Introduction to the Book of Exodus

Introduction to the Book of Exodus -

This page is an introduction and summary for the book of Exodus in the Christian Bible. (Exodus is also in the Jewish Bible, but I'll be covering it from a Christian perspective).

I'm doing several new pages on the first five books of the Bible (the books of Moses, also called the Pentateuch), and the "former prophets" which are the books of Joshua, Judges, 1&2 Samuel and 1&2 Kings.

I'll be working on these new pages in parallel as I study for my Old Testament exam on the 10th of June, and adding to them as I study. I figured I might as well be writing my study notes up online as web pages, since now that this website is set up, it's not that much harder than just doing them in a Word document (or something like that).

Introduction to Exodus

Exodus is the second book of the Bible. (Pronouned EX-oh-duss). Exodus begins with the birth of Moses. Most of the book covers the story of the Israelites escaping from slavery in Egypt. It's name in the Hebrew Bible is "And these are the names of". It's English name of "Exodus" comes from a Greek word that means "going out" (think of the word "exit"), since the main storyline of Exodus is the Hebrews exiting / going out of Egypt, where they were slaves to the Egyptians.

Before Reading or Studying Exodus

Before reading or studying the Bible, it's a good idea to take a short break — to think about where the book of Exodus came from, and how it's relevant to your own modern life right now. Christians believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. That is, the words in Exodus were recorded by people in the distant past, as given to them by God.

Also, the Bible is a living document — it's the living word of God. This is a foreign concept to most of our modern culture today, so it takes some time to think about, and get used to the idea of it. Many people think of God as not speaking directly to us. Yet as Christians, God does speak to us directly, in words — and the way God does this is through his words in the Bible. This means that it's directly relevant to us, personally, as we read it. As you read the words of Exodus (even if you don't really believe in this kind of stuff yet, you can still try doing this, as an experiment), imagine that God is speaking to you, personally, and directly.

Also, the Bible is an ancient document. It's very old — and the first few books of the Old Testament, especially so. A lot of things have changed since God's words were first recorded by humans. This means a lot of the Bible can be hard to understand in our modern world today. Which is why we're so lucky to have so much access to resources that can help us to understand it. As you read the words of Exodus, also imagine that you're back then, in the days when it was written. This can help a lot with understanding the meaning (of some parts of the Bible more so than others). Learning about what the words meant in their original setting is a really good place to begin trying to understand what they mean now. Keep this idea in mind as you read the rest of this web page, and as you read the Bible.

Also, the Bible is a precious document. Its true value is hard to imagine. It's probably fair to say that nearly everyone today underestimates its value — at least in the free and well-off countries, where it's very easy (and cheap) for anyone to obtain a copy of the Bible, or read it on the internet. To help get a better appreciation for the value of the Bible, think about how God's word has travelled down through the centuries, and been preserved by copyists, translators, printers, and other people. At times parts of it were lost, and then found again. In recent years, thousands of ancient copies of scrolls have been found, which were meticulously copied by hand over and over, for thousands of years. In some places and at some times, to own a copy of the Bible (or even to believe in it) would bring the death penalty. This included many of those who wrote parts of it, or were written about in it (such as the Apostles of Jesus).

Part of Exodus 40 from an ancient document that's been named Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1075

Part of Exodus 40 from an ancient document that's been named Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1075. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Interesting Facts About Exodus

  • At the beginning of Exodus, there's an approximately 400-year gap in the Bible story since the end of the Book of Genesis. During most of this time, the Hebrews have been living in Egypt as slaves to the Egyptians. Which is their situation at the start of the book.
  • As with so many of the other Bible stories that seem impossible to modern readers, there's widely varying opinions on how literally true many of the supernaturally-empowered parts of the story are. Such as the parting of the Red Sea.
  • Some Christians, and even some Christian ministers / pastors (though others would debate that people with such views are Christians at all) don't believe any of the supernatural aspects of the Bible. Before starting Bible college and reading more widely about such things, I didn't think there could be pastors of Christian churches who publicly explained that the supernatural parts of the Bible are mostly (or even entirely) metaphoric (in the sense of not really being true, but just a story that's meant to have a meaning, such as to be good and be nice to people).
  • Like many of the other ancient Bible stories, there are other stories with very similar details (though not exactly the same) in other ancient cultures' writings.
  • Almost as soon as they leave Egypt, the Israelites start to complain and rebel against God, even though God had rescued them from cruel and oppressive slavery, and even though they saw many miracles happen which God had done for them.
  • The pattern of people rebelling against God, and choosing their own ideas of what they think is a good idea — rather than God's — is a pattern seen all throughout the Bible, and human history.
  • Some of the famous Bible stories in Exodus are the finding of baby Moses in the river, the calling of Moses where he sees the burning bush, the plagues of Egypt, and the parting of the Red Sea.

Read Exodus

Click here to read the book of Exodus.

Click here to see Exodus in its original language of Ancient Hebrew. Or here to read Exodus in Hebrew and English side-by-side.

Cover image by Mashosh / Shutterstock.

See Also