INTRODUCTION TO EXODUS;
CALL OF MOSES (Ex 1-5)
The Hebrew name of this book comes from its opening words וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת – “These are the names.”
The Septuagint gives this book the designation Ἔξοδος “exit, departure.” While this name has also become the English name of this book via the Vulgate’s “Exodus,” this name is somewhat misleading as far as the content of the book is concerned. Although Israel’s departure from Egypt is historically important, the theological significance of Exodus centers in Israel’s consecration as a covenant nation. The actual departure from Egypt forms a relatively small part of the book.
The book’s major divisions are as follows:
THE LORD’S COVENANT WITH THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL
I. The Deliverance of the Covenant People out of Egypt (Ch. 1 18)
A. Preparation for Deliverance. (1-4)
B. Beginning of the Conflict (5-6)
C. The Plagues (7-12)
D. The journey from Egypt to Sinai (13-18)
II. The Establishing of the Covenant with Israel at Sinai (Ch. 19 24)
A. The Covenant Proposed (19)
B. The Decalogue and the Law (20-23)
C. Ratification of the Covenant (24)
III. The Entry into the Place of the Covenant, the Tabernacle (Ch. 25 40)
A. Directions for the Tabernacle (25-31)
B. The Covenant Broken and Restored (32-34)
C. Completion of the Tabernacle (35-40)
Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers constitute the Torah in the narrower sense of the word, in the sense of law or legislation. Genesis, as we learned, is the record of the beginnings of the Kingdom of God. Deuteronomy recapitulates the lawgiving and calls for faithful observance of the same. The three middle books present the Torah itself, with each book emphasizing the following aspects of the law:
Exodus the moral law;
Leviticus the ceremonial law;
Numbers the political or civil law.
Exodus begins with the death of Joseph and takes us to the setting up of the tabernacle at Sinai, thus covering approximately 360 years (Joseph was 30 years old when he became overseer in Egypt. He died, according to Genesis 50:26, at age 110. The entire time of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt, according to Exodus 12:40, was 430 years). Beginning with a list of the names of the children of Israel who went down to Egypt, and ending with the setting up of the tabernacle, where Jehovah dwelt in the midst of his people, the book of Exodus tells us how Israel developed into God’s covenant people.
Dating Between Genesis and Exodus (figuring backwards)
967 BC – Solomon begins building temple (see below)
1447 BC – Biblical date for exodus, 480 years before Solomon’s temple (1 Kgs 6:1)
1527 BC – Moses is born eighty years earlier
1580-1570 BC – Range of dates for the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt by the Theban founder of the 18th dynasty, Ahmose.
1730 BC – Approximate time of the Hyksos (“rulers of foreign lands”) takeover of Lower Egypt establishing the 15th dynasty, a dynasty of foreign pharaohs.
1877 BC – Jacob enters Egypt and stands before Pharaoh 430 years before the exodus (Ex. 12:40). Joseph is probably 39 years old.
1806 BC – Joseph dies at 110, 71 years after Jacob enters Egypt
So there are 279 years between the death of Joseph and the birth of Moses.
The book, along with Numbers, also serves as a warning against ingratitude and disobedience (See 1 Cor 10, Hebrews 4, and Psalm 95).
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PART I of EXODUS
THE DELIVERANCE OF THE COVENANT PEOPLE OUT OF EGYPT (Ch 1 18)
v. 8 “Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt.” Archer and others believe that the new king of this verse must be a Hyksos king coming to power some twenty to thirty years after the death of Joseph. They believe the quotes of 1:8-10 make no sense in the mouth of a native Egyptian king. Although both the Israelites and the Hyksos were Semites, the Israelite sympathies may have been with the Egyptians because of the friendly way they dealt with Joseph and his family. Therefore, the Hyksos saw them as enemies and oppressed them. The king of v. 15, then, who attempted wiping out Israel as a nation, would have been a native king of the 18th dynasty, either Ahmose or one of his successors, who hated everything Semitic and sought to cleanse the delta region of their presence (see Archer, p. 228-233). Obviously, we cannot be dogmatic about these matters.
This verse, together with what precedes (Israel’s multiplication as a people) and follows (Pharaoh’s acts of oppression), raises the question as to where Israel’s sojourn in Egypt and the exodus fit into world history.
As might be expected, there is considerable difference of opinion concerning these matters. Among those who favor a later date for the exodus (1290 or even 1225 B.C.) are H.H. Rowley, Jack Finegan, E.F. Harrison, W.F. Albright, and many others, including probably the majority of Evangelicals. The earlier date (ca. 1440 BC) is supported by Gleason Archer, Merrill Unger, J. Davis, Keil-Delitzsch, and men of a more conservative bent. Archaeological evidence is argued in support of both views, with Nelson Glueck and Kathleen Kenyon opting for a later date, and John Garstang, John Bimson, and Bryant Wood defending the earlier date on the basis of the excavations at Jericho. R.K. Harrison writes: “Attempts to establish a chronology for the Exodus have resulted in some of the most perplexing problems in the entire panorama of Hebrew history” (Introduction to the Old Testament, p 316). It might be mentioned here that a number of liberal scholars reject all biblical evidence and claim there was no exodus at all.
A person’s position will depend at least in part on his attitude toward the inerrancy of Scripture. A significant passage in this matter is 1 Kings 6:1, which places the exodus 480 years before the building of the temple, which occurred “in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel.” Edwin R. Thiele’s chronology of the kings, places the death of Solomon at 931 BC (The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, p. 254f). This places the building of the temple at 967 BC. Add to this 480 years and the result is 1447 BC. Even if these dates are not precise, the exodus would be dated to the 15th century BC.
If we connect these dates to the standard (but very problematic) chronology of Egyptian history, two New Kingdom dynasties come into consideration as the setting for the exodus:
18th Dynasty (Early Exodus)
19th Dynasty (Late Exodus)
Thutmose I, ca. 1540 BC
Seti I, ca. 1322-1300 BC
Thutmose II, ca. 1520 BC (Hatshepsut)
Thutmose III, ca. 1500-1450 BC (Oppression)
Rameses II, ca. 1300 1235 BC
Amenhotep II, ca. 1450 20 BC (Exodus)
Merneptah, ca. 1235 1220 B.C.
Accordingly, the pharaoh of the oppression following the early dating would be Thutmose III, whose long reign together with Hatshepsut’s regency would fit the biblical record. The Pharaoh of the exodus, then, would be Amenhotep II (also known as Amenophis). Amenhotep’s poor war record would correspond with the catastrophic loss of chariots in the Red Sea. In this view, then, the “new King, who did not know about Joseph,” would come out of the dynasty which expelled the Hyksos, Semitic invaders, who ruled Egypt in the 16th century BC. This would provide a natural setting for the oppression of the Israelites, who would be regarded as kin to the Hyksos by native Egyptians. In “Against Apion” the 1st-century historian Josephus identified the Exodus with the expulsion of the Hyksos. If this were the case. the pharaoh of Exodus would be one of the Theban pharaohs of the 17th or early-18th Dynasty, who fought against the Hyksos, especially Ahmose I (1570–1546 BC or 1550-1525 BC). This, however, does not seem to mesh with the apparent Delta headquarters of the pharaoh.
According to the later reckoning the pharaoh of the oppression would be Seti I or Rameses II, also a ruler with a long reign, and the pharaoh of the exodus would be Merneptah. Against the latter identification would be the Merneptah Stele, which names Israel as already in Canaan during Mernepthah’s rule.
Although the biblical data strongly supports a 15th century exodus, we cannot be too certain of the pharaohs of the oppression since there are significant uncertainties with Egyptian chronology in spite of the confidence with which the figures are printed on the page. There are significant variations in the three standard chronologies of Egypt, and the astronomical basis for those chronologies is not very sound. Actually, the identity of the pharaoh is not a great concern since the Bible shows no interest in this information.
The archaeological aspects of the dating of the exodus and conquest will be discussed in more detail in connection with the book of Joshua.
v. 1 “A man of the house of Levi.” According to Ex 6:20 and Nu 26:59 Moses descended from the Levitical family of Kohath. There are apparent gaps in the genealogy. It is most likely that the gaps are in the middle of the list, and Amram and his wife Jochebed were Moses’ parents. Usually the two ends of the genealogy are the critical data. The gap here probably comes between the founder of the clan and Moses’ immediate forebears. (See notes on 6:13-26 for other possibilities.)
v. 2 In this verse the newborn child is described as טוֹב , a generic word that isn’t very descriptive. Most parents consider their children to be most beautiful. In Acts 7:20 Stephen describes him ἀστῖος τῷ θεῷ, which could be translated “beautiful” or “special in God’s sight.” Was it clear in some way to Moses’ parents that God had special plans for this child? Regardless of how we are to understand these words, He 11:23 says that the parents’ act of not obeying the ruler’s cruel command was more than just parents protecting their child. It was an act of faith.
All the items connected with this story (Nile, papyrus basket, reeds, etc.) are typical of Egypt, as historians frequently point out, again underscoring Mosaic authorship.
v. 4 “His sister …” No doubt Miriam (Nu 16:59).
v. 5 “Pharaoh’s daughter …” In the Talmud she is named as Bathia (Batya), but we know of no basis for this identification. Other traditional names are Tharmuth and Merris. Some of the pharaohs had dozens of daughters so there is no shortage of candidates.
According to Stephen (Ac 7:22) Moses received an education “in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.”
v. 11-15 Moses’ act is referred to by Stephen (Ac 7:25-26) and in Hebrews 11:24-26 as an act of faith, in that he chose to put in his lot with his own suffering people. It was at the same time, however, like the act of Peter in cutting of the servant’s ear, an impulsive act which broke the rules of justice. According to Acts 7:22 Moses was 40 years old. Moses would have been 40 around 1487 BC, 390 years after Jacob entered Egypt. Given the fact that the Lord had told Abraham that his descendants would spend 400 years in a foreign country (Gen. 15:13), Moses may have seen himself as a self-appointed deliverer whose time had come. God’s time had not come, however, and Moses’ attempt failed.
“… went to live in Midian.” The Midianites were descended from Abraham through Keturah (Gn 25:24). Since they dwelt largely to the East, we conclude this group under Jethro was a branch dwelling on the Sinaitic peninsula, near Mount Sinai or Horeb.
v. 18 Reuel. In Ex 3:1 his name or title is Jethro, “his excellency.” He is a “priest of Midian” (v. 16), the spiritual head of his tribe. Reuel means “friend of God.”
v. 22 Moses’ sons: Gershom and Eliezer (cf. Ex 18:3).
While the children of Israel were groaning under the oppression of Egypt, God was preparing the way for their deliverance, as this chapter shows us in the miraculous saving of Moses, his training in the wisdom of the Egyptians, and his seasoning in the arid Sinai peninsula.
v. 23 “And God remembered …” an anthropomorphism for “God took action.” Moses served Jethro for a period of 40 years (cf. Ac 7:30 and Ex 7:6). God chose his time to take action.
v. 1 “Horeb, the mountain of God.” No doubt so-called in anticipation of the revelation which Moses was to receive. In the Old Testament Horeb and Sinai are used as equivalent terms, although Horeb may refer to the entire range of mountains which rise to a height of 8,000 ft., and Sinai to a particular peak in this range. The NIV “far side of the desert” is better translated “west side of the desert.”
v. 2 “The angel of the Lord appeared to him …” a manifestation of the LORD himself (see Gn 16:7; 22:11; 31:11 13; 48:15 16, etc.).
v. 6 The LORD Yahweh makes himself known as the God of the patriarchs.
v. 12 God promises that he will bring his people to worship on this same mountain. This was fulfilled when Israel here entered into a covenant with Yahweh/Jehovah (Ex 24).
v. 14 “God said unto Moses, ‘I am who I am.’”(אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אהְיֶה) . The name indicates the absolute timelessness, constancy, and unchangeableness of God, as we see from the imperfect tense of the Hebrew verb, expressing his sovereignty and majesty. Jesus says of himself, “Before Abraham was, I am” (πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί - Jn 8:58) thereby identifying himself with the God of Israel (See also He 13:8 and Rev. 1:4 & 8).
The name which God here reveals to Moses also stresses God as a personal being, the personal God of salvation for all time. This is God’s own explanation of the tetragrammaton יְהֹוָה, which simply changes the first person “I am” to the third person “He is.” The Hebrew word הָיָה, “to be,” was originally הָוָה , with the third person יַהוֶה in the imperfect. The Masoretic pointing יְהוָה / יְהֹוָה. (Jehovah) belongs to a time when the Jews were afraid to utter this name at all and substituted אֲדֹנָי (Lord), the vowels of which therefore were placed as Keri (to be read) in place of the Kethib (to be written). When the Hebrew word אֲדֹנָי precedes the tetragrammaton, the tetragrammation is pointed יֶהוִה and is pronounced “elohim.” Another substitution for the Tetragrammaton is “The Name.”
The name later incorrectly pronounced Jehovah (יְהֹוָה) occurs for the first time in Gn 2:4 in connection with elohim, and is identified as the God of the history of salvation, the God of the covenant. The letters יהוה were very likely originally pronounced Yahweh.
Ex 3:14 reveals the absolute independence of God, the absolute constancy of God, and the fact that all his attributes are a part of his essence. Luther translates: “Ich werde sein, der ich werde sein.” The most complete exegesis of יְהֹוָה is found in the Lord’s own “sermon” on his name in Exodus 34:5-7. We will give fuller consideration to the significance of this name at that point.
With these words the LORD also distinguishes himself from the gods of Egypt and other nations.
v. 18 Moses was to confront Pharaoh first with an easier option, i.e., to let Israel take a journey to worship the Lord. God knew in advance, however, that Pharaoh would refuse, proving beyond all doubt that Pharaoh was without excuse.
v. 22 “Every woman is to ask her neighbor.” The KJV “borrow” is an incorrect translation of the Hebrew שָׁאַל. Opponents of Scripture have frequently used this passage of the Bible to throw contempt on the word of God, claiming that God here encouraged his people to “borrow” under false pretenses. The passage clearly states that the Israelites asked without intending to restore, and the Egyptians gave without hope of receiving back, since God had made their hearts favorably disposed to the Israelites. In fact, this asking, or demanding, was small recompense for the years of slavery which Israel had been forced to bear in Egypt.
Note: Exodus 3:1-12 provides an excellent text for a service of installation, especially the Lord’s words “So now, go. I am sending you … I will be with you.”
v. 1 Moses continues his objections, which go back to the preceding chapter. In every case, however, the Lord has a ready answer, basing this not upon human argumentation, but upon the strength which he himself would supply.
“Who am I … ?” “I will be with you.” (Ex 3:11 12)
“Who shall I say sent me?” “I AM sent you.” (Ex 3:13 14)
“What if they do not believe me?” Three signs (Ex 4:1 8)
“I am not eloquent.” “I will help you speak (Ex 4:10 11)
“Send someone else.” The Lord’s anger … Aaron (Ex 4:13 14)
Moses’ reluctance to go is understandable, taking into consideration the entire situation. Humanly speaking this shepherd of Horeb had many strikes against him, including his reason for having fled from Egypt many years ago. Moses may also have been bitter over the fact that when he was ready forty years earlier, God was not. In addition, we should remember that since God’s appearance to Jacob, 430 years before this, God had never appeared to any Israelite.
An excellent study for called servants of God to reassure themselves as to where their strength can be found to do the Lord’s work!
The three signs described in this chapter (rod to snake; hand leprous and healed; water of the Nile to blood) have many fanciful and allegorical explanations. We prefer to interpret all three as signs provided by God as a testimony to Israel and to Egypt of God’s presence and power accompanying his chosen messenger. Edersheim adds an interesting comment: “For the first time in Old Testament history this power (of doing miracles) was bestowed upon man” (Bible History of the Old Testament, Vol 1, p 50).
v. 21 “But I will harden his heart …” The statement that God would harden Pharaoh’s heart, as indicated in this passage אֲחַזֵּק) , Piel form of חָזַק , “cause to be hard; harden”) has raised questions concerning the cause of impenitence. Does this rest with God or with man? In this passage the Lord gives a summary of what is eventually going to happen in the case of Pharaoh.
In studying the passages in Exodus note the difference and the progression of four kinds of passages: 1) prophecies of the hardening of the heart, 2) statements of the condition of hardness, 3) human action of hardening the heart, 4) divine action of hardening the heart.
Exodus 4:21 The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.”
Exodus 8:19 The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said.
Exodus 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said.
Exodus 9:12,35 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses. 35 So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses.
Note: Divine hardening does not begin until Exodus 9:12, the 6th plague.
Note also the three different vocables for “harden”:
חָזַק: to fetter, brace up (LXX, σκληρύνω); in the qal of a condition, the hardness of the human heart; in the piel as a causative, of the divine action of hardening.
קָשָׁה: to harden (LXX, σκληρύνω); the causative is hiphil.
כָּטֵד: to be heavy, insensitive (LXX, βαρύνω); the causative is hiphil.
As we follow the entire situation of Moses with Pharaoh, we find that in the first instances the hardening of heart is ascribed to Pharaoh himself. Either the qal of חָזַק is used (“Pharaoh’s heart became hard,” an intransitive form of the Qal. Ex 7:13; 22; 8:15; 9:35), or the qal of כָּבֵד is used, meaning that “Pharaoh’s heart was hard” (Ex 7:14; 9:17). Still another verb,קָשָׁה is used in Ex 13:15 which means that “Pharaoh made his heart hard.” The process in Pharaoh’s case, in other words, is progressive. After Pharaoh hardened his own heart against God’s revealed will during the first five plagues, the LORD himself begins to take a hand and the hardening on the part of the LORD begins (Ex 9:12).
Thus it was not until after Pharaoh himself had repeatedly rejected God’s call to repentance, manifesting an obdurate, defiant spirit, that God himself stepped in and completed the process. Nowhere do we hear that Pharaoh believed. His acts of resistance to God’s will were repeated. They became a habit. Finally a complete state of obduracy and insusceptibility set in, which is God’s own final judgment upon the impenitent sinner. It is in this sense that we understand the words: “I will harden his heart.” (Confer also Ez 33:11; 1 Tm 2:4; 2 Pe 2:9).
“Hence Pharaoh (of whom we read, ‘For this purpose have I let you live to show you my power, so that my name may be declared throughout all the earth’ [Ex. 9:16]) did not perish because God did not want to grant him salvation or because it was God’s good pleasure that he should be damned and lost. For God ‘is not wishing that any should perish,’ nor has he any ‘pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live …’ “But that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh continued to sin and became the more obdurate the more he was admonished was a punishment for his preceding sin and his horrible tyranny with which he oppressed the children of Israel by many, various, and most inhuman devices contrary to the voice of his conscience. But after God arranged to have his Word proclaimed and his will revealed to Pharaoh, and he deliberately rebelled against all the admonitions and warnings, God withdrew his hand from him, and so his heart became hardened and calloused, and God executed his judgment on him, for he was indeed guilty of ‘hell-fire.’ The holy apostle adduces Pharaoh’s example [Romans 9] for the sole purpose of thereby setting forth the righteousness of God which God manifests toward the impenitent and despisers of his Word, and in no way does he want us to infer that God had not wanted to grant Pharaoh or any other person eternal life, or that in his secret counsel God had ordained him to eternal damnation so that he could not and might not be saved.” (Tappert, Book of Concord, “Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article XI,” paragraphs 54 and 84-86, p. 630-631).
v. 21 “Israel is my firstborn son,” confer Ex 19:5; Dt 32:18; Is 64:8; Jer 3:4; Mal 1:6; 2:10.
v. 24-26 On account of the brevity of this narrative it is somewhat obscure. Who was God seeking to kill, Moses or his son? How was God threatening to kill? Was it a sudden seizure, a fatal disease? Was it because of his neglect in circumcising his son? Had Moses neglected to do this out of deference to Zipporah? Was one son already circumcised and the others not (note the singular “son” in v. 25)?
In any case, Zipporah now does herself what had been neglected, although it was repugnant to her. She concedes that the act must be done to retain her “bridegroom of blood.” By touching Moses with the blood of the foreskin she removes the offense.
Moses, who is to be the great leader of God’s people, is shown how earnest God is concerning the keeping of his commandments (confer Gn 17:14; also Ro 4:11), a lesson for us as well.
This chapter is preliminary. It presents the first visit of Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh, to make known to him the will of their God. Pharaoh’s reply is to increase Israel’s labors, thus enlightening Moses as to what he can expect from Pharaoh. When Israel complains, Moses takes the problem to the Lord, preparing us for the Lord’s assurances in chapter 6. Moses’ words, “O Lord, why …” (Ex 5:22) serve as an excellent text on a pastor’s intercessory role as the man in the middle. God answers the “why” in Exodus 6:1: “Now you will see …”
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW (Ex 1-5)
What is the theme of the book of Exodus? Why is the title of the book therefore somewhat misleading?
Show how the main parts of Exodus fit under this theme.
When Paul said to Agrippa: “It was not done in a corner” (Ac 26:26), he emphasized how God chose the right time and the right place to reveal his salvation in Christ. By means of this choice the good news could be spread abroad throughout the world quickly. How can we apply these same words to the Exodus miracle?
Which two general views are held concerning the date of the Exodus? Why do conservative Bible students favor the early date? Explain how the early date (about 1447 BC) fits into Egyptian history.
What purpose did Israel’s 430 years in Egypt serve according to God’s plan? Did Israel continue to serve the Lord during these “years of silence”? (See Ex 1:21; 2:6-18; Jos 5:3ff, but see Ez. 20:7-8, Am 5:26-27).
Were the Hebrew midwives guilty of “unwarranted deception” according to Ex 1:19?
Explain the “good” and the “bad” side of Moses’ attempt to execute justice according to Ex 2:11 12 (See He 11:24-27).
According to Acts 7:23 and 7:30 how many years did Moses spend in exile as a lowly shepherd before God called him? What application lies in this fact?
Explain the term “angel of the Lord” (מַלְאַךְ יְהוָֹה) in Exodus 3:2 (See. Gn 16:7; 22:11; 31:11 13; 48:15 16).
In what various ways does God reveal himself to Moses in Exodus 2? Show the relationship between the “I AM” and the “LORD” revelations of God’s name. What attributes of God are emphasized in this NAME by which God reveals himself?
Why is Moses’ reluctance to accept God’s call understandable? Relate Moses’ attempts to excuse himself with the call to special service as a minister of Christ.
Expand on the incongruity portrayed in Exodus 4:20.
Explain the passage “I (God) will harden his (Pharaoh’s) heart” (Ex 4:21) in the light of Ez 33:11; 1 Tm 2:4; 2 Pe 3:9.
By what strange incident recorded in Exodus 4 does God show that he is serious about the covenant of circumcision? Interpret the gist of Zipporah’s words: “Surely, you are a bridegroom of blood to me” (Ex 4:25).
Describe Pharaoh’s reaction to Moses’ request, Moses’ question (Ex 5:22), and the Lord’s answer (Ex 6:1). How can we apply this situation to present day circumstances?
FOR ADDED CONSIDERATION
A. In connection with the date of the Exodus, for further reading we recommend:
Redating the Exodus and Conquest, John J. Bimson. For a survey of the issues and a defense of the early date.
Bryant G. Wood, “Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho? A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence,” Biblical Archaeology Review 16(2) (March/April 1990): p 44-58.
Bryant G. Wood, “Dating Jericho’s Destruction: Bienkowski Is Wrong on All Counts,” Biblical Archaeology Review 16:05, Sep/Oct 1990.
Bryant G. Wood, “The Walls of Jericho,” Bible and Spade 12:2 (1999).
Bruins & van der Plicht, “Tell es-Sultan (Jericho): Radiocarbon Results of Short-Lived Cereal and Multiyear Charcoal Samples from the End of the Middle Bronze Age,” Radiocarbon 37:2, 1995. Radiocarbon dates sited against Wood.
A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Gleason L. Archer, p. 239-252.
Moses and the Gods of Egypt, J.J. Davis, p 16-37.
Archaeology and the Old Testament, Merrill F. Unger, p 140-152.
The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, Edwin R. Thiele, p 254 f.
B. What occasion or application is suggested by each of the following texts?
Ex 3:1 6
Ex 3:11 15
Ex 4:1 17
Ex 4:19 6:1
THE PLAGUES AND THE EXODUS (Ex 6 13)
v. 1-8 Here the negative critics see support for their claim that the Yahweh-name was not known before the days of Moses. Critics claim that in the early patriarchal period the tribal name of God was God Almighty – אֵל שַׁדָּי. Now Moses was about to reveal the name Yahweh – יְהוָה – for the first time as the God of Israel. This is a misinterpretation of the passages.
The fact of the matter is that the name Yahweh occurs frequently in Genesis. God did reveal himself to Abraham as Yahweh, the God of the Covenant (יְהֹוָה). Abraham builds an altar unto this name (Gn 12:8; 13:4; 21:33). He calls upon this name (Gn 22:14; 24:3 and 7). When in Ex 3:13 Moses expects that the Israelites will ask who sent him, God’s answer implies that he will be recognized by the name Yahweh.
It could be argued that the occurrence of the Tetragrammaton in Genesis is an updating by Moses to the name used in his own time, but another solution seems more probable. Here the point is that although the name has already been introduced to Israel, its full implications have not as yet been made known to them. God had surely not forgotten his covenant with the patriarchs and with their descendants (v. 4-5). Now the redemptive events to follow would reveal aspects of this covenant hitherto not fully known (Confer v. 3 and especially 6-7).
Another solution is to punctuate v. 3 as a question, as the NIV note does, “And by my name the LORD, did I not make myself known to them?”
v. 13-26 At this point a genealogical table is inserted. Edward Young comments: “Obviously this is the proper place for such an insertion. Moses has received his final commission to Pharaoh. He is now shown as the leader of Israel and is ready for the great conflict with the oppressor. What better place could there be for the account of the line of Moses and Aaron than at precisely this point?” (Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 64).
Obviously some links in the genealogy of Moses and Aaron are omitted. 1 Chronicles 7:20-27 shows 11 links between Joseph and Joshua. Ex 6:20 26 shows only 4 links for the same period (Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses). The gap likely follows Kohath, founder of the clan.
There is another way to view this information. A member of the nation of Israel was identified by the household of the father,בֵּת אֲבִי , to which he belonged. This household or family was a subpart of his clan,מִשְׁפְּחָה , which was a subpart of his tribe, שֵׁבֶת. (For an example of this identification in action see Joshua 7:16-18.) Since this is Moses’ official introduction, he is introduced as a member of the tribe of Levi, from the clan of Kohath, and the family of Amram. The four generations mentioned also remind us of the four generations the Lord told Abraham would pass before they were delivered from a foreign land (Gn. 15:16).
Note also in the lists of names the three divisions in the tribe of Levi according to sons Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (v 16), and the names of Aaron’s sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, Ithamar (v. 23). These names play significant roles in Israel’s later history.
It is somewhat puzzling that the genealogies of Reuben and Simeon are included here. Perhaps this is simply because the starting block of the genealogy was taken and pasted in as a whole. Perhaps it also serves to remind us that Levi was one of the “three less blessed,” and it shows how the fortunes of this tribe were beginning to turn.
EXODUS 7, 8, 9, 10
These chapters of Exodus contain the story of 9 of the 10 plagues. Their purpose is set forth by God himself: “That you may know that I am the Lord” (Ex 6:7; 10:2; 16:12; 29:42), “and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord” (Ex 7:5 and 17). Thus there are both law and gospel elements in the action. To Israel God’s power meant deliverance. To the Egyptians the plagues demonstrated God’s sovereignty over all things. By Pharaoh, because of his unbelief, they were received with hardening of heart.
The first 9 plagues form a symmetrical scheme, subdivided into three groups of three each:
1. Blood (7:14 25) 4. Flies (8:20 32) 7. Hail (9:13 35)
2. Frogs (8:1 15) 5. Murrain (9:1 7) 8. Locusts (10:1 20)
3. Gnats (8:16 19) 6. Boils (9:8 12) 9. Darkness (10:21 27)
In each series the first and second plague is announced to Pharaoh in advance. The third is given without previous warning. The series of 3 x 3 leads up to a climax in the tenth plague, showing completeness. Within the plagues there is an increase in severity. They may have extended over a period of about 10 months.
The Egyptian magicians vie with Moses in the first two plagues. At the third they acknowledge the hand of God to be present: “This is the finger of God” (8:19), and from then on they are out of consideration.
With plagues 4, 5, and 6 there is a distinction between the Israelites and the Egyptians, the Israelites being spared.
The first nine plagues were natural wonders in the sense that they were already known phenomena. Their severity and sudden disappearance at the word of Moses marked them as miracles of God’s power. Each plague was directed against some phenomenon of nature worshiped by the Egyptians as in some way related to their gods.
Pharaoh’s progressive hardening of heart we have already treated under Exodus 4. At the close of the ninth plague Moses and Pharaoh broke off all personal relations. It is clear that Exodus 11:1-3 refers to instructions given previously to Moses, while 11:4-8 is the parting warning concerning the coming of the tenth plague, which follows immediately after 10:29. The NIV translates 11:1 correctly: “Now the Lord had said to Moses …” ו ־ וַיֹּאמֶר) consecutive here used in the pluperfect sense!) In plague number ten, in other words, God dealt directly with Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and not through mediation.
This chapter presents to us first of all the regulations given by God to Moses concerning the PASSOVER (פֶּסַח). These are found in the first portion of the chapter (v. 1-28), and the concluding verses (v. 43-50). In between these verses we have the account of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt through the killing of the firstborn of all people and livestock in Egypt (Tenth Plague).
The Passover was instituted as a memorial of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. It was symbolic of Israel’s beginning as the people of Yahweh. According to verses 1 and 2 it was to be celebrated in the same month every year, concerning which God declared: “This month is to be for you the first month.” The Passover month, Abib, was therefore the beginning of Israel’s ecclesiastical year. After the Babylonian captivity this month received the name Nisan. (This month corresponds roughly to the end of March and the beginning of April in our calendar.)
Looking at the ordinances concerning the Passover in the light of the New Testament it is clear that the Passover was to have a prophetic bearing upon the person and work of the Savior. Through the blood of a lamb the firstborn in Israel were spared the fate of the Egyptian sons. They were delivered from the wrath of God. They were delivered through a vicarious death.
That this observance is a type of Christ is clear from various ordinances of the Passover itself in the light of New Testament fulfillment. This applies first of all to the Passover Lamb (the Hebrew שֶׂה refers to “a young one,” either of sheep or of goats, v. 3), which fits numerous references of Christ as the Lamb of God (Confer esp. Jn 1:29; 1 Cor 5:7). This lamb was to be “without defect” (v. 5), just as Christ was “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Pe 1:19). The lamb was to be slaughtered (v. 6), or sacrificed, even as Christ gave himself as “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2; He 10:14). The Israelites were to take some of the blood (v. 7) and put it on their doorframes as a token of deliverance from the angel of death (“When I see the blood, I will pass over you” v. 13). Even so we are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pe 1:19; see also Ac 20:28; Ro 3:25; 5:9; Eph 1:7; 2:13; Col 1:20; He 9:22; 1 Jn 1:7; Re 5:9). Concerning the lamb the people were not to “break any of the bones (v. 46), just as none of the Savior’s bones were broken after his death on the cross (Jn 19:36).
No doubt the regulations for the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, also found here in Exodus 12:14-20, were given to Moses sometime later (see v. 17: “That I brought” etc.). The close connection between the meaning of this feast and the Passover itself explains its inclusion here.
The Keil-Delitzsch Commentary has this to say concerning this feast: The unleavened cakes were symbolical of the new life as cleansed from the leaven of a sinful nature. For this reason the Israelites were to put away all the leaven of the Egyptian nature, the leaven of malice and wickedness, and by eating pure and holy bread and meeting for the worship of God to show that they were walking in newness of life” (p. 21) … Paul brings this picture into focus in 1 Corinthians 5:7 where he tells us to “get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast,” connecting this also with “Christ, our Passover lamb,” who “has been sacrificed.” He then urges Christians to “keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:8). One can hardly preach on this Easter Epistle in the old historical series without carefully explaining the Old Testament picture of the Passover and its connection with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, relating this to the significance of Easter for a Christian’s walk in newness of life.
A connection is plainly implied between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper. Both are memorial feasts (Ex 12:14 – 1 Cor 11:24ff). Both imply a fellowship of faith (Ex 12:44 – 1 Cor 10:17). Both exclude “the stranger” (Ex 12:43, 45, 48 – 1 Cor 11:27). The relation of the Passover to the rite of circumcision is also the same as the Lord’s Supper is to baptism. Both circumcision and baptism establish the covenant with God and admit into fellowship with God and his church. Both Passover and Lord’s Supper proclaim and strengthen this bond. The new sacraments in place of the old are God’s way of enabling the Gentiles to enter his church of the New Testament.
The intermediate verses of Exodus 12 (v. 29-42) describe the killing of the firstborn in Egypt and Pharaoh’s urgent request to have the Israelites leave. Both the “borrowing” of the KJV and the “plundering” of the NIV are misleading translations of the Israelites demand for back pay of precious metals, jewels, and raiment from the Egyptians. The departure of the Israelites from Rameses to Succoth completes the section (see map).
The number given (“about 600,000 men on foot” v. 37), adding wives and children, would give us a figure of about 2 million souls. Many question the fact that 70 souls could multiply into such a vast number in 430 years’ time. Actually, as the Keil Delitzsch Commentary points out (p. 29), even based on an ordinary number of births this increase would be nothing unusual. Add to this the blessing of God to Abraham (Gn 15:13 21) and one sees no reason why the figure should be called into question. It should be noted here also that “many other people went up with them” (v. 38). This was a crowd of mixed people (עֵרֶב רַב) from various nations, who attached themselves to the Israelites and who later on became a snare to them (See. Nu 11:4).
The number “430 years” (v. 41) as the length of Israel’s stay in Egypt “is not critically doubtful, nor are the 430 years to be reduced to 215 by an arbitrary interpolation, such as we find in the LXX” (KD Comm., p. 30). Questions have been raised about the 430 years in Egypt. In Gn 15:13 the number is given as 400 years. This simply appears to be a round number which should cause no real problem. Acts 13:19 gives about 450 years for the time in Egypt and the Wilderness and the entry to the land. Again this appears to be a round number for 400 + 40 or 430 + 40. Some versions of the Septuagint say that 430 is the number of year in Egypt and Canaan (NIV note). A simple explanation of this variant is that it is a correction of Christian Septuagints to reconcile this verse with Galatians 3:17, which states that the “law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God” (with Abraham). Paul here is contrasting law and gospel, so he very likely reckons the era of promise with Jacob who received the promise before he went to Egypt. It is not necessary to adjust the stay in Egypt down to 215 years. The “fly in the ointment” with this explanation is that the apparatus of the BHS lists “Egypt and Canaan” also as the reading of the Samaritan Pentateuch.
v. 1-2 “Consecrate to me every firstborn male … whether man or animal.” Since the firstborn of Israel had been spared, it was appropriate that these be set apart for the Lord’s service as a reminder of God’s grace to his people. So Israel was consecrated to God in its first born (see Ex 4:22; 22:29). According to Numbers 3:12-13 and Numbers 3:40-48 the Levites were later to take the place of the firstborn in their special service. All the firstborn in excess of the Levites were to be “redeemed” at the price of 5 shekels.
v. 16 “And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead …”
(Heb.: (לְאוֹת...וּלְטוֹטָפֹת. The Jews took this literally, wearing phylacteries or small pouches made from the skin of ceremonially clean animals, strapped to the forehead and to the left arm of males. Inside the pouches were strips of parchment on which were written certain passages from the law. God, of course, wanted the consecration of the firstborn and the feast of the unleavened bread to be constant inner reminders for heart, mind, and action, not simplan outward wearing of phylacteries.
v. 17 God’s purpose of leading toward the southeast instead of the more direct route toward Gaza is given here: “If they face war they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” At this time the major obstacle was probably not the Philistines, but the Egyptian forts which guarded the frontier. The frontier was also blocked by a 200-foot-wide barrier canal, which may have run from the Mediterranean Sea to Pi Hahiroth, and which may have intimidated the Israelites. This route out of Egypt was called “the Way of Horus” by the Egyptians. The mention of Philistines may be a later updating of the name from an Israelite point of view, or it may refer to the Philistines that dwelt there in patriarchal time (Gn 21:32 and 26:1). These were a peace-loving people, not the more warlike Philistines who migrated to southwest Canaan during the period of the judges.
The expression in v. 18 translated in the KJV as “harnessed” and in the NIV as “armed for battle” simply means “equipped” (חֲמֻשִׁים), actually “prepared for the march,” as contrasted with fleeing in disorderly array.
v. 19 “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him …” Confer Gn 50:25.
v. 20 The Israelites’ journey led to Succoth, a rendezvous point, which was probably in the Wadi Tumilat, then to Etham, where Egypt ends and the desert of Sinai begins, and from there to Pi Hahiroth. The exact location of these places has been much disputed. Current ideas of site locations will be discussed in more detail as part of the study of the date of the exodus and conquest at the beginning of Joshua. If Succoth was a city, it was probably at Tel Mashkhuta, and Etham was near the east end of the Wadi Tumilat. See the map at the end of this chapter.
v. 21 How God led Israel (v. 18) is here described: “In a pillar of cloud” by day and “in a pillar of fire” by night. This cloud, which was the visible representative of the invisible God, took on various forms: a bright column to lead by day; a column of fire to lead by night; a dividing wall to separate the Israelites and the Egyptians at the Red Sea; a cloud which stood still above the tabernacle; a cloud in which appeared “the glory of the Lord” (Ex 16:10; 40:34; Nu 17:7). It protected Israel from heat by day as well as lighting its path by night. This manifestation of God’s presence did not depart from Israel as long as the people continued in the wilderness.
In Ex 13:17 we read that God did not lead the Israelites “through the Philistine country” along the heavily fortified coastal road. He rather led them toward the “Red Sea” (יַם־סוּף), usually translated as the “Sea of Reeds.” The location of the crossing of the sea will be discussed in the next chapter.
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW (Ex 6-13)
Explain Exodus 6:2 (“but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them”) over against the negative critics who claim that this passage proves their theory of “progressive revelation.”
Why according to Numbers 3:27f and other passages do we conclude that the genealogy of Moses and Aaron in Exodus 6 is an abbreviated one?
From which line of the Levites did Moses and Aaron descend? Who were the sons of Aaron?
What did God himself proclaim to be the purpose of the plagues?
What significance does the fact have that the LORD used natural phenomena to demonstrate his power? How do negative critics abuse this fact? How does the account of the plagues again and again testify to their miraculous nature?
Show from the New Testament how the Passover is clearly a type of Christ.
What New Testament application does the celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread have according to 1 Cor 5:7-8? For which festival in our church year is this text the Epistle lesson?
Show the relationship between Passover and Lord’s Supper. By analogy compare also the Circumcision Passover connection with the Baptism Lord’s Supper connection.
Does Ex 12:40 disagree with Gn 15:13 or also with Ga 3:17 as far as Israel’s length of stay in Egypt is concerned? Explain.
How many Israelites left Egypt? Who accompanied them? Read Nu 11:4. Where did they help get the Israelites into trouble?
What was the great purpose of the LORD’S directive to consecrate every firstborn man or beast? How did the Lord later provide for a substitution of this “consecration of the firstborn”? Confer Nu 3:12-13; 40-47.
With which picture did the LORD impress upon his people the importance of observing the Passover? How did the Jews misapply this command?
FOR ADDED CONSIDERATION
The plagues in detail:
What symmetrical scheme is formed in the arrangement of the plagues showing order, progression, and completeness?
Approximately what time period was covered by all the plagues?
How do you explain the power of the Egyptian magicians toduplicate to some extent the effect of the plagues? With which plague did this power cease?
With which plague is a distinction recorded between the Egyptians and the Israelites in Goshen?
Explain the statement: “All the livestock of the Egyptians died” (Ex 9:6) in the light of Ex 9:20.
With which plague does Pharaoh seem to lose his grip entirely? Explain.
How do we understand Pharaoh’s expression of “repentance”?
Explain the sequence of Ex 11:4 in the light of Ex 10:29.
What warning is contained for humanity today in the entire plague sequence?
FOR FURTHER STUDY
Hoffmeier, James. Israel In Egypt. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996.
“The Eastern Frontier Canal,” p. 164-175
“The Geography and Toponomy of the Exodus,” p. 187-198.
“The Problem of the Re(e)d Sea,” p. 199-222.
Charles F. Aling. Egypt and Bible History, From Earliest Times to 1000 BC. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. 1981, reprint 1984. “The Bondage, the Length of the Sojourn” p. 64-65.
FROM EGYPT TO SINAI (Ex 14 18)
v. 1-4 God led the Israelites on a circuitous way to suggest aimlessness in order to encourage pursuit by Pharaoh and to teach him a lesson. That God hardened Pharaoh’s heart is mentioned three times in this chapter in order that “the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen” (v. 18) (see explanation under Ex 4:21).
v. 11 Israel’s cry for help when they realized that they were being pursued by Pharaoh’s charioteers shows not only a lack of faith, but even bitterness against the leadership of Moses. This is typical of their shallow spiritual perspective, forgetting so quickly all demonstrations of God’s protecting care in the present crisis. This is also a warning directed to God’s children of all times, who are by nature inclined to do the same thing.
v. 12-18 The words of Moses as well as of the Lord in these verses are an excellent text for times of crisis and emergency. Moses says: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (v. 14). The Lord declares: “Tell the Israelites to move on …” (v. 15).
v. 21 The crossing of the Red Sea itself has been a subject of much speculation. All sorts of views have been proposed (strong natural wind; ebb tide; volcanic action and tsunami; a shallow and marshy district) in order to diminish the force of God’s miraculous intervention. .
The Exodus report tells of God using the natural force of an east wind, but he affected this miraculous event at precisely the right time. How wide a path God prepared by means of this miracle is not indicated; certainly wide enough to provide a considerable passageway. In Psalm 74:13 the Psalmist declares: “It was you who split open the sea by your power.” In Psalm 77:19 the writer says of the Lord: “Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.” We don’t have to see all of God’s “footprints” to believe in his miraculous power.
Psalm 77:17 suggests that a sudden thunderstorm hampered the Egyptian efforts to escape and led to great confusion. Compare Exodus 14:25.
Did Pharaoh himself perish in the Red Sea? Unger, who supports Amenhotep II as the Pharaoh of the Exodus, comments that “the Bible does not state that Pharaoh personally accompanied his horses, his chariots and his horsemen into the water” (Archaeology and the Old Testament, p 142), but Psalm 136:15 seem to imply that he did.
What is the Yam Suf and where was the crossing? The term traditionally translated Red Sea is,יַם־סוּף , Sea of Reeds or more precisely, Sea of Reed, in Hebrew. Another suggestion is that the term should be read as Yam Sof, the End Sea, the equivalent of the Roman “Outer Sea” or “Farthest Sea.” This assumes the term יַם־סוּף was misunderstood and mispointed by the Masoretes. The Hebrew word סוּף definitely does mean “reed” but it is possible that it here was a homonym or a similar word that meant something else. If “Sea of Reeds” was intended, we might expect the plural.
The Hebrew term יַם־סוּף denotes, in some biblical references and in most later sources, the sea today known as the Red Sea, and even to the Indian Ocean and the Persia Gulf, to which it connects. The Red Sea is a large sea, more than 1000 miles long and more than 200 miles wide, separating the Arabian Peninsula from the northeastern corner of Africa (Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia) and forming a northwestern arm off the Indian Ocean. The northern part of the Red Sea splits into two fingers which enclose the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Elat (Aqaba) on the east and the Gulf of Suez on the west. None of these bodies of water are associated with reeds.
The term Red Sea came into the Bible via the Septuagint and Vulgate. Interestingly, Luther did not retain this traditional translation, but translated what he believed was the literal meaning of the Hebrew, Reed Sea. (For a discussion of the history of the term “Red Sea” see Biblical Archaeological Review, July/August 1984, p. 57ff).
In the Bible יַם־סוף clearly includes the Gulf of Suez (Nu 33:8) and the Gulf of Aqaba (Nu 21:4, 1 Kg 9:26), and by extension the whole Red Sea. The crossing of the sea was probably at the northern tip of the Gulf of Suez, perhaps in an extension of the sea into the area of the Suez Isthmus today occupied by Lake Timsah or the Bitter Lakes. There is evidence that the level of the sea may have been considerably higher in the 2nd millennium BC. This area was a “sea” in the real sense of the word and not simply a marshy area subject to flooding and drying up by tides.
Some identify the “Red Sea” of the Exodus with one of the lagoons on the south shore of the Mediterranean (Bahr Manzala or the Sirbonic Lake).This theory is especially necessary for those who speculate that the submerging of Pharaoh’s army was the result of a tsunami generated by a volcanic eruption in the Aegean. This theory directly contradicts the biblical account, which states that the Israelites did not take the northern route. Those who place Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia locate the crossing in the Gulf of Aqaba. There is no credible evidence to support the claims that the actual site of the crossing has been discovered there. Exodus 15:22 says that after crossing the Red Sea the Israelites found themselves in the wilderness of Shur. The wilderness of Shur is east of the Gulf of Suez and in the western area of the Sinai. . To cross the Red Sea and to end up in the wilderness of Shur one could only be crossing the westernmost arm of the Red Sea and not the Gulf of Aqaba. The Exodus account also seems to make it very clear that the crossing site was on the border of Egypt as Israel was entering the desert, not after they had already crossed it.
v. 1-21 Moses’ song of praise to God for the miraculous deliverance at the Red Sea is the first biblical psalm.
The song consists of three stanzas (The Lord is a Warrior, v 2-5; You Will Lead the People, v 6-10; Nations Will Tremble, v 11-18), followed by Miriam’s refrain (v. 21). Each begins with words of praise to the LORD, and ends with a description of Pharaoh’s destruction. The third strophe prophetically sings of the establishment of Israel as God’s kingdom in the promised inheritance. Negative critics, of course, have tried to place its composition at a much later time in Israel’s history.
v. 22-26 The experience at Marah, where the bitter water was miraculously made sweet, is again descriptive of Israel’s reaction to difficulty at so many occasions.
The location of all of these sites on map is by conjecture based on distance apart and the presence of water. We will discuss the sites in Sinai in connection with the itinerary in Numbers 33.
v. 27 Elim’s oasis is identified with a site that was frequently used by caravans traveling through this desert area.
One has to see personally the arid nature of this desert region to appreciate how dependent Israel was upon the LORD for support on this journey. They had now passed from a state of abject slavery in Egypt to one of complete dependence on God for support. Unfortunately they often failed to measure up to the test, as their reaction to various difficulties on the way indicates.
After they reach the Desert of Sin in v. 7 Moses and Aaron say to the Israelites: “You will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him.” Sin is a geographic term not related to the English word “sin.”
At this occasion the Lord revealed his glory (כְּבוֹד יְהוָה) in providing food, an act of providence that was to continue forty years (v. 35).
In the morning when the manna miraculously covered the ground like a layer of dew, the Israelites asked מָן הוּא (“What is this?” Archaic for מָה־הוּא). In Hebrew the manna was called man. The English “manna” comes via the Greek (μάννα). An omer of manna (2 lbs.) per head per day was supplied.
At the same time provisions were given so as not to waste this food or hoard it. Moreover, God bestowed his gift in such a way that the Sabbath was sanctified by it. This shows us that a weekly Sabbath regulation was observed even before the Sinaitic law of the Sabbath, unless the reference and the incidence of disobedience are prospective.
Note, finally, the provision for keeping of a bowl of manna “in front of the Testimony” (v. 34).
According to John 6:31-58 manna is a type of Christ, the true “Bread of Life,” although it should be noted that Jesus comments more on the differences between himself and the manna than on the similarities.
In the evening quail came and covered the camp. The Red Sea is on a major path of bird migrations.
v. 1-7 “They camped at Rephidim.” Here follows the incident of Moses striking a rock to obtain water (See He 3:8, “time of testing”; also Ps 95). The application of Scripture itself: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, etc.”
1 Cor 10:4 uses this Rock at Rephidim as a type of Christ, who supplies us with living water (Jn 4:14; 6:35; 7:37).
v. 8-13 The Amelekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim.” These were, at least in part, descendants of Esau (Gn 36:12), the first to threaten Israel. Here for the first time we hear of Joshua (הוֹשֵׁעַ “He Saves” laterיְהוֹשֻׁעַ “Yahweh Saves”), a leader of the tribe of Ephraim. As Joshua led the army, Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses. The holding up of hands is regarded as the sign or attitude of prayer and benediction, and this text is often used as an example of the power of incessant prayer, through which we receive strength for victory over our enemies. Edersheim interprets this passage as describing Moses holding up his staff as “the banner of God.”
v. 14-16 The Lord instructs Moses to write the account of this victory “on a scroll” (בָּסֵּפֶר). This is the first mention of writing as related to official Hebrew records. The record was most likely a papyrus scroll.
For the LORD’S threat upon the Amelekites see Dt 25:17-18. This threat recorded on the scroll was to be carried out by Saul, but he disobeyed.
This chapter relates how Moses was reunited with his wife Zipporah and his two sons Gershom and Eliezer, who had apparently spent the time of Moses’ conflict at Pharaoh’s court with Jethro. The fact that Jethro here offers sacrifices to God (v. 12) indicates his belief in the true God.
Jethro here offers good advice to Moses (v. 13-27). Instead of judging all civil cases himself as Moses seems to have been doing Jethro suggests that Moses teach the people “decrees and laws” (v. 20) and delegate the authority to serve as judges to “capable men.” Moses followed this advice (see Dt 1:12-18). Perhaps the implementation of the plan is not strictly chronological. Pastors today should be advised to make use of capable laymen rather than to attempt doing everything themselves.
With this chapter we conclude the first portion of Exodus, “The Deliverance of the Covenant People out of Egypt,” and prepare ourselves for “The Establishing of the Covenant with Israel.”
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW (Ex 14 18)
By what means did the Lord led his people on their journey? What added assurance was given by this method of guidance? What practical assistance?
In what unusual direction did the Lord lead Israel? Why?
What varying views are held concerning the “Red Sea”?
What practical applications do you see in the story of Israel Crossing the Red Sea?
Which words in the Song of Moses describe the LORD’S awesome power? The LORD’S faithfulness to his promise?
Describe what happened at Marah; at Elim. Which attributes of God do both stories manifest?
What happened in the Desert of Sin? Which unusual expression occurs for the first time in connection with this miracle? For which Sinaitic regulation does the Lord provide in advance in connection with this miracle?
What lesson does the incident at Rephidim teach? (see Ps 95 and He 3:8)
Who attacked Israel at Rephidim? How did this people originate (confer Gn 36:12)? How were they defeated? What stern judgment was pronounced against them (confer Dt 25:17-18)?
What good advice did Jethro give Moses? How can this same principle of leadership be applied to God’s chosen servants today?
FOR ADDED CONSIDERATION
Read the excellent article by Prof. August Pieper “The Glory of the Lord,” reprinted from WLQ in The Wauwatosa Theology, Vol. 2, p. 417-498.
Trace Israel’s journey from Rameses to Sinai on a map.
THE SINAITIC LAW (Ex 19-24)