Monday, October 12, 2009

Exodus at a Glance

In the book of Exodus, Yahweh demonstrates His sovereign power, His great compassion, and that there is no god but Him as He reveals Himself to the sons of Israel through Moses, delivers them from their oppression in Egypt, brings them to Himself in covenant, and leads them to the land He promised to their fathers.

Concerning Israel’s deliverance, the book of Exodus reveals that it is Yahweh who delivers (or redeems) them from the oppression they suffered under the power of Egypt. In Exodus 9:16 Yahweh explicitly reveals to Pharaoh the reason for His dealings with Egypt on behalf of Israel: “But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth” (cf. also Ex 7:17). Yahweh is consumed with demonstrating His power (in contrast to that of any professed gods of the nations) as well as bringing fame and glory to His great covenant name.

This notion of making His name known has preeminent importance in His design of deliverance. This becomes most apparent in the opening verses of chapter six (Ex 6:1-8). God speaks to Moses, and opens and closes His discourse by proclaiming His name: “I am Yahweh” (Ex 6:2, 8). He goes on to tell Moses that He revealed Himself to the patriarchs, but not by name (Ex 6:3). This is curious, because a simple reading of Genesis 15:1-8 shows that Abraham knew God by His name, Yahweh. What He is intending to communicate is that though He made a covenant promise to the fathers that they would inherit the land, they had only sojourned there (Ex 6:4); they hadn’t received the promise yet. As such, they didn’t know the name of Yahweh in the sense that they didn’t know Him in His covenant faithfulness. But by Yahweh’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, the giving of the covenant Law, and finally the conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua, He declares that they will know Yahweh in the essence of His character; i.e., One who keeps covenant.

Yahweh also desires to make His name known among Pharaoh and the inhabitants of Egypt. When Moses first entreats Pharaoh to let the sons of Israel go and sacrifice to Yahweh, Pharaoh responds, “Who is Yahweh that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know Yahweh” (Ex 5:3). From this point forward, Yahweh declares that one of His designs in Israel’s deliverance is to make His name known to Pharaoh (Ex 7:1-5) and the Egyptians (Ex 14:4, 18). And by the end of the Israelites’ deliverance, Pharaoh and his people do know Yahweh’s name (Ex 10:16-17; 12:30-31; 14:24-25).

Finally, Yahweh designs that His name be proclaimed and known among all nations, and not just Israel and Egypt. We see this in His declaration in Exodus 9:16: “…to proclaim My name through all the earth.” And by the second chapter of Joshua, we see that the fame of Israel’s deliverance has accomplished this (Josh 2:8-11).

Yahweh’s purposes for the sons of Israel are revealed throughout the book. First, His deliverance and redemption of Israel is designed to fulfill His covenant promises to the patriarchs. They are to be to Him a special treasure, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation (Ex 19:5-6). He does this by bringing them into the land He swore to their fathers by His covenant (see Ex 2:24; 3:15-17; 6:3-4, 8; 32:13; 33:1-3), thereby establishing the faithfulness of His name. Secondly, He clearly reveals that His design is to set apart the people of Israel among the nations as the people of God (Ex 9:4; 11:7; 19:6). In chapter thirteen, He commands that the firstborn be sanctified to Him so that they remember that He delivered them. He tells them they must not worship the gods of the land they will inhabit, but to remain distinct from the nations by worshiping Yahweh (Ex 23:23-33). He renews His covenant with them in Exodus 34:11-27 as a means of keeping them distinct from other nations, and reveals that the name of Yahweh is Jealous (Ex 34:14). This purpose is reaffirmed as the Torah develops and as the purposes for the Mosaic covenant are further made plain (Lev 10:10; 11:47; 20:25).

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