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An Introduction to the Book of Exodus

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A. In Hebrew the name of the book is taken from the first two words in the book twmv hlaw (these are the names). Sometimes it is shortened to simply names (twmv).

B. In the Greek LXX the book is named EXODOS (Exodus) emphasizing the departure of Israel from Egypt


A. This date emphasizes the literal interpretation of the biblical numbers in Exodus 12:40 (Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years), Judges 11:26 (While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, three hundred years, why did you not recover them within that time?) and 1 Kings 6:1 (Now it came about in the four hundred and eightieth year after the sons of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord).

B. Hill and Walton offer the following arguments for an early date:1

1. 1 Kings 6:1 indicates the Exodus occurred 480 years prior to the 4th year of Solomon's reign. His 4th year is variously dated at 966/960/957 B.C., placing the Exodus at 1446/1440/1437.

2. According to Judg. 11:26, Israel had occupied Canaan for 300 years before the judgeship of Jephthah, which is dated between 1100 and 1050. This dates Joshua's conquest between 1400 and 1350. Adding Israel's 40 years in the desert puts the Exodus between 1440 and 1390.

3. Moses lived in exile in Midian 40 years (Acts 7:3; cf. Exod. 2:23) while the pharaoh of the oppression was still alive. The only pharaohs who ruled 40 years or more were Thutmose III (1504-1450) and Rameses II (1290-1224).

4. The Merneptah Stela (ca. 1220) indicates Israel was already an established nation at the time.

5. The Amarna tablets (ca. 1400) speak of a period of chaos caused by the Habiru, very likely the Hebrews.

6. The early date allows for the length of time assigned to the period of the judges (at least 250 years). The late date allows only 180 years.

7. The Dream Stela of Thutmose IV indicates he was not the legal heir to the throne (i.e., the legal heir would have died in the tenth plague).

8. Archaeological evidence from Jericho, Hazor, etc., supports a 15th-century date for the Exodus

9. Exod. 12:40 dates the entrance of Jacob into Egypt during the reign of Sesostris/Senusert III (1878-43) rather than during the Hyksos period (1674-1567).

10. Therefore a plausible (and approximate) reconstruction would be as follows:2

a. 966 = 4th full year (actually into the fifth) of Solomon's reign (971-931) when the Temple was begun

b. +44 yrs = start of David's reign (1010)

c. +40 yrs = start of Saul's reign (1050)

d. +40 yrs = the time from Saul to Jephthah's statement (1050-1090)

e. +300 yrs = the time in the land (Jephthah's statement) (1390)

f. +16 yrs = Joshua's leadership (1406)

g. +40 yrs = wilderness wondering (1446)

This matches 1 Kings 6:1 where 966 + 480 = 1446!


+430 yrs = the time that Israel lived in Egypt before the Exodus (Ex. 12:40) and therefore Jacob moved to Egypt in 1876.


A. Rameses II:

1. Scholars who hold to a late date of the Exodus (c. 1290-1225 BC) identify Rameses II (c. 1304-1237) as the Pharaoh of the Exodus

2. In addition the name of the city in Exodus 1:11 is Rameses

a. It is possible that Rameses II merely took credit for the city and the biblical reference was modernized3

b. It is possible that the Ramasides was to be identified with the Hyksos who oppressed Israel and that the city was called Rameses in their time4

B. Amenhotep II (c. 1436-1410)

1. It is possible that Hatshepsut (1490-1469) may have been the princess who reared Moses

2. Thutmose III (c. 1490-1436?) ruled as co-regent with his stepmother until her death for 56 years. This allows for the time when Moses was in exile in Midian (cf. Acts 7:3; Exodus 2:23)

3. Amenhotep II (c. 1436-1410) may have been the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Note that the Bible does not say that he drowned but that he led a battle to the water's edge.

4. The dream inscription of Tutmose IV (c. 1410-1402?) may indicate that he was not originally intended to be Pharaoh. Therefore, his brother would have died in the plagues5


A. Two Basic Views:

1. The Northern View: The Exodus took place at a lagoon bordering the Mediterranean Sea

2. The Southern (Central) View: The Exodus took place south of Succoth near Lake Balah or Lake Timsah

B. Textual Clues (Exodus 13:17-22; 14:1-2; Num 33:1-49)

1. The Lord did not lead Israel by the way of the land of the Philistines (probably the Way of the Sea which was the direct route along the Mediterranean coast to Palestine)6 13:17

2. The Lord led the people by the way of the wilderness to the Red7 Sea 13:18

3. The Lord led Israel from Rameses to Succoth Ex 12:37; Num 33:5

4. Israel set out from Succoth and camped in Etham on the edge of the wilderness 13:20

5. Israel turned back and camped before Pihahiroth, between Midgol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephron opposite it by the sea 14:2

6. Israel went by the Way of the Wilderness (Ex 13:18) after crossing the Sea of Reeds and entered the Wilderness of Shur (Ex 15:22; Num 33:8) in the Northwest Sinai peninsula

C. Although a definitive conclusion is not possible because of the uncertainty of many of the locations in the biblical text, it seems that the Southern (Central) view matches what is known more than the northern view8

D. The Location of Mount Sinai Seems to Be Southern:

1. Some have located Mount Sinai in northwest Arabia partly on the grounds that it was considered that a volcano was required to explain the events in Exodus 19:16-25, but this is better understood as a typical Theophany. Also, Moses was not only related to the Midianites (Ex 3:1; 18:1) whose homeland was considered to be in the region of Arabia, but he was related to the Kenites who were a nomadic Midianite clan whose presence in the Sinai region is well documented (cf. Judges 1:16; 4:11)

2. The biblical text indicates that Mount Sinai was an eleven-day journey from Kadesh-barnea (Dt 1:2)

3. Elijah took 40 days and 40 nights (a long journey?) to reach Sinai from Beersheba (1 Kgs 19:8)

4. Jebel Musa (Arabic for Mountain of Moses), or Mount Horeb, in the southern Sinai peninsula has been identified as the Mount Sinai of Moses' revelation by Christian tradition dating to the fourth century AD9


A. The journey between Egypt and the Wilderness of Sinai and Mount Sinai took three months to the day (Ex 19:1-2)

B. It is possible that Moses composed the book during or shortly after the encampment of the people at Sinai (1446)

C. The book occurred sometime before Moses' birth in 1526 (Ex 2)

D. Therefore, the book of Exodus covers events around the birth of Moses to events at Mount Sinai (c. 1526-1446 BC)


A. To introduce Israel to her national beginnings by narrating the events which form the people and the nation and by instructing the people in the covenant relation and his ritual dwelling10

B. To narrate the battle between YHWH and Egypt on behalf of his people to bring about their deliverance from slavery

C. To explain the readiness of the people to accept YHWH's revelations of the Law

D. To describe the impatience of the people awaiting YHWH's enthronement among the people according to his design

E. To present the new constitution under which Israel will relate to YHWH (the Mosaic Covenant)

F. To connect the people under the God's promise to Abraham to the beginning of the theocratic kingdom under Moses

G. To reveal God as YHWH--the one who will keep his promises

H. To express the importance of maintaining covenant relationship with YHWH

1 A Survey of the Old Testament, 108.

2 Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, 88-90.

3 Unger, Archaeology of the Old Testament, 149.

4 Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, 93.

5 Unger, Archaeology of the Old Testament, Prichard, ANET, 449.

6 This argues against the northern route.

7 More literally this refers to the Sea of (papyrus) Reeds ([Ws <y) describing the area between the Gulf of Suez and the Mediterranean Sea were there are many marshy lagoons and lakes.

8 Also See Hill and Walton, A Survey of the OT, 108-10; Hannah, Exodus, 107, Merrill, Numbers, 253-54 BKC.

9 See La Sor et al, Old Testament Survey, 130, n. 38.

10 Elliott E. Johnson, Class notes taken by student.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines

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