Before we dive into the book of Exodus, it would be beneficial for us to learn a bit of the historical background and context in which this story takes place. The people of Israel originated as a family from the Mesopotamian region. So how did they end up in Egypt? In order to answer that question, we must go back a few hundred years into Genesis, to the story of a man named Abraham.
Abraham (whose name was originally Abram) lived in the Cradle of Civilization, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates River. But God called him out from that region and commanded him to go where the Lord would direct him. Abraham obeyed God and took his family and headed south. Over the course of time and many adventures later, Abraham experienced God’s faithfulness in a variety of ways. However, the pivotal point in Abraham’s life was the receiving of the covenant from God that he and his offspring would be a chosen people of the Lord and that God would never forsake them.
Abraham miraculously had a son named Isaac who then fathered twins, Esau and Jacob. While not much is recorded about Isaac, we do know that he was faithful to the God of his father Abraham. But his one downfall was the favoritism he showed to his oldest son, Esau. Because of this, Esau and Jacob engaged in ongoing contention. However, God’s hand was on Jacob despite his many shortcomings and faults, and He eventually changed Jacob’s name to Israel. God also gave Jacob twelve sons, one of which was Joseph.
Now Joseph had quite an interesting life. He was the favorite son and because of it, his brothers decided to throw him into a cistern and leave him for dead. However, one of their wiser members decided that it would be better to try and make a profit off their little brother. So they sold Joseph into slavery, and he was eventually taken down to Egypt. But God’s providential hand was still on Joseph, and he eventually raised Joseph up to second in command in Egypt.
This proved to be for the deliverance of Jacob and his entire family, because a famine hit the entire land of Egypt and Canaan. But because God used Joseph to interpret a dream, Egypt was prepared for the time of hunger. So Jacob took his entire family down to Egypt and dwelt there under Joseph’s protection and provision.
And that concludes the Genesis account involving Abraham and his extended family. Now before we get into Exodus, I would encourage you to read the complete narrative in Genesis (Genesis 12-50), because it will give you a better understanding and background for this amazing book. However, whether you read Genesis or not, it’s important to realize that 400 years passed between the life of Joseph and the account in Exodus.
Four hundred years! That’s a long time! For us, it just seems like a page turn (between Genesis and Exodus), but for the Israelites, generations had passed since they had lived in Canaan. To them, Egypt was home. Think about it…the Israelites were in Egypt longer than America has been a country. They went from a family of about 70 people to a nation of around 6 million. They went from a family structure (the Patriarchs) to living under a national ruler (Pharaoh). So it’s no surprise that God raised up one man to be their deliverer. And that man was Moses.
From Abraham to Moses. From a single family to a full grown nation. From desert wanderers to an enslaved people. The Israelites saw a lot of change in four hundred years, but now they were ready to return to the Promised Land and take possession of it. But first, they needed a leader, and God was already working on that. So let’s dive into the book of Exodus and watch how God shapes and molds Moses into the great leader of Israel.
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