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
3:7-4:17 The Commissioning of Moses: Moses offers five objections to God’s request. Some commentators, because of the similarity of the some of the objections, think that these objections reflect different textual traditions.
4:1 the third objection. Even though God has told Moses he will be believed (3:18), Moses is still concerned. God, rather than giving verbal assurance, now gives Moses signs to perform to convince the people.
4:10-12 the fourth objection.
4:13-17 the fifth objection. Similar to the fourth objection, and again God- after giving a verbal assurance now provides a practical plan.
4:18-31 Moses’ Return to Egypt: notice how this section links back to earlier in the Exodus story and forward to the plagues.
Verses 24-26 are odd and difficult to understand. Brueggemann writes this about these verses:
Exodus 4:24-26 is among the most enigmatic verses in the entire book of Exodus.The episode is not framed in time or space, nor does it seem to be related to its context. …The premise of the meeting is odd: Yahweh seeks to kill Moses. The statement is barren and unqualified, and especially odd in the light of the preceding designation of Israel as firstborn. God seems to take action against those most reassured The best we can do is to let the narrative witness to the deep, untamed holiness of God…There is no hint that God is testing or measuring Moses, but only that Yahweh operates in inexplicable, undisciplined freedom. To be present at all in Yahweh’s history is a high risk venture, for Moses as well as for Pharaoh. (Brueggemann,718)
5:1-6:1 Bricks without Straw: The phrase “Let my people go.” might sound to us like a request or a plea but it is an imperative. God is telling Pharaoh. Remember that in the ancient world kings and pharaohs and emperors were worshiped. This exchange is both political and theological; it is about who is in control. Notice also the difficult situation of the supervisors/foremen. Notice they go to Pharaoh and to Moses about the mistreatment of the slaves. Moses doesn’t respond to the supervisors but goes directly to God. What do you think about this?
6:2-30: Scholars think this section is from the “Priestly” source and is another telling of the story. Remember that priestly material is dated from the time of the exile or just after the exile. That community was displaced both physically and theologically. Priestly accounts try to help those readers “make sense” of these stories within their later historical reality. Notice how this of Israel in Egypt is linked to the patriarchs and to the Exodus story. God makes powerful promises to a “discouraged” people of “broken spirit” (v9).
To modern readers the insertion of a genealogy (v14-27) seems odd. But it helped later readers understand the legitimate authority of Moses and Aaron and by extension the authority of the Levites.
The chapter ends on an ambiguous note. We don’t know what will happen.
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.