By Clive Chin
The overarching theme of Exodus is the fulfilment of God’s promises to the patriarchs that he would make their descendants a great nation. This is carried out despite the opposition of the greatest superpower in the ancient world of the time, Egypt, and despite the unbelief and disobedience of the people themselves. Exodus shows that the success of the exodus must be ascribed first to the power and character of God, who remembers his promises, punishes sin, and forgives the penitent. Second, it highlights both the faithfulness of Moses, who follows divine instructions exactly, and his prayerfulness. It is his prayer that leads to victory over Amalek (Ex. 17:6-16) and his intercession that persuades God to pardon the people after they had begun worshiping the golden calf (Ex. 32–34).
The events and instructions narrated in the book of Exodus are explicitly framed as the Lord remembering his covenant promises to Abraham (Ex. 2:24; 3:6, 14–17; 6:2–8). The promises include land, numerous offspring, and blessing for both Abraham’s descendants and the nations (Gen. 12:1–3), which are rooted in the covenant relationship with the Lord: “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you . . . and I will be their God” (Gen. 17:7–8). The covenant promises in Genesis were made with Abraham and reaffirmed with Isaac and Jacob.
The Lord also promised Abraham that he would have innumerable offspring (Gen. 15:5), who would also be afflicted for 400 years in a foreign land and come out with great possessions (Gen. 15:13). Through Joseph, the Lord brings 70 individuals into the land of Egypt (Ex. 1:1–6) who became numerous (Ex. 1:7) even amid affliction (Ex. 1:8–12) and were brought out of Egypt as a large multitude (Ex. 12:37–38). Exodus also focuses on how the people of Israel are shown to be Abraham’s offspring, both in the faithful actions of some of its members (the midwives fear God not Pharaoh, (Ex. 1:15–22) and particularly by the fact that the Lord repeatedly refers to them as “my people” in his words to Israel (Ex. 3:7) and before Pharaoh (Ex. 5:1). The Lord is indicating both to Pharaoh and to the people that, although they have been enslaved in Egypt for a long time, it is his covenant promise to them as Abraham’s offspring that truly governs their identity.