An Overview of Exodus, Part 1

Divine Author: God the Holy Spirit “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Human Author: Moses

Date: c. 1440 – 1400 BC

Setting: Egypt, Sinai Peninsula  

Key Verse: Exodus 29:46, “And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God.

Theme: Redemption, Worship

General Facts: 2nd Book of the Bible; 40 Chapters; 1, 213 Verses

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FIRST DIVISION

The Story Continues Exodus 1 – 18

The Book of Exodus continues the narrative of seventy descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob going to the Land of Bondage. “And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten” (Gen. 46:27).

The Hebrew tribe was going to Egypt due to famine in Canaan, and to the fact that Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob, had been elevated to be second in command. Joseph could take care of his own family, and provide for them a safe haven.

Eventually, Joseph died, and all his brothers as well, but not before leaving large families born in Egypt. In the next 400 years the Hebrew people would multiply in Egypt to the point that a Pharaoh arose over Egypt, which knew not Joseph (1:8). Guided by a spirit of fear, the Pharaoh began to deal with the Hebrew people in such a vile and harsh way, it would lead to a social revolution, and their expulsion. Study Exodus 1 – 18

A Promised Blessing Fulfilled

The fact the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly (1:7), is a fulfilment of the creation mandate, and the Abrahamic Covenant. Study Genesis 1:20; 12:1-3

However, the Pharaoh of Egypt felt the multiplication of the Hebrew people was a threat to his power, and would overshadow the Egyptian people. Foolishly, Pharaoh sought to destroy the people of God, first through slavery, second through rigorous labor, and then through a selective process of extermination.

Obviously, the behavior of the Pharaoh was in opposition to God. However, the Egyptian ruler did not know the Lord God. He had his own numerous deities to honor and worship. Some of the more prominent gods, and goddesses, of Egypt, can be noted.

Consider

Male                                                                                       
Horus: The god most often shown as a falcon            
Osiris: The god of death and resurrection who rules the underworld
Ra: The sun god                                                         
Sobek: The crocodile god

Female
Isis: Wife of Osiris and mother of Horus
Bastet: Represented as a cat, or lioness
Hathor: United with sky, sun, sex, motherhood, music and dance, and the afterlife
Wadjet: A cobra goddess

Fearing the One True God

In contrast to the many Egyptian deities, there was the one true God worshipped by the Hebrew people. The unwillingness of the Hebrews to fear anyone but God, was reflected in the defiance of the midwives who refused to destroy male babies, despite the royal command (1:17-22). Such is the madness of men, they believe the taking of lives for a greater political and social cause is justified.

Because the Hebrew people were exploited, terrorized, and targeted for exterminated, they cried out to the Lord. Heaven heard the cries of the people. A divinely appointed leader would soon be sent to lead the people out of bondage and into freedom.

The Boy in the Basket Exodus 2

In the providence of God, a young couple from the tribe of Levi married and produced a beautiful child. What they named the baby boy is not known. What is known is that every precaution was made to protect the precious gift from God. The child’s mother hid him for three months, but then, she could hide him no longer. Strong and healthy, the baby had to be placed in a quiet place

The mother constructed a small ark of safety, and laid the baby in the basket by the edge of the Nile River. His older sister was appointed to watch over the basket and report anything that happened.

According to divine design, the child was discovered by the daughter of the Pharaoh who loved the child she discovered, and brought him to the royal palace to be raised. The baby was given the name Moses (Heb. “drawing out [of the water]”’; rescued) because, she said, “I drew him out of the water” (2:10).

On the Far Side of the Desert

So it was that Moses was “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds” (Acts 7:22). What Moses had yet to learn was that God’s timing and his was not the same. It was a spiritual truth that would take 40 years to comprehend. Moses would learn this in the land of Midian where he had to flee following the murder of an Egyptian taskmaster (2:11-15).

 The Burning Bush that was not Consumed Exodus 3

While tending sheep in the land of Midian, Moses met the Lord God in a personal and powerful way. At the age of 80, Moses came to a burning bush that was not consumed. As he approached the fire, the voice of God spoke to Moses saying, “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (3:5). The Lord continued to inform Moses that he was being commissioned to go to Pharaoh, and demand the Hebrew people be allowed to leave the country. There was to be a day of divine redemption. The Hebrew slaves were to leave Egypt, and return to a land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob more than 400 years earlier.

The Ten Plagues Exodus 7 – 12

In obedience to the known will of God, Moses did return to Egypt. He did go to Pharaoh. He did demand the Hebrew slaves be allowed to leave Egypt. And, when Pharaoh refused, as God knew he would, a series of plagues came upon Egypt to punish the nation for the way the people of God had been treated, and to persuade the Pharaoh to obey the Lord.

The Ten Plagues of Egypt

(1) Water turned into blood, Exodus 7:14 – 25
(2) Frogs, Exodus 7:26 – 8:11
(3) Lice (Gnats), Exodus 8:12 – 15
(4) Flies, Exodus 8:16 – 28
(5) Diseased livestock, Exodus 9:1 – 7
(6) Boils Unhealable, Exodus 9:8 – 12
(7) Thunderstorm of hail and fire, Exodus 10: 1 – 20
(8) Locusts, Exodus 10: 1 – 20
(9) Darkness for three days, Exodus 10:21 – 29
(10) Death of the first-born, Exodus 11:1 – 12:36

Consider

Special attention must be paid to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, for it presents a doctrinal truth that is very difficult for many Christians to embrace, God is sovereign over His creation. In His sovereignty, God has the freedom, without any form of injustice, to do with individuals as He chooses. In simple language, God has prepared some vessels for destruction. “For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Rom. 9:17-18). Study “The Potters Freedom”, pages 211 – 214, Dr. James White).

The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart Exodus 4 – 15

To the singular question, “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”, several biblical answers are given.

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God determined to harden Pharaoh’s heart before Pharaoh ascended to the throne of Egypt, and before Moses met him. The stated purpose for God hardening the heart of Pharaoh is “that he shall not let the people go.”

“And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go” (Ex. 4:21).

“For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth” (Rom. 9:17).

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart “that he hearkened not unto them”. It is true that Pharaoh dismissed a display of divine power. It is true that it is a serious matter to ascribe to man or the devil the mighty works of GodBut it is also true that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart for the expressed purpose that he would not listen to Moses and Aaron.

“And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said” (Ex. 7:13).

Jesus taught that ascribing to Satan the works of God is so serious a sin it shall not be forgiven, for it is blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

“Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: 30 Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit” (Mark 3:28-29).

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to fulfil His divine decree. Notice the phrase, “as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.” What God decrees comes to pass. The LORD speaks, and it is accomplished.And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses” (Ex. 9:12).

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to encourage the heart of His servant Moses, and also that He “might shew these signs before him.”  “And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him” (Ex. 10:1).

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart following the plague of locust “so that he would not let the children of Israel go” thereby allowing more judgments to fall upon the land, and by so doing display His great sovereignty all the more. “But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart (following the plague of locust), so that he would not let the children of Israel go” (Ex. 10:20).

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart after a reasonable request was made (Moses requested animals for sacrifice) so that the unreasonableness of the sinful mind might be revealed. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart (after Moses requested animals for sacrifice), and he would not let them go” (Ex. 10:27).

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order that His miracles might be multiplied in the land of Egypt.  As the same sun that melts the butter can harden the clay, so the same expressions of divine majesty can elicit love and wonder in the righteous, while producing hatred and hostility in the ungodly. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt. 10 And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land” (Ex. 11:9).

Question. “Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

Answer. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart “that he shall follow after” the fleeing Israelites. The day of Pharaoh’s death was predetermined. God ordained that Pharaoh would pursue the fleeing Hebrews until Pharaoh and all of his army were drowned in the Red Sea. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.   

And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honored upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. And they did so” (Ex. 14:4).

And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with a high hand” (Ex. 14:8).

Pharaoh hardened his own heart primarily because he did not want the Israelites to leave the land of Egypt. God agreed with Pharaoh the Hebrews should not leave the land of Egypt – but only until He, the Lord, chose to have them leave.

Ordained to Destruction Exodus 15

Submitting to the Sovereign

The temptation comes to emphasize those verses which clearly teach that pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex. 8:15, 32; 9:34), and neglect to give equal emphasis to those passages which clearly teach that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27).

The Gordian Knot is loosened by the hermeneutical Law of First Mention which takes place in Exodus 4, before Pharaoh had a chance to harden his own heart by responding negatively to the first five plagues. While he was still at the burning bush, “the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go” (Ex. 4:21).

Then, after the plagues came upon Egypt, Pharaoh decided to the let the Israelites leave Egypt. From a human perspective, Pharaoh’s decision was based on the anguish that came to Egypt with the death of the firstborn. From a divine perspective, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Prov. 21:1).

The Drowning of Pharaoh’s Army Exodus 15

Eventually, the Hebrew children were free to leave the Land of Bondage, and dispossess the Egyptians as they went. “And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment” (Ex. 12:35).

Horrified at what he had allowed to happen, and angry, upon reflection, Pharaoh pursued the departing Israelites with his mighty army, only to have it destroyed in a miraculous way. Study Exodus 14:26-31

A testimonial song was composed about this occasion. It was sung with dancing and great rejoicing by Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, and other women in Israel. The last verse of the song summarizes loves response to God, and why such love for the Lord is well deserved. “Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.” Study Exodus 15:1-21

Bread from Heaven and Water from a Rock Exodus 16 – 17  

Leaving death and destruction behind them to reach for a better life in a Land of Promise, the Israelites began to move, until they came to the wilderness of Zin on the fifteenth day of the second month, called Zif (April/May) after their departure from Egypt (16:1). At Zin the people encamped to reflect on their situation.

During the six weeks of movement from Egypt to Zin, the attitude of many of the Israelites began to change. Many became discouraged, and began to murmur or complain. The people began to criticize Moses and Aaron saying, “Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Ex. 16:3).

Despite the unfairness of their complaints, in matchless grace the Lord provided food, at Zin, and water.

Bread came down from heaven as a type of Christ, who is the Bread of Life (John 6:35). Water came from a rock at Rephidim (Ex. 17:1-7). That Rock was Jesus (1 Cor. 10:4). Anyone who “eats” the bread of heaven, and “drinks” from the fountain of living water by faith, shall find spiritual nourishment and eternal life.

When God Waged War with Men

The Amalekites were a wandering tribe who descended from Esau’s grandson, Amalek. They were mainly located in the Sinai Peninsula. Perhaps they felt threatened when the great multitude led by Moses came into their territory. Whatever compelled the Amalekites to initially attack the Exodus Generation, they became a bitter enemy of man, and God, to the point the Lord swore that He “would have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” Study Genesis 14:7; 36:12, 16; Exodus 17:8-16; Judges 3:13; 6:3, 33; 7:12-22; 1 Chronicles 1:36

Some Practical Wisdom Accepted Exodus 18

Following the victory of a military encounter with the Amalekites, who needlessly fought with Israel in Rephidim, Moses received some very wise counsel from his father-in-law, Jethro. The wise gentleman saw that Moses was taking too much upon himself, and suggested that other leaders be found to deal with lesser personal and tribal issues. Moses could judge the greater issues among the people. “So, Moses hearkened to the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he had said” (18:24). Later rulers, such as Solomon, would concede that “in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14).

A King of Priests, and A Holy Nation Exodus 19

In the third month, the month of Nissan (March / April), when the children of Israel had left Egypt, they came to the wilderness of Sinai. The people encamped at the base of Mount Sinai. Here, God would make a Covenant with His people. But first, they must prepare themselves to be in the presence of the Lord. It was a cleansed and sanctified people the Lord wanted to meet with.

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