Exodus 1- Deliverance of priesthood
v.5 Jacob had 70 children!!
v.6 New story as a few generations pass away (about 350 years)
v.7-11 an immigration issue. Having welcomed the people of Israel (Jacob) into the land they prospered like Joseph and before long they filled the land. A new Pharaoh, unfamiliar with Joseph and his people would suggest that the people of Israel got a little comfortable and did not continue to build relationships within their new homeland. Pharaoh's solution was to make them inferior, treat them as less than themselves and appoint taskmasters to "afflict them with their burdens", presumably in a bid to either enslave or drive them out of the land but certainly to control them. Certainly at the least they created a lower, serving class possibly by limiting employment to certain roles but the evidence is clear that this soon became brutal enslavement.
v.12 "But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew"This teaches us a great principle about adversity. We are given trials and adversity so that we can increase and grow.
v.15-21 Shiphrah and Puah - Hebrew midwives who feared God more than they feared Pharaoh and they were blessed with descendants. I am always fascinated by this story. Pharaoh is obviously trying to be sneaky at first by enlisting the midwives to kill the boys at birth and suggest to the mothers that they were still born or died during labour. This is obviously a horrendous thing for anyone to consider let alone midwives who dedicate themselves to help give life, not take it away. Nevertheless to be commanded by Pharaoh and disobey would have put them in opposition to a very strong and dangerous political opponent, and would have meant certain death for them and potentially their families. Like Joseph, they do not appear to have hesitated in their resolve. That they feared God more than Pharaoh is a remarkable testimony to these two noble women and a great example to us today. And they were blessed with families for it.
v.22 It would appear that this Pharaoh, in being unfamiliar with Joseph was likewise unfamiliar with the God of Israel and underestimated Him. His next move is to sign into law that all male babies should be killed. From a socio-political point of view, that this law was even considered shows a certain culpability of the ruling Egyptian people as well as their Pharaoh and goes some way to understanding the plagues and death that falls upon the Egyptian people and the house of Pharaoh as a consequence.
Exodus 2 - Deliverance of a prophet
v.1 a priestly family, a righteous covenant family
v.2 the child was healthy
v.3 remember the law now said all male children were to be killed. Around 3 months it is getting more and more obvious even with clothes on that the child is a boy and can no longer be disguised as a girl or hidden. An ark made of reeds and pitch, so as not to leak and sink.
v.4-10 How did the sister get into the company of the pharaoh's daughter and into a position to speak to her? There are some Jewish rabbis that suggest Miriam was Puah, one of the head midwives who had earlier saved the Hebrew boys at birth. We may never know for sure but it is a fanciful thought and certainly Miriam is a great woman and the first in all scripture to be accounted as a prophetess (Exodus 15:20). Either way she convinces Pharaoh's daughter to have Jochebed (Moses biological mother) nurse the baby. And then Pharaoh's daughter adopts him as her own son.
The symbolism is clear. Once more God is raising up a righteous young man in the midst of the Egyptians. Joseph nurtured and protected his people in Egypt and Moses would lead his people out of Egypt. Even so, Christ nurtures and protects his people in the world and delivers us from the world through his atonement.
However the obvious question is how can Pharaoh allow such disobedience under the roof of his own house? There is no real answer that we can see but there is much discussion in Jewish circles that Pharaoh's daughter was the same mentioned in 1 Chronicles 4:18 "Bithiah daughter of Pharaoh". It is also believed that this Bithiah, daughter of Pharaoh had not gone down to the river to bathe but rather to be baptized by immersion and had converted from idol worship when she saw the ark of reeds in the bulrushes and rescued Moses.
v.11-15 Moses sees the burden of his Hebrew brethren and slays an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew. You may wonder how he knew he was a Hebrew. But as discussed above he was nursed and loved by his mother and then adopted and loved by his adoptive mother Bithiah who if she had converted would have taught Moses of his own people and traditions as well as introduced him the the ways of Egyptian society. There is little doubt Moses knew who he was.
Commonly we see Moses as now fleeing Egypt and Pharaoh who now seek to kill him for his "crime". However in Hebrews 11:27 Paul suggests another reason for his departure. Could it be that his faith caused him to leave and seek out his mission in life?
He arrives in Midian (modern Jordan or Saudi Arabia we believe) and stops at a well. With all our previous biblical experiences at a well, can you guess what is going to happen here?
v.16-22 In these 5 short verses we have yet another example of service at the well that ends in marriage - you could say all's well that ends well! Moses protects Jethro's (Reuel) daughters and enables them to feed their sheep. I love the father's question when they get home earlier than usual that day "How is it that ye are come so soon today?". It seems it is common that they are troubled by the other shepherds and have to struggle to get their water. Their father to this point does not seem to have stepped in and helped them but rather has allowed them to continue struggling day by day until they are one day delivered from their trying circumstances. Their father and it is implied the daughters appear to accept this as part of their lot in life. I wonder if there is symbolism here with Moses as Christ delivering us from our daily trials and providing us with the waters of eternal life?
Moses marries Zipporah and they have a son Gershon.
v.23-25 "In process of time". Most often we are asked to endure through a process of time. The Lord hears us but rarely provides instant replies as it is necessary we must endure for a while. Eventually Pharaoh dies but the bondage continues and the children of Israel pray for deliverance. And while on the ground, in the moment, in that test of faith, while the lashes continue and the work is burdensome somewhere up above, overlooking and with the big picture and eternal perspective "God looked upon the children of Israel" and "God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob."
Exodus 3 - The Deliverer is called
v.7-10 The Lord announces that he has heard the cries and will deliver them through Moses to their land of promise.
v.8-14 Moses asks two questions:
Who am I to defeat Pharaoh and deliver Israel? The Lord 's answer is "Certainly I will be with thee"
What shall I tell Israel is your name? The Lord's answer is "I Am THAT I Am...I Am hath sent me unto you" (cf John 8:58)
v.15-22 The Lord God gives further instruction to Moses and warns him that Pharaoh will not give in easily but that it will serve God's purpose and that eventually there will be deliverance.
Exodus 5 - Deliverance begins with increased burdens
v.1-2 "Let my people go". The pharaoh shows his ignorance and also his arrogance by asking "Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice and let Israel go?" He may regret that later.
v.4-14 Pharaoh increases the daily tasks of the children of Israel but then still demands the same production from them. Satan similarly crushes our spirits gradually increasing the burden on our spirits whether it be in debt or sin.
v.15-23 the children of Israel complain and Moses takes their complaint to the Lord and asks what the point of all this is if their slavery and burden is only increased. Moses appears to have forgotten the Lord's warning that Pharaoh would not respond initially and that instead it would take many wonders to deliver them. We get a glimpse here of the short-sightedness of man on earth compared to those with a more elevated view who are able to grasp the bigger picture. It is not easy to wait on the Lord's time. That is our test. How do we get that elevated view? How do we see as the Lord sees?
v.1-8 The Lord reiterates who He is and that He will deliver the people of Israel and then further promises that he will covenant with them. Note that he is not covenanting with them at this point - they must first free themselves of their burdens (which we see takes a full generation and 40 years in the wilderness). But there is a beauty in the phrasing of his simple promise that alludes to marriage when He says, "I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God, and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God" There is something about that phrasing that touches deep within my soul and feels so very personal.
The LDS Gospel Doctrine teachers' manual asks us not to focus in this particular lesson on the miracles and plagues that follow this chapter. Please note this is not due to some discrepancy or anything they wish us not to study in general. I will cover the plagues here below in detail but for the purposes of personal study rather than use in the Sunday School classes. I believe the First Presidency's intent may be to keep us focused in the Sunday School classes on the Deliverance itself and on the Deliverer Himself rather than the plagues that were a means to an end but not the ultimate point of the story.
Having said that, knowing how powerful God is surely there are many simpler ways to release the children of Israel. Why did he go the route of the plagues?
A deeper study of the plagues suggests that each plague was a direct attack on the Egyptian Gods and their entire belief system. Pharaoh rather rashly and arrogantly asked why he should follow the God of Israel and plague by plague, the God of Israel replies, showing his dominance over the false gods of the Egyptians. But that in and of itself does not seem enough. What is the point of showing Pharaoh and his people all of this if rather than convert them He plans to drown them in the Red Sea?
We spoke earlier of how the Lord promised to covenant with his people but that he did not make the covenant with them at that point. After years of living in Egypt, they had become infested with Egyptian ways and beliefs including idol worship. To truly deliver His people it was necessary to free them from the bondage of false idol worship also. The only way to do that was to show them that they were false, to defeat them in every way to prove to the children of Israel who the true God was. Thus the plagues were less a means to convince Pharaoh to release the children of Israel as they were a means to release the minds and souls of the children of Israel from all remnants of idol worship, thus preparing them for the covenant with their one true God, the God of Abraham, Jehovah, YHWH, the Great Deliverer!
Let us consider then the plagues:
Exodus 7:10-12 Serpents were considered symbols of deity. This opening episode could be considered a declaration of war. When Aaron casts down his rod and it became a serpent it was telling Pharaoh we have deity on our side. That forces Pharaoh to show his true colours and he orders his magicians to copy this wonder, thus declaring that they had the god of this world on their side (Satan). Notice however that Aaron's serpent ate the other serpents. Pharaoh would have been wise to back down there and then but he was not wise and he stubbornly went up into battle against the God of all creation.
For further relevance also notice how these plagues are suspiciously similar to the plagues to affect the world prior to the second coming when the world will be delivered from wickedness once more. I have cross-referenced these scriptures at the end of each plague.
Exodus 7:19 Plague 1 Nile turned to blood. Egyptian god of the Nile, Hapi is defeated. Sorry I cant resist - I'm sure Hapi was not very Happy. (see also Revelations 16:3)
Exodus 8:2 Plague 2 Frogs. Egyptian goddess of fertility, Heket (had head and body of frog) is defeated. (see also Revelations 16:13)
Exodus 8:16 Plague 3 Lice/dust of the earth. Egyptian god of the earth, Geb is defeated. (see also Doctrine and Covenants 29:18)
Exodus 8:21 Plague 4 Flies. Egyptian God Uatchit (had head of a fly) is defeated. This is also the first plague where it clearly states the Lord will protect the children of Israel from its effects. (see also Doctrine and Covenants 29:18)
Exodus 9:2-3 Plague 5 Cattle. Egyptian goddess of Love and Protection, Hathor (had head of cow) is defeated. (see also Revelations 16:2,11)
Exodus 9:9 Plague 6 Boils. Egyptian gods of medicine, healing and diseases, Imhotep, Serapis and Sekhmet are defeated. (see also Revelations 16:2,11)
Exodus 9:23-24 Plague 7 Hail. Egyptian goddess of the sky, Nut is defeated. (see also Revelations 8:7)
Exodus 10:13-14 Plague 8 Locusts. Egyptian goddess Serapia was supposed to protect them from the locusts specifically and is defeated. Also defeated were the gods of crop and grain, Seth and Nepri.
Notice also the locusts were brought and taken away by the wind. The Egyptian wind gods, Amun and Shu are also defeated here.(see also Revelations 9:3-10)
Exodus 10:22-23 Plague 9 Darkness. Egyptian sun god, Ra is defeated. (see also Revelations 8:12)
After these plagues, Pharaoh is humbled to give in only to then harden his heart again and refuse to let the children of Israel free. After the 9th plague he again hardens his heart and tells Moses that if he ever sees Moses again, he will kill him.
Exodus 11 The Lord tells Moses that there will be one more plague - death of the firstborn. A direct assault on the Egyptians' one living god. Pharaoh was himself considered a god. His direct lineage were considered gods. Jehovah had defeated their false idols, destroyed all hope and reliance on them but one still stood defiant - Pharaoh himself.
Exodus 12 - Passover
v.1-11 The Lord gives Moses specific instructions for the children of Israel to eat a strange meal. They must eat this meal with shoes on and belts on and staff in their hand. Or in modern day lingo, hats and coats and car keys in hand! The meal was to consist of a lamb without blemish no older than a year. They had to kill it in the evening. They also had to paint the blood of the lamb on their homes' front door - both on the side posts and upper post of the door frame. They were to roast the entire lamb. Nothing was to remain even if it meant sharing with another family or burning the remains before morning. And they were to eat it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. And they were to eat it quickly. "it is the Lord's passover."
What was this all for, what was this passover?
v.12-28 Jehovah, the master teacher, Rabboni, was setting in motion one of the greatest object lessons ever to be taught. This meal would be repeated from this day forward every year. And every year they will eat unleavened bread only, for 7 days. That seven days will be started and ended with an assembly, congregational meeting. And the blood on the door was to serve as a sign that those inside were protected under the promise of the Lord from the 10th plague. The families were told to stay indoors.
Of course there is deeper spiritual symbolism and significance here. The blood of the lamb on the door of the homes represents the covering atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives. It covers us only as long as we choose to stay under its protection. For those that did not fulfil the instructions and choose not to use the blood of the atonement in their lives, there is only one result - spiritual death. For those that choose to cover themselves in the Atonement they and their entire household can be saved together.
Boyd K Packer taught,
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland asked,"Surely, young people, you see the prophetic symbolism in the Passover. Christ was "the Lamb of God" (John 1:29, 36), the firstborn, male, without blemish. He was slain without breaking his bones, even though the soldiers were sent to do it.But it is not from mortal death that we shall be spared in such a passover if we walk in obedience to these commandments, for each of us in time shall die. But there is spiritual death which you need not suffer. If you are obedient, that spiritual death will pass over you, for "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us," the revelation teaches (1 Cor. 5:7)." ("The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises," Ensign, May 1996, 19)
“Do we see [the sacrament] as our Passover, remembrance of our safety and deliverance and redemption? With so very much at stake, this ordinance commemorating our escape from the angel of darkness should be taken more seriously than it sometimes is. It should be a powerful, reverent, reflective moment. It should encourage spiritual feelings and impressions” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 68)In essence the Passover anticipates the Atonement of Jesus Christ, while the Sacrament remembers the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And finally Bruce R McConkie describes the symbols application to us by declaring that we must "apply the atoning blood of Christ" upon the "doorposts of our hearts and the lintels of our souls".
v.29-30 Plague 10 Death of the Firstborn. Pharaoh, Egypts living god is struck down and defeated by the only true living God, Jehovah, the God of Israel. His firstborn and all of Egypt's firstborn sons are killed. These sons represented the future, their heritage, their kingdom, their descendants, their legacy. All of these things were symbolically killed that tragic night. Likewise, if we fail to follow the Lord God of Israel, we too will find ourselves without spiritual increase or inheritance. We will have no eternal legacy or kingdom.
v.31-36 Pharaoh lets them go and all of Egypt give up their gold and silver and raiment to the children of Israel.
v.37-38 Those that leave number 600,000....men! With women and children included there must have been at least 2 million people who left Egypt that night. And then all their herds and cattle. Visually can you picture the scene? Epic does not describe it. Symbolically what is the Lord teaching us with this great exodus?
v.17-18 Notice the Lord again ever-considerate of the strengths and weaknesses of his children leads them where it best helps them. Instead of taking the short route home through Philistine which would have meant war and tested their faith beyond their present levels, he re-routes them across the Red Sea and into the wilderness. A longer journey but better for them. Does it seem the Lord has ever re-routed your life? Have you ever wondered why the Lord takes one direction when another direction seems more logical?
v.20-22 The children of Israel, despite all they have seen, having just been taken out of Egypt after 430 years appear to need this great visual protection to maintain their faith. I doubt the Lord needed it for any other purpose.
Exodus 14 - Deliverance of a people
This chapter is one of my favourite chapters in all of scripture. Here we see a people escaping from the world, their old bad habits and addictions, but they are being chased by the world. It is not an easy place to escape from and it is a formidable foe.
v.10-13 we see here how weak the children of Israel are. This is not a criticism but more just a state of where they are at currently. They have not gained sufficient strength to fight this fight. They have just enough strength to make the break but when the temptations and the trials reappear they wonder why they bothered leaving in the first place. If you have ever been a missionary, if you were ever a convert, if you have ever been involved with helping new members or investigators, you will recognize this feeling. What can we learn by understanding how the children of Israel felt - not fully settled in a new world but not fully clear of the old world either?
v.13-14 Moses does his job as a leader and as a prophet with an inspirational battle cry that tells them not to worry, stand still, God will fight for you. Remember they are trapped, locked in by the Red Sea on one side and the advancing Egyptian army on the other side. This seems like the kind of speech a good leader would make but Moses himself seems unsure how they are going to survive.
v.15-16 it seems Moses after telling the children of Israel not to worry then went to the Lord and told him he was worried. And the Lord's response is clear and inspiring. I paraphrase but it went something like: OK Moses yes I will help you but only by helping you help yourselves. Instead of standing still and watching me fight for you, I want you all involved. "speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward; but lift up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea and divide it." Wow!
The children of Israel did not yet have faith enough to fight the Philistines or the Egyptians themselves but they had a leader who the Lord deemed strong enough and had faith enough and had the correct priesthood authority to be able to divide the waters of the sea. All he required of the children of Israel was to focus on moving forward. Not looking back and not standing still but moving forward with the small measure of faith that they did have.
v.19-22;27-29 The Lord did his part. Moses did his part and the children of Israel with their infant faith did their part.
v.30-31 Having entered into the sea and out the other side they had collectively, figuratively entered the waters of baptism and emerged the other side free of the world and of the Egyptians, with their tiny particle of faith they moved forward and in so doing, in trusting in the Lord and his servants were delivered. Notice the world, the Egyptians, our sins are left at the bottom of the waters of baptism or in this case the Red Sea symbolizing the Atonement, covers our sins if we truly are willing to leave them behind.
Let me add to that passage my testimony. There are many people out there looking to leave Egypt, some have heard the prophet's voice and come to the waters edge, others look longingly across the shoreline, others still are shuffling their feet, unsure if this new world is for them and still more stand still. We must not condemn them. We must not leave them. But with loving arms we must gather them in and help them to move forward. They do not hesitate because they do not want to be free. They hesitate as their faith has not yet been fully nurtured. We must help them. Of course, we can not do it all, we too must trust in power of the Great Deliverer but even as the noble Hebrew midwives were entrusted with saving lives, so too are we. I pray we may also be filled with the Spirit of the great exodus and its symbolic departure from the world of sin and bondage. I pray that we can recognize the one true living God in our lives, and put away all those false gods that surround us daily. I pray that we may recognize our great responsibility in not only moving forward but in helping others move forward too. And I pray that we may recognize the great power of the priesthood when held by those who are righteous and faithful. May we ever be ready to do that which is required of us and may we never forget the great Atonement and its effect in our lives and over our families is my humble prayer and testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, even the Lamb, the Son of God, the Great Deliverer, YHWH or Jehovah. Amen.