By starting with the words ‘Now these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt’, Exodus (1:1) neatly links with Genesis with its various ‘tôledôts’ (meaning: this is the descendants or generations of). Moreover, Genesis ends with the deaths of Jacob and Joseph, but Exodus continues with the children of Israel (Gen 50; Ex 1:1-7). Based on the first few words in this book, the Hebrew title of Exodus is w’elleh semot, whereas the English title is a transliteration of the Greek word exodus, used in the Septuagint, which means ‘exit, ‘way out’ or ‘departure’. The children of Israel were in Egypt for 430 years (Ex 12:40), but as previously promised to Abraham (Gen 15:13), God delivered Israel from Egypt, providing a way out. By the end of Exodus, not only had God saved the nation from Egypt, but He had entered into a conditional covenant with Israel (chapters 19-24) and tabernacled with them, for the ‘cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys’ (Ex 40:38).
The Structure of Exodus
Exodus can be structured along either geographical or thematic lines. According to Merrill, Rooker and Grisanti (2011:192), an outline based on the geographical progression of God’s dealings with Israel could be as follows: Israel in Egypt (chapters 1:1-13:16), Israel’s journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai (Ex 13:17-18:27), followed by God’s revelation to Israel at Sinai (19-40). A thematic outline could focus on an introduction (1:1-2:14), the liberation of Israel out of Egypt (chapters 2:15-18:27), followed by the adoption of Israel as God’s national son (19-40). Constable (2016:5) highlights the work of Ted Grove, who identified the following chiastic structures to outline Exodus:
The liberation of Israel 2:15-18:27
A Midian: Moses’ commission 2:15—4:28
B Enemy: Egypt defeated 4:29—15:21
C Water: Bitter to sweet & 12 springs 15:22-27
D Food: manna and quail ch. 16
C’ Water: Out of rock 17:1-7
B’ Enemy: Amalek defeated 17:8-16
A’ Midian: Moses accepts wisdom ch. 18
Israel’s adoption as God’s national son 19:1-40:38
A Covenant delivered 19:1—24:11
B Tabernacle planned 24:12—27:21
C Priestly instructions 28:1—30:38
D Craftsmen’s direction 31:1-11
E Sabbath instructions 31:12-18
F Covenant broken 32:1-35
F’ Covenant renewed 33:1-34:35
E’ Sabbath reminded 35:1-3
D’ Craftsmen and construction 35:4—38:31
C’ Priests prepared 39:1-43
B’ Tabernacle completed 40:1-33
A’ Covenant sealed 40:34-38
The Author, Date and Place of Exodus
Moses lived from about 1525 to 1405 BC (Constable 2016:1; cf. also Zuber 2014:112). He may have written Exodus during the time when Israel camped at Mount Sinai, he may have written it during the time of the wilderness wanderings, or on the plains of Moab just before his death. Whenever Moses wrote this book (Ex 17:14; 24:4; 34:4, 27-29), he did so under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit.
The Purpose and Main Themes of Exodus
Exodus is the Old Testament’s ‘Exhibit A’ of the sovereignty and grace of God, who keeps his covenant promises. In line with the first part of the book, the ‘theme of deliverance from bondage – redemption – is central to the theology and history of the OT’ (Zuber 2014:113). Exodus teaches, like few other books, about the Person, attributes and perfections of God. In the second part of Exodus, God enters into a covenant with the nation Israel, showing Israel not only how to worship God, but also showing God’s desire to dwell or tabernacle among his people. This is the same I AM who became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among Israel, whose glory they beheld, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14) – the same God who will return to earth when a future Jewish generation says, “Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the LORD!” (Matthew 23:39; cf. Hosea 5:15-6:1; Zachariah 12:10).
Would you like to read more about Exodus? We recommend the following:
Constable, T.L., 2016, Notes on Exodus, 2016 edition.
Merrill, E.H., Rooker, M.F. & Grisanti, M.A., 2011, The World and the Word, B&H Publishing Group, Nashville.
Zuber, K.D., 2014, ‘Exodus’, in M. Rydelnik & M. Vanlaningham (eds.), The Moody Bible Commentary, pp. 111-174, Moody Publishers, Chicago.
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