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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Exodus Introduction


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The Second Book Of Moses(Exodus)


Contents and Arrangement of the Book of Exodus

The second book of Moses is called שׁמות ואלה in the Hebrew Codex from the opening words; but in the Septuagint and Vulgate it has received the name Ἔξοδος, Exodus, from the first half of its contents. It gives an account of the first stage in the fulfilment of the promises given to the patriarchs, with reference to the growth of the children of Israel into a numerous people, their deliverance from Egypt, and their adoption at Sinai as the people of God. It embraces a period of 360 years, extending from the death of Joseph, with which the book of Genesis closes, to the building of the tabernacle, at the commencement of the second year after the departure from Egypt. During this period the rapid increase of the children of Israel, which is described in Exo 1, and which caused such anxiety to the new sovereigns of Egypt who had ascended the throne after the death of Joseph, that they adopted measure for the enslaving and suppression of the ever increasing nation, continued without interruption. With the exception of this fact, and the birth, preservation, and education of Moses, who was destined by God to be the deliverer of His people, which are circumstantially related in Exo 2, the entire book from Exo 3 to Exo 40 is occupied with an elaborate account of the events of two years, viz., the last year before the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, and the first year of their journey. This mode of treating the long period in question, which seems out of all proportion when judged by a merely outward standard, may be easily explained from the nature and design of the sacred history. The 430 years of the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt were the period during which the immigrant family was to increase and multiply, under the blessing and protection of God, in the way of natural development; until it had grown into a nation, and was ripe for that covenant which Jehovah had made with Abraham, to be completed with the nation into which his seed had grown. During the whole of this period the direct revelations from God to Israel were entirely suspended; so that, with the exception of what is related in Exo 1 and 2, no event occurred of any importance to the kingdom of God. It was not till the expiration of these 400 years, that the execution of the divine plan of salvation commenced with the call of Moses (Exo 3) accompanied by the founding of the kingdom of God in Israel. To this end Israel was liberated from the power of Egypt, and, as a nation rescued from human bondage, was adopted by God, the Lord of the whole earth, as the people of His possession.

These two great facts of far-reaching consequences in the history of the world, as well as in the history of salvation, form the kernel and essential substance of this book, which may be divided accordingly into two distinct parts. In the first part, Exo 1-15:21, we have seven sections, describing (1) the preparation for the saving work of God, through the multiplication of Israel into a great people and their oppression in Egypt (Exo 1), and through the birth and preservation of their liberator (Exo 2); (2) the call and training of Moses to be the deliverer and leader of Israel (Exo 3 and 4); (3) the mission of Moses to Pharaoh (Exo 5-7:7); (4) the negotiations between Moses and Pharaoh concerning the emancipation of Israel, which were carried on both in words and deeds or miraculous signs (Exo 7:8-11); (5) the consecration of Israel as the covenant nation through the institution of the feast of Passover; (6) the exodus of Israel effected through the slaying of the first-born of the Egyptians (Exo 12-13:16); and (7) the passage of Israel through the Red Sea, and destruction of Pharaoh and his host, with Israel's song of triumph at its deliverance (Exo 13:17-15:21). - In the second part, Exo 15:22-40:38, we have also seven sections, describing the adoption of Israel as the people of God; viz., (1) the march of Israel from the Red Sea to the mountain of God (Exo 15:22-17:7); (2) the attitude of the heathen towards Israel, as seen in the hostility of Amalek, and the friendly visit of Jethro the Midianite at Horeb (Exo 17:8-18:27); (3) the establishment of the covenant at Sinai through the election of Israel as the people of Jehovah's possession, the promulgation of the fundamental law and of the fundamental ordinances of the Israelitish commonwealth, and the solemn conclusion of the covenant itself (Exo 19-24:11); (4) the divine directions with regard to the erection and arrangement of the dwelling-place of Jehovah in Israel (Exo 24:12-31:18); (5) the rebellion of the Israelites and their renewed acceptance on the part of God (Exo 32-34); (6) the building of the tabernacle and preparation of holy things for the worship of God (Exo 35-39); and (7) the setting up of the tabernacle and its solemn consecration (Exo 40).

These different sections are not marked off, it is true, like the ten parts of Genesis, by special headings, because the account simply follows the historical succession of the events described; but they may be distinguished with perfect east, through the internal grouping and arrangement of the historical materials. The song of Moses at the Red Sea (15:1-21) formed most unmistakeably the close of the first stage of the history, which commenced with the call of Moses, and for which the way was prepared, not only by the enslaving of Israel on the part of the Pharaohs, in the hope of destroying its national and religious independence, but also by the rescue and education of Moses, and by his eventful life. And the setting up of the tabernacle formed an equally significant close to the second stage of the history. By this, the covenant which Jehovah had made with the patriarch Abram (Gen 15) was established with the people Israel. By the filling of the dwelling-place, which had just been set up, with the cloud of the glory of Jehovah (Exo 40:34-38), the nation of Israel was raised into a congregation of the Lord and the establishment of the kingdom of God in Israel fully embodied in the tabernacle, with Jehovah dwelling in the Most Holy Place; so that all subsequent legislation, and the further progress of the history in the guidance of Israel from Sinai to Canaan, only served to maintain and strengthen that fellowship of the Lord with His people, which had already been established by the conclusion of the covenant, and symbolically exhibited in the building of the tabernacle. By this marked conclusion, therefore, with a fact as significant in itself as it was important in the history of Israel, Exodus, which commences with a list of the names of the children of Israel who went down to Egypt, is rounded off into a complete and independent book among the five books of Moses.

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