Exodus (Biblical book)
Exodus [Hebrew:שמות] means a going out; a departure or emigration, usually of a large number of people. The Book of Exodus chronicles the bondage, oppression and slavery of the Jewish people in Egypt after Joseph dies and a new pharaoh arises to power whom did not know Joseph before. Moses, whom God uses to guide the Jewish peoples out of Israel, returns Egypt from Midian to warn pharaoh to let his people go, but pharaoh refuses. God therefore releases ten plagues over the Egypt and the Egyptians, and after the death of pharaohs son, pharaoh finally allows the Jewish people to leave Egypt under Moses. As Moses and his people are leaving, pharaoh changes his mind and commands that the Jewish people be pursued with the army of Egypt, however God opens up the Red Sea for Moses, allowing the Jewish people to flee, and pharaohs army is destroyed in the Red Sea after the Jewish people escape from it. Moses then delivers God's laws to the Jewish people, including the Ten Commandments, as well as giving them the Tabernacle, priest and worship instructions.
The Book of Exodus is part of the Torah (otherwise known as the Pentateuch) and is the second book of the Bible in the Old Testament. As part of the first five books of the Bible, its authorship is traditionally attributed to Moses.
The Book of Exodus contains a total of forty chapters. There is no agreement regarding how the Book of Exodus should be split into its different narratives, although the following can be considered: Exodus 1:1-7:6 (The bondage of Israelite's in Egypt and God guiding Moses on his path to free the slaves), Exodus 7:7-12:36 (Ten Plagues and pharaoh allowing Israelite's to leave Egypt), Exodus 12:37-14:30 (Israelite's flee Egypt and escape pharah's army at the red sea), Exodus 15:1-21 (Songs), Exodus 15:22-19:25 (Israelite's live and eat in the wilderness), Exodus 20:1-17 (God delivers the Ten Commandments), Exodus 20:18-24:8 (Israel receives and affirms the covenant), Exodus 24:9-18 (Moses talks with God on Mount Sinai), Exodus 25-40 (Israel receives the Tabernacle, priest and worship instructions). Exodus 1-18 encompasses the Israelite's leaving Egypt, and Exodus 19-40 entirely takes place at Mount Sinai.
Moses is attributed as the author of the Torah in the Book of Exodus itself in Exodus 17:14, 24:4, 34:27-28, as well as in throughout the rest of the Torah in Numbers 32:2; Deuteronomy 1:1, 31:9, 31:22. D.K. Stuart, a well respected Old Testament scholar and author of a major commentary on the Book of Exodus states "These references to Mosaic authorship are substantial." The rest of the Old Testament also attests to Mosaic authorship over the Torah in Joshua 1:7, 8:32, 12:5; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6, 23:25; Malachi 3:22; Daniel 9:11, 9:13; Ezra 3:2, 7:6; Nehemiah 8:1, 9:14; 2 Chronicles 23:18, 25:4, 30:16, 35:12, as well as the New Testament in Luke 2:22, 24:44; John 7:19; Acts 13:39, 15:5, 28:23; 1 Corinthians 9:9. Later Jewish historians, such as Josephus living in the first century AD further attribute Mosaic authorship to the Torah. The biblical references to the authorship of Moses over the Torah, both within and outside of the Torah are rather plenteous and more than enough to establish Moses as the historical author of these books.
The Book of Exodus was likely penned towards the end of the 15th century BC, especially if Moses is the author. The traditional scholarly hypothesis of the Documentary Hypothesis proposes that the books of the Torah were written around the middle of the first millennium BC. The Documentary Hypothesis dominated much of the scholarship of the early to mid-20th century, however the Documentary Hypothesis has received significant challenge over the last few decades and the consensus on it has entirely collapsed. To a certain degree, most of the modern documentarians themselves have even abandoned a number of fundamental tenants of the documentary hypothesis, with many documentarians no longer acknowledging the existence of J and E, and thus it is no longer a viable option for consideration regarding the date for the composition of any books of the Torah, including the Book of Exodus. Evidence for the dating of the Book of Exodus comes from internal clues in the book itself. The Old Testament scholar Richard Hess states "Although many of these names remained in use later as well, some of them, such as Pinḥas, show an explicit connection with Egyptian personal names at the period in question, and a few, including Ḥevron (Exodus 6:18) and Puah (Exodus 1:15), are attested as personal names only in the mid-second millennium (that is, the 18th to the 13th centuries BCE). The use of other Egyptian words found in the early chapters of Exodus but nowhere else in the Bible similarly supports the view of a connection with Egypt in the same period. Such pieces of incidental information, which would not have been known to a later scribe, point to an antiquity and authenticity in the Exodus account that is difficult to explain otherwise." The usage of names strictly used in Egypt between the 18th-13th centuries BC limit the composition of the book to this narrow time frame, because as Hess acknowledges, later scribes would simply not know these ancient Egyptian names that would have entered extinction by the end of the second millennium BC.
The Book of Exodus contains many largely important events, including the Exodus of Israel out of Egypt, and where God delivers the Ten Commandments. Many of these important messages are reiterated throughout the rest of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, even by Jesus Christ Himself.
In Exodus 3, Moses is shepherding his flocks when God appears to him in a burning bush. Moses at first does not know why a bush is in flames, and why it is not burning up but continuing to flame, and then God says "Moses, Moses!", causing Moses to understand the situation that he is speaking to God. God tells Moses to take off his sandals, for he is standing on holy ground, and Moses follows God's command. God then says to Moses "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." God continues to tell Moses that He has seen His people being afflicted by the Egyptians, and that He will bring Moses to bring His people out of Egypt. Moses is afraid, and asks God how he can do such a thing, as he considers himself insignificant. God reassures Moses that he can bring the Israelite's out of Egypt by ensuring him that He will be with him. Moses then asks God, if the Israelite's ask for His name, what name will he give to them? God then responds in Exodus 3:14, a passage that some consider to be the most important verse in the entire Book of Exodus. God says "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you." God reveals His name as "I AM", originating from the Hebrew word hayah (הָיָה). Charles Elicott says regarding this divine name, "...it is rather a deep and mysterious statement of His nature. 'I am that which I am.' My nature, i.e., cannot be declared in words, cannot be conceived of by human thought. I exist in such sort that my whole inscrutable nature is implied in my existence..."
God's name 'I AM' has an important appearance in the New Testament text as well.
John 8:57-59: The Jews replied, “You aren’t 50 years old yet, and You’ve seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am.” At that, they picked up stones to throw at Him. But Jesus was hidden and went out of the temple complex.
Jesus, when questioned by fellow Jews regarding His knowledge of Abraham, He declares "I am", referencing the name of God in Exodus 3:14, and declaring to be God Himself. The Jews, outraged at this, attempted to stone Him for it but were unsuccessful.
- Main Page Egyptian plagues
In the Book of Exodus, God punishes the pharaoh and Egypt with ten furious plagues in order to force him to let the Israelite's go from Egypt, after pharaoh resisted allowing Moses to lead the Israelite's out of Egypt. After the tenth plague, pharaoh finally allows the Israelite's to leave Egypt, also generously giving to them so much that the Israelite's were said to have "plundered the Egyptians" (Exodus 12:36).
- Plague 1: Nile turns to blood
- Plague 2: Frogs
- Plague 3: Lice
- Plague 4: Flies
- Plague 5: Diseased livestock
- Plague 6: Boils
- Plague 7: Thunderstorm of hail
- Plague 8: Locusts
- Plague 9: Darkness for three days
- Plague 10: Death of the firstborn sons
Pharaoh resisted God and Moses throughout the entirety of the plagues, until the tenth plague, where the life of pharaohs own firstborn son was taken. This narrative mainly takes place in Exodus 11:1-8;
The Lord said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you out of here. Now announce to the people that both men and women should ask their neighbors for silver and gold jewelry.” The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. And the man Moses was highly regarded in the land of Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and the people. So Moses said, “This is what Yahweh says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt, and every firstborn male in the land of Egypt will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the servant girl who is behind the millstones, as well as every firstborn of the livestock. Then there will be a great cry of anguish through all the land of Egypt such as never was before, or ever will be again. But against all the Israelites, whether man or beast, not even a dog will snarl, so that you may know that Yahweh makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. All these officials of yours will come down to me and bow before me, saying: Leave, you and all the people who follow you. After that, I will leave.’” And he left Pharaoh’s presence in fierce anger.
- Main Page Exodus of Israel
The Exodus out of Israel was one of the most important events in the entirety of the Torah, perhaps even the entire Bible. The Exodus begins in Exodus 12:37, where the Book of Exodus says " The Israelites traveled from Rameses to Succoth, about 600,000 soldiers on foot, besides their families." The exact path of the Israelite's from Egypt into the promised land remains debated amongst scholars, including the very sea that was crossed by the Israelite's. Some believe it is the Red Sea, some the Gulf of Suez and some the Gulf of Aqaba. The exodus began in Exodus 12:37, although the Israelite's never fully enter into the promised land by crossing the Jordan into the promised land until Joshua 3:17, after the death of Moses. The Bible says that the wandering in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 29:5; Numbers 32:13; Joshua 5:6) took forty years, which means that the time span between the Israelite's leaving Egypt to them entering into the promised land lasted a full forty years.
- Main Page Ten Commandments
In Exodus 20:1-17, God delivers the Ten Commandments to the Israelite's on Mount Sinai. The following are the Ten Commandments from God.
- Commandment 1: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Exodus 20:2
- Commandment 2: You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. Exodus 20:3-6
- Commandment 3: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7
- Commandment 4: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. Exodus 20:8-11
- Commandment 5: Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12
- Commandment 6: You shall not murder. Exodus 20:13
- Commandment 7: You shall not commit adultery. Exodus 20:14
- Commandment 8: You shall not steal. Exodus 20:15
- Commandment 9: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16
- Commandment 10: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s. Exodus 20:17
The Ten Commandments have been heavily influential throughout the entirety of the Bible. When the Pharisees gathered around Jesus, and a lawyer asked "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" (Matthew 22:36), Jesus spoke "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
- "Exodus." Dictionary.com
- Stuart, Douglas K. Exodus. Vol. 2. B&H Publishing Group, 2006, pp. 32-33
- Josephus, Flavius. The Works of Flavius Josephus. G. Routledge, 1873, p. 27
- Kikawada, Isaac M., and Arthur Quinn. Before Abraham was: the unity of Genesis 1-11. Abingdon Press, 1985.
- Cassuto, Umberto. The Documentary Hypothesis: And the Composition of the Pentateuch. Shalem Press, 2005.
- Archer, Gleason Leonard. Encyclopedia of Bible difficulties. Zondervan Publishing House, 1982.
- How to Judge Evidence for the Exodus
- Elicott, Charles. Ellicott's Bible Commentary, Volume 1. Delmarva Publications, Inc., 2015.