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Highlights of the Bible in Exodus - texts explained and practical lessons
Highlights From Bible Reading ‒ Exodus
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Exodus ‒ Historical context
EXODUS, BOOK OFThe second scroll of the Pentateuch, also referred to as the Second Book of Moses. It came to be known in Hebrew as Shemohth′, “Names,” from its opening phrase, Weʼel′leh shemohth′, “Now these are the names.” “Exodus” is the Latinized form of the Greek; this means “Going Forth; Departure,” that is, of the Israelites out of Egypt.
This book is an obvious continuation of Genesis, beginning with the expression “Now” (literally, “And”) and then relisting the names of the sons of Jacob that are taken from the more complete record at Genesis 46:8-27. Exodus was written in 1512 B.C.E., a year after the Israelites departed from Egypt and camped in the wilderness of Sinai. The book covers a period of 145 years, from Joseph’s death in 1657 B.C.E. to the construction of the tabernacle in 1512 B.C.E.
Writership. Moses’ writership of Exodus has never been questioned by the Jews. Egyptian expressions used are indicative of a writer contemporary with the times, and not of a Jew born later.
Accuracy, Truthfulness. On the part of the writer of Exodus “an intimate acquaintance with Ancient Egypt may be discerned. The position of the Egyptians with respect to foreigners—their separation from them, yet their allowance of them in their country, their special hatred of shepherds, the suspicion of strangers from Palestine as spies—their internal government, its settled character, the power of the King, the influence of the Priests, the great works, the employment of foreigners in their construction, the use of bricks, . . . and of bricks with straw in them, . . . the taskmasters, the embalming of dead bodies, the consequent importation of spices, . . . the violent mournings, . . . the fighting with horses and chariots . . .—these are a few out of the many points which might be noted marking an intimate knowledge of Egyptian manners and customs on the part of the author of the Pentateuch.”—The Historical Evidences of the Truth of the Scripture Records, by George Rawlinson, 1862, pp. 290, 291.
The account of Pharaoh’s daughter bathing in the Nile has been disputed (Ex 2:5), but Herodotus (II, 35) says (as ancient monuments also show) that in ancient Egypt the women were under no restraint. Also, the Egyptians believed a sovereign virtue existed in the Nile waters. At times Pharaoh went out to the river evidently for purposes of worship. It was here that he was met at least twice by Moses during the Ten Plagues.—Ex 7:15; 8:20.
As to absence of Egyptian monumental evidence of the Israelites’ sojourn in Egypt, this is not surprising, in view of the fact that a study of the monuments there reveals that the Egyptians did not record matters uncomplimentary to themselves. However, an even more powerful testimony than stone monumental evidence is the living monument of the observance of the Passover by the Jews, who have commemorated the Exodus in this way throughout their entire history.
There is strong ground for accepting the historical accuracy and the general narrative as given in Exodus. According to Westcott and Hort, Jesus and the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures quote or refer to Exodus more than 100 times. The integrity of the writer Moses attests to the book’s authenticity. He points out with the greatest candor his own weaknesses, his hesitancy, and his mistakes, not attributing anything of the miracles, leadership, and organization to his own prowess, though he was acknowledged as great by the Egyptians and, in the main, much respected by Israel.—Ex 11:3; 3:10-12; 4:10-16.
The divine hand is revealed in Israel’s sojourn in Egypt and their Exodus. A better place could hardly be found for Israel’s rapid growth to a mighty nation. Had they remained in Canaan, they would have been subjected to much warfare with the Canaanite inhabitants, while in the territory of the first world power during the time of its zenith they were protected by its might. They lived in the best part of the land, which contributed to their health and fertility, as well as to their intellectual growth to some extent.
But their situation in Egypt was not ideal for moral and spiritual growth; neither was it suitable for their being made a nation under theocratic rule, with a sacrificing and teaching priesthood. Furthermore, God’s promise to give Abraham’s seed the land of Canaan had to be fulfilled, and God’s time for it had come. Israel was to be constituted a great nation, with Jehovah as its King. The book of Exodus relates Jehovah’s accomplishment of this purpose.—Ex 15:13-21.
Dead Sea Scrolls. Among the manuscripts found at the Dead Sea, 15 contain fragments of the book of Exodus. One fragment (4QExf) has been dated as from about 250 B.C.E. Two of the fragments, believed to date from the second or third century B.C.E., were written in ancient Hebrew characters that were in use before the Babylonian exile.
Exodus ‒ Overview and structure
HIGHLIGHTS OF EXODUSThe record of how Jehovah delivered Israel from oppressive slavery in Egypt and organized them into a theocratic nation
Written by Moses in 1512 B.C.E., about a year after Israel departed from Egypt
Israel experiences tyrannical slavery in Egypt (1:1–3:1)
By royal decree the Israelites are made to slave under tyranny; death at the time of birth is decreed for all their male offspring
Moses is adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter and so is spared from death, but he is taught by his own mother
Moses kills an oppressive Egyptian, flees to Midian, becomes shepherd there
Jehovah delivers Israel by the hand of Moses (3:2–15:21)
Moses is commissioned at burning bush as deliverer, to speak and act in the name of Jehovah
Returns to Egypt; with Aaron, he appears before Pharaoh, telling him that Jehovah has said to send Israel away to worship Him in the wilderness; Pharaoh refuses and increases oppression
Jehovah renews promise to deliver Israel and to give them the land of Canaan, thus deepening their appreciation for his name Jehovah
Ten Plagues, announced by Moses and Aaron, come upon Egypt; after the first three, only the Egyptians are plagued; during the tenth, all the firstborn males, both of Egyptians and of their animals, die, while Israel celebrates the Passover
Using a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, Jehovah leads Israel out of Egypt; he opens the Red Sea to permit them to cross over on dry land, then drowns Pharaoh and his army when they try to cross the seabed in pursuit
Jehovah organizes Israel as a theocratic nation (15:22–40:38)
Provision of drinkable water, as well as meat and manna, is made for Israel in the wilderness; in connection with provision of manna, Sabbath is instituted
At Jethro’s suggestion, Moses selects qualified men to serve as chiefs, helping with the work of judging
At Mount Sinai, Jehovah invites the nation to enter into covenant relationship with him; they voluntarily agree; Jehovah gives fear-inspiring display of his glory
Ten Commandments and other laws given through Moses set out Jehovah’s requirements for Israel
Law covenant made over blood of sacrificial animals; the people say, “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do and be obedient”
Instructions are given by God on building the tabernacle and its furniture, as well as on making garments for the priests and on installing the priesthood
While Moses is on Mount Sinai, the people turn to worshiping a golden calf; Moses breaks the stone tablets given him by God; Levites prove loyal; about 3,000 idolaters are slain
Moses sees manifestation of Jehovah’s glory, hears God declare His name
With voluntary offerings of materials, the tabernacle and its furnishings are built; the tabernacle is set up on Nisan 1, 1512 B.C.E., and Jehovah manifests his approval
Highlights of Exodus
Exodus—From Tyranny to Theocratic OrderJEHOVAH heard their cries as “slaves under tyranny.” It was time to act, and he did so as their Almighty Deliverer. Soon thereafter, God established his chosen people as a well-organized theocracy.
This, in essence, is the thrilling account you will find in the Bible book of Exodus. Written by the Hebrew prophet Moses, it relates the experiences of the Israelites from 1657 to 1512 B.C.E. Astounding miracles and superb legislation are among the book’s absorbing features.
But does Exodus have real meaning in the 20th century? Indeed it does, as our brief consideration will show.
Epitome of Exodus
As residents in Egypt, Jacob’s descendants increase so rapidly that by royal mandate they are made to suffer as “slaves under tyranny.” Pharaoh even decrees death for all Israelite male infants. Escaping such an end is a baby whose mother sets him adrift on the Nile in a papyrus ark. Pharaoh’s daughter finds and adopts the child, giving it the name Moses, meaning “saved out of water.” Although he is reared in the royal household, at the age of 40 Moses sides with his own oppressed people, killing an Egyptian. Forced to flee, he goes to Midian, where he gets married and lives as a shepherd. In the meantime Pharaoh dies, but another Pharaoh tyrannizes over the Israelites. In time God hears their cry for help.—Exodus 1:1–2:25.
One day Moses notes a bush that is burning but, miraculously, is not consumed. Through an angel Jehovah there commissions him to return to Egypt and lead the Israelites out of despotic slavery. God appoints his brother Aaron to be his spokesman.—Exodus 3:1–4:31.
Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh, asking that the Israelites be permitted to celebrate a festival to Jehovah in the wilderness. The Egyptian ruler defiantly refuses, but then Jehovah acts to make a name for himself. Haughty Pharaoh and his magicians certainly are no match for Moses, whom Jehovah uses to bring about telling blows. Even after nine plagues, however, the Egyptian tyrant is obstinate!—Exodus 5:1–10:29.
In anticipation of the tenth blow, Jehovah commands that the Israelites celebrate a “passover.” On Nisan 10, they take a lamb or a kid for each household. The animal is killed on Nisan 14 and its blood is sprinkled on the doorposts and lintels of their houses. They roast and eat it after sundown, along with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. While all these families are indoors, about midnight Jehovah’s angel goes through the land but passes over every Israelite home. The tenth blow is struck. Death befalls all the firstborn of Egypt, including Pharaoh’s first son. At this he lets the Israelites go.—Exodus 11:1–12:36.
Soon, however, the Egyptian oppressor and his military forces are in hot pursuit. But Jehovah provides deliverance by opening an escape corridor through the Red Sea. Then, with the Israelites safely on the other side, God causes the sea to close in on pursuing Pharaoh and his army, drowning all of them. What a way to get to know Jehovah and his awesome power!—Exodus 12:37–15:21.
From there to Mount Sinai in Arabia the Israelites repeatedly learn more about Jehovah, as he makes bitter water sweet, furnishes an abundance of quails and provides a tasty food they call manna. In their third month after deliverance from Egyptian tyranny, they encamp at the foot of Mount Sinai. There they receive God’s laws, including the “Ten Words” (the Ten Commandments), and enter into a covenant with Jehovah, their Almighty Deliverer.—Exodus 15:22–24:18; Deuteronomy 4:13.
Moses spends 40 days in the mountain receiving instructions regarding true worship and the construction of Jehovah’s tabernacle, a portable temple. Meanwhile, the Israelites make and worship a golden calf. Descending from the mountain, Moses sees this and becomes so incensed that he smashes the two tablets on which the Ten Words have miraculously been inscribed. After due punishment is meted out to the idolatrous wrongdoers, he again ascends the mountain and there receives another set of the tablets. Moses is given a view of God’s glory and hears Jehovah declaring that He is merciful but does not give exemption from merited punishment.—Exodus 25:1–34:7.
Upon Moses’ return from the mountain this second time, tabernacle construction begins, following the pattern provided by Jehovah. By the end of Israel’s first year of freedom, this marvelous tent and all its furnishings have been completed. The tabernacle is set up and fully equipped, whereupon Jehovah fills it with his glory.—Exodus 34:8–40:38.
Likely, you have been deeply moved by this review of these thrilling events. But a personal reading of Exodus may give rise to certain questions, some of which may be answered as we now consider the three main features of the book in question-and-answer form.
“Slaves Under Tyranny”•3:1—What kind of priest was Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses?
Jethro evidently was the patriarchal head of a tribe of Midianites and was responsible for teaching and leading them in matters secular and religious. Since the Midianites were Abraham’s descendants by Keturah, they had memories of Jehovah’s worship that Abraham always enjoined upon his household. We cannot be sure about how pure the tribe’s religion was in Moses’ day. But Jethro showed considerable appreciation for Jehovah although he was not specially appointed by God.—Exodus 18:1-24.
•4:11—Is Jehovah responsible for such defects as blindness?
No, Jehovah is not responsible for every case of such physical defects as blindness and deafness. These have come about mainly because God has allowed a sinful human race to come into existence, the sinners Adam and Eve having lost their own perfection and, hence, their ability to produce perfect children. (Job 14:4; Romans 5:12) As their descendants had offspring, more and more imperfections, including physical defects, have become manifest. By allowing this situation to develop, God could speak of himself as ‘appointing’ the speechless, deaf and blind. For specific purposes, but only on occasion, has Jehovah caused physical blindness and speechlessness. (Genesis 19:11; Luke 1:20-22, 62-64; Acts 13:8-11) If people choose to be deaf and blind spiritually, he permits them to persist in their unbelief and rejection of his message, thus ‘appointing’ the deaf and blind in a spiritual sense. (Isaiah 6:9, 10) But Jehovah has granted spiritual hearing and sight to those seeking to please him. Moreover, through his Kingdom by Jesus Christ, the loving God, Jehovah, will free humankind from physical blindness and all other handicaps.—Isaiah 61:1, 2; 1 John 4:8; Revelation 21:1-4.
•4:24-26—Whose life was in danger, and what happened?
Because this passage is obscure, we suggest: Moses’ son was threatened with death for not being in harmony with the earlier covenant of circumcision. (Genesis 17:9-14) After removing the child’s foreskin, Zipporah caused this evidence of compliance with the covenant to touch the materialized angel’s feet, thus showing that there no longer was a reason for her son to die. If she was addressing Jehovah through the angel as “a bridegroom of blood,” it was as though she had accepted a wifely position in the covenant of circumcision, with God as the husband.
•6:3—Since Abraham, Isaac and Jacob used the name Jehovah, in what sense had God not made it known to them?
The name Jehovah literally means “He Causes to Become,” that is, according to God’s purpose. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob used the divine name and received promises from Jehovah. Yet they did not know or experience Jehovah as the One who caused these promises to be completely fulfilled. (Genesis 12:1, 2; 15:7, 13-16; 26:24; 28:10-15) However, Jehovah’s name soon would take on greater meaning for their descendants, the Israelites. They would come to know its real meaning when Jehovah carried out his purpose toward Israel by delivering them from tyranny and then giving them the Promised Land in fulfillment of his covenant with their forefathers.
•7:22—Where did the Egyptian priests get water that had not yet been turned into blood?
They could have used some water that had been taken from the Nile River before this blow, or plague. However, unaffected water apparently could be collected by digging wells in the moist soil round about the Nile. (Exodus 7:24) Perhaps the priests used such water in order to perform their trickery.
•12:29—Were both males and females reckoned as the firstborn?
The firstborn included only males. This is evident from the fact that later, when an exchange was made by giving the Levites over to Jehovah, only the males were enumerated. (Numbers 3:40-51) Pharaoh himself was a firstborn, but he was not killed because he had his own household and it was not the head but the firstborn son of the household that died on that Passover night.—Exodus 12:12.
Delivered by Jehovah•15:8—Since the Red Sea waters were “congealed,” were they frozen?
The Hebrew word here translated “congealed” means to shrink or thicken. At Job 10:10 the expression is used with regard to curdling cheese. So it does not necessarily mean that the walls of water were frozen solid. Since nothing visible was holding back the waters, they would have the appearance of being congealed, stiffened or thickened so as to remain standing. If the wind mentioned earlier had been cold enough to freeze the waters, doubtless some reference would have been made to the extreme cold.—Exodus 14:21.
Organized as a Theocracy•20:5—Does this mean that faithful ones would be punished?
No, because each individual, after reaching an age of responsibility, is judged on the basis of his own conduct and attitude. (Compare Ezekiel 18:20.) However, when the nation of Israel later turned to idolatry, it suffered the evil consequences of this for generations thereafter. Faithful ones were not personally punished for the nation’s sin, although they did feel some effects of it. It was difficult for these integrity-keepers to swim against the tide of national religious delinquency, but in doing so they enjoyed Jehovah’s loving-kindness.
•23:20-23—Who was the angel mentioned here, and how was it that Jehovah’s name was “within him”?
Angels other than the prehuman Jesus Christ were used to transmit God’s law to Moses. (John 1:1-3, 14; Hebrews 2:2, 3) But it is reasonable to conclude that the angel of whom Jehovah said “my name is within him” was Jesus in his prehuman form. He was used to guide the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4) Jesus, whose name means “Salvation of Jehovah,” is the principal one that upholds and vindicates his Father’s name.
•32:25—Why was Aaron not punished for making the golden calf?
Aaron did this at the behest of the people, not because he was in heartfelt sympathy with the idolatry. Later, he apparently joined fellow Levites in taking a stand for Jehovah and against those who withstood Moses on this occasion. About 3,000 persons (likely ringleaders) were slain, but more were guilty because after the 3,000 were gone Moses reminded the people that they had sinned greatly. So more persons than just Aaron received Jehovah’s mercy at that time.—Exodus 32:1-6, 26-35.
•34:26—What was the significance of this command not to boil a kid in its mother’s milk?
The seething or boiling of a kid, or young goat, in its mother’s milk reportedly was a pagan ritual for producing rain. So the Israelites may have been given this law to keep them clear of such practices. However, this command, along with others, seems to emphasize the fact that there is a proper and fitting order in all matters. Jehovah provided the mother’s milk to nourish her young. But boiling her offspring in it would result in harm and death, the very opposite of the milk’s intended purpose. This law also seems to have provided a lesson showing God’s covenant people that they should not act in a heartless way but should be compassionate.
Real Meaning for the FaithfulExodus is a moving account of tyrannical bondage, divine deliverance and the organizing of a theocratic society. But what can 20th-century witnesses of Jehovah learn from this book?
Jehovah sustains his people. He did this by supporting and blessing the Israelites when they were “slaves under tyranny.” (Exodus 1:7, 14) Similarly, Jehovah sustains his modern-day witnesses, even in the face of intense persecution.
Jehovah is the incomparable Deliverer. How evident that was at the Red Sea! Accordingly, his present-day witnesses can be confident that they, as a group, will survive the coming “great tribulation” under the almighty hand of this Grand Deliverer.—Matthew 24:20-22; Revelation 7:9, 14.
Jehovah is the God of theocratic organization. His laws, when obeyed, enabled the Israelites to worship him in an orderly, secure, joyful manner that honored his name. Comparably, Jehovah has organized his witnesses of today as an orderly, secure and happy brotherhood. For our own security and happiness, then, we must faithfully serve God as part of this theocratic society that glorifies his holy name.—Psalm 100:1-5; 1 Peter 2:17.
These are among the many benefits to be drawn from the book of Exodus. May our faith be strengthened as we reflect on this thrilling account of divine deliverance from tyranny to theocratic order.
Highlights From the Book of ExodusIT IS a true story of the deliverance of those who were made to “slave under tyranny.” (Exodus 1:13) It is also an exciting account of the birth of a nation. Astounding miracles, superb legislation, and the construction of the tabernacle are among its absorbing features. In essence, this is what the Bible book of Exodus contains.
Written by the Hebrew prophet Moses, Exodus relates the experiences of the Israelites over a period of 145 years—from Joseph’s death in 1657 B.C.E. to the completion of the tabernacle in 1512 B.C.E. Yet, the account is of more than mere historical interest. It is a part of God’s word, or message, to mankind. As such, it “is alive and exerts power.” (Hebrews 4:12) Exodus, then, has real meaning for us.
“GOD HEARD THEIR GROANING”(Exodus 1:1–4:31)
Jacob’s descendants living in Egypt increase so rapidly that by royal mandate they are made to suffer as slaves. Pharaoh even decrees death for all Israelite male infants. Escaping such an end is a three-month-old baby, Moses, who is adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. Although he is brought up in the royal household, at the age of 40, Moses sides with his own people and kills an Egyptian. (Acts 7:23, 24) Forced to flee, he goes to Midian. There he gets married and lives as a shepherd. At a miraculously burning bush, Jehovah commissions Moses to return to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of slavery. His brother, Aaron, is appointed to be his spokesman.
Scriptural Questions Answered:3:1—What kind of priest was Jethro? In patriarchal times the family head served as a priest for his family. Jethro was evidently the patriarchal head of a tribe of Midianites. Since the Midianites were Abraham’s descendants by Keturah, they were perhaps exposed to the worship of Jehovah.—Genesis 25:1, 2.
4:11—In what sense does Jehovah ‘appoint the speechless, the deaf, and the blind’? Although Jehovah has on occasion caused blindness and muteness, he is not responsible for every case of such disabilities. (Genesis 19:11; Luke 1:20-22, 62-64) These are the result of inherited sin. (Job 14:4; Romans 5:12) Since God has allowed this situation to exist, however, he could speak of himself as ‘appointing’ the speechless, the deaf, and the blind.
4:16—How was Moses to “serve as God” to Aaron? Moses was a representative of God. Hence, Moses became “as God” to Aaron, who spoke representatively for Moses.
Lessons for Us:1:7, 14. Jehovah supported his people when they were oppressed in Egypt. He similarly sustains his modern-day Witnesses, even in the face of intense persecution.
1:17-21. Jehovah remembers us “for good.”—Nehemiah 13:31.
3:7-10. Jehovah is sensitive to the outcry of his people.
3:14. Jehovah unfailingly carries out his purposes. We can therefore be confident that he will turn our Bible-based hopes into reality.
4:10, 13. Moses displayed so much lack of confidence in his ability to speak that even when assured of divine backing, he begged God to send someone else to speak to Pharaoh. Still, Jehovah used Moses and gave him the wisdom and strength needed to carry out his assignment. Instead of focusing on our inadequacies, may we rely on Jehovah and faithfully fulfill our commission to preach and to teach.—Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20.
ASTOUNDING MIRACLES BRING DELIVERANCE(Exodus 5:1–15:21)
Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh, asking that the Israelites be permitted to celebrate a festival to Jehovah in the wilderness. The Egyptian ruler defiantly refuses. Jehovah uses Moses to bring about one telling blow after another. Only after the tenth plague does Pharaoh let the Israelites go. Soon, however, he and his military forces are in hot pursuit. But Jehovah opens an escape corridor through the Red Sea and delivers his people. The pursuing Egyptians drown as the sea closes in on them.
Scriptural Questions Answered:6:3—In what way had God’s name not been made known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? These patriarchs used the divine name and received promises from Jehovah. Yet, they did not know or experience Jehovah as the one who caused these promises to be fulfilled.—Genesis 12:1, 2; 15:7, 13-16; 26:24; 28:10-15.
7:1—How was Moses made “God to Pharaoh”? Moses was given divine power and authority over Pharaoh. Hence, there was no need to be afraid of that king.
7:22—Where did the Egyptian priests get water that had not been turned into blood? They could have used some water that had been taken from the Nile River before this plague. Unaffected water apparently could also be collected by digging wells in the moist soil round about the Nile River.—Exodus 7:24.
8:26, 27—Why did Moses say that Israel’s sacrifices would be “detestable to the Egyptians”? Many different animals were venerated in Egypt. The mention of sacrifices thus added force and persuasiveness to Moses’ insistence that Israel be allowed to go away to sacrifice to Jehovah.
12:29—Who were reckoned as firstborn? The firstborn included only males. (Numbers 3:40-51) Pharaoh, himself a firstborn, was not killed. He had his own household. Not the family head but the firstborn son of the household died as a result of the tenth plague.
12:40—How long did the Israelites dwell in the land of Egypt? The 430 years mentioned here includes the time the sons of Israel spent “in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan.” (Reference Bible, footnote) Seventy-five-year-old Abraham crossed the Euphrates River in 1943 B.C.E. on his way to Canaan. (Genesis 12:4) From then until the time 130-year-old Jacob entered Egypt was 215 years. (Genesis 21:5; 25:26; 47:9) This means that the Israelites thereafter spent an equal period of 215 years in Egypt.
15:8—Were the “congealed” waters of the Red Sea actually frozen waters? The Hebrew verb translated “congealed” means to shrink or thicken. At Job 10:10, the expression is used with regard to curdling milk. Hence, the congealed waters do not necessarily suggest frozen waters, ice. If the “strong east wind” mentioned at Exodus 14:21 had been cold enough to freeze the waters, doubtless some reference would have been made to the extreme cold. Since nothing visible was holding back the waters, they had the appearance of being congealed, stiffened, or thickened.
Lessons for Us:7:14–12:30. The Ten Plagues were not mere coincidences. They were predicted and came precisely as indicated. How vividly the bringing of them demonstrates the Creator’s control over water, sunlight, insects, animals, and humans! The plagues also show that God can selectively bring calamity upon his enemies while protecting his worshipers.
11:2; 12:36. Jehovah blesses his people. Evidently he was seeing to it that the Israelites were now given wages for their labor in Egypt. They had entered the land as free people, not as captives of war to be enslaved.
14:30. We can be confident that Jehovah will deliver his worshipers at the upcoming “great tribulation.”—Matthew 24:20-22; Revelation 7:9, 14.
JEHOVAH ORGANIZES A THEOCRATIC NATION(Exodus 15:22–40:38)
In the third month after their deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites encamp at the foot of Mount Sinai. There they receive the Ten Commandments and other laws, enter into a covenant with Jehovah, and become a theocratic nation. Moses spends 40 days in the mountain, receiving instructions regarding true worship and the construction of Jehovah’s tabernacle, a portable temple. Meanwhile, the Israelites make and worship a golden calf. Descending from the mountain, Moses sees this and becomes so incensed that he smashes the two stone tablets given him by God. After due punishment is meted out to the wrongdoers, he again ascends the mountain and receives another set of tablets. Upon Moses’ return, tabernacle construction begins. By the end of Israel’s first year of freedom, this marvelous tent and all its furnishings are completed and set up. Then Jehovah fills the tent with his glory.
Scriptural Questions Answered:20:5—How is it that Jehovah brings “punishment for the error of fathers” upon future generations? After reaching an age of responsibility, each individual is judged on the basis of his own conduct and attitude. But when the nation of Israel turned to idolatry, it suffered the consequences of this for generations thereafter. Even the faithful Israelites felt its effects in that the nation’s religious delinquency made staying on a course of integrity difficult for them.
23:19; 34:26—What was the significance of the command not to boil a kid in its mother’s milk? Boiling a kid (the young of a goat or other animal) in its mother’s milk reportedly was a pagan ritual thought to produce rain. Moreover, since the mother’s milk is for nourishing her young, boiling her offspring in it would be an act of cruelty. This law helped to show God’s people that they should be compassionate.
23:20-23—Who was the angel mentioned here, and how was it that Jehovah’s name was “within him”? Likely, this angel was Jesus in his prehuman form. He was used to guide the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4) Jehovah’s name is “within him” in that Jesus is the principal one who upholds and sanctifies his Father’s name.
32:1-8, 25-35—Why was Aaron not punished for making the golden calf? Aaron was not in heartfelt sympathy with the idolatry. Later, he apparently joined fellow Levites in taking a stand for God and against those who resisted Moses. After the guilty were slain, Moses reminded the people that they had sinned greatly, indicating that others besides Aaron also received Jehovah’s mercy.
33:11, 20—How did God speak to Moses “face to face”? This expression denotes intimate two-way conversation. Moses talked with God’s representative and orally received instruction from Jehovah through him. But Moses did not see Jehovah, since ‘no man can see God and yet live.’ In fact, Jehovah did not personally speak to Moses. The Law “was transmitted through angels by the hand of a mediator,” states Galatians 3:19.
Lessons for Us:15:25; 16:12. Jehovah provides for his people.
18:21. The men chosen for responsible positions in the Christian congregation must also be capable, God-fearing, trustworthy, and unselfish.
20:1–23:33. Jehovah is the supreme Lawgiver. When obeyed, his laws enabled the Israelites to worship him in an orderly and joyful way. Jehovah has a theocratic organization today. Cooperating with it leads to our happiness and security.
Real Meaning for UsWhat does the book of Exodus reveal about Jehovah? It presents him as the loving Provider, the incomparable Deliverer, and the Fulfiller of his purposes. He is the God of theocratic organization.
As you do the weekly Bible reading in preparation for the Theocratic Ministry School, no doubt you will be deeply moved by what you learn from Exodus. When you consider what is stated in the section “Scriptural Questions Answered,” you will gain greater insight into certain Scriptural passages. The comments under “Lessons for Us” will show you how you can benefit from the Bible reading for the week.
Exodus ‒ Importance and benefits
WHY BENEFICIAL26 Preeminently, Exodus reveals Jehovah as the great Deliverer and Organizer and the Fulfiller of his magnificent purposes, and it establishes our faith in him. This faith is increased as we study the many references to Exodus in the Christian Greek Scriptures, indicating fulfillments of many features of the Law covenant, the assurance of a resurrection, Jehovah’s provision to sustain his people, precedents for Christian relief work, counsel on consideration for parents, requirements for gaining life, and how to view retributive justice. The Law was finally summarized in two commands regarding the showing of love for God and fellowman.—Matt. 22:32—Ex. 4:5; John 6:31-35 and 2 Cor. 8:15—Ex. 16:4, 18; Matt. 15:4 and Eph. 6:2—Ex. 20:12; Matt. 5:26, 38, 39—Ex. 21:24; Matt. 22:37-40.
27 At Hebrews 11:23-29 we read of the faith of Moses and his parents. By faith he left Egypt, by faith he celebrated the Passover, and by faith he led Israel through the Red Sea. The Israelites got baptized into Moses and ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink. They looked forward to the spiritual rock-mass, or Christ, but still they did not have God’s approval, for they put God to the test and became idolaters, fornicators, and murmurers. Paul explains that this has an application for Christians today: “Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived. Consequently let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.”—1 Cor. 10:1-12; Hebrews 3:7-13.
28 Much of the deep spiritual significance of Exodus, together with its prophetic application, is given in Paul’s writings, especially in Hebrews chapters 9 and 10. “For since the Law has a shadow of the good things to come, but not the very substance of the things, men can never with the same sacrifices from year to year which they offer continually make those who approach perfect.” (Heb. 10:1) We are interested, therefore, in knowing the shadow and understanding the reality. Christ “offered one sacrifice for sins perpetually.” He is described as “the Lamb of God.” Not a bone of this “Lamb” was broken, just as in the type. The apostle Paul comments: “Christ our passover has been sacrificed. Consequently let us keep the festival, not with old leaven, neither with leaven of badness and wickedness, but with unfermented cakes of sincerity and truth.”—Heb. 10:12; John 1:29 and 19:36—Ex. 12:46; 1 Cor. 5:7, 8—Ex. 23:15.
29 Jesus became the Mediator of a new covenant, as Moses had been mediator of the Law covenant. The contrast between these covenants is also clearly explained by the apostle Paul, who speaks of the ‘handwritten document of decrees’ having been taken out of the way by Jesus’ death on the torture stake. The resurrected Jesus as High Priest is “a public servant of the holy place and of the true tent, which Jehovah put up, and not man.” The priests under the Law rendered “sacred service in a typical representation and a shadow of the heavenly things” according to the pattern that was given by Moses. “But now Jesus has obtained a more excellent public service, so that he is also the mediator of a correspondingly better covenant, which has been legally established upon better promises.” The old covenant became obsolete and was done away with as a code administering death. Those Jews not understanding this are described as having their perceptions dulled, but those believers who appreciate that spiritual Israel has come under a new covenant can “with unveiled faces reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah,” being adequately qualified as its ministers. With cleansed consciences these are able to offer up their own “sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.”—Col. 2:14; Heb. 8:1-6, 13; 2 Cor. 3:6-18; Heb. 13:15; Ex. 34:27-35.
30 Exodus magnifies Jehovah’s name and sovereignty, pointing forward to a glorious deliverance of the Christian nation of spiritual Israel, to whom it is said: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. For you were once not a people, but are now God’s people.” Jehovah’s power as demonstrated in gathering his spiritual Israel out of the world to magnify his name is no less miraculous than the power he showed in behalf of his people in ancient Egypt. In keeping Pharaoh in existence to show him His power and in order that His name might be declared, Jehovah foreshadowed a far greater testimony to be accomplished through His Christian Witnesses.—1 Pet. 2:9, 10; Rom. 9:17; Rev. 12:17.
31 Thus, we can say from the Scriptures that the nation formed under Moses pointed forward to a new nation under Christ and to a kingdom that will never be shaken. In view of this, we are encouraged to “render God sacred service with godly fear and awe.” Just as Jehovah’s presence covered the tabernacle in the wilderness, so he promises to be eternally present with those who fear him: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. . . . Write, because these words are faithful and true.” Exodus is indeed an essential and beneficial part of the Bible record.—Ex. 19:16-19—Heb. 12:18-29; Ex. 40:34—Rev. 21:3, 5.