“Introduction to Exodus,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Exodus,” Old Testament Study Guide
The word exodus means “exit” or “departure.” The book of Exodus provides an account of the Israelites’ departure from bondage in Egypt and their preparation to inherit the promised land as the Lord’s covenant people. The Israelites’ departure from bondage and their journey through the wilderness can symbolize our journey through a fallen world and back to the presence of God (see item 6b in the “Analysis of Hebrews” section in “Pauline Epistles” in the Bible Dictionary). As you study this book, you will learn about the Lord’s power to deliver us from sin. You will also learn that commandments, ordinances, and covenants can help you prepare to receive the blessings of eternal life.
Moses is the author of Exodus. He was raised in the royal court of Egypt by Pharaoh’s daughter, but he left this place of privilege “to suffer affliction with the people of God” (Hebrews 11:25). After Moses fled Egypt he traveled to the land of Midian. There he received the Melchizedek Priesthood from his father-in-law, Jethro (see D&C 84:6). At some point Moses also received the keys of the gathering of Israel (see D&C 110:11). Moses ushered in a dispensation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and served as a prophet and a revelator of God’s words (see Exodus 3–4; Moses 1).
There are varying opinions on when Exodus and the other books of Moses were written, but some scholars date the writing to sometime between the 15th and 13th centuries B.C. We do not know exactly where Moses was when he wrote this book.
The book of Exodus provides details about Moses’s upbringing and his calling as a prophet (see Exodus 1–4), the institution of the Passover (see Exodus 11–12), and the Lord’s covenant with Israel at Sinai—including His declaration of the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 19–20). The events recorded in Exodus became an important part of Israel’s historical identity and have been cited by Jesus Christ and His prophets to teach a variety of gospel principles (see John 6:48–51; 1 Corinthians 10:1–7; Hebrews 11:23–29; 1 Nephi 4:1–3; 17:23–31; Helaman 8:11–13; D&C 8:2–3).
Exodus 1–4. The Lord answers the Israelites’ cries by raising up Moses to deliver them from bondage in Egypt.
Exodus 5–12. Moses and Aaron ask Pharaoh to set the children of Israel free. Pharaoh refuses, and the Lord sends plagues upon Egypt. The Feast of the Passover is established among Israel to commemorate the passing over of the houses of the Israelites when God smote the firstborn of the Egyptians.
Exodus 13–15. The children of Israel leave Egypt. Pharaoh and his army pursue them. The Lord parts the Red Sea for the Israelites, and Pharaoh’s army is drowned. The children of Israel praise the Lord for their deliverance.
Exodus 16–18. The Israelites murmur about the lack of food and water in the wilderness. The Lord sends manna and quail for them to eat and commands Moses to bring forth water from a rock. The Israelites defeat the armies of Amalek. Moses establishes rulers among the people.
Exodus 19–24. At Mount Sinai the Lord reveals the conditions of His covenant, and the children of Israel covenant to obey the Lord.
Exodus 25–31. Moses receives instructions concerning the construction of the tabernacle, the consecration of priests, and the performance of sacrifices. He is given two stone tables containing the Lord’s covenant with the children of Israel.
Exodus 32–34. The Israelites worship a golden calf. Moses breaks the stone tables and pleads with the Lord for the Israelites. After the people repent, the Lord makes another covenant with the children of Israel and writes it on two new tables of stone.
Exodus 35–40. Skilled workmen construct the tabernacle, and the glory of the Lord rests upon it.