The Book of Exodus (from grc, Ἔξοδος, translit=Éxodos; he, שְׁמוֹת ''Šəmōṯ'', "Names") is the second book of the
Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek , , 'the books') is a collection of religious texts or scriptures that are held to be sacred in Christianity, Judaism, Samaritanism, and many other religions. The Bible is an anthologya compilation of texts ...
. It narrates the story of
the Exodus The Exodus (Hebrew: יציאת מצרים, ''Yeẓi’at Miẓrayim'': ) is the founding myth of the Israelites whose narrative is spread over four books of the Torah (or Pentateuch, corresponding to the first five books of the Bible), namely E ...
, in which the Israelites leave slavery in Biblical Egypt through the strength of
Yahweh Yahweh *''Yahwe'', was the national god of ancient Israel and Judah. The origins of his worship reach at least to the early Iron Age, and likely to the Late Bronze Age if not somewhat earlier, and in the oldest biblical literature he poss ...
, who has chosen them as his people. The Israelites then journey with the prophet Moses to Mount Sinai, where Yahweh gives the
10 commandments The Ten Commandments (Biblical Hebrew עשרת הדברים \ עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדְּבָרִים, ''aséret ha-dvarím'', lit. The Decalogue, The Ten Words, cf. Mishnaic Hebrew עשרת הדיברות \ עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְ� ...
and they enter into a
covenant Covenant may refer to: Religion * Covenant (religion), a formal alliance or agreement made by God with a religious community or with humanity in general ** Covenant (biblical), in the Hebrew Bible ** Covenant in Mormonism, a sacred agreement b ...
with Yahweh, who promises to make them a "holy nation, and a kingdom of priests" on condition of their faithfulness. He gives them their laws and instructions to build the
Tabernacle According to the Hebrew Bible, the tabernacle ( he, מִשְׁכַּן, mīškān, residence, dwelling place), also known as the Tent of the Congregation ( he, link=no, אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, ’ōhel mō‘ēḏ, also Tent of Meeting, etc.), ...
, the means by which he will come from heaven and dwell with them and lead them in a holy war to possess the land of Canaan (the " Promised Land"), which had earlier, according to the story of Genesis, been promised to the seed of Abraham. Traditionally ascribed to Moses himself, modern scholars see its initial composition as a product of the Babylonian exile (6th century BCE), based on earlier written sources and oral traditions, with final revisions in the Persian post-exilic period (5th century BCE). Carol Meyers, in her commentary on Exodus, suggests that it is arguably the most important book in the Bible, as it presents the defining features of Israel's identity—memories of a past marked by hardship and escape, a binding covenant with God, who chooses Israel, and the establishment of the life of the community and the guidelines for sustaining it. The consensus among modern scholars is that the story in the Book of Exodus is best understood as a myth.


The English name ''Exodus'' comes from the grc, ἔξοδος, translit=éxodos, lit=way out, from grc, ἐξ-, translit=ex-, links=, label=none, lit=out and grc, ὁδός, translit=hodós, links=, label=none, lit=path', 'road. In Hebrew the book's title is שְׁמוֹת, ''shemōt'', "Names", from the beginning words of the text: "These are the names of the sons of Israel" ( he, וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמֹות בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל).


Mainstream scholarship no longer accepts the biblical Exodus account as history for a number of reasons. Most scholars agree that the Exodus stories were written centuries after the apparent setting of the stories. Archaeologists Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman argue that archaeology has not found evidence for even a small band of wandering Israelites living in the Sinai: "The conclusion – that Exodus did not happen at the time and in the manner described in the Bible – seems irrefutable ..repeated excavations and surveys throughout the entire area have not provided even the slightest evidence". Instead, they argue how modern archaeology suggests continuity between Canaanite and Israelite settlements, indicating a heavily Canaanite origin for Israel, with little suggestion that a group of foreigners from Egypt comprised early Israel. However a majority of scholars believe that the story has some historical basis, though disagreeing widely about what that historical kernel might have been. Kenton Sparks refers to it as "mythologized history". Some scholars such as Benjamin J. Noonan have pointed out that the presence of Egyptian cognates in the Exodus and wilderness traditions “entered Hebrew during the Late Bronze Age, precisely when we would expect them to have been borrowed if the events of these narratives really occurred,” challenging the assumption of a post-exilic tradition. Furthermore, in direct response to popular claims that the Exodus “wandering period” lacks evidence in the Sinai region, various anthropologists of Near Eastern history have noted that a lack of material culture from the Israelites in the Book of Exodus is actually expected given what is known about historical and present semi-nomadic peoples.


There is no unanimous agreement among scholars on the structure of Exodus. One strong possibility is that it is a
diptych A diptych (; from the Greek δίπτυχον, ''di'' "two" + '' ptychē'' "fold") is any object with two flat plates which form a pair, often attached by hinge. For example, the standard notebook and school exercise book of the ancient world w ...
(i.e., divided into two parts), with the division between parts 1 and 2 at the crossing of the Red Sea or at the beginning of the theophany (appearance of God) in chapter 19. On this plan, the first part tells of God's rescue of his people from Egypt and their journey under his care to Sinai (chapters 1–19) and the second tells of the covenant between them (chapters 20–40).


Jacob's sons join their brother Joseph in
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مصر , ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia via a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. It is bordered by the Medit ...
with their families, where their people begin to grow in number. Four hundred years later, Egypt's new
Pharaoh Pharaoh (, ; Egyptian: '' pr ꜥꜣ''; cop, , Pǝrro; Biblical Hebrew: ''Parʿō'') is the vernacular term often used by modern authors for the kings of ancient Egypt who ruled as monarchs from the First Dynasty (c. 3150 BC) until the ...
, who does not remember how Joseph had saved Egypt from famine, is fearful that the Israelites could become a fifth column. He forces them into slavery and orders the throwing of all newborn boys into the
Nile The Nile, , Bohairic , lg, Kiira , Nobiin: Áman Dawū is a major north-flowing river in northeastern Africa. It flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile is the longest river in Africa and has historically been considered the longest ...
to reduce the population. A Levite woman ( Jochebed, according to other sources) saves her baby by setting him adrift on the river Nile in an ark of bulrushes. Pharaoh's daughter finds the child, names him Moses, and out of sympathy for the Hebrew boy, brings him up as her own. Aware of his origins, an adult Moses kills an Egyptian overseer who is beating a
Hebrew Hebrew (; ; ) is a Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-surviving descendants, the Jews and Samaritans. It was largely preserved ...
slave and flees into
Midian Midian (; he, מִדְיָן ''Mīḏyān'' ; ar, مَدْيَن, Madyan; grc-gre, Μαδιάμ, ''Madiam'') is a geographical place mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and Quran. William G. Dever states that biblical Midian was in the "northwest Ar ...
to escape punishment. There, he marries Zipporah, daughter of a Midianite priest Jethro, and suddenly encounters God in a
burning bush The burning bush (or the unburnt bush) refers to an event recorded in the Jewish Torah (as also in the biblical Old Testament). It is described in the third chapter of the Book of Exodus as having occurred on Mount Horeb. According to the ...
. Moses asks God for his name, to which God replies: " I Am that I Am," the book's explanation for the origins of the name
Yahweh Yahweh *''Yahwe'', was the national god of ancient Israel and Judah. The origins of his worship reach at least to the early Iron Age, and likely to the Late Bronze Age if not somewhat earlier, and in the oldest biblical literature he poss ...
, as God is thereafter known. God tells Moses to return to Egypt and lead the Hebrews into Canaan, the land promised to Abraham in the
Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis (from Greek ; Hebrew: בְּרֵאשִׁית ''Bəreʾšīt'', "In hebeginning") is the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. Its Hebrew name is the same as its first word, ( "In the beginning" ...
. On the journey back to Egypt, God seeks to kill Moses as he has not circumcised his son, but Zipporah saves his life. Moses reunites with his brother Aaron and, returning to Egypt, convenes the Israelite elders, preparing them to go into the wilderness to worship God in a spring festival. Pharaoh refuses to release the Israelites from their work for the festival, and so God curses the Egyptians with ten terrible plagues, such as a river of blood, an outbreak of frogs, and the thick darkness. Moses is commanded by God to fix the first month of
Aviv Aviv ( he, אביב) means "barley ripening", and by extension "spring season" in Hebrew. It is also used as a given name, surname, and place name, as in Tel Aviv. The first month of the year is called the month of Aviv in the Pentateuch. The mo ...
at the head of the Hebrew calendar, and instructs the Israelites to take a lamb on the 10th day of the month, sacrifice the lamb on the 14th day, daub its blood on their mezuzot—doorposts and lintels, and to observe the Passover meal that night, during the full moon. The 10th plague then comes that night, causing the death of all Egyptian firstborn sons, and prompting Pharaoh to command a final pursuit of the Israelites through the
Red Sea The Red Sea ( ar, البحر الأحمر - بحر القلزم, translit=Modern: al-Baḥr al-ʾAḥmar, Medieval: Baḥr al-Qulzum; or ; Coptic: ⲫⲓⲟⲙ ⲛ̀ϩⲁϩ ''Phiom Enhah'' or ⲫⲓⲟⲙ ⲛ̀ϣⲁⲣⲓ ''Phiom ǹšari''; ...
as they escape Egypt. God assists the Israelite exodus by parting the sea and allowing the Israelites to pass through, before drowning Pharaoh's forces. As desert life proves arduous, the Israelites complain and long for Egypt, but God miraculously provides manna for them to eat and
water Water (chemical formula ) is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth's hydrosphere and the fluids of all known living ...
to drink. The Israelites arrive at the mountain of God, where Moses's father-in-law Jethro visits Moses; at his suggestion, Moses appoints judges over Israel. God asks whether they will agree to be his people. They accept. The people gather at the foot of the mountain, and with thunder and lightning, fire and clouds of smoke, the sound of trumpets, and the trembling of the mountain, God appears on the peak, and the people see the cloud and hear the voice (or possibly sound) of God. God tells Moses to ascend the mountain. God pronounces the Ten Commandments (the Ethical Decalogue) in the hearing of all Israel. Moses goes up the mountain into the presence of God, who pronounces the Covenant Code of ritual and civil law and promises Canaan to them if they obey. Moses comes down from the mountain and writes down God's words, and the people agree to keep them. God calls Moses up the mountain again, where he remains for forty days and forty nights, after which he returns, bearing the set of stone tablets. God gives Moses instructions for the construction of the
tabernacle According to the Hebrew Bible, the tabernacle ( he, מִשְׁכַּן, mīškān, residence, dwelling place), also known as the Tent of the Congregation ( he, link=no, אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, ’ōhel mō‘ēḏ, also Tent of Meeting, etc.), ...
so that God may dwell permanently among his
chosen people Throughout history, various groups of people have considered themselves to be the chosen people of a deity, for a particular purpose. The phenomenon of a "chosen people" is well known among the Israelites and Jews, where the term ( he, עם ס� ...
, along with instructions for the priestly vestments, the altar and its appurtenances, procedures for the ordination of priests, and the daily sacrifice offerings. Aaron becomes the first hereditary high priest. God gives Moses the two tablets of stone containing the words of the ten commandments, written with the "finger of God". While Moses is with God, Aaron casts a golden calf, which the people worship. God informs Moses of their apostasy and threatens to kill them all, but relents when Moses pleads for them. Moses comes down from the mountain, smashes the stone tablets in anger, and commands the
Levites Levites (or Levi) (, he, ''Lǝvīyyīm'') are Jewish males who claim patrilineal descent from the Tribe of Levi. The Tribe of Levi descended from Levi, the third son of Jacob and Leah. The surname ''Halevi'', which consists of the Hebrew de ...
to massacre the unfaithful Israelites. God commands Moses to construct two new tablets. Moses ascends the mountain again, where God dictates the Ten Commandments for Moses to write on the tablets. Moses descends from the mountain with a transformed face; from that time onwards he must hide his face with a
veil A veil is an article of clothing or hanging cloth that is intended to cover some part of the head or face, or an object of some significance. Veiling has a long history in European, Asian, and African societies. The practice has been prominent ...
. Moses assembles the Hebrews and repeats to them the commandments he has received from God, which are to keep the Sabbath and to construct the Tabernacle. The Israelites do as they are commanded. From that time God dwells in the Tabernacle and orders the travels of the Hebrews.



Jewish and Christian tradition viewed Moses as the author of Exodus and the entire Torah, but by the end of the 19th century the increasing awareness of discrepancies, inconsistencies, repetitions and other features of the Pentateuch had led scholars to abandon this idea. In approximate round dates, the process which produced Exodus and the Pentateuch probably began around 600 BCE when existing oral and written traditions were brought together to form books recognizable as those we know, reaching their final form as unchangeable sacred texts around 400 BCE.


Although patent mythical elements are not so prominent in Exodus as in Genesis, ancient legends may have an influence on the book's form or content: for example, the story of the infant Moses's salvation from the Nile is argued to be based on an earlier legend of king Sargon of Akkad, while the story of the parting of the Red Sea may trade on Mesopotamian creation mythology. Similarly, the Covenant Code (the law code in Exodus 20:22–23:33) has some similarities in both content and structure with the Laws of Hammurabi. These potential influences serve to reinforce the conclusion that the Book of Exodus originated in the exiled Jewish community of 6th-century BCE Babylon, but not all the potential sources are Mesopotamian: the story of Moses's flight to Midian following the murder of the Egyptian overseer may draw on the Egyptian ''
Story of Sinuhe ''The Story of Sinuhe'' (also known as Sanehat) Retrieved November 6, 2018. is considered one of the finest works of ancient Egyptian literature. It is a narrative set in the aftermath of the death of Pharaoh Amenemhat I, founder of the 12th Dy ...

Textual witnesses



Biblical scholars describe the Bible's theologically-motivated history writing as " salvation history", meaning a history of God's saving actions that give identity to Israel – the promise of offspring and land to the ancestors,
the Exodus The Exodus (Hebrew: יציאת מצרים, ''Yeẓi’at Miẓrayim'': ) is the founding myth of the Israelites whose narrative is spread over four books of the Torah (or Pentateuch, corresponding to the first five books of the Bible), namely E ...
from Egypt (in which God saves Israel from slavery), the wilderness wandering, the revelation at Sinai, and the hope for the future life in the promised land.Dozeman, p. 9.


A theophany is a manifestation (appearance) of a god – in the Bible, an appearance of the God of Israel, accompanied by storms – the earth trembles, the mountains quake, the heavens pour rain, thunder peals and lightning flashes. The theophany in Exodus begins "the third day" from their arrival at Sinai in chapter 19: Yahweh and the people meet at the mountain, God appears in the storm and converses with Moses, giving him the Ten Commandments while the people listen. The theophany is therefore a public experience of divine law. The second half of Exodus marks the point at which, and describes the process through which, God's theophany becomes a permanent presence for Israel via the
Tabernacle According to the Hebrew Bible, the tabernacle ( he, מִשְׁכַּן, mīškān, residence, dwelling place), also known as the Tent of the Congregation ( he, link=no, אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, ’ōhel mō‘ēḏ, also Tent of Meeting, etc.), ...
. That so much of the book (chapters 25–31, 35–40) describes the plans of the Tabernacle demonstrates the importance it played in the perception of Second Temple Judaism at the time of the text's redaction by the Priestly writers: the Tabernacle is the place where God is physically present, where, through the priesthood, Israel could be in direct, literal communion with him.


The heart of Exodus is the Sinaitic covenant. A covenant is a legal document binding two parties to take on certain obligations towards each other. There are several covenants in the Bible, and in each case they exhibit at least some of the elements in real-life treaties of the ancient Middle East: a preamble, historical prologue, stipulations, deposition and reading, list of witnesses, blessings and curses, and ratification by animal sacrifice. Biblical covenants, in contrast to Eastern covenants in general, are between a god, Yahweh, and a people, Israel, instead of between a strong ruler and a weaker vassal.

Election of Israel

God elects Israel for salvation because the "sons of Israel" are "the firstborn son" of the God of Israel, descended through Shem and Abraham to the chosen line of Jacob whose name is changed to Israel. The goal of the divine plan in Exodus is a return to humanity's state in Eden, so that God can dwell with the Israelites as he had with
Adam and Eve Adam and Eve, according to the creation myth of the Abrahamic religions, were the first man and woman. They are central to the belief that humanity is in essence a single family, with everyone descended from a single pair of original ancestors. ...
through the Ark and Tabernacle, which together form a model of the universe; in later Abrahamic religions Israel becomes the guardian of God's plan for humanity, to bring "God's creation blessing to mankind" begun in Adam.

Judaism's weekly Torah portions in the Book of Exodus

List of Torah portions in the Book of Exodus:Weekly Torah Portions
Alephbeta * Shemot, on Exodus 1–5: Affliction in Egypt, discovery of baby Moses, Pharaoh * Va'eira, on Exodus 6–9: Plagues 1 to 7 of Egypt * Bo, on Exodus 10–13: Last plagues of Egypt, first Passover *
Beshalach Beshalach, Beshallach, or Beshalah (—Hebrew language, Hebrew for "when elet go" (literally: "in (having) sent"), the second word and first distinctive word in the parashah) is the sixteenth weekly Torah portion (, ''parashah'') in the annua ...
, on Exodus 13–17: Parting the Sea, water, manna, Amalek * Yitro, on Exodus 18–20: Jethro's advice, The Ten Commandments *
Mishpatim Mishpatim (—Hebrew for "laws," the second word of the parashah) is the eighteenth weekly Torah portion (, ''parashah'') in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the sixth in the Book of Exodus. The parashah sets out a series of laws, whic ...
, on Exodus 21–24: The Covenant Code *
Terumah A ''terumah'' ( he, תְּרוּמָה) or heave offering is a type of sacrifice in Judaism. The word is generally used for an offering to God, although it is also sometimes used as in ''ish teramot'', a "judge who loves gifts". The word ''teru ...
, on Exodus 25–27: God's instructions on the Tabernacle and furnishings * Tetzaveh, on Exodus 27–30: God's instructions on the first priests *
Ki Tissa Ki Tisa, Ki Tissa, Ki Thissa, or Ki Sisa ( — Hebrew for "when you take," the sixth and seventh words, and first distinctive words in the parashah) is the 21st weekly Torah portion () in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the ninth in t ...
, on Exodus 30–34: Census, anointing oil, golden calf, stone tablets, Moses radiant * Vayakhel, on Exodus 35–38: Israelites collect gifts, make the Tabernacle and furnishings *
Pekudei Pekudei, Pekude, Pekudey, P'kude, or P'qude (—Hebrew language, Hebrew for "amounts of," the second word, and the Incipit, first distinctive word, in the parashah) is the 23rd weekly Torah portion (, ''parashah'') in the annual Judaism, Jewish cyc ...
, on Exodus 38–40: Setting up and filling of The Tabernacle

See also

* Film adaptations of the Book of Exodus * History of the Jews in Ancient Egypt *
Ketef Hinnom Ketef Hinnom ( he, כֵּתֵף הִינוֹם ', "Shoulder of Hinnom") is an archaeological site discovered in the 1970s southwest of the Old City of Jerusalem. Archaeological excavations held in the site uncovered a series of Iron Age period ...
* Song of the sea



General bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Levy, Thomas E., Thomas Schneider, William H.C. Propp. (2015)
“Israel's Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience”
Springer International Publishing. * * * * Newman, Murray L. (2000
Forward Movement Publications * Noonan, Benjamin J. (2016)
“Egyptian Loanwords as Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus and Wilderness Traditions"
''Columbia International University''. * Plaut, Gunther. ''The Torah: A Modern Commentary'' (1981), * * * * * * *

External links

at BibleGateway.com
Exodus at Mechon-Mamre
(Jewish Publication Society translation)
Exodus (The Living Torah)
Aryeh Kaplan Aryeh Moshe Eliyahu Kaplan ( he, אריה משה אליהו קפלן; October 23, 1934 – January 28, 1983) was an American Orthodox rabbi, author, and translator, best known for his Living Torah edition of the Torah. He became well known as ...
's translation and commentary at Ort.org
Shemot—Exodus (Judaica Press)
translation (with Rashi's commentary) at Chabad.org
Hebrew Hebrew (; ; ) is a Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-surviving descendants, the Jews and Samaritans. It was largely preserved ...
—English at Mechon-Mamre.org) * —Various versions {{DEFAULTSORT:Book Of Exodus 6th-century BC books 5th-century BC books Books about Egypt Mythology books 2 The Exodus