Introduction and Background
In Genesis we saw the creation of the world and all it inhabitants. Sin entered into the world through deception and disobedience and caused God to eventually be so grieved about creating man that he decided to destroy them, except for Noah, his family and a bunch of animals. This destruction came through a global flood that killed everything not on board the Arc (The Big Boat). Then the descendants of Noah and his sons multiplied and filled the earth. We are descendants of Noah.
From Noah, we fast forward in time and we were introduced to Abram. God promised him that he would be a great nation and that he would give to his descendants some very special land. But first the Abram’s descendants had to endure a bit of time in Egypt. The sin of the people who lived in the land that God had promised to Abram had not yet reached its full measure. What does this mean? It means that God just didn’t decide one day that he would give the land to the Abram’s descendants and kill those who currently lived there. The land was being taken away as a punishment to the people living there because of their wickedness. (Genesis 15:7-20 NIV)
So, here we are in Egypt. We have seen Jacob’s/Israel’s (Jacob and Israel are the same person) son Joseph sold into slavery only later to become the greatest in Egypt second only to Pharaoh himself. Joseph ruled Egypt because Pharaoh put him in charge of everything. However, Pharaoh remained above him on the throne only. Then Joseph’s whole family was reunited to him and moved to Egypt because of the severe famine in the land of Canaan where they were living.
Time passes and Joseph, all his brothers and several generations pass away.
Exodus begins when we hear of the Israelites being cruelly oppressed, just as God said would happen in Genesis. Then a boy named Moses was born. He would grow and become the man that would deliver all the Israelites out of the bondage of Egypt and into the land God promised to Abraham so long ago.
Here is a list describing the genealogy of where Moses came from:
Adam –> Noah –> Many descendants and generations –> Abram (later renamed Abraham) –> Isaac –> Jacob (later renamed Israel) –> Levi –> Several generations later –> A man of the Levi tribe (descendants of Jacobs son Levi) married a Levite woman and had a son –> Moses
Friendly King Gone, Unfriendly King In
When the Israelites moved into Egypt, the King was friendly to them because of what Joseph did for his country. But about 400 years went by and this new King cared nothing about the Israelites. One day the King decided that these people were so large in number that if they fought against Egypt that they would win and be able to leave. This is important because by now the Israelites have become a large source of labor helping Egypt become a rich nation. In order to keep the Israelites in Egypt the King decided to make them slaves and oppress them. However, in doing so, it seemed only to make them even more determined. They continued to multiply causing the Egyptians to dread them.
In order to drive down the population of the Israelites the king ordered that all Israelite males shall be killed at childbirth and that only the girls could live. The midwives, those who the King ordered to carry out the killing, disobeyed the order and lied to the King about it. Another order to kill the boys at childbirth was given. As far as I can tell, I think we can assume that many boys were killed as a result of the order but this one boy in particular escaped death because of his mother’s desperation to save him.
When he was born his mother was afraid for his life because of the Kings order to kill the males, so she hid him and nurtured him. Then when she no longer could hide him, she put him in a basket and placed him in the river. That is when the daughter of the king noticed him and felt sorry for him. She took him and raised him to be her own and gave him his name, Moses.
Moses Flees to Midian
Moses grew up as an Egyptian, an adopted son to the King’s daughter. One day, after he was already grown up, he noticed an Egyptian beating one of the Hebrew men (Hebrew is just another name for the Israelites). So after looking around and thinking that no one would see him, he killed the Egyptian that was beating the hebrew and hid the body in the sand. Then the next day he noticed two Hebrew men fighting and so Moses interviend and asked the fellow Hebrew:
“…Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” (Exodus 2:13 NIV)
The man asked if Moses planned to kill him too? This caused Moses to realize that what he thought he did in secret was known to many and no secret at all. Pharaoh became aware of this murder and sent for him to be killed. So Moses fled the country to Midian.
In this land Moses is well received by a priest who gave him one of his seven daughters. They had a child together and Moses spent a considerable amount of time in exile. 40 years is the common belief gathered from Exodus and some other scriptures. During that time, the King of Egypt that tried to kill Moses died.
Moses and the Burning Bush
The Israelite’s oppression grew even deeper and they groaned and called out to God for mercy and He heard their cries and remembered his promise to Abram and his descendants (the Israelites).
God appeared to Moses in a burning bush, a bush that was on fire yet did not burn up. When Moses saw this he became curious. As he approached the bush he heard his name:
“…Moses!, Moses!” God spoke to him
“Here I am. Do not come any closer” (Exodus 3:4-5 NIV)
God revealed himself to Moses and began to instruct him regarding bringing the Israelites out of Egypt into the land promised to Abram. (Click here for information about the land that was promissed and the people living in it) God instructed Moses to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go and to convince the Israelites to come with him out of Egypt.
Signs for Moses
God gave Moses three signs or miracles to perform in front of the Israelite elders to convince them that Moses was sent from God to deliver them out of Egypt.
The Three Signs to perform in front of the Israelite elders:
- Staff that turns into a snake
- Hand that when placed inside his cloak and removed turns white and leprous. When placed again in the cloak and taken out, returns to normal.
- The ability to turn water into blood
Moses got into an argument with God asking him to send someone else because he was not a good speaker. God was angry at this but had some patience telling Moses that he would send Aaron, Moses’ brother, with him. God told him that He would teach them what to say and what to do:
“You shall speak to him (Moses shall speak to Arron) and put words in his (Arron’s) mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He (Arron) will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.” (Exodus 4:15-16, parentheses added)
So Moses went back into Egypt and met with the elders of the Israelites to tell them what God had planned to do. They showed the signs that God gave them and caused the elders to believe. Then they left the elders and went to Pharaoh and said that the Lord demands that the Israelites be let go. However, Pharaoh was angered by this and instead increased the work load of the people. He said to his officials to stop giving the Israelites straw that was necessary to build bricks. Instead they were to make the Israelites go and get their own straw. This placed an advanced burden on them because their quota was already high and Pharaoh specifically said to the officials “do not reduce the quota”. So now instead of just making bricks with material provided for them, they had to go out and get the material themselves and still meet the quota.
When Moses spoke with God after this he questioned Him about the additional trouble caused to his people since he first met with Pharaoh. It was at this time that God revealed his plan to rescue his people out of Egypt. God would send Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh, each time demanding the release of God’s people. Each time Pharaoh denied the request, God would send a plague in order to show God’s power over Egypt and all the people.
The following are the signs that were performed in front of Pharaoh. But each time pharaoh’s heart was hardened:
Aaron’s Staff Becomes a Snake
Aaron threw down his staff to prove that the Lord had sent them and it turned into a snake. But the magicians of Egypt were able to do the same thing through their tricks and therefore Pharaoh was not convinced.
Plague 1: The Plague of Blood
God instructed Moses and Aaron to confront Pharaoh at the river bank and turn the water into blood. They did this but Pharaoh again called on his magicians and they did the same thing.
Plague 2: The Plague of Frogs
God told Moses and Aaron to stretch out their hands and cause a plague of frogs to come onto the land. Millions of frogs overwhelmed the land so that no place could be found where there were no frogs. But Pharaoh’s magicians were again able to do the same thing as Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh started to believe, just enough begging Moses to pray to the Lord to get rid of the frogs. Moses left the time to be set by Pharaoh when the frogs would all die trying to convince him. As soon as the frogs were dead and gathered into a great pile, Pharaoh was releived and again denied the request to let the people go.
Plague 3: The Plague of Gnats
This plague is one that began to catch the attention of Pharaoh’s magicians. Moses told Aaron to strike the ground. When he did, all the dust in Egypt became Gnats and they covered every living thing. When Pharaoh queried his magicians they declared that:
“…This is the finger of God…” (Exodus 8:19)
Pharaoh’s heart would still not relent.
Plague 4: The Plague of Flies
Up until this point, every plague that God had sent was sent on everyone including the Israelites. But when God sent this plague he instructed Moses and Aaron to tell Pharaoh:
‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies; even the ground will be covered with them. “ ‘But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.’ ” (Exodus 8:20-23 NIV)
So by God making this distinction He begins to show the Israelites that it is truly Himself and coming to rescue them and not just Moses.
Plague 5: The Plague on Livestock
This plague killed all the livestock belonging to Egypt and its people. Again God made a distiction and said that any livestock belonging to the Israelites would be unaffected.
Plague 6: The Plague of Boils
God instructed Moses and Aaron to take ashes from a furnace in front of Pharaoh and toss the ashes into the air. When he did this it caused boils on the skin of all the Egyptians and their animals.
Plague 7: The Plague of Hail
God sent unrelenting hail down on all of Egypt except in the land of Goshen where the Israelites were living. The storm ravished the land, livestock and people. Then Pharaoh relented and said to Moses, I will let your people go. But when the hail stopped, again Pharaoh changed his mind.
Plague 8: The Plague of Locusts
God sent this plague to damage what little was left after the hailstorm. Locusts covered all the ground and consumed all the rest of trees and crops. This time Pharaoh relented and said to Moses that he could take his people to go and worship their God. However, Pharaoh told Moses that only the men could go.
Plague 9: The Plague of Darkness
Because Pharaoh did not allow all of Israel, old and young and all its flocks, God sent this plague.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.'” (Exodus 10:21 NIV)
So all the land for three days were covered in darkness and no one could move about because there was no light. But the Israelites had light where they lived.
This particular plague is particularly interesting to me. God said that this darkness is a “darkness that can be felt”. This is fascinating and scary to think about. We experience darkness, even total darkness at times. But I imagine this kind of darkness is such that no light could penetrate it. A darkness so heavy that it can literally be felt. A darkness that brings dread upon the soul.
So Pharaoh quickly sent for Moses again saying, take your people only leave the livestock. Again because of Pharaoh’s unrelenting heart, not wanting to let everything go, the last plague was on its way.
Plague 10: The Plague on the First Born
This was the last plague that was to be sent on Egypt before Pharaoh drove the Israelites out completely. God struck down every first born animal and human in the land of Egypt including Pharaoh’s son, except first born of the Israelites were untouched. This is where the passover come from. When God sent the destroyer to kill all the first born in the land, God passed over the Israelite’s who obeyed the passover commandment.
The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread
This festival, commisioned by God through Moses was the kickoff of the last plague on Egypt and to their release from slavery and oppression. God said that the month of this festival would become the first month of their year, the month of Aviv (Aviv is the month of April, the beginning of spring).
God gave these instructions for the passover. Every family had to have a one year old lamb without defect. They were to care for them until twilight on the fourteenth day of the month. At that time, all the Israelites were to slaughter them. Some of the blood from the lamb was then to be painted on the sides and tops of the door frames.
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every first born of both people and animals, and I will bring judgement on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. (Exodus 12:12, NIV)
After all the first born in Egypt were killed, including pharaoh’s own son, he came to Moses in the night telling him to gather his people and all their belongings and go. So the Egyptians gave many possessions to the Israelites and sent them out of Egypt. they had lived there for 430 years to the day.
No one was allowed to partake in the passover meal unless the male was circumcised as well as all males belonging to his household. This was true for both the Israelite and anyone living in their house.
Consecration of the Firstborn
This is God’s command that as a commemoration of what God did for the Israelites that day that every first born of every womb was to be consecrated. This means that every first born of animals and humans were to be set apart for God.
“This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. for the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year.” (Exodus 13:9-10, NIV)
Crossing the Sea
God led the Israelites out of Egypt by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. Instead of leading them directly out of the land, God had Moses tell the Israelites to change direction and camp in a certain city. This caused the Egyptians to think the Israelites were lost. Pharaoh then went after the Israelites. When pharaoh’s army came upon them, they were terrified and spoke out against Moses for bring them out of Egypt. This was God’s plan to show not only Israel that he is their God but also to show the Egyptians that he was the Lord of them too.
“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 14:4 NIV)
God told Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea to divide the waters. Then the Israelites crossed on dry land as a wall of water towered above them on each side. When the last of the Israelites crossed, the Egyptians went after them but Moses stretched out his hand over the sea once again as the Lord commanded him to do and the Egyptians were drowned.
Having seen what God did through Moses, the people:
“feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.” (Exodus 14:31 NIV)
The Waters of Marah and Elim
After being led for days without water the people cried out asking what they are going to drink. Though they had come upon water, it was not fit to drink. But God told Moses to throw a certain piece of wood into the water and it became fit to drink. This was to teach the Israelites that God would provide for them and heal them. Then they were brought to a place called Elim where there were seventy palm trees and 12 springs of water. (This seems like a picture of paradise to me.)
Manna and Quail
Once again the whole Israelite community were gathered in the desert. This time they were hungry. They grumbled and spoke out against God and God told Moses that he would test the people. He told Moses that bread will rain down from heaven each morning and each evening quail will be available to eat. God’s instruction to the people was to gather only as much as each person needed and no more for that day. Except that on the sixth day they should gather twice as much so that they could rest on the seventh day. Some did as they were commanded and only took what they needed but others took more to save. Those who did so found maggots in the manna in the morning of the next day.
This was a test to see if the people would trust God to provide for them daily and also to see if they would obey God’s commands. The Israelites ate in this way for forty years. Forty years God provided food for them.
Water from the Rock
Traveling again one day the Israelites came to a place where there was no water to drink. They grumbled against God again and Moses said to them:
“Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?” (Exodus 17:2 NIV)
The people were about to stone Moses when there was no water because they were doubting that God was with them. God instructed Moses to take his staff and strike a certain rock and when he did water came out of it and the people drank.
The Amalekites Defeated
The Israelites were attracted by the Amalekites. Joshua was ordered by Moses to take his men and to go fight. Then Moses went on top of a hill and raised his arms up with the staff. when his hands were raised the Israelites were winning but when he lowered them the Amalekites were winning. Those that were with Moses, helped him keep his hands raised and therefore they won the battle. Moses built an alter and he called it “The Lord is My Banner”.
One definition for banner is: a flag formerly used as the standard of a sovereign, lord or night.
Jethro Visits Moses
Jethro was the preist of Midian and the father-in-law of Moses. Midian was the land that Moses initially fled to when he left Egypt after killing the Egyptian. Jethro was comming to meet with Moses to bring his wife and two sons to him. During their visit, Moses told Jethro all the good things that God has done for him and all the Israelites.
Later Jethro observed Moses presiding as a judge for the people and that his time was occupied from the morning until late. After seeing this, Jethro offered Moses some advice. He told Moses that he should find honest, capable men and appoint them over people to handle easier cases. The difficult cases should then be handled by Moses thus freeing him from such a heavy load.
The point of this is that no one can serve everyone all the time. We must share the burden.
At Mount Sinai
Three months after leaving Egypt, the Israelites entered into the desert of Sinai. It is in this desert where Mount Sinai is located and where Moses and God met. There God delivered the Ten Commandments. He descended on the mountain and had commanded that only Moses and Aaron could be on the mountain with him. Anyone else who touched the mountain would be put to death.
It was not at this point that God inscribed the two tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments. He first gave the commandments to Moses by words alone.
Establishing the Laws
While on the mountain, in addition to the Ten Commandements given to Moses, God established laws concerning the follwing subjects:
- Hebrew servants
- Personal injury
- Protection of property
- Social responsibility
- Justice and mercy
- The Sabbath
God’s Angel to Prepare the Way
God tells the Israelites that he is sending his angel ahead of them to assist them in taking possession of the promised land. God said to them:
“I will send a hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Cannanites and Hittites out of your way. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.” (Exodus 23:28-30 NIV)
The Covenant Confirmed
Moses came down off the mountain after meeting with God and receiving the Ten Commandments and the Laws. He told the people all that God had told him and they responded:
“Everything the Lord has said we will do.” (Exodus 24:3 NIV)
After writing everything down (this became the Book of the Covenant), Moses set up an alter at the foot of the mountain were he read the Book of the Covenant to the people. Then he sprinkled blood (the Blood of the Covenant) from a sacrificed animal onto the people establishing God’s covenant with them that if they followed his commands, they will be a nation of priests and higher than all the nations of the world.
Then God called for Moses to come back up to the mountain.
Setting up the Tabernacle
The Tabernacle, after it was assembled, was were God would dwell among the people of Israel before taking possession of the promised land.
Moses stayed with God on the mountain for forty days. God enscribed the stone tablets with the laws and commandments but also gave him instructions on setting up the Tabernacle. He instructed Moses to take an offering of the people for the materials necessary to create the Tabernacle and all its accessories according to God’s specifications.
These are the components of the Tabernacle
- The Ark
- The Table
- The Lamp stand
- The Tabernacle
- The Alter of Burnt Offering
- The Courtyard
- Oil for the Lamp stand
- The priestly garments
- The Ephod (a sleeveless garment)
- The Breast piece
- Alter of Incense
- Basin for washing
- Anointing Oil
Consecration of the Priests
God laid out the required acts that consecrate (set apart from the rest of the Israelites) those who are to become priests. He designates Aaron (Moses’ brother) and his descendants to become priests.
God required that all people age twenty and older are required to pay to the priests a half shekel of money to atone for their lives. This money was to be used to run the Tabernacle.
Beyalel and Oholiab
Beyalel was chosen by God to be a skilled craftsman to create all the things that God required for the Tabernacle. He also appointed Oholiab to help Beyalel and gave those men and certain others the skills needed to build the Tabernacle.
God instructed Moses that the people of Israel are to observe the Sabbath as a sign of the covenant that is between God and them. Just as God created everything in six days and rested on the seventh, so to are the people to work six days and rest on the seventh.
The Golden Calf
Since Moses was up on the mountain with God for so long, (forty days) the Israelites began to lose faith. So they had Aaron make a golden calf out of their jewelry and they worshiped it. This enraged God and so he spoke these words:
“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” (Exodus 32:9-10 NIV)
Moses talked to God reminding him of the promise he made to Abraham, Isaac and Israel and in doing so God turned from his anger and spared the people. When Moses came off the mountain and saw the Israelites behaving like pagans, he became angry and threw the freshly inscribed tablets of stone to the ground breaking them into pieces.
Moses went back up to the mountain asking God to forgive the people. He said to God:
“Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin–but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (Exodus 32:31-32 NIV)
Then the Lord said that he will blot out those who have sinned against him. He instructed Moses to lead the people to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Israel. But he told Moses that he would not go with them because he might destroy them along the way because of their disobedience.
When the Israelites heard this they mourned and striped themselves of their ornaments. This was to humble themselves for what they have done against the Lord.
Moses and the Glory of the Lord
Moses made another plea to God on behalf of the Israelites. He pleaded with God to come with them so that the people will know that he still had favor with the Lord. So God told Moses that he would come with them because he favored Moses. Then Moses said to God:
“Now show me your glory.” (Exodus 33:18 NIV)
So God showed himself in all his glory to Moses except for his face. As he told Moses:
“…you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20 NIV)
The New Stone Tablets
God, after showing his glory to Moses, again instructed Moses to follow all the instructions he had given to Moses. Then this time, Moses wrote the words of the covenant on the new stone tablets.
The Radiant Face of Moses
After God showed Moses his full glory, his face was radiant and it terrified the Israelites. Thereafter, he wore a veil over his face except when he went to speak to the Lord.
The Remainder of Exodus
The remainder of Exodus is repetitive. It goes through the act of doing all that God commanded with respect to crafting and setting up all of the components of the Tabernacle and the garments for the priests according to the precise specifications that God provided to Moses.
The Glory of the Lord
The Glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle after it was completed. During the day the Lord was upon the tabernacle in the form of a cloud and at night a fire was in the cloud so that it could be seen. In this way, God dwelt among his people and they saw his presence. When the cloud would lift the Israelites knew it was time to pack up and leave. The Levites (Priests) would gather up the Tabernacle and move it to the next camp.