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By Edward (Les) Middleton
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2006 Thomas Nelson, Inc.
All right reserved.
Before We Begin ...
Can you briefly recount the story of how Jacob and all his descendants came to be in Egypt in the first place? How did they get there? Why? What series of events served as the major catalyst that brought them down from Canaan?
Given Joseph's immense popularity (and his life-and-death value!) to the Egyptian pharaoh during his lifetime, does it not seem reasonable to expect that the Egyptian kings who came to power later on would still act kindly toward Joseph's family? If not, why not?
Chapter 1 of Exodus provides a short transition between the end of Genesis and the main events of Exodus, linking all that had gone before with what was about to happen. The book of Genesis ended with the death of Joseph, in Egypt, surrounded by his surviving brothers, their wives, and their children. Joseph's brothers—the other eleven sons of Jacob—are listed in verses 2–4, with verse 5 noting that "Joseph was in Egypt already" when his brothers came down to Egypt from Canaan with their father.
Exodus picks up the story approximately four hundred years later, by which time God has seen fit to multiply the descendants of Jacob (who was also called Israel) and make them a huge nation of perhaps two million people, exactly as He had promised Abraham many years before. But things have not gone well for the children of Israel since the deaths of Joseph and the pharaoh (i.e., the Egyptian king) he served so admirably during times of famine and uncertainty. Indeed—when Exodus opens, the current king of Egypt (most likely Amenhotep II) does not even remember Joseph. Most assuredly, he does not believe that the nation he now commands owes any kind of a perpetual debt to the members of Joseph's family.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, please read the first seven verses of chapter 1 and answer the following questions.
Israel's Suffering in Egypt
What were the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt, as told in verses 2–4?
What was the family relationship of these men?
In total, how many descendants of Jacob came down to Egypt with him?
Verse 6 tells us that Joseph and his brothers and "all that generation" (meaning wives, cousins, etc.) eventually died. Based on what you already know of this story, why would this fact be significant?
Nonetheless, did the children of Israel dwindle in terms of numbers, or did they continue to multiply?
Do you think the answer to the above question would represent a blessing or a curse from God? Why would God be interested in how many descendants Jacob might have?
Verses 8 and 9 introduce us to the pharaoh of Moses' time, a man who obviously had the welfare of his own people close to his heart. He also had certain concerns about the children of Israel as well, but they were not concerns about their welfare!
Why did the new king seem to be afraid of the children of Israel (vv. 8–10)? What was the "worst case" he imagined?
What was the relationship between the hard work and physical hardships Pharaoh inflicted upon Israel and Israel's own growth rate (v. 12)? Do you see any irony here?
What did Pharaoh instruct the Hebrew midwives to do (vv. 15–16)?
Did they obey him? Why or why not?
How did God respond to what the midwives did?
What was Pharaoh's command to his people (v. 22)?
Thus the stage is now set for the birth of Moses and for the mighty hand of God to come sweeping down onto Egypt, bringing His people out from bondage, and making them into a great nation through which He could then reveal Himself to all humankind.
Pulling It All Together ...
Jacob and all of his sons except Joseph came down together to Egypt from Canaan. Joseph was already there.
After Joseph died, the new king of Egypt did not know of his legacy and thus began to resent and even fear the children of Israel.
He made slaves of them, abused them physically, and forced them to build his cities and work in his fields.
Despite all this, the Israelite population continued to grow. So Pharaoh commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill all male babies as soon as they were born.
But even this tactic did not work. So Pharaoh commanded his own people to throw male Hebrew babies into the river wherever they found them.
Chapter TwoThe Deliverer
Before We Begin ...
The story of the infant Moses, floating in a basket of reeds in the Nile River, is familiar to almost everyone. Assuming that you have heard it before, do you remember how old you were when it was first told to you? Who told you about it? Or did you "hear" it the first time by reading it for yourself?
What do you already know about the story of the burning bush? Do you believe it's possible that a bush could burn without being destroyed? Why or why not?
Why do you believe God calls certain people to do certain jobs? What kind of person would you expect Him to "commission" to lead His own people out of bondage in Egypt?
The Birth of Moses
This chapter begins with the well-known story of Moses' birth. Chances are you're familiar with most of it already, but let's review the facts, found in the first ten verses, to make sure we're not missing anything important.
Of what "house" (i.e., tribe) were the man and his wife referred to in verse 1? Why do you think their child's ancestry might be significant later on?
Why did the mother feel the need to hide her son?
Where did the mother leave her child when she felt she could no longer hide him at home?
(Note: You might think about your above answer and then ask yourself whether the mother was actually obeying Pharaoh's order to put all male Hebrew babies in the river. Surely the king would not have agreed with her method, but in one sense she was doing exactly as he had commanded.)
Who was watching (and probably helping, as well) as the mother hid the child (v. 4)?
Whose daughter found the baby along the riverside (v. 5)? Do you think the mother had something like this in mind? Is it possible she could have chosen that location on purpose, for that very reason?
Did the woman who found the child know to whom he belonged?
Explain your answer.
Who approached Pharaoh's daughter to suggest that a Hebrew woman could nurse the child (v. 7)? We are not given the name of this young girl, but do you know, by name, who she almost certainly was? (If not, the answer will come up later on.)
Verses 8 and 9 contain an incredible irony—one of those frequent examples of God's sense of humor, His sense of justice, and His infinite ability to preserve and protect His own, for His own purposes, all rolled into one. How would you describe that delightful irony?
What name did Pharaoh's daughter give the baby (v. 10)?
What did that name mean?
Moses Flees to Midian
A few years later, when Moses had become a grown man, along came another of those seminal events in his life. It was an event that might have seemed catastrophic at first, yet it was undoubtedly orchestrated by God. Just as Joseph was sent down into Egypt as a slave to prepare and position him for saving his own people when the time came, so Moses was removed from daily life among the Egyptians in order that God could prepare him to be the eventual leader of his own people.
This seems to be God's repeated pattern, for time after time He uses a two-step process in which He first separates, or isolates, various elements (or people) from each other, then develops them into what He desires them to be.
How do you think Moses might have turned out if he'd been allowed to stay with his Egyptian family?
How do you think Moses' sympathies toward his own people might have developed (or not developed)?
Moses definitely knew where he came from, but how do you think he might have changed if he'd led the privileged life of an adopted son, with the Egyptian king as his adoptive grandfather?
Obviously we'll never know, for God clearly had something else in mind. Please read the remainder of chapter 2 of Exodus and answer the following questions to see more of what happened during the early part of Moses' life.
Whom did Moses see beating a Hebrew (v. 11)?
What did Moses do to that person?
What happened next to make Moses fear for his life (vv. 13–15)?
To where did Moses flee to escape Pharaoh's anger?
When he arrived in the land of Midian, Moses sat down at a well, presumably to rest and refresh himself. Before long he was visited by the seven daughters of the local priest who had come to water their flocks. What did Moses do to assist those daughters (v. 17)?
Because Moses helped his daughters, how did the priest repay Moses? Though the Scriptures do not tell us, to what extent do you think that what the priest of Midian did was a common practice in Moses' time?
Moses then began to live with Reuel (the priest) and his daughters. In time, whom did Moses marry (v. 21)?
What did Moses name his son when he was born—and what did that name mean (v. 22)?
Chapter 2 of Exodus concludes with the death of the king of Egypt (probably Thutmose III, who preceded Amenhotep II), but it also adds two or three other very significant pieces of information. For example ...
What impact did the king's death seem to have on the children of Israel? Were their lives made easier or harder by the new pharaoh who succeeded him?
Obviously God was looking down on what was happening. What was His reaction?
And what, to review once again, was the relationship between God and the children of Israel, with respect to His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
Given all the above, how would you interpret the word "acknowledge" in verse 25: "And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them" (NKJV)? What do you think that word means, beyond simply "taking note of" them?
Moses at the Burning Bush
Verse 1 of this chapter identifies Moses' father-in-law as Jethro, the name by which he is more commonly known. It is unclear why he was also called Reuel in chapter 2, but apparently he changed his name. Some scholars have suggested that this might have had something to do with the marriage of his daughter Zipporah to Moses, who had been raised within the Egyptian royal family. Perhaps Jethro felt that Moses' background brought him added prestige as well, and thus the change to a name meaning "abundance."
Verse 1 also mentions the "mountain of God." It is no coincidence that this was the same mountain on which Moses later received the Ten Commandments, for Mount Horeb is another name for Mount Sinai.
Now begins a new phase in Moses' life, for God is about to call him into lifelong service.
What did Moses see in the burning bush (v. 2)?
Did the fire consume the bush? In your opinion, why or why not?
Whose voice did Moses hear from the burning bush?
Why was Moses instructed to take off his sandals (v. 5)?
In your own words, according to verses 7–10, why did God contact Moses?
Was Moses confident that he could do the job God asked of him (v. 11)?
What sign did God reference (v. 12)?
Read verses 13–15 and fill in the blanks to see what God told Moses with respect to God's own identity.
Then Moses said to God, "Indeed, when I come to the __________ of __________ and say to them, 'The God of your __________ has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What is His __________?' what shall I say to them?" And __________ said to Moses, "__________ __________ __________ __________ __________." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the __________ of __________, '__________ __________ has sent me to you.'" Moreover God said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the children of __________: 'The LORD God of your fathers, the God of __________, the God of __________, and the God of __________, has sent me to you. This is __________ name forever, and this is My __________ to all __________.' " (Exod. 3:13–15 NKJV)
From whom did God say He would deliver the children of Israel (vv. 16–17)?
How did the Lord describe the land to which He would deliver His people (v. 17)?
What did the Lord command Moses (and through him, the elders of Israel) to do (v. 18)?
Now read verses 19–22 and fill in the blanks below:
"But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand. So I will __________ out My hand and __________ Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its __________; and after that he will let you go. And I will give this people __________ in the sight of the __________; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go __________-__________. But every woman shall ask of her __________, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of __________, articles of __________, and __________; and you shall put them on your sons and on your __________. So you shall __________ the Egyptians." (NKJV)
Clearly, God already knew the heart of the Egyptian king, for everything He said about Pharaoh was about to come true. Meanwhile, what did God promise Moses that He would do once the king refused Moses' request?
In the last verse of the passage above, what did God instruct Moses to have the women of Israel ask for before they left Egypt? How do you think a major portion of this so-called plunder would eventually be used?
In verse 1, why was Moses concerned?
What were the two signs by which the Lord assured Moses that the people would believe he represented God (vv. 2–9)?
If the children of Israel still didn't believe Moses, what did God tell Moses to do next (v. 9)?
How did Moses describe himself (v. 10)? Do you think this is a fair and accurate picture of Moses, or was he making excuses?
What was the Lord's response to Moses' complaint (vv. 11–12)?
Did Moses go right away, as he was commanded (v. 13)?
Whom did the Lord agree to make the spokesman for Moses (vv. 14–16)?
What do you think of Aaron's appointment? Even though God appeared to be sending Moses all by himself, does it seem likely that He might have intended for Aaron to be part of the eventual partnership all along? Why or why not?
Moses Goes Back to Egypt
Who did Moses go to see before leaving the land of Midian to return to Egypt (v. 18)?
Why do you think he did this? Did he really need Jethro's permission? Why or why not?
Whom did Moses take with him back to Egypt?
What did the Lord command Moses to do before Pharaoh (v. 21)?
How did the Lord refer to Israel (v. 22)?
What did the Lord promise to do if Pharaoh continued to refuse to let the children of Israel go (v. 23)?
Who circumcised Moses' son (v. 25)?
What name did Zipporah call Moses (v. 26)?
This whole episode involving the "emergency" circumcision of Moses' son (it is unclear whether that son was Gershom or Eliezer), seems a little bizarre. Perhaps the most important message, to Moses, was that the time for Moses to disobey God—or even to be the least bit cavalier in his patterns of obedience—was absolutely over. He had neglected to circumcise his son at the appropriate time, several years earlier; suddenly God simply would not tolerate such carelessness anymore!
The meaning of Zipporah's expression in Exodus 4:25 ("Surely you are a husband of blood to me!" NKJV) is unclear; other translations used "bridegroom of blood," but this is no more definitive. Zipporah might have used "of blood" as a term of contempt, since she had been forced to do what Moses himself should have taken responsibility for sometime previously. On the other hand, perhaps she saw the rite of circumcision as a somewhat redeeming event by which Moses was restored to a clean relationship both with the Lord and with her.
Either way, it is likely that Zipporah and the children returned to Jethro at this time, leaving Moses to go on by himself—and thus to concentrate totally on what lay ahead. This chapter ends with Moses and Aaron meeting in the wilderness, being brought up to speed by God so that they would be wholly in accord, then meeting for the first time with the elders of the children of Israel.
Read verses 27–31 and explain in your own words how the children of Israel reacted to the message Moses and Aaron delivered from the Lord.
Knowing what you know about the children of Israel, do you think this is how they will continue to react to Moses' leadership in the days ahead?
Pulling It All Together ...
Despite Pharaoh's decree that all male children of the Israelites should be thrown into the Nile River, Moses miraculously survived. Indeed, God worked things out so that his own mother became his officially sanctioned nursemaid, and he was adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh herself—and was then raised within the royal household of Egypt.
As Moses grew up and became a young man, he obviously was aware that he wasn't an Egyptian by birth. One day he saw an Egyptian slave master beating one of his own people. Passion overwhelmed him, and he killed the Egyptian, only to be seen by others who threw the murder back in his face a day or two later. So Moses fled to the land of Midian to escape the wrath of Pharaoh.
Excerpted from The Journey by Edward (Les) Middleton Copyright © 2006 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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