An Introduction to the Book Nomenclature The Hebrews did not give a name to this book, as they considered it an integral part of the “Torah - the Law” as a whole. They used to call it “Homis Sini ” I.E. (second of five), or the second book of the “Pentateuch”, the five books of Moses. They also called it “Welah Shimot” meaning: “Now These are the names” which are the first words in this book1. However, its name in the Septuagint version, as well as in most of the other versions, is “Exodus” in Greek, which means (Departure, going out). This name refers to the events mentioned in Chapters 1-15, in particular, 12-15, which narrate the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. The Author of the book The prophet Moses wrote this book by divine inspiration. This is proved as follows: 1- The book begins by the word “Now”, as though this book is a continuation of the previous one, “Genesis”, written by the prophet Moses. 2- This book relates certain events with extreme accuracy and with many details thus indicating that the author is not only an eyewitness but he is also the leader of the Exodus. 3- It records certain events that concern Moses personally. For example, his killing the Egyptian secretly, and that “he looked this way and that way” before killing him. As well, it recounts the conversation between him and the Hebrew man who was afflicting his brethren. It also narrates that he took his wife and his two sons on donkeys and about the circumcision of his son, etc. 4- The Samaritans, though they were enemies to the Jews, accepted this book as one of the five books of Moses “the Pentateuch”. They would not accept the book, unless they were certain of its author. The Time of the exodus Scholars have different views as to the exact date of the exodus. The following is a summary of the prominent opinions2: 1- According to the Egyptian historian Manetho, in the year 250 BC, the exodus took place in the sixteenth century BC, claiming that the Hebrews were expelled from Egypt together with the “Hyksos”. Nevertheless, this view does agree neither with the new discoveries nor with the Biblical Verses: Exod. 1.11; 12.40; 1 Kings 6.1. 2- Some believe that the Exodus took place around the year 1290 B. C., during the reign of Ramses II. Those who adopt this view believe that the Jews were afflicted in the days of Seti I 1309-1290 BC and continued to be in the days of his successor Ramses II 1290-1224 B.C3. They based their view on the fact that the children of Israel built the storehouses of the cities of “Pithom” and “Rameses”, saying that the name “Ramses” is that of the Pharaoh in whose time the exodus took place. However, this view is not to be taken into consideration because this name could have been used in a time long before that of Ramses the second. 3- Another idea is that the Exodus took place in the time of Jephthah, about 1230 B C. Such a view is wrongly based on a memorial built by Jephthah, on which 1 Origen Comm. In Ps. Pg 12.1084. St. Jerome, Ep. 32.1. 2 Rowley, H. H. From Joseph to Joshua. London, 1948. 3 Jerome. Biblical Commentary. London, 1970. 47. 4 he recorded his victory over Israel and other nations that dwelt in the land of the Philistines at that time. Actually, the presence of that memorial is rather a confirmation that Israel had departed and settled down in the land of the Philistines, long time before that war happened. 4- The most probable view is that the Exodus took place at about 1447 BC, during the reign of the eighteenth dynasty, in the days of Tohotmes III”, or in those of Amenophes II. This fits with (Judg. 11.26) in which Jephthah, who lived about 1100 years BC, mentions that 300 years have passed since the Hebrews entered the land I.E. they entered it about 1400 BC Thus, adding the forty years of their wandering in the wilderness, the time of their exodus would be at about 1440 BC This view fits with what is mentioned in 1 Kings 6.1 that the house of the Lord was built in the year 480 after the exodus from the land of Egypt. Then, if King Solomon began building the temple at the year 957 or 966 BC, the exodus would have taken place at about the year 1447 BC That date also coincides with the discoveries in Jericho and Hazor, and with what was recorded on the plates of Tel-El-Amarnah, that a nation would come to the land of the Philistines around this time, or shortly after. The Location of the crossing Scholars also differed in their views concerning the exact location of the crossover. Miracles were performed on the hands of Moses, in Zoan (Tanis) (Ps. 78.12), the capital of the Hyksos, of which Rameses was a suburban1. At that time, the Hebrews were building storehouses in the cities of “Pithom” and “Rameses” (Exod. 1.11). From Rameses, they departed to Succoth2 (Exod. 12.37). They did not take the shortest way to the land of the Philistines but they journeyed through the wilderness near the Red Sea (Exod. 13.17-18) where, after their departure from Succoth, they set their tents for the first time in Etham, which is located eight miles west of Succoth “at the edge of the wilderness” (Exod. 13.20). From there, “They turn[ed] and camp[ed] before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon” (Exod. 14.2). It is hard to locate this area; yet, it is certain that it is west of the Red Sea. From there, they went to the wilderness of Shur3 (Exod. 15.4, 22; Num. 13.10, 15). Many scholars believe that the Gulf, in the days of Moses, extended to the region of the Marah Lakes, as a marsh. Some believe that the crossover took place in the vicinity of the city of Ismaelia and others, to the city of Suez. It is to be noted that the Hebrew name for the Red Sea is (Yam Sûp], meaning: a sea of papyrus. According to the opinion of some, this name confirms with the marsh in the region of the Isthmus, that extends for seventy-two miles from the Red Sea to the head of the Suez Gulf, an arm of the Red Sea. Features of the Book 1. St. Augustine talks about the close tie between the Old and the New Testaments saying that the New is in the Old concealed; and the Old is in the New revealed. This is most clearly demonstrated in the Book of Exodus. The evangelist St. Matthew saw in the Lord Christ the new Israel and the new Moses. The evangelist used the words of the prophet Hosea, “Out of Egypt I called My Son” (Hos. 11.1), as a prophecy about the flight of the Lord Christ to Egypt (Matt. 2.15). And as the old 1 Rameses” means the house of Ramses. It was the monarchal city in the delta at that time. 2 Tel-El-Maskhuta in Tamilat Valley, thirty-two miles southeast of Tanis and eleven miles west of Ismailia. 3 The New Westminster Dictionary of The Bible. Philadelphia, 1969. 283-4. 5 Israel got baptized in the Red Sea (Exod. 14), the Lord Christ, also, carrying the Church in Him -the new Israel- got baptized in the waters of the River Jordan (Matt. 3.13-17). The Lord Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness (Matt. 4.1-11), as though He was recalling the 40 years spent by the first Israel in the wilderness and the 40 days spent by the prophet Moses on Mount Sinai (Exod. 24.18). The first Moses, who received the Law, presented it to the children of Israel after it was revealed to him on Mount Sinai (Exod. 24.3-8); and the Lord Christ -the New Moses- who, Himself, is the Word of God, presented His Law to the people on the Mount (Matt. 5, 6). Therefore, the covenant of Sinai has been a symbol of the New Covenant1. The tie between the Two Testaments in the Book of Exodus needs an extensive explanation. Therefore, we leave this matter aside. However, we must ascertain that what comes in the Book of Exodus is a confirmation of God’s promises, to set “A kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exod. 19.6), whose people will enjoy a heavenly food and a spiritual drink and will set a Sanctuary for God to dwell in their midst (Exod. 25). It was only the onset for a divine friendship with mankind that would be realized in its perfection in the New Testament. 2. The personality of the prophet Moses This Book has a special importance, exposing the life of the prophet Moses, who became a representative for the whole Old Testament, being the one who received the Law, spoke with God and led the people to freedom of bondage in order to enter the land of promise. Therefore, when the Lord Christ transfigured on Mount Tabor, He was accompanied by Moses and Elijah (Matt. 17.1-8). Moreover, in the Book of Revelation, we hear the praises of Moses, sung by the victorious in heaven (Rev. 15.3). The Church received the life of Moses to learn from it vivid aspects for the spiritual life. The scholar Origen, in his symbolic interpretation of the Books of Exodus and Numbers, spoke about the prophet Moses and all his actions, as a sign of the living spiritual Law that touches the inner life of the believer and a sign of his/her spiritual growth. As for his teacher, St. Clement of Alexandria, he was very fond of the personality of the prophet Moses. As we previously saw in our book, The early fathers of the school of Alexandria, he believed that the Greek Philosophers, having come with some truth, actually received it from Moses; thus, they are counted as babes if compared to the Hebrews2. He quotes the words of Eupolemus in his book, The kings of Judah, that Moses was the first wise man, the first to present the ‘grammar’ to the Jews, which passed on to the Phoenicians, and from them to the Greeks3. He also said that the philosopher Plato depended, for Law, on the books of Moses4; and, that the philosophers believe that the wise man, is alone, a king, Lawgiver, leader, just, holy, and beloved by God. Then, if we realize that all these characters apply to Moses, as it is clear in the Holy Books themselves, we can surely deduce that Moses is the true wise man5. He also believes that the philosophy of Moses bears four aspects: historical, judicial, sacrificial and visional6. 1 Danielou. J. From Shadow to Reality. London, 1960. 153-226. 2 Strom 1.29. 3 Strom. 1.23. 4 Strom. 1.25. 5 Strom. 1.26. 6 Strom. 1.28. 6 Afterwards, St. Gregory of Nyssa, a disciple of the scholar Origen of Alexandria, recorded the Life of Moses1, in a beautiful spiritual and symbolic form. Why should we mention the fathers of the Church and their views about Moses? The Lord Christ Himself gave way for this line of thought, saying, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3.14). Furthermore, the apostles clarified the link between the Passover Lamb and the Messiah (1 Cor. 5.7); and that the Rock that followed the Jews was the Lord Christ Himself. 3. The book of Redemption or of Salvation This book begins with affliction and oppression and ends up with the appearance of the glory of God in the tabernacle, where God dwelt among His people (Exod. 40). It begins with the darkness that prevailed upon the land of bondage and ends with glory. This book proves that this change, which is ‘salvation’, was not the fruit of human work but there was, rather, a crucial need for an intervention from God Himself; He, alone, can save and deliver, through the pouring of the holy blood (the sacrifice of Passover). The book, as a whole, presents us vivid and practical features of our way to salvation. 4. The book of the Crossing Over Although the people suffered severely from bondage, they did not think of escaping from that place until God sent them Moses to tell them about the land of milk and honey, which is Jerusalem. Only then, could they no longer endure servitude or submit to it. For us also, the discovery of the heavenly Canaan makes us feel the bitterness of the bondage of sin, and, under the divine leadership, we can escape to the barren wilderness, which, although with neither rivers, plants, nor dwelling places, would become for us a place for praise and chant (Exod. 15), and a way of crossing over, where we can experience every day God’s works for our salvation. It is as though the secret of our continuous crossover lies in our discovery of the higher Jerusalem, and in our meditation in it, through the insight. Then, the possibility of crossover lies in the words of the prophet: “Came down to deliver them” (Exod. 3.8). It is the possibility of God’s coming down to us who, alone, can descend from heaven to our earth, to carry us in Him to His exalted glories. When Moses tried to crossover with his people from the bondage of Pharaoh depending upon his own human arm, he failed even to save himself and remained a fugitive for 40 years. Therefore, God came down to him through the burning bush, a symbol of the divine incarnation, to crossover with him and all the people. He came down to him in the burning bush, to prove His presence amid His people. He came down to His people as a Cloud to shade them by day, as a symbol of protection; as a pillar of fire, to give them light, as the secret of their enlightenment and as their Leader; As a Rock to quench their thirst; and in the tabernacle to dwell among them. All these were symbols for the incarnation of the Word of God, and His coming down on earth, so that we unite with Him and He caries us with Him to the merits of His precious blood. 5. The book of freedom (1) Pharaoh enslaved the people against their will. However, what is much more important is man’s surrender through his own will to the inner servitude and his submission to its yoke assuming that it is the source of his peace and pleasure, although it delivers him to oppression and will present him to death. God delivered 1 Danielou, J. Gregoire De Nysse, La Vie De Moise, Source Chret., Bis, Paris, 1955. 7 them through Moses from the bondage of Pharaoh. Notwithstanding, even after their crossover, they remained in the bondage of lust for sitting near the fleshpots in Egypt (Exod. 16.3), and for their temporal enjoyment of carnal lusts that led them to worshiping the Egyptian golden calf, that had remained deep in their hearts (Exod. 32). Why should we talk about the people, while Moses himself was in need of internal liberation in order to be worthy of receiving the rod of God? He was enslaved to his ego -the “self”. Thus, when he assumed at the beginning that he was capable of saving the people by his own arm, God let him stay for 40 years in the wilderness, so as to cure him from the bad influence of the 40 years he spent in the royal palace. He had to be also liberated from the bondage of fear of old age. Then, once he comprehended the concept of freedom, as a permanent existence with God “I will be with your mouth”, he could receive the rod of God to shepherd the people on their way to freedom. (2) As Moses set forth with his people along the way to freedom, the devil also set forth to fight him, through presenting to him the ‘half solutions’1,14 in place of freedom in order to deviate him from his goal. The way to freedom is not paved with roses and we cannot walk through it while relaxing in luxury but it is the way of spiritual strives till the end. 6. The Book of commandment and worship Despite the fact that there is a separate book for the divine commandment, or the Law, and for the Mosaic worship, Moses was keen on ending the book of salvation with two matters: receiving the law and the tabernacle of the gathering. It is as though the crossover, being a setting forth to freedom through the union and permanent existence with God, is to be realized through the word of God (the commandment) and worship (the tabernacle) since the commandment leads the soul to enter heaven; while worship is a crossover to fellowship with the heavenly in their liturgies. The worship is the goal of the crossover, “Let My people go, that they may serve [worship] Me”, through which we learn the law of heaven (the commandment) and practice abiding with God (the heavenly tabernacle). Crossing the Red Sea, namely, the Baptism, is a necessary and essential start, through which we enjoy the new birth and carry the authority to forsake the works of the old man. Yet, we remain in need of continuous progress toward Canaan, supported by the Holy Spirit whom we gained through the Sacrament of anointment (Myron), the imposition of the divine commandment, and of constant worship. By this, we can maintain the power of the crossover by the Holy Blood, so as to enjoy a continuous exodus until we enter into the divine bosom and encounter God face to face. 7. The wilderness as a school St. John Chrysostom speaks of the wilderness as a school, which the Hebrews were committed to attend. Unfortunately, they acted and behaved just like little children215 whom God tolerated and dealt with accordingly. For example: A- On their exodus, the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians so that they granted them what they requested of silver, gold and garments (Exod. 12.35-36). That was somewhat like a down payment for the riches of eternal life. At the same time, the Lord was like a father who gives his children some money 1 The half-solutions will be discussed, God willing, in chapters 7-10. 2 St. John Chrysostom. Colos. Hom. 4 8 in the morning in order to encourage them to go to school and to listen to their teachers. B- As the time they spent in the school grew longer, they started to murmur and to long for returning to Egypt and forsaking their study. They were crying like children, “Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt” (Exod. 14.11)? “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt” (Exod. 17.3)? C- The children misbehaved toward God their father and Moses their teacher. Therefore, Moses became angry and broke the tablets of the Law (Exod. 32.19) as though he wished to stop teaching them. Nevertheless, he was compassionate toward them; and when the Lord intended to blot them out of his book, he interceded on their behalf (Exod. 32.32). D- They resembled spoiled children. Though their Divine Father provided them with heavenly Manna, fresh every day, they murmured against Him. They longed for the leek and garlic they used to eat in Egypt. They were just like a child who sits at his father’s table while his heart is with playing in the mud. E- Because of their weakness, He gave them His Law, “An eye for an eye; and a tooth for a tooth” to keep them from over-avenging themselves. Then, once they reached the stage of maturity, He could present them with “Do not pay evil for evil” and “Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also”. Thus, He appeased the childish tendency for revenge until they advance to the stage of maturity1.16 F- When they faced Pharaoh and Amalek, the Lord said to them on Moses’ tongue, “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Exod. 14.14); “The Lord will have war with Amalek” (Exod. 17.16); and “I will be an enemy to your enemies, and an adversary to your adversaries” (Exod. 23.22). St. John Chrysostom portrays these people as children, saying to their father, “‘so and so beats me on my way to school,’ and he answers, ‘he is an evil person; do not worry, I shall beat him back for you.’” G- When Moses stayed a long time on the mountain, the Israelites behaved like children who could not bear the absence of their teacher. Therefore, they behaved unwisely and pressured Aaron into making a golden calf for them. These are some examples that reveal how God dealt with the Jewish people; how they behaved as children spiritually and had not reached spiritual maturity. Therefore, St. Paul the apostle described them as children, juvenile and minors. The way of salvation The book of Exodus as a whole describes to us a clear and vivid image of the way to our salvation. They are not consecutive stages but integrated ways. These features are: 1. Feeling the need for a Savior A sick man may surrender to his sickness and a slave may submit to oppression but the work of the Holy Spirit is to expose the extent of sin and the humiliation it imposes on the soul. Then, the person may feel the need for God the Savior. This is not a beginning for the Way but it is the persistent work of the Holy Spirit in the believers’ life all along the way of their sojourning. Whenever we encounter the Savior, we discover more through the Holy Spirit our weaknesses and 1 St. Augustine. The Sermon on the Mount. 9 begin to feel our need for Him. We remain in an incessant joy for meeting Him and in a continuous repentance for our trespasses until we reach to His eternal glories. 2. God’s descend to us Feeling the bitterness of bondage and affliction may lead the soul to despair, were it not for Jesus who hurries to support it with His blood to grant it freedom. Then, if the book of Exodus had revealed the people’s need for a Savior, it then clarified two Exoduses that are actually one integrated work: the Exodus of the people and that of God Himself to save the people. Man cannot move by himself toward freedom, as long as the shackles of servitude bind him. He is in need of the Exodus of the Son of God to him. In this book, it is revealed that God has been the Initiator of love. He set Moses as the leader of salvation, working in him and by him, and God continued to work, which has been portrayed and confirmed throughout the ages. That is why the Lord Himself says, “A sower went out to sow” (Matt. 13.3). He went out to sow the seeds of His love in us. Moreover, in His invitation to Levi, the gospel confirms that the Lord Christ went to him at his tax office to say, “Follow Me”. At the moment, the shackles that used to bind his heart to money were loosened and he left everything instantly and followed Him. Finally, it was impossible for Lazarus to come out of his grave unless the Lord Himself came to grant him the grace of resurrection and to free him of the bonds of death. 3. The need for blood The first plague was the change of water into blood and the last plague was of the slaying of the Passover lamb. Therefore, there is no crossover for us to eternal life except through the shedding of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. 4. The new birth Through the cross the price of our crossover was paid. As for the start of the crossover, it is our entrance by faith into the water of Baptism to be buried with the Lord Christ and to rise together with Him in the newness of life. 5. The continuous strife By crossing the Red Sea, the people did not find themselves inside Jerusalem. On the contrary, they were at the beginning of forty years wandering in the wilderness fighting Amalek [the lusts of the body] to discover God’s permanent presence with them as Supporter and Fulfiller of all their needs. Sections of the book The book can be divided into two complementary sections, each presenting a certain subject: 1- Salvation: Chapters 1 to 18 2- The Law and worship: Chapters 19 to 40 This Book can be also divided into locations where the events listed took place: 1- In Egypt: 1:1-12:36. 2- From Egypt to Sinai: 12:37-19:2. 3- In Sinai: 19:3-Chap40. These three sections represent three aspects in the life of a believer. In Egypt, man feels the need for Divine salvation. On the way from Egypt to Sinai, man trains himself to complete obedience to God. Finally, in Sinai, man enjoys receiving the commandment, as well as the spiritual worship (the tabernacle). It is as though this book makes a strong tie in the believer’s life between [faith and work ‘obedience’, 10 worship and commandment]. This trinity represents one unity; each of them supports the other and completes it until the believer crosses over to the heavenly Jerusalem.