Exodus

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Exodus

Exodus (ĕk´sədəs), book of the Bible, 2d of the 5 books of the Law (the Pentateuch or Torah) ascribed by tradition to Moses. The book continues the story of the ancestors of Israel in Egypt, now grown in number to a large landless population enslaved by the pharaoh. Although the book describes all 12 tribes, it is much more likely that the book is based on the traditions of a group of nomadic Hebrews whose sojourn in Egypt became one of oppression and slavery. Grouped around Moses, they were freed from bondage at the Red Sea. Their saga and their Mosaic religion became the determinative feature of the great national epic that is enshrined in the Pentateuch and the historical books of the Hebrew Bible. The religious and 12-tribe political establishment of the later Temple period is read back into the Exodus narrative. The events of the book may be outlined as follows: first, the bondage in Egypt, from which God prepares liberation through the agency of Moses, including Moses' early career and vocation, and the first nine plagues of Egypt; second, the exodus proper, with the plague of the first-born and the institution of the Passover and the dry crossing through the Red Sea; third, the first divine legislation at Mt. Sinai. The last portion includes the Ten Commandments, a law code, directions for a tabernacle and worship, the designation of Aaron as high priest, the first national apostasy in worshiping the golden calf, a brief restatement of the code, and the institution of the tabernacle.

See studies by N. M. Sarna (1986), J. Durham (1987), and T. E. Fretheim (1991).

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