III. Purpose

III. Purpose

The popular title of the book: Exodus, is that assigned to it in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of late pre-Christian times. In Greek the word means “the way out.” At first glance, the reader may think this refers to the way out of Egyptian bondage. But if that were the case, the book should end at ch. 15 with the great song of praise after the crossing of the Red Sea. The fact that the book does not end there but continues with the giving of the law and the building of the tabernacle provides a clue that the author does not consider the physical bondage in Egypt to be the Israelites' most critical problem. Even in the story of the Israelites' deliverance, the recurring phrase “You [or they] shall know that I am the Lord” suggests that the primary problem was theological. To be sure, the Hebrews did need deliverance from bondage; their cries of distress had been heard by a compassionate God. But more than that, they needed to know God. Had their sole need been for deliverance, one climactic act would have sufficed. Instead, there were ten plagues, which in fact constituted a demonstration of God's absolute superiority over all other powers. Thus physical deliverance is not an end but a means to an end. Nor was that end merely theological understanding; it was the experiencing of God as vitally present among them. As Exodus shows us, it was necessary that the people experience his delivering power (chs. 1-18), enter into a binding covenant with him (chs. 19-24), and give themselves in glad service to him (chs. 25-40), in order to experience his presence (40:35-38).