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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Exodus, Book of

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The books that we today refer to as the five books of Moses (or the Pentateuch) were originally one continuous volume. The Hebrews made the division into five sections so that the extremely long book would fit conveniently on to five scrolls. Exodus, being only one part of a much longer book, is therefore best understood in connection with what precedes and what follows it. (For the authorship of Exodus see PENTATEUCH.) The name Exodus, meaning ‘ a going out’, was given by those who made the first Greek translation of the Old Testament. It refers to the central event of the book, Israel’s escape from Egypt.

Message of the book

God had promised that from the descendants of Abraham he would make a nation that would in a special sense be his people, and he would give them Canaan as their national homeland (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 13:14-16; Genesis 17:6-8; Genesis 22:17-18). The chosen descendants of Abraham settled in Egypt in the fertile region of the Nile Delta. There, over the next four centuries, they multiplied and prospered (cf. Genesis 15:13; Exodus 12:41), till the time approached when they would be strong enough to move north and conquer Canaan. They were sadly disappointed when the Egyptian rulers, fearing the growing Israelite power, made them slaves. Among the cities built by the Israelite slaves was Rameses (Genesis 15:14; Exodus 1:8-12; see EGYPT; RAMESES).

But God had not forgotten the covenant he had made with Abraham. He therefore freed Israel from Egypt’s power and set the people on their way to the promised land (Exodus 2:24; Exodus 6:6-8). After three months journey they settled for a time at Mt Sinai. There God formally established his covenant with Israel as his chosen people, giving them a law-code and a religious order to govern their national life. The instructions concerning these matters begin in Exodus and carry on unbroken through Leviticus and into Numbers. The book of Numbers goes on to record how the people, after almost one year at Sinai, resumed their journey to Canaan (cf. Exodus 19:1; Numbers 10:11).

The events of the exodus from Egypt and the establishment of the covenant at Sinai are therefore the main issues of the book of Exodus. Israel’s experiences were part of the fulfilment of God’s covenant promises. God was in control of events and was directing them towards the goals that he had set (Exodus 14:31; Exodus 15:1-18; Exodus 19:4-6; Exodus 29:45-46; Exodus 33:14). Through all these experiences the Israelites began to understand the character of this God who had chosen them. Above all they came to know him as their Redeemer (Exodus 3:13-17; Exodus 6:6-8; Exodus 20:2).

Summary of contents

God saw how the Israelites were oppressed in Egypt (1:1-22), and prepared Moses to be the deliverer to save them. Moses was brought up in the Egyptian palace, but after forty years in Egypt he renounced his Egyptian status and spent the next forty years in the barren regions of the Sinai Peninsular (2:1-25). There God revealed himself to Moses as Yahweh, the eternal and self-sufficient God who would use Moses to save his people from Egypt (3:1-4:17; see YAHWEH).

Moses then returned to Egypt. With his brother Aaron, who was his assistant, he tried to persuade Pharaoh to release the Israelites, but without success (4:18-6:27). This began a long conflict between Moses and Pharaoh, which resulted in repeated plagues upon Egypt (6:28-10:29; see PLAGUE). In the end God destroyed the eldest in each family in Egypt. He passed over the Israelite households, because they had already sacrificed a lamb in the place of the person under judgment. The Passover was God’s great act of judgment for Egypt and redemption for Israel (11:1-13:16; see PASSOVER). The Israelites at last were free. When the Egyptians persisted in pursuing them, they were overthrown in the Red Sea (13:17-15:21).

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Exodus, Book of'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/e/exodus-book-of.html. 2004.

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