The Book of Exodus

The name of the book is taken from the Septuagint. A literal translations would be “the getting
out of...” or “departure.” In Hebrew the book takes its title from the opening words: “These are the
names ...” (Ve-elleh Shemoth).
The book Exodus is one of the great books of the Pentateuch and of the whole Bible. It describes
one of the key episodes in the history of salvation. The lines of God’s revelation of Himself that were
drawn in the lives of individuals in Genesis come together in this book in a more complete and clearer
picture of YHWH, the “I AM” the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. This God occupies the central place
in the book, and He reveals Himself in His call to man. Maybe the best title of the book would be the
words of Hosea: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”1
The title Exodus is, in a certain sense, misleading in that it gives the impression that the
deliverance of Israel from Egypt would be the main event in the book. The great happening is the
encounter with God; what Moses called before Pharaoh “a festival to Me (YHWH) in the desert” (ch. 5:1).
The Exodus itself was the means, not the goal.
It has been said that all theology in the Bible begins with ch. 3:14, “God said to Moses, ‘I am who
I am.’ ” Those dynamic words reveal and, at the same time, hide the mystery of who God is. In Genesis
we see how God moves away from man when man falls into sin. In Exodus we see how God moves back
to earth and draws man to Himself. God pitched His tent on earth to live among people who lived in
tents. In Exodus we find for the first time the Immanuel concept: “God with us.” It comes to us as an
image that finds its fulfillment in the Incarnation, when the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among
us, as John puts it.2
We find a rather complicated mixture of models in Exodus; some are given in the form of images
and pictures and some in, what we would call, realities. The oppression of Israel in Egypt was a hard
reality of daily life for suffering people. It was, what we may call “real life.” At the same time it becomes
a picture of evil, of the power of darkness and human sin. The reign of the Antichrist is said to occur in
Sodom and Egypt.3
The great picture album is found in the chapters 25-40 where Moses received the concept of the
tabernacle with its furnishings, and the execution of the work and the erection of the tent. The finished
product is a metaphor of earthly matter of spiritual realities of heaven. Moses is shown a pattern while on
Mount Sinai. We read this in ch. 25:9,40. The writer to the Hebrews picks up this theme in his epistle.4
several places in the book of Revelation, John shows us that the original, of which the tabernacle with
all its furnishings was a copy, is in heaven. (“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his
temple was seen the ark of his covenant.”)5
The highly poetical language of Revelation suggests that
there is no building in the earthly sense of the word but a spiritual reality which surpasses anything
matter can express. Paul puts it clearly in Colossians: “These are a shadow of the things that were to come;
the reality, however, is found in Christ.”6
It is important to remember that the principal truth expressed in the book of Exodus is the
Incarnation, that is, that God came down to earth to dwell with man. This truth is woven into a closely
knit pattern of other truths which, to our human mind, are more easily accessible. There is Egypt with its
demonic oppression. There is the call of a man. There is judgment upon the world which says: “Who is
the LORD that I should obey Him?” (ch. 5:2). Then there is the Passover, the actual Exodus or
deliverance and the feast of unleavened bread. There is the journey through the desert, the mentality
of the people of Israel, which God describes as “stiff-necked.” There is the law, the code of moral
behavior and finally there is the tabernacle, which expresses at the same time fellowship with God
and separation from God. The writer to the Hebrews observes astutely that the tabernacle was an obstacle
to fellowship with God. In Hebrews we read: “The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the
Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.