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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Exodus

- Exodus

by Thomas Constable

Introduction

TITLE

The Hebrew title of this book (we’elleh shemot) originated from the ancient practice of naming a Bible book after its first word or words. "Now these are the names of" is the translation of the first two Hebrew words.

"The Hebrew title of the Book of Exodus, therefore, was to remind us that Exodus is the sequel to Genesis and that one of its purposes is to continue the history of God’s people as well as elaborate further on the great themes so nobly introduced in Genesis." [Note: Ronald Youngblood, Exodus, pp. 9-10.]

Exodus cannot stand alone in the sense that it would not make much sense without Genesis. The very first word of the book, translated "now," is a conjunction that means "and."

The English title "Exodus" is a transliteration of the Greek word exodos from the Septuagint translation meaning "exit," "way out," or "departure." The Septuagint translators gave the book this title because of the major event in it, namely, the Israelites’ departure from Egypt.

"The exodus is the most significant historical and theological event of the Old Testament . . ." [Note: Eugene H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, p. 57.]

DATE AND WRITER

Moses, who lived from about 1525 to 1405 B.C., wrote Exodus (Exo_17:14; Exo_24:4; Exo_34:4; Exo_34:27-29). He could have written it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit any time after the events recorded (after about 1444 B.C.). He may have written it during the year the Israelites camped at the base of Mt. Sinai. He may have done so during the 38-year period of wandering in the wilderness following the Israelites’ failure to enter the land from Kadesh Barnea (cf. Numbers 13-14; ca. 1443-1405 B.C.). On the other hand he may have written it on the plains of Moab just before his death (cf. Exo_16:35). [Note: On the date of the Exodus, see my note at the end of 12:37-42; Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 65-69; or John D. Hannah, "Exodus," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, pp. 104-5. On the Mosaic authorship of Exodus, see my note on the writer of Genesis and the sources referred to there, in my notes on Genesis. Kenneth Kitchen, "The Old Testament in its Context: 2 From Egypt to the Jordan," Theological Students’ Fellowship Bulletin (1971):4-8, also has helpful background information on the Mosaic authorship of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, as does Gleason L. Archer, "Old Testament History and Recent Archaeology from Moses to David," Bibliotheca Sacra 127:506 (April-June 1970):99-106.]

These dates tie in with the date of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, which will be discussed in the exposition of chapter 12 below.

SCOPE

Exodus embraces about 431 years of history, from the arrival of Jacob and his family in Egypt (ca. 1876 B.C.) to the erection of the tabernacle in the wilderness of Sinai (ca. 1445 B.C.). However Exo_1:1-7 is a review of Jacob’s family. If we eliminate this section, the narrative resumes the story of the Israelites where Genesis ends, after the death of Joseph. About 364 years elapsed between the death of Joseph and the building of the tabernacle. The bulk of the book (chs. 3-40) deals with only two of these years, the year before and the year after the Exodus from Egypt. The Exodus event is clearly the focus of this book.

The Israelites lived in Egypt 430 years (Exo_12:40). Gen_15:13 has the round number 400 years as the time of Israel’s oppression in Egypt. [Note: See the "Chronology Chart for Exodus" in John Davis, Moses and the Gods of Egypt, p. 14.]

PURPOSE

"The purpose of the Book of Exodus is to celebrate God’s gracious deliverance of His chosen people Israel from Egyptian slavery to the freedom of covenant relationship and fellowship with Him." [Note: Eugene H. Merrill, in The Old Testament Explorer, p. 41.]

GENRE

Like Genesis, Exodus contains a mixture of literary genres, including narrative, poetry, legal, and cultic. [Note: Herbert M. Wolf, An Introduction to the Old Testament Pentateuch, p. 127.] As a whole, however, it seems best to classify the whole book as theological instructional history. [Note: Longman and Dillard, p. 72]

IMPORTANCE

"No other biblical book surfaces elsewhere in the OT as frequently as the Book of Exodus does; in the NT only the Books of Psalms and Isaiah are cited more, and that for the fairly obvious reasons of liturgy and messianism." [Note: John I. Durham, Exodus, p. xxiii.]

"The deliverance of Israel out of Egypt by Yahweh in the Old Testament is parallel in importance to the resurrection of Christ in the New Testament. The historicity of these events is a critical foundation for a proper understanding of the rest of the Bible." [Note: J. Daniel Hays, "An Evangelical Approach to Old Testament Narrative Criticism," Bibliotheca Sacra 166:661 (January-March 2009):13.]

OUTLINE

I.    The liberation of Israel Exo_1:1 to Exo_15:21

A.    God’s preparation of Israel and Moses chs. 1-4

1.    The growth of Jacob’s family Exo_1:1-7

2.    The Israelites’ bondage in Egypt Exo_1:8-22

3.    Moses’ birth and education Exo_2:1-10

4.    Moses’ flight from Egypt to Midian Exo_2:11-15

5.    Moses’ life in Midian Exo_2:16-25

6.    Moses’ call Exo_3:1 to Exo_4:18

7.    Moses’ return to Egypt Exo_4:19-31

B.    God’s demonstrations of His sovereignty chs. 5-11

1.    Pharaoh’s response to Moses and Aaron’s initial request Exo_5:1 - Exo_6:1

2.    Moses and Aaron’s equipment as God’s messengers Exo_6:2 to Exo_7:7

3.    The attestation of Moses and Aaron’s divine mission Exo_7:8-13

4.    The first three plagues Exo_7:14 to Exo_8:19

5.    The fourth, fifth, and sixth plagues Exo_8:20 to Exo_9:12

6.    The seventh, eight, and ninth plagues Exo_9:13 to Exo_10:29

7.    The proclamation of the tenth plague ch. 11

C.    God’s redemption of His people Exo_12:1 to Exo_13:16

1.    The consecration of Israel as the covenant nation Exo_12:1-28

2.    The death of the first-born and the release of Israel Exo_12:29-36

3.    The exodus of Israel out of Egypt Exo_12:37-42

4.    Regulations concerning the Passover Exo_12:43-51

5.    The sanctification of the first-born Exo_13:1-16

D.    God’s completion of Israel’s liberation Exo_13:17 to Exo_15:21

1.    The journey from Succoth to Etham Exo_13:17-22

2.    Israel’s passage through the Red Sea ch. 14

3.    Israel’s song of deliverance Exo_15:1-21

II.    The adoption of Israel Exo_15:22 to Exo_40:38

A.    God’s preparatory instruction of Israel Exo_15:22 to Exo_18:27

1.    Events in the wilderness of Shur Exo_15:22-27

2.    Quails and manna in the wilderness of Sin ch. 16

3.    The lack of water at Rephidim Exo_17:1-7

4.    The hostility of the Amalekites Exo 17:18-36

5.    The friendliness of Jethro the Midianite ch. 18

B.    The establishment of the Mosaic Covenant Exo_19:1 to Exo_24:11

1.    Preparation for the Covenant ch. 19

2.    The Ten Commandments Exo_20:1-17

3.    The response of the Israelites Exo_20:18-21

4.    The stipulations of the Book of the Covenant Exo_20:22 to Exo_23:33

5.    The ratification of the Covenant Exo_24:1-11

C.    Directions regarding God’s dwelling among His people Exo_24:12 to Exo_31:18

1.    The revelation of these directions Exo_24:12-18

2.    Contributions for the construction of the sanctuary Exo_25:1-9

3.    The tabernacle furnishings Exo_25:10-40

4.    The tabernacle structure ch. 26

5.    The tabernacle courtyard Exo_27:1-19

6.    The investiture of the priests Exo_27:20 to Exo_28:43

7.    The consecration of the priests Exo_29:1-37

8.    The service of the priests Exo_29:38 to Exo_30:38

9.    The builders of the tabernacle Exo_31:1-11

10.    The sign of the Sabbath Exo_31:12-18

D.    The breaking and renewing of the covenant chs. 32-34

1.    The failure of Israel ch. 32

2.    The re-establishment of fellowship ch. 33

3.    The renewal of the covenant ch. 34

E.    The construction and dedication of the objects used in Israel’s worship chs. 35-40

1.    Preparations for construction Exo_35:1 to Exo_36:7

2.    Execution of the work Exo_36:8 to Exo_39:43

3.    The erection and consecration of the tabernacle ch. 40

 

In an interesting and original chart of Exodus, Ted Grove suggested the following structural outline of Exodus. [Note: Ted was a student in my Old Testament History I course in the spring of 1991.]

I.    Israel’s liberation chs. 1-18

A.    Israel’s affliction (Israel is Egypt’s possession) Exo_1:1 to Exo_2:14

B.    Deliverance Exo_2:15 to Exo_18:27

    Ted saw the following chiastic structure in this section.

    A    Midian: Moses’ commission Exo_2:15 to Exo_4:28

        B    Enemy: Egypt defeated Exo_4:29 to Exo_15:21

            C    Water: bitter to sweet and 12 springs Exo_15:22-27

                D    Food: manna and quail ch. 16

            C’    Water: out of rock Exo_17:1-7

        B’    Enemy: Amalek defeated Exo_17:8-16

    A’    Midian: Moses accepts wisdom ch. 18

II.    Israel’s adoption chs. 19-40

A.    Covenant delivered Exo_19:1 to Exo_24:11

B.    Sanctuary planned Exo_24:12 to Exo_31:18

C.    Covenant broken ch. 32

D.    Covenant renewed chs. 33-34

E.    Sanctuary’s construction Exo_35:1 to Exo_40:33

F.    Covenant sealed (Israel is God’s possession) Exo_40:34-38

    Ted also saw a chiasm in this part of the book.

    A    Covenant delivered Exo_19:1 to Exo_24:11

        B    Tabernacle planned Exo_24:12 to Exo_27:21

            C    Priestly instructions chs. 28-30

                D    Craftsmen’s direction Exo_31:1-11

                    E    Sabbath instructions Exo_31:12-18

                        F    Covenant broken ch. 32

                        F’    Covenant renewed chs. 33-34

                    E’    Sabbath reminded Exo_35:1-3

                D’    Craftsmen and construction Exo_35:4 to Exo_38:31

            C’    Priests prepared ch. 39

        B’    Tabernacle completed Exo_40:1-33

    A’    Covenant sealed Exo_40:34-38

The center of the first chiasm is the manna. The center of the second chiasm is the tablets of the Law. These were the two items God instructed Moses to preserve in the ark of the covenant.

Ted saw the key verse of the book as Exo_34:9.

Conclusion Of Exodus

The major message of this book is that Yahweh is the sovereign God who provides deliverance for people from the slavery in which they find themselves. Moses revealed God’s methods of providing salvation in Exodus.

His method of dealing with the whole human race was to create a pattern in the nation of Israel of how glorious it can be to live under the government of Yahweh. His method of dealing with Israel was by revealing Himself in power and glory. God intended this revelation to produce the double reaction of obedience (horizontally) and worship (vertically) in the Israelites. God’s method of dealing with individuals was by providing opportunities to obey and experience blessing or to disobey and experience chastisement.

God’s purposes as revealed in Exodus are continually moving forward. People’s actions such as disobedience, apostasy, and rebellion affect God’s purposes, but they never frustrate them. Man’s actions in Exodus fail apart from God’s grace. This fact demonstrates that in both his nature and practice man is a congenital sinner.

God’s grace in choosing Israel and blessing her with deliverance, adoption, and His abiding presence stands out clearly in Exodus, especially in view of Israel’s ingratitude and rebelliousness.

"Exodus contains some of the richest, foundational theology of all the books in the OT. Preeminently, it lays the foundations for a theology of God’s revelation of his person, his redemption, his law, and his worship. It also initiates the great institution of the priesthood and the role of the prophet and formalizes the covenant relationship between God and his people." [Note: Kaiser, "Exodus," p. 292.]

"With Yahweh’s Presence promised, then demonstrated, then given to Israel in theophany at Sinai, the first half of Exodus ends. The second half of the book is preoccupied with response to that Presence, in life, in covenant, in worship, and even in disobedience. The largest part of that second half has to do with the communication to Israel of the reality of that Presence, through a series of set-apart places, set-apart objects and set-apart acts, all of them intimately connected, in one way or another, with Yahweh’s Presence." [Note: Durham, p. 501.]

Appendix

The Hebrew Calendar [Note: Davis, p. 142.]
Name of MonthNumber of MonthDay(s)FestivalModern
Month
Agricultural
Season
Pre-exilePost-exileSacred YearCivil Year
AbibNisan171New MoonMarch/ AprilSpring Equinox
14PassoverOccasional Sirocco
15-21Unleavened BreadLatter rains; flood season; beginning of barley season
16FirstfruitsFlax Harvest
21Holy Convocation
ZivIyyar28April/MayDry season begins; apricots ripen
Sivan397Pentecost (Feast of Weeks)May/JuneWheat harvest begins; dry winds; early figs; grapes ripen
Tammuz410June/JulyHot, dry season; grape harvest
Ab511July/ AugustAir still; heat intense; olive harvest
Elul612August/ SeptemberDates and summer figs
EthanimTishri711Feast of TrumpetsSeptember/OctoberEarly (former) rains
10Day of AtonementHeavy dews
15-21Feast of TabernaclesPlowing; seed time
22Solemn Assembly
BulHeshvan82October/ NovemberRains; winter figs; wheat and barley sown
Chislev9325DedicationNovember/DecemberWinter begins; pastures become green
Tebeth104December/JanuaryColdest month; rains; snow on high ground
Shebat115January/ FebruaryGrowing warmer; almond trees blossom
Adar12615Feast of PurimFebruary/MarchSpring (latter) rains begin; citrus fruit harvest

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