Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Book of Exodus
IT IS a true story of the deliverance of those who were made to “slave under tyranny.” (Exodus 1:13) It is also an exciting account of the birth of a nation. Astounding miracles, superb legislation, and the construction of the tabernacle are among its absorbing features. In essence, this is what the Bible book of Exodus contains.
Written by the Hebrew prophet Moses, Exodus relates the experiences of the Israelites over a period of 145 years—from Joseph’s death in 1657 B.C.E. to the completion of the tabernacle in 1512 B.C.E. Yet, the account is of more than mere historical interest. It is a part of God’s word, or message, to mankind. As such, it “is alive and exerts power.” (Hebrews 4:12) Exodus, then, has real meaning for us.
“GOD HEARD THEIR GROANING”
Jacob’s descendants living in Egypt increase so rapidly that by royal mandate they are made to suffer as slaves. Pharaoh even decrees death for all Israelite male infants. Escaping such an end is a three-month-old baby, Moses, who is adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. Although he is brought up in the royal household, at the age of 40, Moses sides with his own people and kills an Egyptian. (Acts 7:23, 24) Forced to flee, he goes to Midian. There he gets married and lives as a shepherd. At a miraculously burning bush, Jehovah commissions Moses to return to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of slavery. His brother, Aaron, is appointed to be his spokesman.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
3:1—What kind of priest was Jethro? In patriarchal times the family head served as a priest for his family. Jethro was evidently the patriarchal head of a tribe of Midianites. Since the Midianites were Abraham’s descendants by Keturah, they were perhaps exposed to the worship of Jehovah.—Genesis 25:1, 2.
4:11—In what sense does Jehovah ‘appoint the speechless, the deaf, and the blind’? Although Jehovah has on occasion caused blindness and muteness, he is not responsible for every case of such disabilities. (Genesis 19:11; Luke 1:20-22, 62-64) These are the result of inherited sin. (Job 14:4; Romans 5:12) Since God has allowed this situation to exist, however, he could speak of himself as ‘appointing’ the speechless, the deaf, and the blind.
4:16—How was Moses to “serve as God” to Aaron? Moses was a representative of God. Hence, Moses became “as God” to Aaron, who spoke representatively for Moses.
Lessons for Us:
1:7, 14. Jehovah supported his people when they were oppressed in Egypt. He similarly sustains his modern-day Witnesses, even in the face of intense persecution.
1:17-21. Jehovah remembers us “for good.”—Nehemiah 13:31.
3:7-10. Jehovah is sensitive to the outcry of his people.
3:14. Jehovah unfailingly carries out his purposes. We can therefore be confident that he will turn our Bible-based hopes into reality.
4:10, 13. Moses displayed so much lack of confidence in his ability to speak that even when assured of divine backing, he begged God to send someone else to speak to Pharaoh. Still, Jehovah used Moses and gave him the wisdom and strength needed to carry out his assignment. Instead of focusing on our inadequacies, may we rely on Jehovah and faithfully fulfill our commission to preach and to teach.—Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20.
ASTOUNDING MIRACLES BRING DELIVERANCE
Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh, asking that the Israelites be permitted to celebrate a festival to Jehovah in the wilderness. The Egyptian ruler defiantly refuses. Jehovah uses Moses to bring about one telling blow after another. Only after the tenth plague does Pharaoh let the Israelites go. Soon, however, he and his military forces are in hot pursuit. But Jehovah opens an escape corridor through the Red Sea and delivers his people. The pursuing Egyptians drown as the sea closes in on them.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
6:3—In what way had God’s name not been made known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? These patriarchs used the divine name and received promises from Jehovah. Yet, they did not know or experience Jehovah as the one who caused these promises to be fulfilled.—Genesis 12:1, 2; 15:7, 13-16; 26:24; 28:10-15.
7:1—How was Moses made “God to Pharaoh”? Moses was given divine power and authority over Pharaoh. Hence, there was no need to be afraid of that king.
7:22—Where did the Egyptian priests get water that had not been turned into blood? They could have used some water that had been taken from the Nile River before this plague. Unaffected water apparently could also be collected by digging wells in the moist soil round about the Nile River.—Exodus 7:24.
8:26, 27—Why did Moses say that Israel’s sacrifices would be “detestable to the Egyptians”? Many different animals were venerated in Egypt. The mention of sacrifices thus added force and persuasiveness to Moses’ insistence that Israel be allowed to go away to sacrifice to Jehovah.
12:29—Who were reckoned as firstborn? The firstborn included only males. (Numbers 3:40-51) Pharaoh, himself a firstborn, was not killed. He had his own household. Not the family head but the firstborn son of the household died as a result of the tenth plague.
12:40—How long did the Israelites dwell in the land of Egypt? The 430 years mentioned here includes the time the sons of Israel spent “in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan.” (Reference Bible, footnote) Seventy-five-year-old Abraham crossed the Euphrates River in 1943 B.C.E. on his way to Canaan. (Genesis 12:4) From then until the time 130-year-old Jacob entered Egypt was 215 years. (Genesis 21:5; 25:26; 47:9) This means that the Israelites thereafter spent an equal period of 215 years in Egypt.
15:8—Were the “congealed” waters of the Red Sea actually frozen waters? The Hebrew verb translated “congealed” means to shrink or thicken. At Job 10:10, the expression is used with regard to curdling milk. Hence, the congealed waters do not necessarily suggest frozen waters, ice. If the “strong east wind” mentioned at Exodus 14:21 had been cold enough to freeze the waters, doubtless some reference would have been made to the extreme cold. Since nothing visible was holding back the waters, they had the appearance of being congealed, stiffened, or thickened.
Lessons for Us:
7:14–12:30. The Ten Plagues were not mere coincidences. They were predicted and came precisely as indicated. How vividly the bringing of them demonstrates the Creator’s control over water, sunlight, insects, animals, and humans! The plagues also show that God can selectively bring calamity upon his enemies while protecting his worshipers.
11:2; 12:36. Jehovah blesses his people. Evidently he was seeing to it that the Israelites were now given wages for their labor in Egypt. They had entered the land as free people, not as captives of war to be enslaved.
14:30. We can be confident that Jehovah will deliver his worshipers at the upcoming “great tribulation.”—Matthew 24:20-22; Revelation 7:9, 14.
JEHOVAH ORGANIZES A THEOCRATIC NATION
In the third month after their deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites encamp at the foot of Mount Sinai. There they receive the Ten Commandments and other laws, enter into a covenant with Jehovah, and become a theocratic nation. Moses spends 40 days in the mountain, receiving instructions regarding true worship and the construction of Jehovah’s tabernacle, a portable temple. Meanwhile, the Israelites make and worship a golden calf. Descending from the mountain, Moses sees this and becomes so incensed that he smashes the two stone tablets given him by God. After due punishment is meted out to the wrongdoers, he again ascends the mountain and receives another set of tablets. Upon Moses’ return, tabernacle construction begins. By the end of Israel’s first year of freedom, this marvelous tent and all its furnishings are completed and set up. Then Jehovah fills the tent with his glory.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
20:5—How is it that Jehovah brings “punishment for the error of fathers” upon future generations? After reaching an age of responsibility, each individual is judged on the basis of his own conduct and attitude. But when the nation of Israel turned to idolatry, it suffered the consequences of this for generations thereafter. Even the faithful Israelites felt its effects in that the nation’s religious delinquency made staying on a course of integrity difficult for them.
23:19; 34:26—What was the significance of the command not to boil a kid in its mother’s milk? Boiling a kid (the young of a goat or other animal) in its mother’s milk reportedly was a pagan ritual thought to produce rain. Moreover, since the mother’s milk is for nourishing her young, boiling her offspring in it would be an act of cruelty. This law helped to show God’s people that they should be compassionate.
23:20-23—Who was the angel mentioned here, and how was it that Jehovah’s name was “within him”? Likely, this angel was Jesus in his prehuman form. He was used to guide the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4) Jehovah’s name is “within him” in that Jesus is the principal one who upholds and sanctifies his Father’s name.
32:1-8, 25-35—Why was Aaron not punished for making the golden calf? Aaron was not in heartfelt sympathy with the idolatry. Later, he apparently joined fellow Levites in taking a stand for God and against those who resisted Moses. After the guilty were slain, Moses reminded the people that they had sinned greatly, indicating that others besides Aaron also received Jehovah’s mercy.
33:11, 20—How did God speak to Moses “face to face”? This expression denotes intimate two-way conversation. Moses talked with God’s representative and orally received instruction from Jehovah through him. But Moses did not see Jehovah, since ‘no man can see God and yet live.’ In fact, Jehovah did not personally speak to Moses. The Law “was transmitted through angels by the hand of a mediator,” states Galatians 3:19.
Lessons for Us:
15:25; 16:12. Jehovah provides for his people.
18:21. The men chosen for responsible positions in the Christian congregation must also be capable, God-fearing, trustworthy, and unselfish.
20:1–23:33. Jehovah is the supreme Lawgiver. When obeyed, his laws enabled the Israelites to worship him in an orderly and joyful way. Jehovah has a theocratic organization today. Cooperating with it leads to our happiness and security.
Real Meaning for Us
What does the book of Exodus reveal about Jehovah? It presents him as the loving Provider, the incomparable Deliverer, and the Fulfiller of his purposes. He is the God of theocratic organization.
As you do the weekly Bible reading in preparation for the Theocratic Ministry School, no doubt you will be deeply moved by what you learn from Exodus. When you consider what is stated in the section “Scriptural Questions Answered,” you will gain greater insight into certain Scriptural passages. The comments under “Lessons for Us” will show you how you can benefit from the Bible reading for the week.
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Jehovah commissioned the meek man Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery
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The Ten Plagues demonstrated the Creator’s control over water, sunlight, insects, animals, and humans
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By means of Moses, Jehovah organized the Israelites into a theocratic nation