Exodus 101

Everyone loves a great epic film or book. Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Beowulf, The Iliad and the Odyssey . . . these stories draw us in and take us on an amazing journey.

The Bible is full of epic stories and chief among them is the story of the Exodus! In this seven-part study, we’ll journey with Moses and the people of Israel from Egypt through the wilderness and finally to the doorstep of the Promised Land.

Along the way, we’ll see how God pursues His people who are enslaved and miraculously delivers them out of slavery into a new life of freedom with Him, all while pointing us to the greater freedom that was to come. We’ll also discover how the story of Exodus and God’s people is also our story. So, as we journey alongside God’s people in the wilderness, here are a few things you need to know about this amazing book.

Where Are We in History?

The Book of Exodus basically picks up right where Genesis leaves off after the death of Joseph. The favorite son of Israel (also known as Jacob), Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. But God had a plan: He took Joseph from slavery to royalty, ascending to second-in-command in Egypt. When a seven-year famine hit, the land extending all the way to Canaan, where Jacob, his sons, and their families lived, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt seeking food and supplies and encountered Joseph. The brothers were reconciled to one another and the whole family, including Israel, came to live with Joseph in Egypt, in Goshen.

Now, around 300 years later, the Israelites were still living in Egypt and numbered in the millions. “Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt” (Exodus 1:8 NIV). A great deal of scholars now believe this Pharaoh was Amenemhet III.

Timeline of Exodus

  • Death of Joseph: circa 1806 B.C.
  • Pharaoh Amenemhet III orders Israelite babies killed: circa 1539 B.C.
  • Moses’ birth and adoption by Sobekneferu: circa 1526 B.C.
  • Moses flees to Midian: circa 1486 B.C.
  • Moses returns to Egypt and confronts Pharaoh Khasekemre-Neferhotep I: circa 1446 B.C.
  • The plagues of Egypt, the first Passover, and the exodus: circa 1446 B.C.
  • The Book of Exodus written: circa 1440–1406 B.C.
  • The Israelites wander in the wilderness: circa 1446–1406 B.C.
  • Moses dies, Joshua becomes the leader, the Israelites enter the Promised Land: circa 1406 B.C.

Who Wrote Exodus?

The majority of reputable scholars and historians agree that Moses wrote/compiled the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah (aside from a few verses in Deuteronomy that detail the death of Moses, which is believed to have been done by Joshua) during their time in the wilderness.

Among these books are Genesis (the first book of the Bible that tells of the origin of the universe, humanity, sin, and God’s plan of redemption), Exodus, Leviticus (where God establishes the moral and purity laws that serve to set Israel apart from other nations), Numbers (which essentially bridges the gap between the Israelites receiving the Law and preparing them to enter the Promised Land), and Deuteronomy (which restates the Law God gave Moses through a collection of sermons to Israel just before they crossed the Jordan).

Who Was It Written For?

While we know that all of Scripture is God breathed for all people for all time to come to know Him and trust in His Son Jesus, the Book of Exodus—and the Torah—was specifically written for the Israelites who took part in the exodus, and their descendants, in order to 1) help the Israelites remember and understand the amazing story surrounding their national origin (much like our history books, movies like The Patriot, and musicals like Hamilton do for us), and 2) remind the people of God’s power, faithfulness, love, compassion, and care He has for them. This book, along with the rest of the Torah, explains the covenant between God and His people, as well as reveals His special law for them.

Key Names

God: The creator of heaven and earth; the great “I AM” who chooses the people of Israel to represent Him on earth and through whom He would bring about the Messiah. In the Book of Exodus, we see the Lord demonstrate His mighty, miraculous power and enact justice and judgment against the false gods of Egypt and its leader, free the people of Israel from their oppression under the Egyptians, and keep His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as He delivers His people and brings them to the doorstep of the land He gave to their ancestors.

Moses: Aside from Jesus and Abraham, Moses is arguably the most well-known and prominent figure of the Bible. In Exodus, He is chosen by the Lord to serve as a meditator between for God and the people. Moses conveys God’s will to the people of Israel, negotiates with Pharaoh for Israel’s freedom, passes God’s laws on to the people of Israel, and even pleads for mercy on Israel’s behalf when they anger God.

Aaron: Moses’ brother and right hand, Aaron is called by God to assist Moses as a spokesperson and eventually is made the high priest of the nation of Israel.

Pharaoh: The chief antagonists in the first part of the Exodus story. There are two men who use this title in the Book of Exodus. The first, who many scholars today believe to be Amenemhet III (father to Sobekneferu, who would have been Moses’ adoptive mother), enslaves the nation of Israel and commits genocide against the Israelite male children. The second Pharaoh spoken of, believed to be Khasekemre-Neferhotep I, continued the oppression of Israel, refused to let the people of God go, and hardened his heart toward the Lord. It was against this Pharaoh—and the gods of Egypt—that the Lord brought about justice and judgment by sending a series of ten plagues and finally destroying Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea.

Note: Khasekemre-Neferhotep I was the last king to rule before the Hyksos occupied Egypt “without a battle.” Why is that historically significant? Well, where was the Egyptian army to battle against the Hyksos? With Khasekemre-Neferhotep I at the bottom of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:28). In addition, Khasekemre-Neferhotep I’s mummy has never been found. There is no entombment for him like there is for so many others.

Key Themes

God’s power: In Genesis, we see God’s power made evident over and over through creation, the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and more. In Exodus, God continues to demonstrate His boundless power as He uses Moses to bring about great miracles and wonders, showing His complete control over every element of creation and also putting to shame the false, powerless Egyptian gods. From turning a staff into a snake to plagues of frogs, locusts, and darkness, to parting the sea and providing manna, quail, and water from a rock, God’s power is at the forefront of this epic narrative.

Deliverance and freedom: The entire book is about God hearing Israel’s cries for help, rescuing them from their oppressors, and making them His own. In this book, we see the Lord set His people free from slavery and deliver them to the doorstep of the Promised Land—which they enter in the Book of Joshua. We also see a very important aspect of freedom through the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness: Freedom has to be fought for daily in order to be maintained. At different points, the people find themselves enslaved to idolatry and convenience. At one point, they actually longed to go back to Egypt! Similarly, to what Paul teaches in Galatians, God set us free to live and walk in freedom, and we must stand firm to ensure we don’t fall back into any chains of bondage.

Calling: No matter who you are, what you’ve done, where you come from, how old you are, or what deficiencies you claim, like Moses, God has a plan for you! His calling can come at any time. It can be seasonal or it can take years of pruning and preparation. We may fall short or fail at times, make mistakes, experience setbacks and frustrations, but we can be sure that He is going to accomplish His purposes and that His calling for us is wonderful and for our good and His glory!

The covenant: Like the rest of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), covenant—promise, pact, contract—is a big theme here. God makes a solemn, binding agreement (historically known as a Suzerain-Vassal Covenant) with the people of Israel, establishing Himself as their God and them as His people. This relationship comes with certain expectations, with blessings for the Israelites when they uphold their end of the agreement, and consequences when they do not. In the New Testament, through Jesus the greater Moses, we see a new covenant established by the death of Jesus that is built upon the grace of God.

The tabernacle: The dwelling place of God amongst His people. Toward the beginning of Exodus, the cries of Israel rise up to God, who hears them and remembers His promises to Abraham back in Genesis. In the middle of the book, God meets Israel in the wilderness: He is high atop a mountain, and they are on the plain below. God is closer to the people, but is still far away. However, by the end of the book, God is dwelling in the middle of Israel’s camp in the wilderness. Moses believes that it is God’s presence among the people that sets Israel apart from every other nation in the world (Exodus 33:16). In John 1, we discover that God became man in the person of Jesus and made His dwelling (tabernacle) among us!

About the Author

Danny Saavedra

Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.