Exodus: Introduction

Exodus  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 9
There can hardly be a greater contrast than between the first book of Moses called Genesis, and the second called Exodus. For the former is the book of beginnings, and hence exhibits the most striking variety, so as to present the germs of almost all the truths or topics expounded in other books of scripture, creation, relationship with God and one with another, temptation and fall of man, revelation of grace and the enemy's defeat, sacrifice, and sonship in faith and without it, the world, &c. It is needless to pursue here what is manifest, and fully explained in its own place.
But in the abundance of Genesis one vast truth is not included, redemption. It is the characteristic subject which fills the book of Exodus: first, the evil and wretched state of God's people which called for it from God; second, the accomplishment of it, as far as the type went; and, third, the blessed consequence of it in God's dwelling in the midst of the redeemed.
In the earlier chapters we are told of the oppression which befell Israel at the hand of Egypt, ever harder as they grew and multiplied (1). God meets the faith of the parents of Moses, and preserves the life of the destined deliverer, when exposed, by the daughter of the king who was bent on their destruction. But even Moses must learn to wait on God for His time and way when his own energy proved abortive (2); yet even then faith is proved superior to providence, which gave what looking to God gave up. And Moses learned in the desert what the wisdom of Egypt could not teach. There appeared to him Jehovah's angel in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bramble bush, and announced His coming down through him to deliver His people out of Egypt (3). As distrustful now as before bold, Moses receives the signs of the serpent-rod, the leprous hand, and the river's water become blood as his signs of divine commission, with Aaron as mouthpiece, and gets Jethro's consent for his return to Egypt with his wife and sons (4). But Pharaoh vents his pride and unbelief in the rudest rejection of Jehovah's demand through His envoys; and the oppression is made cruelly heavier: no straw now, yet the tale of bricks undiminished, so that they were worse off than ever (5). On the remonstrance of Moses, the God-Almighty of the fathers reveals Himself by His covenant name of Jehovah to their sons, though they listened not through anguish; and Moses confesses his despair (6).
Pharaoh's obdurate heart was made harder still, and the plagues begin. Their boasted river and waters everywhere are turned into blood (7). The frogs emerge from the smitten waters and cover the land and their dwellings everywhere (8). But the respite given only hardens the king more. And Jehovah turns the dust under the staff of Moses into gnats on man and beast, so that the scribes own the finger of God; but Pharaoh still rebels. Then dog-flies sent everywhere save in Goshen become a yet plainer judgment, and Pharaoh yields for the moment, but hardened his heart when the pressure was withdrawn. Next was sent (9) the grievous murrain on Egypt's cattle, not on Goshen's; but Pharaoh's heart was stubborn, and he did not let the people go. Then the fearful murrain fell on man as well as cattle throughout Egypt, yet in vain. Next came such a grievous hail and lightening and thunder, as Egypt had never known, yet none befell Goshen. Pharaoh owned his wrong, but only for the moment. After this were sent locusts beyond precedent, so that Pharaoh's bondmen entreated, and himself called Moses and Aaron in haste to ask forgiveness. But darkness to be felt for three days in Egypt, while Israel had light in their dwellings followed his impenitence (10), and one more plague must come, the death of every firstborn of man and cattle (11) from Pharaoh to his meanest slave.
But this night of passover had quite another character for Israel. It was the foundation of their redemption through the blood of the lamb sprinkled on their two doorposts and the upper lintel. Within these they feasted on its body roast with fire and unleavened bread, eaten in haste with loins girt, sandals on feet, and staff in hand, on the month of Abib, once the seventh of the year, now the first of the sacred reckoning for Israel. It was an ordinance forever on the fourteenth day at evening, with a feast till the one and twentieth, which forbade leaven on peril of cutting off. At midnight Jehovah executed judgment on man and beast and the gods of Egypt; and a great cry arose, for there was not a house in which there was not one dead (12). And Pharaoh and the Egyptians rose to bid Israel depart, long since laden by the favor of their neighbors with raiment, and silver and gold utensils abundantly. Then most impressively did Jehovah lay it on Israel to remember that day of death for Egypt's firstborn, and therefore sacrificing to Him every firstling of males, breaking the ass's neck, unless ransomed with a lamb, and ransoming their own firstborn (13).
Yet God led His people about lest they should be discouraged; and Jehovah went before them in a pillar of cloud by day, and of fire by night, so that they could go day and night. Not even then did Pharaoh bend to God. Redemption would have its type of power in the final destruction of the foe, as well as by atoning blood which is the deepest for the soul before God. This was not for the Egyptians but for Israel. It was a question for sin before Him; and the lamb's blood alone secured him that was within the blood-sprinkled door. If they partook of a lamb's body, it, was eaten with bitter herbs and with unleavened bread. Self was judged. Repentance accompanied faith. Jehovah saw the blood, and passed over according to His estimate of its worth which is perfect for each, as ours could not be: we rest therefore on His value for it, which is the essence of faith.
Ex. 14 typifies not Christ's blood sprinkled for Jehovah's eye on the night of judgment, but His death and resurrection for the deliverance of the redeemed, who now sing of His salvation and the destruction of His foes. Thenceforward is the proper journey of His own across the desert for the mountain of His inheritance, the place that Jehovah has made His dwelling, who shall reign forever and ever, but guided already to the abode of His holiness, the fruit of redemption. Yet they prove the trials and the mercies of the way, three days without water, and the water, even when found, too bitter to drink; but the wood cast in by Jehovah's direction makes it sweet; and followed by the ample refreshment of twelve wells and seventy palm trees (15). In 16 the bread from above is shown to precede and mark the sabbath; as in 17 the living waters from the smitten rock strengthen for conflict with Amalek, wherein the victory depends on the uplifted hand of the mediator. Grace meets every fault, which at other times called for judgments. This closes in 18 with the picture of divine government which is only realized when Messiah reigns.
All changes in 19 where the people, heedless of such grace and confiding in their fidelity, accept the condition of law to their ruin, whilst its terrors begin with darkness, and lightning, thunder, trumpet, and the voice more terrible than all to the sinner. And God spoke His ten words (20), and set out His judgments (21-23) not without better things in type. Yet in 24 the legal covenant with death as the penalty was sealed with the sprinkled blood; and the elders ate and drank before Him. But Moses draws into higher access to see the pattern of the sanctuary, pledges too of the good things to come. After the heave-offering of the material, we have the ark with the mercy-seat prescribed, the table, and the lampstand, and their appurtenances in 25; the tabernacle itself with its curtains, loops and clasps, its coverings of goat's hair and of ram's skins, the boards too and the bars, with the veil of the innermost and the entrance curtain (26). But we may remark for our profit that 27 closes this portion with the great altar of burnt-offering and the court around it, and the command to bring oil for the lamps continually.
Then follows in 28-29 the order of consecration of the priesthood, Aaron and his sons; and only then in 30 the golden altar of incense figuring Christ in His sweet savor in the light of the Spirit manifested perpetually, and the people identified by redemption with it, though unable to enter the holiest as we can; and next the laver for purification if there was failure, the washing of water by the word; the holy anointing oil, and the fragrant drugs for the sanctuary. These were all associated with the priesthood for maintaining feeble man in accordance with His relationship to God; whereas the types preceding the order for consecrating the priesthood were to manifest God in Christ for man's blessing in the knowledge of Him.
In (31) we have Jehovah calling and qualifying men for the work; and the sabbath anew associated with it; and the tables of stone given to Moses. But who can adequately tell the horror of Israel's departure from God in (32) who the guilty weakness of Aaron, saint of Jehovah, or the anguish of Moses! The broken tables declare it, and the avenging sword of Levi's sons, and the intercession of Moses, willing to be blotted out for Israel. Nor will he let Him go (33) without His presence; as he had already pitched the tent outside the camp and called it the Tent of meeting whither every one that sought Jehovah went outside the camp. And Jehovah asked for fresh tables (34), and came down before Moses' face, revealing Himself as Jehovah governmentally in mercy and long-suffering but by no means clearing the guilty, under this mediation of Moses, and not under law simply as such. How much goodness was here added! Yet this is what 2 Cor. 3 treats as the ministry of death and condemnation! Privileges of divine goodness aggravate our guilt if we are under law, but cannot deliver us from its curse.
In 35 the sabbath is again enjoined; and the work goes forward in 36-39, till on the first day of the first month in 40 all is set up in order, and in every part of it, “and Moses did so; as Jehovah had commanded Moses.” The oil anointed it wholly. It was thus not only the fruit of redemption but in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in figure God's habitation.