Lessing, R. Reed & Andrew E. Steinmann. Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Chapter 4 “Exodus” pp. 75-95.
The theme of the book of Exodus is the departure of God’s people from Egypt, a land that was not theirs, to go toward Canaan, thel and God had promised to them (Lessing 2014, 75). Lessing observes that Moses was commanded in Exodus to write and that he was present and had opportunity to write the text. Critics divide the text variously among anonymous authors and assign it a late date for reaching final form (Lessing 2014, 75). Most of the text is historical narrative of a theological nature. The author seeks agreement with the theological interpretation of the real historic events presented (Lessing 2014, 76). Lessing notes several types of events which happen multiple times in the book, increasing its cohesiveness. For instance, Moses is rescued from water. Later, Israel passes through water to be rescued (Lessing 2014, 76).
The exodus seems to fit into the 15th century B.C. (Lessing 2014, 77). Lessing describes several pieces of chronology from extrabiblical sources. The conclusion Lessing makes from the available dates is that the exodus happened in 1446 B.C. (Lessing 2014, 78). This also agrees with figures presented in 1 Kings 6, referring to Solomon’s fourth year in 967. This is also in agreement with the known Jubilee cycles of the period (Lessing 2014, 79).
The actual path of the exodus was “through the wilderness, not by the Way of the Sea (Exodus 13:17-18). Many sites on their route cannot be located with certainty” (Lessing 2014, 81). There has been debate over the identity of the sea crossing, as well as the location of Mount Sinai (Lessing 2014, 82). Lessing concludes that it is probably Mt. Horeb in Sinai.
Knowing Yahweh is a tremendous theological theme in Exodus (Lessing 2014, 82). The relation of the name to the verb for being suggests an identity as the one who is with Israel (Lessing 2014, 83). The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is another important theme (Lessing 2014, 84). Lessing observes that when God hardens Pharaoh’s heart it is always after and in response to Pharaoh’s own hardening of his heart (Lessing 2014, 84). The plagues of God, showing judgment on Egypt as a central theme of Exodus. Lessing observes they do not assault each one. Rather, they all serve to assert that Israel’s God is the truly great and mighty God (Lessing 2014, 85). Another important theme is that of God’s call to the whole world. Lessing observes that God both showed mercy and sought to be known by all the earth. The Egyptians are invited to leave with Israel (Lessing 2014, 87).
It is very significant to the identity of Israel that in Exodus 19 the people arrive at Mount Sinai, remaining there until Numbers chapter 10 (Lessing 2014, 88). Israel becomes a people of law, though God redeemed them from slavery prior to giving the law. Lessing does observe that there was clearly law dating much earlier, citing Genesis 4, 18, and 26. However, here the law is clearly codified (Lessing 2014, 88). Additionally, in Exodus, the tabernacle is described and built. This gathers Israel as a people with a local identity and a means of worship (Lessing 2014, 89). Lessing draws links between the creation in Genesis 1-9 and the construction of the tabernacle, suggesting that the tabernacle is closely related to the creation and sustenance of the world (Lessing 2014, 90).
Lessing sees Christ in Exodus first through the idea of redemption and also through the idea that he is the true firstborn son (Lessing 2014, 92). Christ is intricately linked to the idea of the Passover as well (Lessing 2014, 93).
Sin and grace are central themes in Exodus. Both Israel as a group bound in sin and rescued, as well as Moses, an individual who is sinful himself but is forgiven and raised up as a leader feature as signs of redemption (Lessing 2014, 93).