Welcome to the book of Exodus. All of the incest, lying, and deceit in Genesis have led up to this book wherein we see God’s penchant for killing children, find out that God’s people prefer being master over being slave, get a little more incest, and get a whole bunch of new rules.
So let’s get started.
The book of Exodus begins by telling us that 70 of Jacob’s family came into Egypt with him, that Joseph has died and that the family has bred like bunnies. (1:1-7) Where Jacob’s extra family member came from is not explained.
A new pharaoh takes over and decides that the Hebrew population is getting too large to ignore, and worries that they could be a problem if they sided with an enemy, so he enslaves them and has them build the cities of “Pithom and Raamses.” (1:8-11) No explanation is given for how they built the cities hundreds of years before they were built.
When the pharaoh makes it hard on the Hebrews their population increases, so he mandates that all midwives kill newborn male Israelites, but the midwives go against his wishes, and let male babies live. God rewards the midwives for their insubordination with houses, and the Hebrew population continues to grow. Since his mandate to kill male babies didn’t work, the pharaoh mandates that all newborn male Hebrew babies are to be thrown in the river. (1:12-22)
A man and woman of the house of Levi, the seller-of-his-brother, and son of Jacob’s first wife, have a son during this time, and the boy’s mother hides the child for three months, before putting him in a little boat made of reeds and putting the little boat in the river. The pharaoh’s daughter finds the little boat and saves the boy from certain death. (2:1-5)
The princess knows it is a Hebrew child but she feels sorry for him, and hires a slave to wet-nurse and take care of him, who as it happens is Moses’ mother. When the boy gets a little older he is brought back to the princess, who names him Moses. (2:6-10)
As Moses grows older he leaves the palace and starts hanging around with his own people. One day he comes upon an Egyptian beating on a Hebrew so he kills the Egyptian and buries him. The next day a couple of Hebrews give him a hard time about killing the Egyptian which makes Moses worry about how many people know about the murder he has committed. (2:11-14)
The pharaoh finds out about the murder and puts out a death warrant on Moses, so Moses runs away to Midian where he ends up helping the daughters of a local priest overcome some bullies. The priest in turn gives Moses a place to stay and one of his daughters, Zipporah, as a wife. Moses has a son with his new wife, whom he names Gershom. (2:15-22)
Eventually the pharaoh dies, and God finally notices the problems his followers are having and remembers his promises to them. (2:23-25)
One day while Moses is tending to his father in law’s flocks he spots a bush on fire and goes to check it out. (3:1-3) When God sees Moses headed toward the bush he talks to him through it, telling him to take off his shoes. The bush then tells Moses that it is God, and Moses turns away out of fear of looking at God. (3:4-6)
The bush then says that it knows all about the slavery and such of his followers, so it has decided to come down and deliver his people back to Canaan, a land described as “flowing with milk and honey.” (3:7-8)
BushGod then repeats himself, and tells Moses that he has been appointed to do the actual work. (3:9-10)
Moses questions God’s choice of him as a messenger, and God tells him not to worry about it. God tells Moses to simply tell the elders that God has sent him and what the plan is and that doing those things should be sufficient proof. (3:11-18)
In regard to the pharaoh, God tells Moses that he is positive that the pharaoh won’t initially cooperate, but that after God bullies him a bit he will give in, and not only will the Israelites be let go, but they will take a bunch of their Egyptian neighbors’ money and valuables with them. (3:19-22)
Moses is still not convinced that anyone is going to believe the whole “God sent me” thing, so God gives him a magic wand, the ability to make his hand look like it is rotting away, and the ability to turn water into blood. (4:1-9)
Moses continues to try to get out of being God’s spokesman by pointing out that he is no Charlton Heston, and doesn’t do so well with public speaking. God tells him not to worry about it, but Moses keeps whining, so God, who at this point is starting to get angry about Moses’ whining, tells him that he will have Aaron, the previously unknown brother of Moses, do the talking and that Moses will just have to do the magic show. This arrangement seems to satisfy Moses. (4:10-17) No explanation is ever given as to why God doesn’t just free the Israelites himself.
Moses goes back home and tells his father-in-law that he needs to go back to Egypt. God tells Moses that it should be safe to do so because all of the people there who wanted him dead are themselves dead. Moses gathers up his wife and sons and, magic wand in hand, heads out for Egypt. (4:18-20)
God then tells Moses that he will make the pharaoh refuse to cooperate, and that he should threaten to kill the pharaoh’s kids. (4:21-23)
On the way to Egypt, Moses and his family stop at an inn for the night and for some unexplained reason, God tries to kill his newly appointed messenger. Moses’ wife runs God off by cutting their son’s foreskin off and throwing it on the ground then saying something similar to the old AC/DC lyric: “if you want blood, you got it.” (4:24-26)
Unphased by his defeat at the hands of a woman, God arranges for Aaron and Moses to meet in the wilderness, and the two of them put on their show for the elders, who believe what Aaron and Moses have to say. (4:27-31)
After their success with the elders, Moses and Aaron go to the pharaoh and tell him to let their people go or else. The pharaoh dismisses them and their god as insignificant, and tells them to get back to work. (5:1-4) No explanation is given as to why the pharaoh even bothered giving an audience to two slaves in the first place.
After the meeting, the pharaoh decides to make things even harder for the Israelites by reducing the availability of materials needed to do their job, yet keeping their quota the same. When asked about this new policy, the pharaoh explains that it is designed to keep them busy so they won’t have time to organize; an ancient union busting tactic if you will. (5:5-19)
The workers then complain to Aaron and Moses about how the demands on the pharaoh made by the two brothers have made things harder for the people they say they’re trying to help. (5:20-21) Moses takes the grievance to God, (5:22-23) and the chapter ends.
Now that we have the basic plot lines and a good introduction to the major players in the upcoming story, we are left with some questions: Will God help the workers fight management? Will there be any more good ole’ Abrahamic incest? Will God try to kill Moses again? For answers to these questions and more, be sure to tune in next time.