Most of us are probably fairly familiar with the individual stories within this book, known as the second book of Moses, such as ‘Moses in the Bulrushes’, ‘The Burning Bush’, and probably the most famous of all, the giving of ‘The Ten Commandments’ in Exodus 20. Although these individual stories are good to know and digest, they must be understood as simply a part of the greater story, the meta-narrative, which includes all of Scripture, not just the book of Exodus.
The authorship might well be attributed to Moses himself, though this may be questioned by some modern scholars. Speaking of modern scholarship, it has been questioned whether the book of Exodus would be better touted as theology, rather than history. Archeologists have not, according to some reports, found any evidence of this mass ‘exodus’, and the astounding logistics alone seem to deny the probability of this being an actual historical account. Whether or not it is an actual historical account (‘exact’, may be a better way of putting it ), or simply, as is believed about certain other parts of Scripture, an allegorical story, one that is related in such a way as to portray a deeper spiritual truth; it is certain that God did deliver, through a man named Moses, His people from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.
One of these spiritual truths, indeed THE spiritual Truth that all Scriptural types pointed to, was Jesus the Christ, the Son of God! It does not take much searching, if one is at all familiar with the Story of the people of God, to notice quite a few blatant parallels between the life of Moses and the life of Jesus! Starting in verse 15 of the first chapter, we see a parallel between the two; whereas Herod had all the male children under a certain age killed, so the Pharaoh tried to have all the male children killed. Now granted, the stories do not run exactly parallel, but the main storyline is the same. Herod had the children killed a millennia or so after this part of the story, to try to rid himself of any contenders for his throne, while the Pharaoh tried to have the Hebrew children killed in order to prevent the nation from growing too strong and overthrowing, through whatever means, his throne; when you think about it, there’s not a lot of difference there.
After Moses is saved from perishing ( along with countless others? ) by the Hebrew midwives, and is adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter; we aren’t given any information about him until roughly 40 years have passed, and again, it isn’t long before he is in danger again, and this time flees to the land of Midian ( more parallels? ), and remains there, in the wilderness, for another 40 years. While Moses is residing in the wilderness of Midian, he has been busy tending the sheep ( more parallels ) of his father-in-law. Another parallel that we can’t miss here, in the wilderness sojourn of Moses, is the fact that he drew water from the well for many, in opposition to those who stood in the way ( see related story in John 4 )! The day finally comes, though, when God reveals Himself to Moses in a very frightening and personal way; the famous burning bush! After a good deal of whining and complaining on Moses’ part, he finally agreed to return to Egypt to free his brethren, but only after God told him that his brother Aaron would be pleased to go with him, and yet another parallel; God told him, much as He told Joseph about 12-1500 years later, as recorded in Matthew 2:20, ‘Go, return ……………for all the men who sought your life are dead.’
Reading this story; one may notice the parallels, as well, to Jesus’ reception among His people. When Moses and Aaron appeared in the land of Egypt with the accompanying signs and the blessing of God, or YHWH, they were received, as Jesus was at first, with much joy, and praise, but when persecution began to arise because of opposition to the freedom that was preached, God’s people began to complain and even to turn against their Promised Savior!
Beginning in chapter 6, and verses 14-25, the author once again seemingly interrupts the story to give yet another short account of the Levitical lineage of Moses and Aaron, much as he had given a short account of those who came into Egypt with their father, Israel, or Jacob. Why is it important that we understand, at this point in the story, that both Moses and Aaron were of the line of Levi? As the story unfolds, and God begins to reveal His Law to His people, we will begin to see why it is important that Moses and Aaron belonged to the tribe of Levi. It is interesting to note, however, that as the author begins to relate the lineage of Israel, he begins, as at the beginning of the book, with Reuben, and so on, but when he gets to Levi, he does something different; first, he gives Levi’s age, and he begins to recount the progeny of Levi, including the birth of Aaron and Moses, and the marriage of Aaron,, and ending with the heads of the tribe of Levi. Yet another interesting fact that we might note here, is that, not unlike Matthew’s Gospel account of the lineage of Jesus, concerning the notable reference to the background of certain of the women in His ancestry, the author makes clear that the mother of them both was technically their great-aunt, since their father married his own fathers sister, seemingly in direct opposition to the Law as recorded in Leviticus 18:12, ‘You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister: she is your father’s near kinswoman’. Even so, the age of their father is recorded as being equal to that of Levi!
As we move quickly through this book; we should note, as we come upon the plagues that were visited upon the land of Egypt, that these plagues, for the most part, serve as harbingers of those unveiled in the book of Revelation. It is against the enemies of His people that God brings plagues like these, destruction and annihilation!
As Moses and Aaron begin their ministry to the children of Israel in earnest, and perform before the Pharaoh the signs that God had given to Moses; as promised, the Pharaoh’s heart is hardened towards them and their pleas, and so God begins to bring upon him and his people, his land, the plagues that He had kept in store for those who oppose Him, His people and His purpose!
The order of the plagues should be noted here, the first being in the water, which, as is clear, is of necessity to sustain life. Interestingly enough, though, the magicians of the Pharaoh’s court are able to duplicate this sign and the people of Egypt are able to bypass this plague by simply digging next to the river. This in itself could engender some interesting questions!
The second plague involved the bringing up from this very river, which had apparently been healed after seven days, a multitude of frogs, which, as we can tell from The Revelation of Jesus Christ, chapter 16, verse 13, are indicative, in the prophetic Scriptures, of evil spirits. The magicians again, though not surprisingly, were able to follow this miracle with their own loosing of evil spirits, or frogs. You may note here, though, that the magicians were not able to rescind this curse ( 8:8 ), nor were the people able to bypass it, as with the waters of life. The Pharaoh, though his heart remains hard, is beginning to realize that here is something beyond his power, or even that of his magicians.
Yahweh ( YHWH ) now begins to affect a curse of the fruit of the ground, the first miracle that the magicians are not able to duplicate. This plague, which affected both man and beast upon the land, involved ‘lice’, which, as we are familiar with, are scavengers and disease-laden insects.
In the midst of this plague, which by all accounts is never removed, Yahweh looses yet another plague upon the land; this plague, though related to the previous one, with hordes of flies, yet another harbinger of disease, is the first one where God began to set His people apart, making clear to the Pharaoh that ‘I will put a division between my people and your people’. It is after this realization that the Pharaoh seems to have learned his lesson, for he says ‘Go, sacrifice to your God in the land!’. This, however, was not quite what Yahweh had commanded, and so the plagues must continue.
Moses now reveals to the Pharaoh that ‘the hand of Yahweh is on your livestock which are in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the herds, and on the flocks with a very grievous pestilence’, again making a saving distinction between His people and those of the rebellious Pharaoh. Interesting to note here, is the fact that it is recorded in the next few verses that ‘all the livestock of Egypt died’, even though the next plague affects, once again, both man and animal. More reason, you might say, to view this as something more than just a historical account!
The next plague, though, seems to come directly from ‘heaven’ itself; ashes, a universal sign of mourning, are scattered into the air, and become boils, breaking out on both man and animal, although we may safely assume that, yet again, God’s own people, the children of Israel were spared from the effects of this plague!
Because the Pharaoh refused, once again, to soften his heart, and to spare his own people further decimation; Yahweh unleashed yet another curse directly from ‘heaven’! This time, judgment came in the form of a grievous hail, a hail which would again destroy ‘man and animal’ ( 9:19 ). This time however; Yahweh offered the Pharaoh and his suffering people an ‘out’: whoever would heed the Voice of the Lord, and bring their livestock under shelter would be saved from the effects of this plague. Some of the people were beginning to receive the Message, gathered their livestock in, and thus were spared! Now, it is revealed that, not only would this affect all in whom was ‘the breath of life’ ( Genesis 6:17 ); this time even ‘every herb of the field’, or the food supply, would be cut short!
After Yahweh’s famous revelation to the Pharaoh that ‘for this cause I have made you stand: to show you my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth’ ( Referenced in Romans 9:17 ), and because of his refusal to heed the Word of the Lord; this plague came upon his land, and he seemed to soften his heart ( at least, for the moment ), for he told Moses, ‘I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer’! Yet again, though, after Yahweh had lifted the curse of the hail, as He had promised, the Pharaoh hardened his heart, and refusing to humble himself before the Almighty, disdained to let the people go!
As we have progressed through these plagues, you may have noticed that these plagues, for the most part, are almost exactly repeated in the book of Revelation. The next plague visited upon the Egyptians is nothing different, for now the Lord released one of the most devastating plagues yet, a horde of consuming locusts. These locusts proceeded to eat whatever the hail had left ( which probably wasn’t much ); ‘There remained nothing green, either tree or herb of the field, through all the land of Egypt’; Egypt was desolate, and again the Pharaoh was seemingly brought to his knees, but when God took away the plague of locusts, his heart was hardened, and he refused to let the people go.
Though the Pharaoh had previously been given a chance ( a warning ) prior to all the other plagues, he received no such warning this time; the lights went out! As with certain of the other plagues, though, God’s people were spared this inconvenience, for ‘all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings’. I believe that the Pharaoh must have been receiving the message loud and clear by this time, but because of the stubbornness of his own sinful heart, every time God took away the plague, his heart was hardened.
Through the hardness of the Pharaoh’s heart; God would unleash one more prophetic plague on the land, and this plague would be the deadliest of all; in this plague, God promised to kill every firstborn in the land, both man and animal would die. After repeating this prophecy, a prophecy which would boomerang on this same people a millennia and a half ( give or take ) later, Moses leaves the presence of the Pharaoh, and the author gives the people of God a set of instructions on how they are to act to preserve their own lives, and the Passover feast that they are to observe yearly, as a memorial to the way that Yahweh had passed over their homes when He struck the firstborn of all Egypt.
Thus we see the actual Exodus begin, with the story of how the children of Israel ‘despoiled the Egyptians’ ( plundered them ), and how Yahweh led them by way of the wilderness, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and they return to Egypt’ and how He became to them ‘a pillar of cloud’ by day, and ‘a pillar of fire’ by night, in order to lead them safely through the wilderness.
As we move through this book, on the way to the giving of the Law at Sinai, we begin to see a pattern emerge, a pattern which would lead to the final revelation of the True ‘Israel of God’, the destruction of the false people of God, and the fulfillment, in the True Firstborn, of all the types that were given under this Sinai, or Mosaic covenant.
This pattern, really one of self-destruction, was a lack of trust. Though they had seen the great and awesome works of Yahweh, as soon as they encountered opposition, they began to complain and bewail their comfortable servitude, and to forget about the freedom that had been promised and given. This eventually led, through many captivities, and much tribulation, to the complete annihilation of their descendants as the special people of God, and their downfall as a nation, in the wasting of their land, and the destruction of their City and Temple in AD70!
With Yahweh’s mighty deliverance of His people, and the now-famous ‘Song of Moses’ ringing in their ears, the wilderness journey of the children of Israel was underway. Their first trial in the wilderness, interestingly enough, involved water. When they finally came upon some water, after three days of travel; it was so bitter that they could not drink it, and when they complained about it, Yahweh, through Moses, showed them a certain tree that they could throw into the water, upon which they were able to drink, for the water was made sweet, and palatable.
After Yahweh had tested them thus with the waters of Marah, He reiterated His promise to them, saying, ‘If you will diligently listen to the voice of Yahweh your God, and will do that which is right in his eyes, and will pay attention to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you, which I have put on the Egyptians; for I am Yahweh who heals you’, and brought them to an oasis, which symbolized the fulfillment of His promises to them: it had twelve springs of water, one for every tribe of Israel, and had seventy palm trees, offering shelter, shade, and picturing His perfect rest!
It was after they left this oasis of perfect rest, and entered into the wilderness of Sin, that they again encountered temptation, for, becoming hungry, they again complained, and God graciously rained ‘bread from the sky’ for them. On top of that, He also provided meat for them to eat, though this came only in the evenings, while the bread, which they called manna, appeared on the ground with the morning dew.
A note we might make here, and a most important one at that, is that, whereas the meat, in the form of quail, was delivered to them every evening, the manna, which was white ( Revelation 2:17 ) like ‘coriander seed’, appeared ‘morning by morning’ ( 16:21 ( Lamentations 3:22 ). This distinction that is made between the evenings and the mornings is significant of the blessings of the old and new covenants, and as the author here focuses mostly on the manna, which came from the sky, or ‘heaven’, and mentions only once the quail which was provided in the evening, he shows, even here, how the new is better than the old, and the second than the first!
The author also makes another important note at this juncture, how the children of Israel wandered this deserted land for a symbolic and prophetic forty years, fed by this bread from heaven!
Now we come to another most interesting occurrence, the place where Moses was commanded to ‘strike the rock’. The same rod with which Moses had turned the waters of the Nile into blood, and with which had parted the waters of the sea so that the children of Israel crossed on dry land, Yahweh now used to bring water from the rock to give drink to His thirsty sheep!
Beginning at chapter 17, and verse 8; we now read how the children of Israel came into contact with the first form of armed resistance that they had faced thus far. After deliverance from the Amalekites through divinely appointed means, it should have been clear to Israel that their God was the True and Living God, but how quick they were to forget His Promise, and to turn to their own ways, as we shall see!
Sometime after the battle with Amalek, in which Yahweh had told Moses ‘I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under the sky’; Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian , showed up at the Israelite encampment with Moses estranged wife and two sons, both of whom bear significant names, Gershom, which means ‘a sojourner there’ and Eliezer, which means ‘God is my help’. Jethro, when he heard of the way that God had delivered the children of Israel; gave praise to Yahweh as the One True God, and advised Moses on how to better judge His people.
We now come to ‘to the mountain that may be touched, and that burned with fire’ ( Hebrews 12:18 ), to Mount Sinai, the terrible and awesome site where God came down to speak to His people. Reading through this text, you may note the ‘third day’ reference, and the fact that they were to remain at a distance; they were not to touch the mountain lest they die. They were also to purify themselves in preparation for meeting their God.
The Ten Commandments
The giving of the Law on Mount Sinai is likely one of the most well-known, or at least revered, and possibly most misunderstood passages in the Hebrew Scriptures. This Law, and we’ll not go into a lot of commentary on it, pointed to the coming Messiah, as Paul later wrote concerning it, ‘the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ’ ( Galatians 3:24 ). There is much commentary going around today, among a growing number of Christians, in regards to the keeping, in a very literal way almost, of these Ten Commandments, and while Yahweh did give them to His people to be kept, there are several things we must keep in mind, the first being the words of the Son of God Himself, Jesus, the Christ. He, when asked what the great commandment of the Law was, summed it up perfectly, precisely, and concisely: He said ‘You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with your entire mind. This is the first and great commandment’, and a second, which is like it, ‘You will love your neighbor as yourself’; on these two commandments, He said, ‘hang all the law and the prophets’. Following these two commandments, we do keep God’s Law. By truly loving God, we do not worship idols, by loving God, we do keep His Sabbath, which is fulfilled in Jesus, and by loving our neighbor as ourselves, we will not murder them, by loving our neighbor as ourselves, we will not commit adultery against or steal from them; as Paul again said ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’.
When the people saw the lightning, heard the thunder, and felt the earthquake that were indicative of the terrible and awesome Presence of God, they cried to Moses, ‘Speak with us yourself, and we will listen; but don’t let God speak with us, lest we die’. Fear was a great factor, physical fear, anyway, not fear of a Godly sort, played a big role in the events that would transpire over the next millennia or so!
After the most famous and familiar giving of the Law on Sinai, Yahweh, through Moses, gave further instruction to the children of Israel, most of which is seen to be specific to the Israelites, although most of these further commandments should be seen as pointing to a greater spiritual truth, and applicable in some way, to all the people of God in all ages.
It is important to note here too, that after the giving of the Law to His people; God revealed Himself to them, for the author next records that ‘They saw God, and ate and drank’, ‘they’ being Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel.
The Temple of God
We now come to another very important and prophetic text in the book, that of the instructions for building the tabernacle. First, we read a lengthy and detailed description of the furnishings of this temporary sanctuary, beginning with the ark of the Presence, then the table for the Bread of the Presence, with which to symbolically feed His people, and finally, the lamp stand, with seven lamps ( note the number of completeness, or perfection ), to shine a Light for His people!
Beginning in chapter 26, we read another lengthy and very precise set of instructions on how, and with what materials this tabernacle, or temporary dwelling of God, is to be constructed. After these basic instructions on the construction of the tabernacle; Yahweh gave Moses instruction on how a veil is to be made and hung in a certain way so as to make a divider between two rooms, ‘the veil shall separate the holy place from the most holy for you’ ( 26:33 ). This veil, typical, as well, of the Messiah, would appear in the later construction of the Temple, and would eventually be torn apart, signifying that the way into the Holiest, or the Presence of God, was now open; no more dividing curtain!
The altar of burnt offering was ordered next, then the hangings for the court of the tabernacle, and the olive oil for the lamps, which the children of Israel were to beat from the olives, and to keep the lamps continually shining its Light!
Now for the Image of God that was to minister within His new Temple! Yahweh next commanded Moses to bring Aaron and his sons before Him, to sanctify them for the service of the tabernacle. First, with great pains, the author describes the clothing that would be worn by the priests, with special garments and other accoutrements for the high priest alone. He was to bear on his shoulders two stones which were engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, for, ‘Aaron shall bear their names before Yahweh on his two shoulders for a memorial’. As the true High Priest, which Aaron now prefigured, Jesus the Christ would bear, not just the names, but the sins of His people, as He made the one final sacrifice!
When the tabernacle, the priests, and the sacrifices were all prepared; Yahweh then gave Moses very explicit instructions on how the offerings were to be presented, and when. All these instructions were given to Moses during his forty day and forty night sojourn on the mountain, at the end of which he was delivered the tablets of testimony, upon which these commandments and instructions were written by the finger of God.
While Moses was up on the mountain with God, the people were not idle. Because he had remained out of their sight for this long time, the children of Israel complained, this time to Aaron, who seemed to have a more ready ear. When he had done their bidding, and made an idol for them, he announced, ‘These are your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt’. When Yahweh saw this, He was ready to destroy them and to raise up in their place a people for His name from the loins of Moses, but Moses pleaded with God; ‘Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your seed as the stars of the sky, and all this land that I have spoken of I will give to your seed, and they shall inherit it forever’. Upon hearing these bold words, and heeding the pleas of His servant Moses; Yahweh relented, and promised to spare them at that time, but, He said, ‘in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin’. This day finally came, when in AD70; He destroyed them from His Covenant in AD70, with the destruction of Jerusalem, their holy city, and the Temple.
After the episode of ‘The Golden Calf’; even though Yahweh relented from destroying His people at that time, He refused to go the rest of the way with them on their wilderness journey, lest, He said, ‘I consume you in the way’ ( Hebrews 10:29 ). It is significant that at this time, and from Sinai onward, the people wore their jewelry no more!
At this point, the author finds it necessary to introduce us to the fact that Moses would set the tabernacle of meeting, or the Tent, outside the camp. As Moses reasons with God, face to face, as with a friend, we find that Yahweh prophesies the true Rest that He gives; He promised Moses, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’. It is at this time that Yahweh reveals His true glory to Moses, but only a small part of it, for, Yahweh said, ‘man may not see me and live’. After Moses had received a glimpse of the glory of God, he was called up to the mountain of God once again, to receive the ten commandments of Israel’s God, but this time, he was to prepare the tablets himself and carry them up to Yahweh on the mountain.
When Moses had received these ten commandments written in stone, which Yahweh had reiterated to him on the mountain, he descended once again to the people, after a symbolic and prophetic forty days and forty nights, with a face that shone so the people were not able to bear it!
Moses finally relayed the Law that Yahweh had given him on the mountain, along with the instructions for the construction of the tabernacle, the furnishings for it, and the priestly garments for the service of it, all of which pointed forward to the true Temple, the True Priest, and the true service of God!
The book of Exodus, as discussed earlier, is more than just a story of how Yahweh delivered, through Moses, His people from the bondage and servitude of Egypt, though it is that and more! The story of the Exodus is a story of the deliverance of the people of God from bondage to sin and death, through the ministration of the New Moses, or as Paul puts it, ‘the last Adam’ ( I Corinthians 15:48 ). As we read this story with the understanding that it does not stand alone, but is merely a part of the Greatest Story Ever Told, we may realize how, no matter what the case may be about the date, authorship, or historicity of the account, that it was given I such a way as to reveal a most important truth!
In His Service,
Charles Haddon Shank