Introduction to Exodus

By James M. Rochford

Exodus explains God’s rescue of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. This entire historical event serves as a foreshadowing or “type” for how God will save people through Jesus from the world-system. Moses is a type of Christ and Egypt is a type of the world-system. Moreover, the presence of abundant miraculous activity demonstrates that God is trying to arrest our attention in this book.

Authorship of Exodus

See our earlier article Authorship of the Pentateuch

Date of Exodus

See our earlier article Date of the Exodus

Themes of Exodus

Slavery and freedom. The Jewish people go from a position of abundance and peace under Joseph to 400 years of languishing in Egyptian slavery. When God breaks them out of this imprisonment to Pharaoh, they become his servants, rather than Pharaoh’s servants. Paul picks up on this motif in his letters, calling himself a “slave” (Greek doulos) of Christ.

God’s power over the Egyptian deities. One of the keys to interpreting the ten plagues is understanding that these were power plays against the impotent Egyptian deities. God was showing that he is the one, true God. Other gods are false.

The grumbling and unbelief of God’s people. After God saves the people from the cruel slavery of Pharaoh, they often want to go back! This might astonish us to read, but many Christians have the same profile. Christ rescues them from slavery to the world, but they secretly (or openly!) desire to go back to it.

Exodus answers the question: Who is Yahweh? Pharaoh doesn’t know (Ex. 5:2), the people don’t know (Ex. 6:6-7), and Moses doesn’t even know (Ex. 3:13). By the end of the book, you begin to get a solid grasp on this question.

Canonicity of Exodus

This book is tied up with Genesis’ authority and canonicity, because it begins with a conjunction (“And these are the names of…”). Grisanti writes, “This seemingly obscure statement at the beginning of Exodus suggests a strong connection with the narrative of Genesis. The conjunction points to the connection of this statement with whatever precedes, in this case the end of the book of Genesis.”[1]

The five books of Moses equal one seventh of the entire Bible. Moses himself is mentioned 80 times in the NT—more than any other figure in the OT. So we owe it to ourselves to understand this important section of Scripture.

Audio for Exodus

To help your study and preparation, consider listening to these teaching series from various sources:

Dennis McCallum, “Exodus”

Ben Stuart, “Exodus”

Chuck Smith, “Exodus”

Teaching Rotation

We should begin this series by doing some reading on the critical issues surrounding Exodus:

Week 1: The Authorship of the Pentateuch. For this article, do the reading and lead discussion.

Week 2: The Dating of the Exodus. For this article, do the reading and lead discussion.

Here is our breakdown for the book of Exodus:

(Ex. 1-4) God’s calling of Moses.

(Ex. 4:24-6:19) Getting Ready to Leave.

(Ex. 7-10) The Plagues.

(Ex. 11-12) The Passover.

(Ex. 13-15:21) Crossing the Red Sea.

(Ex. 15:22-17:7) God’s Provision.

(Ex. 17:8-20:3) Getting Ready to Hear from God.

(Ex. 20:1-17) The 10 Commandments.

(Ex. 21-24) Case Law. Consider reading our article “Tips for Interpreting OT Law.”

(Ex. 25-31) Ceremonial Law.

(Ex. 32-34) The Golden Calf.

Commentary on Exodus


Exodus 1 (Slavery and an evil dictator)

(1:1) This uses the same phrase as Genesis 46:8 (“Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, Jacob and his sons, who went to Egypt…”). The author was aware that he was building on the story of Genesis.

(1:5) The point of noting the 70 people here is to show that a small amount entered, but a hoard of people exited.

(1:7) God told his people to be “fruitful” and “multiply.” For instance, he told this to Adam (Gen 1:28), Noah (Gen 8:17; 9:1, 7), Abraham (Gen 17:2–6), Isaac (Gen 26:4), and Jacob (Gen 28:3). This is a reoccurring theme of God.

(1:11) The names for the store-cities wouldn’t have been the names of the cities, when they were built. Instead, Pithom and Rameses would have been a later author renaming them for a modern audience (see “Claim #1” The Dating of the Exodus).

(1:12) This shows God’s providence and sovereignty. Even though God’s people were oppressed, he was still multiplying them and growing them.

The Egyptians were afraid of their population growth and perhaps a revolt. To respond to this mounting concern, they tried various strategies: hard labor and genocide.

(1:13-14) First, the Pharaoh tried hard labor to break the spirit of the Jews.

(Ex. 1:15-21) How could God bless the actions of the midwives, when they lied and disobeyed the authorities?

(1:15-16) Next, the Pharaoh tried genocide to shrink the population growth. Specifically, they applied gendercide where they killed all the boys. This is a practice still applied today—though most cultures who practice gendercide will kill their little girls instead. The Chinese “one child policy” led to an onslaught of female abortions, adoptions, or even infanticide.

(1:17) These midwives weren’t Hebrews. This might be an example of common grace. Also, it’s interesting to note that we don’t know who the Pharaoh is, but we know the midwives by name. This is a common biblical theme: people that are important to man (Pharaoh) are not important to God. God chooses the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Cor. 1:27).

God promised to bless those who blessed Israel and curse those who curse Israel (Gen. 12:1-3). Therefore, what would you expect to happen to the Egyptians—given this cruelty? God brings plagues down on Egypt to punish them for the slave labor and the genocide.

(1:22) We see a similar parallel to this when Jesus was born (Mt. 2:16).

Exodus 2:1-10 (The Birth of Moses)

(2:1) Moses was from the tribe of Levi.

(2:2) The term “beautiful” is parallel to the creation (“God saw that it was good…”). It’s the word tov or “fine” and “good.”

(2:3) Moses’ mother didn’t sail the baby down the river. She placed him among the reeds.

(2:1-9) Should believers make irrational decisions like sailing babies down rivers?

(2:4) She also stationed Moses older sister to watch over the baby.

(2:5) She must have known that the Pharaoh’s daughter bathed in this precise location.

(2:7-9) Miriam (Moses’ sister) didn’t give Pharaoh’s daughter time to wonder about this. She asked if she could get a wet nurse for her. In a great act of God’s sovereignty, God gives Moses back to his mother, and he even pays her for it. So before this act of faith, Moses’ mother was nursing him in fear. Now she has the protection of Pharaoh’s daughter, and she has a steady income for doing it.

(2:10) Moses was raised by his mother. No doubt, she taught him the faith of the God of Israel.

Exodus 2:11 (Moses attempts a revolution)

(2:11) When his mother raised him, she must have told him that he was Hebrew, because this passage tells us that he recognized one of his Hebrew brothers.

He’s forty years old here (Acts 7:23). This was vigilante justice, and Moses was operating out of his own self-effort. He didn’t have a plan to rescue the nation or any reasonable power to execute a plan. Instead, he buries one Egyptian in the sand.

It’s interesting to note that three of the greatest figures in biblical history were murderers: Moses, David, and Paul.

(2:12) He must have had some kind of guilt or conviction over killing this man, because “he looked this way and that,” and he buried the corpse in the sand. It seems to imply that he knew this was wrong. Moses was aware of the purposes of God, but he was doing it in the power of the flesh. He wasn’t successful in burying one Egyptian. When God was ready to do it, he buried the whole army.

(2:13-15) Before you read this, you would expect the people to respect him for killing an Egyptian. However, God didn’t empower it. God wants us to do his will, in his way, in his timing. Two out of the three doesn’t work. Moses’ timing was 40 years off. This event must have been public. Think about it: Moses buried this guy in the sand! It was probably the worst place to bury him! Apparently, Moses’ act made the front page of the paper, so he had to flee. The news made it all the way to Pharaoh (v.15).

The question is relevant: “Who made you a prince or a judge over us?” (v.14) God didn’t appoint him… yet.

As Moses sat beside this well, how do you think he felt? Overnight, he went from a high official in Pharaoh’s palace to becoming an outlaw in the desert. Was he weeping in regret? Bitterness? Anger? Confusion?

The author of Hebrews comments that this must have involved some sort of faith to leave the palace: “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward” (Heb. 11:24-26).

(2:16-21) Moses rescues Reuel’s seven daughters from some terrorizing shepherds in Midian. Reuel invites Moses into his home, and he gives Zipporah to be his wife. They gave birth to a son: Gershom.

Moses seems to be recovering to some degree, but what about the Hebrew slaves were are still in Egypt?

(2:22) At this point, Moses felt incompetent, morally disqualified, too old, pampered, and carrying a lot of baggage from his past. So he names his son based on how he’s feeling: “a foreigner in a foreign land.”

God had a different view of Moses’ life: “Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deut. 34:10). God was using this time to teach Moses how to lead a nation, how to trust God, how to navigate the desert,

(2:23) Moses doesn’t tell us, but there is a gap of 40 years between verse 22 and 23 (Ex. 7:7). Like Luke in the book of Acts, he just calls this a period of “many days.”

Imagine how long this must have felt!

(2:24-25) It’s an interesting question to consider: What was the religion of Israel at this time? What would Moses have been taught? They probably viewed God as a very distant being. God hadn’t performed any recorded miracles for the last 400 years. God had given an obscure, verbal prophecy to Abraham about wallowing in slavery for 400 years (Gen. 15:13). Even though this was miraculously fulfilled, it wouldn’t have been very encouraging to the Hebrews! Anything passed down to them from Joseph or the patriarchs would have been from oral tradition.

This would make good sense of God’s emphasis on being a hearing, remembering, and seeing being (Ex. 2:24-25). Often, when we’re suffering, we feel like God has made a mistake. However, in this story, God is aware of their suffering. This is the difference between a disappointment and a divine appointment. God was working a plan through these events.

(2:24) If God is omniscient, how could he “remember” something?


We need to do God’s work in God’s way and in his timing. Two out of the three doesn’t count.

Exodus 3-4 (God calls Moses)

Listen to Scott Risley’s teaching “Answering God’s Call.”

God explains the plan from start to finish, and he tells him how he wants to use him in it. However, like many Christians today, Moses doesn’t believe him! We know that Jesus died for us, he is going to return, and he is going to set up his kingdom here on Earth. However, many Christians act as though this isn’t important or true. Unbelief is the root issue.

Christians have been waiting for Jesus’ return for almost 2,000 years. But, the patriarchs were waiting on the promise of the land for almost half a millennium! The point is that we often need to wait to inherit the promises of God.

(3:1) The morning Moses woke up to shepherd the flock, he definitely wasn’t thinking that he would be called by God. He was 80 years old, and he felt like he had wasted his life. This probably felt like any other morning…

(3:2-3) Moses knew something was wrong. He knew enough about science to know that bushes on fire usually disintegrate.

(Ex. 3:3) Are miracles like a “burning bush” just pre-scientific myths?

(3:4) Risley jokes that Moses was probably thinking, “How does that bush know my name? Have I met that bush before? I’m so bad with names!”

(3:5) Ten minutes before God showed up, this was a dead and mundane area. Moses’ sheep would’ve relieved themselves on this bush. But after God shows up, the mountain transforms into “holy ground.”

(Ex. 3:5) Why does God give Moses an arbitrary command like removing his sandals?

(3:6) This is where all godly service begins—in an encounter with God.

(3:7) The Hebrew here is emphatic: “Seeing, I have surely seen… Hearing, I have surely heard.”

(3:8-10) God reveals his plan to Moses from start to finish. But Moses doesn’t believe him.

(3:11) 40 years had a mellowing effect on Moses’ character. He’s probably thinking to himself, “Been there! Done that!” He already tried a revolution, and it failed. Moses enters into a number of reasons why God’s plan isn’t going to work. Read through this conversation (3:11-4:13) and try to pull out the excuses Moses gives.

The Excuses of Moses

Many people are willing to admit their problems, but they forget who they’re talking to. Earlier, Moses was trying to be a self-styled deliverer of the Jews, when he killed an abusive Egyptian. Now, he doesn’t think he’s capable. When we try to do God’s work in our power, we fail and think it’s impossible. Moses demonstrates both forms of pride: self-willed and self-doubting.

Self-willed: They think that they can accomplish God’s work through their own power.

Self-doubting: This is false humility. It really isn’t doubting self; it’s doubting God.

We might expect God to immediately come down hard on Moses. Instead, he listens to Moses, and he tries to answer his objections and persuade him.

Excuse #1: “Who am I?” (3:11)

Moses doubts himself, and rightly so. At this point in his life, he’s an 80 year old loser. Every servant of God asks this question at some point. When God calls us forward to serve or lead for him, we often doubt in ourselves. Sometimes, we even have excuses.

But God answers this question with a question: “Who are you? Wrong question! You should be asking, ‘Who am I?’”

God comforts Moses with his presence (v.12).

Excuse #2: “Who are you?” (3:13)

Moses naturally asks who God is. God is whatever we need: “I am your shield. I am your righteousness. I am your peace.” Risley describes God’s name in this way. Perhaps God is capturing all of these great truths in this simple title:

“I am the God who is there.”

“I have always been there.”

“I do whatever I want to do.”

“And I will always be there.”

(Ex. 3:14) What does “Yahweh” mean?

God also refers to his promises to console and encourage Moses (vv.15-22).

(Ex. 3:18) Why does God tell Moses that it would only be a three day trip, if he planned on rescuing them permanently from the Egyptians?

(Ex. 3:22) Why would God command the Hebrews to steal from the Egyptians?

Excuse #3: “What if people won’t believe me?” (4:1)

(4:1) This is really a lack of spiritual authority. Servants of God have this doubt when they go out to declare God’s truth—namely, what if everyone laughs or shrugs their shoulders in apathy?

(4:2) God equips Moses with everything that he needs. Later in the book, we see that these simple tools were enough to even convince the magicians in Pharaoh’s court.

(4:3-5) It’s funny that Moses runs from this snake. The cobra snake was a symbol of Egypt—kind of like a modern day football mascot. The cobra (“urae”) is found in Egyptian art and on the forehead of Pharaoh’s crown. Even King Tut had a cobra on his throne room floor.

(4:6-8) Leprosy was incredibly scary for people at this time. This is probably why God used this—namely, to show his power over it.

Moses needed to confront the greatest superpower known to man, and what was he supposed to bring? An oozy? A nuclear warhead? Seal team 6? A dead shepherd’s staff! This doesn’t make for very good cinema, but it shows a deep spiritual message—namely that God wants to work through weak and wimpy objects to show his glory.

God later uses this dead stick to turn the Nile River into blood (Ex. 7:15-17). God brought frogs, lice, thunder, hail, and lightning through that dead stick (Ex. 8-10). He divided the Red Sea with it (Ex. 14:16). He provided for the thirst of the people with that stick (Ex. 17:5-6; cf. Num. 20:11). It also guided the people in leadership decisions (Num. 17:8). Francis Schaeffer concludes, “Consider the mighty ways in which God used a dead stick of wood. “God so used a stick of wood” can be a banner cry for each of us. Though we are limited and weak in talent, physical energy, and psychological strength, we are not less than a stick of wood. But as the rod of Moses had to become the rod of God, so that which is me must become the me of God. Then I can become useful in God’s hands. The Scripture emphasizes that much can come from little if the little is truly consecrated to God. There are no little people and no big people in the true spiritual sense, but only consecrated and unconsecrated people. The problem for each of us is applying this truth to ourselves: is Francis Schaeffer the Francis Schaeffer of God?”[2]

(4:9) As it turns out, God’s prediction was correct: Pharaoh didn’t believe Moses until he brought the terms of judgment.

Excuse #4: “I’m not a good speaker!” (4:10)

(4:10) Did Moses have some sort of speech impediment? Stephen states that Moses was “a man of power in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22). Was Moses exaggerating his impediment? Was he really a good speaker, but was still trying to evade God’s calling?

Really, the message is not up to us. We’re just the delivery boys. It’s not about the messenger; it’s about the message (1 Cor. 2:1-4).

(4:11) God replies with an important point: “Moses, I’m in the business of making mouths!” Why would you look at what God has made and look down upon it? When we look at our deficiencies and weaknesses, we need to view (even) these as gifts from God. Paul said he got to the point where he could boast in his weaknesses, because it showed God’s power even more (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

When a musician plays a beautiful song on a children’s toy, it blows us away more than if he played the same song on a finely tuned instrument. Michael Jordan scoring 40 points is less glorious than God scoring 40 points when he has the flu! When someone wins a marathon with a serious physical handicap, this means more than someone who is completely healthy. Likewise, when God uses weak people to accomplish his purposes, it reveals his glory in deeper and more powerful ways.

(4:12) God also promises that he will be with Moses. The cure to fear is usually the presence and power of God (“I will be with you.”).

The root issue: “I don’t want to go…” (4:13)

Here is the real issue: Moses just doesn’t want to go. He won’t be persuaded by God. It’s interesting that God is okay in persuading him through these self-doubts, but when it comes to unbelief, God gets “angry” with him.

God doesn’t tell him he’s a good speaker.

We can’t sit around until we feel confident. God uses Moses as his mouthpiece (1 Pet. 4:11). As Christian workers, we often feel inadequate. We want God to send someone else to do his will. Careful what you wish for! You could be missing out on seeing God moving in an extraordinary way. In Moses’ case, God complied and sent Aaron—though he was very angry about this. Later, Aaron builds the Golden Calf (Ex. 32). If Moses had listened, he would’ve led the people the way that God wanted. The point here is this: Don’t impose your will on God. Like Jesus, we should pray, “Not my will but your will be done.”

Ben Stuart states, “Preach God to your shortcomings—not preach your shortcomings to God.”

(4:14) God sends Moses a coleader. God had already set this up, even before he had this conversation with Moses.

(4:17) God reminds him not to forget the dead stick. God has big plans for that stick, and for Moses.

Risley states, “Moses spent the first 40 years thinking he was really somebody; he spent the next 40 years realizing he was a nobody; then he spent the final 40 years seeing what God could do through somebody who realizes they’re a nobody.”

Exodus 4:18-24 (Moses goes home)

(4:18-19) Imagine this conversation with Moses and his wife: “Hey honey, how was work today?”

(4:20) Moses didn’t forget his dead walking stick.

(Ex. 4:21) How could God harden Pharaoh’s heart?

Exodus 4:25 (The Testing of a Leader)

(4:22) The fact that Israel was called God’s son probably shocked Pharaoh, because the Pharaoh was considered the son of the gods.

(4:24-26) Zipporah was disgusted at the practice of circumcision, because she hadn’t done it earlier. This was a pejorative way of describing being married to Moses! How are you going to lead the people to a place that you’ve never been. God wanted to correct Moses at home before he went out to lead the nation. This happened again under Joshua: the people went through circumcision right before battle. For this small section, see Gary Delashmutt’s teaching “Exodus 4:24-26—Moses on the Way to Egypt.”

(Ex. 4:24) Why did God want to kill Moses?

(4:27-31) Moses regroups with Aaron and the leaders in Israel to share the message of liberation and convince them of God’s reality before he confronts Pharaoh. Was this some sort of consensus-building before escape? This would make sense, because he needs to make sure the people are actually ready to leave. Could some of them have “Stockholm Syndrome” after living in Egypt for so long? Many of the slaves after the Civil War weren’t willing to go leave the plantation. Apparently, these Israelite slaves were ready to go.

Exodus 5 (The first confrontation of Pharaoh)

(5:1) How do you think this exchange is going to go? God gave Moses and Aaron everything that they need. Now they’re speaking to the leader of the known world.

(5:2-5) Moses’ worst fear is being realized here. Remember, Moses was worried that nobody would know who Yahweh was (Ex. 3:13) or that Moses had really met him before (Ex. 4:1). Pharaoh completely brushes him off a distraction, and he ignores his claims.

This is a direct challenge to God! God accepts the challenge.

(Ex. 5:3) Why would God kill his own people with pestilence or a sword?

(5:6-9) As a result of this conversation, Pharaoh orders them to increase their work load—by making them gather their own straw for the bricks. It’s a way to get them to stop thinking about the claims of Moses.

(5:10-19) The slave drivers whip and beat the Hebrews. When the Hebrew foremen protest to Pharaoh, they get the same message: You’re lazy! Get back to work!

(5:20-21) Moses’ fears are being realized to an even greater degree! Is he having flashbacks to when the Hebrews rejected his leadership 40 years earlier? (Ex. 2:14)

(5:22-23) Has God changed? Have his promises changed? Arm your minds for suffering. Some of us are thinking about quitting. If you’re faithful to God, sometimes people won’t like you. What about the plan God launched eons ago (Eph. 1:4)? What about how I protected my people.

Was God inactive this entire time? Not at all! During this time, God had raised up a unique leader in Moses:

-Moses was a native Hebrew—a man the people could trust.

-Moses was able to negotiate with Pharaoh, because he had been raised in Pharaoh’s court.

-Moses was able to govern a nation, because he had been trained politics and all sorts of learning (Acts 7:22). He also knew how to read and write.

-Moses knew how to navigate all of the places in the Sinai. He knew the pathways, water sources, and mountains.

-Moses had learned how to trust God—a quality that can only be learned through blood, sweat, and tears!

Walter Henrichsen writes, “Every problem a person has is related to his concept of God. If you have a big God, you have small problems. If you have a small God, you have big problems. It is as simple as that.”[3]


If our understanding of Exodus 5:3 is correct, then Moses fumbled the ball—even as he took it to Pharaoh. Instead of declaring God’s unadulterated truth, he compromised.

This passage also shows that God will take us through suffering—even from his own people.

Exodus 6 (God brings Moses back)

(6:1) Once God is done with this wicked ruler, he will be begging to get rid of the people!

(6:2-4) God made a promise with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He will certainly come through on his promise.

(6:5) God will surely act, because he is the sort of being who hears the cries of his people.

(6:6-8) God tells Moses to tell all of these things to the people.

(6:9) The people don’t have faith in any of this. They are still angry with Moses over the increased slave labor.

(6:10-13) Moses kept wrestling with his own inabilities as a speaker and leader. God didn’t abandon Moses, but instead, he kept working with him.

(6:14-30) Genealogies of the Jewish people. Moses again explains how incompetent he is to God.

Exodus 7-10 (The plagues of Egypt)

God could’ve just pulled the Jews out, but he goes through Ten Plagues instead. Why? As these articles will show, God wanted to use the plagues as an object lesson against the false-gods of Egypt. Each plague attacked one of the so-called deities of Egypt. By the end of these plagues, a “mixed multitude” of Egyptians left with Moses and the Hebrews (Ex. 12:38). God used these plagues as a way of reaching the entire nation of Egypt.

(Ex. 6:3) How can this be the first time God revealed his name “Yahweh,” when this name is used often before this time?

(Ex. 6:26-27) Why are these verses written in the third person, if Moses wrote them?

(Ex. 7:11; 22; 8:7) How could the sorcerers perform supernatural signs, if they were not from God?

(Ex. 7:14) Why weren’t these 10 plagues recorded by the Egyptians?

(Ex. 7:14) Were the judgments of the 10 plagues arbitrary?

(Ex. 7:14) Is there a feasible naturalistic explanation for the 10 plagues?

Exodus 11 (The final plague)

(11:1) The nine plagues didn’t work, so God was willing to do one more: the death of the firstborn in Egypt. This plague is so powerful in its effect that Pharaoh actually begs the people to leave!

(11:2-3) The Egyptians will be so happy to get rid of the Hebrews that they’ll willingly pay this small price (cf. Ex. 12:33).

(Ex. 11:3) How could Moses write this, if he was more humble than all men?

(11:4-5) Moses had told Pharaoh that God would judge all of the firstborn from Pharaoh—to the servants—to even the livestock!

(11:6) This mirrors the cry of anguish from the Israelites under their slavery, which went unanswered by Pharaoh (Ex. 5:15) but answered by Yahweh (Ex. 2:23).

(11:7) This plague will clearly distinguish that God is for the Hebrews but against the Egyptians.

(11:8-10) Moses had predicted all of this.

Exodus 12 (The Passover lamb)

(Ex. 12:1-22) Does the Passover foreshadow the work of Christ?

(Ex. 12:29) Why would God slay the firstborn of the Egyptians?

(Ex. 12:37) Were there really two million Jews in the Exodus?

As a consequence of the Passover and the final plague, Pharaoh told the Jews to get out (Ex. 12:31). The people took the wealth of Egypt on their way out. God uses this gold to build the Tabernacle, and the people also used it to build their Golden Calf (Ex. 32).

Exodus 13-14 (The parting of the Red Sea)

(13:1-17) God claims the rights to the firstborn in Israel (human and animal), because he rescued their firstborn from the plague (v.12). If they didn’t present the firstborn to God, they needed to buy it back (v.13).

(13:18) Why did God lead them “in a roundabout way” (NLT) through the wilderness? He could have led them straight to Canaan, but he led them through the Red Sea.

(Ex. 13:18) Did the Jews cross the “Red Sea” or the “Reed Sea”?

(13:21-22) God led them straight into a trap! Now, their backs are to the sea. None of them can swim, because they all grew up as slaves in the desert.

(14:1-4) God had a plan the entire time (Prov. 14:12). He wanted Pharaoh to think that the Hebrews were trapped. This was too much for Pharaoh to resist: the Hebrews were boxed in and trapped.

(14:5-8) Pharaoh mysteriously changed his mind about letting the Hebrews go. He hears that they are trapped by the Red Sea. He formed a massive army to hunt them down and recapture his lost “property.”

(14:9-12) Pharaoh’s army catches up with them, and the people panic. The Hebrews argue that there were enough graves in Egypt to bury them. Incidentally, three quarters of the land of Egypt was devoted to graves, because the Egyptians were obsessed with the dead. Kaiser writes, “Egypt specialized in graves and had about three-fourths of its land area available for grave sites.”[4]

(14:13-14) We see a different character in Moses here. Instead of the hasty and anxious man, we see a man of faith.

(14:15-18) What about this event glorified God?

(14:19-20) This would’ve been a pretty good time for the Egyptian soldiers to flee. When a supernatural cloud of fire separates you from your enemy, you should really have second thoughts about pursuing them any further.

(Ex. 14:21-29) How could two million people cross the Red Sea in such a short time?

(14:21) The sea didn’t open up in 30 seconds or a minute, as it does in the cinematic presentations of this event (Charlton Heston’s, The Ten Commandments). Moses raised his staff and a wind blew all night long to bring the sea back.

(14:22) At the same time, walls of water supernaturally stood on both sides of them.

(14:23) The Egyptians could’ve turned back at this point, but they had already come this far. They followed orders and charged into the dry sea.

(14:24-25) It takes the Egyptians this long to realize that Yahweh was fighting for the Israelites.

(14:26-30) God told Moses to use his staff to motion over the water. The waters came like a massive flood, killing the Egyptians.

(14:31) God brought judgment on the Egyptians, and he used this event to build the faith of his people.


God had a plan that the people couldn’t see at the time. If they hadn’t followed God, Pharaoh would’ve incessantly chased them for centuries after. Since they went through with God’s plan, they were taken care of.

In the thick of it, the people felt helpless and abandoned by God.

The hour before God came through, it probably looked pretty grim.

Part of following God is rejoicing in his work in our lives.

God lets our need level to rise. A steady diet of unbroken blessing is a recipe for taking God for granted.

Exodus 15 (Song of Moses)

Since this section is a lyrical song, read “Understanding Hebrew Poetry” for more insight into reading this type of literature.

(15:1) The Hebrew here is literally “gloriously glorious.”[5]

(15:2-3) God is a mighty warrior who went to battle for the Hebrews.

(15:4-6) God revealed his character through his justice and judgment on Egypt.

(15:7-8) After all of the turmoil, wouldn’t it be tempting for Moses to take credit for this rescue? Moses doesn’t take the credit for this rescue mission. Moses doesn’t believe that it was the “magical power” of his dead staff or his military genius that got them through the Red Sea.

The waves became hard like concrete.

(15:9-10) God judged the Egyptians for their pride and evil intention.

(15:11-13) God is utterly unique—especially in his love for his people.

(15:14-16) We discover that Moses’ words were true. Rahab told the spies that the people of Canaan had heard all about this (Josh. 2:10-11).

(15:17) God will eventually place them in his land.

(15:20-21) Miriam began to sing at this point.

(15:22-24) Moses led them for three days in the desert. Immediately, even after these incredible miracles, the people began to grumble and complain.

(15:25) God instructed Moses to cure the water with a tree branch. Kaiser comments, “Ferdinand de Lessups, builder of the Suez Canal, was told by Arab chiefs that they put a thorn bush into some types of water to make it palatable. Others have suggested that certain aromatic plants were used to disguise the bad taste of the water, but the text is clear that God gave Moses special instructions in response to the despair of the people.”[6]

(15:26-27) The people were to focus on trusting God and following his plan. God promised to take care of everything else.

Exodus 16 (Manna)

(16:1-2) This is only one month after leaving Egypt (Ex. 12:6, 31), and they already started to complain. It doesn’t take long for people to forget the blessings and love of God.

(16:3) They looked back on Egypt with longing. They started talking about the “pots of meat and all you could eat!” They had been under the slavery of Egypt for 400 years, but only 30 days in the desert brought about this ungrateful response.

(16:4-5) God was gracious with their grumbling. Yet he gave out free food with a test. They needed to gather the food for six days, but leave the food on the seventh day.

(16:6-8) The people were truly complaining against God himself. When we grumble and complain, do we see that this is really directed at God?

(16:9-15) God gave them quail and manna. The people asked, “What is it?” and Moses responded, “Manna [What is it?].” This reminds me of the old “Who’s on First?” sketch.

(16:16-19) The test involved how much they felt they needed to hoard. Whether they gathered a lot or a little, they couldn’t keep it overnight. Paul cites from this passage as a principle for gathering money: in a short time, our money will spoil. We shouldn’t gather more than we need (2 Cor. 8:15).

(16:20) The people didn’t listen, and maggots filled their stash of manna. It decomposed overnight.

(Ex. 16:22) Why does the Sabbath come up at this point in the Exodus?

(16:22-26) On the sixth day, the people gathered four quarters, instead of two. The point was that the people shouldn’t work to gather the manna on the Sabbath. The manna supernaturally preserved overnight on the sixth day and into the seventh. This is the first example of the Sabbath rest in the Bible (if you don’t count God’s day of rest in creation).

(16:27) Despite Moses’ command, the people still tried to go out and gather the manna on the Sabbath—though none existed.

(16:29) The people would rather work and toil than enjoy God’s Sabbath rest.

(16:31) Kaiser writes, “Coriander seed is a small lobular grain that is white or yellowish gray and is used for seasoning (cf. our use today of caraway and sesame seeds). Numbers 11:7 adds that it “looked like resin” and, according to the older versions, that it had the color of “bdellium” (KJV; = pearl?). Its taste was like wafers made of honey or “something made with olive oil” (Num 11:8); and it could be ground in a mill, crushed in a mortar, cooked in a pot, or made into cakes (Num 11:8).”[7]

(16:32-33) Moses placed some manna in the Ark as evidence against the people in regards to their disobeying God’s provision.

(Ex. 16:34) How could Moses mention the Ark of the Testimony before it was even created?

(16:34-35) The people ate the manna until they came to the land of Canaan.

Exodus 17:1-7 (Water for the people)

(17:1-2) Again, the quarrelling and bitterness of the people was really directed at God—not merely Moses.

(17:3-4) Moses felt the fear of mob-mentality coming to kill him.

(17:5-6) God stood on the rock, as Moses drove his staff into the rock (cf. 1 Cor. 10:4). They received more water than they needed. It wasn’t a trickle, but a gushing of water.

(17:7) They weren’t debating whether or not God existed, but whether or not he was trustworthy.

Exodus 17:8 (Attack of the Amalekites)

(17:8) The Amalekites—distant “cousins” of the Israelites from Esau—attacked the Israelites. They targeted the weak stragglers, rather than fighting the men (Deut. 25:17-19).

(17:9-13) Moses raised up Joshua as his general. As Joshua fought, Moses raised up his staff. Here we get a picture of Moses’ dependence on God. While Joshua fought with sword, shield, and spear, Moses fought with the power of God. Moses’ friends (Aaron and Hur) stood with him in this spiritual warfare; Moses didn’t do this alone.

(17:14-16) The Amalekites had wished to wipe out the Hebrews (Ps. 83:4, 7), but God wiped them out instead. This wasn’t fulfilled right away. Saul and David continued to war with Amalek, and Haman (during Esther’s day) also was an Amalekite. Today, the Amalekites are completely gone, while the Jewish people are still here.

Exodus 18 (Jethro—Moses’ father in law)

(18:1-10) Jethro—a Midianite priest—was Moses’ father in law. He comes to visit Moses, bringing his wife and sons with him. Moses hadn’t brought his wife and kids into this confrontation with Pharaoh, but now, he is meeting up with them. He recounts everything that happened with the Exodus to Jethro.

(18:11-12) This story has an evangelistic effect on Jethro.

(18:13-27) Jethro questions Moses’ messianic complex. Jethro tells him that he is overworking himself (vv.13-14). Everybody in the entire community came to Moses to get a ruling on legal matters. Jethro argues that Moses is going to wear himself out at this pace (v.18). Moses should continue in his teaching ministry, but he should delegate his responsibilities to responsible men of character (v.21). Moses listened (v.24), and he only handled the bigger cases (v.26). After this choice bit of wisdom, Jethro left (v.27).


Moses was reacting like an immature leader. As the responsibility was piling up, he was working harder and longer hours.

We can’t work long, hectic hours indefinitely.

Given the role I have, what are the things that only I can do? Can I delegate the rest?

God must have sent Jethro to get this small bit of wisdom communicated to Moses. Jethro played a small but important role in Moses’ life. What would have happened if he hadn’t sat Moses down to have this talk?

Godly leaders listen to advice (v.24). The source of the advice isn’t important. It’s the merits of the advice that count.

Godly leaders learn to delegate their load, rather than working themselves to death.

Exodus 19 (God speaks from the mountain)

(19:1) They were out in the wilderness for two months before God gave them the Law.

(19:2) They were at Mount Sinai.

(19:3-4) Notice that God rescued them first, and he gave them the Law second. He wait until the Hebrews obey his moral will before saving them from Egypt. Regarding the eagles’ wings, see Deuteronomy 32:11.

(19:5) If they obey this contract (covenant), God will use them as a special treasure in the world.

(19:6) God wanted to use the nation of Israel as a way for the nations to come to him.

(19:7-8) The people agreed with the terms of the contract.

(19:9) God wanted to further verify to the people that he was working through Moses.

(19:10-15) The people are supposed to get ready for God’s appearing. The strict rules here (e.g. washing of the clothes, marking off of the boundaries, capital punishment for rule breaking, abstinence from sex, etc.) is used to teach the people that they can’t just waltz into God’s presence.

(19:16-19) A powerful entrance! Smoke, lightning, thunder, a dense cloud. Even the mountain itself shook.

(19:20-25) Even the priests couldn’t cavalierly come into God’s presence. God did allow Aaron to come up and meet him.


This really makes us grateful to be in the new covenant! We can come directly into this God’s presence (Heb. 4:14-16). This God who spoke with thunder and lightning, shaking the mountain in the process, now invites us to come boldly into his presence.

Exodus 20:1-16 (Ten Commandments)

Here we come to one of the most famous sections in the entire Bible: The Ten Commandments. We live in a culture that bristles against moral commands. We often hear, “What’s true for you may not be true for me,” or “One person’s art is another person’s pornography.” In our culture, there are no objective morals—just differing opinions.

Yet the Bible vehemently disagrees with this view. The fact that God has a moral nature shows that moral relativism is false (see “Is It Objectively Wrong to Object to Moral Wrongs?”). Isaiah states, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isa. 5:20).

(20:2) At the same time, these commands are grounded in God’s nature and goodness. God declares that he exists as the foundation of moral values and duties. He also gives these commands after he rescued the people—not before.

While Charlton Heston depicts the stone tablets as large slabs of stone, Cole writes, “The commandments were brief, pungent sentences, easily written on small stone tablets, fitting within the palm of a hand.”[8] In other words, the Ten Commandments probably fit on a stone the size of an iPhone.

If you notice, the first four commandments deal with loving God, and the last six deal with loving our neighbor.

Commandment #1: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (verse 3).

Is there any significance in the fact that this command comes at the top of the list? Why is idolatry so integral to our moral thinking?

The expression “before Me” is literally “to my face.” Cole writes, “This slightly unusual phrase seems also to be used of taking a second wife while the first is still alive.”[9]

Commandment #2: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image… you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (verses 4–5).

God made humans in his likeness and image (Gen. 1:26-27), but we should never create God in our image (Rom. 1:23-25). Any image will misunderstand or miscommunicate his infinitude. Also images have the ability to take our worship.

The Psalmist criticizes idolatry by saying that we will become what we worship: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of man’s hands. 5 They have mouths, but they cannot speak; they have eyes, but they cannot see; 6 they have ears, but they cannot hear; they have noses, but they cannot smell; 7 they have hands, but they cannot feel; they have feet, but they cannot walk; they cannot make a sound with their throat. 8 Those who make them will become like them, everyone who trusts in them. 9 O Israel, trust in the Lord” (Ps. 115:4-9).

By contrast, when we reflect on our identity in Christ, we become more like Him. Paul writes, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

(20:5-6) This passage shows that breaking the law will break us. Yet God’s love far outweighs his justice (compare “third or fourth” generation with his “thousands”).

(Ex. 20:5) Is it wrong for God to be jealous?

(Ex. 20:5) Is it fair for God to punish someone for their father’s sins?

Commandment #3: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (verse 7).

This could refer to giving false oaths based on God’s name (Lev. 19:12). However, believers are encouraged to swear by God’s name if it is true (Deut. 6:13; Ps. 63:11; Isa. 45:23; Jer. 4:2; 12:16; Rom. 1:9; 9:1; 1 Cor. 15:31; Phil. 1:8; Rev. 10:5-6).

This could also refer to using God’s name as a magic incantation. In the ancient Near East, people would use the name of their gods to call down curses on others. God is against this practice.

Commandment #4: “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy” (verse 8).

A time of spiritual refreshing and renewal with the Lord should be a priority, not an occasional event. Elsewhere, God connects the Sabbath rest to refer to the rescue from Egypt (Deut. 5:15).

The author of Hebrews explains that believers in Christ can rest from their works, because of Jesus’ finished work: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his” (Heb. 4:9-10 NIV; cf. Mt. 11:28).

Commandment #5: “Honor your father and your mother” (verse 12).

Most of the insights from this section were taken from Scott Risley’s teaching on Exodus 20.

God places a priority on honoring our parents. He even places a priority on honoring the elderly in general: “You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32).

This is the only commandment that specifically promises a blessing when we obey it. Many social problems can be traced back to fatherless homes.

This moral imperative appears again in the NT for Christian homes (Col. 3:20-21; Eph. 6:1-4). One of the signs of the end times is that children disrespect their parents (2 Tim. 3:2).

This does not mean that we should:

  • obey our parents, rather than God (Mt. 10:37).
  • necessarily become best friends or even spending lots of time together. While that’s ideal, that’s at least not what the term “honor” means here.
  • necessarily trust our parents, if they have proven untrustworthy, abusive, etc.
  • ignore or deny the past, pretending that they are something that they aren’t.

Instead, to “honor” (Hebrew kabed) means that we should choose to place great value on our relationship with our parents. This would include initiating with them, recognizing their sacrifice for us, and choosing to give thanks for the good things they’ve done. It means forgiving them for what they’ve done wrong, and having an understanding and compassionate posture toward them.

For discussion: What barriers exist in learning to honor your parents?

Our relationship with our parents is constantly evolving. For every new stage of life, there is a new opportunity to honor our parents.

If we neglect this area, you might discover how it affects other areas of your life.

Learn to empathize with your parents. If they were workaholics, realize that this could’ve come from a deep insecurity that they never dealt with. If they could never say, “I love you,” realize that this could’ve been influenced from their relationship with their parents.

Search for something that you can use to honor them.

Take a risky step toward them. We often don’t realize how much power we have in affecting our parents, who often feel guilty about our relationship.

Try to break the cycle in your dysfunctional relational pattern. If you don’t break this cycle, you’ll end up being just like them (Ex. 20:5)!

Write a letter or two? In the first letter, be honest about how you’ve been hurt. Don’t give them this letter! In the second letter, write what you would want to communicate to them.

Try calling your parents every week. Take an interest in their lives and bring up positive memories from the old days.

Try serving when you’re around them, rather than feeling annoyed with everything.

Learn their love languages.

Commandment #6: “You shall not murder” (verse 13).

All murder is killing, but not all killing is necessarily murder.

(Ex. 20:13) Is killing right or wrong?

Jesus connects hate with killing (Mt. 5:21-22), as does the apostle John (1 Jn. 3:15).

Commandment #7: “You shall not commit adultery” (verse 14).

Solomon writes about the problems with adultery: “For a prostitute will bring you to poverty, and sleeping with another man’s wife may cost you your very life. Can a man scoop fire into his lap and not be burned? Can he walk on hot coals and not blister his feet? So it is with the man who sleeps with another man’s wife. He who embraces her will not go unpunished… But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys his own soul. Wounds and constant disgrace are his lot. His shame will never be erased” (Prov. 6:26-29, 32-33 NLT).

When we commit adultery, we forfeit spiritual authority in our home. Consider David who committed adultery and murder: Amnon raped his half-sister and Absalom killed Amnon. David was bizarrely passive after this fall into sin—most likely feeling like he had forfeited his spiritual authority.

Again, Jesus connected lust in the heart with adultery (Mt. 5:28).

For further reading on this topic, see “The Bible’s Sexual Position.”

Commandment #8: “You shall not steal” (verse 15).

Paul repeats this moral imperative: “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (Eph. 4:28).

There is another form of stealing that Paul mentions in the NT: not working and taking from the generosity of the Church. He writes, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread” (2 Thess. 3:10-12).

Commandment #9: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (verse 16).

This commandment (like the others) is based on the fact that God cannot lie (Heb. 6:18; Titus 1:2).

Regarding Satan, Jesus taught, “Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn. 8:44). By contrast, believers have a different nature and identity. Paul writes, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices” (Col. 3:9).

Solomon wrote, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers” (Prov. 6:16-19). Most of the things on this list have to do with lying.

Why is lying such a big deal? It poisons relationships, breaking trust.

Consider reading Watchman Nee’s chapter in Normal Christian Worker “Loyal to the Truth.”

The Bible emphasizes our need to speak the truth, rather than man-pleasing (Eph. 4:15). Forms of lying are flattery, exaggeration, or omission (i.e. failing to speak the truth).

Commandment #10: “You shall not covet” (verse 17).

The NT emphasizes the sin of greed (see “The Bible and Materialism”).

Exodus 20:18-26 (The people fear God, but he wants them to reverence Him instead)

(20:18, 21) It’s interesting that the coming of the Law didn’t produce closeness with God. Instead, it caused them to want to retreat from God.

(20:19) They didn’t want to speak directly with God. They must have realized that the Law added to their inadequacy. They wanted Moses to intercede for them.

(20:20) This passage shows that there are two types of fear. One is “reverence” and the other is “terror.” God wants the former—not the latter.

(20:21-23) Why does he reiterate idolatry again? Would the people really be so eager to build an idol—especially since they were just so recently rescued from Egypt? Yes! In fact, in a few weeks, they will build the Golden Calf (Ex. 32).

(20:24-25) God wanted a simple Temple. He didn’t want works! Nothing flashy—just a basic temple.

(20:26) Hahahaha!

Exodus 21 (Case law)

(21:2-3) Hebrew slaves only served for six years—not for life. They also got to keep their family intact.

(21:4-6) If he chooses to marry and have kids, then in effect, he’s choosing to stay with the master.

(21:7-11) Both men and women were released on the seventh year (Deut. 15:12). Women couldn’t be sold into brutal slavery with the nations, which would be a horrific fate. He needed to treat her like a daughter if she married his son. If he doesn’t keep his end of the deal, then he needs to let her go.

(21:12-14) Premeditated murder was a capital crime. But for crimes of passion (?), they could go to a city of refuge. This would stop blood feuds, whereby the families would go back and forth with “honor killings,” a practice still popular today.

(21:15, 17) The family was a high priority in Israel.

(21:16) Kidnapping someone for the purpose of slavery was a capital crime. If this principle was applied to the ante-bellum South, slavery would have been virtually abolished.

(21:18-19) Non-mortal fights resulted in paying someone’s medical bill and loss of time at work.

(21:20-21) The same principle (vv.18-19) is applied to masters and servants. He doesn’t pay the servant, because the servant is in his economic debt.

(Ex. 21:21) Are slaves persons or property?

(Ex. 21:22-23) Are fetuses human beings or not?

(21:26-27) Servants were protected under the law.

(21:28-30) Accidents (like wild oxen deaths) were not punished, but neglect was punished. This passage shows that you could use lex talionis to barter.

(Ex. 21:29-30) Can we pay a ransom for murder or not?

(21:31-32) Servants were indentured and worth a lot of money, so the owner needed to be compensated as well.

(21:33-36) Again, neglect was punished.

Exodus 22

(22:1) It was a fivefold payback for stealing an ox, and a fourfold payback for a sheep. In the ancient Near East, stealing was punished by cutting off the hand or even death. God reserved capital punishment for non-materialistic crimes.

(22:2-3) The principle here seems to be that you couldn’t see the man at night. So self-defense is the guiding principle here, when you couldn’t see who was attacking you.

(22:3-4) The thief either needed to pay back what he stole or sell himself as a servant.

(22:5-6) Accidental crimes faced repayment of what was damaged.

(22:7-12) God could determine if someone was guilty of claiming that money was stolen, but really stole the money themselves. The accused would give an oath before God, and God would supernaturally determine if the person was guilty or innocent.

(22:13) You had to show proof of an accident.

(22:14-15) People were punished if the owner wasn’t present when the animal died. This must mean that the owner couldn’t know what had happened when he was away. But if he was there, then he could see what happened for himself.

(22:16-17) If a man fornicated with a virgin girl, the man needed to pay the dowry and marry her. The father could refuse the marriage and just collect the dowry for his daughter’s future husband.

(22:18-20) Why were all three of these offenses met with the death penalty? These all attack the faith or family of Israel. Deviate sexual practices or aberrant spiritual practices were considered especially serious.

(Ex. 22:18) Why were false teachers put to death?

(22:21-24) Exploitation (of foreigners or widows or orphans) was a sin based on the fact that the Jews themselves had been foreigners and slaves. God claims that he will execute anyone who does so.

(22:25-27) The poor couldn’t be exploited with interest on loans.

(22:28) Leadership should be respected.

(22:29) The people gave their sons to God. Either they would pay for them, or they would send them into service.

(Ex. 22:29) Does this passage condone human sacrifice?

(22:31) Was this for health reasons? The fact that the blood was in the animal? I’m not sure. It surely makes sense not to eat roadkill though!

Exodus 23

(23:1-3, 6-8) These commands deal with the importance of truth. Don’t be corrupted by evil people (v.1), the crowd (v.2), or someone’s poverty (v.3). We shouldn’t rule against a rich person—simply because they’re rich. On the other hand, don’t neglect the poor—just because they’re poor (v.6). Bribes pollute our minds (v.8).

(23:4-5) Help even those who hate you.

(23:10-11) The let land rest on the seventh year. Whatever grows on its own can be harvested by the poor.

(23:12) Servants and even animals had the right to rest on the Sabbath.

(23:13) Do not even speak the names of false gods.

(23:15-17) The Festival of Unleavened Bread was mandatory.

Foreshadowing in the Festival System

(23:19) The people were supposed to bring their very best to God—not their leftovers.

(Ex. 23:19) Why couldn’t the Jews boil a young goat in the milk of its mother?

(23:20-22) God led the people through the agency of a representative angel.

(23:23) God promised to wipe out the peoples in Canaan completely.

(23:24) The false religion was a key part of why God was judging them. This is because their worldview led to their immorality.

(23:25-26) God promises blessing if they continue to follow him.

(23:27-28) God promises to panic the people in Canaan in order to drive them out. It was only the hardcore remnant that chose to stay and fight.

(23:29-31) This supplanting of Canaan would be a slow process.

(23:32-33) Since the worldview was so insidious, the people were told to not dabble at all with these people. No compromise. See “What about the Canaanite Genocide?”

Exodus 24

(24:1-2) Moses took these 72 people with him up the mountain, but he had special access.

(24:3-8) This describes the agreement of the covenant. God gave a bilateral agreement, but the people needed to agree on their end (v.3, 7). Moses sealed the covenant with blood over the altar (v.6) and the people (v.8).

(24:9-11) Because of the blood of the covenant, the 72 could come into God’s presence, see his form, and eat a meal with him.

(Ex. 24:10) Can we see God or not? (c.f. Ex. 19:12-13)

(24:12-13) God gave the written contract to Moses and Joshua. Imagine what an honor this would be to hike with Moses.

(24:14-18) Moses put Aaron in charge while he was gone (v.14). God covered this mountain with a massive cloud, and Moses entered the cloud. He was gone for 40 days (v.18). While he was gone, the leadership allowed the people to fall into idolatry.


God is really showing just how separate he is from the people.

God wanted a written contract to remind the people.

Exodus 25-27 (The Tabernacle)

(Ex. 25:10-22) Did the Tabernacle worship and the ark of testimony foreshadow the work of Christ?

Exodus 28 (The priests)

(28:1-2) The priests should stand out as unique and special.

(28:3) God sent the Holy Spirit to guide the people to make unique garments for the priests.

(28:9-12) The priests would wear the names of the sons of Israel, as they performed their work (v.9). This was to show that the priests represented the people before God (v.12, 29).

(28:17-20) Notice that these stones mentioned are the same jewels and stones of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21-22.

(28:30) The priests were to represent God’s will for the people.

(28:43) If they didn’t wear these clothes (these “reminders” of their duties), they would be judged.

Exodus 29 (Consecration for priests)

(29:1-3) They prepared bull, ram, and bread offerings.

(29:4-9) Aaron and his sons were washed, dressed, and anointed with oil.

(29:10-14) They were to slaughter the bull, spread the blood, and burn the organs and dung outside the camp.

(29:15-21) The priests would lay hands on the rams, slaughter them, spread their blood, and burn the entire animal on the altar. For the second ram, slaughter it and apply the blood to the right earlobes, right thumbs, and right big toes. Finally, they were to sprinkle blood and anointing oil on Aaron and his sons.

(29:22-24) They burned the rest as a special offering to God.

(29:25) They burned up some of the baked bread to God.

(29:26) Even the parts they kept for themselves, they lifted up to God first.

(29:29) Aaron passed on his clothes after his death.

(29:35) This last seven days long.

(29:42-43) God promised to meet with the priests through this process.

(29:45-46) This is a fitting conclusion: The purpose of these ceremonies was so God would live among the people.

Exodus 30 (Census & Priests)

(30:1-10) Aaron was to burn incense to God and cleanse the altar.

(30:11-16) When they took a census, the people were to pay a ransom to avoid a plague. This was for people 20 years old and above (v.14). The poor and rich gave the same amount (v.15).

(30:17-38) The priests needed to wash themselves before entering the Tabernacle, or they would die (v.20). They also needed to be anointed with a special blend of oil that they were to make.

Exodus 31 (Tabernacle Art and Sabbath Law)

(31:1-12) God gave his Holy Spirit to the people to design and craft the Tabernacle.

(31:13-17) Breaking the Sabbath resulted in capital punishment.

(31:18) God concluded his covenant by giving Moses the written Law on the tablets of stone.

(Ex. 31:18) Does God have fingers?

Exodus 32 (The Golden Calf)

(32:1) The people began to wonder if Moses had left them. They ascribed to Moses the power of taking them from Egypt—rather than God.

(32:2-5) Aaron collected gold jewelry from the people and used it to create the golden calf. The people wanted to see a visible representation of God. Why did they choose a calf?

(32:6) Kaiser writes, “The verb ṣāḥaq signifies drunken, immoral orgies and sexual play (“’conjugal caresses’).”[10]

(32:7-10) God told Moses that he was going to judge the people for their idolatry. It’s interesting that the first major sin that the people fall into is idolatry and unbelief.

(Ex. 32:11-14) Did God change his mind?

(32:15-19) Moses came back down the mountain with the Ten Commandments in his hands and the sound of screaming in his ears. Joshua thought it was the sound of war, but as it turned out, it was something worse. It wasn’t an external enemy, but an internal one: idolatry.

(32:20) Why did he make the people drink the gold powder? It could be like making your dog smell the place on the carpet where he urinated.

(32:21-24) Aaron starts off with a reasonable excuse, but it quickly turns into the worst excuse ever: “They threw the gold in the fire, and out popped this calf!”

(32:25-30) Moses chose to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you wanted to be with God, then you needed to choose. The Levites (Aaron’s descendants) went with him. Moses called on them to execute the hardcore faction in Israel, who was still promoting idolatry. It couldn’t have been a complete execution, because then all the people would’ve been killed. Moreover, there were still people to exhort about their sin in the following verses (v.31ff).

(32:31-35) Moses tried to be an intercessor and substitute for the people, but God didn’t accept it. Later, he accepted the substitution of Jesus, because he was the only one who could rightfully substitute.


Strong leadership is important. Aaron gave in to pressure from the people. Later, he couldn’t even take ownership for failing.

Moses showed that he loved the people so much that he would pay for their sin. Quite a contrast in leadership.

This whole event occurred when the people were told to wait on God.

Exodus 33 (God’s “after effects”)

(33:1-6) God still gets behind his plan to send them to the Promised Land. But he offers them a stern rebuke: If he travelled with them, he would judge them. As a result, the people mourned their idolatry and wouldn’t wear their jewelry.

(33:7-11) Moses would meet with God in “the tent of meeting.” Moses stationed the tent outside of the camp—away from the people (see verses 1-6). God would talk with Moses face to face there. Joshua was allowed to be in the tent from time to time. This was Joshua’s training camp. Moses was grooming him for leadership.

(33:12-16) Moses starts to feel insecure about going to the Promised Land without God’s presence with them. His solution is that he wants to know God more fully and God’s will more fully.

(33:17-23) God says that Moses can’t get a direct blast of God’s presence, but he would reveal his “after effects.”

(Ex. 33:20) Can we see God or not?

Exodus 34 (Moses’ face glows)

(34:1) Is there any significance to the fact that Moses chisels the copy of the Ten Commandments, rather than being rewritten by “the finger of God”?

(34:2-3) God calls Moses to come back up to meet with him. What could God reveal to him that would be so important at this crossroads in his ministry? In the midst of the people falling into corporate idolatry and Moses rewriting the Ten Commandments, God reveals his character. This expression becomes a theme throughout the rest of the Pentateuch, the OT, and even the entire Bible. God’s most emphasized attribute is his love.

(34:6-7) There is tension in this verse. God is loving and forgiving, but he will also not let the guilty go unpunished. How will this be resolved?

(34:8-17) God promises to be with the people, but warns that they should not make a peace treaty with the Canaanites. If they do, the idolatry will have a seductive effect on their hearts.

(34:18-27) God reminds the people that they are to celebrate the feasts. Was this their cure (or inoculation) for idolatry? These were terms for the covenant (v.27).

(34:29-35) Paul picks up on this theme in 2 Corinthians 3. Even the Law brought a glorious light to Moses’ face. If the Law (the ministry of death) had this effect, how much more for those who spend time with God in the new covenant (the ministry of life)? He needed to veil his face it was so strong (v.33-35).


God resolves his love and justice (vv.6-7) in the person and work of Christ.

Andrew Murray compares our personal time with God to be similar to Moses: We “go up on the mountain” and we come back with our face glowing for our people. Can people see that I’ve been spending time with God regularly?

The people couldn’t wait on the Lord, so they built an idol. Moses waited, and so he got to see the real thing!

Exodus 35 (The people bring their precious commodities to build the Tabernacle)

This chapter is really juxtaposed with chapter 32, where they bring their gold to build the Golden Calf. It shows that we can use our gold for the world-system (the Golden Calf) or for the kingdom (the Tabernacle).

God commissions Bezalel to build the Tabernacle, and he filled him with his Holy Spirit to do so. This shows the importance of the Tabernacle, if God will give his Spirit to help him in this way.

Exodus 36 (Repeated instructions on the Tabernacle)

The people brought so much that Moses actually called off the giving campaign (v.6).

We already covered this in chapters 25-26.

Exodus 37-38 (Repeated instructions on the Ark)

We already covered this in chapter 25. One thing to note is how much Bezalel is focused on in these chapters, as the architect and artist behind the Tabernacle, Ark, and Altar.

Exodus 39 (Aaron’s clothing)

We already covered this in chapter 28.

There is an emphasis here on the fact that the Israelites followed everything that God commanded (vv.32-43). That might be why there is so much detail in these chapters—namely, the details are important.

Exodus 40 (Tabernacle worship)

Moses did everything as God commanded (v.33). It is in these terms (God’s terms) that God came and dwelt with the people. God’s presence was so powerful that even Moses couldn’t enter (vv.34-35). God’s presence gave the people a sense of direction and leading (vv.36-38).

[1] Merrill, Eugene H., Mark F. Rooker, and Michael A. Grisanti. The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2011. 190.

[2] Francis Schaeffer, No Little People (Crossway, 2003), 25.

[3] Henrichsen, Walter. Disciples Are Made Not Born. Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Industry, 2002. 41.

[4] Kaiser, W. C., Jr. (1990). Exodus. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 387). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[5] Kaiser, W. C., Jr. (1990). Exodus. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 394). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[6] Kaiser, W. C., Jr. (1990). Exodus. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 399). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[7] Kaiser, W. C., Jr. (1990). Exodus. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 403). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[8] Cole, R. A. (1973). Exodus: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 2, p. 162). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[9] Cole, R. A. (1973). Exodus: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 2, p. 161). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[10] Kaiser, W. C., Jr. (1990). Exodus. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 478). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.