Exodus

R. Catchpole, London

1. Introduction 

The book of Exodus is a sequel to Genesis as well as being a fitting introduction to the teaching of the books of Leviticus and Numbers. 

The opening word ‘Now’, could equally be translated ‘And’, indicating a connection and continuity with that which has preceded it. The opening six verses of Exodus chapter 1 give a summary of the last five chapters of Genesis, from Jacob’s entrance into Egypt to the death of Joseph. Reference is made to the six days in which God created the heaven and earth, 20. 11; 31. 17. There are several mentions of the covenant God made with the patriarchs.    1

Thinking of the concluding verses of Exodus, and their connection with Leviticus and Numbers, the book ends with the completion of the tabernacle, a cloud covering it, and the tabernacle filled with the glory of the Lord. While Exodus ends with the glory of the Lord filling the tabernacle, Leviticus begins with the Lord calling to Moses from ‘out of the tabernacle’. 

 

2. The subject of Exodus

The Hebrew title to the book ve’eleh shemoth, as with Genesis, is taken from part of the opening verse of Exodus: ‘These are the names of’, while the title ‘Exodus’ is taken from the Septuagint LXX and Vulgate versions, meaning ‘the way out’ or ‘going out’. This title reflects the basic theme of the book, the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. While the book of Genesis ends with a coffin in Egypt, Exodus refers to the day when Israel ‘went out from the land of Egypt’, 12. 41. While Genesis is the book of creation, Exodus is the book of redemption. 

 

3. The purpose of the book

  1. To trace the next stage in the history of the descendants of Abraham. The transition of the family, and its various tribes that went down into Egypt, into the united multitude, or nation, that were brought out.
  2. In Exodus, we are introduced to Moses, and the principles of redemption, and to Aaron, and the principles of priesthood. 
  3. The book records the giving of the law at Mount Sinai.
  4. Some ten chapters are given over to the description, construction, and consecration of the tabernacle. 

All these subjects permeate much of the later teaching of the Bible.

 

4. The plan of the book

The book readily divides into three major sections.

1. Chapters 1 to 12 – the children of Israel in Egypt; salvation and the grace of God. The redemption:

  • The perversity of Pharaoh 
  • The piety of a husband and wife
  • The progression of time
  • The pessimism of the servant
  • The plagues on Egypt
  • The Passover night

2. Chapters 13 to 18 – the children of Israel in the wilderness; sanctification and the guidance of God. The redeemed:

  • Succoth to Etham, precepts and a pillar
  • Etham to the Red Sea, salvation and a song
  • The Red Sea to Elim, water and wells
  • Elim to the wilderness of Sin, murmuring and manna
  • The wilderness of Sin to Sinai, conflict and counsel

 

3. Chapters 19 to 40 – the children of Israel at Sinai; service and the glory of God. The responsibilities:

  • The law given and the covenant ratified
  • The tabernacle, its coverings and furnishings and the appointment of the priests
  • The law broken and the tables of the covenant renewed
  • The tabernacle, the people’s freewill offering for it, and its construction and erection

 

5. The author and date of the book

There are in Exodus two references to the Lord commanding Moses to record events in a book. Following the defeat of Amalek the Lord said ‘write this for a memorial in a book’, 17. 14. In connection with the covenant the Lord made with Moses and Israel, the Lord said to him ‘Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel’, 34. 27. Additional to these, we are told in Exodus chapter 24 verse 4 that Moses ‘wrote all the words of the Lord’, i.e., the words of the law, and this is referred to in verse 7 as ‘the book of the covenant’. Some might object that these references simply inform us that Moses recorded the words of the Lord, but fail to conclusively attribute the actual authorship of the book of Exodus to him. However, we should observe that the Lord Jesus, when quoting Exodus chapter 3 verse 6, said, ‘Have ye not read in the book of Moses’, Mark. 12. 26? 

An interesting aspect of Exodus, and one consistent with the Mosaic authorship, is some very ‘personal asides’ that suggest the writer was present at the events being described. So, before Moses slew the Egyptian, we are told he looked ‘this way and that’, Exod. 2. 12. Also how he ‘fled from before the serpent’ into which his rod had turned when he cast it on the ground, 4. 3. When he left Midian, we are told how he set his wife and sons ‘upon an ass’, 4. 20, and that Zipporah cut off her sons’ foreskin with ‘a stone’ and ‘cast it at his feet’, 4. 25. When he saw the glory of God in the mount, we are told ‘he made haste and bowed his head towards the earth and worshipped’, and when he came down from the mount ‘he wist not that the skin of his face shone’, 34. 8, 29.  2

It is impossible to give an exact date for the writing of Exodus. Scholars are divided upon the date of the children of Israel’s departure from Egypt and the identity of the Pharaoh who ruled at that time. Generally speaking, conservative scholarship placed the exodus from Egypt as circa 1445-1425 BC, and the writing of the book of Exodus approximately 1400 BC. Some commentators and historians opt for a much later date for the exodus, circa 1290-1240 BC. 

 

6. Some important themes in the book

1. God’s self-revelation

  • The significance of the name ‘JEHOVAH’, 6. 2-3; 3. 14. Although the title is frequently used in Genesis it is not until we come to Exodus that its full significance is revealed. Here the eternal, self-sufficient One is manifested in the character of redeemer. 
  • Distinct attributes of God are clearly revealed in specific sections of the book. Chapters 1 to 12 focus upon the sovereignty of God. Chapters 13 to 18 focus upon the faithfulness of God. In chapters 19 to 24 the focus is upon His righteousness expressed in the giving of the law. Moses would later say, ‘What nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous, as all this law, which I set before you this day’?   3 In chapters 25 to 40 His holiness is emphasized. He directs the people to make a sanctuary that He might dwell among them. The word ‘holy’ comes eight times between chapters 1 to 24, but forty-five times between chapters 25 to 40.

 

2. The doctrine of redemption

This is illustrated in the experience of the children of Israel and the progress of the main events in the book.

  • The need for redemption: The people in servitude and bondage in Egypt, chapters 1 and 2.
  • The source of redemption: God intervening in grace on their behalf, chapters 3 to 11.
  • The means of redemption: By blood on the night of the Passover, and by power in the crossing of the Red Sea. A people saved, sanctified, and separated, chapters 12 to 14. 
  • The joy of redemption: the song of Moses, chapter 15.
  • The fruit of redemption: A people sustained by God in the wilderness, and responsible to obey Him in the keeping of the law. A people amongst whom the Lord can dwell, chapters 16 to 40. 

 

3. The Mosaic Covenant and the dispensation of the Law

Exodus introduces the fifth of the seven dispensations of scripture that of ‘Law’. This dispensation, like the preceding four, ended in failure on the part of men, and with divine intervention on the part of God. Men crucified the Lawgiver, but God raised Him from among the dead. 

Contemporary with the commence-ment of the dispensation of the law was the introduction of the third of the five main covenants mentioned in the Bible, the Mosaic Covenant. Although our understanding of the Mosaic Covenant is governed by the teaching of the New Testament, we should, nevertheless, not lose sight of the privilege given to the nation of Israel in being made recipients of that covenant, nor the glory associated with it. 

 

4. The tabernacle

As the book of Exodus opens, the children of Israel are building treasure cities for Pharaoh. In the concluding chapters, they make a tabernacle, a dwelling place for God, 25. 8. 

The importance of the tabernacle is demonstrated in the amount of space given to it in the word of God, as well as the breadth of teaching associated with it. 

The tabernacle is described in the New Testament as being ‘the example and shadow of heavenly things’; and a ‘figure for the time then [J. N. Darby ‘now’] present’  4  a parabolic presentation of spiritual realities. It also conveys to believers today lessons regarding the greatness of God, the glory of Christ and the greater privileges of the Day of Grace. 

 

5. The Aaronic Priesthood

Perhaps the simplest definition of a priest is one who approaches God, or acts on behalf of God in the performance of spiritual responsibilities. 

In Exodus 19 verse 6 God promised the children of Israel that if they obeyed Him and kept His covenant they would be unto Him as a ‘kingdom of priests’. But, even before the chapter concluded, it is demonstrated that such is the holiness of God, under the economy of the law there could be no such priesthood. Ultimately, Aaron and his family were divinely selected to function in the priestly office on the nation’s behalf.

While Melchisedec is a type of Christ in His person, as King-priest, Aaron is a type of Christ in the pattern of His priesthood, and Aaron’s sons are a type of the believer’s priesthood. 

 

6. Further examples of typical teaching

  • Together, Moses and Aaron are instructive types of Christ as the ‘Apostle and High Priest of our profession’. 5
  • The Pascal Lamb in chapter 12 is a type of Christ our Passover.  6 
  • The Manna in chapter 16 is typical of Christ, the true bread from heaven.  7 
  • The rock of Horeb in chapter 17 is typical of Christ the Rock.  8  
  • The three great enemies of the people of God are portrayed in type in Exodus. In Egypt, a type of ‘the world’, in Pharaoh, a type of ‘Satan’, and, in Amalek, a type of ‘the flesh’.
  • There is a sense in which the whole history of the book can be viewed typically, the experiences of the children of Israel being ‘ensamples . . . written for our admonition’.  9 

Extracted from the book Beginnings by Richard Catchpole. It is volume 1 of the Old Testament Overview series and is to be published by Precious Seed Publications later in 2016 DV.

 

Endnotes

 1 See Exod. 2. 24; 6. 3-4, 8; 13. 5, 11; 32. 13; 33. 1.

 2 For a more extensive list see G. Rawlinson, Exodus, part of A Bible Commentary for English readers, edited by C. J. Ellicott, Cassell and Company, 1900, pp. 188-189.

 3 Deut. 4. 8.

 4 Heb. 8. 5; 9. 9.

 5 Heb. 3. 1.

 6 1 Cor. 5. 7.

 7 John 6. 31-35.

 8 1 Cor. 10. 4. 

 9 1 Cor. 10. 6-11.

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