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.


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