Biblical Period 3
Lesson #8

Dear Father,
Of all the people of the earth from whom You could choose, You chose the people of Israel to carry the promise seed of the Messiah.  We marvel at this choice but we marvel so much more that You chose each of us and called us into Your Covenant family!  Your ways are beyond our understanding Lord, and so there are times when we must simply admit that we do not understand where we are going in this life or why we travel the path we travel to get there, but like Israel it is in those time that we must be ready for seas to part and for manna to fall from heaven for You, beloved Lord, are always mindful of our needs as well as our limitations. Lead us now in our study most gracious Holy Spirit and help us to see in the journey of Israel to the Promised Land a small vision of our journey of faith to heaven.  Guide us Son of Israel who is fully God and fully man, Jesus our Savior and Redeemer; in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Mary, Virgin daughter of Israel, pray for us! Amen.


"Then Yahweh said to Abram, 'Know this for certain, that your descendants will be exiles in a land not their own, and be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years.  But I shall bring judgement on the nation that enslaves them and after this they will leave, with many possessions." Genesis 15:13-14

"So say to the Israelites, 'I AM Yahweh.  I shall free you from the forced labor of the Egyptians; I shall rescue you from their slavery and I shall redeem you with outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgement.  I shall take you as my people and I shall be your God.  And you will know that I am Yahweh your God, who has freed you from the forced labor of the Egyptians.  Then I shall lead you into the country which I swore I would give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and shall give it to you as your heritage, I, Yahweh.' " Exodus 6:6-8

THE TWELVE TRIBES IN EGYPT: Scripture readings

Enslavement of Israel Exodus 1:1-22
Infant Narrative of Moses Exodus 2:1-10
Moses Flees Egypt Exodus 2:11-25
The Call of Moses Exodus 3:1-6:30
The Return of Moses/ The Ten Plagues Exodus 7:1-11:10
The First Passover Exodus 12:1-51

The Exodus

The Hebrew title is ve'elleh shemot [pronounced: wa all a sha mot], which means "now these are the names."  The title of the Greek translation is "exodus", meaning "departure".  It is a word that indicates one of the principle themes of the book, which is the physical departure or "exodus" of Israel from slavery in Egypt as well as the spiritual departure from an ordinary people to a holy Covenant nation called by God.   In the Greek translation of the Gospel of Luke 9:30-31 Moses and Elijah "appearing in glory" meet with Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration ".. and they were speaking of his exodus which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem."  In this context the Fathers of the Church saw Moses leading the children of God on the "exodus" from slavery in Egypt and into a covenant relationship that will allow them to inherit the Promised Land in Canaan as a foreshadow of Jesus the Messiah, the "greater than Moses" leading the children of God on an "exodus" out of slavery to sin and into a covenant relationship with Yahweh that promises the possession of the true Promised Land--Heaven. 

This exciting narrative of the redemption of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt and their establishment as a nation governed by the laws of Yahweh's Covenant begins in chapter one with a list of the sons of Jacob who settled in Egypt [Exodus 1:1-7, compare to Genesis 46:8-27]. Exodus 1:6-7 is a transition passage that marks the end of the old generation and then passing over the more than 400 years that Israel was in Egypt Exodus 1:7 recalls the prophetic word concerning Israel's future given to Abraham in Genesis 15:13 in the statement of Exodus 1:7 that "..the Israelites were fruitful and prolific, they became so numerous and powerful that eventually the whole land was full of them."  During the 430 years in Egypt, Jacob's family grew from 70 male members to 603,550 males over 21 or an approximate total population of 2-3 million Israelites. 


FOCUS Redemption Revelation
COVENANT The Abrahamic Covenant The Sinai Covenant
SCRIPTURE 1:1------2:1----------5:1---------15:22----------19:1--------32:1----40:38
DIVISION Need for redemption Preparation for redemption Israel's Redemption Israel's
The revelation of the Sinai Covenant/ sacrifices and sacraments Perpetuation of the Sinai Covenant
TOPIC Narration Legislation

-Subjection of Israel

-The birth & childhood of Moses in Egypt

-The 40 years in Midian

-The call of Moses

-The return to Egypt


-The 9 Egyptian plagues

-The 10th plague and
the first Passover

-Crossing the Red Sea

-The Wilderness Journey to Mt. Sinai / Horeb

The Law & Instruction

- Birth of the Old Covenant Church – First Pentecost

-The 10 Commandments

-Israel accepts the Covenant

-Establishment of Sacrifice and Liturgy

-Yahweh takes possession of the Tabernacle

LOCATION Egypt - Midian - Egypt Wilderness between Red Sea and
Mt. Sinai
Mount Sinai in Midian (rendezvous with God on the 50th day after crossing Red Sea (as ancients counted)*
TIME 430 years (Ex 12:40) 48 Days
(Ex 19:1)
Stayed almost 2 years
(Num 9:11)

World Power: Egypt-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2000 BC                             1600 BC                                      1350 BC                                 1000 BC

ABRAHAM ?                               ?----------EXODUS----------?                  KING DAVID

          conquers Jerusalem          

The Enslavement of Israel

Please read Exodus 1:8-22
Exodus 1:8 brings us to the time frame of the major events of this portion of the Book of Moses [reference the document "Evidence of Mosaic Authorship in Scripture" in the Charts and Resources section].  Many generations have passed, Jacob/Israel and Joseph are long dead and a new Pharaoh has power in Egypt.  If Joseph's Pharaoh was one the foreign invaders known as the Hyksos who reigned over Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period circa 1786-1558BC then by the time the Egyptian princes of Thebes were able to drive out the Hyksos in the mid 16th century and establish Egypt's 18th New Kingdom dynasty the foreign allies of the Hyksos would not have been as welcomed as they once were.  If Israel had been such an ally they would now be viewed with suspicion.

Genesis 1:8 records that there came to power in Egypt "a new king who had never heard of Joseph." The literal translation of the Hebrew text, "a new king who did not know Joseph", uses the Hebrew word yadad = "to know."  To have "knowledge" of someone in the language of the Bible indicated intimate knowledge either of a sexual nature or of intimate knowledge from a covenant association.  This new pharaoh is a ruler of Egypt who is no longer in covenant with the foreigners who occupied the rich Nile Delta lands of northern Egypt.

Question: Why does the Pharaoh fear the Israelites?  See Genesis 1:8-10
Answer:  The Israelites have grown strong in numbers.  They might form alliances with Egypt's enemies and eventually overpower the native Egyptians.

Archaeological evidence from the records of the artisan community that worked on the tombs of the Egyptian Pharaoh's at Deir el Medina reveals that the Egyptian infant mortality rate was extremely high.  In this model community of skilled craftsmen 1 out of every 3 women and/or their babies died in childbirth.

Question: What is the Egyptian Pharaoh's first attempt to gain control of the Israelites?
Answer: The Israelites are forced to build the Pharaoh's store-cities of Pithom and Rameses in the hopes that merciless treatment will reduce their ranks but God continues to bless His people and the Egyptians continue to be afraid of the Israelites.

Forced labor of communities as well as forced labor of prisoners of war was a common practice in Egypt.  The two cities of Pithom and Rameses have been located in the Nile Delta.  The Egyptian word per-aa which means "the great House" designated the palace or court of the Egyptian ruler, but from the beginning of the 18th Dynasty [16th century BC] onwards it became a designation referring to the king's own person and hence comes to us from Hebrew to English as "pharaoh".

Question: What is the Pharaoh's second plan to control the population grown of the Israelites?   What is the result of this plan? Unfortunately, it is still a "population control plan" in use today.  See Genesis 1: 15-19
Answer: Pharaoh attempts to convince the Hebrew midwives to kill babies, in this case the boy babies, but the Hebrew midwives, fearing God, refuse and make the excuse that the healthy Hebrew women give birth to their babies before the midwives arrives.

The name of a Hebrew/Semitic female slave, Shiphrah, has been found in an Egyptian hieroglyphic papyrus scroll now in the Brooklyn Museum.  The papyrus comes from Thebes, the Egyptian New Kingdom capital, and is dated ca. 1740BC.  This papyrus contains a long list of slaves who are to become the property of the new owner's wife. Each is identified as Egyptian or Asiatic-Semitic.  Of the Asiatic slaves, unlike the Egyptian slaves, almost all have northwest Semitic names--about 30 are listed and among them is a female slave named Shiphrah, the same name as the mid-wife in Exodus 1:15.  Other Semitic names of slaves include the feminine form of Issachar [one of the 12 tribes], another is the feminine form of Asher [also one of the 12 tribes]], and other northwest Semitic names are related to the Hebrew names Menahem and Job. For more information see "Northwest Semitic Names in a List of Egyptian Slaves from the 18th century BC" , W.F. Albright, Journal of the American Oriental Society issue 74, [1954], pages 222-233; "A Name in Search of a Story", H. Shanks, "Biblical Archaeology Review", [January/February, 1998], pages 6 &72].

Question: The irony is that the more Pharaoh persecutes the Israelites the more God continues to bless them and so Pharaoh formulates plan #3.  What is this plan?
Answer: The plan is to throw the born boy babies into the Nile, but to let the girls live.

Question: Why wouldn't Pharaoh have the midwives kill the girl babies as well as the boy babies?  'Throw every new-born boy into the river but let all the girls live" Exodus 1:22.  Hint: The answer may be found in Joseph's agrarian policy in Genesis 47:13-22.
Answer: We know from Genesis chapter 47 that eventually, with the exception of the Israelites, there was no private ownership of land in Egypt, a phenomenon confirmed by archaeological finds of ancient Egyptian documents that record an end to private land ownership sometime between the Second Intermediate period and the beginning of the New Kingdom in the 16th century BC. Therefore, the only private citizens who own the land are the Israelites occupying the fertile Nile Delta lands in Goshen.  If there are not enough Israelite men, then Israelite women will be forced to accept Egyptian husbands and the land would pass back into Egyptian hands.  This is, of course, only speculation but it is a possible motive for only seeking to kill the boy babies who would inherit the land.

Question: Can you think of another episode in Salvation History where the innocent lives of boy babies are sacrificed to satisfy the greed and fear of a King?
Answer: The murder of the Holy Innocents in Matthew 2:16-18 ordered by King Herod the Great.

The Infant Narrative of Moses

Please read Exodus 2:1-10

A man and woman from the tribe of Levi give birth to a third child.  They attempt to protect him but when he is three months the mother makes a desperate attempt to save the baby by placing him in a papyrus basket coated with pitch and, trusting him to the providence of God, places the basket the waters of the Nile.

Question: Although the mother is forced to obey the Pharaoh's command she does so in a way that recalls what other story of God's work of salvation?
Answer: The story recalls God's salvation of Noah in the days of the Great Flood.  Like the Flood narrative the object of Yahweh's plan of salvation is put into an "ark" and then the ark is carried away by the waters.  The same Hebrew word tebah, which most versions of Scripture translate as "ark" is used in both accounts of Genesis 6:14-9:18 in the story of the salvation of Noah's family in the Great Flood, and in Exodus 2:3-5 in the story of Moses' salvation. The comparison is meant to show that a sovereign God is at work in the history of His people.

Question: Who is the brave little sister who watches for the safety of her brother along the river bank?  See Exodus 15:20

Answer: She is Miriam the sister of Aaron and Moses who will become the first prophetess of Israel.  Some scholars believe her name comes from the Egyptian root "meret", meaning "beloved".

The princess immediately realized this is a Hebrew child.  Since Scripture indicates that the adult Moses is taken at first sight by the Midians for an Egyptian [Exodus 2:19] it is likely she has recognized his ethnic identity not by his physical appearance [a slave child with a radically different ethic appearance could not be passed off as a royal prince], but from the distinctive Hebrew textiles in which he is wrapped.

Question: A very courageous Miriam asks the Egyptian princess a question that will affect the destiny of three women.  What does she ask and does the princess understand the implications of the offer?  What is the name of the baby's Hebrew mother? See Exodus 2:7-10 and 6:20.
Answer: Miriam offers to find a Hebrew woman to nurse the child.  The Egyptian woman surely realized the nursing Israelite brought to her must be the child's own mother.  The Princess, Miriam and Moses' mother Jochebed are now locked in a secret that could cost them their lives.  The courage of all three women marks them as true heroines of faith.

Question: What does the Princess name the child and why?  See Exodus 2:10
Answer: The name she gives him is "Moses" or "Moshe" in Hebrew, and the scriptural explanation is associated with the act of "drawing him from the water".  The Hebrew word is "meshitihu" =drew him out" from the Hebrew verb "mashah "to draw out", but the Princess probably didn't speak Hebrew so this seems an unlikely association.  Biblical scholars agree Moses is an Egyptian name usually used as a suffix to a theophoric name' a name associated with the name of a god, in this case an Egyptian god.  In the 18th dynasty "mose" [pronounced mos-ah] is a very common suffix associated with compound theophoric names like Ahmose and Kamose, the first rulers of the Egyptian 18th dynasty along with other Pharaohic names like Tutmose, Ramose, etc.  The translation in Egyptian would be "the god___ is born", or example Ramose = "the god Ra is born".   The final "s" in Moses comes from the ancient Greek translation of the Bible.  In Greek a terminal sigma [s] was added to Mose because Greek does not permit masculine proper nouns to end in a vowel.  [For more on the Egyptian roots of Moses' name see "Moses' Egyptian Name", by Ogden Goelet in Bible Review, June 2003 pages 14-17 & 50-51].

Essentially the baby from the tribe of Levi has "died" to Israel being cast into the waters of the heathen world but he will be reborn! 

Question: What is ironic about the re-birth or salvation of this child that even his Egyptian name suggests?  See Exodus 1:22 and 2:5
Answer: The child was saved not only by the carrying out of the Pharaoh's own decree but in fact the Pharaoh's own daughter will rescue the child and will name him:  "__?__ is born".

When the child is weaned the princess brings Moses to the palace where he is raised as a prince of Egypt, a nation at this time which is the dominant super-power in that part of the ancient world. The education Moses would have received in the royal school for princes would have been the best the world had to offer at that time.  He would have studied engineering, poetry, philosophy, history, mathematics, astrology, and possible other languages of the Near East.  Many younger princes were trained for diplomatic service.  However, when Moses reaches adulthood the years of secrecy begin to unravel. 

Please read Exodus 2:11-25

Question: Can you speculate about how old Moses is as the narrative of his adult life begins in 2:11?  See Deuteronomy 34:7; Numbers 14:34; 20:12; Acts 7:23, 30.
Answer: We cannot know for sure but the total number of years of Moses' life was 120 [see Deuteronomy 34:7].  Since most of the Pentateuch is focused on the last forty years of his life [see Numbers 14:34; 20:12], it is usually assumed that these first two periods in his life also consisted of forty years each [see Acts 7:23, 30], dividing Moses' life into 3 sets of 40 years.

Question: Why is it necessary for Moses to flee Egypt? Where does he go? See Exodus 2:11-15
Answer: In an attempt to rescue a Hebrew kinsman who is being beaten he kills an Egyptian. 

Question: What does this event foreshadow?  See Exodus 3:10
Answer: His call to deliver all of the Israelites from their Egyptian oppressors in Exodus.

Question: But when Moses rescues the Israelite slave what is the reception he receives from the Israelite people?
Answer: He is not accepted by his own people who taunt him with "and who has appointed be a prince and judge over us" in 2:14.  This rejection of Moses shows that without the specific call of God that Moses receives in Exodus 3, he could not have won the trust of the people. This episode and his rejection may also explain Moses' reluctance to accept the mission to free his people when God does call him!  The response of his kinsmen anticipates Moses' response in 3:11 when he asks God "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"

Question: Where does he go in order to escape Pharaoh's justice?
Answer: He escapes across the Sinai Peninsula to the land of Midian, which was located in modern day Saudi Arabia to the southeast of Canaan and east of the Gulf of Aqaba. 

Question:  What is connection of the people of Midian to the Israelites?  See Genesis 25:2-3
Answer: Both the Israelites and the Midianites trace their descend from Abraham

Question: The priest of Midian is blessed [or perhaps cursed from his perspective] with daughters; how many?  Where does Moses meet them and what is the outcome of the encounter?
Answer: He defends the daughters at a well and for his efforts wins a home and a wife.

Question: Moses met his bride, Zipporah at the well in Midian. Does this encounter remind you of any other encounters of a man and a woman at a well?  What happens in the Bible when a man meets a woman at a well?  This is the third repetition of such an event.  See Genesis 24:10-28; 29:2-14. 
Answer: this is the third well where a man finds a bride.  The unnamed servant of Abraham found his bride Rebekah at a well, Jacob found his bride Rachel at a well, and now Moses finds Zipporah at a well. In the Bible a bride is courted at a well! 

Moses' rescue of the flocks of the daughters of Reuel-Jethro may also foreshadow Moses as God's representative providing water for God's people and their flocks throughout their time in the wilderness [see Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:7-11].

Exodus 2:23- 24 sets up the transition from Moses' early adult life to the next stage in his adventure. The Pharaoh dies, the people continue to suffer and to call on God to deliver them and God "remembers" His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob just as God had "remembered" Noah in the ark and saved him.  It is not that God ever forgot His people the point is now is the time that His people are ready to be redeemed and the basis of that redemption is God's covenant promises to Abraham.  Throughout the history of Israel Abraham's covenant is seen as foundational to all other covenants.  The prophet Micah, for example, will see God's covenant promises to Abraham as the basis on which Israel's hope of a future salvation rests in Micah 7:19-20 and in the same way the New Testament Gospel writers will see God's work of redemption in sending Jesus, the Son of God, as a fulfillment of these same covenant promised to Abraham and the patriarchs [see Luke 1:54-55].

Please read Exodus 3:1-6:30 The Call of Moses

The central theme of this encounter with God is that He is not an impersonal deity.  Yahweh is, in fact, completely righteous and holy and yet intensely personal in His covenant relationship with His people.

Question: Where is Moses caring for the flocks of his father-in-law when he encounters God?
Answer: Horeb, the mountain of God.  In Galatians 4:25 St. Paul identifies Arabia and not the traditional Sinai Peninsula as the site of Mt. Horeb-Sinai.  Notice the connection to Eden, the holy mountain of God [see Ezekiel 28:12-14].  The place name Sinai probably comes from the Hebrew word for "bush" used in these passages = "sene" [say-nay].

"The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame blazing from the middle of a bush."

The Angel of the Lord is a physical manifestation of God.

Question: How does God identify Himself to Moses?
Answer: He is the God Moses' fathers: of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.   God's connection with the patriarchs also is a reminder of the promises made to them concerning the land, descendants and a world-wide blessing.  It is time for those promises to be set in motion for a future fulfillment.

Question: What plan does God reveal to Moses?  See Exodus 3:7-10
Answer: Moses is to be the one who will deliver the children of Israel from bondage to slavery in Egypt, and he will lead them to the land promised to their forefathers.

Question: Moses will respond to God's call with four objections why he cannot fulfill this mission in Exodus 3:11, 13; 4:1, and 10.  What are his objections?

#1 Who am I to go to Pharaoh?

#2 I don't know your name; what is your name?

#3 What if they don't believe me?

#4 I am slow of speech

Question:  What is the reason for his first objection? See Exodus 3:11
Answer: He asks "Who am I?" which is a response to his rejection by his people when he tried to rescue his kinsman from the Egyptian in 2:14.

Question: When Moses expresses his reluctance what assurance does God give him?
Answer: God will be with him and Moses' mission is to form Israel into a nation whose central concern will be the worship of the One True God on this holy mountain of Horeb.

Question: What is the "sign" by which Moses will know God has sent him?  See Exodus 3:12
Answer: As with Joseph God will provide the 'sign" that Moses will need to perform for Pharaoh and for Israel.  These "signs" will be miraculous signs that will demonstrate God's power and sovereignty over the Egyptians and their gods.  But the importance is not in the "signs" themselves but that the "signs" should encourage the faith they will need to worship God on His holy mountain.

Please read Exodus 3:12-22

Objection #2
Moses' second objection is that the Israelites will want to know God's name.

Up to this point God has not revealed any personal name by which he may be called.  El Shaddai is a title. Moses, familiar with the Egyptian pantheon of gods understands that the Israelites as well as the Egyptians will want to know which particular god has called him to include what is the particular nature of this god.  To the ancients the "name" was the complete expression of the nature and essence of the person who bore the name [see 1Samuel 25:25]. 

Question: What does Moses ask God and what is the response? See Exodus 3:13
Answer: God's response is to use a form of the verb "to be" = "ehyeh", and which is probably meant to convey the expression "I am He who is".  The following verse uses the actual name of God which is expressed in Hebrew by the 4 consonants YHWH ["And he said, 'this is what you are to say to the Israelites, I AM has sent me to you.'"  This is probably not the answer Moses was looking for, but God has expressed Himself in the sense of the "living God".  He is the God of the living as expressed in Matthew 22:32 when Jesus quoting Exodus 3:6 & 15 said "...have you never read what God himself said to you: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?  He is God not of the dead, but of the living."   Yahweh reveals that this will be His covenant name for all time and all generations.  The revelation of His "shem" = name signals a new direction in the covenant is no longer just a covenant relationship with an individual but a much more complex and deeply personal relationship that will be ratified at the holy Mountain of God.  Our brothers and sister of the Old Covenant have such respect of God's holy name that they never speak it any refer to God as HaShem, "the name".  For more information on the names of God used in Scripture see "The Many Names of God" in the Charts and Resources section.

In response to Moses' third objection God gives him a demonstration of the "signs" he will perform and with the forth objection, that he is slow of speech, God allows Moses the support of his elder brother Aaron.  God knows our weaknesses and our limitations but if we will only have faith and we remain in His will, He will give us what we need to succeed.

Question: What significant statement does God make to Moses in Exodus 4:23?
Answer: Yahweh tells Moses to say to Pharaoh that "This is what Yahweh says: Israel is my first-born son.  I told you: Let my son go and worship me; but since you refuse to let him go well then!  I shall put your first-born son to death."

This verse reminds us of the dire consequences of disobedience to God.  It is a key element of the narrative that Israel is identified as Yahweh's re'shiyt, His firstborn, which suggests that all other nations are Israel's younger brothers.  This statement not only establishes Israel's place in God's plan of salvation and redemption for mankind but Israel's responsibilities as the one who represents the power and authority of the father who in this case is God.  Israel has been and always will be the "firstborn son" of the nations of the world. There is also in this passage a warning of the 10th plague.

Exodus 6:2-3: 2God spoke to Moses and said to him, I am Yahweh. 3To Abraham, Isaac and Jacob I appeared as El Shaddai, but I did not make my name Yahweh known to them.

Perhaps no other passage in Scripture has generated as much scholarly discussion as these two verses. These verses have become the foundation of the so called Documentary Hypothesis theory and have generated discussion among scholars since the theory was first introduced in the 19th century AD.

There are several possible explanations that biblical scholars have proposed to deal with this apparent discrepancy, since according to the Genesis narrative the patriarchs did know God as Yahweh Gen 13:4; 15:2, 18; 28:13, 16; 28:21

  1. There was no single author of the Pentateuch but there were several different authors and their oral accounts, or oral strands, were passed down through the generations and were not written down until the 6th century BC when the different strands were combined into one account. The editing together of the different accounts has resulted in the repetitions, contradictions, and the different names for God (Documentary Hypothesis Theory).

  2. The repetitions are there for a reason, as in the passages where God reassured Moses of his mission by repeating His promise to redeem Israel. Exodus 6:2-3 is not meant to be a statement but a question and should be translated: To Abraham, Isaac and Jacob I appeared as El Shaddai, but did I not make my name Yahweh known to them?

  3. Other scholars, like John Sailhamer, have proposed that there is a difference between how God revealed Himself to the patriarchs as El Shaddai and as Yahweh : Thus Exodus 6:3 " I appeared to El Shaddai and not as Yahweh "reflects accurately the wording of the Genesis narratives. In Genesis, when God appeared to Abraham, he addressed him as El Shaddai, but when Abraham saw God in a vision, he spoke with him as Yahweh (The Pentateuch as Narrative, pages 251).

  4. Dr. Robert Vasholz notes that Exodus 6:2-3 should be translated: I am Yahweh. To Abraham, Isaac and Jacob I appeared as El Shaddai; by my name, Yahweh, I indeed made myself known to them. His argument is that in English translations the particle that is translated as a negative should be translated as an emphatic particle (Vasholz, Leviticus, page 132, note 5).

Please read Exodus 7:1-11:10

Exodus 7:1-7 The Purpose of the Plagues

Question: What does God tell Moses is the purpose of the plagues? See Exodus 7:3-5 and 9:16
Answer: They are to be "signs" that will be a demonstration of God's power to the Egyptians [verse 5] as well as to the Israelites [9:16].  God's goal is not to destroy the Egyptians.  Scripture always reinforces that God's plans are always motivated by the desire to bring humanity to salvation and to bless all the nations of the earth as He promised Abraham in Genesis 12:3.

Isaiah 19:16-25 speaks of God's plans and purpose for the conversion of Egypt when he writes: "That day Egypt will be like women, trembling and terrified at the threatening hand of Yahweh Sabaoth, when he raises it against her.  The land of Judah will become Egypt's shame; whenever she is reminded of it, she will be terrified, because of the plan which Yahweh Sabaoth has laid against her. [...] Yahweh will reveal himself to Egypt, and the Egyptians will acknowledge Yahweh that day and will offer sacrifices and cereal offerings, and will make vows to Yahweh and perform them.  And if Yahweh strikes Egypt, having struck he will heal, and they will turn to Yahweh who will hear their prayers and heal them."


  The Ten Plagues

Please read Exodus 7:1-10:29

#1  The water of Nile turns to blood 7:14-25 [7 day period]; all of Egypt
#2   plague of frogs from the Nile 7:26-8:10 throughout all of Egypt
#3   plague of mosquitoes 8:12-15 throughout all of Egypt
#4  ? Hebrew  is 'arov = mixture;  a noun based on the root "to mix" 8:16-20 only Egypt not in Goshen
#5   plague of disease on livestock 9:1-7 only Egypt not in Goshen
#6   plague of boils 9:8-12 throughout all of Egypt
#7   plague of hail 9:13-26 only Egypt not in Goshen
#8   plague of locusts 10:1-20 throughout Egypt
#9   plague of darkness 10:21-29 throughout Egypt
#10 death of the firstborn 11:1-10 throughout all of Egypt

Question: What was the 4th plague?
Answer: Rabbis as early as the 2nd century AD debated what the Hebrew word 'arov indicated.  They knew it was a mixture but a "mixture" of what?  One interpretation that strongly influenced the illustrations of the booklets containing the liturgy of the Passover seder known as the Haggadah, is a "mixture" of wild things--like beasts of prey.  But another possibility that became more popular in Christian tradition is that the "mixture" was a swarm of different insects.  St Jerome in his Latin Vulgate version of the Bible translated the Hebrew 'arov as "all kinds of flies."  The text of Exodus seems to support this interpretation when Moses says in Exodus 8:17 "I shall sent 'arov against you, and your servants and your people and your houses; the houses of the Egyptians, and the very ground they stand on shall be filled with 'arov."  It is not so easy to imagine wolves, lions and bears taking up residence in people's houses!  It seems far more likely that insects like flies, mosquitoes, fleas, etc., would infest a house.   This may be how St Jerome reasoned the 4th plague but he may have noticed something else that helped him decide on his translation.  If you look at the 10 plagues as a whole you will notice that they are paired according to their nature.  One of the first scholars to notice this relationship was Umberto Cassuto, one of the great Biblical scholars of the 20th century. Plagues 1-2: blood and frogs both came from the Nile River; plagues 5-6, cattle disease and boils are both diseases; plagues 7-8, hail and locusts come from the sky and destroy the crops; and plagues 9-10, darkness and death of the firstborn at midnight both share darkness = literal darkness and the darkness of death.  If this is indeed a pattern then the 4th plague should have something in common with the 3rd, "lice", so it is reasonable to assume that the 4th plague must be a mixture of insects that swarm like flies, mosquitoes, etc.

The First Passover

Please read Exodus chapter 12

The celebration of six Old Testament Passovers is recorded in Scripture:

  1. The Passover in Egypt: Exodus 12
  2. The Wilderness Passover: Numbers 9
  3. Joshua's Passover in the Promised Land: Joshua 5:10
  4. Reform Passover of King Hezekiah: 2 Chronicles 30
  5. King Josiah's Passover: 2 Chronicles 35
  6. Passover after the Return from Exile: Ezra 6:19

St John's Gospel records that Jesus' public ministry spanned 3 Passover festivals

Through the "sign" of 9 plagues Yahweh has shown the Egyptians and the Hebrews that He is the One True God but it is through the "sign" of the last plague, the death of the firstborn that the narrative focuses on the principal theme of the whole of the Pentateuch.

Question: What is this principal theme that points back to the promise/prophecy of Genesis 3:15?  Can you think of some examples?

 Answer: It is that Yahweh, in His faithfulness, provides a way of salvation for the "promised seed" of Genesis 3:15.  In the midst of the judgment of death God provided a way of salvation for Enoch who did not taste death but who was "taken' by God [5:22-24], for Noah who was preserved in the midst of the Great Flood judgment [Genesis 6:9], and for Lot who was preserved in the judgment on Sodom [19:16-19]. 

The last plague was the most severe both personally and theologically.  It was not only a devastating blow to each Egyptian family but it was also a very powerful blow to the Egyptian's idea of divinity and royal succession for a people who considered the eldest son of the Pharaoh to be a living god. 

Question: In chapter 11 Yahweh informs Moses that he must instruct the people to ask the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry.  What prophecy is being fulfilled and what justice is being carried out when the Egyptians willing give the Hebrews their wealth?
Answer: Yahweh had promised Moses this would happen in Exodus 3:21 this same prophecy had been given to Abraham in Genesis 15:14.  The children of Israel will be justly paid for their years of enslavement to the Egyptians.

Please read Exodus 12:1-51

In Exodus 12:1-20 Yahweh instructs Moses in the Passover regulations and requirements, and in Exodus 12:21-28 Moses repeats these instructions to the people.

Question: What month is it?
Answer: The night of the 10th plague occurred in the month of Aviv [Abib] which was later known as Nisan [from the Persian calendar] after the return from the Exile in Babylon in the 6th century BC [Nehemiah 2:1].  This month corresponds to March/April in our calendar.  According to Exodus 23:16, prior to the event of the first Passover the Hebrew calendar year began in the month of Tishri, September/October. 

Question: Yahweh resets the calendar in Exodus 12:1.  What does He command?
Answer: The month of Nisan  [Aviv] is to be the first of all the months.  From this time forward the children of Israel will have a liturgical calendar that begins in the month of Nisan- early spring, and a civil calendar that begins in the early Fall in the month of Tishri.

Question: What are the Israelites commanded to do on the 10th day of Nisan?
Answer: Each household must select a lamb or a kid, a male a year old in its perfection. 

Question: How many days are the families to keep the lambs? Hint: there was no concept of 0-place value until the Middle Ages.  Prior to that time a series of days always began with the first day as #1 of the series.  We read in Scripture that Jesus was in the tomb for 3 days from Friday to Sunday but that is 3 days as the ancients counted not as we count today = Friday = day 1; Saturday = day 2; Sunday = day 3.
Answer: They were to keep the lambs from the 10th to the 14th.  That is 5 days as they counted.  Five is the number of grace in Scripture.

Exodus 12:6 "You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel will slaughter it at twilight."  The literal Hebrew reads: bayin ha ereb which literally translates bayin =between; ha =the; ereb = twilight(s). The time between the twilight of a day is 12 noon.  The 1st century Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria recorded in "The Special Laws, II, XXVI a description of the Passover sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem "..that of the Passover, which the Hebrews call pascha, on which the whole people offer sacrifice, beginning at noon-day and continuing till evening."  "Evening" or the "end of the day" for the Israelites, then and now, is late afternoon since at sundown the next day begins.  In the case of the sacrificial animals of Passover, the animal had to be roasted and ready to be eaten by sundown when family would gather to eat the sacrificial meal.

Question: How was the blood of the sacrifice to be applied?  See Exodus 12:7 and 21-22.  Hint: the word in verse 22 is not "basin" as in a bowl or vessel but is an Egyptian word "zap" meaning the threshold before the door of a house.  Houses in rural areas of Egypt still have such a drainage trench before the door.
Answer: The blood of the animal must be emptied into the ditch before the door of the house.  A hyssop branch must be used to apply the blood from the ditch to the side door-posts and the top of the door = lintel.

Question:  After the blood is applied what must the Israelites do?  See Exodus 12:8
Answer: The sacrificed animal has to be roasted and eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.  The animals must be roasted whole with no bones broken.  None of it must be left over until the morning.  If anything is left it must be burned in the fire.

Question: Why is it that the sacrificed animal had to be roasted and could not be boiled, etc.?
Answer: This animal is a true sacrifice offered in the place of the firstborn sons.  A sacrifice is roasted on an altar when it is given to God.

Question: What if you didn't like roasted lamb?  Could you just spread the blood on the door and be safe?
Answer: No, you had to eat the lamb!  The blood sacrifice and the eating of the sacred meal were all part of the one sacrifice.

Question: In the sacrifice of the Mass, after the words of consecration spoken by the Priest as he stands before us in "persona Christi" Jesus is present on the altar as the Lamb of God sacrificed for the sins of the world. What was wine has become through the work of the Holy Spirit, His precious Blood and what was bread has become His precious Body.  Is the blood enough or do we still have to eat the Lamb?
Answer: The blood sacrifice and the eating of the Lamb are all part of the one sacrifice.  "For our Passover has been sacrificed, that is the Christ; let us keep the feast..." 1Corinthians 5:7.

Question: In Exodus 12:13 God says He will execute justice on the gods of Egypt and then He says: "The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are.  When I see the blood I shall pass over you, and you will escape the destructive plague when I strike Egypt."  What is the sign of the blood that God saw...draw a door of a house with blood in the threshold and blood on the door posts and the lintel and connect the blood.  What is the sign?
Answer: It forms a cross; the blood on the door and threshold are even the same places Jesus bled on the cross: His crown of thorns, His two hands nailed to the cross, and the nails at the bottom of the cross through His precious feet.  The cross or tau in Hebrew is also used as a protective sign in Ezekiel 9:4. There are many more parallels to Jesus' Passion and the celebration of the Passover but we will discuss those when we come to the New Testament Last Passover.

Question: What decree does Yahweh make in Exodus 12:14?
Answer: This is to be a perpetual feast for all generations. In the Catholic Church we celebrate the sacrifice of the Passover of the Christ at every celebration of the Mass.  St Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:7 "For our Passover has been sacrificed, that is, Christ; let us keep the feast then with none of the old yeast and no leavening of evil and wickedness, but only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."

At midnight God struck down the firstborn of Egypt from the heir of the Kingdom in the palace of the Pharaoh to the firstborn of the lowest slave as well as the firstborn of all the livestock.  It was just as God told Moses to tell Pharaoh in Exodus 4:23: if Pharaoh would not give to God His firstborn son than Egypt would forfeit her firstborn.

Question: What is the result of this night of horror?  What other prophesies is fulfilled [there are 2 places in Scripture that this prophecy was made]?  See Exodus 12:30-36
Answer: The Israelites are given permission to leave with all their cattle and sheep and other belongings and the Egyptians gave them what ever they asked from clothes to jewelry = Genesis 15:14; Exodus 3:21-22

Questions for group discussion:

The Exodus from Egypt becomes an important Biblical image of God's faithfulness in remembering His promises and in the sending of His representative to redeem His people.  The Fathers of the Church saw the call of Moses as a redeemer to Israel as anticipating the future redeemer, Jesus of Nazareth.  For the Jews and later for Christians Moses becomes, along with King David, one of the central narrative vehicles for depicting the hope of the messiah.  For the Jews the promised Messiah will be a prophet like Moses and for the writers of the Gospels of the New Testament He came as the one greater than Moses to lead the children of God out of slavery to sin and into the Promise Land of eternal life!

Question: What comparisons can be made between the lives of Moses the prophet and Jesus, the greater than Moses?  I can think of 16 similarities between Moses and Jesus that identify Moses as a "type" of Christ.  Hint: start with the infant narratives of both.

Typology of Moses and Jesus

An evil king tried to kill him as a baby: Ex. 1:22 King Herod tired to kill baby Jesus: Matt 2:16
He was hidden from the evil king: Ex 2:2 An angel said to hide the child: Matt 2:13
Moses was sent into Egypt to preserve his life: Ex. 2:3-4 Jesus was taken into Egypt to preserve His life: Matt 2:13-15
He was saved by women: his mother: Ex.2:3; Miriam 2:4; Pharaoh's daughter 2:5-10 Mary saved and helped Jesus: Matt 2:14
Pharaoh's daughter adopted him: Ex 2:10 Joseph adopted Jesus: Matt 1:25
Moses became a prince of Egypt: Ex 2:10 Jesus is the Prince of Peace
Long period of silence from childhood to adulthood Long period of silence from childhood to adulthood
He had a secret identity Messianic secret = Jesus the Son of God
He tired to save a Hebrew kinsman: Ex 2:11-12 Jesus came to save His Hebrew kinsman first: Mk 7:26-28
Went from being a prince to a pauper: Ex 2:15-19 Went from being God to being man: John 1:1-3; Mark 6:3
Saved women at a well: Ex. 2:15-19 Saved a woman at a well: John 4
Became a shepherd: Ex 3:1 He is the Good Shepherd: John 10:11
Moses' mission was to redeem Israel from slavery to Egypt Jesus' mission is to redeem mankind from slavery to sin
He was often rejected by his own people Jesus was rejected by His own people
Moses will give God's law on the mountain of Sinai Jesus will give the new law from the Mt. of Beatitudes
Moses is the prophet of the Old Covenant Church: Deut. 18;15,17 Jesus is the prophet, priest, and King of a New and everlasting Covenant = the Universal [Catholic] Church: Deut 18:17-19; Jn 4:18; Heb. 6:20-8:13; 2 Sam 7:16; 1 Tim 1:16-17; 6:14-15; Rev 17:14
Moses will offer to sacrifice his life for the lives of the Covenant people: Ex 32:30-33 Jesus will sacrifice His life for the redemption of mankind: Mk 10:45; Rom. 6:20-23; 1Cor 5:7-8
Moses is the leader of the old exodus out of bondage in Egypt to redemption from slavery and through him God will form Israel into a holy covenant people'the Old Covenant Church Jesus is the leader of the new exodus out of bondage to sin and redemption from the power of death. Through Him a new covenant people will be formed'a new Israel that will be the New Covenant Universal [Catholic] Church.

See CCC# 129-130

Readings for next week: The Sinai Covenant

The Exodus/ Manna, Quails, and The Rock Exodus 12:33 - 14:31; 16:1-17:7
The Sinai Covenant/
The Establishment of Liturgical Worship
Exodus 19:1- 28:42  
The Aaronic Priesthood/
The Daily Sacrifice
Exodus 29:1-42
The Sin of the Golden Calf Exodus 32:1-35
The Building of the Tabernacle Exodus 36:8 - 40:38
The Laws of the Covenant/ The Seven Sacred Feasts Leviticus 23: 1-44

Resources and recommended reading:

  1. Many Religions--One Covenant: Israel, the Church and the World, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, [Ignatius Press, 1999].
  2. Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Karl Keating, [Ignatius Press, 1988].
  3. Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J.,[Bruce Publishing Company, 1965].
  4. Tanach, edited by Rabbi Nosson Scherman,  [Mesorah Publications, Ltd,, 1998].
  5. Jewish Literacy, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, [William Morrow, Inc., 1991, 2001].
  6. The Navarre Bible Commentary: the Pentateuch
  7. The Anchor Bible Commentary: Exodus
  8. "Beasts or Bugs?", Gary Rendsburg, Bible Review, [April 2003, pages 19-23].
  9. The Pentateuch as Narrative, John Sailhamer, [Zondervan Publishing, 1992].
  10. Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.