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Bible Study Helps: Exodus

Jan 16, 2018

Christians should be reading their Bibles every single day. But they should be doing more than just reading – they should be doing careful study as well. Admittedly this can be a difficult task, so plenty of Bible study helps exist to assist the diligent reader and student.

Thus my new series on helps for studying the Bible. Those of you who committed to read your 3.25 chapters a day to get through the entire Bible this calendar year would now be up to the second book of the Pentateuch: Exodus. The first five books of the Bible cover the period from creation to the entry into the promised land.

The relationship between Genesis and Exodus is as follows: Exodus is all about the beginning of Israel, with its release from the bondage of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. As far back as Gen. 12 Yahweh had promised Abram that a new nation would come forth from his offspring.

Joseph was treated terribly by his brothers and ended up a prisoner in Egypt, but God had been involved all along to bring much good out of the situation. As Joseph told his forlorn brothers in Gen 45:5-8:

And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.

And in Gen. 50:20 he utters these now most famous words: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” In chapters 12-50 of Genesis we read about the three Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Jacob’s son Joseph.

In Gen. 49 we read about Jacob’s death. He had been renamed “Israel” by God (see Gen. 32:28 and 35:10) and by Gen. 50 Joseph is sitting pretty as a major leader in Egypt. But by the time we get to Exodus 1, many years had passed, and we read in verses 6-10 how things had changed:

Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them. 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 the great promises made long ago of a new nation are looking very grim at this point with the people of Israel enslaved by the Egyptians. But God is still in charge, and in Ex. 2:23-25 we read this:

During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

God is a covenant-keeping God. Thus we find in the first 18 chapters of Exodus the amazing story of how God miraculously delivered his people from Egypt. He used Moses to do mighty things (including the ten plagues and the Red Sea episode) to show the Israelites and the whole world what sort of God they were dealing with.

To get a handle on some dating here with the Pentateuch and a few historical books beyond (Joshua and Judges, eg), consider this brief timeline. If we begin with the call of Abraham and end with the occupation of Canaan, we have about an 800-year history:

2000 Abraham
1525 Moses
1440 Exodus
1400 Entry into Canaan under Joshua
1230 Canaan more or less fully occupied

Of course all these dates have been contested, but I offer them here just to help give you a picture of how your daily reading roughly fits in with ancient history. The book of Exodus only occupies a smaller period of time, and is basically made up of three main portions:

Exodus 1-18: Israel’s exodus from Egypt
Exodus 19-24: Sinai, the giving of the law
Exodus 25-40: the tabernacle for worship

Thus it is a combination of historical narrative and law. The exodus of Israel from Egypt is not only a highlight of the book, but of the entire Old Testament. Indeed, its importance continues through into the New. That is just one of the key issues you will discover in this book.

However, as is so often the case, there are parts of the book that may be difficult to understand. A bit of assistance may be needed in some of these areas. I have two articles so far from Exodus in my series on “Difficult Bible Passages”. They are:

-The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/04/20/difficult-bible-passages-exodus-73-4/
-Women and abortion: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/11/11/difficult-bible-passages-exodus-2122-25/

In addition, let me mention a number of helpful tools that you can make use of as you study Exodus. They include: a dozen commentaries; five volumes on the Pentateuch; ten books on the law; and 15 volumes on the Ten Commandments.

Commentaries on Exodus

Here are a dozen commentaries on the book which are more scholarly and substantial than just devotionals, offering solid meat and information, such as background material, linguistic helps, theology and interpretation to the pastor and student alike. They are mostly of the conservative and evangelical persuasion:

Alexander, T. Desmond, Exodus (AOTC). Apollos, 2017.
Bruckner, James, Exodus (NIBC). Hendrickson, 2008.
Childs, Brevard, The Book of Exodus (OTL). Westminster, 1974.
Cole, R. Alan, Exodus (TOTC). IVP, 1973.
Durham, John, Exodus (WBC). Word Books, 1987.
Enns, Peter, Exodus (NIVAC). Zondervan, 2000.
Fretheim, Terence, Exodus (Int). Westminster John Knox Press, 1991.
Hamilton, Victor, Exodus. Baker, 2011.
Kaiser, Walter, Exodus (EBC rev). Zondervan, 2008.
Motyer, Alec, The Message of Exodus (BST). IVP, 2005.
Ryken, Philip Graham, Exodus (PTW). Crossway, 2005.
Stuart, Douglas, Exodus (NAC). Broadman & Holman, 2006.

Mention could also be made of three other helpful volumes:

Davis, John J., Moses and the Gods of Egypt: Studies in Exodus. Baker, 1971.
Durham, John, Understanding the Basic Themes of Exodus. Word Books, 1990.
Longman, Tremper, How to Read Exodus. IVP, 2009.

The Pentateuch

Four of these volumes are much more academic in nature, while the Mackintosh volume is an older but still helpful devotional commentary.

Alexander, T. Alexander and David Baker, eds., Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. IVP, 2002.
Hamilton, Victor, Handbook on the Pentateuch. Baker, 1982.
Mackintosh, C. H., Notes on the Pentateuch. Loizeaux Brothers, 1880, 1974. 
Sailhamer, John, The Meaning of the Pentateuch. IVP, 2009.
Sparks, Kenton, The Pentateuch: An Annotated Bibliography. Baker, 2002.

The Law

The issue of the law (its place both for Israel, as well as how it relates to the church; the purpose of the law; the different kinds of law; etc.,) is a massive, ongoing discussion. The issue of what carries over from the OT into the NT for example is a very big debate and one that deserves close attention. Here are some helpful works on all this:

Gane, Roy, Old Testament Law for Christians: Original Context and Enduring Application. Baker, 2017.
Kruse, Colin, Paul, the Law, and Justification. Hendrickson, 1997.
Meyer, Jason, The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology. B&H, 2009.
Ross, Philip, From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis for the Threefold Division of the Law. Mentor, 2010.
Schreiner, Thomas, 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law. Kregel, 2010.
Schreiner, Thomas, The Law and Its Fulfilment: A Pauline Theology of Law. Baker, 1998.
Strickland, W, ed., Five Views on Law and Gospel. Zondervan, 1993.
Thielman, Frank, The Law and the New Testament: The Question of Continuity. Crossroad, 1999.
Thielman, Frank, Paul & the Law. IVP, 1995.
Todd, James, Sinai and the Saints: Reading Old Covenant Laws for the New Covenant Community. IVP, 2017.

The Ten Commandments

At the heart of the law is the Decalogue. These books combine scholarly, theological and interpretive helps along with devotional and pastoral thoughts.

Braaten, Carl and Christopher Seitz, eds., I am the Lord Your God: Christian Reflections on the Ten Commandments. Eerdmans, 2005.
Clowney, Edmund, How Jesus Transforms the Ten Commandments. P&R, 2007.
Crenshaw, Curtis, Not Ten Suggestions. Footstool Pub., 2010.
Davidman, Joy, Smoke on the Mountain. Hodder & Stoughton, 1955.
Douma, Jochem, The Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life. P&R, 1996.
Horton, Michael, The Law of Perfect Freedom. Moody, 2004.
Hughes, R. Kent, The Disciplines of Grace. Crossway, 1993.
Kennedy, D. James, Why the Ten Commandments Matter. FaithWords, 2006.
Klinghoffer, David, Shattered Tablets: Why We Ignore the Ten Commandments at Our Peril. Doubleday, 2007.
Miller, Patrick, The Ten Commandments. Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.
Mohler, Albert, Words from the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the 10 Commandments. Moody, 2009.
Packer, J.I., Keeping the Ten Commandments. Crossway, 2008.
Rooker, Mark, The Ten Commandments. B&H, 2010.
Ryken, Philip Graham, Written in Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today’s Moral Crisis. P&R, 2010.
Vines, Jerry, Basic Bible Sermons on the Ten Commandments. Broadman, 1992.

These volumes should keep you busy for a while! Happy reading and study.

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7 Responses to Bible Study Helps: Exodus

  • This is an excellent idea for a series, Bill. Very helpful. I thought the Genesis one was great, too. Thank you!

  • While you are studying Exodus I was wondering if you could clarify something for me Bill. The classic view of the term Hebrew is that it comes from the sons of Eber but why would these people then not have been called Eberites as happened with others such as Semites, Amalakites, Hittites etc. I heard one explanation that the term Hebrew actually comes from the term eber (Strongs 5676) or eberu meaning outsider, and not from the man Eber but this also is the basis of his name. That would explain it and would also be somewhat prophetic but I’m not sure if it’s true or whether anyone actually knows the answer.

  • I have been exuberant to the point of making my eyes tired and having to stop, 3 chapters a day? I’m already in Samuel! To my surprise, Deuteronomy and Numbers were not a drag, and my family got a book of Bible charts, etc so I open it and look and refresh my memory with every unfamiliar name.

    You did this, it’s your fault, and I could not be happier.

  • Hi Bill…I’m endeavouring to read the 3 plus chapters a day and I like your approach. Any time that I have attempted to read the Bible in a year I have followed programs that give and OT reading and a NT one in the same day. I found it more than a little difficult and confusing to have to retain 2 different themes daily…old age is not for the faint hearted let me tell you 🙂 Thank you for your suggestions.

    The Joseph story was the first one I taught when I first started Sunday School teaching for ten year olds many years ago and it has always held a special place for me. Michael Youssef stated our vision should be not 20/20 but 50/20 meaning Genesis 50:20 as quoted above…..’You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good….’ What a great way to look at the events of our lives.

    Blessings Marion

  • Faith Sisk, that’s 2 thumbs up, sister in the Lord! It IS Bill’s fault, and many of us will be forever grateful to him for this.

    Thank you for another helpful article, Bill. I know people who adamantly proclaim they don’t need such help because the Holy Spirit is their personal teacher. I’m quite certain you have had content with that type. Nonsense, we are not alone, we are family and members of each other within the body. We need each other. I appreciate your help and find it most valuable. Thank you!

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