Episode 54: Introduction to Exodus – Escape from slavery!
Paul and Laurence pick up from where the previous episode left off with an introduction to Exodus. They find it’s a book that starts with a great story about how the Israelites escaped from Egypt. There’s high action, drama, goodies and baddies… and then intricate detail about how to construct a large tent. Why is that included? How does that fit into the overall narrative? Listen in to hear Paul and Laurence’s ideas on that!
Laurence and Paul begin by reminding themselves where Genesis left off. They note the unresolved themes within the first book of the Bible, remembering how Genesis closed with unfulfilled promises about blessings to all families of the world, before considering how Exodus continues the narrative.
They discuss questions around the historical events of the Exodus, including dating the events that the book describes. Whilst the general features of the book, including the way slavery in Egypt is described, indicate a historical basis to the book, Paul and Laurence conclude that this is not the focus of the book. They instead emphasise that the Bible directs attention to its theological message.
The structure of Exodus
As an introduction to Exodus, they consider the way the book is structured. Paul and Laurence note how the book describes the rescue of the people of Israel from Egypt in a very ordered manner.
- Chapters 1-14: The plagues and the rescue from Egypt.
- Chapter 15: The Song of the Sea.
- Chapters 16-18: In the wilderness.
- Chapters 19-24: God’s covenant with Israel.
- Chapters 25-31: Instructions to build the tabernacle.
- Chapters 32-34: Israel break the covenant.
- Chapters 35-40: Building the tabernacle
Exodus concludes with the glory of God filling the tabernacle, but Moses is unable to enter, (Exodus 40:34-35).
Introduction to Exodus themes
Laurence and Paul expand on the way the book deals with separation between God and the people of Israel. Just as Moses was unable to enter the tabernacle at the end of the book, the whole design of the tabernacle emphasised separation between people and God through all the layers doorways and coverings. God wanted to dwell with his people – that was the whole point of rescuing them from slavery in Egypt. But the way the tabernacle was designed would have been a way of communicating the separation that needed to be overcome to achieve the blessing promised.
Other themes in Exodus include:
- Rescue from Egypt likened to creation from chaotic waters in Exodus 15.
- Egypt, like Babylon later in the Biblical narrative, becomes emblematic of everything opposed to God.
- The pattern of laws provided yet broken, following on from the man and the woman’s experience in Eden, in Genesis 2-3.
Does God accept a substitute for atonement?
One particular moment in the book of Exodus that Laurence and Paul highlight is when the Israelites turn to idolatry whilst Moses is still up Mount Sinai receiving the laws from God. During part of the aftermath, Moses offers to die as a substitute for the people, allowing them to continue along the path that God has for them.
The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book.”Exodus 32:30-33
The important point that arises from this is how God rejects that solution. This provides a starting point for considering how we ought to understand the much later sacrifice of Jesus. God does not appear to be interested in a substitutionary offering as that doesn’t really achieve the transformation within people that he is looking for. Paul and Laurence acknowledge that this needs a lot more unpacking in a future episode dealing with that theme specifically.
More content about the book of Exodus
In conclusion, Laurence and Paul look forward to how the book of Leviticus begins to address the question of how the separation between God and man can be overcome. They point towards several other episodes that relate to Exodus in some way, including:
- Where is heaven? – this episode considers a lot of the garden of Eden imagery in the tabernacle.
- Discover Jesus in Matthew (3) Tempted by the devil – part of a longer series, this episode explains what’s really going on in Matthew’s narrative of the wilderness temptations of Jesus.
Introduction to Exodus – Escape from slavery!
Laurence: I’m joined here by Paul. Paul, what are we looking at today?
Paul: Hi, Laurence. Yeah, this time we’re going to look at the Book of Exodus, the second book in the Bible. But it’s also the second book in the series of five books that are right at the beginning of the Bible the Torah, the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses. That’s what we’re going to look at today.
Laurence: Great. So we’ve already looked at Genesis. And as you say, Exodus is the second book of these five books at the beginning of the Bible, these books of Moses. It’s helpful to think of them, [00:01:00] obviously as a whole, a continuous narrative. And it’s been carefully constructed in order to follow on from, from where we left off when we left off last time when we were looking at Genesis.
Paul: Okay. And, and you were looking at Genesis with Dan. So, I think you commented about where Genesis finished and where it left us in the narrative, in the story.
Laurence: Yeah, definitely. It was one of the key points that, that Dan highlighted as the kind of the structural flow of where Genesis leaves us. And we had that huge section at the end, the, the generations of Jacob and then the sons of Jacob. And obviously we then finish with Joseph in Egypt.
The family are in Egypt. Joseph is dying and he gives an instruction about his bones and how his bones should go back to, to the land. So it seems like there’s some things that are left open, but we do get a little bit of a settling of the story with Joseph dying. And then almost like a, “to be continued” with Joseph saying that his bones must go back.
Paul: Yeah, so it feels like they’re [00:02:00] quite settled, but they’re in the wrong place. And I think you mentioned there was another bit of sort of unfinished business as it were in those promises to Abraham, because one of them was about, through him and his family, all families of the earth would be blessed. And so you’re left with, Okay, well how’s that going to happen? Because that hasn’t really come, come about. And, and while you know, there’s all these examples of people like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they do some faithful things, they do some strange things as well. And it all seems to end up a little bit with dysfunctional division in the family, in each generation, it seems.
So there’s, you know, the sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael, and, and they’re not exactly best pals, Jacob and Esau in the next generation, and then Joseph and his brothers. And so yeah, that’s where we end, not quite sure where [00:03:00] this, this promise of blessing through this family that appears to be just as problematic as any other family, how’s that going to turn out to bless all nations?
And so they’re in Egypt and, and the book of Exodus starts in Egypt, but it, very quickly as you read the first chapter of Exodus, it very quickly starts to turn pretty bad for the Israelites and they end up as slaves.
Laurence: That’s right, and there’s definitely no sign is there of this promise to Abraham, from very early, well, Genesis 12, and there’s a couple of other times, there’s no real indication that that is really starting. We get a thread of faith, which is through Genesis, and then into Exodus. But there’s no real sign of that impacting nations around.
So maybe if we take that thread a little bit further, you know, how does Exodus end? And obviously just want to have a disclaimer here. There is a spoiler alert here. You know, [00:04:00] if you haven’t read Exodus yet please pause this podcast and go and read it! So how does Exodus end?
Paul: The name of the book, Exodus is the, the clue’s in the name. At least the first part of the book is all about them escaping from this slavery in Egypt. And that’s a great story. It’s, it’s full of action and drama. There’s then a little bit of tedious detail about how to build a really fancy tent or tabernacle. But then we get to the end of Exodus and this tent, this very ornate and, and carefully designed tent that they’ve built, the glory of the Lord appears on it, but Moses is not able to enter the tent. That’s where this book ends: they’ve escaped from Egypt, but they haven’t quite arrived anywhere, they’ve got this tent, the glory of the Lord is there in the tent with them, but Moses can’t go in. And that’s where it finishes.
Laurence: So then leading into the next book, which will be another[00:05:00] episode. So maybe let’s just step back a little bit and have a look at the historical context of the book. And, you know, a bit of a tricky question really. How can we place this book in history, you know, the time, the place?
Paul: I’ve told you about those tricky questions, Lawrence, you know, stay away from them. Stick to the notes…
But it’s kind of an obvious and a fair question that we need to say something about. But it’s actually a really hard question to answer, you know, when did this happen? What’s the historical time and place? I guess we know it’s Egypt and the northern part of Egypt. But when did this happen? And, and even just looking at the Biblical information, there are references to the Exodus from Egypt in other parts of the Bible, and they refer to some time periods and even just using that Biblical data, you get a range of different dates for the Israelites escaping from Egypt, [00:06:00] something from between. 1598 BC to the mid 14 hundreds BC so a range of about 150 years. So the Bible itself isn’t particularly clear on dating when this happened and, when you start to look outside of the biblical data, you look at other archaeological information and, and some of the genealogies in in the Bible as well. Then that might suggest a later date of something in the 12 hundreds BC 1250 or so, something like that.
Laurence: But we do seem to have within Exodus the conditions in Egypt, the locations, the features in the wilderness. Doesn’t it seem to indicate that we have a fairly accurate source knowledge of what was going on at the time, the place, the culture, the kind of, you know, the geography?
Paul: Yeah, absolutely. And without going into any of the detail of it, which I’m completely unqualified to talk about. From an archaeology point of view or Egyptology there’s enough [00:07:00] little detail in the Exodus account about conditions in Egypt, the culture of the time, which suggest, there’s a historical set of events here that are being described.
You know, for example, there’s paintings in tombs of some of the Pharaohs. And one in particular around about the mid 14 hundreds BC of this large painting of slaves. And the way they’re portrayed, they’re Semitic peoples on the painting and they’re making bricks out of clay and straw, which is exactly the way the Israelite slaves are described in, in the beginning of Exodus. They’re making bricks for the building of two particular places, two store cities, grain store cities Pithom and Ramesses.
They’re mentioned in Exodus. And, you know, those store cities existed. There are archaeological sites that [00:08:00] have uncovered those cities. And there’s even a military report from the Egyptian army describing a group of slaves that escaped from Egypt. It’s not at the same time as Israel would’ve escaped.
But it does describe the route that they took and the places that they went through. Places like the Succoth and Migdol, and that’s the same route that the Israelite slaves took. And even things like the crossing of the Red Sea. You know the Hebrew for that is yam suph. And it really means Reed Sea. So it describes the relatively shallow waters of the end of the Red Sea in Northern Egypt. And it’s marshland and it describes the place where the Israelites ultimately escaped from Egypt by crossing the Reed Sea.
So there’s a lot of those little bits and pieces. Doesn’t necessarily help us answer the question precisely when and where, but maybe the Bible isn’t particularly interested [00:09:00] in helping us to answer that question.
Laurence: Yeah. And I think if the Bible was putting itself forward as like, this is the definitive history book, or this is a geography book, or a science book, it would be clear on the facts on this. And I think as we looked at Genesis, often the Bible is maybe pointing us to actually this is communicating something other than, the facts and figures, the dates, the times, the locations, et cetera that we can see written about in Exodus. And it’s more about maybe the theological points that are being brought out and these relationships between man and their God.
Paul: Yeah. it’s maybe a little bit of a feature of the modern, maybe western mindset that if you don’t have all of those dates and facts, you know, all those kind of questions answered to your satisfaction, then you say, Well, why should I believe anything else that it says? And really that may not be the right way to approach these records, you know, focus on the [00:10:00] theological message. What is it really trying to, to tell us about something more important than those things. And so, avoid those things getting in the way.
Laurence: So as, as we did then with, with Genesis, we found it was very, very useful to look at how the book was constructed in order to lead us to understand that message. So let’s do the same thing with Exodus. Let’s have a look at the structure.
Paul: Cool. Okay. So Genesis is what, 50 chapters and Exodus is 40 chapters. So it’s fairly long. But it does divide up fairly clearly, really into six or seven sections. And we’ll just run through them. So the, the first section dives straight into the Israelite in Egypt, the Pharaoh changes, they’re enslaved. And they are working on the building of these particular cities. And there’s a verse at the end of chapter two about this situation of hard labour and bondage [00:11:00] that says during those days, “the King of Egypt died, the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel and God knew.”
So, there’s a definitive statement that what this is about, what this narrative is about is God reaching out to save this people in slavery. And doing it and connecting that with those promises. So Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the promise about blessings on all nations. And, what’s going to unfold is a continuation of what we’ve seen in Genesis. And then it goes through the 10 plagues that leads to Israel escaping from Egypt.
Laurence: Yeah, and just that 10 plague section you get quite an interesting structure to that with the plague is introduced, [00:12:00] Moses appears with Pharaoh and then the plague happens, and then Pharaoh hardens his heart. And like that, that repeats doesn’t it, that structure repeats with each plague introduced, it happens, and then Pharaoh hardens his heart.
Paul: Yeah. And there’s a lot of repetition in there of you know, Will you let my people go? No, I will not let your people go. And the cycle of the plagues, and it’s very carefully, neatly structured, which tells you that this is, you know, this is a literary creation and that we should examine it in that way.
So there’s 10 plagues in total described here, and they’re in three groups of three, which makes nine. And then there’s the one at the end, which is the death of the first born. And they seem to be targeted at the different gods of Egypt, whether it’s, the frogs or the flies or the cattle or the sun, you know, there’s a period of darkness.
And then it finishes off with this death of the first born which is a sort of a [00:13:00] parallel. You think, well, that’s a bit harsh. But then the book opened, Exodus opened with Pharaoh saying these Israelites, they’re getting too numerous. I’m going to kill all the male children, any male child that’s born, I’m going to kill.
So there’s a definite theme of God opposing, you know, what Pharaoh is and what Pharaoh stands for. And just destroying everything that he stands for as King of Egypt and the gods of Egypt and the actions of him as Pharaoh.
Laurence: Yeah. And it’s interesting that when Moses and Aaron appear to Pharaoh initially, he turns around and basically says, I don’t recognize this God that you’re talking about. And so there’s this succession in this structure.
Laurence: He makes him very much know this, the God of Israel.
Paul: yeah. As the one true God.
Laurence: Hmm. So let’s move on to the next section. What, what do we see in the next section?
Paul: So that section is [00:14:00] the first 14 chapters. So by the time we get to the end of chapter 14, we’ve had the 10 plagues, the Israelites, and the time of that last plague, which is also linked with the Feast of Passover have fled from Egypt. And they’re chased by the chariots of Pharaoh.
They come to the Red Sea and then the Red Sea parts, and they’re able to go across and escape. And then the waters overwhelm the chariots of Pharaoh’s army. And then the next section is just one chapter, just chapter 15. And it’s really interesting because it’s a poem about that crossing of the Red Sea, the events there and it appears to be really ancient poetry.
It’s probably the oldest bit of text in the Old Testament, something to do with the nature of the Hebrew, the grammar, the language that’s used. it’s very ancient poetry. Again, just pointing us to, you know, there was a real set of events that happened in history [00:15:00] and it’s called The Song of the Sea.
And it’s all in very poetic language. The waters are being tamed so that the people of Israel can cross and be saved, but then the enemies of God’s people are overwhelmed by these waters. And it’s a poem that sits there around which this narrative about the 10 plagues and the escape from Egypt have been constructed.
Laurence: So it’s a good bridge between the narrative structure that we saw and then the beginning of the next section, which is as we head into the wilderness. So what chapters do we have for that?
Paul: yeah. So then we’ve got three chapters, 16 to 18, which is, as the people escape from Egypt, they’ve gone out into the wilderness, into the Sinai Desert. And those three chapters are all about what God gives them and provides for them in the wilderness. And there’s three main things there.
There’s, what’s called manna, which is the sort of bread that they’re provided with and water from the rock. [00:16:00] And then there’s help for Moses in leading the people. There’s a leadership structure put in place. So they’re provided with everything that they need to, to exist, survive in, in their wilderness location now with food, water, and, and a kind of a structured leadership.
Laurence: Yeah, so this is kind of reminiscent of what happens in the Garden of Eden with, with Adam and Eve. You know, they’re given everything that they need to survive to, to live and actually live very comfortably. Would you say that’s right? Is there a decent comparison between the two?
Paul: Yeah, I think there’s something in that just in the concept of, you know, here’s a people in a place where around them is just wilderness and God is providing for everything that they need. It probably didn’t feel very much like a garden, a well watered garden for them, but, you know, leaving that aside, Yes, I think the principle of, okay, here’s a special situation that God has created for his people, providing for them. [00:17:00]
And I think what really nails the comparison with Adam and Eve is that in that situation, they’re then given a law. So just like Adam and Eve were given, okay, I put you in this, this place where you’ve got everything you need, now I just want you to make sure you don’t eat of that tree.
And Israel as a nation are given a law. And that’s the next section. So that’s chapters 19 through to 24. And it’s part of a covenant, a covenant between God and Israel, and they’re given a law, 10 Commandments is the most obvious and well known part of that. But there’s this verse in chapter 24 which just kind of sums up where we’ve got to so far. So Exodus chapter 24, verse three “Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules of this, this law, and all the people answered with one voice and said all the words that the Lord has spoken, we will do.” [00:18:00]
So here they are. They’ve got everything they need. They’ve got a law and they’re saying, Yeah, that’s fine.
Laurence: So the, the suspense is killing me! Now, spoiler alert, what actually happens? Do they keep the law?!
Paul: Yeah. and that’s, I think exactly what this narrative is setting you up to think it’s building up to. Well, we’ve seen this happen before with Adam and Eve, we’ve seen it happen with, you know, Noah and the times of Noah and then the history of this family through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Joseph.
You know, how, what are they going to do? Are they going to succeed in following God’s way? And you, you’d like it to go straight into answering that question, wouldn’t you? But it doesn’t, it goes into another section, which just seems just completely kind of going off at a tangent because you’ve got six or seven chapters, chapters 25 through to 31 which are all about [00:19:00] building this ornate, carefully designed tent as a, as a tabernacle.
And it’s lots of detail about, you know, how to make a altar of incense, how to make a candle stick, how to make the curtains, how to put the boards together and construct this and you think, what, you’ve left me hanging here!
What I want to know the answer to is that question, will the people keep the law? But I think it’s there for a, for a reason. One is and perhaps just, we’ll look at chapter 25 in this section, Chapter 25, and verse two, and three. So right at the beginning of this section “the Lord said to Moses, Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution from every man whose heart moves him. You shall receive the contribution for me. This is the contribution that you shall receive from them, gold and silver.”
And, and there’s all the materials there for the building of this, this tabernacle. So it kind of does follow on because they’ve said yes, all the things that you said, [00:20:00] we will do. Okay, now everyone in the community can contribute to the construction of this thing. Everyone can get involved now in that statement? ‘Yes, everything that the LORD has said, we will do.’
And as this thing is described, it’s only described at this point in chapters 26 through to 31. It’s not actually built yet. It’s just the instructions for making it. There’s occasional references to flowers and trees and things like that and fruit and, starting to get little hints that this is connected with Eden, the Garden of Eden. So it’s just reemphasizing that point.
Laurence: Okay. So it’s almost now that we’ve, we’ve given you the food, the water, et cetera, and now that the rest of the experience in Eden is symbolized in the decoration almost of the, of the fruitfulness of this.
Paul: And the element of, well, what the Garden of Eden represents is when [00:21:00] God and man and humanity were, were in harmony. And this is trying to recreate some situation in which God and humanity, God and man can come back together again.
Laurence: Right. So having kind of reemphasized that statement almost twice with the manna, the water, this leadership and then the tabernacle, what’s the next section? What happens next?
Paul: Okay, well now we get the answer to that question. Will they keep the law? And you read chapter 32, and it’s a kind of a, a face palm moment when you think, No, don’t do that! Because Moses is up in the mountain receiving the instructions about the tabernacle and the Israelites down below in the valley decide that he’s gone too long and they make a golden calf and worship that, and you just think, doh!
Laurence: [00:22:00] So, so it sounds like while Moses was, was away, the children did play and they departed from that law essentially harking back to times in Egypt where they had idols, they had this golden calf. And looking back to other times, what was that? The end of it was that, is this a situation that can be, can be fixed?
Paul: So this section is chapters 32 to 34. so the Israelites do this thing, they make the golden calf and worship that and say, that’s what’s brought us out of Egypt, not the true God Yahweh. And so then the question that unfolds over the next couple of chapters is, is God going to stay with them?
And the role that Moses plays as a sort of intercessor in that. We’ll come back to that point and maybe dive a little deep deeper into that, that little section. But that’s what that’s about. And then we move into the final section which is another six chapters of the Tabernacle.[00:23:00]
But now it’s not to the instructions for the tabernacle, it’s the tabernacle actually being built. So it’s almost as though you’ve got the instructions for the tabernacle given, this is great, God’s providing everything, everyone can get involved building this little place where God and man can come back together. The Israelites do this terrible thing, but then they’re still able to build this and, and God is still going to follow through on that, the building of that place where they can come together. And so you get a repeat of all of the detail of the tabernacle being built.
But as we said earlier, it finishes on this cliff edge. It’s all built, it’s all ready for God and man to come back together again. And right at the end of Exodus chapter 40. Verse 34, “The cloud covered the tent of meeting. The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle, and Moses was not able to enter the tent of [00:24:00] meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” So you’re still left with, Oh, we’re not quite there yet. How will Moses be able to enter? How will anyone be able to enter this this thing, the presence of God as it were?
Laurence: And that’s, and that’s
Paul: that’s the end of Exodus
Laurence: and that’s a question for another day! So that’s great. So we’ve got those seven sections that we went through. So that’s kind of a structure that we can use to frame our minds when we’re reading it. Like which section are we in? Are we in the wilderness section? Are we in the instructions for the tabernacle? Are we in the disobedience of the Israelites section so we can use that to frame our minds.
So let’s just then maybe take a look at some of the themes that we’re seeing coming out as we read through. what themes should we be looking for in Exodus?
Paul: I guess there’s probably a couple of things that we could, regardless of which section you’re in, you can be kind of thinking about what’s emerging about particular themes. And you know, [00:25:00] one is God’s creation of a people, of a nation. So he’s creating something, he’s doing something new.
So you might expect to find occasional references to the creation account in Genesis. His people are being created out of this terrible situation of slavery. They’re under an overlord and he’s forming this nation through the parting of the chaotic waters as it were, which is very much language from Genesis about the waters being divided.
But Egypt has this, overlord role which comes to represent everything that goes wrong about humanity and the way humanity can behave. You know, it’s sort of alongside Babylon. Babylon fulfills a similar role later in the Bible as well, but there’s an overcoming of that and overwhelming of that by God’s hand for the people of God.
Laurence: So that idea of[00:26:00] at the end of Genesis, we have a family which resides in Egypt. And then the beginning of Exodus, we have like this nation which has been created and comes out of Egypt. It’s a very strong theme and it’s like that second creation that you get now.
God is creating a nation for his name and so you see very similar language that occurs right way back in Genesis. And also this opposition that you get which again, comes out of Genesis three with the seed of the woman, the seed of the serpent these two groups of people, like one following God, one not following God. And you know, you get that symbol in Exodus as well.
Paul: yeah. And there’s what, 10, 11 chapters of the Book of Exodus, so over a quarter of the book of Exodus is all about this tabernacle and you can read that and think, I don’t really understand this. I can’t really put together what it looks like, why am I reading this? What’s the point?
But one thing to maybe think about as reading that is how that [00:27:00] structure emphasizes the separation between God and humanity, because there’s all sorts of barriers in place. There’s, you know, there’s the outer court, there’s the door of the tent, and then there’s another section, and then another door before you actually get to the ark of the covenant, which kind of represents the presence of God among them.
There’s so, so just think about what it’s saying, what message that’s delivering. Yes, God wants to dwell with his people, despite their failure he wants to continue to dwell with them, but there are barriers in place and separations.
Laurence: That actually the key thing that then carries throughout scripture, isn’t it? And then we maybe come to that in a second. So let’s then go back to something you said. You were talking about section six where Moses had a role to play in trying to reconcile the situation between God and Israel when everything had gone [00:28:00] sideways and they’d created the golden calf, you said that you would touch on that again, Moses’ role in, in that episode.
Paul: Yeah, I think it’s worthy of a little bit of a deeper look at so this is the section, chapters 32 to 34. Beginning of chapter 32. They build this golden calf. And God tells Moses what they’ve done and that he is going to destroy them, So it looks like this is the end of a beautiful relationship before it’s even got started.
But verse 11 “Moses implored the Lord his God. And said, Oh Lord, why does your Roth burn hot against your people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power in a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say with evil intent, did he bring them out to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember, Abraham, Isaac and Israel, your servants to whom you swore by your own self and said, I will multiply your offspring…” and so on.
So, [00:29:00] so Moses makes this appeal, which is first of all about, you’ve brought them out of Egypt, you’ve done all these things that have shown Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt, that they’re nothing. Now it’s going to look like you can’t save this people and, and you’ve just brought them out to die in the wilderness. But also remember the reason it was done in the first place for the promises to Abraham, Isaac and Israel.
Now, I don’t for a minute, think God forgot those things, this is a narrative way of demonstrating that that’s what’s important to God.
Laurence: It’s almost like he was put in a position where he could make that request, for Israel?
Paul: Exactly. So Moses makes that and so God doesn’t immediately destroy the people, and then Moses goes down and he smashes the tablets of stone with the, with the law on. that famous image of Moses which is perhaps a bit unfair you know, that’s perhaps the thing that people immediately think of Moses in anger smashing these tablets of stone. Not really the summation of his life, but he does that.
And he realizes [00:30:00] the enormity of what the people have done. And he goes back and in verse 30, “so next day Moses said to the people, You have sinned a great sin. Now I will go up to the Lord. Perhaps I can make atonement for your sin”.
And so Moses returns and says, “Alas, this people have sinned a great sin they have made for themselves Gods of gold. But now, if you will, forgive their sin. But if not, please block me out of your book that you have written. But the Lord said to Moses, whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book.”
So Moses says, look, exclude me from your purpose, but carry on with this people. and God’s response is, no, a substitute is not the answer to this problem. It’s not going to achieve what I want. And that’s, I think that’s something to just think about when we think about Jesus and the sacrifice of Jesus, just thinking of it as Jesus has done something, as a substitute for everybody else isn’t [00:31:00] really the way that the Bible presents it. It’s not a good analogy for what Jesus has done and God is explicitly rejecting that principle.
Laurence: It kind of engenders the wrong behaviour from the people, like if you have a substitute therefore I no longer have any responsibility. It’s all done for me. So it kind of breeds the wrong behaviour.
Paul: And I’m sure we’ll do another Biblical theme type episode on the atonement, the significance of those things. So, not quite finished yet in chapter 33 God then says right, I will carry on through with what I promised. I will send you off to the land of promise and make sure you get there, but I’m not going to go with you.
And so, Moses and the people react to that: no, that’s not what we want. Because that destroys this whole idea about God being with them in this kind of mini Eden situation that the tabernacle represents. Moses makes another [00:32:00] appeal, God’s glory appears before him. and then at the end of this section, the end of chapter 34, the covenant is renewed.
Again. and it suddenly introduces laws about keeping the feast of unleavened bread for six days and then seven. The seventh … And you think, Oh, it’s back to creation language. It talks a lot about the Sabbath, but the covenant is renewed. That’s, and that’s where it finishes.
Laurence: Okay. So that’s a strong theme that we can dig into as we, as we study Exodus. Any other themes that we should be looking out for?
Paul: I mean, I think it’s quite interesting having been through the sections, just, just to think about this more broadly than just Israel in Egypt, coming out of Egypt, into the wilderness and so on, because you seem to have a real sequence that sort of represents what happens in any age with the people of God through Christ.
You have God reaching out to save a people that are [00:33:00] enslaved. In the narrative it’s Egypt, you know, for humanity it’s, it’s sin and human behaviour and, enslaved to that. And then there’s a redemption from that situation. Bringing them out of that situation through, you know, the Passover lamb, the slaying of an unblemished lamb, which is pointing forward to Jesus.
And then there’s a celebration of that in the Song of the Sea. And then there’s kind of out into a different life, but in which God has provided for his people the manna, the water, the structure. So, you know, God has provided for his people, and enters into a covenant with them and everyone can participate in church life as it were, if you think of it in those terms.
But then, there’s failure, there’s things that go wrong. There’s broken relationships and there’s things that disrupt that harmony. But God continues to work with this imperfect group of [00:34:00] people, a church, the church and, and continues to work with him to try and work out the purpose of God.
And Moses is a little bit in the role of Jesus as that intercessor. So I think you can see a whole sequence as you think about how those sections unfold as to, you know, how the people of God are called into a place in which they have what they need, but they fail, but God continues to work with them to build a dwelling place for God.
Laurence: Yeah, I think that’s a really strong message that we should take from Exodus and that the whole Exodus language actually comes out in the life of Jesus himself. In a similar journey, so in the first few chapters of Matthew in chapters two, three, and four, we get the ideas using Exodus language of him.
Going into Egypt, of coming out of Egypt, of being baptized, a bit like going through the Red Sea. We see a period of time in the wilderness where he’s tempted. So we see all of these similar constructs [00:35:00] Exodus language, even in the life of Jesus. Okay, so let’s move on from that.
So that was the kind of the deeper themes, something to get us looking at the deeper themes in, in Exodus. So where does that leave us? We are at the end of the book. How does that then connect now to what’s going to come next?
Paul: So if we’re thinking about this as a continuous narrative at least through these first five books of the Bible, so it finishes with, as we said, this tabernacle or this tent being built, constructed all ready to use, the glory of God as the representation of the glory of God in this cloud is there above it, but Moses is not able to enter. So that’s where it finishes.
And then we go into the book of Leviticus, which when you’re thinking about reading a part of the Bible, Leviticus probably wouldn’t necessarily be many people’s first choice. Oh, I know. I want to read something uplifting from the Bible. I’ll go to the book of Leviticus. Not necessarily what you would [00:36:00] think. But the purpose of the book of Leviticus is now all about how is Moses going to be able to enter, how are people going to be able to enter an approach, the presence of God and how could people who are subject to this continual problem of failure and sin and weakness, but God wants to be with them, God wants to work with them and through them. How can that be? How can that work? And Leviticus is all about answering that question and ultimately, how does that bless all peoples of the earth in line with those promises to Abraham.
Laurence: Super. Thank you Paul. Great trailer for the next podcast on this series. We’ve been through Exodus and thank you Paul for leading us through some of the key themes and structure of this book. Plenty for us to all take away and, and as we’re reading through it ourselves. If you’re interested in some of the themes that we’ve been talking about here on the podcast there are other [00:37:00] resources that we’ve produced which have an overlap with some of these themes.
So we have a podcast that we did on “Where Is Heaven?” which picked up some of the ideas that we’ve touched on here around the tabernacle, the Garden of Eden, et cetera. And also we did one on Matthew, it was the third on the series that we did on Matthew, where, where Jesus is being tempted in the wilderness. I think the title of that one is called “Tempted by the Devil”.
So check those out if you want some additional thoughts on these themes in Exodus. So thank you very much for listening. Thank you Paul. And we’re looking forward to your, your comments and bible feed.org and, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
And we’ll be back soon with another gripping episode to look at the book of Leviticus.