Introduction: The title Exodus is from the Greek, meaning ‘Going Out’. This title describes the Hebrews departure from Egypt, and this historical event is also called ‘The Exodus’. The Hebrew title is Shemoth, ‘Names’, from the first verse “These are the names of the sons of Israel”. While the title Exodus is appropriate for leaving Egypt, over half of the book is devoted to the encampment at Mount Sinai and the building of the Tabernacle.
Moses probably wrote this book following the Exodus, during the wilderness wanderings, which took place about 1446 B.C. He was an eyewitness and the primary participant in these events. The book begins before the birth of Moses, who was 80 years old at the time of the Exodus in 1446 B.C. There are some disputes as to the timing of the Exodus, with some scholars dating it about 3 centuries later. However, I hold to the traditional dating of 1446 B.C., allowing time for the wanderings, conquest of Canaan, and the rule of the Judges before the historically verified dates of the Kingship of David.
The purpose of the book is to show the power of God to save his people, and to record these events for later generations. Exodus records the redemption of the sons of Israel from bondage in Egypt, and the establishment of a national covenant.
The key verse, which states the main point of the book, is from Exodus 19:4-6 “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (NIV)
Synopsis: Centuries have passed since the story of Joseph, with Jacob and his descendants remaining in Egypt (as recorded in Genesis). A new dynasty has taken control of Egypt, and has no treaty with the Hebrews. Egyptians enslave the Hebrews (a distinct and foreign ethnic group), and oppress them. Moses is born and adopted by Pharoah’s daughter. As an adult, 40 years old, he kills an Egyptian and flees to Midian. Forty years later, at the age of 80, God speaks to Moses from a burning bush and commands him to return to Egypt.
Moses demands that Pharoah let the Hebrews (Israel) leave Egypt. God performs miracles and plagues of increasing severity (the Ten Plagues of Egypt) until Pharoah relents. After Israel leaves, Phaorah changes his mind and pursues Israel to the Sea of Reeds, which Israel crosses but the Egyptians are trapped in and the army destroyed.
While Israel camps at Mt. Sinai, God gives Moses His laws and plans for the Tabernacle. Aaron makes a golden calf for Israel, which engages in an orgy. Moses returns from the mountain, breaks the tablets of the law, and executes swift punishment on Israel. Moses then intercedes for his people.
God again meets with Moses, and writes on a second set of tablets. Moses returns and the Tabernacle, utensils, ark, altar, and priestly vestments are made and consecrated.