You will find an introduction and outline for Exodus, here.
A prayer from the Book of Common Worship to use before you read,
God of mercy, you promised never to break your covenant with us. Amid all the changing words of our generation, speak your eternal Word that does not change. Then may we respond to your gracious promises with faithful obedient lives; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
I. Exodus 1:1-15:21 Narrative of Liberation
A. 1:1-7:7 Israel in Egypt
B. 7:8-15:21 The Plagues, Passover and Crossing the Red Sea
15:1-21 Songs of Moses and Miriam:
V1-18 Song of Moses
The victory song that Moses and Israel sang after their salvation is called Shirat ha-Yam, Song at the Sea or Shirah (Song). The Sabbath on which it is read in the order of weekly synagogal pericopes is called Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of the Song. At its reading the congregation stands in special respect, a custom which has developed with regard to only one other Torah reading, that of the Ten Commandments. The overwhelming sense of gratitude that the Children of Israel felt at the sea still reverberates in the hearts of their descendants. (Plaut, 487)
Scholars think that the Song of the Sea is one of the oldest examples of Hebrew poetry. It is one of the most important and most radical poems in the Old Testament. As you read it, notice how it tells the story of liberation, rescue, victory, power and love. What are the ways God is described? Verse 11, notice the poem assumes a polytheistic world.
V19 a summary comment
V20-21 The Song of Miriam: This poem may be even older than the Song of the Sea. It is in Bruggemann’s words :”…it stand as a massive, lyrical resolution to the grief and cry of 2;23-25. Israel’s initial cry (which began the liberating work of Yahweh) and concluding shout stand in an arc of faith. (Bruggemann, 803)
II. Exodus 15:22-18:27 The Journey to Sinai:
Now we come to the story of life in the wilderness. While telling this part of the story serves to move the action from Egypt to the Mt. Sinai, it also tells a theological story. Life in the wilderness is life without the normal structures and support systems. Life in the wilderness, as a metaphor for life in exile, made these stories important to the exilic and post- exilic community that gave these stories their final form. Watch for themes of need, trust, distrust, and faithfulness and generosity.
A. 15:22-17:7 Marah, Manna, and Water from a Rock
15:22-27 The waters of Marah. A story of two oases. Leaving Egypt doesn’t mean autonomy for Israel but rather another sovereign- Yahweh.
16:1-36 Manna and Quail: It is surprising how quickly Israel forgot about the hardships of Egypt. Why do you think that was? As in the story of the waters of Marah, there is grumbling , questioning of Moses leadership, and God’s provision. Notice a provision for manna on the Sabbath, even though the commandment to observe the Sabbath hasn’t been given. The narration of events is difficult to follow because several narrative sources are combined. Manna means “What is it?” This bread is something they have never seen before. What does this story tell us about God? And about human beings? Think about the stories of Jesus feeding people and Jesus’ comments about the bread from heaven. How does this story of Manna inform those stories? ( Mark 6:30-41; John 6:1-4, Mark 8:1-10, John 6:25-59; John 6:41 and Paul’s quotation from Exodus in 2 Cor 8:8-15)
17:1-7 Water from the Rock: Again, grumbling, questioning of Moses’ leadership and God’s response. Think about how precarious life in the wilderness was.
What do you think about Israel’s grumbling? Was it justified, given the necessity of food and water for life? Or did it show an inability to cope with life as a freed people? Or did it expose a lack of trust in God?
17:8-16 Amalek is Defeated: This section has two parts, the story of the victory (v8-13) and the method of remembrance (14-16). This is our first introduction to Joshua. Joshua is the one who gathers and leads the army but Moses, and of course God, are crucial to the victory.
18:1-27 Jethro’s visit: Zipporah and Moses’ sons have not been part of the story since 4:20,24-26. The second son, Eliezer (literally God is my help) is mentioned for the first time.Notice in verses 8-12 Moses tells the story and Jethro responds in faith. Jethro, in verses 13-27, helps solve a practical problem. Israel needs to develop some sort of structure for resolving problems. It is interesting that an “outsider” Jethro offers a solution.
Read More About It.
The following are several good general reference works to aid your reading of the Torah.
Anderson, Bernhard W. “Exodus” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books Metzger, Bruce M., Roland E. Murphy, eds.(New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Brueggemann, Walter, “The Book of Exodus” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 1 Keck, Leander E., ed. (Nashville”Abingdon Press) 1994.
McCarter, P. Kyle, Jr. “Exodus” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
Plaut, W. Gunther, “Exodus” in The Torah: A Modern Commentary Plaut, W. Gunther, ed. (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations) 1981.