Exodus is a continuation of God’s story, which began in Genesis. Exodus, also presumably written by Moses, takes place about 400 years after Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, brought his family to Egypt where the family grew and filled the land. Unfortunately, a new Pharaoh comes to power who fears an uprising from the Israelites, so he enslaves and oppresses them (Exodus 1:9-11).
However, God has a plan to rescue Israel from slavery. God raises up Moses to confront the injustice of Pharaoh, lead the Israelites out of Egypt in a mass exodus, or departure, and establish Himself as the One, true God.
The book of Exodus is full of powerful, familiar stories, like Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush (chapter 3), the 10 plagues God sends to Egypt (chapters 7-12), the first Passover celebration (chapter 12), Moses parting the Red Sea (chapter 14), God sending manna from heaven in the wilderness (chapter 16) and the establishment of the 10 Commandments (chapter 20).
Though there are several miraculous stories in Exodus, the book is not all salvation and no struggle. Several times the Israelites forget what God has done for them and eventually return to the idol worship practiced in Egypt—the very thing God saved them from.
Despite Israel’s forgetfulness, God does not abandon them. Rather, He promises the Israelites that He will come and dwell among His people, and He will make Israel into a priestly nation.
The three major themes in Exodus are freedom, rebellion and blessing. God frees the people of Israel from their enslavement and begins their journey back to the land He promised them. But Israel is still bound to the yoke of their sin, and despite God revealing Himself to them in numerous miraculous ways, they continue to choose their own way, rather than trusting God’s. There is a continued conflict between God and sin.
However, God does not break the promise He made to Abraham in Genesis 12. Rather, He makes new promises to the Israelites about their future and the future of the world (Exodus 19:4-6 and 25:8).
There are four passages in Exodus that are keys to understanding the purpose of the book.
Exodus 6:6-8: “‘Therefore, say to the Israelites: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.”’”
Exodus 19:4-6: “‘“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.’”
Exodus 25:8: “‘Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.’”
Exodus 34:6-7: “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’”
HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?
Each of the stories in Exodus link together to tell one, greater story—God rescues Israel from Egypt to show the world the He is the supreme One true God in a land of idols and makes two very important covenant promises with Israel. He promises Israel will be a holy nation that will show the rest of the world who God is and how He wants people to live. And God will not only show His people how to live, but He will dwell among them.
Ultimately, the promises God makes in Exodus are fulfilled in the person of Jesus, who, being fully God, came and dwelt among His people, showing them how to live. He made a way for the Spirit of God to dwell in every person who believes in Him and righteously guide them throughout their lives. He is the ultimate Passover lamb, who saves those who believe in Him from the plague of eternal death.