Exodus picks up the plotline in Moses own generation, just before his birth. Several hundred years have passed since the end of Genesis and the people have become numerous in Egypt, but then oppressed by a Pharaoh who has forgotten their legacy as Egypt's Saviours under Joseph.
The plotline moves from the birth of Moses, advancing quickly 80 years forward by chapter 4, with the rest of the book taking place over the subsequent weeks. The clock will barely advance until Numbers 10 when the people depart Sinai and begin to wander for 40 years in the wilderness up to the death of Moses at 120 years old, at the end of Deuteronomy.
Exodus 1-4 Prologue, in which Moses is born, grows up in the royal household, flees and then encounters the Angel of the LORD who calls Moses to lead the liberation of his people.
Exodus 5-14 Confrontation between the LORD and the Serpent-like Pharaoh.
Exodus 15-19 Journey to Sinai
Exodus 20-40 At Sinai
- 20-23 Law
- 24 Meal with Jesus
- 25-31 Tabernacle
- 32-34 Golden Calf and Moses' seeing the LORD
- 35-40 Tabernacle
The storyline is about setting slaves free to bring them to close relationship with their Saviour. Having come to Egypt under Saviour Joseph the good is forgotten and now oppression comes... the Pharaoh is striking at the people of God. A great battle is staged between The LORD and the Pharaoh. The climax, a dark night when The Angel of the LORD passes through in judgement but houses daubed in blood are spared... a magnificent and explicit picture of what is achieved through the death of Jesus - he who judged Egypt will be the slain lamb.
The LORD fights for their freedom but they'll quickly grumble on their way to meet with him. The centre of their meeting with him will be a meal to which the elders are invited to represent the people... and then instructions are given for the dwelling of God to be among his people in a tent at the heart of their camp.
They betray their Saviour but are spared as Moses intercedes for them face to face with the LORD - as with a friend, marked by the meeting with a shining face. Notice, in chapter 33, what makes the people distinctively "holy" - it's that the LORD goes with them. They're instructed to live differently through the law, whose main focus is on protecting the widow, foreigner and orphan - but it'll be the presence of God with them that marks them out. Anyone can care, but it's God's gift to make his home with his people.
Issues in Exodus?
The fast moving drama of Exodus 1-19 probably wont throw up two many issues. The challenges come mostly between Exodus 20-23 when the "ten commandments" and others laws are given. To frame our reading we need to keep in view that these are words given to a rescued people - there is no sense in which the people are saved by doing these things, but rather these are how to live as a community once you've been rescued... and particularly, how these people who were rescued from Egypt should live. Their way of life will reflect God's jealous affection for them, and his concern for the orphan, foreigner and widow who ordinarily would be unable to provide for themselves... so provision is made for them. One of the hardest verses calls for a rapist to marry his victim. The initial situation is unthinkably horrible, and there aren't easy answers here... what we can see is that this acts both as a deterrent... rape someone and you have to give them all the privileges and benefits of marriage, and as a provision to protect a victim by ensuring they're not destitute. Any attempt to smooth this over probably fails. It's ok to have questions and sometimes we have to live with unresolved issues, saying: I know this and this, but not this.
As a whole Exodus tells the story of salvation - a people rescued from slavery to live in the presence of God. A story that tells us we're not slaves but sons, we're not meant to be oppressed but to be welcomed.
More: Exodus Series - blog series
Another introduction to Exodus.