The Exodus is a defining event throughout the entire Bible. We see this event rehearsed in various Psalms and alluded to in some New Testament passages. Ultimately, knowing the story of the Exodus helps us understand the gospel at a deeper level. This brief overview does not address every facet of the Exodus story but touches on some major themes throughout the first half of Exodus.
The story begins with God’s promises to Abraham (Genesis 12 and 15), which include a prediction that Abraham’s descendants would be strangers in a foreign land they did not belong in but that he would rescue them from slavery (Genesis 15:13). Along with Abraham’s faith that God would give him a child, Abraham also trusted that God would fulfill his promises to those future descendants.
Some people read Exodus as if Israel “became” the people of God at Mount Sinai. Yet, that is not how Scripture portrays God’s relationship to Abraham’s descendants. There is a continuity from Abraham to Moses so that Abraham and all his descendants are God’s people. We know this because of how God introduced himself to Moses in Exodus 3:6, as “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
The book of Exodus opens with Pharaoh enslaving Israel due to his fear of the people’s multiplication. Things were not in Israel’s favor. Yet, in the first few chapters of this book, we get a behind-the-scenes peek at how God was working to raise a leader for Israel.
Why did God use plagues to free Israel from Egypt? God directs the plagues towards Egypt’s false gods to make an overwhelming statement that Israel’s God is the one true God. Through the plagues, God disproves Pharaoh’s claim to be a deity. Furthermore, the plagues destroyed Egypt’s economy. God ultimately destroys Egypt’s army – one of the greatest armies in the world.
The original story of the passover is about an event as much as it is about the remembrance of an event, which would become common later in Israel’s history. The firstborn of every household in Egypt died except for the households of Israel, who had the blood of a lamb painted on their doorposts. The Passover story is a blueprint for what Christ was doing on his last Passover celebration – dying in our place (Hebrews 13:12). We can see the fulfillment of Christ throughout the Exodus, but especially and specifically in the Passover.
What do we make of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart? Scripture goes back and forth between Pharaoh’s hardening of his own heart and God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, without any disagreement or “embarrassment.” This brings our human intellect into the realm of debating human will or God’s sovereignty. Yet, this is not an issue Scripture addresses within this specific passage. Scripture seems comfortable with both as fact, and we should be comfortable with both as fact. It is a tricky balance to strike, especially in our westernized way of “black and white” thinking. “If A is true, B cannot be true.” Wrestling through these issues of human will and divine sovereignty have been the topics of major debate throughout Church history. Yet, ultimately, Scripture identifies both as truth.
Secondly, we observe that God’s ultimate purpose in the plagues was two-fold: to destroy Egypt’s gods, its economy, and to proclaim himself as the only true God in light of all the false gods of Egypt. This all points toward the purpose of God’s name being proclaimed throughout the earth. God’s goal is to make himself known.
Lastly, God fights for the freedom of his people. God promised to be with Moses when he believed himself to be inadequate. The truth was that Moses could not rescue an entire nation from slavery. Yet, the work God did on behalf of his own glory was nowhere near what Moses could have accomplished on his own and perhaps in his own pride. The humility of Moses in submitting to God’s purpose for his life is where Moses gained strength.
“Exodus Old and New” by Michael Morales.
Brittany Proffitt lives in Dallas, TX, holds a BA in Religion, and is a student at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is passionate about Scripture and how God’s Word impacts individuals’ hearts and lives.