Expository Blogging: Exodus 1:1-7

January 27, 2014 — 4 Comments

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Have you ever tried to start watching a new TV show in the second season instead of the first? 1 It is certainly possible, but often it feels disconnected and hard to follow what is going on.

If you start reading the Bible in the book of Exodus the effect is similar. Though obscured in English, the first Hebrew word is “And,” which shows the continuity with the book that came before it, Genesis. 2 As we drop into the first 7 verses we read:

These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. (Exodus 1:1-7, ESV)

If we were to outline these verses, they fall into what’s called a chiastic structure:

A.  The names of the sons of Israel who came into Egypt with Jacob (1a)

B.  Sons with household/families (preliminary fruitfulness) (1b–5)

C.  DEATH of Joseph, his brothers, that generation (6), but

B´. The later generation bore fruit exceedingly (continued fruitfulness) (7b)

A´. Descendants of the sons of Israel fill the land (7a, c) 3

When it comes to the names, it would be a mistake to make too much or too little 4 It is important that they are listed, but the order does not appear to be significant. The significance is that these are the sons of Israel who have prospered in a promised land, and it is a glimpse into the fulfilled promise to Abraham that out of him would come a great nation.

While v. 2-6 point the readers back to Genesis 12:1-3 and the original promise to Abraham, v. 7 points readers back to Genesis 1:27 and the command to be fruitful and multiply. As Stuart comments,

The point made by such language is twofold: (1) that Israel’s amazing population growth was the result of God’s original design and ongoing care and (2) that Israelites were living, at least in small colonies or scattered families, in sufficient numbers as to dominate the population of one part of Egypt at the time of the persecution, that is, just in the eastern Nile delta area of Goshen, even if they were not the sole inhabitants of that general area. 5

So on the one level, it is showing how God was fulfilling his promises, but it does more than that. As Blackburn points out,

When interpreted firmly within the context of Genesis 1, God’s mandate to be fruitful and exercise dominion has the distinctly missionary purpose of making himself known throughout creation. Because humanity is the image of God (1:26), the command calls for God’s image to spread throughout, and ultimately fill, the earth. Furthermore, as humanity spreads throughout the earth, he is called to exercise dominion, governing God’s creation as befits his status as God’s image. The effect of the commandment, then, is that life on the earth would witness to the character of God, as God’s image spreads and governs according to his likeness and character. 6

This then is the stage setting for the book of Exodus. This is a book about God’s work in and through the nation of Israel. It is a book with a missionary heart as it reveals more and more of who God is. In fact, if we only had the book of Exodus, we could learn many things about God 7

  1. God controls history
  2. God’s name is Yahweh
  3. God is holy
  4. God remembers his people
  5. God acts in salvation
  6. God acts in judgment
  7. God’s anger can be averted
  8. God speaks
  9. God is transcendent
  10. God chooses to live among his people

As you can see, Exodus, while telling the story of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, is also telling us a lot about the God who did the delivering. It’s probably for this reason Philip Ryken can say that “In some ways the whole Bible is an extended interpretation of the exodus.” 8 The story of the Exodus becomes the paradigm for redemption throughout the Old Testament, effectively making it the gospel of the Old Testament. As Ryken further explains,

Beyond the Pentateuch, the book of Exodus has wider connections with the rest of the Old Testament. The exodus was the great miracle of the old covenant. Thus many passages in the Psalms and the Prophets look back to it as the paradigm of salvation. The people of Israel always praised God as the One who had brought them out of Egypt. The New Testament writers worshiped the same God, and thus they often used the exodus to explain salvation in Christ. Indeed, a complete understanding of the gospel requires a knowledge of the exodus.

He concludes that “a complete understanding of the gospel requires a knowledge of the exodus.” The story of the Exodus is then our story. Though we cannot completely identify with the nation of Israel, we share much in common. Looking to the shape of their story, we can see that “as we trace their spiritual journey, we discover that we need exactly what the Israelites needed. We need a liberator, a God to save us from slavery, and destroy our enemies. We need a provider, a God to feed us bread from Heaven and water from the rock. We need a lawgiver, a God to command us how to love and serve him. And we need a friend, a God to stay with us day and night, forever” 9

Notes:

  1. Last week, Joey Cochran had a great idea on his blog. What if Christian bloggers spent more time on expository blogging through books of the Bible? I thought about it for a bit, and then decided to start with Exodus since our church is starting a new series on the book on Sunday. After Exodus, I plan on doing Hebrews.
  2. As Cole comments, “The initial ‘and’ found in the Hebrew makes clear that Exodus is not a new book, but simply the continuation of the Genesis story, and the fulfillment of the promises made to the patriarchs.” See R. Alan Cole, Exodus: An Introduction and Commentary. TOTC. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973, 59.
  3. See Eugene Carpenter, Exodus. Edited by H. Wayne House and William D. Barrick. Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012.
  4. According to Douglas Stuart, Exodus. Vol. 2. NAC. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006, 58.
  5. Douglas Stuart, Exodus,62
  6. W. Ross Blackburn, The God Who Makes Himself Known: The Missionary Heart of The Book of Exodus. New Studies in Biblical Theology. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012, 29
  7. This list is from Cole, Exodus: An Introduction and Commentary, 22-43
  8. Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus: Saved For God’s Glory. Preaching The Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005, 19
  9. Ryken, Exodus: Saved For God’s Glory, 24

Nate

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I’m an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let’s connect!

4 responses to Expository Blogging: Exodus 1:1-7

  1. Oh Snap! I love it. My Galatians 1.1-5 post runs tomorrow!

  2. love this idea. I have felt the Lord put something similar on my heart for my study/exegesis…so I’m glad to have some more fodder to chew on and flesh out.

    Great idea @joeycochran!

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