Exodus or, simply,
Exodus (from Ancient Greek:
ἔξοδος, éxodos, meaning "going out"; Hebrew: וְאֵלֶּה
שְׁמוֹת, we'elleh shəmōṯ, "These are the names", the
beginning words of the text: "These are the names of the sons of
Israel" Hebrew: וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמֹות בְּנֵי
יִשְׂרָאֵל), is the second book of the
Torah and the
Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) immediately following Genesis.
The book tells how the
Israelites leave slavery in Egypt through the
strength of Yahweh, the God who has chosen Israel as his people. Led
by their prophet
Moses they journey through the wilderness to Mount
Yahweh promises them the land of
Canaan (the "Promised
Land") in return for their faithfulness. Israel enters into a covenant
Yahweh who gives them their laws and instructions to build the
Tabernacle, the means by which he will come here from heaven and dwell
with them and lead them in a holy war to possess the land, and then
give them peace.
Traditionally ascribed to
Moses himself, modern scholarship sees the
book as initially a product of the Babylonian exile (6th century BCE),
based on earlier written 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.
3.2 Genre and sources
4.4 Election of Israel
5 Contents according to Judaism's weekly
6 See also
8 External links
There is no unanimous agreement among scholars on the structure of
Exodus. One strong possibility is that it is a diptych (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).
Children of Israel in Egypt (1867 painting by Edward Poynter)
Jacob's sons and their families join their brother, Joseph, in Egypt.
Once there, the
Israelites begin to grow in number. Egypt's Pharaoh,
fearful that the
Israelites could be a fifth column, forces the
Israelites into slavery and orders that all newborn boys be thrown
into the Nile. A
Levite woman (identified elsewhere as Jochebed) saves
her baby by setting him adrift on the river
Nile in an ark of
bulrushes. The Pharaoh's daughter finds the child, names him Moses,
and brings him up as her own. But
Moses is aware of his origins, and
one day, when grown, he kills an Egyptian overseer who is beating a
Hebrew slave and has to flee into Midian. There he marries Zipporah,
the daughter of Midianite priest Jethro, and encounters God in a
Moses asks God for his name: God replies: "I AM that I
AM." God tells
Moses to return to Egypt and lead the Hebrews into
Canaan, the land promised to Abraham.
Moses returns to Egypt and fails to convince the Pharaoh to release
the Israelites. God smites the Egyptians with 10 terrible plagues
(Plagues of Egypt) including a river of blood, many frogs, and the
death of first-born sons.
Moses leads the
Israelites out of bondage
after a final chase when the Pharaoh reneges on his coerced consent
(Crossing the Red Sea and Yam Suph). The desert proves arduous, and
Israelites complain and long for Egypt, but God provides manna and
miraculous water for them. The
Israelites arrive at the mountain of
God, where Moses' 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,
and 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.
Moses is told 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 (a detailed code of ritual and
civil law), and promises
Canaan to them if they obey.
Moses comes down
the mountain and writes down God's words and the people agree to keep
them. God calls
Moses up the mountain where he remains for 40 days and
40 nights. At the conclusion of the 40 days and 40 nights, Moses
returns holding the set of stone tablets.
Moses instructions for the construction of the tabernacle so
that God could dwell permanently among his chosen people, as well as
instructions for the priestly vestments, the altar and its
appurtenances, the procedure to be used to ordain the priests, and the
daily sacrifices to be offered. Aaron is appointed as the first
hereditary high priest. God gives
Moses the two tablets of stone
containing the words of the ten commandments, written with the "finger
Moses is with God, Aaron makes 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
Levites to massacre the unfaithful Israelites. God commands Moses
to make two new tablets on which He will personally write the words
that were on the first tablets.
Moses ascends the mountain, God
Ten Commandments (the Ritual Decalogue), and
them on the tablets.
Moses descends from the mountain, and his face is transformed, so that
from that time onwards he has to hide his face with a veil. 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. "And all the construction of the
Tabernacle of the Tent of
Meeting was finished, and the children of Israel did according to
everything that God had commanded Moses", and from that time God dwelt
Tabernacle and ordered the travels of the Hebrews.
Moses with the Ten Commandments, by
Jewish and Christian tradition viewed
Moses as the author of Exodus
and the entire Pentateuch, 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
recognisable as those we know, reaching their final form as
unchangeable sacred texts around 400 BCE.
Genre and sources
The story of the exodus is the founding myth of Israel, telling how
Israelites were delivered from slavery by
Yahweh and therefore
belong to him through the Mosaic covenant. The
not a historical narrative in any modern sense: modern history
writing requires the critical evaluation of sources, and does not
accept God as a cause of events, but in Exodus, everything is
presented as the work of God, who appears frequently in person, and
the historical setting is only very hazily sketched. The purpose
of the book is not to record what really happened, but to reflect the
historical experience of the exile community in
Babylon and later
Jerusalem, facing foreign captivity and the need to come to terms with
their understanding of God.
Although mythical elements are not so prominent in
Exodus as in
Genesis, ancient legends have an influence on the book's content: for
example, the story of the infant Moses's salvation from the
based on an earlier legend of king Sargon of Akkad, while the story of
the parting of the Red Sea trades on Mesopotamian creation mythology.
Covenant Code (the law code in
has some similarities in both content and structure with the Laws of
Hammurabi. These influences serve to reinforce the conclusion that the
Exodus originated in the exiled Jewish community of
6th-century BCE Babylon, but not all the 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.
"Departure of the Israelites", by David Roberts, 1829
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 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.
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. That so much of the book (chapters
25–31, 35–40) is spent describing 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
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 found 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
Israel is elected 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 as revealed in
Exodus is a return to
humanity's state in Eden, so that God can dwell with the
he had with
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve through the Ark and Tabernacle, which
together form a model of the universe; in later Abrahamic religions
this came to be interpreted as Israel being the guardian of God's plan
for humanity, to bring "God's creation blessing to mankind" begun in
Contents according to Judaism's weekly
"Crossing of the Red Sea", Nicholas Poussin
Main article: Weekly
Exodus 1–5: Affliction in Egypt,
Moses is found and
Exodus 6–9: Plagues 1 to 7 of Egypt
Exodus 10–13: Last plagues of Egypt, first Passover
Exodus 13–17: Parting the Sea, water, manna, Amalek
Exodus 18–20: Jethro’s advice, The Ten Commandments
Exodus 21–24: The Covenant Code
Exodus 25–27: God's instructions on the
Exodus 27–30: God's instructions on the first priests
Ki Tissa, on
Exodus 30–34: Census, anointing oil, golden calf, stone
Israelites collect gifts, make the
Tabernacle and furnishings
Exodus 38–40: The
Tabernacle is set up and filled
Song of the sea
Film adaptations of the
Book of Exodus
History of the Jews in Ancient Egypt
^ Dozeman, p. 1.
^ Johnstone, p. 72.
^ Finkelstein, I., Silberman, NA., The
Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's
New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts, p. 68
^ Meyers, p. xv.
^ Meyers, p. 17.
^ Stuart, p. 19.
Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10
^ Meyers, p. 16.
^ McEntire 2008, p. 8.
^ Sparks 2010, p. 73.
^ Fretheim, p. 7.
^ a b Dozeman, p. 9.
^ Houston, p. 68.
^ Fretheim, p. 8.
^ Kugler,Hartin, p. 74.
^ Dozeman, p. 4.
^ Dozeman, p. 427.
^ Dempster, p. 107.
^ Wenham, p. 29.
^ Meyers, p. 148.
^ Meyers, pp. 149–150.
^ Meyers, p. 150.
^ Dempster, p. 100.
Childs, Brevard S (1979). The book of Exodus. Eerdmans.
Dempster, Stephen G (2006). Dominion and dynasty. InterVarsity Press.
Dozeman, Thomas B (2009). Commentary on Exodus. Eerdmans.
Fretheim, Terence E (1991). Exodus. Westminster John Knox Press.
Houston, Walter J (1998). "Exodus". In John Barton. Oxford Bible
Commentary. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198755005.
Johnstone, William D (2003). "Exodus". In James D. G. Dunn, John
William Rogerson. Eerdmans
Bible Commentary. Eerdmans.
Kugler, Robert; Hartin, Patrick (2009). An Introduction to the Bible.
Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802846365.
McEntire, Mark (2008). Struggling with God: An Introduction to the
Pentateuch. Mercer University Press. ISBN 9780881461015.
Meyers, Carol (2005). Exodus. Cambridge University Press.
Newman, Murray L (2000)
Exodus Forward Movement Publications
Plaut, Gunther. The Torah: A Modern Commentary (1981),
Sparks, Kenton L. (2010). "Genre Criticism". In Dozeman, Thomas B.
Methods for Exodus. Cambridge University Press.
Stuart, Douglas K (2006). Exodus. B&H Publishing Group.
Wenham, Gordon (1979). The book of Leviticus. Eerdmans.
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