about judgment (Genesis 15:14, Exodus 6-14). The Book of the Law, which Exodus is a part of, was written in order to preserve a record of God’s interactions with Israel. It also details the laws and commands that God had for his people.

Who is in Exodus?
While Genesis was a collection of stories in many different generations, Exodus focuses in on one. Major players include Moses, who God ultimately used to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, his brother Aaron, who sometimes spoke to the Israelites on Moses’s behalf, and the Pharoah.

How does Exodus apply to me today?
Exodus is one major example of how God fulfills His promises, even over vast spans of time. We see that He is faithful and willing to forgive those who have a spirit of repentance. Exodus later details the famous Ten Commandments, ten of the most important rules for God’s people to follow, as well as other important guidelines.

Other notes:
On the behavior of the Israelites: Exodus brings into focus a pattern established in Genesis: the falling away of an entire race of people from God, even while God is directly providing for them. We see the Israelites repeatedly grumbling to God when times got tough with alarming frequency (Exodus 14:10-12, Exodus 16:2-3, Exodus 17:3, Exodus 32). Even Moses himself was guilty of this (Exodus 5:22-23). This is commonly used to answer the challenge that if God immediately satisfied all wants and needs, more people would believe in Him. The history of the Israelites provides a counterexample. Even with God delivering an entire race of people from oppressors using divine plagues, even with God raining bread down from heaven on a daily basis, even with God leading a group of people to defeat a significantly larger stronghold, the Israelites complained God wasn’t doing enough.

On God hardening Pharaoh’s heart: In Exodus, the Lord says He hardens the heart of the Pharaoh so he would not believe in God nor let the Israelites go free (Exodus 4:21, for example). At face value, this can raise disturbing questions about whether God can willingly prevent someone from listening to Him. The Bible teaches that God’s very nature is only good. Pharaohs were considered gods, and the Pharaoh in Exodus would have been unlikely to throw that belief away. From the outset, Pharaoh was already predisposed to resist God. When faced with God’s demands, Pharaoh further sealed off his own heart. We see here it is more Pharaoh’s reaction to God rather than God himself that causes a hardened heart.

On why Christians don’t need to live out some of the laws in Exodus today: See ‘Why are the laws different in the Old and New testaments?’

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Recommended resources:

As for all posts in this series, a book introduction in a good study Bible will provide more information than listed here. The ESV Study Bible is one recommendation.

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Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984. Released under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0