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Exodus, book of

The word Exodus is Greek and means a “departure”; the book is so called because it describes the departure of the Israelites out of Egypt. A continuation of the narrative in Genesis, it consists of two principal divisions: (1) historical, Ex. 1–18; (2) legislative, Ex. 19–40.

  1. The first division tells us of the oppression of Israel in Egypt, under a dynasty of kings that “knew not Joseph”; the early history and call of Moses; the various steps by means of which the deliverance was at last accomplished; the Exodus itself, along with the institution of the Passover as a commemoration of it, and the sanctification of the firstborn (12:37–13:16); the march to the Red Sea, destruction of Pharaoh’s army, and Moses’ song of victory (13:17–15:21); events on the journey from the Red Sea to Sinai; the bitter waters of Marah, the giving of quails and the manna, the observance of the Sabbath, the miraculous gift of water at Rephidim, and the battle there with the Amalekites (15:22–17:16); the arrival of Jethro in the camp and his advice as to the civil government of the people (18).
  2. The second division describes the solemn events at Sinai. The people are set apart “as a kingdom of priests and an holy nation” (19:6); the Ten Commandments are given and are followed by the code of laws intended to regulate the social life of the people (20–23); an Angel is promised as their guide to the promised land, and the covenant between God and Moses and the 70 elders is ratified (23:20–24:18); instructions are given respecting the tabernacle, its furniture and worship (25:1–31:18). Then follows the account of the sin of the people in the matter of the golden calf (32:1–34:35); and lastly, the construction of the tabernacle and provision for its services (35:1–40:33). The book of Exodus thus gives the early history of the nation in three clearly marked stages: first, a nation enslaved; then a nation redeemed; lastly, a nation set apart and, through the blending of its religious and political life, consecrated to the service of God.