Jon: Let's talk about the book of Exodus. Now, you’re probably familiar with this book because of the epic story of Moses leading Israel out of slavery from Egypt1.
Tim: Yeah, but that’s just the first half of the book. The second half has Moses giving the ten commandments to Israel along with these blueprints for making a sacred tent. Now right here in the middle is the story that connects these two halves together, and it all takes place at the foot of a famous mountain.
Jon: Okay, so let’s start back at the beginning.
Israelites Enslaved [00:26-01:30]
Tim: So the first thing we have to remember is we’re continuing the story from Genesis.
Jon: Yeah. In Genesis, God promised Abraham that through his family all the nations of the earth will be blessed2. And Genesis ends with Abraham’s family down in Egypt. When Exodus begins, 400 years have passed. The family grows and becomes the people group now called Israel.
Tim: But there’s this huge problem because the Israelites are enslaved to this king of the Egyptians, a guy called Pharaoh.
Jon: This guy is really bad news.
Tim: Yeah. He’s horrible. He disregards their humanity, he brutally enslaves them, and he even orders that all of the Israelite sons should be killed by throwing them into the Nile river.3 He wants to wipe these people out. He is the worst character in the Bible so far.
Jon: Here’s where we meet an Israelite woman who wants to save her son4.
Tim: And so she does––throw him in the river, but safely in this little reed basket.
Jon: And Pharaoh's daughter finds this baby and takes him as her own.
Tim: This is a boy who grows up to become Moses, the man who will rescue Israel from slavery.
God Calls Moses to Rescue the Israelites [01:31-02:25]
Jon: So Moses grows up, and one day, much later in his life, he has this crazy encounter with God where he comes across a bush that’s on fire but it isn’t actually burning up5.
Tim: And God speaks from the bush and he appoints Moses as the man he will use to deliver Israel.6
Jon: So Moses goes to Pharaoh to tell him this news––that God wants his people free7.
Tim: And Pharaoh, he just pretty much laughs at him. He’s like, “Who’s this God Yahweh?” And in fact, he’s so offended by this request he decides to make the Israelites’ work even harder8.
Jon: So discouraged, Moses goes back to God and says, “Listen, this plan’s not going to work.”
Tim: But God repeats his promise that he’s going to rescue them. And in fact, it’s right here for the first time in the Bible that we hear the word “redemption.”9 It literally just means to purchase a slave’s freedom, but God here uses this word to describe what he’s going to do for enslaved Israel.
The Ten Plagues [02:26-03:46]
Jon: And God knows Pharaoh is going to resist, so he sends 10 different plagues, one after another, like turning water into blood, sending all sorts of pests and disease. These plagues are really severe10.
Tim: They are severe, but we need to understand that the story’s presenting these as acts of divine justice against one of the worst oppressors in the story of the Bible. And they’re all aimed at the purpose of rescuing these enslaved people and defeating the gods of Egypt.
Jon: This all comes to a climax at the tenth plague, where God’s going to kill the firstborn sons across all Egypt––every house. It’s pretty rough.
Tim: It is. But it’s also God’s response for how Pharoah killed the Israelite sons.
Jon: And as you turn the page, you suddenly get two long chapters of detailed instructions for what’s essentially throwing a dinner party with a recipe for a lamb11.
Tim: Yeah, but this lamb is super important. God tells the Israelites to pick it out and to prepare it to be eaten. And they’re supposed to take its blood and then paint it all over the door frame of their house, and anyone who is in that house will be spared from this final plague. And so this meal, which is called Passover, commemorates this key moment in the story where God brings his justice on human evil but also shows mercy by providing this substitute.
Pharaoh's Hardened Heart [03:47-04:31]
Jon: This final plague makes Pharaoh angry, and he demands that Israel gets out of Egypt, which is great. But suddenly, as they leave, Pharaoh changes his mind. He has a change of heart.
Tim: But on top of that, we’re also told that God hardens Pharaoh's heart.12
Jon: Why would God do that?
Tim: Well, what we need to remember is that over and over in the story Pharaoh has already chosen to harden his own heart. And so at this point, Pharaoh he’s not just evil. He’s become monstrously evil. Even his own advisors think that he has gone way too far. And so how is God supposed to deal with such an extreme form of evil? And what we see in this story is that God uses his power to lure evil into its own destruction.
Jon: Pharoah and his army are destroyed in the Red Sea as Israel passes into freedom13.
Song of Salvation [04:31-05:04]
Tim: And after this, we find the very first song of worship in the Bible as the people praise God for redeeming them. And it’s in this story that the word “salvation” is also used for the first time, which means simply to “be rescued from danger.”14
Jon: Now that they’re saved, you would think that everything should be great, but the story quickly turns. The Israelites start wandering in the desert. They’re tired, hungry, lost, and you start to wonder, what’s God doing? What were they saved for?
Tim: And we learn the answer to that question in the very next story, which ties the two parts of this whole book together.