Old Testament Lesson 13 (Exodus 1–3; 5–6; 11–14)

INTRODUCTION

Israel in Egypt

Israel became a great nation (Genesis 50:22–26). While the children of Israel stayed and were protected in Egypt for a time, a small family of 70 grew into a mighty nation.

● “The children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly” (Exodus 1:1–7).

Israel was drawn into bondage (Exodus 1:8–14) as eventually Egypt became ruled by “a Pharaoh who knew not Joseph” (v. 8).
— The Hyksos kings who knew Joseph were Semitic—from north and east of Egypt.
— The Pharaohs before and after them hated them.
— The long-standing dispute over the priesthood remained.
— They expunged all mention of the Hyksos kings from their history and monuments.
— After the departure of the Israelites, they erased all mention of their history as well.

● Abraham had foreseen these circumstances (Genesis 15:12–16).

THE RISE OF MOSES

The Greatness of Moses

● So great was Moses that forever after the Lord and His people have used him as a standard, or model, of a prophet. Even Jesus Christ was called a prophet like unto Moses (Acts 3:22; 7:37; Deut.18:15,18–19; 1 Nephi 22:20–21; 3 Nephi 20:23–24).

● Moses was a similitude or living symbol of Jesus Christ (Moses 1:6).

● The key to Moses’ character is his meekness, the capacity to be molded by the Lord and His Spirit. “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).

● Moses was also strong and steadfast in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Nephi said: “let us be strong like unto Moses” (1 Nephi 4:2).

● Mark E. Petersen said, “Moses was one of the mightiest men of God in all time . . . He walked and talked with God, received of divine glory while yet in mortality, was called a son of God, and was in the similitude of the Only Begotten. He saw the mysteries of the heavens and much of creation, and received laws from God beyond any other ancient man of whom we have record.”1

Moses’ Rise to Power

● Joseph prophesied concerning the coming of Moses (2 Nephi 3:9–10, 17; JST Genesis 50).

● The Pharaoh ordered all newborn sons of Israel killed (Exodus 1:15–22). Both Josephus and Jonathan ben Uzziel, ancient Jewish writers, recorded that the pharaoh had a dream wherein he was shown that a man soon to be born would deliver Israel from bondage, and this dream motivated the royal decree to drown the male children.2

● The oppressive measures of the pharaoh were not able to thwart the purposes of God. Through the courageous faith of the midwives and their refusal to carry out the pharaoh’s orders to execute the male children, Israel continued to prosper.

● Moses was born, placed in a basket, and saved by Pharaoh’s daughter (Exodus 2:1–6).
— This was only 64 years after Joseph’s death.
— Moses was a descendant of Levi through both his father, Amram and his mother, Jochebed (vv. 1–2).

● Moses’ mother likely taught him the principles and righteous traditions of the Hebrews as she nursed and cared for him (Exodus 2:7–9).

Moses became a mighty prince of Egypt (Exodus 2:10).
— He was raised as a prince of Egypt in Pharaoh’s household (v. 10).
— Stephen said: “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds (Acts 7:22).”
— Josephus said that Moses was a very handsome and educated prince and a mighty warrior in the cause of the Egyptians, saving Egypt from invasion by the Ethiopians.
— As part of this victory, he married an Ethiopian woman—the daughter of the king of the Ethiopians—to solidify the truce between these two nations. (Numbers 12:1).

Moses Slays an Egyptian

● The story of killing the Egyptian (Exodus 2:11–14).

— Stephen said Moses understood who he was and his responsibility the help Israel (Acts 7:23, 25).

— Paul agreed. “Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; . . . esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (Hebrews 11:24–26).

— Elder Mark E. Peterson said:

“’Smote’ and ‘slew’ in King James English are both translated from Hebrew nakhah, meaning ‘to beat down’; it is the word used in describing the action taken by soldiers in combat against each other. It would be correct to say that Moses slew a man who was slaying another, or took a life in saving a life. His looking ‘this way and that’ before doing so, simply indicates that he was aware that the Egyptians would not condone his defense of a slave.”3

“However, the historian Eusebius says that the slaying was the result of a court intrigue in which certain men plotted to assassinate Moses. In the encounter it is said that Moses successfully warded off the attacker and killed him.”4

“In the Midrash Rabbah, the traditional Jewish Commentary on the Old Testament, it is asserted that Moses, with his bare fists, killed an Egyptian taskmaster who was in the act of seducing a Hebrew woman. This is confirmed in the Koran.

“Certainly there [was a] good reason for Moses’ act, and most assuredly the Lord would not have called a murderer to the high office of prophet and liberator for his people Israel.”5

The Midianites

Moses fled to Midian (Exodus 2:15–23). The Midianites lived in Midian, an area on the east coast of the gulf of Aqabah, directly south of Edom. The Midianites were caravaners and traders, who were later associated or grouped with the Ishmaelites. Joseph of Egypt was bought by one of these groups, taken to Egypt and sold into slavery.

Jethro. The more common name for Reuel is Jethro (v. 18; Ex.3:1; Num.10:29). Jethro was a descendant of Midian, who was a son of Abraham and Keturah who was Abraham’s last wife. (Gen. 25:1–6). Jethro was not an Israelite, but was righteous and had the priesthood. Jethro gave Moses the priesthood (D&C 84:6). And Moses learned the gospel from Jethro and his people.

● Moses married Zipporah, daughter of Jethro, and they had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer (v. 21).

● The “process of time” described here was another forty years (v. 23; Acts 7:30).
— Moses was 40 years old when he arrived in Midian.
— Moses was 80 years old when he returned to Egypt.

MOSES IS CALLED BY JEHOVAH

The Burning Bush

● Moses was attracted to a burning bush and received his call (Exodus 3:1–10).
— Mt. Horeb is Mt. Sinai—Moses named it Sinai, which means “bush” (v. 1).
— The Hebrew word “malkh” is usually translated “angel” or “messenger” (v. 2).
— Tells us that it was “the presence of the Lord” (JST Ex. 3:2).

— “A manifestation was given to Moses by a messenger of light, causing a bush to appear to burn; it was really not afire and was not consumed . . . [The] flame in a bush . . . herald[ed] a message from God . . . After Moses’ attention was drawn to the bush, the voice of the Lord Himself spoke to Moses; Moses responded in awe and reverence.”6

— Moses was astonished at hearing the voice of the Lord, and was “afraid to look upon God” (v. 6).

The Great “I Am”

● “I AM” is Jehovah—the literal of meaning of Jehovah is “he who exists” or “he who causes to exist” (Exodus 3:11–18).
— It was Jehovah appeared unto Abraham (Abraham 1:16).
— Christ referred to himself “I Am” (John 8:58).
— Our Redeemer is the “I Am” (D&C 29:1).

● The Bible says Jehovah’s name was not known before Moses (Exodus 6:3). This is an obvious error. The name “Lord” [YWHY – Jehovah] first appears early in Genesis (Gen. 4:26), and the “Lord” [YWHY”] appeared several times to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Prophet Joseph Smith rendered this passage (Exodus 6:3) as follows: “And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob. I am the Lord God Almighty; the Lord JEHOVAH. And was not my name known unto them?” (JST Ex. 6:3).

LET MY PEOPLE GO

Reactions to Moses’ Message and the Plagues

● Aaron and Moses told the people of Moses call and mission (Exodus 4:27–31). Although their initial reaction when they saw the signs was very positive, at the first indication of challenge and adversity their commitment began to waver (Exodus 5:20–23). The children of Israel in Egypt had become rebellious and persisted in worshiping the idols of Egypt (Ezekiel 20:5–9).

● As Moses declared each of the first nine plagues upon Egypt, Pharaoh hardened his heart and increased Israel’s burdens (Exodus 5:1–14). The children of Israel complained to Moses (Exodus 5:15–21). Moses, in turn, complained to the Lord about the results (Exodus 5:22–23).

● The Lord reaffirmed Moses’ call and his promises to the children of Israel (Exodus 6:1–9; JST Exodus 6:3, 8, 12), but the children of Israel were now too afraid to believe Moses and Aaron (Exodus 6:9).

● The genealogy of the tribe of Levi and of Moses and Aaron is recited in these verses (Exodus 6:14–27; JST Exodus 6:26–29).

The Great Final Plague: Death of the Firstborn

● The firstborn of all Egypt died in the night as this curse came upon every Egyptian home (Exodus 11:1, 4–6; 12:29–31). Some of the Israelites—those who did not heed Moses’ instructions—also died (Exodus 12:1–28).

● This was the final stroke that broke the will of Pharaoh to resist Jehovah. The Pharaoh and the Egyptians were now anxious for Israel to leave them (Exodus 12:32–33).

● The Israelites “borrowed” [plundered with permission] everything they wanted or needed—including much of the wealth (gold, silver, jewels, etc) (Exodus 12:34–36). of Egypt. The Israelites seem to have taken great wealth with them. Probably some of these spoils were later used in the construction of the golden calf (Ex.32:1–4) and in the building of the tabernacle (Ex.35:22–24). The wealth of the Egyptians also fulfilled the promise given to Abraham that the children of Israel would “come out with great substance” (Genesis 15:14).

THE FIRST PASSOVER

The deliverance of the house of Israel from bondage is not only one of history’s most dramatic events, but it is also full of symbolic significance for the Saints of all times.

The “Passover” became the marking of their new calendar and the current month— Nisan—became the first month of their new year (Exodus 12:1–2). The month Nisan begins on March 21st, the spring equinox.

The lamb is a representation of Christ himself (Exodus 12:3–6; Revelation 5:6), and his slaying represents the “infinite and eternal” sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Alma 34:10–11).

— The lamb was to be a male without blemish, as was Christ (1 Peter 1:19) (v. 5). The Savior is the firstborn Son of God, the Lamb of God without spot or blemish. Note that a goat could also be used.

— They were to kill the lamb and eat it on the 14th day of Nisan—April 4th on our calendar—at evening (v. 6).

The doorposts in Israelite culture represent the daily acts of their lives (Exodus 12:7).

The blood of the lamb marking the door signified who should be spared (“atone” means to “‘cover”). It is the blood of the spotless Lamb (Christ) that can spare them (and us) from both physical and spiritual death (D&C 45:4–5).

Roasting the meat with fire symbolized the purifying work of the Holy Ghost and the baptism of fire (Exodus 12:8; 2 Nephi 31:13–17).

The unleavened bread symbolized the coming Lord as the bread of life without any impurity. Leaven, or yeast, was seen anciently as a symbol of corruption because it so easily spoiled and turned moldy. . . . The removal of leaven also suggested repentance, or the removal of sin from our lives (John 6:35).

The bitter herbs represented the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt, and also the suffering and bitterness of soul resulting from willful rebellion against God.

● The lamb was to remain whole and entirely consumed and/or burned with fire (Exodus 12:9–10).

No bone of the Lamb was to be broken (Exodus 12:46). This is one of the fascinatingly precise details of the Lord’s crucifixion. No bone was broken, though this was a normal procedure for crucified persons (John 19:31–36).

Loins girded, shoes on, and staffs in hand symbolize the need to be ready to do the Lord’s will immediately, including their pending journey out of Egypt (Exodus 12:11). They were also to eat this meal “in haste” (in a hurry).

The angel of death passing over represented the saving work of the Atonement providing deliverance from spiritual death through the blood of the Lamb (Exodus 12:12–13).

● The Passover was to be a perpetual celebration forever (Exodus 12:14, 21–28), but at the Last Supper, the Savior instituted the sacrament in place of the Passover (Matt.26:19, 26–28).

● Only Israelites (members of the Church) were to partake of the Passover (Exodus 12:43–47).

THE EXODUS

Date and Size of the Exodus

● Passover Date:   14th of Nisan – 14 days after March 21st.
April 4th on our calendar – Day Christ was crucified.

● Exodus Date:      16th of Nisan – 16 days after March 21st.
April 6th on our calendar – Day Christ was resurrected.

● About 600,000 men—which means only the males 20 years and older—left Egypt in a mass migration of the children of Isarel (Exodus 12:37–38). If this number is accurate, then the total company could easily have been over 2 million people. Some Bible scholars believe that the number was exaggerated by a power of 10, making the number 60,000 men, or 200,000 individuals. Either way, it was a lot of people to be moving together through the wilderness.

● The “mixed multitude” refers to people of other nationalities who attached themselves to the Israelites and accompanied them in the Exodus (v. 38).

Led by Fire and a Cloud

● Israel departed from Egypt (Exodus 12:51).

● The Lord asked for the firstborn of all Israelite families to be devoted to His work (Exodus 13:1–2, 11–16). President John Taylor said, “The Lord . . . , having saved the lives of all the first-born of Israel, made a claim upon them for their services in His cause. . . . It was through the propitiation and atonement alone that the Israelites were saved . . . Hence the Lord claimed those that He saved as righteously belonging to Him . . . But afterwards, as shown in [Numbers 3:12–13]; He accepted the tribe of Levi in lieu of the first-born of Israel; and as there were more of the first-born than there were of the Levites, the balance had to be redeemed with money, which was given to Aaron . . . [Numbers 3:50–51.l”7

● The Lord gave a commandment to bind the sign on the hand and between the eyes (Exodus 13:9–10). This is what led to the use of phylacteries by devout Jews.

● The route of the Exodus (Exodus 13:17–20). They would have had a short journey had they been ready to follow the coastal route through Philistine lands to Canaan. But their faith was not yet sufficient, and the Lord led them in a different direction toward the Mount of God.

● God led Israel with fire and a cloud (Exodus 13:21–22).

Parting the Red Sea

● After Pharaoh let the children of Israel leave Egypt, he turned against them and sent his army after them (Exodus 14:5–9).

● The children of Israel reacted with fear and accusations against Moses (Exodus 14:10–12). This was the first of over 20 times when they murmured against Moses while in the wilderness.

● Moses declared, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13–14), because the Lord told Moses that he would part the sea before them (Exodus 14:15–18).

● The pillar of fire and the cloud went behind them to protect them from the advancing Egyptians (Exodus 14:19–20).

● Moses parted the Red Sea before them, to everyone’s astonishment (Exodus 14:21–31).

Notes:

1.  Moses, 49.
2.  Antiquities of the Jews, bk. 2, chap. 9, par. 2; Clarke, Clarke, Bible Commentary, 6 vols. [n.d.], 1:294).
3.  Rasmussen, Introduction to the Old Testament, 2 vols. [1972], 1:74.
4.  Eusebius IX:27.
5.  Moses, 42.
6.  Introduction to the Old Testament, 1:74.
7.  Mediation and Atonement, 108.

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