The title Exodus is carried over from the title in the Greek Septuagint Bible, without translation. Exodus in Greek means “departure” or “a way out.” It is a word still seen on signs in Greece to this day for “exit.” The exit or departure referred to by this title is the miraculous escape of the Israelite tribes from what had become for them, long after the time of their favored ancestor Joseph, a situation of forced slave labor. A key verse in the first chapter (1.8) reports the shift in power to a Pharaoh who “knew not Joseph,” and who set the Israelites under cruel taskmasters to enforce their labors. It is possible that this power shift occurred when the Egyptians of the Eighteenth Dynasty regained control of the Nile Delta region from the interloping Hyksos rulers, a Semitic people who had invaded and gained control of the Delta between 1700 to about 1580 b.c.
The narrative of Exodus reports that God had heard the despairing outcry of the oppressed people, and began to work on their behalf through the leadership of Moses, an Israelite who had been raised in the royal court. Moses was forced to flee for his life after he killed one of the violent taskmasters. While hiding out in the Sinai region he encountered God in the numinous burning bush (3.2). With a promise of divine help, God instructed him to return to Egypt and demand of Pharaoh that he “let my people go” (5.1). After many false starts Moses finally won the freedom of his people and permission to leave Egypt and return to that land long ago promised to the Israelites' ancestor Abraham, a land none in this distant generation had ever seen. The Pharaoh grudgingly gave his approval for the Israelites' departure only after enduring a long series of devastating plagues. When he finally yielded, it happened suddenly just as the Israelites were celebrating Passover, which at that time was an agricultural festival at which sacrifices were made for the health of the flocks. But from that point on the meaning of Passover took on a radically new meaning for the Hebrew people—a festival of liberation and freedom, of an exodus from enslavement.
On the way to the Promised Land, God appeared to Moses at Mount Sinai, giving him the Ten Commandments and inaugurating with Moses and the people a covenant relationship with promises of mutual faithfulness between God and the people. Exodus concludes with lengthy instructions for constructing the ark of the testimony (covenant) and the moveable tabernacle (tent) for worship of God.
The Hebrew People Suffer in the Land of Egypt (1.1-22)
Moses' Birth, Early Life, and Call to Serve God (2.1—4.31)
Moses and Aaron Confront Pharaoh and God Sends Ten Plagues (5.1—11.10)
The Passover and the Hurried Departure from Egypt (12.1—15.21)
Moses Leads the People through the Sea to Mount Sinai (15.22—18.27)
God Makes a Covenant with the People and Gives the Ten Commandments (19.1—24.18)
Instructions for the Religious Life of the People: The Tabernacle, Its Furnishings, and the Ark of the Covenant (25.1—40.38)
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