Book summary

Exodus continues where Genesis finishes. After Joseph dies, the Israelites multiply, but a new Egyptian king sees them as a threat and puts them into slavery.

God raises Moses to lead the Israelites in a daring escape from the Egyptians and then journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. They stop at Mount Sinai, where God gives Moses the Ten Commandments, the Book of the Covenant, and detailed instructions on how to build the tabernacle.

The book finishes with the glory of the Lord descending to fill the completed tabernacle.

Chapters 1 to 11:10 — Slavery in Egypt

Ch 1 — Israel becomes enslaved

Ch 1:1-14 — Pharaoh puts the Israelites into slavery
  • Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country. So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.” (Ex. 1:8-11)

Ch 1:15-22 — Pharaoh orders midwives to kill newborn Israelite boys
  • Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.” (Ex. 1:22)

Ch 2-4 — God raises Moses as leader

Ch 2:1-10 — The birth of Moses
  • Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. (Ex. 2:1-3)

Ch 2:11-25 — Moses kills an Egyptian and must flee to Midian
  • One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. (Ex. 2:11-12)

Ch 3:1 to 4:31 — The burning bush, other signs, and return to Egypt
  • There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. (Ex. 3:2)

  • [God said to Moses:] “And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Ex. 3:9-10)

Ch 5:1 to 7:13 — First attempt backfires

Ch 5 — Moses and Aaron try to free the Israelites
  • But the king of Egypt said, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work!” … That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota.” (Ex. 5:4,6-8)

Ch 6:1 to 7:13 — God promises deliverance and instructs them
  • Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.” (Ex. 6:1)

Ch 7:14 to 11:10 — The Ten Plagues

  • [The plague of blood]

  • [The plague of frogs]

  • [The plague of gnats]

  • [The plague of flies]

  • [The plague on livestock]

  • [The plague of boils]

  • [The plague of hail]

  • [The plague of locusts]

  • [The plague of darkness]

  • [The plague on the firstborn.] So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well.’” (Ex. 11:4-5)

Chapters 12:1 to 15:21 — Escape

Ch 12:1 to 13:16 — The Passover

The Passover
  • The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.” (Ex. 12:6-7)

  • “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. (Ex. 12:12-13)

Escape from Egypt
  • At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt. (Ex. 12:29)

  • Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites!” (Ex. 12:30-31)

Ch 13:17 to 14:31 — The Red Sea

Pharaoh changes his mind
  • When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. (Ex. 14:5-6)

The Crossing of the Red Sea
  • Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. (Ex. 14:21-22)

The Egyptian army is destroyed
  • Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea… Not one of them survived. (Ex. 14:27,28)

Ch 15:1-21 — The song of deliverance

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
“I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.” (Ex. 15:1)

Chapters 15:22 to 24:18 — Mount Sinai

Ch 15:22 to 18:27 — Journey to Mount Sinai

The Lord provides water, manna and quail
  • In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “… you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.” (Ex. 16:2-4)

Victory over the Amalekites
  • [The Amalekites attacked the Israelites, and Moses told Joshua to lead some men to fight them.] As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up — one on one side, one on the other — so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. (Ex. 17:11-13)

Ch 19 — God instructs Moses at Mount Sinai

  • Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. (Ex. 19:18-19)

Ch 20:1-21 — The Ten Commandments

  1. “You shall have no other gods before me…” (Ex. 20:3)

  2. “You shall not make for yourself an image…” (Ex. 20:4)

  3. “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God…” (Ex. 20:7)

  4. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…” (Ex. 20:8)

  5. “Honor your father and your mother…” (Ex. 20:12)

  6. “You shall not murder.” (Ex. 20:13)

  7. “You shall not commit adultery.” (Ex. 20:14)

  8. “You shall not steal.” (Ex. 20:15)

  9. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. (Ex. 20:16)

  10. “You shall not covet…” (Ex. 20:17)

Ch 20:22 to 23:19 — The Book of the Covenant

“These are the laws you are to set before them:” (Ex. 21:1)
  • [Laws on Hebrew servants]

  • [Laws on personal injuries]

  • [Laws on protection of property]

  • [Laws on social responsibility]

  • [Laws of justice and mercy]

  • [Sabbath laws]

  • [The three annual festivals]

Ch 23:20 to 24:18 — The Promised Land and the covenant

Ch 23:20-33 — The Promised Land
  • I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. (Ex. 23:31)

Ch 24 — The covenant confirmed
  • Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.” Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Ex. 24:7-8)

Chapters 25-40 — The Tabernacle

Ch 25-27 — Instructions for building the tabernacle

  • “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you. (Ex. 25:8-9)

Ch 28-31 — Instructions for priestly garments and practices

  • “Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honor. (Ex. 28:1-2)

Ch 32-34 — The Israelites make an idol

Ch 32:1-6 — The golden calf
  • When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” … He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (Ex. 32:1-2,4)

Ch 32:7-35 — Moses destroys the calf and pleads for forgiveness
  • When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it. (Ex. 32:19-20)

Ch 33 — God might leave, but Moses pleads for God’s presence
  • Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” (Ex. 33:3)

  • “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Ex. 33:13-14)

Ch 34 — God proclaims his name
  • Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (Ex. 34:5-7)

Ch 35-40 — Implementing God’s instructions

  • So the tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year… He took the tablets of the covenant law and placed them in the ark, attached the poles to the ark and put the atonement cover over it. Then he brought the ark into the tabernacle and hung the shielding curtain and shielded the ark of the covenant law, as the Lord commanded him. (Ex. 40:17,20-21)

  • And so Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Ex. 40:33-34)