The book tells how the Israelites leave slavery in Egypt through the strength of Yahweh, the god who has chosen Israel as his people. With the prophet Moses as their leader, they journey through the wilderness to biblical Mount Sinai, where Yahweh promises them the land of Canaan (the "Promised Land") in return for their faithfulness. Israel enters into a covenant with Yahweh who gives them their laws and instructions to build the Tabernacle, the means by which he will come from heaven and dwell with them and lead them in a holy war to possess the land, and then give them peace.
Traditionally ascribed to Moses himself, modern scholarship sees the book as initially a product of the Babylonian exile (6th century BCE), from earlier written and oral traditions, with final revisions in the Persian post-exilic period (5th century BCE). Carol Meyers, in her commentary on Exodus suggests that it is arguably the most important book in the Bible, as it presents the defining features of Israel's identity: memories of a past marked by hardship and escape, a binding covenant with God, who chooses Israel, and the establishment of the life of the community and the guidelines for sustaining it.
The English name Exodus comes from the Ancient Greek: ἔξοδος, éxodos, meaning "going out". In Hebrew the book's title is שְׁמוֹת, shemot, "Names", from the beginning words of the text: "These are the names of the sons of Israel" (Hebrew: וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמֹות בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל).
There is no unanimous agreement among scholars on the structure of Exodus. One strong possibility is that it is a diptych (i.e., divided into two parts), with the division between parts 1 and 2 at the crossing of the Red Sea or at the beginning of the theophany (appearance of God) in chapter 19. On this plan, the first part tells of God's rescue of his people from Egypt and their journey under his care to Sinai (chapters 1–19) and the second tells of the covenant between them (chapters 20–40).
Jacob's sons and their families join their brother, Joseph, in Egypt. Once there, the Israelites begin to grow in number. Egypt's Pharaoh, fearful that the Israelites could be a fifth column, forces the Israelites into slavery and orders the throwing of all newborn boys into the Nile. A Levite woman (Jochebed, according to other sources) saves her baby by setting him adrift on the river Nile in an ark of bulrushes. The Pharaoh's daughter finds the child, names him Moses, and brings him up as her own. But Moses is aware of his origins, and one day, when grown, he kills an Egyptian overseer who is beating a Hebrew slave and has to flee into Midian. There he marries Zipporah, the daughter of Midianite priest Jethro, and encounters God in a burning bush. Moses asks God for his name: God replies: "I AM that I AM." God tells Moses to return to Egypt and lead the Hebrews into Canaan, the land promised to Abraham.
Moses returns to Egypt and fails to convince the Pharaoh to release the Israelites. God smites the Egyptians with 10 terrible plagues (Plagues of Egypt) including a river of blood, many frogs, and the death of first-born sons. Moses leads the Israelites out of bondage after a final chase when the Pharaoh reneges on his coerced consent (Crossing the Red Sea and Yam Suph). The desert proves arduous, and the Israelites complain and long for Egypt, but God provides manna and miraculous water for them. The Israelites arrive at the mountain of God, where Moses's father-in-law Jethro visits Moses; at his suggestion Moses appoints judges over Israel. God asks whether they will agree to be his people. They accept. The people gather at the foot of the mountain, and with thunder and lightning, fire and clouds of smoke, and the sound of trumpets, and the trembling of the mountain, God appears on the peak, and the people see the cloud and hear the voice [or possibly "sound"] of God. God tells Moses to ascend the mountain. God pronounces the Ten Commandments (the Ethical Decalogue) in the hearing of all Israel. Moses goes up the mountain into the presence of God, who pronounces the Covenant Code (a detailed code of ritual and civil law), and promises Canaan to them if they obey. Moses comes down the mountain and writes down God's words and the people agree to keep them. God calls Moses up the mountain where he remains for 40 days and 40 nights. At the conclusion of the 40 days and 40 nights, Moses returns holding the set of stone tablets.
God gives Moses instructions for the construction of the tabernacle so that God could dwell permanently among his chosen people, as well as instructions for the priestly vestments, the altar and its appurtenances, the procedure for ordaining the priests, and the daily sacrifice offerings. Aaron becomes the first hereditary high priest. God gives Moses the two tablets of stone containing the words of the ten commandments, written with the "finger of God".
While Moses is with God, Aaron makes a golden calf, which the people worship. God informs Moses of their apostasy and threatens to kill them all, but relents when Moses pleads for them. Moses comes down from the mountain, smashes the stone tablets in anger, and commands the Levites to massacre the unfaithful Israelites. God commands Moses to make two new tablets on which He will personally write the words that were on the first tablets. Moses ascends the mountain, God dictates the Ten Commandments (the Ritual Decalogue), and Moses writes them on the tablets.
Moses descends from the mountain with a transformed face; from that time onwards he has to hide his face with a veil. Moses assembles the Hebrews and repeats to them the commandments he has received from God, which are to keep the Sabbath and to construct the Tabernacle. "And all the construction of the Tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting was finished, and the children of Israel did according to everything that God had commanded Moses", and from that time God dwelt in the Tabernacle and ordered the travels of the Hebrews.
Jewish and Christian tradition viewed Moses as the author of Exodus and the entire Pentateuch, but by the end of the 19th century the increasing awareness of discrepancies, inconsistencies, repetitions and other features of the Pentateuch had led scholars to abandon this idea. In approximate round dates, the process which produced Exodus and the Pentateuch probably began around 600 BCE when existing oral and written traditions were brought together to form books recognisable as those we know, reaching their final form as unchangeable sacred texts around 400 BCE.
The story of the exodus is the founding myth of Israel, telling of the Israelites deliverance from slavery by Yahweh which made them his chosen people according to the Mosaic covenant. The Book of Exodus is not a historical narrative in any modern sense: modern history writing requires the critical evaluation of sources, and does not accept God as a cause of events, but in Exodus, everything is presented as the work of God, who appears frequently in person, and the historical setting is only a very hazy sketch. The purpose of the book is not to record what really happened, but to reflect the historical experience of the exile community in Babylon and later Jerusalem, facing foreign captivity and the need to come to terms with their understanding of God.
Although mythical elements are not so prominent in Exodus as in Genesis, ancient legends have an influence on the book's content: for example, the story of the infant Moses's salvation from the Nile is based on an earlier legend of king Sargon of Akkad, while the story of the parting of the Red Sea trades on Mesopotamian creation mythology. Similarly, the Covenant Code (the law code in Exodus 20:22–23:33) has some similarities in both content and structure with the Laws of Hammurabi. These influences serve to reinforce the conclusion that the Book of Exodus originated in the exiled Jewish community of 6th-century BCE Babylon, but not all the sources are Mesopotamian: the story of Moses's flight to Midian following the murder of the Egyptian overseer may draw on the Egyptian Story of Sinuhe.
Biblical scholars describe the Bible's theologically-motivated history writing as "salvation history", meaning a history of God's saving actions that give identity to Israel – the promise of offspring and land to the ancestors, the exodus from Egypt (in which God saves Israel from slavery), the wilderness wandering, the revelation at Sinai, and the hope for the future life in the promised land.
A theophany is a manifestation (appearance) of a god – in the Bible, an appearance of the God of Israel, accompanied by storms – the earth trembles, the mountains quake, the heavens pour rain, thunder peals and lightning flashes. The theophany in Exodus begins "the third day" from their arrival at Sinai in chapter 19: Yahweh and the people meet at the mountain, God appears in the storm and converses with Moses, giving him the Ten Commandments while the people listen. The theophany is therefore a public experience of divine law.
The second half of Exodus marks the point at which, and describes the process through which, God's theophany becomes a permanent presence for Israel via the Tabernacle. That so much of the book (chapters 25–31, 35–40) describes the plans of the Tabernacle demonstrates the importance it played in the perception of Second Temple Judaism at the time of the text's redaction by the Priestly writers: the Tabernacle is the place where God is physically present, where, through the priesthood, Israel could be in direct, literal communion with him.
The heart of Exodus is the Sinaitic covenant. A covenant is a legal document binding two parties to take on certain obligations towards each other. There are several covenants in the Bible, and in each case they exhibit at least some of the elements in real-life treaties of the ancient Middle East: a preamble, historical prologue, stipulations, deposition and reading, list of witnesses, blessings and curses, and ratification by animal sacrifice. Biblical covenants, in contrast to Eastern covenants in general, are between a god, Yahweh, and a people, Israel, instead of between a strong ruler and a weaker vassal.
God elects Israel for salvation because the "sons of Israel" are "the firstborn son" of the God of Israel, descended through Shem and Abraham to the chosen line of Jacob whose name is changed to Israel. The goal of the divine plan in Exodus is a return to humanity's state in Eden, so that God can dwell with the Israelites as he had with Adam and Eve through the Ark and Tabernacle, which together form a model of the universe; in later Abrahamic religions Israel becomes the guardian of God's plan for humanity, to bring "God's creation blessing to mankind" begun in Adam.
Book of Exodus
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According to the Book of Exodus, Mount Sinai (Hebrew: הַר סִינַי, Har Sinai) is the mountain at which the Ten Commandments were given to Moses by God. In the Book of Deuteronomy, these events are described as having transpired at Mount Horeb. "Sinai" and "Horeb" are generally considered to refer to the same place by scholars.Hebrew Bible texts describe the theophany at Mount Sinai in terms which a minority of scholars, following Charles Beke (1873), have suggested may literally describe the mountain as a volcano and have led to a search for alternative locations.Burning bush
The burning bush is an object described by the Book of Exodus[3:1–4:17] as being located on Mount Horeb. According to the narrative, the bush was on fire, but was not consumed by the flames, hence the name. In the biblical narrative, the burning bush is the location at which Moses was appointed by Yahweh (God) to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into Canaan.
The Hebrew word in the narrative that is translated into English as bush is seneh (סנה səneh), which refers in particular to brambles; seneh is a biblical dis legomenon, only appearing in two places, both of which describe the burning bush. It is possible that the reference to a burning bush is based on a mistaken interpretation of Sinai (סיני Sînāy), a mountain described in Exodus 19:18 as being on fire. Another possibility is that the use of seneh (סנה) may be a deliberate pun on Sinai (סיני), a feature common in Hebrew texts.Exodus Rabbah
Exodus Rabbah (Hebrew: שמות רבה, Shemot Rabbah) is the midrash to Exodus. It is not uniform in its composition.I Am that I Am
I am that I am is a common English translation of the Hebrew phrase אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, ’ehyeh ’ăšer ’ehyeh ([ʔɛhˈjɛh ʔaˈʃɛr ʔɛhˈjɛh]) – also “I am who am”, "I am what I am" or "I will be what I will be" or even "I create what(ever) I create". The traditional English translation within Judaism favors "I will be what I will be" because there is no present tense of the verb "to be" in the Hebrew language. So for example to say "I am a book" in Hebrew would be Ani Sefer (literally in English is "I book"). This translation of phrase from the Hebrew Bible is often guided by the theology or ideology of the people doing the translation or their sponsors.Ipuwer Papyrus
The Ipuwer Papyrus (officially Papyrus Leiden I 344 recto) is an ancient Egyptian hieratic papyrus made during the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt, and now held in the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Netherlands. It contains the Admonitions of Ipuwer, an incomplete literary work whose original composition is dated no earlier than the late Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt (c.1991–1803 BCE).Jochebed
According to the Torah, Jochebed was a daughter of Levi and mother of Aaron, Miriam and Moses. She was the wife of Amram, as well as his aunt. No details are given concerning her life. According to Jewish legend, Jochebed is buried in the Tomb of the Matriarchs, in Tiberias. She is praised for her faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews.Manna
Manna (Hebrew: מָן mān, Greek: μάννα; Arabic: المَنّ), sometimes or archaically spelled mana, is an edible substance which, according to the Bible and the Quran, God provided for the Israelites during their travels in the desert during the forty-year period following the Exodus and prior to the conquest of Canaan.Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael
Mekhilta or Mekilta (Aramaic: מכילתא, a collection of rules of interpretation) is a halakhic midrash to the Book of Exodus. The name "Mekhilta" corresponds to the Hebrew "middah" ("measure," "rule") and is used to denote a compilation of scriptural exegesis ("middot"; comp. talmudical hermeneutics).Miriam
Miriam (מִרְיָם) is described in the Hebrew Bible as the daughter of Amram and Jochebed, and the sister of Moses and Aaron. She was a prophetess and first appears in the Book of Exodus.
The Torah refers to her as "Miriam the Prophetess" and the Talmud names her as one of the seven major female prophets of Israel. Scripture describes her alongside of Moses and Aaron as delivering the Jews from exile in Egypt: "For I brought you up out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam". According to the Midrash, just as Moses led the men out of Egypt and taught them Torah, so too Miriam led the women and taught them Torah.Moon of Israel (novel)
Moon of Israel is a novel by Rider Haggard, first published in 1918 by John Murray. The novel narrates the events of the Biblical Exodus from Egypt told from the perspective of a scribe named Ana.Haggard dedicated his novel to Sir Gaston Maspero, a distinguished Egyptologist and director of Cairo Museum.Pharaoh's daughter (Exodus)
According to the Book of Exodus, Pharaoh's daughter (Hebrew: בַּת־פַּרְעֹה bath-parʿōh; Greek: ἡ θυγάτηρ Φαραὼ hē thugátēr Pharaṑ) saved the infant Moses from extermination under the oppression of her father, after finding Moses hidden in the rushes on the banks of the Nile in Egypt. This act, the "drawing out" (מָשָׁה māšāh) of Moses from the water, is given as the origin of Moses's name (מֹשֶׁה Mōšeh).Her story has been much expanded in Abrahamic tradition, and the drawing up of Moses from the water by Pharaoh's daughter has been a popular subject in art.Plagues of Egypt
In the Book of Exodus the Plagues of Egypt (Hebrew: מכות מצרים, Makot Mitzrayim) are ten calamities inflicted on Egypt by Yahweh, the god of Israel, in order to force Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to depart from slavery:
gnats (or lice or mosquitoes or other small insects)
flies (or swarms of insects; some have "wild beasts")
pestilence of livestock
death of the firstborn (of Egypt).The plagues are "signs and marvels" given by the God of Israel to answer Pharaoh's taunt that he does not know Yahweh: "The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord." The many popular-level attempts to find natural explanations for the plagues (e.g., a volcanic eruption to explain the "darkness" plague) have been dismissed by biblical scholars. There is no indication that the Israelites ever lived in Ancient Egypt, and there is an almost universal consensus is that the Exodus story is best understood as myth.Song of the Sea
The Song of the Sea (Hebrew: שירת הים, Shirat HaYam, also known as Az Yashir Moshe and Song of Moses, or Mi Chamocha) is a poem that appears in the Book of Exodus of the Hebrew Bible, at Exodus 15:1–18. It is followed in verses 20 and 21 by a much shorter song sung by Miriam and the other women. The Song of the Sea was reputedly sung by the Israelites after their crossing the Red Sea in safety, and celebrates the destruction of the Egyptian army during the crossing, and looks forward to the future conquest of Canaan.
The poem is included in Jewish prayer books, and recited daily in the morning shacharit services. The poem also comprises the first ode or hymn of the Eastern Orthodox canon, where it is known as the Song or Ode of Moses. It is also used in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and other Christian liturgies at the Easter Vigil when the history of salvation is recounted. These traditions follow Revelation 15:3 by calling it the "Song of Moses" (not to be confused with the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy).
The poem forms part of parshat Beshalach. It is one of only two sections of the Sefer Torah that is written with a different layout from the normal simple columns. The other section written differently is the Song of Moses at the end of Deuteronomy, in parshat Ha'azinu.Staff of Moses
The Staff of Moses is a staff mentioned in the Bible and Quran as a walking stick used by Moses. According to the Book of Exodus in the Bible, the staff of (Hebrew: מַטֶּה matteh, translated "rod" in the King James Bible) was used to produce water from a rock, was transformed into a snake and back, and was used at the parting of the Red Sea. Whether or not Moses' staff was the same as that used by his brother Aaron (known as Aaron's rod) has been debated by rabbinical scholars.Tabernacle
According to the Tanakh the tabernacle (Hebrew: מִשְׁכַּן, mishkan, meaning "residence" or "dwelling place") was the portable dwelling (temple) of Yahweh (God) used by the children of Israel from the Exodus until the conquest of Canaan. It was constructed of woven layers of curtains and wood and richly furnished with valuable materials taken from Egypt. Moses was instructed at Mount Sinai to construct and transport the tabernacle with the Israelites on their journey through the wilderness and their subsequent conquest of the Promised Land. After 440 years, Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem superseded it as the dwelling-place of God.
The main source describing the tabernacle is the biblical Book of Exodus, specifically Exodus 25–31 and 35–40. Those passages describe an inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, placed behind a veil suspended by four pillars. This sanctuary contained the Ark of the Covenant, covered by the decorated mercy seat. An outer sanctuary (the "Holy Place") contained a gold lamp-stand or candlestick. On the south side of the lamp stood a table, on which lay the showbread. On the north side was the Menorah, holding seven oil lamps to give light. On the west side, just before the veil, was the golden altar of incense.
This description is generally identified as part of the Priestly source ("P"), written in the sixth or fifth century BCE. However while the first Priestly source takes the form of instructions, the second is largely a repetition of the first in the past tense, i.e., it describes the execution of the instructions. Many scholars contend that it is of a far later date than the time of Moses, and that the description reflects the structure of Solomon's Temple, while some hold that the description derives from memories of a real pre-monarchic shrine, perhaps the sanctuary at Shiloh. Traditional scholars contend that it describes an actual tabernacle used in the time of Moses and thereafter. According to historical criticism, an earlier, pre-exilic source, the Elohist ("E"), describes the tabernacle as a simple tent-sanctuary.The Adoration of the Golden Calf
For the Biblical event itself, see golden calf.The Adoration of the Golden Calf is a painting by Nicolas Poussin, produced between 1633 and 1634. It depicts the adoration of the golden calf by the Israelites, from chapter 32 of the Book of Exodus. It was made as part of a pair of paintings (the other being The Crossing of the Red Sea) commissioned by Amadeo dal Pozzo, Marchese di Voghera of Turin, a cousin to Cassiano dal Pozzo, Poussin's main sponsor in Rome. By 1685 the pair had passed to the Chevalier de Lorraine and in 1710 they were bought by Benigne de Ragois de Bretonvillers. In 1741 they were bought from Samuel by Sir Jacob Bouverie, whose son William became the first Earl of Radnor. The Earls of Radnor owned the pair from then until 1945, when it was split for the first time and The Adoration of the Golden Calf bought by the National Gallery in London for £10,000, half of which was contributed by the Art Fund. (The Crossing of the Red Sea was bought in the same 1945 sale by the National Gallery of Victoria.) It now hangs in Room 19 of the National Gallery, where it and Poussin's The Adoration of the Shepherds were vandalised with red spray paint on 17 July 2011.The Crossing of the Red Sea (Poussin)
For the Biblical event itself, see Crossing the Red Sea.The Crossing of the Red Sea is a painting by Nicolas Poussin, produced between 1633 and 1634. It depicts the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites, from chapter 14 of the book of Exodus. It was made as part of a pair of paintings (the other being The Adoration of the Golden Calf) commissioned by Amadeo dal Pozzo, Marchese di Voghera of Turin, a cousin to Cassiano dal Pozzo, Poussin's main sponsor in Rome. By 1685 the pair had passed to the Chevalier de Lorraine and in 1710 they were bought by Benigne de Ragois de Bretonvillers.
In 1741 the pair was bought from Samuel by Sir Jacob Bouverie, whose son William became the first Earl of Radnor. The Earls of Radnor owned the pair from then until 1945, when it was split for the first time and The Adoration of the Golden Calf was sold to the National Gallery in London. The Crossing of the Red Sea was acquired by Kenneth Clark for the National Gallery of Victoria in 1948 using money from the Felton Bequest, a fund originally left to the gallery in 1904 by the industrialist Alfred Felton. In 2011 it underwent a major conservation project.The Exodus
The Exodus is the founding myth of the Israelites. Spread over the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, it tells of the enslavement that befell the children of Israel in Egypt, their liberation through the hand of Yahweh and the revelations at Sinai, and their wanderings in the wilderness up to borders of Canaan, the land their God has given them. Its message is that Israel was delivered from slavery by Yahweh and therefore belongs to him through the Mosaic covenant, the terms of which are that Yahweh will protect his chosen people for all time, so long as they will keep his laws and worship only him. The narrative and its laws remain central to Judaism, recounted daily in Jewish prayers and celebrated in festivals such as Passover, as well as serving as an inspiration and model for non-Jewish groups from early Protestants fleeing persecution in Europe to African-Americans striving for freedom and civil rights.Scholars are broadly agreed that the Exodus story was composed in the 5th century BCE. The traditions behind it can be traced in the writings of the 8th-century BCE prophets, but it has no historical basis. Instead, archaeology suggests a native Canaanite origin for ancient Israel.Zipporah
Zipporah or Tzipora (; Hebrew: צִפוֹרָה, Tsippōrāh, "bird") is mentioned in the Book of Exodus as the wife of Moses, and the daughter of Reuel/Jethro, the priest or prince of Midian. In the Book of Chronicles, two of her descendants are mentioned: Shebuel, son of Gershom, and Rehabiah, son of Eliezer.
Timeline of the Ancient Near East
Book of Exodus media