Introduction to the Book of Exodus

Overview of the book of Exodus covering the internal support for Mosaic authorship, the structure of Exodus, and seven themes in Exodus.

Introduction to the Book of Exodus
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Overview of Exodus

  • Second book of the Old Testament
  • Second book of the Pentateuch (Torah)
  • Written by Moses around 1400 AD
  • Name of the book comes from the Greek translation of the phrase "a way out."

Internal Support for Mosaic Authorship

  • Moses describes himself in the third person as the author of the Pentateuch (Exod 17:14)
  • Moses describes that God instructed him to write down the Law (Exod 24:4)
  • Moses claimed that he wrote all of Deuteronomy (Deut 31:24)

Structure of Exodus

A. Exodus 1–19

  • Story of God's deliverance of Israel from Egypt

B. Exodus 20–40

  • God's covenant with Israel

Seven Themes in Exodus

A. Theme of Freedom

  • Exodus is not about political or religious freedom.
  • Exodus focuses on deliverance from an evil master to a good master.

B. Theme of Knowing God

  • God repeats throughout Exodus, "I am the Lord."
  • Israel encountered God through mediators.
  • Moses was the mediator between Israel and God. (Exod 33)
  • Aaron, Moses's brother, became the first high priest (Exod 28)

C. Theme of Covenant Relationship

  • God referred to Israel as "my people" (Exod 5) who were connected to him through covenant.
  • God reiterates that Israel is his covenant people (Exod 6; Exod 19)

And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exod 19:6a)

D. Theme of Idolatry

  • In Ancient Near East (ANE) culture, idolatry tried to solve the challenge of believing in an invisible god by creating statues and other images of a god.
  • When worshippers reduce God to an image, it reduces God's character. Making an image of God is strictly prohibited in the Ten Commandments. (Exod 20)
  • God's presence is symbolized through the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle.

E. Theme of a Promised Land

  • God promised Abraham that his descendants would occupy a land as their own. (Gen 12:7)
  • Therefore, Israel had expectation that they would be delivered from Egypt (Exod 3:8) since in Egypt, they were slaves without a homeland.
  • And while in the wilderness, Israel built tents and a tabernacle because they had not settled in the land God had promised.

F. Theme of God's Law

  • Human laws teach people how to live peacefully within their community.
  • God's laws teach people how to live peacefully with God.
  • Idolatry was appealing because it only demanded sacrifice and not ethical living.
  • God required both sacrifices and obedience (holy living).
  • God's law is summarized in the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments comment on how to love God. The latter six commandments comment on how to love one's neighbor.

G. Theme of One True God

  • Other nations including Egypt were polytheistic and believed in different gods overseeing different areas of life.
  • Many Israelites were still worshipping Egyptian idols 40 years later. (Josh 24)
  • The exodus story was God's way of showing Israel and the watching world that all other gods had no power. Only Yahweh alone, the God of Israel, has power and is the true God.
  • The ten plagues were God's way to prove he is superior to Egyptian's false gods.
  • After God establishes his power and delivers his people, God will give his requirements for his people in the book of Leviticus.

Introduction to the Pentateuch