Book Summaries

The 2nd book of the Pentateuch, in Hebrew Bibles bearing the title weelleh shemoth, "and these are the names," the opening words of the Hebrew text. The English title originated with the title given the book by the translators of the Septuagint, who called it Exodos, an appropriate characterisation based on the book's central theme, the departure of the Hebrew people from Egypt. The Hebrew word "and" with which the narrative of Exodus begins indicates that the writer considered it to be a continuation of the account in the book of Genesis. From the most ancient times Jewish scholars have attributed the Pentateuch, in which the book of Exodus is found, to Moses. Internal evidence clearly points to him as the author. The use of many Egyptian terms, the minute description of certain Egyptian customs, the intimate knowledge of the land of Egypt itself and of the route of the Exodus, all clearly point to an educated Jew who at one time lived in Egypt (see Acts 7:22) and who was familiar with parts of the Sinai Peninsula as well. The vivid description of incidents connected with the departure from Egypt and the journey to Mount Sinai, as well as of the events that took place there, is such as none but an eyewitness could be expected to give. This internal evidence, together with the fact that our Lord quotes from the book of Exodus and specifically calls it "the book of Moses" (Mk 12:26), is sufficient to establish him as the writer for all who accept the divine origin of Scripture and the deity of the Son of God.

At the time of the Exodus (c. 1445 b.c.) Israel had been in Egypt about 215 years (see Chronology II, 2). The friendly kings of the Hyksos period, during whose dynasty Joseph and later Jacob settled in Egypt, had given way to the native Egyptian kings of the 18th dynasty about 135 years before the Exodus (see Ex 1:8). It was between this event and the birth of Moses, 80 years before the Exodus (ch 7:7), that the oppression of ch 1:9 ­22 began. The book of Exodus traces briefly the personal experiences of Moses during this preparatory period of his life, and then deals at length and in great detail with events of the 6 months or so preceding the departure from Egypt and the first 2 years thereafter--a period of approximately 2 1/2 years altogether. During this comparatively brief period the Hebrew people were transformed from a race of slaves into an independent nation, and the book of Exodus explains how this came about.

The book may be divided into 5 major sections: (1) the early life and training of Moses, Ex 1:1 to 4:31; (2) the 10 plagues upon the land of Egypt, chs 5:1 to 12:30; (3) the Exodus and the journey to Sinai, chs 12:31 to 19:2; (4) Israel constituted a nation at Sinai, chs 19:3 to 24:18; (5) construction of the tabernacle and arrangements for the ritual service, chs 25:1 to 40:38. In ch 1 a brief account is given of the enslavement of the Hebrew people by the Egyptians, whereas ch 2 traces the life of Moses down to the close of his sojourn in the land of Midian. Moses' call to liberate the Hebrew people and his return to Egypt are related in chs 3 and 4. Chapters 5 and 6 deal with preliminary moves to secure the release of the Hebrews. In chs 7 to 10 the first 9 plagues are described. In chs 11:1 to 13:16 we find a record of the 10th plague and of the institution of the Passover, which took place simultaneously. Outstanding events on the way to Mount Sinai--the crossing of the Red Sea, the miraculous provision of water and food, the repeated murmuring of the people, the victory over Amalek--occupy chs 13:17 to 19:2. While Israel was encamped at Mount Sinai God revealed to them His moral law (chs 19:3 to 20:21), and a civil code, applying the principles of the moral law to the polity of Israel as a nation (chs 20:22 to 23:33). He revealed also His covenant that constituted Israel a theocracy (ch 24), and gave detailed instructions for the erection of the tabernacle and for the preparation of facilities to be used in connection with it (chs 25:1 to 31:18). A brief interlude relates Israel's apostasy and restoration to divine favour (chs 32:1 to 34:35). In chs 35:1 to 40:38 we find a detailed record of the actual construction of the tabernacle and the fabrication of such items as anointing oil, incense, and the priestly vestures to be used in connection with it, and finally the account of Moses' inspection and approval of the workmanship, and the erection of the structure, ready for use. The departure from Mount Sinai took place less than 2 months after the events of the book of Exodus came to a close (Ex 40:17; Num 10:11, 12).

Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.