Introduction to Exodus




The title “Exodus” is an anglicized version of a Greek word that means “departure” in recognition of one of the book’s major events—the departure of God’s people from Egypt. Exodus could be considered the central book in the Old Testament because it records God’s act of saving the Israelites and establishing them as a covenant community, a nation chosen to serve and represent him. Exodus describes the enslavement and oppression of the Israelites; the preparation and call of Moses; the conflict between Yahweh the God of Israel and the gods of Egypt (represented by Pharaoh); the exodus of the Israelites; their establishment as a nation in covenant with the Lord; their rebellion; and the Lord’s provision for their ongoing relationship, symbolized by his presence at the tabernacle they built for him.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest pyramid in the world, made of 2.3 million stone blocks ranging from two to thirty tons each. It was built for Khufu around 2650 BC. This massive structure was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and is the only one that survives.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest pyramid in the world, made of 2.3 million stone blocks ranging from two to thirty tons each. It was built for Khufu around 2650 BC. This massive structure was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and is the only one that survives.


AUTHOR: The book of Exodus does not state who its author was. It does refer to occasions when Moses made a written record of events that took place and what God had said (17:14; 24:4,7; 34:27-28). The book also contains references to preserving and passing on information. Along with the other four books of the Pentateuch, it has long been considered to be primarily the work of Moses. Moses could have written Exodus at any time during a forty-year time span: after the Israelites finished constructing and dedicating the tabernacle at Mount Sinai, at the start of their second year after leaving Egypt (1445 BC), and before his death in the land of Moab (about 1406 BC).

BACKGROUND: Exodus picks up where the Genesis narrative ended with the death of Joseph around 1805 BC. It quickly moves us forward almost three hundred years to a time in Egypt when the circumstances of Jacob’s descendants had changed. The Israelites were serving as slaves during Egypt’s Eighteenth Dynasty, probably under the pharaohs Thutmose and Amenhotep II. The Hebrew slaves experienced a miraculous deliverance by God’s hand through his servant-leader Moses. The Israelite slavery ended in 1446 BC. The book of Exodus records the events surrounding the exodus from Egypt and the Israelites’ first year in the wilderness, including the giving of the law.

The date of the exodus is disputed, but biblical evidence favors 1446 bc. First Kings 6:1 states that the exodus occurred 480 years before Solomon’s fourth year as king, established by biblical data combined with Assyrian chronology to be 966 bc. In Judges 11:26, Jephthah said that Israel had been living in regions of Palestine for three hundred years. Jephthah lived around 1100 bc, thus dating the end of the wilderness journey to around 1400 bc.


The book of Exodus shows God at work with the goal of having such close fellowship with people that he is described as dwelling among them. He rescued the Israelites in order to make himself known, not only by the exercise of his power but also through an ongoing covenant relationship based on his capacity for patience, grace, and forgiveness. The record of what the Lord did for the Israelites provided grounds for them to recognize him as their God who deserved their complete loyalty and obedience. This record would make clear to the Israelites their identity as God’s people and would continue the display of his glorious identity.


1. The Lord God: God revealed himself to Moses and Israel as Yahweh, “I Am Who I Am.” This covenant name for God carries profound meaning and affirms the power, authority, and eternal nature of God.

2. Redemption: The Israelites prayed for deliverance and God responded. God worked through his servant-leader Moses, but he did it in such a miraculous way that it was obvious that God was at work. The Israelites could not save themselves; rescue was all the work of God. The Passover was established to serve as an annual reminder of God’s work on their behalf.

3. Law: The law of God is encapsulated in the Ten Commandments, God’s absolutes for spiritual and moral living. The law is divided into two sections: the civil law—the rules that govern life in the community—and the ceremonial law—the patterns for worship and building the tabernacle.

4. Tabernacle: God gave specific instructions on how the tabernacle was to be built, but its significance is in what it represented—God dwelling among his people. He was specifically understood to dwell in the holy of holies, inaccessible to the average Israelite. The tabernacle points ahead to the moment when Christ removed the veil of separation, giving all believers access to God. In the NT, believers become the tabernacle, for God doesn’t just dwell among his people; he dwells in them.


Exodus provides the high point of redemptive history in the OT. Many patterns and concepts from Exodus receive attention, further development, and fulfillment elsewhere in Scripture, especially in the past, present, and future work of the Lord Jesus. These include rescue from oppression, provision of sustenance, God’s faithfulness to his promises, the self-revelation of God, knowledge of God resulting from his actions, the presence of God, his glory, efforts required to preserve the knowledge of God, a new identity for people that is based on God’s actions, provision for worship, provision for life in community, connection between the reputation of God and his relationship with a group of people, obedience and rebellion, intercession, and gracious forgiveness.


Exodus is considered a part of the Law, but it is more historical narrative than law. The book is structured around the life and travels of Moses. Sandwiched between the narratives of chapters 1-18 and 32-40 are the establishment of the covenant (chaps. 19-24) and the laws related to the tabernacle and priesthood.


I.Oppression of God’s People in Egypt (1:1-11:10)

A.Egyptian slavery (1:1-22)

B.Preparation of the deliverer (2:1-4:31)

C.Struggles with the oppressor (5:1-11:10)

II.Deliverance of God’s People from Egypt (12:1-14:31)

A.Redemption by blood (12:1-51)

B.Redemption by divine miracles (13:1-14:31)

III.Education of God’s People in the Wilderness (15:1-18:27)

A.Israel’s song of victory (15:1-21)

B.Testing and trials (15:22-17:16)

C.Shared leadership under Moses (18:1-27)

IV.Consecration of God’s People at Sinai (19:1-34:35)

A.Acceptance of the law (19:1-31:18)

B.Breaking of the law (32:1-35)

C.Restoration of the law (33:1-34:35)

V.Worship of God’s People in the Tabernacle (35:1-40:38)

A.Gifts and workmen for the tabernacle (35:1-35)

B.Construction and furnishings of the tabernacle (36:1-39:43)

C.Filling of the tabernacle with God’s glory (40:1-38)

3000-1750 BC

Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus dating to 1550 is the earliest known surgical treatise; it is a copy of a much older Egyptian document attributed to Imhotep, architect, high priest, and physician of the Old Kingdom. 3000-2500

Jacob’s family settles in Egypt. 1876

Jacob dies. 1859

Joseph dies. 1805

Hammurabi develops the first legal code in Mesopotamia. 1792-1750

1700 BC

Body armor is used in China. 1700

Minoans develop a system for running water. 1700

Underground ice houses, Kingdom of Mari, northwest Iraq 1700

Cookbook, Mesopotamia 1700

Linear A script comes into use on Crete. 1700

Egyptians show proficiency in geometry including a formula for calculating the volume of a truncated pyramid. Sources: The Moscow Papyrus and the Rhind Papyrus. 1700

1650-1600 BC

Aaron 1529-1409?

Hyksos rule Egypt. 1630-1543

Volcanic island of Thera (Santorini) erupts with massive environmental consequences felt as far as the British Isles and North America. 1600

Chocolate originates in northern Honduras. 1600

Children’s swings invented, Crete 1600

Linear B script comes into use on Crete. 1600

War chariots are used in Egypt. 1600

1445 BC

Moses 1526-1406 Joshua 1490?-1380?

Egyptians develop effective pharmaceutical compounds. 1500

Moses flees to Midian. 1487

Moses is commissioned. 1447

The ten plagues begin. 1446

The Passover instituted. 1446

Exodus and defeat of Pharaoh at the Red Sea 1446

God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai 1446

Tabernacle is built and dedicated. 1445