The story of the Exodus (ca. 1250 BC)

Found in: Exodus and Numbers

Eventually the Israelites in Egypt grew so numerous that a cruel pharaoh who had never heard of Joseph enslaved the Israelites. At one point he ordered the newborn males to be killed. At this a Levite woman (Levi being one of the 12 sons of Israel) put her baby boy in a basket in a river. He floated into the hands of the Pharaoh’s daughter who took pity on him, named him Moses, and raised him as her own. 

When he was older, Moses killed an Egyptian for attacking one of his fellow Hebrews. He fled into the desert, and God called him from a burning bush, telling him to go back and tell the pharaoh to let his people go so that they could worship Him. He revealed his name, Yahweh (“I AM”), and that he was the God of his forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He granted Moses miraculous powers to help persuade the pharaoh who would only be increasingly stubborn.

At Moses' hand ten plagues were wrought. The Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go until the last plague, the destruction of the firstborn males. God instructed the Israelites to smear the blood of a lamb over their doorposts so that the angel of death would recognize and pass over their houses that night (hence the name "Passover"). When the Egyptians awoke to find their firstborn sons dead, the Pharaoh ordered them to leave. With no time to waste, they ate unleavened bread and went into the desert. The Pharaoh again changed his mind and had his forces pursue the Israelites. Through God’s power Moses divided the Red Sea, allowing the Israelites to cross, and then brought the waters down again, drowning the Egyptians. 

And so the Israelites headed back to the promised land. Along the way, Moses received from God the 10 commandments on Mt. Sinai:

Worship no other god but Yahweh. 
Do not worship idols. 
Do not use the Lord’s name in vain. 
Keep holy the Lord’s day. 
Honor your father and mother. 
Do not murder. 
Do not commit adultery. 
Do not steal. 
Do not bear false witness against your neighbor. 
Do not covet your neighbor’s wife or belongings. 

No sooner had the commandments been given than the Israelites were found worshipping a golden calf as God. God was ready to destroy them and start a whole new nation with Moses, but Moses pleaded with God, reminding him of his promises to Israel, so God spared them and renewed his covenant with Moses and the people.



"Yahweh" is the closest pronunciation we have to the Hebrew consonants of God's name revealed to Moses. "Jehovah" is a later and inaccurate but time-honored variation of that  pronunciation.

The 10 Plagues of Egypt : 
The Nile turning into blood 
Frogs covering the land 
Swarm of gnats 
Swarm of flies 
Dying livestock 
Boils on the skin 
Fierce hail storm 
Locusts covering the land 
Darkness for 3 days  
Death of the firstborn 

God purposefully has the Israelites in the desert offer holocausts (burnt offerings) of animals considered sacred by the Egyptians, to drive home  the point that he alone is God.

The general ethics of the 10 commandments are also found in other systems like Hammurabi's code. Unique to the Law given to Moses is the personal feel of the first four of the ten commandments. 


Review Questions: 

Where does the word “Passover” come from? 

Why does God have the Israelites offer specific animals to him? 

Many years passed after Joseph died.
A new pharaoh needed some bricks.
Scared how the Israelites multiplied,
A pyramid scheme did the trick.
How long can the people cry out?
How long must my people be slaves?
Moses, there’s no time to doubt.
The burning bush sent you to say

Let them go. Let them go. 
Let them go. Let them go.

Ten plagues and Pharaoh had had enough.
He drove them out into the sand.
Ten rules to follow at Mount Sinai,
But the golden calf was not a part of that plan!
I mean how long can the people be blind?
There’s only I AM THAT I AM!
I’ll smite them and start one more time!
But Moses remembered the plan

So I let them go. I let them go. 
I let them go. I let them go. 

My Moses remembered the plan.
My Moses remembered the plan.

So I let them go.