Introduction to the Book of Exodus

To my Uncle Dale and Aunt Pat Cain who have been a positive example to me my entire life. Uncle Dale was a meat cutter who volunteered to pastor very small churches, built them up to where they could afford to hire a permanent pastor, then he moved on to do it again.
That was his ministry when he returned home from serving in World War II. My Aunt Pat is
a wife of noble character; her children arise and call her blessed (Proverbs 31)

The Title of Exodus

    Hebrew Scriptures name the book of Exodus differently than the NIV, the New American Standard, or any other Bible. The Jewish tradition is to call the names of the books by its first or second words. Therefore, the Hebrew name of this particular book is: And these are the names of, which are the first two Hebrew words.

    Around 250 BC, a group of seventy Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Egypt translated the entire Hebrew Scriptures into the Greek, which was the common language of the day. This translation became known as the Septuagint, but they titled the book based upon its content, and named it Exodus, which means to go out. Thus, the English title comes from the Greek title.

The Author of Exodus

    Both Scripture and tradition agree that Moses was the human author of Exodus. God, working through Moses, inspired him to write the first five books of the Bible, or the Pentateuch (Exodus 17:14; Leviticus 1:1-2; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 1:1). This was enough to satisfy most people in the synagogue and the church for centuries. He sat down and wrote the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. He was the human originator and source of these books; however, as far as Genesis is concerned he was a compiler and editor of eleven family documents because he was not an eyewitness of the events of Genesis. He had not been born yet, although he was an eyewitness to almost everything in Exodus, and all of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy (Joshua 1:7; Matthew 8:4; Mark 12:26; Luke 16:29; John 7:19; Acts 26:22; Romans 10:19; First Corinthians 9:9; Second Corinthians 3:15). Therefore, there is a long list from both testaments declaring that Moses is the human author of the Torah, or the first five books of the TaNaKh, of which Exodus is a part.

The Theme of Exodus

    The establishment of God’s chosen people of Isra'el as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (19:6) is the major theme of Exodus. The story is here told of how God fulfilled one of His promises to Abraham by making him very fruitful (1:7), how ADONAI freed Isra'el from Egyptian slavery, how God renewed the Abrahamic Covenant with them at Mount Sinai, and how He provided them with rules for life and worship. The story of Exodus is the story of how God bought back, or redeemed His people.1

Egyptian History

    The rulers of the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt were the Hyksos. They were a people of mixed Semitic-Asiatic descent and definitely not Egyptian. Because of their superior military technology, the Hyksos, using iron chariots and Asiatic bows, dominated Egypt for five hundred years. After conquering Egypt, the first thing they did was to invite other Semites into the land of Egypt to help them subdue the Hamitic Egyptians. They welcomed these fellow Semites with open arms and even gave them portions within Egypt to live. It was no accident that Joseph arose to power when the Semitic Hyksos controlled the country. Therefore, the Hyksos king, in keeping with this policy, gave Joseph’s family the choice area of Goshen in which to live. However, gradually the Egyptians gained power and an Egyptian named Ahmose led a revolt against the Hyksos and overthrew them, and, in doing so, established the Eighteenth Dynasty. This was one of the most brilliant periods in Egyptian history. Egypt emerged as an international power and extended her influence beyond the Euphrates River. It was during the Eighteenth Dynasty that the events of Exodus took place. This was a time when a new wave of nationalism had supplanted the older Hyksos tolerance of foreigners. The Egyptians embarked on empire building as a means of defense, pushing their borders into Palestine. The Egyptian Pharaohs used the Hebrews as slave labor for building defense projects and royal palaces.2 There were nine kings in the Eighteenth dynasty.

    The first Pharaoh was Ahmose. He led the revolt that expelled the Hyksos out of Egypt and was the first of whom came to be known as the Warrior Pharaohs. After he followed them into Canaan and destroyed them and their capital, the Hyksos faded into history. He had a brother named Kamose. Eventually there would also be an Egyptian king named Thutmose, so mose was the typical name of the Pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty.

    The next Pharaoh was Amenhotep I. He was the son of Ahmose, and made several raids into the land of Canaan, but he died childless.

    The third Pharaoh of this dynasty was Thutmose I, who was the son-in-law of Ahmose. He was married twice. He produced a famous daughter, Hatshepsut, by the first marriage and a son, Thutmose II, by the second.

    After his father died, Thutmose II became the fourth Pharaoh. He gave birth to a son, Thutmose III, who was about nine years old when his father, Thutmose II, died.

    Technically, Thutmose III was the fifth Pharaoh. But because he was a young boy in the earlier years of his reign, the throne was actually controlled by Queen Hatshepsut. He was her half-nephew and later would marry her daughter, but he hated her with a passion. He did not like the fact that he was under her control and she was the real power behind the throne. After her death, he liquidated the entire royal court in an attempt to obliterate her name from all the monuments in the land. All of her statues were smashed to pieces and her name was desecrated in such a way that it was as if she never existed. In fact, anyone associated with her after her death was in danger of execution. After killing those close to her, he invaded Canaan several times and put them totally under Egyptian rule. He was called the Napoleon of Ancient Egypt. He had three successive chief queens in his lifetime, and while he had a veritable flock of daughters, he only had five sons.

    After him comes the sixth Pharaoh, Amenhotep II. He was the son of Thutmose III and he also made raids into Canaan. He experienced the ten plagues, including the death of his firstborn son and was the Pharaoh of the Exodus. He was not, however, the firstborn of Thutmose III’s five sons, so he did not die on the night of the Egyptian Passover.

    His son, Thutmose IV, was the seventh Pharaoh. He was the second born son of Amenhotep II, and his older brother was killed on the night of the Egyptian Passover. Because he was not the firstborn son, he desperately tried to legitimize his position of Pharaoh and his right to rule over Egypt by inventing a story called the Dream Stella. He said that the Egyptian god Harem-akht appeared to him one night in a dream and promised that if he would uncover the Sphinx that was buried in the sand, he would become Pharaoh. That he did, so by uncovering and restoring the Sphinx, he claimed that the gods of Egypt gave him the right to rule. During the remainder of his reign, Isra'el was in her wilderness wanderings.

    The eighth Pharaoh was Amenhotep III. He was a weak king and the son of Thutmose I. During his rule, Egypt began to lose control over the land of Canaan, which is why Joshua begins his conquest of the Promised Land.

    This decline continued under his son, Amenhotep IV, the ninth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Later, he changed his name to Akhnaton, meaning the sun disk, because he tried to change Egypt’s religion and move to monotheism, the worship of only one god, the sun disk. This was met with much resistance and a civil war broke out. The result was that Egypt lost control over Canaan altogether. It was during his reign that we have the period of the Judges. So the Eighteenth Dynasty is crucial for an understanding of what is happening in Exodus.

Biblical History

    The Book of Genesis is the history of the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God said to them on several occasions that to them and their descendants He would give the Promised Land. Therefore, the children of Isra'el were destined to possess Canaan. The question then becomes: Why did ADONAI have the Jews spend over four hundred years in Egypt? The Bible gives us two reasons.

    First, because the sin of the Amorites had not yet reached its full measure (Genesis 15:12-16)YHVH does not punish a nation until its measure of sin is full because: He is patient with them, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (Second Peter 3:9b). Secondly, Isra'el served other gods while they were in Egypt (Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:5-10, 23:2-3, 8, 19, 21, 27). Being involved in deliberate, active sin separates us from the LORD and can delay His acting on our behalf.

    But God had told the patriarchs that He would bring them back again to the Promised Land. As Jacob prepared to leave the land of Canaan for Egypt he stopped at Beersheba, which was the southern most point of the Promised Land. But Jacob was reluctant. He had left the Land once before without God’s blessing. Both Abraham and Isaac were told not to leave the Land, but to live in it where ADONAI would bless them. Would Jacob be out of God’s blessing again if he left the Land? That night he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And ADONAI spoke to Isra'el in a vision at night and said: Jacob! Jacob! He replied: Here I am. Then God said: Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again (Gen 46:1-4). God promised to bring them back to the Promised Land.

    As Joseph lay on his deathbed, he said: I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the Land He promised in an oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And Joseph made the sons of Isra'el swear an oath and said: God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place (Genesis 50:24-25). Even before the Egyptians would make slaves of them, the Jews viewed their stay in Egypt as temporary. Joseph was so sure of this that he made his descendants swear an oath that they would carry his bones back to the Promised Land for his final resting place.

    Lastly, the book of Exodus shows us the outworking of the Abrahamic Covenant. God had said to Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse" (Genesis 12:3a). Thus, those who bless Isra'el are blessed, and those who curse Isra'el are cursed. As we go through the book of Exodus, we will find Jews coming in contact with various Gentile nations or tribes. Those who bless them find themselves blessed, and those who curse the Jews find themselves cursed.

The Use of the Hebrew name ADONAI for YHVH

    A basic problem in Judaism is that God’s personal name is never spoken. When Moses saw a bush that burned without being consumed in the wilderness of Midian, God revealed Himself to Mosshe and told him His own personal name. That Hebrew name consists of four letters. It is forbidden to speak the four-letter name of God, YHVH (Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay), also known as the Tetragrammaton meaning four-letter writing. Today, ADONAI is a word that is commonly used by many people of the Jewish faith instead of YHVH, which simply means, the Name. The Talmud (Pesachim 50a) made it a requirement not to pronounce Tetragrammaton, meaning the four-letter name of God, and this remains the rule in most modern Jewish settings. In deference to this tradition, which is unnecessary but harmless, I will be using ADONAI or Ha’Shem where YHVH is meant. In ancient times when the scribes were translating the Hebrew Scriptures, they revered the name of YHVH so much that they would use a quill to make one stroke of the name and then throw it away. Then they would make another stroke and throw that quill away until the name was completed. His name became so sacred to them that they started to substitute the phrase the Name, instead of writing or pronouncing His Name. Over centuries of doing this, the actual letters and pronunciation of His Name was lost. The closest we can come is YHVH, with no syllables. The pronunciation has been totally lost. Therefore, the name Yahweh is only a guess of what the original name sounded like. Both ADONAI and Ha’Shem are substitute names for YHVH. ADONAI is more of an affectionate name like daddy, while Ha’Shem is a more formal name like sir.

    Therefore, God does not have many names, He has only one name – YHVH (Yud Hay Vav Hay). All the other names in the Bible describe His characteristics and His attributes. Hear, O Israel! ADONAI our God, ADONAI is One (Deuteronomy 6:4). The Jewish tradition, then, forbids the pronunciation of the Divine Name, and many choose to use ADONAI in its place. I will frequently be using ADONAI in this devotional commentary instead of YHVH.

The Use of the Hebrew word Torah rather than the Greek word Law

    Most English translations use the word Law, from the Greek word nomos; however, those translations give the wrong idea for both interpretation and application of the Scriptures because nomos is not a correct rendering of the Hebrew word Torah. The legalistic element, which might rightly be called the Law, only represents one side of the Torah, which never has the perspective of the Jews in their history. To the Jew, the word Torah means a teaching or an instruction of any kind. As such, the true essence of Torah in the mind of the Jew is nothing more than teaching the Way (Acts 9:2). The Hebrew word Torah is derived from the Hebrew root yarah, which means to shoot an arrow or to teach. Torah means teaching or instruction that is true and straight as if the words of Torah are shot in a direct path like an arrow, with power and force for living life to the fullest. Therefore, to give the most accurate translation possible, I will be using the Hebrew word Torah throughout this commentary.

The Use of the Hebrew term TaNaKh

    The Hebrew word TaNaKh is an acronym, based on the letters T (for "Torah"), N (for "Neviim," or the Prophets), and K (for "Ketuvim," or the Sacred Writings). Both of the A's are silent, and the H on the end is silent. It is simply their term for the Old Covenant Scriptures. As a result, I will be using the Hebrew acronym TaNaKh instead of the phrase, the Old Covenant, in this commentary.

The Use of the Hebrew word Messiah and the Greek word Christ

    Messianic synagogues, and the Jewish messianic community in general, prefer to use the Messiah that means the Anointed One. The Greek word Christ also means the Anointed One. So I will be using both Messiah and Christ in this devotional commentary.

The Use of the Hebrew word Yeshua and the Greek word Jesus

    Messianic synagogues, and the Jewish messianic community in general, prefer to use the Hebrew word Yeshua that means Jesus. But I will be using both Yeshua and Jesus in this devotional commentary.

The Theology of Exodus

    1. He is the God who exists. God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you” (3:14). Exodus never tries to prove God’s existence. His existence is assumed and the book goes on from there, but throughout the book there are constant references that ADONAI does exist.

    2. He is the God who controls history. ADONAI said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go (4:21)”. Why does Pharaoh act the way he acts at times? Why do nations do what they do? It is because God controls history. The king’s heart is in the hand of ADONAI; He directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases (Proverbs 21:1).

    3. He is the God who is holy. “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the palace where you are standing is holy ground” (3:5). The holiness of the LORD will be brought out clearly in the book of Exodus. Even the Jews will be punished greatly when they violate God’s holiness, and His righteous standards.

    4. He is the God who remembers. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob (2:24 also see 3:16-17). God made certain promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and although four hundred years have passed since those promises have been made, His promises are always kept no matter how long it may seem from the human perspective. When He fulfills His promises, He does so completely. We don’t need to allegorize God’s promises away. What the LORD has said, He will do.

    5. He is the God of salvation. Sometimes the salvation is physical, like with the Exodus (3:7-9), and sometimes it is spiritual as He works in the life of Moses.

    6. He is the God who speaks. Later, the LORD will say that He will do nothing until He first reveals it to His prophets. YHVH speaks and has made known to us His word. Fortunately for us, God has chosen to put what He has said in the Bible (3:4-22).

    7. He is the God who will act in judgment. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonder that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go (3:20 also see 4:22-23). ADONAI will act in judgment eventually, but He will be long suffering. Therefore, everyone who receives the judgment of God deserves it. The opportunity of repentance is always available until death.

    8. He is the God of order. YHVH is not one who is chaotic, but He is a God of order, and if we love Him we will keep His commandments. As we go through the portions of the Torah contained in the book of Exodus, we will see that His commandments serve as a blueprint for living, not to attain salvation, but as a rule of life for those who have already been saved by God’s grace (Chapters 20 to 23).

    9. He is the God who lives among His people. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God (29:45). The reason that the Tabernacle needed to be built was within the Most Holy Place. God would live as the Shechinah glory, or the visible manifestation of the LORD. Today, ADONAI has chosen a different way to live among His people. Now He lives among His people by means of the indwelling of the Ruach HaKodesh; however, God has always lived among His people.

    10. He is the God whose anger may be turned aside. After the sin of the golden calf, God is ready to annihilate the entire nation with the exception of Moses. ADONAI said that for Moshe He would make a completely new nation, but Moses interceded for the nation even to the point of offering himself as a substitute for it, and because of the intercession of Moses, God’s anger was turned aside (32:9-14).

    11. He is the God who transcends. He said: But you cannot see My face, for no one may see Me and live (33:20). Although God has spoken to mankind, (both verbally and in written form), and has become visible in various forms (as a man, an angel, a cloud, as fire, and as thunder), yet no one is able to see Him in His full glory because the sinfulness of man would kill him. So while the LORD is as near as our breath, He is also very far from us.

The Importance of Exodus

    It is also important in five other areas. First, it is important historically because it tells us how Isra'el became a nation, and how the Torah of Moses was given. Secondly, it is important religiously because it gives us the origin of many Jewish practices such as the Passover. Thirdly, it is important from a dispensational standpoint because Exodus gives us a transition from the Dispensation of Promise (Genesis 12:1 to Exodus 18:27), to the Dispensation of Torah (Exodus 19:1 to Acts 1:26). Fourthly, it is important as a type, because the Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:1-28; John 1:29, 1:36 and Revelation 5:6), the Manna (Exodus 16:1-36; John 6:35, 6:48 and 6:51), the Rock (Exodus 17:5-7; Matthew 7:24-25; Romans 9:33; First Corinthians 10:4; First Peter 2:8) and the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:1 to 31:18; 35:1 to 40:38 and John 1:14) are types of Christ. Fifthly, it is important spiritually because while the events happening in Exodus are historically true, they contain spiritual lessons for believers today. In the book of First Cor 10:1-13, Rabbi Sha'ul makes several references to Israel’s wilderness wanderings in the book of Exodus, but in verse 6 he says: Now these things occurred as examples, to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Therefore, the story of Exodus was not just for the Jews of old, but there are spiritual lessons for us today.


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