What are the themes and theology in the Book of Exodus?

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The Book of Exodus follows a sustained narrative beginning first with the life of Moses, a Hebrew raised among Egyptian royalty, before showing how God used Moses to deliver the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage and lead them towards the country promised to Abraham, the ancient patriarch of the Hebrew people. At the end of the story, God delivers his Law to the Israelites.


  • Covenant and Promises – A covenant is a relationship between two parties that may be conditional or unconditional. This idea of a covenant between God and humanity has precedence in the Book of Genesis, where many times God establishes a sequence of covenants with characters like Adam, Noah, and Abraham. In Exodus, the covenant specifically between God and the Israelites comes into fruition with the coming of the Law, and is distinct from the covenants in Genesis in that it is conditional on the Hebrews keeping the Law. The Law and the Covenant form the basis for the Hebrew understanding of the rest of the events in the Hebrew Bible – God will bless his chosen people, and his chosen people will keep the Law. When Israel is blessed, it is because the people have been faithful to the Law, and when Israel is punished, it is because the people have been unfaithful to the Law. This dynamic is demonstrated in Exodus, as the entire act of God delivering the Hebrews from Egypt is representative of a fulfillment of his promises to the Israelites.
  • Redemption and Punishment – The Jewish holiday of Passover has its roots in the narrative of Exodus as a remembrance of how God spared the Israelites from the punishments of the plagues, specifically the last plague (the death of all firstborn sons). The plagues were sent to the Egyptians to punish them (and especially Pharaoh) for their enslavement of the Israelites. God also redeemed the Israelites physically from their bondage in Egypt, an act that is seen by Christians as foreshadowing for the redemption of all humanity through Jesus.


Theology is the formal study of the nature of God. In Exodus, God is shown to be both merciful and just, dealing out blessings and punishment. Although in the context of the written work the name “Yahweh” had been used frequently prior to Exodus, in the context of the narrative itself God first reveals his personal name as Yahweh in Exodus while speaking with Moses. In this conversation, God identifies himself as the same God who spoke to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and then tells Moses his true name. Though the etymology of the name Yahweh is uncertain, it has been traditionally associated with the Hebrew word for “to be”, signifying the Hebrew God’s character as “living” and “present.” Through this act of personal revelation and through the further development of the Covenant, God’s character as loving and merciful is show, and through his punishment of the Egyptians, his character as just is shown. 

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