Exodus is one of the five books of the Torah that was written by Moses during the 38+ years of wandering in the Wilderness. The Hebrew name for the book is the Hebrew title of the book is ‘Shemot’. Shemot (pronounced shMOTE) means ‘Names’. This may seem strange to us, but the Hebrews named the books of the Torah by the first words of the books. Exodus 1:1 “And these are the Names…”
Exodus is “the West’s meta-narrative of hope”. It is a revolutionary book in which God intervenes in human history to help a group of slaves against one of the ancient world’s powerhouses. But it is a political story as well. It is not a simple story of good versus evil but rather a critique of the politics of power, empires, hierarchical societies and the division of populations into free people and slaves. In place of the society based on power, the Torah offers politics based on a covenant, in which people agreed freely to grant “absolute sovereignty” to God. However, Exodus also tells a double story: God intervened to free people, and “people sustain freedom by their own efforts.” (Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Exodus: The Book of Redemption)
The central event of the Book of Exodus is the Passover, the Lamb’s blood on the doorpost to save the firstborn Israelites from death. This is the story of our great escape – Jesus is the Passover Lamb of God, and if we are followers of Him, we have been grafted into the Israel of God and escaped the captivity to sin.
The study has a subtitle: “The Book we thought we knew.” Of all the Books in the OT, the storyline of Exodus is probably the most familiar for Christians – but do we really know the story?
- Why did God wait so long to rescue them?
- Doesn’t the name ‘Passover’ seem a bit strange? Why not just call it ‘Freedom Day’, or ‘Independence Day’? [i]
- And did the Exodus have to be so complicated? Couldn’t an All-Powerful God have just teleported the Israelites out of Egypt and spared everyone the grueling process of the Ten Plagues? And – Why Ten, why not 5?
- And the Book of Exodus contains some uncomfortable parts – for example, why, exactly, did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Was that really fair? Why did so many innocent Egyptian firstborns have to die?
The fact that God did not purse an easier and quicker road to freedom indicates that there is some other agenda at work in Exodus.
[i] Questions posed by Rabbi David Fohrman in his excellent book The Exodus You Almost Passed Over.