Exodus 1-4

The initial scenes of the book of Exodus were predicted in Genesis 15. Just after God instituted the Abrahamic covenant, He promised Abraham that though his descendants would be oppressed in a foreign land for 400 years, He would deliver them and bring them back to the land promised to Abraham (Gen 15:13-15).

By the time of Exodus 1, the expansion of Abraham’s lineage in Egypt had become so great that the Hebrews caused Pharaoh trepidation (1:7-9; see Gen 46:27). Pharaoh attempted to enforce an infant massacre to thwart the threat from the growing population of Hebrew people. As the story progresses, special emphasis is given to one member of this people, a Levite named Moses. The text offers few details regarding the Egyptian environs Moses enjoyed in his youth. Despite being raised in Pharaoh’s house, Moses did not lose appreciation for his own people (2:11-12; see Heb 11:24-26). While the account of Moses as a murderer shows his frailty and sin, it does more. Moses had an acute sense of justice, a desire to deliver his oppressed kin—and that uniquely qualified him as God’s agent of deliverance.

The account of Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3) contributes to the developing storyline of redemption from Genesis to Exodus. The miracle of a burning bush serves as a frame for what God said to Moses there. God revealed that He is the God of Moses’ father, and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exod 3:6). Moses needed no introduction to the patriarchs (it is assumed that Moses knew of these men), and God identified Moses with the covenant family. In Exod 3:7-8, God reminded Moses that He had heard the cry of the Israelites, and now desired to fulfill the land-promise originally made to Abraham in Genesis 12 and restated again in Genesis 15.

The remainder of Exodus 3-4 sets out the character of Moses, the leader of the Hebrews, and their God. Exodus 3:11 records Moses’ peevish and fretful nature to approach Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of his land. God’s reply to Moses reveals that despite the trepidation of the leaders God establishes for His people, His purposes will stand. God revealed Himself to Moses as the eternal God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exod 3:14-15). He is the God who made promises of land and lineage to a specific people and, as one recognizes throughout Genesis, no threat is proficient to frustrate Him. To redeem His people, God would frustrate Pharaoh by employing all sorts of natural phenomena (Exod 4:1-17). In a spirit of humility, Moses gathered his family and left Midian for Egypt. The Lord told Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart and show His justice. Moses was to tell Pharaoh that since he did not let Israel (the Lord’s firstborn son) go and worship the Lord in the wilderness, the Lord was going to take the life of Pharaoh’s firstborn son (Exod 4:21-23).

The events recorded in Exodus 1-4 provide believers much encouragement in God’s power. When followed down the storyline of Scripture one notices that God’s call upon Moses sets the stage for the days of fulfillment in the coming of Messiah. Exodus 4:22-23 surfaces in Hos 11:1 and then again in Matt 2:13-15. These texts form cohesive ties for redemptive history, explaining the breaking of the old covenant and the establishment of the new.

(1) In Hos 11:1, the prophet referenced Exod 4:22-23 to indict Israel. Hosea noted that even though God had delivered His people, His firstborn son, in the exodus and made them a nation, they had rebelled against Him time and again. God’s pejorative discipline upon Israel was just, Hosea proclaimed, because Israel had broken the covenant.

(2) In Matt 2:13-15, Matthew said that Joseph’s flight to Egypt with Mary and baby Jesus fulfilled Hos 11:1. An angel told Joseph to flee to Egypt so that Jesus would be protected from Herod’s wrath and in so doing fulfill Hosea’s statement in Hos 11:1. For Matthew, Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt was no accident, nor was it a matter to be overlooked: Jesus, the fulfillment of the promise to Israel, had come. Hosea referenced Exod 4:22-23 to indict Israel for their unfaithful response to God’s blessing of deliverance from Egypt. Matthew referenced Hos 11:1 to recall Exod 4:22-23 to cast a vision of God’s power and grace in the exodus and in the person of Jesus. A new day had dawned.