Summary of Exodus 1-20

The book of Exodus begins where Genesis ended, with the descendants of Abraham living in Egypt. The book opens with an ominous word: “Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.” (1:8) It was the beginning of a dark period in the story of the people of the promise.

In the first chapter of Exodus, we learn that the Pharaoh of Egypt sought to control the Israelite population by enslaving them and by ordering the Hebrew midwives to kill all the baby boys at birth. Moses was delivered from the Egyptian genocide and was born into a Levite family. His mother hid him for three months before placing him in a basket in the Nile River where Pharaoh’s daughter discovered and adopted him.

Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s household but fled Egypt after killing an Egyptian taskmaster who was beating a Hebrew. He settled in Sinai with the Midianites and lived as a shepherd. While tending the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro, Moses saw a burning bush and received his call from the Angel of the Lord to return to Egypt and deliver the Israelites from bondage. God revealed Himself by the name “I am that I am” which gives us the etymology of God’s most sacred name “Yahweh”.

Along with his brother Aaron, Moses confronted Pharaoh and demanded that Pharaoh release the Israelites. God used ten plagues to force Pharaoh to release the Israelites, showing himself to be the one true God, the God of the Hebrews, and supreme over the idols of Egypt.

After the first Passover and the death of the firstborn of Egypt, Pharaoh begrudgingly agreed to release the Israelites, who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses. The Israelites escaped Pharaoh’s pursuit, miraculously crossing the sea on dry ground. Pharaoh’s chariots were destroyed by the same sea that provided deliverance for the Israelites. Israel and Miriam sang songs of victory in honor of Yahweh.

As they journeyed through the wilderness of Sinai, God provided manna and quail for the people to eat and water from a rock for them to drink. Three months after leaving Egypt, the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai, where God’s presence descended, and Moses ascended the mountain and received the law and instructions for building the Tabernacle.

Author and Date of Writing

Several statements in Exodus indicate that Moses wrote certain sections of the book. (see 17:14; 20:25; 24:4; 34:27) The NT also claims Mosaic authorship for various passages in Exodus. (Mark 7:10, 19:26; Luke 2:22-23) Taken together, these references strongly suggest that Moses was largely responsible for writing the book of Exodus. This is the traditional view not convincingly challenged by the commonly held notion that the Pentateuch as a whole contains four underlying sources.

Key Themes:

God’s Promises: The overarching theme of Exodus is the fulfillment of God’s promises. The events and instructions in Exodus are described as the Lord remembering his covenant promises to Abraham. (2:24; 3:6; 14-17; 6:2-8) The promises extend to both Abra­ham’s descendants and all the nations of the world. (Genesis 12:1-3) They include land (which Israel will inhabit), numerous offspring (which will secure their ongoing identity), and God’s blessing on them and through them to the nations. The fulfillment of these promises is rooted in Israel’s covenant relationship with the Lord. (Genesis 17:7-8)

God’s Mediator. Moses mediates between the Lord and his people. Through Moses, the Lord reveals his purposes to Israel and sustains the covenant relationship.

God’s Presence. God’s presence with his people is highlighted throughout the book.

God’s Power. The ten plagues reveal the power of the one true God, exposing the impotent Egyptian deities.

God’s People: After God delivers the Israelites from the cruel slavery of Pharaoh, they often want to go back! This might astonish us to read, but many Christians have the same proclivity. Christ redeems Christians from the slavery of sin and the ways of this world to live in the freedom of Christ. Yet many of us struggle with a desire to go back to old ways of thinking and living just like the ancient Hebrews.

Exodus and the Gospel of Jesus:

The NT sees the OT exodus story as the pattern for the ministry of Christ. In Him, God “dwelt” or “tabernacled” among us, and “we have seen His glory.” (John 1:14; Exodus 40) Jesus sojourned in Egypt and then came out, fulfilling the pattern of Israel. (Matthew 2:15) At the Last Supper, a Passover meal, Jesus referred to “the new covenant in my blood,” echoing Moses’ words. (Exodus 24:8)

The blood of Jesus represents the new covenant because the blood of the Lamb has been shed for His people. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. (1 Cor. 5:7) God saves His people through the sacrifice of a Lamb. Announcing Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Jesus is the Lamb who was slain to cover the sins of the people. He is our redemption, liberation, and substitute. He gave His life for the deliverance of His people.