Many nations have a particular day on their calendar when they celebrate or commemorate an important time in their history. A day that stands out from other days in their story. This is a day of great importance. For the United States of America, it is the fourth of July. To celebrate and commemorate July 4th, 1776, when the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, which declared that the 13 American colonies were no longer subject to British rule. It stated that all men were created equal and had the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This was a pivotal moment for the country, although it would not be until the Revolutionary War in 1783 that it would be officially its nation. The signing of the declaration is the date on which Americans celebrate this pivotal moment in their history.
We are about to embark on a pivotal story that would become a momentous point in history for the people of God. The great story of the Exodus of God’s people. This would become the story that would be told, not about how great a nation they are, but how great the God that saved them is. We see in this book a poor and pitiful people whom God redeems from the hand of their enemies, and even from themselves.
Although we are not told specifically within the book of Exodus (Exodus 24:4, 27 could speak of all the book of Exodus but I believe it speaks of the section (Exodus 19-24)) who the author is the answer is in the rest of the Bible. The Old Testament says Moses wrote Exodus (Josh 8:31; 2 Chr 34:14) The Jesus and the Gospel authors explain Moses wrote Exodus (Matt 19:8; Mark 7:10, 12:19; Luke 20:37, 24:44; John 7:19). Even other New Testament authors show that Moses wrote Exodus (Rom 10:5; Acts 3:22). We see that other biblical authors attribute the writing of the Book of Exodus to Moses. Not of course, you can always find scholars who question details like this, however when we are told clearly in the Bible, why should we turn to flawed thinking of men who were not there, compared to the Holy Spirit who used Moses to pen these words?
When we speak of the audience, we do not speak of the people in the story, although we need to think about their context. However, the original audience is not who this happened to, but who was going to read this. With Exodus, this book was written by Moses. It was not finished when they were slaves in Egypt and must have been written before Moses passed away (Deut 34:1-8). The book would have been written during the wilderness wanderings and I believe closer to the end of the forty years (Deut 31:9). Not specifically for the generation that had been brought out from the land of Egypt, but for the generation that was going to walk into the promised land. This helps us understand that the books of the Bible are not merely written to tell us a story of what has happened, but also to remind us of how we can learn from others. That as the Apostle Paul explains, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4). Paul also explains that we might learn, for their bad example, and not follow in their footsteps (1 Cor 10:6). Exodus is a book that instructs those about to enter the promised land, but also us today. As we stand not on the edge of the river Jordan but on the edge of eternity seeking to cross over the river into the heavenly land where our true citizenship lies. We pray. As we read and study this book we would be encouraged to endure.
When did the Exodus occur, this is another great question that many people have tried to answer. You can use a variety of different methods to work out the date of when the Exodus happened. Archeological studies and other nations’ historical records are often what is referenced. We are told two important dates in the Bible that help us narrow down when the Exodus was; 1 Kings 6:1 and Exodus 12:40-41. 1 Kings 6:1 says, “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the Lord.” We are told that 476 years before Solomon started his reign (~970 BC) this would place the Exodus around the year 1446 BC. Now this date is early for some external pieces of evidence. Many Archeologists believe Rameses II (1303-1213 BC) built Pithom and Rameses. This would mean the previous date would be inaccurate, some Biblical scholars have sought to understand the reference found in 1 Kings 6, explaining that Hebrew writings sought to speak not in actual years but in generations, thus 1 Kings 6:1 speaks of 12 generations, a generation being 40 years. However, if a generation was only 25 years, then this would date Exodus around the time of Rameses II. Although possible, the issue becomes that you seek to shift what is more certain to what is less certain. Mainly, Egyptian historical sources are often sporadic, they miss large sections of history. Secondly, Archeologists cannot agree on where these cities are located. This makes it very difficult to be able to find exact information. Finally, Cities often change their name and it is quite possible this was updated so that the readers might know what cities were built by the Israelites.
The second date that we are told about in the Bible is Exodus 12:40-41 which says, “The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” Thus depending on when the event of Exodus happened (1446 BC or ~1290 BC) would mean that the time Jacob moved to Egypt with his Sons was about (1876 BC or ~1720 BC, respectively). In all of this when confronted with various options of dating I seek to be able to research various opinions but will always elevate the evidence given to me from the Bible from other sources. What has been the case is that scholarly opinions change based on empirical evidence that we can find, however, the Bible is proven right time and time again. I personally believe the date of the Exodus is around 1446 BC. Other verses support this early date as well (Judg 11:26; Acts 13:19-20). However, we need to be reminded that the important part of the story of Exodus is the events surrounding the actual Exodus, not the date of the Exodus. We are only told that Egypt gets a new king, and we are not told who that king is (Exodus 1:8, 2:23). The irony is that Pharaoh did not know who the LORD is (Ex 5:2), but in the end, everyone knows who the LORD is, but no one knows who Pharaoh was.
There are two major ways to divide the Book of Exodus, into halves or thirds. They both begin with the section of Chapters 1-18 as the deliverance of the People of God from the land of Egypt. The latter portion of the book is where the differences come from. If you were to divide the book in half, then chapters 19-40 speak of the People of God in the wilderness. If you divide the book into thirds then the divisions come from 19-24 the Covenant made with the people of God, and then 25-40, the building of the Tabernacle. J. Alec Motyer has a great outline of the Book of Exodus, following a three-part division with a slightly different middle section.
- Israel in Egypt: The Saviour (1:1-13:16)
- The Lord’s hidden Providence (1:1-2:22)
- Yahweh revealed (2:22-6:13)
- The Saving Lord (6:14-13:16)
- Israel at Sinai: The Companion (13:17-24:11)
- The Lord’s public providences (13:17-17:16)
- Yahweh revealed (18:1-23:33)
- The covenant Lord (24:1-11)
- Israel around the Tabernacle: The Indweller (24:12-40:38)
- The Lord’s provision (24:12-31:18)
- Yahweh revealed (32:1-34:35)
- The indwelling Lord (35:1-40:38)
This structure helps highlight the movement of the book of Exodus, that God reveals himself to his people and the world. That he might come and dwell in their midst. That God saves his people for a purpose, that he would be worshiped. Again, Motyer highlights this in the chiastic structure of the book of Exodus;
A1– Building for Pharaoh (1-5)
B1– The Lamb of God (6-12)
C1– The companion God (13-18)
D The grace of God and the Law of God (19-24)
C2– The indwelling God (25-31)
B2– The golden calf (32-34)
A2– Building for God (35-40)
The movement of Exodus is not merely that the people of God are saved from slavery but saved to serve the one true living God. You see that in the opening of the giving of the Law, “And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Ex 20:1–2). That it is because God is the Lord but also our God who has redeemed his people then they are to live as his servants worshipping him and him alone.
Glory and Power of God- judgment and missions (Saved for God’s glory)
One of the great themes of the Book of Exodus is how God reveals himself to his people but also to all the nations. We will see God show his power to Pharoah and the people of God. We will see these signs and wonders on display that non can deny God’s power and sovereignty over all his creation.
Redemption (Saved from Slavery)
We see a major theme of the Bible introduced clearly in the Story of Exodus. That God is the God who delivers his people. He saves them from slavery and the oppression of the world. You see here the theme which is often picked up in the New Testament of slavery to self and sin. That we are delivered from sin, unto faith.
Worship (Saved to Worship)
The majority of the book of Exodus is not focused on leaving Egypt (Exodus 1-12) but on God’s promises and purposes to his people. The people are saved to serve God, as you see with the first four of the ten commandments, they are focused on worshipping God. We will see how the people of God fail continually, but also God’s grace towards his people.
Mediator/ Prophet/Priesthood (Saved through someone)
In the book of Genesis, we see God make glorious promises to his people and how he will fulfill these promises. God appears and speaks directly to men and women. However, in the book of Exodus, as we see the nation of Israel grow, the beginning of clear offices has a man as a mediator for the people. Two clear ones that we see are Prophet and Priest through Moses. The Priesthood will be shown more in the book of Leviticus, but we still see this office in the book of Exodus. In this way, we see how God works through Christ who fulfills the office of Prophet and Priest (and King) for his people. As Moses was a mediator for the people of Israel during the time of Exodus, Jesus is the mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5)
God Dwelling with His People
Interestingly, the book of Exodus ends with the glory of God coming down over the tent of meeting. In the book of Genesis God would come down and walk in the garden of Eden (Gen 3:8). But soon after Adam and Eve were cast from his presence because of their sin (Gen 3:22-24). So, God makes a way for him to come to his people. However, there is a problem, not even Moses can enter the Tabernacle when the Glory cloud descended upon the Tabernacle (Ex 40:35). We see something of a shadow in the book of Exodus. We see the shadows of Christ throughout the whole book found in Moses, the manna, the rock, the tabernacle, the high priest, and the Passover lamb.
As we embark on this great journey let us not just see the destination, for we will be utterly disappointed because the Israelites do not make it to the destination (the Promise Land) until they are under the leadership of Joshua. They see the foundation of their nation and it is not because of themselves, but because of God. We see the mighty God redeem and rescue his people for his glory. As the “Exodus” Psalm starts by saying, “Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered,” (Psalm 105:1–5) As we see the pivotal moment in the nation of Israel, also let us think about how this is all a shadow of how Christ saves and delivers us to be his people. That Christ is our Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7). But also let us see how this is written that we have an example that we would not desire evil (1 Cor 10:6).
 Motyer, Alec. The Message of Exodus: The Days of Our Pilgrimage. Edited by Alec Motyer and Derek Tidball. The Bible Speaks Today. Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2005. (9-10)