Exodus Overview

exodus, glen fritz, ancient exodusThe story of the Hebrew deliverance from Egypt constitutes one of the great dramas of the ancient world. According to the Bible, a famine about 3700 years ago caused the Hebrew patriarch Jacob and his sons to settle in Egypt. Jacob’s progeny prospered and multiplied but were eventually enslaved by the Egyptians, who feared their power.

After 215 years in Egypt, a Hebrew named Moses was divinely appointed to lead his people out of Egypt. However, a stubborn Pharaoh, stood in the way of their release, granting their freedom only after a series of ten divine plagues nearly destroyed the kingdom.

The ultimate destination of the Hebrews was the region of Canaan, a land that had been divinely promised to Jacob and his forefathers, Abraham and Isaac. Nevertheless, upon leaving Egypt, Moses’ first destination was Mount Sinai, which he had visited during his forty-year exile in Midian. It was at this mountain that Moses had his burning bush” experience.

While en route to Mount Sinai, the Hebrews were divinely instructed to detour from their path to the mountain and to encamp on the shore of a sea called Yam Suph. In the meantime, Pharaoh, regretting the loss of his slaves, had marshaled his army to pursue, and eventually trapped the Hebrews between the sea and the wilderness on its near shore. Even as the Hebrews bewailed their certain demise, the sea was miraculously opened and the multitude passed safely to the opposite shore overnight. In the morning, the Egyptians followed after them and were destroyed when the path in the sea closed upon them.

Following the passage through the sea, the Hebrews proceeded to Mount Sinai, reaching it two months after leaving Egypt. It was at this mountain that Moses received the tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments. After an eleven month and five day stay at the mountain, the Hebrews proceeded north to the foot of the Promised Land, encamping at Kadesh. This place was said to be a distance of eleven days of caravan travel from Mount Sinai.

Twelve spies were sent out from Kadesh to scout the Promised Land. Ten returned with negative reports of an invincible foe. Because the people chose to believe the ten men rather than God’s promise of victory, they were denied entrance into the Promised Land. The next 38 years were spent waiting for the doubting generation to die out in the wilderness.

At the end of this period, the Hebrews proceeded north through what is now modern Jordan, winning a number of battles with foes encountered along the way. The forty years of the Exodus concluded with the crossing of the Jordan River and the capture of Jericho under the leadership of Joshua. Moses was also not permitted to enter the Promised Land due to his disobedience at Kadesh, and died on Mount Nebo east of the Jordan River.