A Bible Study

Chapter Summary

1 Forced labor for Israel 20 Statement of Ten Commandments
2 Royal training for Moses 21 Injunctions for moral justice
3 Obstinate Moses rejects God 22 Numerous laws of restitution
4 Moses’ excuses are answered 23 Angelic assistance is promised
24 Instructing Moses on Sinai
5 Egyptian oppression is increased 25 Sketch of tabernacle plans
6 God’s deliverance is promised
7 Yahweh smites the Nile 26 Tabernacle curtains and boards
8 Plagues of frogs, insects 27 Exact measurements of tabernacle
9 Three plagues harden Pharaoh 28 Necessary garments for priests
10 Swarming locusts and darkness
29 Consecration of the priests
11 Blood required for first-born 30 Offerings for sin’s atonement
12 Observance of the Passover 31 Mandate to keep Sabbath
13 National exodus from Egypt 32 Molten calf brings judgment
14 Division of the Red Sea 33 Anguished intercession by Moses
15 Adoration song to God 34 New covenant is given
16 Gathering manna six days 35 Desire rekindled for tabernacle
17 Extracting water from rock 36 Making curtains and boards
37 Explanation of furniture making
18 Tribal organization for ruling 38 New court for tabernacle
19 Orders at Mount Sinai 39 Tabernacle and garments finished
40 Shekinah glory fills tabernacle


Outline of the Book of Exodus

The theme of Exodus is the commencement of Israel as a covenant nation. It relates how God fulfilled His ancient promise to Abraham by multiplying his descendants into a great nation, redeeming them from the land of bondage and renewing the covenant of grace with them on a national basis.

At the foot of the holy mountain, He bestows on them the promises of the covenant and provides them with a rule of conduct by which they may lead a holy life, and also with a sanctuary in which they may make offerings for sin and renew fellowship with Him on the basis of forgiving grace.

I. Training of God's man for God's task 1:1-4:31

A. Moses' background: tyrannical persecution 1:1-22

B. His adoption and early education, the first forty years 2:1-14

C. His character disciplined, the second forty years 2:15-25

D. His call from God at Horeb 3:1-4:31

II. Triumphant grace: God's people delivered from bondage 5:1-18:27

A. God's triumph over the world power through the ten plagues 5:1-11:10

B. Six types of salvation 12:1-18:27

1. Passover: Calvary symbolized and appropriated 12:1-13:22

2. Red Sea crossing: the plunge of faith (Baptism) 14:1-15:27

3. Manna from heaven: the bread of life (Communion) 16:1-36

4. The cleft rock and the water of life 17:1-7

5. Rephidim: foretaste of victory over the world 17:8-16

6. Appointment of elders: organization for religious fellowship 18:1-27

III. Seal of holiness 19:1-31:18

A. Covenant promise: absolute submission to God's revealed will, as "a holy nation, a peculiar people" 19:1-25

B. Basic principles of a holy life under the covenant: the Decalogue 20:1-26

C. Holy living in one's conduct toward others (book of the covenant): the three great worship festivals 21:1-23:33

D. Holy living in worship and fellowship with God (the types of priesthood, sacrifice, and the tabernacle furniture) 24:1-31:18

IV. Failure of the flesh and repentance for sin 32:1-33:23

A. Rebellion, apostasy, idolatry: fellowship broken with God 32:1-35

B. Repentance, chastisement, and intercession by Moses the mediator 33:1-23

V. God's provision for sin: continuing forgiveness through sacrifice 34:1-40:39

A. Reaffirmation of covenant of Grace and God's warnings against idolatry 34:1-35

B. Means of grace to prevent backsliding: Sabbath and tabernacle 35:1-19

C. Congregation's pledge to carry out God's plan 35 20-39 43

D. Forms of worship accented and hallowed by the Lord 40:1-38

Exodus 1-12

God Remembers His Covenant with His Chosen Nation--Israel in Egypt; Moses, God's Liberator.

Chapter 1 - The scene is set

Nearly 300 years have elapsed since the death of Joseph, and the end of Genesis. Jacob's people have been in Egypt some 370 years. Their old privileged status is now gone. Now they are a slave nation under a new pharaoh, of a dynasty which has long forgotten Egypt's debt to Joseph.

Things have changed in Egypt. The power of the Hyksos pharaohs have been broken and the Upper and Lower kingdoms once again united. The ration is at the height of her military power, ruled from Thebes and Memphis by a new dynasty of pharaohs. But with the accession of Sethos I (the "new king" of 1:8) attention once again focuses on the fertile delta region. A great building program is begun, including a new residence for Pharaoh. It is named after Sethos' successor, Ramesses II. There is a large, ready-made, economic labor force resident in the area-the Israelites.

The existence of such a large (12:37) alien group in his borderlands has for some time made Pharaoh uneasy. Here is his chance to ensure they keep out of mischief. The people are organized into gangs, under taskmasters, to dig out mud and make the bricks for building the new cities.

But no matter how hard they are worked, the population explosion continues. Pharaoh decides to tackle the problem in more direct ways only to be defeated by the midwives' faith (vv.15-22).

Chapter 2 - Moses, prince and refugee

So now all Hebrew boy-babies are to be cast into the Nile. That is Pharaoh's decree. But the water which drowns can also be used to float a watertight basket (the same Hebrew word as Noah's "ark") and Moses' life is saved by his mother's resourceful action.

Moses was 40 when he tried to strike his first blow for freedom (2:11-12) which ended in disaster. A further 40 years passed before the events of chapter 3. (cf. Acts 7:23 and Exodus 7:7)

-Pharaoh's daughter - She would probably be a daughter by one of his concubines, not a princess of blood-roya1. She would have taken Moses back to the harem where he would be brought up with others, learning to read and write the Egyptian hieroglyphic and "cursive" scripts and gaining expertise in various skills and sports (Acts 7:22). It was not unknown for foreigners to be brought up in this way, and trained for responsible posts in the army, priesthood, or civil service.

Midian (vs.15): The Midianites were descendants or Abraham through his second wife, Keturah. They were desert-dwellers, so Moses could scarcely have had better preparation for the wilderness journeys with Israel than these years of nomadic life.

Chapters 3 & 4 - The burning bush; God calls and equips His man

Moses is actually at Sinai (Horeb) the very place where he will later receive the Law, when God's call comes. God has a stupendous commission for Moses-he is to be God's messenger to Pharaoh, and lead his people to freedom-but the missionary is most reluctant. He raises one objection after another, and each is countered by another promise from God...

3:11 "I am not up to the job." But I will be with you says God.

3:13 "How am I to explain to people who you are?" God reveals himself as the God of their ancestors, and the God of the present: "I AM."

4:1 "The people won't believe me!" God gives him three sings with which to convince them.

4:10 "I am no speaker!" God made him; he will enable him to speak.

4:13 "Please send someone else!" This God will not do, but he will allow him Aaron as spokesman.

Key events and places of these chapters...

1. Mt. Horeb (3:1) The precise location is uncertain, but long tradition indicates and identifies it with Jebel Musa (7,363 feet) at the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula.

2. The spoil from Egypt (3:21ff) Cf. 11:2-3; 12:35-36. It was from this that the tabernacle was furnished.

3. Pharaoh's death is recorded in 4:19

4. Aaron (4:14) Three years older than Moses (7:7) presumably born before Pharaoh's edict. Miriam would have been older than both.

5. Circumcision (4:24-26) Moses failed to circumcise his son – and God can not overlook disobedience, even in one of his chosen. Zipporah puts the matter right and Moses' life is spared.

Chapters 5-6:13 - The first round goes to Pharaoh!

The first request to Pharaoh merely aggravates the situation. People turn against their "deliverer." Moses in his frustration turns once again to God...

1. The request (5:1) This seems less than the whole truth: but it is in the nature of a test-case. Israel had to leave Egypt in order to sacrifice because the nature of their sacrifice was offensive to the Egyptians (8:26). Pharaoh's reaction reveals his implacable hostility already predicted by God. (3:19)

2. Access to Pharaoh: Ramesses II is known to have made himself available even to ordinary petitioners (cf.5:15ff). Moses, brought up in the harem, had a special claim to Pharaoh's attention.

Chapter 6:14-27 - The family tree of Moses and Aaron

As so often in Scripture, the list is selective. Moses and Aaron are shown to have descended from Jacob through the line of Levi. The list covers the period of Israel's stay in Egypt.

Chapters 6:28-10:29 - The contest with Pharaoh; the nine plagues

Pharaoh has heard and rejected Moses' request. He has shown the sort of man he is: "Who is the Lord...? I do not know the Lord and moreover I will not let Israel go!" (5:2)

Now God begins a series of judgments to teach Pharaoh and his people who the Lord is, and to show them the extent of his power over all creation (7:5; 8:10; 9:14). Nine times God acts, and Pharaoh, his magicians and all the gods of Egypt are powerless to reverse his judgments. The magicians may counterfeit, but they cannot countermand.

1. The Nile - heart of the nation's economy and worship - turns to blood, its polluted waters killing the fish (7:14-24)

2. Seven days later, frogs, driven from the river banks by the rotting fish, seek shelter in the houses (7:25-8:15)

3 & 4. First gnats and then flies, breeding amongst the carcasses of fish and frogs, plague the land. (8:16-92)

5 & 6. Disease strikes the cattle, and skin infection breaks out on man and beast, carried by the frogs and insects (9:1-12)

7. Hail and thunderstorms ruin the flax and barley crops - but not wheat and spelt, which have not yet grown. And those Egyptians who take note of God's warning remain safe (9:13-35)

8. The wind blows in a plague of locusts from Ethiopia which strip the country bare of greenstuff (10:1-20)

9. For three days the light of the sun is blotted out by thick darkness. This was probably a khamsin dust storm. (10:21-29)

The plagues probably occurred over a period of about a year. In each case God chose to use natural disorders to confound Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt (12:12). He caused the "nile god" to bring ruin, not prosperity, the frogs to bring disease instead of fruitfulness; and the power of Re, the sun-god, was blotted out.

The whole sequence of events follows a logical pattern which could have started with unusually high flooding of the Nile River, bringing down red earth and microcosms which polluted the water. But, however it happened, this was no mere "chance" - God was demonstrating his absolute control!

Here God distinguished between his people and the Egyptians. He controlled the extent and the areas affected by each plague. He announced the timing of each, and could call a halt at any time in answer to prayer. We must see the hand of God in this for in no other time have so many plagues come upon a land in such a short period of time.

The hardness of Pharaoh's heart: Several times in these chapters God is said to have hardened Pharaoh's heart and made him obstinate (4:21; 10:1; 20, 27). But this was not done against Pharaoh's will. Rather, where God could have softened Pharaoh's heart (as he did Paul's ) he simply let him be. God gave him up (cf.Rom.1; 9:17), let him be what he himself wanted, let him have his own way-so that in the end, God's power would be plain for all to see.

Chapters 11-12:36 - The death of the firstborn, and the Passover

Preliminaries are over, God's warning of 4:22-23 is about to be realized. This is the end of the road for Pharaoh and his people. But for Israel it is the beginning. This is a day to remember down the ages; when God dealt death to the first-born of Egypt, but spared the people who were His own.

A new feast is instituted, and a new (religious) year begun. The Passover lamb or kid speaks of God's protection and provision for his people – Israel, His firstborn. The bitter herbs remind them of all their suffering in Egypt. The flat unleavened bread recalls the haste of their departure (no time to use yeast and wait for the bread to rise). Even so, they do not go empty handed. The years of slavery are in some measure paid for by the clothes and jewelry heaped upon them by the Egyptians, now only too anxious to see them go.


Exodus 12:37 - 10:25

Out Of Egypt: On to Sinai!

Chapters 12:37-13:21 - The journey begins: instructions about the Passover, unleavened bread and the firstborn.

Just as God foretold (Gen.15:13-18) after four centuries in a foreign land (from the 18th century BC to about 1300 or 1290 BC) Israel is about to be free. The journey to the border begins.

But first there are further instructions about how the Passover is to be celebrated, who may join in, and where it is to take place. The events are to be further commemorated in two ways:

1) For a seven-day period after Passover the people are to eat unleavened bread as a reminder of the hasty departure from Egypt.

2) As Israel's freedom has been purchased by the death of the firstborn of Egypt, the nation's firstborn belong in a special sense to God, and are to be "bought back" from him.

-600,000 men (12:37) Counting the women and children this would amount to a total of some two million people- a high number which presents some problems. Subsequent chapters make it plain that their number was certainly too great for the wilderness to support-hence God's special provision of manna. They were also at times short of water, although they no doubt learnt to manage on very little, and their encampments would have been spread out to take advantage of several watercourses at each halt in the journey.

Chapter 14 - Pursuit and disaster

Hemmed in between sea and mountains, with water before them and Pharaoh's forces at their backs, the people of Israel meet their first big test of faith-and they panic. As God drives back the waters so that they can cross in safety, and as He sends the wall of water rushing down upon Pharaoh's forces, Israel learns the truth of Moses' words: "The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still" (14:14)

Chapter 15:1-21 - Moses' triumph-song

If ever a victory deserves to be recorded for posterity this one does. Moses leads the people in a great paean of triumph: God has saved Israel, He has destroyed their enemy. Miriam and all the women take up the refrain and dance for joy. The song is a fine example of ancient Semitic poetry.

Chapters 15:22-17:7 - The grumbling begins, but God provides

It is not long before the complaints start. There were plenty of fish to eat in Egypt, and fruit and vegetables and no shortage of water. But in the desert the people are soon thirsty and hungry-and mutinous. God's method of provision is designed to teach them obedience, and daily dependence upon him.

-Quails (16:13) Twice a year the cimmon quail's migration route takes it over the region where the Israelites were at this time. Exhausted by the journey, the birds were easy to catch.

-Omer (16:13) A bowl holding about 4 pints or 2 ¼ liters

-Manna (16:31) Its name is translated "What is it?" No one to this day knows what it is but this substance whatever it was became Israel's staple food for 40 years, ceasing abruptly when they entered Canaan.

-Water from the rock (17:6) Sinai limestone is known to retain moisture. This incident, and the names Massah and Meribah, became a byword for rebelliousness. (cf. Heb.3:7ff)

Chapter 17:8-16 - The Battle with the Amalekites

Joshua (Moses' successor) leads a picked force against this nomadic tribe descended from Esau. But it is God who gives the victory, through Moses' intercession.

Chapter 18 - Jethro's advice

The burden of leadership is heavy, and Jethro's practical suggestion for reorganization and delegation is a sound one. Jethro, although a non-Israelite, is reckoned a godly man. He is welcomed and his advice is taken. In religious matters, however, he learns from Moses (8-11) not vice-versa as some might suggest. It is not clear when Zipporah returned home-perhaps soon after the incident recorded in 4:24-26.

Chapter 19 The camp at Sinai

As God promised (3:12) Moses brings God's people to him at Mt. Sinai, where he will establish his covenant with the nation. Thunder, fire, earthquake and 1ightning herald God's presence and demonstrate his power. The Lord God, holy, awesome, unapproachable, speaks.

Exodus 20-34

God's Law For Israel

Chapter 20:1-21 Ten Commandments

This summary and climax of God’s covenant-agreement with His people sets out a basic ethical norm applicable to all men in all ages. The first three commands concern man's relationship to God, the remaining seven his relationship to one another. Hence Jesus' two-clause summary of the law in Matthew 22:37-40.

The commandments show God's concern for the whole of life. He sets out standards governing family relationships, regard for human life, sex, property, speech and thought. God made us: he alone can show us how we are designed to behave.

Written on stone tablets, preserved in the ark of the covenant, the ten "words" were the basis of Israel's law. They follow the standard pattern of most Near Eastern treaties in the form of a

-title: identifying the author of the covenant

-historical prologue-describing past relations of the two parties

-Obligations imposed on the vassal accompanied by "blessings" and "cursings"

Chapters 20:23-23:33 - God's law-code for Israel

This section known as "the book of the covenant" is the oldest record we have of Jewish law. It consists of "judgments," i.e. case-laws and "statues" straight-forward commands. Although similar in form to other ancient law-codes of Western Asia, the Jewish code has several distinctive features:

-The whole code rests on the authority of God, not of a king.

-There is no division between civil and religious law. Most oriental codes deal with legal matters only. In the Old Testament legal, moral and religious laws are inseparable, showing God's concern for life as a whole.

-There is one law for all, whatever a man's status. Regulations protecting the weak and the helpless are particularly striking.

-A high view for human life is demonstrated by fixed, limited penalties-one crime, one punishment.

These laws may be summarized as follows:

--General instructions about worship (20:22-26)

--Civil laws (21:1-23:13)

-the rights of slaves (21:1-11)

-manslaughter (21:12-32)

-theft (21:33-22:15)

-obligations (22:16-31)

-justice and rights (23:1-13)

-Laws for the three main feasts - Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Harvest (23:14-19)

-God's undertaking for his obedient people (23:20-33)

Chapter 24 - The covenant is ratified

The people's assent to the covenant is formally sealed by a special sacrifice and by the covenant meal eaten by their representatives in the presence of God. The blood sprinkled on the people and on the altar unites the two parties to the agreement. In effect, each is swearing to keep it on pain of death.

Key people and points in the chapter...

-Nadab and Abihu - two of Aaron's sons who later died after committing sacrilege (Lev.10:1-2)

-They saw the God of Israel (vv.9-11) Having a meal with someone is the essence of fellowship not only in the Near East but also in our culture. Think of the people whom you invite to your home for a meal. Think of our understanding of "fellowship" at the Lord's Supper. Here Moses gropes for words to describe the indescribable communion which allowed the sacrifice and fulfilled the covenant.

-Hur (vs.14) - obviously a man of standing in Israel. He and Aaron held up Moses' hands in prayer during the battle with Amalek (17:12)

-Forty days and nights (vs.18) Certain numbers have special significance in the Bible. The round number "40" occurs at almost every new stage in Israel's history; e.g. at the flood; the time of the spies in Canaan; Elijah's journey to Horev; Jesus' time in the wilderness; and the time between His resurrection and ascension.

Chapter 32 - The worship of the golden calf and the aftermath

Only six weeks after making their solemn covenant-pledge with God the people are clamoring for a replica of the old gods of Egypt. And God's high priest not only makes the bull-calf, but identifies it with God.

Death is the penalty for those who break the covenant-but-Moses' selfless intercession prevents Israel's extermination. The broken tablets dramatically proclaim the broken covenant. Such sin cannot go unpunished: Moses' own tribe, the Levites, mete out God's punishment.

Chapter 33 - Moses prays again, and sees God's glory

God will not go back on his promise but Israel has forfeited his presence. And without that, the promised land is nothing. Again Moses pleads for the people at a time of crisis. God's answer encourages him to press a personal plea for a revelation of God in all his splendor.

Chapter 34 - The covenant is renewed

The tablets are engraved afresh in token of God's renewal of the covenant. This particular selection of 1aws is influenced by Israel's recent idol-worship, also by the coming temptations or Canaanite religion.

Israel's firstborn belong to God, but are "bought back" from him-there is to be no child-sacrifice as in Canaan. They must not forget sabbath law in the coming busy seasons of sowing and harvest. The first fruits are to be brought to God, since it is he who makes the land fruitful. Israel is not to resort to the Canaarite practice of boiling a kid in its mother's milk to increase fertility.

Moses' long communion with God shows in his face when he returns to the people; he begins to reflect something of God's own glory. In the Latin translation of this chapter the word "his face was shining" read "his head grew horns." As a result of this wrong translation, many of the paintings of Moses have two small horns coming out of Moses' head. This is where the Moses in our parish hall gets his horns.

Exodus 25-31; 35-40

The Tabernacle

Chapters 25 -27 - Instructions for making and furnishing the tabernacle

God has brought the nation out of Egypt. He has set out the terms of his covenant and they have been agreed to. Now, as a visible sign that these are his people with whom He will always be present, He gives Moses instructions to build a special tent for him. He is to have a home among them like their own homes.

He will guide and accompany them wherever they go-and they will know that he is no local deity whose power is limited to Sinai. Portable, prefabricated tent-shrines similar to the tabernacle were constructed in Egypt even earlier than this. Here, although the description is detailed, some practical points are missing-it is not a complete workman's blue print...

The roof of the tent, for example may have been flat or raised with a ridge pole. The framework of the actual tent was hung with linked curtains of linen, over which was a layer of goatskin, topped by two weather-proof coverings.

Many of the materials used were brought by the Israelites from Egypt and willingly given, so that God's tent might be as worthy of Him as they could make it. Before the days of banks, it was practical to convert wealth into jewelry, which could be worn and carried around easily. Wood is scarce in the Sinai desert, but the acacia is one of the few trees which grow there. Their own herds provided skins, and the sealskins came from the Red Sea.

The peoples of the ancient Near East were skilled in spinning, weaving and using natural dyes (scarlet from the cochineal insect; purple, for the wealthy, from the murex shell-fish). Fine embroidery was also produced. Precious and semi-precious stores were rounded, polished and engraved (as those of Aaron). Gold and silver were beaten and worked into elaborate designs. All these skills God called into play for the construction of his tabernacle.

Chapters 28 - 30 - The priests and their duties

If God's tent is to be a place of beauty and splendor, his priest must also be fittingly robed. His garments, as one translation (NEB) puts it are intended "to give him dignity and honor" (28:2) not on his own account, but as befits the One he serves and represents. The precious stones engraved with the names of the twelve tribes point to his other function, as representative of his people, making atonement for their sin.

Key points...

-Urim and Thummim (28:30) Two objects which stood for "yes" and "no." Just how they were used to discover God's will is not known...

-The bells on the hem of Aaron's robe (28:33-34) Perhaps to ensure he does not enter God's presence unannounced.

-The consecration - Everything about this elaborate ceremonial points to the "otherness" of God. He will be with His people, but there can be no familiarity. He is to be approached only in the ways he lays down. Sin disqualifies all men from entering God's presence. The priests and every item of equipment must be specially set apart for his service.

So too Aaron and his sons must be cleansed, robed and their sins expiated by sacrifice before they may take office. The living God is no impotent image to be worshipped as man thinks fit. He lays down the only terms on which it is possible for him to take up residence with his people.

Chapter 31:1-11 - God chooses his craftsmen

When God selects individuals for a particular job he also equips them to do it. Verse 3 is one of the earliest references to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Chapter 31:12-18 - Sabbath law

The way the sabbath is kept is an index of the nation's spiritual health. Obedience in this is a test of their obedience to God in other ways too.

Chapter 35 - 40 The setting up of the tabernacle

The craftsmen set to work, the people pour in their gifts, and the tabernacle, its fittings and the priests' robes are all completed exactly as God had laid down. When the work is finished, God gives Moses his instructions for setting up and arranging the tabernacle, and for its consecration. Aaron and his sons are anointed for service. When all is done, God signifies his satisfaction. The cloud, the visible token of his presence, rests on the tabernacle, and the place is filled with his glory. For 900 years, until it is replaced by the temple in Solomon's day, the tabernacle will remain the focal center of the nations' worship.


A Survey Of Old Testament – Introduction Gleason L. Archer Jr. The Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, IL. 1978 pp. 220-221

The Acrostic Bible – An Entertaining Way to Remember The Bible Barry Huddleston Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville, TN. 1978 Walk Thru the Bible Ministries Portland, Or.

Eerdmans’ Concise Bible Handbook - An illustrated book-by-book guide to the Bible Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co and Lion Publishing 1973 pp. 54-63

Halley’s Bible Handbook 24th. Edition, Zondervan Publishing House Grand Rapids, MI.  1965 pp. 109-133