Introduction to Exodus
Exodus is the first book of the Pentateuch actually written by Moses (see “Introduction” to Genesis). The latter part of Genesis was probably written by the sons of Jacob, beginning after Jacob’s signature at Genesis 37:2. Moses then seems to have tied the beginning of Exodus to the end of Genesis by a formula similar–though slightly different, using the word “names” instead of “generations”–to the other toledoth (listing of generations) sections in Genesis.
The book of Exodus describes in detail the real beginnings of Israel as a nation, under the leadership of Moses. The high points are the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. These and other events in Exodus are frequently referred to in later parts of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, and all references clearly note Moses as author. There is no doubt whatever that all later generations of Israelites were confident that Moses was the writer of the Pentateuch until the development of the J, E, D, P theory in the 19th century. Ever since the rise of “higher criticism,” under the leadership of Julius Wellhausen and other scholars in Germany, together with the simultaneous spread of Darwinian evolutionism in England, practically all the liberal theologians in every country and every denomination have rejected the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. In spite of all the evidence, they continue teaching that these books were not written until many centuries after Moses.
It is significant that, among those scholars who reject the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch–Exodus in particular–there is no consensus as to who did write it, even among those who accept some form of the documentary hypothesis. For the Christian, the matter is settled by the fact that Jesus Christ recognized Moses as the author of Exodus (see, e.g., Mark 12:26, quoting from Exodus 3:6). The Pentateuch itself often says that Moses wrote down the accounts of the events described therein. The first such instance is in Exodus 17:14 (see also Exodus 24:4; 34:27; etc.).
The main reason why liberal scholars rejected the Mosaic authorship–the ostensible reason, that is (the real reason is their naturalistic commitment to evolutionism)–is their assumption that Moses did not know how to write in that supposed early time of man’s cultural evolution. However, every knowledgeable scholar today knows that such an assumption was absurd. An abundance of archaeological research in the nations of the Near East has shown beyond any question that everyone, commoner as well as scholar, knew how to write in all those nations long before Moses’ time. Yet these liberal theologians and other scholars continue to reject Moses’ authorship.
Also, many evolutionary archaeologists today reject the historicity of Exodus altogether, reasoning that none of the writings of Egypt and other Near East nations confirm the events of Exodus (the plagues in Egypt, the destruction of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, the wanderings of two million or more Israelites in the Sinai wilderness for forty years). However, the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and the historical accuracy of its record are fully accepted by later writers of both Old and New Testaments, and these writers certainly had better access to the facts involved than skeptics coming twenty centuries later would have.
Correlation with archaeology may await further discoveries, especially in respect to the chronologies involved. Both radiocarbon dating and pottery dating are subject to many uncertainties, and the same is true of the transmitted Biblical text in some instances, especially in the accurate reproduction of numbers which might influence Biblical chronological calculations. We may be confident, in view of the wealth of internal evidence, that all these external questions will eventually be resolved in favor of the tradition of Mosaic authorship and historical accuracy of the entire Pentateuch.
1:1 Now. It is significant that Moses began Exodus with the common Hebrew conjunction waw (here translated “now,” but commonly translated “and”), thus indicating that Exodus was simply a continuation of Genesis, both books being actual historical records of real events.
1:1 these are the names. The similarity of this summary passage to the eleven toledoth (“generations”) passages of Genesis (Genesis 2:4; 5:1; etc.) suggests that Moses, who compiled and edited these earlier documents into the present book of Genesis, used this modified formula as a transition between the concluding chapters of Genesis (which must originally have been written by Joseph or Judah or someone else among Jacob’s immediate descendants) and his own personal account. He thus linked his own “generations” to those that had gone before by using a similar formula, and yet altered it sufficiently to indicate that this would begin a distinctively new period in history and a new book in the divinely-authenticated record of history.
1:5 souls. Compare this use of “souls” to Genesis 46:26,27, and Acts 7:14.
1:7 increased abundantly. Populations can grow very rapidly under favorable conditions. For example, the seventy who came into Egypt could easily have multiplied to over five million in just ten generations, assuming only that the average family had six children who lived and reproduced, and that only two generations were living contemporaneously, at any one time. This was only half the size of Jacob’s original family. Even an average family size of four would generate a population of over 100,000 in ten generations.
1:8 king over Egypt. Unfortunately, Egyptian chronology is still controversial among Egyptologists and Biblical archaeologists. Various schools of thought favor different identifications of this new Pharaoh, as well as others before and after. Until such arguments are settled, there is no need to attempt a precise correlation of the uncertain Egyptian histories with the divinely inspired and trustworthy Biblical records.
1:11 Pithom and Raamses. Although various suggestions have been made, the exact locations of these ancient cities have not yet been confirmed by archaeologists.
1:14 with rigour. A wall painting in the tomb of an Egyptian prime minister, dated in the mid fifteenth century B.C., shows slaves from Syro-Palestine forming bricks from mud, supervised by weapon-wielding Egyptian taskmasters.
1:15 one was Shiphrah. The names of the two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, have been found to be typical names among women in northwest Egypt during the times of Moses.
1:20 dealt well with the midwives. The midwives had both disobeyed their rulers and lied to them, both of which actions are normally sinful in God’s sight (e.g., I Peter 2:13; Ephesians 4:25), and yet God rewarded them. When situations arise in which the commands of rulers conflict with explicit commandments of God (in this case, the murder of innocent children conflicts with the commandment against murder and also His explicit commandment and promise to Jacob–note Genesis 46:3,4), then God’s word must be obeyed (Acts 5:29) rather than the unlawful orders of men. The midwives protected the infants at the risk of their own lives. What may seem superficially to have been a “false witness” was not “against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16), but in hazardous protection of their neighbor, just as was the case with those Christians who hid their Jewish neighbors during Hitler’s pogroms.
1:22 daughter. Pharaoh perhaps desired to have his own subjects marry their women.