Authorship and Audience

According to tradition (both Jewish and Christian), Moses wrote all of the books in the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). See the notes for Genesis for more details.

Date and Historical Context

Assuming Moses wrote the Pentateuch, it would have been written during Moses' lifetime. Refer to the notes for Genesis for a discussion of when this may have occurred.

Theological Theme(s)

  • God claims Israel as His People. Although we have traced the development of the line of Israel in Genesis, it is not until the book of Exodus that God officially claims Israel as His own and forms a covenant with her. Exodus 1 through 15:21 detail God's liberation and defense of his people. In Exodus 4:22-23, we see that God is treating Israel as His own, firstborn child. As such, we see God as a King who doing battle with Pharaoh and the Egyptian Gods for the sake of His people. For example, in Exodus 12:12 God describes the killing of all the firstborn in Egypt as a judgement "against all the gods of Egypt" (see also Numbers 33:4). In Exodus 3:20-22, God promises Moses that Israel will "plunder" the Egyptians as they leave Egypt (which comes true in 12:35-36). In Exodus 5:1-2, Pharaoh refuses to recognize Yahweh's authority and let His people go free. The first portion of the book of Exodus is presented as a war between two gods (God and Pharaoh). God is defending His people because they are considered His firstborn son (see 4:21-23) and He is working to fulfill the promises He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see 6:7-8).
  • How can a Holy God relate to an Unholy People? From Exodus 15:22 through the end of the book, Israel has been liberated from Egypt by God and a question quickly arises. If Israel is unfaithful, how can God (who is holy) dwell with this people (who are unholy)? In Exodus 15:22 - 34, God's standards are laid out and we clearly see that Israel will be unfaithful to God. In fact, Israel's quickness to be unfaithful to God as described in Exodus is truly stunning. To cite a few examples, consider the golden calf incident. In chapter twenty four of this book, Israel ratifies a covenant with God (see Exodus 24:7-8). After Moses goes back up onto Mount Sinai for forty days to receive the plans for the tabernacle, the people violate the second commandment by creating an idol to represent God. Only forty days and the people are breaking the second commandment! For another example, notice the dramatic shift from praising God for His power in 15:1-21 to grumbling in 15:22-27. This is graphic testimony to the depths of man's sinfulness and inability to faithfully follow God of ourselves. With this in mind, the rest of the book of Exodus begins to lay out some guidelines for how the holy and faithful God will relate to His unholy and unfaithful people. We see this evidenced in the instructions for the tabernacle and the start of the sacrificial system.


0. Israel in Egypt [1 - 15:21]

A. Introduction [1]

B. Moses's Birth, Life, and Calling [2 - 4]

C. Pharaoh Refuses to Acknowledge Yahweh's Authority and Yahweh Promises Action [5 - 7:7]

D. Plagues and Signs [7:8 - 12:32]

E. Exodus from Egypt [12:33 - 15:21]

I. Israel in Wilderness (in Route to Promised Land) [15:22 - 40]

A. Journey to Mount Sinai [15:22 - 18]

B. Moses on Sinai Gets Stipulations of the Covenant Between God and Israel [19 - 23]

C. People Ratify Covenant with God [24:1-11]

D. Moses on Sinai Gets Instructions for the Tabernacle [24:12 - 31]

E. Israel Breaks the Covenant [32]

F. God Remains Faithful to Israel and Fellowship is Restored and the Covenant Renewed [33 - 34]

G. Work Begins on the Tabernacle [35 - 40:33]

H. Glory of God Fills the Tabernacle [40:34-38]


  • Like Genesis, the main character in this book is God. He is the one who defeats the Egyptian gods and frees His people. He is also the one who establishes the basis of the relationship between Israel and Himself. This is important to notice. Israel was not able to set the standards for how they would interact with God. They could only come to God on His terms.
  • When we consider the depth and speed of Israel's changes from worship to sin, let us not think for a second that we are exempt from the same exact behavior. As Israel did, so would we have done and so would we be doing still but for the grace of God. Any faithfulness in us is only present because God is at work in us (see Philippians 2:12-13).
  • Israel's inability to keep a covenant with God lays the groundwork for the book of Leviticus and the rest of the Pentateuch which establishes how a holy God can live in the midst of this people without killing them.
  • In Exodus 34:11-17, God warns Moses about the dangers of idolatry which Israel will face when they enter the promised land. In this passage, God establishes that to worship the idols of those living in the promised land is to "play the harlot with their gods". In other words, following any other God but the true One is spiritual adultery. Sin, especially that of idolatry, really is a big deal. Take a moment to consider the fact that we are not exempt from idolatry even though very few of us would consider worshiping a golden calf. Idolatry doesn't require a golden calf. As Paul says in Colossians 3:5, "Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed, which amounts to idolatry." (emphasis is mine). Greed for money, power, sex, fame, you-name-it is idolatry. You are no longer worshiping the true God who is worthy of our worship, but are committing adultery with gods of your own making.

Further Research

  • Why does God say He is "going to make a covenant" in Exodus 34:10 when he already has? Around Exodus 34:27-28, whey does it say taht the covenant is based on the things God just said (which are not the ten words), but then Moses writes down the 10 words?

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