Exodus is the second book of the Old Testament.
This book was originally called by its opening words "elle-shemot" which in Hebrew means "These are the names..." because it begins with the list of names of the descendents of Jacob who migrated to Egypt in the times of Joseph. The Greek name, Exodus, indicates the book’s contents: the exodus of the sons of Israel from Egypt.
The book relates how the sons of Jacob, a small tribe of wondering shepherds, became a God chosen nation. The covenant was central to this event. It bound God and Israel in an agreement by which God undertook to provide for all His people's material needs, including a land in which to live, if they would worship Him alone as the one true God and live as a holy community. Central to the rules of the covenant were the Ten Commandments, which are still fundamental to any relationship with God. The tabernacle was a portable temple of worship which was placed in the center of Israel's wilderness encampment, symbolizing God's presence in their midst. The religious and moral laws listed in the Book of Exodus did not lose their importance until this day, in fact, in His sermon of the Mount, Lord Jesus Christ has taught the deeper level of their understanding. In contrast, the civil laws and religious rites given to Hebrews and listed in the book of Exodus have lost their importance and were revoked by the Holy Apostles in the council of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15).
This book deals with the miracle of Israel's deliverance from Egypt and with God's covenant relationship with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. Exodus can be subdivided into two main sections, historical and that of the giving of the Law. Preliminaries to the departure from Egypt (Ex. 1:l-4:28), where the providential acts of the Lord in the life of Moses, chosen by God for the deliverance of His people are listed, followed by the circumstances leading up to the Exodus, including the ten plagues of Egypt and the celebrating of the first Passover (4:29-12:39). The deliverance from Egypt and the subsequent journey to Sinai (chapters 12-18) precede the giving of the Law of God through Moses, where chapter 19 describes the circumstances of the giving of the Law, and consecutive chapters contain the codex of the moral and civil laws, sealed by Hebrews entering into covenant with God (chapters 20-24). Next follow the laws related to church services and priesthood (chapters 25-31), transgression of the Law in intervals of idolatry (chapters 32-33). A renewal of the covenant relationship (chapter 34) is followed by narratives describing the construction of the tabernacle and implementation of the Lord’s directions by Moses (chapters 35-40).
It is instructive to put the accounts of Exodus in a historical perspective. Joseph was sold to Egypt by his brothers during the reign of the Hyksos, a Semitic tribe known as shepherd kings (some 2000 years BC). At that time Egypt was highly prosperous and mighty. The Pharaoh was most likely Amenemhet IV. He elevated Joseph in rank when he saved the Egyptians from famine and bestowed great blessings on him and his family. However, the ethnic Egyptian nobles united in Thebes and slowly drove out the Hyksos. Afterward there entered the 18th dynasty of the Pharaoh Amasis 1st (Ahmose I) The new rulers changed their relations toward the Jews. There began persecutions which turned to oppressive slavery. The new Pharaohs while working the Jews as slaves and forcing them to build cities, were at the same time concerned that the Jews would unite with outlying nomadic tribes and seize dominion in Egypt. The exodus of Jews from Egypt falls sometime in the mid 15th century BC. At that time the Pharaoh most probably was Thutmose I. The book First Kings 6:1 states that Solomon began building the temple "in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt." Solomon is thought to have begun construction about 960 BC, a fact that also places the time of Exodus to the midst of the 15th century BC.