Exodus Era Overview

Except from “The 14 Eras” booklet by Iva May

The Exodus Era

Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (Approximately 470 years—Ex. 12:40-41)

Over the next four hundred years, Abraham’s descendants multiplied in Egypt; eventually, the attitude of the Egyptians changed and they forced them into slavery, as God had foretold Abraham. Abraham’s descendants lived in Egypt for 400 years until the Egyptians treated them harshly and killed their baby boys because they were afraid of

them. Abraham’s children, the Israelites, called out to God in their misery. God heard their cry and raised up a deliverer named Moses. God sent ten plagues on the Egyptians until they released the Israelites. Each of the ten plagues showed God’s power over the gods of Egypt, proving that God is more powerful than any idol or evil spirit. In the tenth plague, God promised to send death to every firstborn child in Egypt. He promised to spare any household that took a spotless lamb (The Passover Lamb), killed it, and put its blood on the doorposts of the house. The blood on the doorposts announced that death had already come to the house (through a substitute lamb). In this way, God delivered Israel out of Egypt. He parted the Red Sea and dried out the ground so that His people could walk across; He then brought the sea back to destroy the pursuing Egyptian army.

Israel spent forty years wandering in the wilderness because they refused to trust God, even though He brought them out of Egypt just as He promised. He provided food and water through miracles, but they complained about God anyway. He went before them by day “in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light.”

In the first year of their travels, God gave Israel His laws, including the Ten Commandments, which He engraved on tablets of stone. He also gave them moral laws (especially the Ten Commandments), civil laws for societal function, and ceremonial laws (instructions about the tabernacle—Tent of

Meeting, the priests, the sacrifices, the annual feasts of celebration such as the Passover, marriage and intermarriage, and the future). God instructed the people to have no other God but Him and not to make idols in the image of any earthly thing. God commanded that His people worship Him only.

While God was giving Moses the remainder of His laws, the Israelites turned away from God and called Moses’ brother, Aaron, to make them an idol to worship. They wanted a god they could see. God told Moses that He would kill the Israelites because of their idol worship, but Moses stood between God and the people and asked Him to show them mercy. God punished them so they would stay away from idols, but God allowed them to live. After their sin, Moses guided the people to build the tabernacle, fulfill the priesthood, offer the sacrifices, and keep the celebrations.

God promised His people a Prophet like Moses who would someday lead His people. God also commanded that a golden container (box) be built to hold the tablets of the Ten Commandments, a bowl of the food that God had provided in the wilderness, and the rod of Aaron, God’s priest. This container was the Ark of the Covenant, a physical symbol of God’s presence among His people. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 16), the blood of a slain goat was to be sprinkled on the lid (the mercy seat) to remind the people of sin’s penalty (the blood of the innocent on behalf of the guilty).

God also gave Israel instructions for the future, when they would want a king. He raised up a leader to take them into the promised land—Moses’ assistant Joshua. Before the Israelites went into the Promised Land, God gave them the Blessings and the Curses (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28), which they were to recite in the new land: blessings to enjoy the land and live in it forever if they followed and trusted God, and curses of drought and captivity from enemies if they turned from God to worship idols and evil spirits and commit sexual immorality.

Concerned about continuing Bible knowledge, God commanded Moses that the Book of the Law be read to the entire congregation once every seven years. He also spoke of the day when Israel would want a king like the peoples around them and instructed those future kings to write their own copy of the Book of the Law from which they were to read all the days of their life.

What does the Exodus Era reveal about God?

God Speaks

• God calls Moses to return to Egypt and lead Israel out of Egypt.

• God gives Israel’s commands, laws (ceremonial, moral, and dietary) to distinguish them for other peoples and to reveal their need of redemption. He instructs Moses to construct the Tent of Meeting so that He may dwell among them. He also designates the Levites to serve Him.

God Acts

• God afflicts Egypt with ten plagues to induce them to release the nation of Israel to worship Him in the wilderness.

• God divides the Red Sea to rescue Israel from the Egyptians and to drown the Egyptians.

• God guards and guides Israel with a cloud by day and a fire by night.

• God destroys the rebellious people in Israel’s midst.

• God establishes the Passover and the Day of Atonement as annual celebratory events to keep the promise of redemption before them.

God Reveals

• God hears the cries of His people (even when they are oblivious of His attention) and raises up men to lead them out of their oppression.

• God delights to dwell among and lead His people. He makes a way so that Holy God may dwell among unholy people (the Tent of Meeting).

• While God works redemptively on behalf of His people, He also judges those who oppress them.

• God gives Israel instructions regarding future scenarios and expects them to pass them to the following generations.

• Bible literacy prepares God’s people keep His promises of redemption before them and to embrace God’s providential work in their lives.

• Man needs laws to guide spiritual and social behavior. Laws do not change the heart but they establish righteous standards to reveal man’s sinfulness and his need for salvation.

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