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Exodus Overview

by Glen Scrivener

Jesus... saved a people out of the land of Egypt. (Jude 5)

Here's where we begin our Lenten blog through Exodus - Jude's 10 word overview.  At its heart is the truth: Jesus saves from slavery.  That's what Exodus is all about.

In today's introduction to the book, I'll try to expand on this one thought just a little.  I will focus on the who of Exodus rather than the what.  Today the focus is not on Moses or Pharoah or the plagues or the Red Sea or the law or the tabernacle - that's for another time.  First we'll tackle the crucial issue: Who is the LORD who redeems Israel?

Given that this is precisely how the God of the Old Testament defines Himself  - 'the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt' - getting this question right is absolutely vital.

We begin at the non-burning bush - Exodus 3.

burning bush

Here the Angel of the LORD (v2) confronts Moses. This Sent One from the LORD is Himself "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (v6).  He is God from God and He calls Himself “I AM WHO I AM.” (v14)

This is important to note because verse 12 may just be the book's theme sentence:

"But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain." (Ex 3:12)

The Angel does not say “God will go with you and you will worship God.” Nor does He say “I will go with you and you will worship Me.”  No, the Angel is the saving LORD (see Judges 2:1-5) and He relates the people to Another.

Jesus saves a people and brings them to worship God on the mountain.  The Son redeems a people for the Father.  That is what Exodus is all about.  And the rest of the book is the playing out of this truth.

pillar cloudAs the people come out of Egypt - there He is in the pillar of cloud/fire.  At one point He's called the LORD (13:21,22) at another, 'the Angel of God' (14:19,20).  The Sent One who is God is the redeeming LORD.

When He brings them to the mountain (as promised) He makes sure they are prepared to meet the LORD:

The LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, 'Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.  (Ex 19:10-12)

Here the LORD who has carried them on eagle's wings is on the mountain.  And he's warning the people about how dangerous it will be when the LORD meets them on the mountain.  If this were some unitarian god it would be strange talk indeed but we know that the divine Angel is the LORD who is bringing them to meet God (the Father) on the mountain (Ex 3:12).

As Deuteronomy 4 and 5 underline, the encounter on Sinai was utterly unique (e.g. Deut 4:15; 5:26).

giving law

No-one had ever heard 'the living God' speaking out of fire on the mountain as they did on that third day.

Now of course Moses had heard the I AM speaking out of fire on that very mountain (Exodus 3).  But this is different.  This is the unseen LORD.  This is the Most High God and it has taken 70 chapters of the bible - it has taken the mighty redemption of the Angel - to make this kind of encouter possible.

And just when you thought Exodus might finish in chapter 19, the people don't actually go up the mountain at the trumpet blast (Ex 19:13).  Instead Moses goes up on their behalf (cf Deut 5:27; 18:15,16).

Everything will now be presented by intermediaries, shadows, types - such is the very essence of the old covenant introduced on Sinai.

The second half of Exodus is mainly Moses on the mountain, in the cloud, receiving the law and the tabernacle blueprint from the unseen LORD.

Attention turns to the future as the unseen LORD promises Moses that the Angel will continue to deliver them (Ex 23:20-23).  They can trust Him because the name of the unseen LORD is in Him (Ex 23:21).  It is the Angel who commands, leads and forgives the Israelites.

But perhaps Moses wasn't listening in chapter 23 because in 33:12 he says:

"See, you say to me, 'Bring up this people,' but you have not let me know whom you will send with me."

The Angel had brought them thus far.  Who would continue to lead them?

The unseen LORD replies:

"My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." (33:14)

Who is this 'Presence'?

The word 'Presence' is the word for face and it recalls a very memorable phrase from the previous chapter.

In Exodus 33:7-11 we hear about what used to happen.  We leave the mountain-top briefly to be told how Moses used to meet with the LORD down on ground level.  At that time he'd go to the tent of meeting and speak with the LORD "face to face as a man speaks with his friend."

That was the 'face to face' LORD at ground level.  But when Moses is on the mountain, the unseen LORD reassures Moses that the Face (Presence) would continue to go with them.  Moses considers this to be absolutely essential - if the Presence doesn't go with them he'd rather just perish in the wilderness (33:15).  Give me Jesus or give me death!

Having been encouraged greatly, Moses is now bold enough to ask something with echoes of Philip's request in John 14.  Now he wants to see the glory of the unseen LORD (v18)!

The LORD’s reply is very telling: He would pass in front of Moses, He would proclaim His name, but, 33:20,

"you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

Again in v22 He emphasizes

my face must not be seen.”

Now Moses is not an idiot.  He's just recounted the incident in the tent of meeting (33:7-11) for a reason.  He's deliberately distinguishing the ground-level appearing LORD with the mountain-top unseen LORD.  But he distinguishes them so as to intimately relate them.

Because as soon as Moses hears the name of the Unseen LORD (Ex 34:5-7) he exclaims:

"If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us." (Ex 34:9)

When he hears the name of the Most High God he asks Him to send the Lord in their midst.  The name of the LORD is in the Angel who is in their midst (Ex 23:21).  So when Moses hears this gospel character he knows he's experienced this very name in the Angel.

The seen LORD who has accompanied them is everything that the unseen LORD proclaims when He reveals His name.  And so Moses asks the Father to send the Son in their midst - the redeeming Lord-from-Lord.

Moses’ plea of 34:9 is granted and, at the end of Exodus, the Glory / Presence / LORD fills the tabernacle and directs all their travels (40:34-38).

pillar cloud tabernacle

We see throughout the Old Testament that the Presence of the LORD did indeed remain with the people.

Numbers 9:15-23 is one example out of many showing the seen LORD going in the midst of His people.  Number 14 says that even the surrounding nations knew that the Face-to-Face / Eye-to-Eye LORD travelled with the Israelites and fought for them (Num14:13f).

When Solomon finally builds a Temple for the Name of the LORD, the LORD fills it in exactly the same way as He filled the tabernacle in Exodus 40.  This LORD appears to Solomon in 1 Kings 9 and to Isaiah in chapter 6.

If we were in any doubt as to who this Divine Person is, the Apostle John settles all dispute: “Isaiah said this [referring to Isaiah 6] because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about Him.” (John 12:41)

In the fulness of time this LORD - this Angel of the covenant, this sought after and desired Redeemer - would come in a definitive judgement and salvation (Mal 3:1ff).

Jesus has always been the saving, ground-level, appearing LORD, mediating perfectly the saving plan and character of His Father.

Jude was speaking absolutely plainly and straightforwardly - Jesus is the LORD who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt.  In other words He is the God of the Old Testament.  Exodus is a wonderful demonstration of this foundational truth.

We'll look at chapter 1 tomorrow...

All Exodus posts here



0 thoughts on “Exodus Overview

  1. Si Hollett

    Given so many Christian translations wuss out of the clear implications and go with later manuscripts and have Jude 5 as saying "the Lord" rather than Jesus (with a footnote), I'd hardly expect the New World 'translation', which screws about with John 1, etc to say that Jesus saved a people out of the land of Egypt.

    Praiseworthy translations on Bible Gateway:
    NLT, ESV,

    Wussy translations on Bible Gateway:

    The Message has "Here it is in brief: The Master saved a people out of the land of Egypt." I think 'Master' is what TM uses instead of 'Lord'.

    Of course, Lord does tend to mean

  2. Si Hollett

    Whoops, my comment got submitted before I'd finished.

    here's the last bit, but finished:

    Praiseworthy translations on Bible Gateway:
    NLT, ESV, WYC. A pitiful 3...

    Wussy translations on Bible Gateway:
    NIV, NASB, AMP, KJV, CEV, NKJV, NCV, KJ21, ASV, YLT, Darby, HCSB, NIrV, WE, NIVUK, TNIV. - OK, a lot of these are old, and the old manuscripts might not have been known at that time. A lot of these are also families of translations (NIV, KJV).

    The Message has “Here it is in brief: The Master saved a people out of the land of Egypt.” I think ‘Master’ is what TM uses instead of ‘Lord’.

    Of course, Lord does tend to be referring to Jesus in the NT, but it's not as explicit as Jesus. There's no text before the 9th Century that we have that has the Greek word for Lord in that verse. A few (most of the NIV family, HCSB) have footnotes giving the Jesus alternative, and the ESV and NLT have footnotes explaining why they are different.

    The New Living Translation's footnote is good "As in the best manuscripts; various other manuscripts read [the] Lord, or God, or Christ; one reads God Christ."

  3. Glen

    Hey Paul,

    Yes I believe Paul Blackham has used Exodus 33-34 on a number of JWs with the killer line: "To which Jehovah are you witnessing- the face-to-face Jehovah in the tent of meeting or the unseen Jehovah on the mountain?"

    It's interesting that a number of unitarians have commented on my Trinitarian OT post but none of them have tackled a single OT verse that's listed there...

  4. Glen

    Actually it's pretty good:

    "Jude reminds his readers that they once fully knew about God's judgment, but apparently their sense of its certainty has waned. He refers them to the Exodus account as a reminder. Jesus . . . saved a people out of the land of Egypt (cf. Exodus 1–15). This may seem puzzling, because the name “Jesus” is not applied to the Son of God in the OT. It is a prime example of the apostolic understanding of the OT, according to which the Son of God, in his eternal divine nature, was active in the world from the beginning of creation, long before his incarnation (cf. Luke 24:27; John 1:3; 8:56–58; 12:41; 1 Cor. 10:4, 9; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:8–12; 11:26). Jesus, then, judged and destroyed those in Israel who escaped from Egypt but failed to keep trusting in God, and therefore they did not reach the Promised Land (cf. 1 Cor. 10:5; Heb. 3:16–19). Instead of the name “Jesus,” some Greek manuscripts have ho Kyrios, “the Lord,” and some English translations follow that reading. Most of the oldest and most reliable manuscripts have Iēsous (“Jesus”)"

  5. Dave K

    I wrote a comment earlier but I think wordpress ate it.... In summary it said:

    > Good post, will look forward eagerly to the rest of the series.
    > Funny coincidence that I've been thinking about Exodus a little the last few days (although mainly the giving of the law)
    > Do you identify Jesus with the cloud, or coming 'in' it?
    > What do you make of identifying the cloud with the Holy Spirit?

  6. Si Hollett

    The NET Bible has Jesus as well.

    It gives this very long footnote:

    "3 tc ‡ The reading ᾿Ιησοῦς (Ihsous, “Jesus”) is deemed too hard by several scholars, since it involves the notion of Jesus acting in the early history of the nation Israel. However, not only does this reading enjoy the strongest support from a variety of early witnesses (e.g., A B 33 81 1241 1739 1881 2344 pc vg co Or1739mg), but the plethora of variants demonstrate that scribes were uncomfortable with it, for they seemed to exchange κύριος (kurios, “Lord”) or θεός (qeos, “God”) for ᾿Ιησοῦς (though Ì72 has the intriguing reading θεὸς Χριστός [qeos Cristos, “God Christ”] for ᾿Ιησοῦς). In addition to the evidence supplied in NA27 for this reading, note also {88 322 323 424c 665 915 2298 eth Cyr Hier Bede}. As difficult as the reading ᾿Ιησοῦς is, in light of v. 4 and in light of the progress of revelation (Jude being one of the last books in the NT to be composed), it is wholly appropriate.
    sn The construction our Master and Lord, Jesus Christ in v. 4 follows Granville Sharp’s rule (see note on Lord). The construction strongly implies the deity of Christ. This is followed by a statement that Jesus was involved in the salvation (and later judgment) of the Hebrews. He is thus to be identified with the Lord God, Yahweh. Verse 5, then, simply fleshes out what is implicit in v. 4."


    The wilderness failings in Exodus post-ch 13, especially ch 32 (though Leviticus and Numbers have more, with Numbers having the fatal ones for most of Israel) are really important for Lent (plus the whole book, for the fact that Lent before Easter is a dumb thing on the Church calender!) - Israel fails in the wilderness, their Lent. But Jesus makes it - as Milton has it, Paradise is Regained.

  7. Heather

    Wussy translations on Bible Gateway:

    Oh good. The translation police have arrived.

    And just when I was thinking that the Lord is perfectly capable of telling me what I need to know through my wussy NASB.

  8. Si Hollett

    The Lord is perfectly capable of working through chickens who think the idea of Jesus saving the Israelites in Moses' day might be a little hard to grasp, Heather - look at his use of chickens like Jonah, Peter, Moses, Gideon... the list goes on.

    No translation is infallible and I wasn't being serious with 'wussy': I chose that word, because it's not a serious word. The whole translation thing came out of Paul's comment that JWs not getting that Jesus is God despite Jude 1:5 and a strong emphasis on Exodus. If most mainstream, orthodox translations don't go with 'Jesus', but rather have 'the Lord' then the New World translation and JWs barely have to try twisting the text to allow it to agree with JW doctrine.

    The Lord is capable of telling you that, he, Jesus saved a people out of the land of Egypt using his word as translated by the NASB people. It's just a bit harder for him, compared to if you had an ESV or NLT in front of you - not that anything is hard for him - as he can't just show you Jude 1:5 and go "ta da!"

    The NASB, etc aren't wrong, they just aren't explicit. I think the NASB is probably old enough that the manuscript support for 'Jesus' wasn't yet there, so 'wussy' is rather unfair (likewise KJV).

  9. Heather

    *If most mainstream, orthodox translations don’t go with ‘Jesus’, but rather have ‘the Lord’ then the New World translation and JWs barely have to try twisting the text to allow it to agree with JW doctrine.*

    I actually agree with you. Si about better and less accurate translations. We occasionally have JW's show up on our front step. They really are hard to deal with because they think they have found a Greek "loophole" that allows for Jesus to only be "a" god. And it appears they study their stuff quite diligently.

    One day I was wearing out my husband's ear over what it means to be a "silly woman" who gets led astray by false teachers who creep into houses...and the very next day, two JW women came knocking on my door. I don't think it was a coincidence and I got to see first hand how they knew how to answer all of my concerns from their "bible" and accompanying handbook without actually addressing my questions directly. The spokeswoman wasn't even really listening to me as she would start nodding vigorously and saying m-hm, m-hm, before thumbing through her book. Both woman had previously belonged to Christian churches and said that the JW belief satisfied their struggle to understand how God could be in heaven and on earth in human form at the same time etc..

    They said that JW teaching makes so much more sense to them.

    It seems that basically, the JW religion appeals to those who approach Christ on a purely intellectual level.

    Just having a little fun at your expense concerning the translations. :)
    After having visited some KJV only sites, I've learned it takes very little effort to offend someone who is locked into the belief that there is only one "authorized" version of the Bible. Many of them will tell you that anything but KJV is "of the devil" and seem quite pleased that they are ignorant of Greek and Hebrew.

    I figured you were far more tolerant of NASB or I'd never have said anything.

    Sometimes me and Mr Dawkins just feel the urge to be silly.

  10. Glen

    Hi Dave - sorry that Spam got you. Yeah I think Jesus is *in* the cloud (the narrative separates the two - e.g. Ex 14:19). And an intuitive yes to some kind of identification of cloud and Spirit. Haven't done much spade work on that though...

    I'll be in touch about an Exodus passage for you to do. Should be good!

  11. Pingback: Another Introduction to Exodus « Christ the Truth

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