Exodus is the story of God’s redemption of His people. Redemption begins with freedom. Yet, it is more than just freedom. It is freedom with the purpose of being in fellowship with God. The book of Exodus is broken into a seven-themed journey as the Jews progressed from bondage to fellowship. Many of these themes are repeated in the rest of the Bible. Each of these themes also point to Christ and the progress of every believer from bondage to fellowship with Him.
1.) Freedom from bondage. Exodus chapters 1 through 14 describe God’s plan to free the Jews from bondage. In these chapters, God freed the Jews from their physical captivity in Egypt. He used 10 plagues to show that His power is mightier than the ruler of this world. Jesus has also come to free all people from bondage to the ruler of this world. He is also the Passover lamb who died to allow judgment to pass over every believer. In exchange, He wants you to live a life devoted to Him out of love and free from the sins of this world. Your walk with Christ does not end with your freedom. That is merely your starting point on your journey.
2.) Testing in the wilderness. Exodus chapters 15 through 18 describe the Jews’ testing in the wilderness. This testing was to show the Jews where their hearts remained in spiritual bondage. Jesus will also test believers in their walk to show where their hearts remain trapped in the world.
3.) God’s Covenant. Exodus chapters 19 and 20 describe the preparation for and the receipt of God’s first covenant of the Ten Commandments. In the New Testament, God revealed that none can hope to keep the Law. Only through Jesus are you freed from the consequences of having broken the Law. Yet, although the Ten Commandments no longer apply for believers as a test for salvation, they remain a standard for righteousness that believers should aspire to live by.
4.) God’s interpretative laws. Exodus chapters 21 through 24 describe God’s laws that interpret the Ten Commandments. Christ has also freed believers from the consequences of having broken these laws. Yet, believers should not dismiss these laws as being irrelevant. The Bible says that all Scripture is both inspired and profitable for raising up a person in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Guided by the Holy Spirit, each believer should look for the spiritual equivalent to these laws to live a righteous life.
5.) Divine worship. Exodus chapters 25 through 31 describe God’s laws for the building of the Tabernacle. The components of the Tabernacle described the worship that would lead to fellowship. The Tabernacle also foreshadowed Christ who came to dwell with us. The Tabernacle also foreshadowed the body of every believer where the Holy Spirit dwells today.
6.) Counterfeit worship. Exodus chapters 32 through 34 describe both the counterfeit worship of the golden calf and the restoration of the Jews after they sinned against God. Counterfeit worship trusts in things that people can see in the world. It does not rely in faith on God’s promises. It also merges God’s rules with the traditions of the world.
7.) Obedience leading to fellowship. Exodus chapters 35 through 40 describe the building the Tabernacle according to the meticulous details that God had specified. The book concludes with God’s Shekinah glory inhabiting the Tabernacle. The lesson is that fellowship requires obedience. Fellowship with Christ should be the aspiration of every believer.
Exodus Chapter 1: Seven Lessons from Pharaoh’s Enslavement of the Jews
Introduction to chapter 1: Exodus chapter 1 begins with the bondage the Jews suffered under a new Pharaoh. He feared that the growing Jewish population might turn against him. As each step that he took to control the Jews failed, his schemes became more wicked and evil. With an evil heart, he became a host to do Satan’s bidding against God’s people. Only Hitler surpassed him in his evil schemes. Around the world and throughout history, there have always been tyrants who have sought to subdue God’s people and oppress those who seek to do His will. In the face of such persecution, many protest how a just and loving God could allow for such suffering. From the first chapter in Exodus, God reveals seven important messages to answer this age-old question.
First, no matter what may happen, God wants you to cling to His promises and trust Him. Through the Jews’ population growth during their time of oppression, He revealed that He was faithful to keep His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to make their descendants a great nation. Second, just as Pharaoh sought to oppress the Jews, God wants you to be aware of Satan’s schemes to oppress you. Third, despite Pharaoh’s efforts to oppress the Jews, God continued to bless the Jews and caused them to multiply. God will also allow trials and tribulations to bring spiritual growth in your life. Fourth, through the example of the righteous midwives who refused to submit to Pharaoh’s orders, He also wants you to refuse to submit to the evil in the world around you. Fifth, through the miraculous growth of the Jewish population even after Pharaoh tried to kill the Jewish boys, God reveals that He is stronger than the ruler of this world. Thus, He does not want you to fear evil when you are following His will. Sixth, through God’s blessing of the midwives who defied Pharaoh, He reveals that He will bless those who stand for righteousness. Finally, with Pharaoh’s final instruction to throw all the boys into the Nile river, He reveals that He wants you to trust Him that He is in control, even when all hope seems lost. God always has a plan to save you even if you can’t see it. He used Pharaoh’s plan of destruction to raise up a savior for the Jews.
God’s faithfulness in keeping His promises to make the Jews a mighty nation. The book of Exodus begins with God looking back to show how He fulfilled His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: “1 Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; they came each one with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. 7 But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them.” (Ex. 1:1-7). The Jews left Israel to live in Egypt as a nation of a mere 70 people (Gen. 46:27; Ex. 1:5). These 70 persons symbolized the 70 nations that came out of Noah (Gen. 10). They spent approximately 400 years in captivity (Gen. 15:13- “400”; Ex. 12:40-“430”). After spending two years in the wilderness, God told Moses to assemble and count the men of fighting age who would invade the promised land (Nu. 1:1). At that time, the men of fighting age totaled 603,550 (Num. 1:46). The total population including women and children would have been many times greater than this. Because God was faithful, He fulfilled His covenant by multiplying the Jews to be as numerous as the stars: “Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.” (Dt. 10:22; Heb. 11:12). This fulfilled a promise that God made to Abraham: “And He took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’” (Gen 15:5; 17:2). “[I]ndeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies.” (Gen. 22:17). This also fulfilled God’s similar promise to Isaac (Gen. 26:4). It also fulfilled His promise to Jacob (Gen. 28:3; 28:13-15; 35:11). Even the Hebrew name for the book of Exodus emphasizes the continuity of His promises. In Hebrew, the book is called “shemot” or “names” after the names that appear in the first verse. Although these names are not repeated again in this book, it connects Exodus to the promises that God made to these 12 tribes in Genesis. Thus, even if it may seem that nothing good can arise from your circumstances, He is faithful to keep His promises to bring you to a better place.
You also can trust God’s promises. If you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are part of Abraham’s descendants. You are an adopted child of God (Rom. 8:14-17). Like Abraham, God also promises to be faithful to you. He will bless and multiply you when you are faithful to Him (Lev. 26:9-10). These blessings include, but are not limited to, the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:21-22). Through faith and obedience, have you given God many reasons to bless and multiply your endeavors?
Pharaoh’s enslavement of the Jews. As God blessed the Jews, a new Pharaoh in Egypt feared that they might align themselves with Egypt’s enemies, most likely the Hittites to the north: “8 Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 He said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. 10 Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.’ 11 So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses.” (Ex. 1:8-11).
The relationship between Pharaoh and Satan. Pharaoh said “come let us . . .” as part of his plot to have the Jews build storage cities for him made of brick and mortar (Ex. 1:10). This Hebrew phrase was used only once previously when humans tried to unite against God in building the tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-4). His actions pointed toward the evil of mankind against God’s plans. Likewise, when Pharaoh conspired with his people to deal “wisely” with the Jews to prevent them from multiplying, he was being compared to Satan who sought to deceive Adam and Eve. “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16). “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”’ (Gen. 3:1). Pharaoh’s enmity against God’s people allowed Satan to control him. By using Pharaoh to try to kill the Jews, Satan attempted in vain to undermine God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to turn the Jews into a great nation (Gen. 12:1-3). Satan is always at war with God. Yet, he will always fail because God is stronger than him. Thus, you should never fear Satan when you are following God’s will in your life. Are you acting outside of God’s will in any area of your life?
Don’t put your hope and security in the things of this world. The Pharaoh who knew Joseph was grateful to the Jews. This new one saw the Jews as a threat. The lesson here is not to put your hope in politicians. Are you putting your hope in God?
The growth of the Jews under Pharaoh’s oppression. No matter how hard Pharaoh tried to oppress the Jews, he could not overcome the blessings that God had put upon His people: “12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel. 13 The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; 14 and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.” (Ex. 1:12-14). Stephen later revealed that Pharaoh sought to have the Jewish children die from neglect while their parents labored under horrific conditions: “It was [Pharaoh] who took shrewd advantage of our race and mistreated our fathers so that they would expose their infants and they would not survive.” (Acts 7:19).
Satan’s first scheme against God’s people: tribulation and fear. The Pharaoh’s first scheme involved creating hardship. Satan knows that a person without deep roots in their faith will fall away during times of hardship. God recorded the details of Satan’s persecution of the Jews because Satan uses the same playbook against believers today: “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Cor. 10:11). Jesus later explained Satan’s strategy through the parable of the sower: “Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away . . . . The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.” (Matt. 13:5-6; 20-21). Does your faith remain strong during hardships and trials?
God tests us to show us where our hearts are evil. When you face a trial, rejoice that God has given you the chance to learn and change from your prior mistakes: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” (Jam. 1:2). God cannot tempt you (Jam. 1:13-14). He does, however, test you (Jer. 17:10; 20:12). He tests you to show you where your heart is evil (Jer. 17:9). David invited God to search his heart to expose his sins (Ps. 139:23). His openness to learning from his sins is what made him a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). Are you inviting God’s testing and viewing your trials as growth opportunities?
The righteous midwives who refused to submit to Pharaoh’s evil plan. After hard labor failed to decrease the number of the Jews, Pharaoh resorted to ordering the Jewish midwives to kill every Jewish baby boy at birth: “15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; 16 and he said, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.’ 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.” (Ex. 1:15-17).
Fight injustice and don’t submit to evil authority in the world. Normally, a person must submit to authority: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Ro. 13:1-2). “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority.” (1 Pet. 2:13). Yet, this rule does not apply where a ruler asks a servant to commit an evil act (Acts. 4:19). Are you fighting against evil and injustice in the world?
Fear God by hating evil. Shiphrah and Puah refused to engage in evil acts because they feared God (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; Ps. 111:10). According to the Bible, you fear God when you hate evil: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;. . .” (Prov. 8:13(a)). “By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil.” (Prov. 16:6). Do you fear God by hating the evil around you?
Satan’s second scheme against God’s people: trying to divide them. The Pharaoh’s second scheme involved having God’s people turn on each other. He could have used Egyptian soldiers to kill the Jewish boys. Instead, he sought to turn the Jewish midwives against the Jews. Satan uses a similar tactic today within God’s church. Yet, instead of midwives, he tries to use gossip and slander to cause dissention within the Church: “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! The tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” (Jam. 3:5-6). “A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are like scorching fire.” (Prov. 16:27). Believers are to work together, guided by the Spirit (Acts 1:14). Do you restore others within the Church? Or, are you doing Satan’s bidding by tearing others down?
The Jews grew in power after Pharaoh tried to kill their baby boys. Despite Pharaoh’s attempts to decrease the Jewish population, God caused it to grow: “18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?’ 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.’ 20 So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty.” (Ex. 1:18-20). As strong as the devil may seem, the power of the Holy Spirit inside of you is stronger: “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4). Again, the lesson is that you should never fear Satan when you do God’s will.
God grows His people through hardship. From the call of Abraham to the deliverance of the Jews, approximately 400 years passed. During the first 215 years, they grew to just 70 people (According to Stephan, the total number was 75 if you include Joseph’s family who was already in Egypt (Acts 7:14)). During the second half of this time period, the number grew to 600,000 fighting men. This would have meant that the entire population exceeded 1.5 million. It seems that the more God’s people were oppressed, the more they multiplied (Ex. 1:12-13; 18-20). The same was also true with the early Christian church. It grew under oppression. God even promises oppression when you live according to His will: “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12). “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:20). Are you growing in your walk with God during the bad times by drawing closer to Him?
Satan’s third scheme: co-mingling God’s people with the world. Pharaoh’s third scheme was to have the men killed off and the Jewish women to marry Egyptian men. If Pharaoh wanted to get rid of the Hebrews, he could have slaughtered both the male and female babies. Pharaoh knew that if the populations co-mingled the Jews would lose their identity. Today, he uses the same strategy to cause believers to co-mingle with the things of the world to lose their identity in Christ. Are you keeping yourself separate from the things of the world?
God’s blessing of the midwives for their righteousness. In addition to blessing the Jews, God blessed the midwives who stood up to Pharaoh: “21 Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them.” (Ex. 1:21). Pharaoh was known and feared by millions. His title is translated as “great house.” Moses, however, never tells us the name of this Pharaoh. Indeed, scholars cannot even agree which one he was. Many liberal scholars think that the exodus from Egypt took place in the thirteenth century B.C. By contrast, most conservative scholars place the time of the exodus in the fifteenth century B.C., around 1440 B.C. By recording the names of Shiphrah and Puah for their bravery in the Bible, God reveals that He will never forget good deeds for Him: “The memory of the righteous is blessed, but the name of the wicked will rot.” (Prov. 10:7). “For he will never be shaken; the righteous will be remembered forever.” (Ps. 112:6).
God will also bless you when you seek after righteousness. The midwives were blessed with families of their own (Ex. 1:20-21). Their male children, however, still faced extermination, just like the other Jews. Their husbands would have also been oppressed with hard labor. Jesus, however, promises that you fill find fulfillment no matter what the circumstance when you search after righteousness: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6). “He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor.” (Prov. 21:21). “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but He loves one who pursues righteousness.” (Prov. 15:9). You can be blessed even when you face persecution and economic or other difficulties (John 16:33). Are you finding joy in all your trials?
Pharaoh’s command to throw every boy in the Nile river. After the midwives had thwarted Pharaoh’s plan to kill the Jewish boys at birth, his plans became more wicked. He ordered the Egyptian soldiers to throw every boy into the Nile river: “22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, ‘Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.’” (Ex. 1:22). The ancient Jewish historian Josephus (famous for documenting Christ’s existence), records that Pharaoh received a prophesy that a child would be born somewhere in his kingdom who would pose a threat to him: “One of Pharaoh’s sacred scribes, who had wisdom to predict the future, told the king, that, in truth, a child was about to be born to the Israelites, who, if he was allowed to live, would humble the kingdom of Egypt and exalt the Israelites. This man would surpass all men in virtue and obtain a reputation that would endure for all ages. The king was so frightened that he took this man’s advice and commanded that they should cast every male child born to the Israelites into the river and kill it (Josephus, Antiquities 2:205-206/ix.2). This foreshadowed Herod’s efforts after being alerted by the magi to stop the predicted coming Messiah by killing all the Jewish boys (Matt. 2:1-8; 16-21). Other Jewish traditions believe that Pharaoh killed both Jewish and Egyptian boys because the prophesy was not specific as to the origin of the Messiah. Indeed, the plain text of the verse says that he “commanded all his people” that “every son” be thrown into the Nile (First Fruits of Zion, Depths of the Torah- Shemot Vol. 5, (2015) p. 355).
Trust God’s promise during the times of silence, even when things are difficult. There was a 400-year period of silence between Genesis and Exodus. During these 400 years in bondage, many Jews might have been tempted to feel that God had abandoned them. The number 40 is the Bible symbolizes testing. The number 400 symbolizes completed testing. If the Jews had studied God’s promises to Abraham they would have known that their time of oppression and testing was near completion. God warned Abraham in advance about both the Jews’ oppression and the exact duration of their captivity: “God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.’” (Gen. 15:13-16). God later repeated His promise to bring the Jews back: “I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.” (Gen. 46:4). There was also a 400-year period of silence between the post-exilic prophets, like Malachi, and the books of the New Testament. There is now a similar period of silence from the time of the Apostles to the present. Again, many interpret the current period to believe that God is no longer directly involved in their affairs. Yet, today God communicates with you through His Word and the Holy Spirit (Ps. 119:105; Jo. 16:7; 13). Jesus warns that you must trust Him when you face near certain trials in this world: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (Jo. 16:33). Do you trust God in your hard times?
God has given you a spirit of strength, not fear. There will always be something to fear in the world. It may be a sickness, an addiction, debts, or problems at work. God, however, has not given us a spirit of fear in facing the enemy. Instead, He has given us a spirit of strength (2 Tim. 1:7). The only fear that we are commanded to have is of God (Prov. 1:7). Fearing God is defined as hating all things that are evil (Prov. 8:13). The fear of mankind is a snare upon us: “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). Are you fearful of any situation you face? If you are doing God’s will, you have nothing to fear. The fear you feel is from the enemy.