Exodus Series: 1:1-4:31 Overview

The Explore the Bible series begins with “Compassionate Action (Exodus 1:1-4:31).” We can gain little more than an overview of such a large section. With that in mind I will only introduce, outline, and briefly comment on this section.

A friend told me she thought it would be difficult to come from the book of Mark to the book of Exodus, according to the Explore the Bible curriculum. So here are a few thoughts of introduction concerning that. Exodus is the gospel of the Old Testament. It is much like Mark as we will see God draw many pictures of Jesus throughout Exodus. Indeed that’s who the whole Old Testament is about, Jesus (Luke 24:25-27). We’ll see pictures of Jesus as leader, prophet, savior, law giver, mediator, even a rock and several others (if we have time in the overview series).* Exodus is the gospel of the Old Testament because it tells how God saves His people from the oppression of foreign powers, leads them through life with provisions and laws, and prepares them for their final place of rest (the promised land in Exodus, the new heavens and new earth in the New Testament).

Exodus 1:1-4:31

  1. God fulfills a promise: Israel grows from few to many (1:1-7)
  2. God’s promises threatened (1:8-22)
    1. Pharaoh tries to make God’s people his own slaves (1:8-14)
    2. Pharaoh tries to reverse the growth of Israel through murder (1:15-22)
  3. God prepares to save (2:1-10)
  4. God’s indicates that He will save through Moses (2:11-22)
    1. Moses tries to save but Israel doesn’t notice (2:11-15)
    2. Moses saves others, it’s who God has make him (2:16-22)
  5. God hears and remembers His people (2:23-25)
  6. God calls Moses to save His people (3:1-22)
    1. Introducing God: The Holy God in the Burning bush (3:1-6)
    2. Specific call and a promised sign (3:7-12)
    3. God tries to assure Moses with His name and His plan (3:13-22)
  7. God convinces Moses (4:1-17)
    1. Moses argues that the Hebrews will not believe him (4:1-9)
    2. Moses realizes his inabilities but not God’s sufficiency (4:10-13)
    3. God, angry, promises to send Aaron with Moses (4:14-17)
  8. God brings Moses back to Egypt (4:18-28)
    1. Moses asks permission of his father-in-law (4:18)
    2. Moses leaves Midian prepared for his work in Egypt (4:19-20)
    3. God reviews the plan on the way (4:21-23)
      1. Moses does miracles from God (4:21a)
      2. God promises to harden Pharaoh’s heart (4:21b)
      3. God promises victory, the seed of the woman over the seed of the serpent (4:22-23)
    4. God comes to kill Moses because of his uncircumcised son, Zipporah rescues him (4:24-26)
    5. God sends Aaron to meet Moses on his way and Moses instructs him (4:27-28)
  9. God’s name, words and signs convince God’s people (4:29-31)

Brief Comments
Because there is so much I can only make brief comments that will require more thought and meditation by you, the reader (Acts 17:11). In Genesis 12:1-2, 15:5, and other places God promised Abraham that He would make him a great nation – in part God has fulfilled that promise during Israel’s stay in Egypt (and all the more through allowing/ordaining their suffering, 1:12!). Pharaoh, whether he knew it or was only being used by Satan, was opposing the promises of God by trying to steal God’s people from Him and by trying to reduce the number of His people.

As it always happens, God prepares a savior before we even know we need one, just like God had Moses ready for the calling when the people cried out. Also notice that the call came after they cried out. God sometimes waits for our prayers to initiate His will.

We know from Acts 7:23-25 that Moses attempted to save the Israelites by initially striking down this first Egyptian. But the Israelites did not understand that salvation had come and Moses had to flee. Then God further indicates His use of Moses for salvation when Moses delivers the foreign shepherdesses from oppression.

At the end of chapter 2 the Lord hears the cry of Israel and responds by calling Moses to save His people. The holiness of God is stressed here but also notice that the LORD tells Moses, “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians” (3:8). Though our God is holy (perfect, sinless, separate, glorious, unapproachable) He is a personal God who approaches us to save. This reminds us how the LORD God came down to us, into human flesh to earn our salvation as Jesus Christ. In Christ we can stand before God because we are holy in Christ and therefore can live forever with Him!

God, though He doesn’t need to, enters into conversation with Moses when Moses starts bringing up excuses not to return to Egypt. Notice Moses’ objection that he was not eloquent but a poor speaker (4:10). God could have told him (Acts 7:22), “I gave you all that great education in Pharaoh’s house and you learned it well – you can do it!” Instead God grounds Moses’ ability in God’s sufficiency. Moses would be able to do it because God is powerful. God made his mouth and was able to make it useful for His work because He would be with him.

Two things happen when returning to Egypt that I would like to make special mention of. One, Zipporah circumcises her son because God comes down (sending an angel?) to kill Moses. This is  probably because Moses was going to lead God’s people so he would have to have his house in order (1 Timothy 3:4-5), which meant circumcision in the Old Testament (Genesis 17:14). Two, the LORD declares that Israel is His first born son (4:22). The first born son was the one who received the inheritance. The LORD claiming Israel as the first born son shows us that Jesus the first born Son from all eternity (Matthew 3:13-17) fulfills the role of Israel. What they were unable to do, Jesus came and did so that all who believe in Him might have eternal life!

* images of New Testament realities in the Old Testament are fascinating but we have to be cautious about the connections we make. Everything red does not necessarily represent Jesus’ blood. Every donkey does not pre-figure the one Jesus rode into Jerusalem on, etc.