Old Testament Survey - Lesson 7

Exodus from Egypt

This lesson is on the transition from Genesis to Exodus, examining the Exodus event's pivotal role in transforming Israel from a chosen family to a nation. It shows the theological foundations of the Torah, exploring the continuity through Exodus to Numbers, and emphasizing Exodus as a key moment of physical and spiritual liberation under God's covenant at Sinai. 

Daniel Block
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 7
Watching Now
Exodus from Egypt

I. Introduction to Exodus

A. Transition from Genesis to Exodus

B. Overview of Exodus to Deuteronomy as a Continuous Narrative

1. Role of Exodus in the Torah

2. Linkage between Exodus and Numbers

II. Theological Interpretation of the Exodus

A. Historical versus Theological Reading

1. Critiques of the Historical Narrative

2. Theological Insights from Exodus Events

B. Importance of the Exodus in Israelite Identity

1. Statistical Significance in the First Testament

2. Basis of National Identity and Theological Reflection

III. Narrative and Themes of Exodus

A. Major Events and Characters

1. Yahweh's Redemptive Acts

2. Moses as the Central Figure

B. Exodus as a Revelation of God's Character

1. Demonstrations of God's Power and Grace

2. Reflections in Later Biblical Texts

IV. Detailed Analysis of Exodus 1-18

A. Early Chapters: Crisis and Call of Moses

1. Pharaoh's Oppression and Yahweh's Response

2. The Calling of Moses and His Reluctance

B. The Plagues and Their Significance

1. The Ten Plagues as Acts of Judgment

2. Preparations for the Passover and Exodus

C. The Actual Exodus

1. Departure and Initial Journey

2. Crossing the Red Sea and Its Aftermath

V. Implications and Reflections on Exodus

A. Covenant and Law in the Wilderness

1. Establishment of Laws and Festivals

2. Continuous Impact on Israelite Culture and Religion

B. Exodus Narratives in New Testament Imagery

1. New Testament References and Allusions

2. Theological and Ethical Reflections in Christian Scripture

VI. Conclusion and Theological Insights

A. Comprehensive Understanding of God's Actions in Exodus

1. Theological Duality of God's Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

2. The Role of Exodus in Biblical Theology

  • Learning about the First Testament's language, geographical, and cultural contexts, and how these factors contribute to its frequent misinterpretation and underappreciation in modern times.
  • Gain insights into the literary and cosmic foundations of grace and glory in the Torah, understanding its role as more than law.
  • Learn that to be made in God's image entails embodying divine qualities and functioning as His representative on Earth, which extends a universal dignity upon all humans and shapes a theological ethic that influences how you treat others.
  • Genesis 1-3 frames human response to divine creation, emphasizing human dignity, work's moral role, free will's consequences, and the persistent grace amid sin.
  • This lesson reviews the Israelite covenant, understanding its stages, implications, and its role in God's redemptive plan.
  • Gain insights into Abraham's covenant with God, exploring his faith and God's promises.
  • Learn how the Exodus from Egypt marked Israel's transformation from a family to a nation under Yahweh.
  • Understand how the covenant at Sinai transforms Israel from slaves into a treasured nation destined for a divine mission, fulfilling God's ancient promises.
  • This lesson covers the covenantal expectations at Sinai. The covenantal agreement provided a constitutional and ethical framework for societal living, focusing on community rights and responsibilities.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into how the tabernacle was both a physical manifestation of God's presence and a profound symbol of His grace, emphasizing the holiness and detailed guidance He provided to the Israelites for worship and daily life.
  • Gain insights into Deuteronomy, recognizing its focus on teaching rather than legislation, and understanding Moses' role as an instructor of Yahweh's will.
  • In this lesson, you explore how to interpret the First Testament's historiographic writings, emphasizing the divine inspiration and literary artistry that guide the selective storytelling and theological themes.
  • Learn how the books of Joshua and Judges illustrate the fulfillment and failure of Israel's covenant with Yahweh, highlighting divine promise, cultural assimilation, and the cyclical nature of faith and apostasy.
  • The Book of Ruth, highlights divine providence, social justice, and personal righteousness while exploring the role of Boaz as a pivotal figure in maintaining the lineage of King David.
  • Samuel had a significant yet complex role in Israel's history; judge, priest, prophet, and crucial figure in establishing monarchy.
  • Learn of David's central role in the Bible, understanding his unique portrayal and the extensive attention he receives compared to other figures.
  • Learn about the Davidic covenant's role in shaping biblical history and theology, emphasizing its eternal impact on Israel and beyond.
  • The books of Kings and Chronicles use historical events to underline theological themes, highlighting the role of scribes in documenting Israel’s history.
  • In this lesson on 1 and 2 Kings, review the downfall of Israel through kings' forgetfulness of God's covenants.
  • Learn about Solomon's temple's historical and theological significance, its divine design and purpose, and its role in Israelite worship and communal life.
  • Gain insights into the transformation and resilience of the Judean people during their exile in Babylon from 586-539 BC, exploring their struggles and adaptations in a new socio-political and religious context.
  • Learn about Daniel's exemplary life in Babylon, his integrity, and his prophetic visions, which highlight divine sovereignty and the vindication of the faithful amidst calamities.
  • Review the Persian period's impact on the Jewish diaspora, analyze the Book of Esther's literary and theological significance, and reflect on divine providence and cultural identity.
  • Explore the crucial roles of Ezra and Nehemiah in reconstructing the Jewish community and faith post-exile, understanding their historical significance, source materials, and theological insights.
  • Gain insight into the roles and significance of prophets in ancient Israel, learning about their historical context, and their critical function in guiding and correcting the nation through direct communication from Yahweh.
  • Learn about the lives and ministries of prophets Amos and Hosea, their calls for justice and return to divine covenant amidst Israel's political and spiritual turmoil, through prophetic books that blend personal biography with national prophecy.
  • This lesson reviews Jonah's struggle with divine grace and Micah's advocacy for justice and the messianic hope.
  • In this lesson, you learn how Isaiah's vision portrays the Messiah as king, servant, and conqueror, emphasizing his divine roles and global mission.
  • Learn of the political and social contexts of Jeremiah and Ezekiel's exile, including Babylon's rise, Jerusalem's fall, and the crisis of faith portrayed in Lamentations, emphasizing hope amid despair through God's faithfulness.
  • Learn about Jeremiah's life and prophetic ministry, navigating challenges with kings, themes in the Book of Jeremiah, and profound passages on true religion and a future covenant, offering lessons on prophetic burdens, God's faithfulness, and spiritual transformation.
  • Explore Ezekiel's life as a priest in exile, his bizarre actions, and profound messages revealing Yahweh's passion and eternal promises of judgment and restoration.
  • Learn about Nahum and Joel's prophecies on judgment, hope, and Yahweh's character. Explore the day of the Lord and the expansion of the covenant community.
  • Explore Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah's prophecies. Discover themes of judgment, faith, and restoration in God's plan.
  • Gain insight into Haggai's role in motivating temple rebuilding during the Persian rule. His brief yet impactful ministry fosters hope and action amid community disillusionment, recoginizing God's presence and reign.
  • Gain deep insight into Hebrew poetry: its forms, parallelism, acrostics, and emotional depth. Explore its celebration and lamentation of Yahweh's glory.
  • Gain insight into Psalms which reflect diverse emotions and experiences. Structured into five divisions, attributed to various authors, their interpretation involves understanding Torah context, literary devices, and applying timeless principles to life.
  • Explore biblical wisdom's depth: from practical skill to moral insight, rooted in the fear of Yahweh. It contrasts with secular knowledge, emphasizing God's order and universal application.
  • Engage with Proverbs to unravel its diverse wisdom, from aphorisms to discourses. Understand its practical guidance for righteous living and leadership.
  • Discover the Song of Songs, a rich exploration of love's nature. From its allegorical interpretations to its celebration of covenantal love, it examines human relationships with wisdom and depth.
  • The book of Job offers insights into faith and suffering, exploring theological themes and character dynamics. It emphasizes trust in God amid life's most difficult trials.
  • Uncover Ecclesiastes' profound journey from despair to hope. Koheleth's existential ponderings contrast with the narrator's faith, urging a shift from worldly pursuits to finding fulfillment in God's sovereignty.

This Old Testament Survey course offers a deep exploration of the Old Testament's literary structure, divine covenants, and historical context. Lessons cover the Pentateuch, emphasizing its narrative over legalistic interpretations, and extend through key biblical figures like Abraham and Moses. Topics such as the covenant at Sinai, the concept of imago Dei, and the tabernacle rituals highlight the continuity of God's grace and the ethical implications of divine laws. The course critically addresses common misconceptions, the role of the Torah as instruction, and the portrayal of God’s plan, underscoring the relevance and complexity of these ancient texts.

Dr. Daniel Block 
Old Testament Survey
Exodus from Egypt
Lesson Transcript


In this lesson, we are making the transition from the book of Genesis to the book of Exodus, dealing with the actual Exodus of Israel from Egypt, which signals the transition from chosen family to chosen nation, Exodus 1-1 to 1827. While tradition treats Genesis to Deuteronomy as a unity, that is, the Torah, Genesis functions as a prologue and Deuteronomy as the epilogue to the main event, the Exodus of Israel from Egypt and the constitution of these descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as the people of Yahweh at Sinai. The narratives describing the Exodus and related events take up the entire books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers.

In terms of substance and grammar, Exodus to Numbers reads like a continuous narrative. The linkage is clearly illustrated by Exodus 16-18, which is composed as the first phase of the wilderness wanderings described in the book of Numbers. Deuteronomy, which is presented as a Moses on the eastern side of the Jordan, this book is linked to this material by the towering figure of the preacher, repeated references to the events associated with the Exodus, and parallel prescriptive legislation.

Literarily and contextually, however, Deuteronomy stands on its own. Exodus 1-18 offers among the most exciting reading in the entire First Testament, capturing the drama of this momentous event and portraying a fascinating cast of characters. Many critical scholars treat these accounts as legendary embellishments of a great character, Moses, and as mythical portrayals of natural events, the plagues, crossing the Red Sea, the manna, the phenomena at Sinai.

But these are best interpreted as theological and sermonic presentations of real historical events. We need to reflect on the importance of the Exodus event in biblical history and the Israelite story. First, the Exodus was the great redemptive act of Yahweh by which the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were constituted the people of Yahweh and to which Israel must respond with gratitude and obedience.

The importance of the Exodus event in ancient Israelite thought is reflected in the fact that 13.2% of the First Testament concerns only 4% of Israel's history. 13.2% dealing with 4% of their actual history. The deliverance from Egypt became the basis of Israel's national identity and self-consciousness.

We compare this with Jeroboam's speech inaugurating the worship of the calves at Bethel and Dan in 1 Kings 12.28. In their appeals to the people to return to their God, later prophets consistently reminded them of their origins in the gracious acts of God, His mighty acts of redemption. Second, the Exodus represented the occasion of the Lord's supreme self-revelation. Not only do these events demonstrate His supremacy over all powers and principalities, but they also reveal Him as a gracious and covenant-keeping God.

To Israel, the event was the supreme demonstration of the Lord's grace. He had summoned this enslaved people to liberty and relationship with Himself in fulfillment of His promises to the patriarchs. Later writings often appeal to the self-revelation of God in these events.

In the historiographic books, we see it in Joshua 2, 9-11, Judges 6, 8, 9, 13, 1 Samuel 12, 6-8, 1 Kings 8, 51, 2 Chronicles 7, 22. In the Psalms, it's a repeated fame in 77, 78, 80, 106, and 136. And in the prophets, we hear the prophets appealing to the Israelites to remember the Exodus and get back to the relationship which God had established with you there.

And frequently, the future restoration of the nation is described in terms of a new Exodus that actually makes the original one look like kindergarten. But we need to talk about the grace of salvation in the Exodus. This is a great moment of God's power and His grace.

Deuteronomy 4, 32-40 reflects on this event. Now inquire concerning the days that are past, which were before you. Since the day that God created human beings on earth, inquire from one end of the heaven to the other whether a great event like this has ever happened or was ever heard of.

Has any people ever heard the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire as you have heard it and survived? Or has any God ever dared to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation by daring acts, by signs and wonders, by war and a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great acts of terror, all of which Yahweh did for your sake in Egypt before your very eyes? You were shown these things so you might know that Yahweh is God. There is no other besides Him. From heaven He let you hear His voice so He might discipline you, and on earth He let you see His great fire so He could speak to you, and you heard His words out of the midst of the fire.

And grounded in His love for your ancestors, He chose their descendants after them and personally brought them out of Egypt with a great show of force that He might drive out before you nations greater and more powerful than you and give you their land as your grant as it is today. Therefore, acknowledge today, fix it firmly in your mind that Yahweh is God in heaven above and on the earth below. So listen to the ordinances and commands that I command you today, and you and your descendants after you will flourish, and your time will be long on the land that Yahweh your God is giving you for all time.

Deuteronomy 4, 32 to 40. We cannot understand the rest of the first testament if we do not grasp the revelatory significance of this moment. In His grace, God delivers His people, calls them to Himself, and discloses His character and will to them.

But the Exodus narratives not only recount the events associated with Israel's salvation, they also lay the groundwork for Israel's ethic and cult. In many respects, Exodus to Numbers represents the constitution of Israel governing every aspect of the people's lives. These events are reflected in the annual festivals, Passover, Tabernacles, and the Festival of Weeks, which call upon the citizens of every generation to identify with the original redeemed population and to renew or actualize Yahweh's covenant claims upon themselves.

But the Exodus narratives also provide the basis for much of New Testament imagery. Matthew 2 to 7 is structured after the descent, desert temptation, and Mount Sermon. But see also John 1, 14 to 15, 1 Corinthians 10, 2 Corinthians 5 and 6, 14 to 18.

So let's take a quick look at the Exodus chapters 1 to 18. The theme of the book of Exodus as a whole is Yahweh's grace demonstrated in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, the establishment of his covenant with his people, and his establishment of his residence in their midst. Chapters 1 to 8 develop the first part of this message of grace.

So we begin with the historical background to the deliverance, chapters 1 through 4. In 1 to 225, the narrator sets the stage for the deliverance by describing the crisis that Yahweh creates, making the Exodus necessary, 1 to 7. Then Pharaoh's response to the crisis, verses 8 to 22. Then the Lord's preparation of a deliverer from the crisis, and this is chapter 2, verses 1 to 22, which has two parts. One, the birth of the deliverer, verses 1 to 10, and then the exile of the deliverer, verses 11 to 22.

But in some senses, many people consider the center of gravity of the first four chapters to be the call of the deliverer. This is chapter 3, verse 1 to 431. In verse 1 of chapter 3, we have the context of the call.

Moses is in Midian. Then you have the description of the arresting theophany. He sees this burning bush, and he says, I've got to step over to see what's happening.

But then the Lord responds and says, Moses, Moses, take off your shoes. The ground on which you're standing is holy ground. And this sets the stage for the wrestling match that follows.

This wrestling match has two particular parts. There is setting the stage, the Lord's challenge to Moses. I want you to go and get my people out of Egypt.

But then we have five rounds of wrestling, tussling, each of which begins with an objection from Moses. In chapter 3, verses 7 to 12, Moses says, who me? I am nobody. I can't get these people out of Egypt.

Why would you call me? And the Lord's response is, it's not who you are that matters. He says, I am with you. That's what matters.

Round two, verses 13 to 22, Moses objects, who me? I have no authority. And the Lord's response is, but I do. I am the God of your fathers.

Go in my name. Round three, verses 1 to 9, in chapter 4, verses 1 to 9, Moses objection, who me? I have no credibility. They will not believe me.

And the Lord's response, let me take care of that by providing you with some authenticating signs. And he gives them three signs that he is in fact the one commissioned by God. And then round four, verses 10 to 12 of chapter 4, Moses objection, who me? I have no talent.

I can't do this. And the Lord's response is, that's my problem, not yours. He says, my lips can't work in this one.

And God says, who made your lips? That's my problem, not yours. And then we have round five, Moses objection, who me? I'm not going. Send anybody you want, but not me.

And the Lord's response, the nose of Yahweh burns. I love that metaphor. I think it's taken from observing horses.

I grew up on a farm, and we had horses, and we learned very quickly that if you ever see the nostrils of a horse turning red, it's time to get out of there. Something unpleasant is about to happen. The Lord's nose burns, but he says nothing.

He says nothing. The next thing we know is Moses is up, and he's headed for Egypt. This is chapter 4, verses 18 to 31.

So, who won this wrestling bout? Obviously, the Lord did, and Moses gave in. It's interesting. Towards the end of the Sinai experience, there's another wrestling bout, and in that one, the Lord lets Moses win.

We'll get to that in due course. Verses 18 to 31 describe Moses' return to Egypt, and then the drama starts. Chapter 5, verses 1 to 11, Moses is standing in the presence of Pharaoh.

His opening challenge in 5, 1 to 6, 27, he begins with, the Lord says, let my people go. Chapter 5, verses 1 to 3, but Pharaoh is stubborn. In verses 4 to 21, he resists, and he absolutely denies this request, which then leads to the renewal of Moses' commission in chapter 5, 22 to 6, 13, the end of which is, oh, and a by-the-way kind of statement in which the narrator just pauses.

Perhaps it's like the intermission in a drama that you're watching on stage. It's time to catch your breath. It's all too tense, and there we have the genealogy of Moses reminding us who this man and his brother Aaron are.

But then when we come to the second part of this, after that re-commissioning and reminding us who Moses and Aaron are and what their roots are, actually, we have the second call for deliverance, which will involve drastic response by Yahweh to Pharaoh's resistance, and this takes us all the way from 6, 28 to 11, verse 10. In 6, 28 to 7, 7, you've got the thesis statement. In verses 8 to 13, you've got the accreditation of Moses.

He performs these signs. The mighty acts begin in small measure. Then the mighty acts of God against the Egyptians actually begin, chapter 7, verse 8 to 11, verse 8. These involve 10 mighty acts.

This is dramatic. The first mighty act, turning water into blood, 7, 14 to 25. The second mighty act, frogs everywhere, 8, 1 to 15.

The third, gnats everywhere, 8, 16 to 19. The fourth, insects. The fifth, slaughter of the livestock, 9, 1 to 7. The sixth, boils, 9, 8 to 12.

The seventh, hail, 9, 13 to 35. The eighth, locusts, 10, 1 to 20. The ninth mighty act, darkness, 10, 21 to 29, and the tenth mighty act, announced, not performed yet, that will come, the death of the firstborn.

This is chapter 11, verses 1 to 10. It's leading up to this dramatic crescendo, this climax in the tenth mighty act. Then as we move from chapter 11 into chapter 12, we have three things happening here, all of which involve preparing for the deliverance from Egypt, 12, 1 to 36.

First, the Lord instructs the people concerning the Lord's Passover and the ritual of unleavened bread, 12, 1 to 20. Then the people celebrating Yahweh's Passover, 12, 21 to 28. And three, the people experiencing Yahweh's mighty Passover, which happens to be the tenth mighty act, the plague of killing the firstborn in every household in Egypt, 12, 29 to 36.

All of that is preparation. For the deliverance, which actually happens in 12, 37 to 14, 31. There are four phases here.

One, the departure from Egypt, 12, 37 to 51. Two, the ritual commemoration of the exodus, 13, 1 to 16. There's a kind of a parenthetical section in which he prescribes the ritual that the Israelites are to perform in the future, in perpetuity, in commemoration of this event.

It is not the original exodus that has already begun, but it is the ritual for the future, the distant future, and this becomes a part of Israel's ritual constitution. Then in 13, 17 to 14, 4, we read about the route of the exodus, which brings them to the shores of the great Red Sea, often rendered as Red Sea, but it puts the Israelites in a hopeless condition because they have come from Egypt, and they're at the Red Sea, and they can't cross. There are fortresses on either side, and behind them they see the dust of Pharaoh's chariots.

Pharaoh has changed his mind. What have I done letting these people go? And he's coming in fury, which sets the stage for the final mighty act of deliverance, and the people complain. Is it because there are not enough graves in Egypt that you brought us here to bury us here? And suddenly, in their faithless minds, that great plan of redemption and fulfillment of covenant promises has turned into a diabolical plot.

God wasn't interested in saving us. He trapped us, and we're done, and of course, you know Moses' response. Lifting his staff, he stands up, and he says, quiet.

Stand by and see the salvation of Yahweh, and you know the rest of the story. The people all march through in martial array, and when the last person is through, they turn around, and they see these heaps of water collapsing on the Egyptian chariots, and the Egyptians are totally defeated by a mighty act of Yahweh. The Israelites did nothing.

They were completely passive. God, this is a totally monergistic divine event. God did everything, and Moses announced that.

Stand by and see the salvation of Yahweh. They did nothing. Of course, this leads to chapter 15, which gives us the celebration of deliverance.

It's sometimes called the Song of Miriam or the Song of Moses. They celebrate. The Lord has thrown, the Lord has buried the Egyptians in their tomb at the bottom of the sea, the horses and their chariots he has tossed into the sea, and they gurgled down like rocks.

That's the expression that's used in this passage. Well, this is an amazing story so far. In this, in chapter 15 to 17, they have finally experienced Yahweh's providential care in, by the time we get to chapter 16, in deliverance and in taking care of them in the desert.

In fact, chapter 15, verse 22 to 17, 16, gives us the first phase of their desert wanderings where they are without food, and the Lord has to miraculously take care of them, and they continue to be faithless at every turn. And then the last section of this is chapter 18, verses 1 to 27, testifying to the Lord's gracious deliverance. Now Moses' father-in-law shows up, and he comes to meet with his son-in-law, and Moses recounts to him all the mighty things that the Lord has done for Israel, and Jethro himself is amazed by what God has done.

And it does look, although he's a priest of Midian, it looks like he has become a faithful believer in Yahweh, the God of Israel. This is an amazing story of God's deliverance. He did this that you might know that He is Yahweh.

There is no other God in heaven or on earth, so trust in Him alone. I'm sure there's a million things that you could have talked about in this section, and you had to skip. I understand that.

But I know a lot of people have questions about the difference between the Red Sea and the Reed Sea. What's the difference? The Hebrew word yam suph means Reed Sea. It is presumably called that because it is not, you know, one of the tongues of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez, it's not one of those big tongues, but it represents the reedy marsh that was there between the land of Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula, and the Charlton Heston movies and other representations of this are completely off track.

It's a Reed Sea, which I think contributes to the fact that the base is not going to be rocky. Chariots can go on rocks, but the text tells us that their wheels got stuck in the mud, and so I have a sense that this contributes to the picture of a reedy sea. There are small remnants of it left over there.

Jim Hoffmeier knows about this from the perspective of the Egyptian events, and Barry Beitzel has just written a fabulous technical discussion of why it's got to be the Reed Sea rather than the Red Sea. The Red Sea got into the text in the Septuagint translation. For some reason, they rendered it the Red Sea, and that stuck with us.

But both names refer to the same body of water? They refer to exactly the same body of water. And there's enough water in the Reed Sea to drown. And if there wasn't before they started, the Lord, he can do this.

They gurgle down like rocks. The other question is a real theological question, but I know people are asking it about the hardening of the heart business. Did God harden Pharaoh's heart, or did Pharaoh harden Pharaoh's heart? The answer is yes, and this is one of those texts that forces us to land on the middle of this road.

We have two extremes we need to avoid. On the one hand, we are so preoccupied with God's sovereign will over human experiences that we downplay the significance of the experiences and make this simply God's decreed action or whatever. On the other hand, we are so impressed by Pharaoh's own heart that we downplay the divine involvement in this.

This is not the last time the Lord will do this. When it comes to Sihon and Og in the book of Deuteronomy in chapter 2, God hardens their hearts so that they will not respond favorably to Moses' overtures of, let us pass through the land. God does that, and so we need to recognize, A, on the one hand, God assumed responsibility, or God is behind all events that happen in one form or another, but on the other hand, not in such a way that the human characters involved in the drama are absolved of responsibility for what happens.

Both are true. People are 100% responsible for their own fate, and second, the Lord is 100% responsible for our, shall we say, gracious escape from his wrath. So, how you put these two together, I've learned a long time ago that I have to live in tension.

It's not that one is true and the other one is false. It's that both are equally true, and in this world of theological realities, you have to deal with humans created as images of God who have the ability to defy the God in whose image they have been made, as we see in the Garden of Eden, but God who also has the ability to turn all sorts of events in such a way that they accomplish his purposes, and I think that's what happens here.