Introduction to Exodus
Author and Date
Exodus (meaning exit) is best understood to have been written primarily by Moses, like the rest of the Pentateuch, though some details (such as the narrative of his death in Deuteronomy 34) were clearly added at a later time. It also appears that some language and references were updated for later readers. There is no consensus among scholars as to the date when the events of the exodus took place. A common view is that the exodus occurred in c. 1446 b.c. This is based on the calculation of 480 years from Israel’s departure from Egypt to the fourth year of Solomon’s reign (c. 966 b.c.; see 1 Kings 6:1). However, because Exodus 1:11 depicts Israel working on a city called Raamses, some scholars believe that this would suggest that the exodus occurred during the reign of Raamses II in Egypt (c. 1279–1213 b.c.), possibly around 1260 b.c. (see note on 1 Kings 6:1).
The overarching theme of Exodus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to the patriarchs. The success of the exodus must be credited to the power and purpose of God, who remembers his promises, punishes sin, and forgives the repentant. The book highlights Moses’ faithfulness and prayerfulness.
- Covenant 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 (Gen. 12:1–3). They include land (which Israel will inhabit), numerous offspring (which will secure their ongoing identity), and blessing (God cares for them and other nations). The fulfillment of these promises is rooted in Israel’s covenant relationship with the Lord (Gen. 17:7–8).
- Covenant mediator. Moses mediates between the Lord and his people. Through Moses the Lord reveals his purposes to Israel and sustains the covenant relationship.
- Covenant presence. God’s presence with his people is highlighted throughout the book of Exodus.
- Exodus of Israel from Egypt (1:1–18:27)
- Setting: Israel in Egypt (1:1–2:25)
- Call of Moses (3:1–4:31)
- Moses and Aaron: initial request (5:1–7:7)
- Plagues and exodus (7:8–15:21)
- Journey (15:22–18:27)
- Covenant at Sinai (19:1–40:38)
- Setting: Sinai (19:1–25)
- Covenant words and rules (20:1–23:33)
- Covenant confirmed (24:1–18)
- Instructions for the tabernacle (25:1–31:17)
- Moses receives the tablets (31:18)
- Covenant breach, intercession, and renewal (32:1–34:35)
- Tabernacle: preparation for the presence (35:1–40:38)