You will find an introduction and outline for Exodus, here.
From the Book of Common Worship, a prayer to use before reading the scripture.
Gracious God, we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from your mouth. Make us hungry for this heavenly food, that it may nourish us today in the ways of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, the bread of heaven. Amen.
I. Exodus 1:1-15:21 Narrative of Liberation
II. Exodus 15:22-18:27 The Journey to Sinai
III. Exodus 19:1- 24:11 Covenant at Sinai
IV. Exodus 25:1-31:18 Tabernacle and Worship
A. 25:1-27:21 Instructions for the Tabernacle
B. 28:1-29:46 Instructions for Priests, vestments and consecration
C. 30:1-31:18 Further Instructions and the Sabbath
31:1-11: Artists: Notice the connection between the Spirit of God, wisdom and artistry. God, who created the universe, doesn’t create God’s tabernacle. People are given that responsibility. What does this tell us about the relationship between God and humankind?
31:12-18 The Sabbath (again) Why do you think the Sabbath is mentioned yet again? Have you noticed that the Sabbath is always described in terms of rest rather than worship? What does it mean that the Lord makes Israel holy (v12)? Why do you think there is such a severe punishment for not observing the Sabbath? Brueggemann writes, “The answer, of course, is that violation of the sabbath is not as innocuous as it seems. This text is still powerfully infused by the exodus narrative. The kingdom of Pharaoh still represents the quintessence of a life lived for productivity (see 5:13-14; 16:19-21) This text evidences anxiety that any violation of the sabbath as obedient work stoppage means being seduced by the production values and rewards of Pharaoh, which will predictably end in slavery. Thus “profaning” the sabbath means jeopardizing all that is most precious and definitional about Israel’s existence in the world and its loyalty to Yahweh.” (Brueggemann, 923)
Verse 17 says God is refreshed. What might this mean?
From 25:1-31:18 is one long speech. “The Lord said to Moses” appears seven times. The seventh time is the command to rest on the seventh day.
V. Exodus 32:1-34:35 Breaking and Renewal of the Covenant: These chapters pick up the story from ch 19-24. Alternatively these chapters break up 25-31 from 35-40 where the instructions and command for building the tabernacle are given and the tabernacle is built. These three chapters, 32-34 follow a pattern of sin (32), dialogue and negotiation (33) and a new covenant (34). (Brueggeman, 927)
A. 32:1-35 The Incident of the Golden Calf: Notice how Aaron’s actions mirror what Moses has been authorized to do- build and altar and make offerings. Notice that the unauthorized celebration is a celebration of deliverance from Egypt, done incorrectly. Remember that the covenant was conditional, if..then. God is not bound to Israel and is ready to destroy them and start over with Moses. Notice in verse 7 God calls Israel “your” people. Can you imagine pleading the case for others before an angry God? When Moses sees what the people have done, he is as angry (almost?) as God. He breaks the tablets (symbolizing the broken covenant) and he breaks the false idol.
What do you think of Aaron’s speech? Does it remind you of Genesis 3?
Verses 31-32 Notice that Moses will not leave the people.
B. 33:1-23 God’s presence among the people: Verse 3 God will not go with the people but God does not abandon them or break the promise made to Abraham. God does not destroy them, but God is still upset. The taking off of ornaments recalls, using the same verb, the stripping of Egypt’s wealth when the people left Egypt. The tent where Moses meets God is not to be confused with the tabernacle. Moses again pleads Israel’s case, asking God to accompany them. As close as Moses is to God, and God to Moses, there are still some things Moses may not see/know.
Notice that Israel’s survival depends on God’s presence. Notice how daring Moses is on behalf of Israel.
C. 34:1-35 Renewal of the Covenant:
1-28: Once again the tablets are prepared. Notice the tension between compassion and punishment, anger and forgiveness. Israel is restored as God’s covenant partner. Verses 6-7 notice the words used to describe God, there are seven. Notice that all these words are relational. Israel is warned to be careful, it is easy to fall away from God. Then they are given five actions that give public expression to their covenant with God.
29-35 Moses’ shining face: Moses second meeting with God on the mountain is finished, the covenant is renewed. Moses is changed by this encounter. Thus far in the text, Moses has been the intermediary between God and Israel on a regular basis, this passage reminds us of the extraordinary relationship between God and Moses. It is difficult to understand exactly what this veil was and how it functioned and it is difficult to comprehend how Moses’ face glowed and why that was a problem. Somehow this serves to remind us of God’s glory and that it cannot be trivialized or taken lightly. You may want to read Matt 17:1-8 or Mark 9:2-8 or Luke 9:28-36- the transfiguration of Jesus now. In what ways do you think these two texts (Exodus and the gospel) are related?
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.