What is the Book of Exodus About?

Read this 5-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and be inspired to read Exodus!


Historical Context

Exodus (meaning exit) is best understood to have been written primarily by Moses, like the rest of the Pentateuch, though some details (such as the narrative of his death in Deuteronomy 34) were clearly added at a later time. It also appears that some language and references were updated for later readers. 

From Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote Exodus for your good and to lead you into joy. 

There is no consensus among scholars as to the date when the events of the exodus took place. A common view is that the exodus occurred in c. 1446 BC. This is based on the calculation of 480 years from Israel’s departure from Egypt to the fourth year of Solomon’s reign (c. 966 BC; see 1 Kings 6:1). However, because Exodus 1:11 depicts Israel working on a city called Raamses, some scholars believe that this would suggest that the exodus occurred during the reign of Raamses II in Egypt (c. 1279–1213 BC), possibly around 1260 BC (see note on 1 Kings 6:1).

The Journey to Mount Sinai

1446 BC

Scholars disagree about the precise route of the exodus, but most agree that Mount Sinai is the site that today is called Jebel Musa (“Mount of Moses”).

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Message Series

Delivered to Dwell by Drew Hunter

Check out this phenomenal 18-part message series by Drew Hunter. You will find these messages easy to understand, but transformative. You’ll gain a deep understanding of Exodus, but also discover the relevance of this book to your life today.

Exodus dictionary

As you read through Exodus, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know! Note that this dictionary was created for the New International Version (NIV) Bible.

A place where sacrifices were made to worship God. An altar could be a pile of dirt or stones, or a raised platform of wood, marble, metal, or other materials. The bronze or brazen altar was used for burnt offerings in the tabernacle’s courtyard. It was a large box, eight feet square and four-and-a-half feet high, made of wood covered with bronze. A much larger altar replaced it when Solomon built the temple. The altar of incense (also called the golden altar) was smaller, covered with gold, and placed just in front of the veil to the Holy of Holies. Every day, both morning and evening, incense was burned here, symbolizing the prayers of the people.

To pour oil on a person or thing. A person was anointed to show that God had chosen him or her to do a special job. Samuel anointed David to show that God had chosen him to be king.

To set apart something or someone to serve God in a special way.

An agreement. In the ancient Near East, sometimes covenants were made between two people or groups of people. Both sides decided what the agreement would be. However, in the Bible, the word usually refers to agreements between God and people, when God decides what will be done and the people agree to live by the covenant. The Old Covenant of law set standards of behavior in order to please God. The New Covenant of grace presents God’s forgiveness based on faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

(1) In the Old Testament, an older man in a family, tribe, or town. (2) Also in the Old Testament, a member of a group of older men in a town. The town elders made major decisions for the town. (3) In the first four books of the New Testament, the Sanhedrin—the group of men who governed the Jewish people in Jesus’ time. (4) In the Early Church, the church leaders.

An offering to God of the first vegetables, fruits, and grains the Israelites picked from their fields. The people offered their firstfruits to God to thank him for supplying their food.

(1) Great beauty, splendor, honor, or magnificence that can be seen or sensed. The Israelites saw the glory of the Lord in the cloud that filled the tabernacle. The shepherds saw the glory of the Lord when the angels told them Jesus had been born. (2) To praise; to be proud or happy; to boast.

Pure; set apart; belonging to God. God is holy. He is perfect and without sin. Jesus is holy too. He is without sin and dedicated to doing what God wants. Because Jesus died to take the punishment for sin and then rose again, people who believe in him have the power to be holy too. God helps them to become more and more pure and loving, like Jesus.

A mixture of spices held together with thick, sticky juice that comes from trees and plants. Incense is burned to make a sweet smell. In the tabernacle and temple, incense was burned on a small golden altar to worship God.

A raised support for a light. The tabernacle was furnished with one large, seven-branched golden lampstand (menorah), placed opposite the golden table. In the temple, ten golden lampstands were placed along the interior walls, five on each side.

(1) All the rules God gave to help people to know and love him and to live happily with each other. The Ten Commandments are part of God’s law. (2) The first five books of the Bible. These five books are often called the Law. (3) The entire Old Testament. Sometimes the Old Testament is referred to as the Law. (4) Any rule that must be obeyed, whether it was decided by God or by people. (5) God’s rules in the Old Testament plus other rules added by Jewish religious leaders. (6) The conscience of an unbeliever who knows he or she has not followed his or her own moral code (see Romans 2:14-16).

A person who settles differences or arguments between two or more people. Jonathan was a mediator between David and Saul. Moses was a mediator between God and Israel. By paying the punishment for sin, Jesus became the mediator who makes it possible for us to have peace with God.  

A gift of money, time, or other possessions given to God by a person who loves him. In Old Testament times, people brought food and animals to the tabernacle or temple as offerings to God. The offerings were often burned on the altar. Animal offerings were always killed. Their blood symbolized sins being forgiven by death. Christians believe that offering sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins is no longer necessary because Jesus’ death was the once-for-all sacrifice through which our sins can be forgiven. See also Sacrifice.

(1) To cause to happen. Psalm 65:9 says that the streams are filled with water to provide people with food because God has ordained—or caused—it. (2) To appoint or set apart a person to do special work. Paul was ordained to be a missionary to the Gentiles. (3) To decide or command.

One of the Jews’ most important feasts. The Jews celebrate Passover every spring as a reminder that God freed them from slavery in Egypt. The word comes from the way the angel of death passed over the homes of Israelites on whose doorposts the blood of a lamb was sprinkled. In Egyptian homes, where there was no blood on the doorposts, all the firstborn sons died. This terrible disaster convinced the Egyptian Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. At the Passover feast, the Jews eat bread made without yeast (unleavened bread), bitter herbs, and lamb. The unleavened bread reminds them that the Israelites left Egypt in a hurry; there was no time to let bread rise. The bitter herbs remind them of their suffering in Egypt. The lamb reminds them of the lamb they killed for the first Passover. The Passover feast was the last meal Jesus ate with his disciples before he was crucified.

A gift or offering given to God. A sacrifice usually involved killing an animal to pay for sin. The New Testament tells us that Jesus died as the once-for-all sacrifice for sinners, and that no further sacrifices for sin are necessary.

A servant who is owned by his or her master and who could be bought or sold like property. People became slaves if they were defeated in battle by an enemy or if they were unable to pay their debts. A slave had to do whatever the master ordered.

Stubborn, rebellious, and unwilling to learn.

The portable tent where the Israelites worshiped God. They used it while they wandered in the desert after they left Egypt and for many years after they entered the Promised Land. Moses and the people built the tabernacle by following God’s instructions (see Exodus 25-27). The tabernacle was used until it was replaced by a permanent place of worship called the temple.

(1) In the Old Testament, the Law of God. (2) In the New Testament, proof given that something is true.

Bread made without yeast. Unleavened bread is usually flat, like a pancake or cracker.

Dictionary Source

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Tough Questions

We have found answers to some tough questions that we anticipate may arise as you read this book of the Bible. We know we can’t answer every question you will have; therefore, we have written this article, so you know how to find answers for your kids: How Do I Answer Tough Questions About the Bible?


The following insights are from pastors and scholars who have spent significant time studying the book of Exodus.

Exodus is connected to Genesis in much the same way that the New Testament stands in relationship to the Old Testament. Genesis tells of humanity’s failure under every test and in every condition; Exodus is the thrilling epic of God rushing to the rescue. It tells of the redeeming work of a sovereign God. 

Exodus is preeminently the book of redemption in the Old Testament. It begins in the darkness and gloom yet ends in glory; it begins by telling how God came down in grace to deliver an enslaved people and ends by declaring how God came down in glory to dwell in the midst of a redeemed people. 

Exodus, which is Greek, means “way out.” Without Genesis, the book of Exodus has no meaning. It begins with the Hebrew word we, which means “and” or “now.” The story is just continuing. This book, like many other books of the Old Testament, begins with the word “and,” even though this word does not always appear in translations. This seems to point to the fact that each author was not just recording his own story but only his part of a great drama that began in the events of the past and looked forward to that which would come. Take the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy); each book is about something and those five things are vitally related to one another. 

—Henrietta Mears

Source: This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

We come to the end of Genesis, and we remember that not only was there a covenant made with Abraham about being a great nation, and not only was there a covenant with Abraham about the fact that through him and through his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed, but there was also a covenant with Abraham about land. There was a land of promise, a land of the covenant.  

And that’s why when we come to the end of Genesis chapter 50, we are very aware we are not where Abraham was promised his descendants would be. That great nation is not yet, and it is not, where God promised it would be.  

But embedded in those verses in the end of Genesis is a promise that explains the hinge between Genesis and Exodus. And you see this in chapter 50 when you look at verse 24: “And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’”

So on his death bed, Joseph promises what amounts to an exodus. He announces and promises that God would lead them out of Egypt, back to the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  

—Albert Mohler

Source: Albert Mohler, quoted from his message, “Exodus 1:1-22,” published on his website Used by permission of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The story of Exodus is one of redemption but for a purpose. It’s redemption for the purpose of relationship with the redeemer.  

—Drew Hunter

Source: Drew Hunter, quoted from his message, “Building the Tabernacle, then Building the Church,” on Exodus 35-40, preached at Zionsville Fellowship on May 29, 2016. Used by permission of Zionsville Fellowship.  

You can split Exodus into three major sections: chapters 1-18, 19-24, and 25-40. Three four-letter words can summarize these sections: bush, hill, and tent. In ch. 1-18, the Lord is the God of the bush, where he promises to deliver his people. In ch. 19-24, the Lord is the God of the hill, where he speaks from the smoking mountain and tells his people how to live. Finally, in ch. 25-40, the Lord is the God of the tent where he dwells with his people. 

—Matthew D. Adams 

Source: Matthew D. Adams, quoted from his article, “The Beauty of the Lord,” published on August 22, 2016, by Gospel Centered Discipleship on their website 

This is a deeply personal character statement about Yahweh—who is the Elohim (God) that we say we worship. And so, we should hone in on this. What’s God saying here?  

“I am and will continue to be what I am and will forever be.”  

So what God is saying is, whatever character traits or whatever attributes that God displays, he is that. It’s as if he’s saying, “You look up in the dictionary merciful.” Oh! There’s Yahweh. “You’ll find me there.” Yahweh’s merciful. Whatever Yahweh is, he is merciful. He’s the perfect embodiment, the most consistent reliable mercy that you will find anywhere in the universe 

Whatever character trait Yahweh has, he is that, he defines it in his very being.  

This is in contrast to you and I for example, because you and I are only sometimes what we are. Human beings are only sometimes what we are. …you can depend on human beings sometimes to be what they are.  

You can always depend on Yahweh to be what he is. You never have to worry about Yahweh all of a sudden changing the rules on you and being someone else than what you thought Yahweh was all about. You always know where you stand with Yahweh. He always keeps his word. 

—Tim Mackie 

 Source: “Yahweh Is Our God–I Am Who I Am.” YouTube video. Posted by “Tim Mackie Archives,” August 21, 2017.  

The Bible is filled with deliverance stories—many exodus stories. And they always come from God’s initiative. This [the Exodus] is the greatest deliverance story in the Old Testament. It points forward as a model to the greater and greatest deliverance story of salvation through Jesus. So, our salvation comes the same way as Israel’s salvation: God initiates. God initiates our salvation. It comes from his fatherly heart. So, if we’re going to ever be saved, it’s because it flows from God’s heart. 

—Drew Hunter

Source: Drew Hunter, quoted from his message, “The Exodus Everyone Needs,” on Exodus 13:17-14:31, preached at Zionsville Fellowship on February 21, 2016. Used by permission of Zionsville Fellowship. 


In Exodus the Lord delivers his people from slavery with mighty signs and wonders (1-15) and brings them to Sinai (16-19), telling them there that they are to be his “kingdom of priests and holy nation.” He confirms their kingdom status by entering into a covenant with them as their king and giving them kingdom laws to follow (20-24). But that is not all! He is going to be a king who is near to them, dwelling in their very midst, and this is why he proceeds to give them directions for his tabernacle, his earthly palace (25-31, 35-40). 

—Jay Sklar

Source: Jay Sklar, quoted from an interview with Collin Hansen, “Daring to Delight in Leviticus”. This interview originally appeared here at The Gospel Coalition. 

This is what Exodus 24 is all about. The greatest gift of salvation is God, his presence. The point is he wants us to be with him. He wants you to be with him. I wonder if we believe that—that God does not just save you because he has to, but because he wants to. And to be saved is not to be legally or technically pardoned; it is to be welcomed at his table. Do you recognize every day that you are welcome to draw near to God?

—Drew Hunter

Source: Source: Drew Hunter in his message, “Redemption’s Goal: A Feast with God, on Exodus 24:1-18, preached at Zionsville Fellowship on April 24, 2016. Used by permission of Zionsville Fellowship. 

Exodus Playlist

Discover music inspired by the message and content of the book of Exodus.

Deliver Us
by Andrew Peterson feat. Scott Mulvahill | Folk
At Your Name
by Phil Wickham | Praise & Worship
Passover Us
by Andrew Peterson feat. Jess Ray | Folk
He Has Made a Way (Exodus)
by Caroline Cobb | Folk
Song of Moses
by Aaron Keyes | Praise & Worship
by North Point Worship | Praise & Worship
Painting Pictures Of Egypt
by Sara Groves | 70s 80s 90s
More Songs