The Book of Genesis ends with Israel settling in Egypt to escape famine. The Book of Exodus tells of Israel’s enslavement and exodus (mass departure) from Egypt through the hand of Moses. On their way from Egypt to the Promised Land (Cannan, the land promised to Abraham), they camp at Mt. Sinai. God gives them his law (e.g. The Ten Commandments) and instructs them how to build the Tabernacle (a place where his personal presence can dwell with them).
Note: Abraham’s descendants are most commonly called “Israel” (i.e. the nation/people of Israel), “Israelites,” or “Hebrews” from this point on.
Reading & Summaries
READ: EXODUS 1-3
Summary: Israel multiplies in Egypt. A new Pharaoh fears the growing population; he oppresses Israel as slaves and orders the midwives to kill the male children. Moses is born and hidden by his Hebrew parents. Pharaoh’s daughter finds him and raises him in Pharaoh’s household.
Moses tries to return to his people, but they reject him; Moses flees to the land of Midian where he marries Zipporah and works as a shepherd, God appears to him in the form of a burning bush. God, having remembered the groaning of his enslaved people, calls Moses to confront Pharaoh and lead Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land (Canaan, the land promised to Abraham).
READ: EXODUS 4:1-6:13
Summary: God reassures Moses of his call with powerful signs. Moses is insecure because of a speech impediment, so God agrees to allow Aaron (Moses’ brother) to go with him and speak to Pharaoh. Moses returns to Egypt and stands before Pharoah, who refuses to let Israel go and increases the Israelites’ burden—requiring them to make bricks without providing them the straw. God reassures Moses that he will deliver his people and lead them into the Promised Land.
FAQ — Why did God seek to kill Moses (Ex. 4:24-25)? God threatened to put Moses to death because Moses had failed to circumcise his child. Moses’ Midianite wife Zipporah found circumcision repulsive and likely convinced Moses to forego the procedure. But God took circumcision very seriously because it was the sign of the covenant. To save her husband’s life, Zipporah cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at Moses’ feet declaring, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!”
READ EXODUS 11-12
Filling in the Gaps — The Ten Plagues: When Pharaoh again refuses to let Israel go, God sends ten plagues on the land of Egypt (e.g. in the first plague, the Nile river is turned to blood; in the eighth plague, a swarm of locusts ravages the land). The plagues make a mockery of the Egyptians’ false gods and show that the God of Moses and Aaron is the one true and living God (e.g. the ninth plague of darkness mocks the Egyptian sun god, Ra).
Summary (ch. 11-12): In his final plague on Egypt, God sends an angel to pass over every home and kill the firstborn son. Those who spread the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their houses are spared. The afflicted Egyptians urge the Israelites to leave the land, and they do. To commemorate God’s deliverance, an annual Passover meal is instituted followed by a seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Type of Christ — The Passover Lamb: When God’s wrath was poured out, Israel’s only hope was in the lamb. God told Israel, “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Ex. 11:13). The New Testament teaches that “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7). If we have the blood of Jesus applied to our hearts, God will pass over us when he comes to judge the world.
READ: EXODUS 13-15
Summary: God gives instructions concerning the firstborn and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. God leads his people by a “pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night” (13:22); he leads them “around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea” (13:18).
Pharoah and the Egyptians change their mind about letting Israel go and pursue them to the Red Sea. God parts the sea for Israel, then collapses the water on the Egyptian army. Moses and Israel sing a song of praise to God: “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (15:2). Miriam, Moses’ sister, leads the women in celebration.
Israel travels into the wilderness. When they grumble because the water is polluted, God turns it into pure drinking water. God promises to be their healer if they obey him.
READ EXODUS 16-18
Summary: Israel grumbles because they are hungry; God provides bread from heaven. When Israel grumbles and doubts the Lord’s presence because they are thirsty, God tells Moses to strike a rock and water comes out.
Israel, led in battle by Joshua, defeats the Amalekite army. Moses’ father-in-law Jethro hears of Israel’s exploits and visits Moses in the wilderness. Jethro advises Moses to appoint men to help decide the disputes that the Israelites were bringing to him.
Type of Christ — Bread from Heaven: God allowed Israel to hunger so that he could send bread from heaven and teach them that all life is a gift from above. Jesus said, “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness…. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. … I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger” (Jn. 6:31-35). God sent his Son from heaven to be our spiritual food; whoever partakes of Jesus by faith will enjoy eternal life.
When exercises require a written response, record your answers in a journal or email them to a pastor or class leader who will provide you with feedback.
- What questions do you have about this week’s reading?
- How do the Hebrew midwives set an example of appropriate civil disobedience (Ex. 1:15-21)?
- How is God’s sovereignty demonstrated in Moses’ early life?
- What does Exodus 2:23-24 teach us about the character of God?
- What are the implications of the name that God calls himself in Exodus 3:14? How does this help us to understand what Jesus says in John 8:58, and why the religious leaders immediately picked up stones to kill him?
- What acts of faith is Moses praised for in Hebrews 11:23-29?
- When God told Moses to confront Pharaoh, Moses was hesitant (Ex. 4:10). What insecurities do you have that may hold you back from doing God’s will in your life?
- What similarities are there between the Passover lamb and Jesus?
- Why did God destroy the Egyptian army (Ex. 14:4)?
- List five to seven attributes of God that are praised in the song of Moses (Ex. 15:1-18). Which attribute does the Psalmist see evidenced in Israel’s exodus (Ps. 136)?