Genesis concluded with the family of Jacob all reunited in Egypt with Joseph being the second in command and most likely the most powerful man in Egypt. Jacob died and his body was carried back to the promised land for burial. Then Joseph died after blessing his sons and making the family promise to take his bones back to Israel as well. The children of Israel remained in Egypt for 400 years. Then the book of Exodus begins by reviewing the tribes of Israel. Exodus 1:1 says, “These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household…”

The name of this book of the Bible in the Hebrew Bible is “These are the names.” That’s the first phrase in the book. In the Hebrew Bible the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, are all named by their first word or phrase. The first word in Genesis is “In the Beginning.” That’s the name of the book in the Hebrew Bible. The same practice holds for Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. But when the book of Exodus was translated around 200 BC from Hebrew to Greek it was named “Exodus.” That’s the Greek word that means “going out.” It was chosen because it seemed to capture the main event of the book. Our English Bibles kept the Greek word “Exodus” as the title and simply transliterated the Greek word into English letters.

Exodus 1 acts as a bridge between the events of Genesis and the story of God’s redemption in history. It is a reminder that the story is continuing: the promises of salvation from Genesis are now worked out in the events which follow.[1] Phillip Ryken introduces the study of Exodus by saying, “Exodus is an epic tale of fire, sand, wind, and water. The adventure takes place under the hot desert sun, just beyond the shadow of the Great Pyramids. There are two mighty nations—Israel and Egypt—led by two great men—Moses the liberating hero and Pharaoh the enslaving villain. Almost every scene is a masterpiece: the baby in the basket; the burning bush; the river of blood and the other plagues; the angel of death; the crossing of the Red Sea; the manna in the wilderness; the water from the rock; the thunder and lightning on the mountain; the Ten Commandments; the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night; the golden calf; the glory in the tabernacle.”

He continues, “Once heard, the story is never forgotten. For Jews it is the story that defines their very existence, the rescue that made them God’s people. For Christians it is the gospel of the Old Testament, God’s first great act of redemption. We return to the exodus again and again, sensing that somehow it holds significance for the entire human race. It is the story that gives every captive the hope of freedom. Thus it was only natural for African-American slaves—many of whom were Christians—to understand their captivity as a bondage in Egypt and to long for the day when they would be “free at last.” The exodus shows that there is a God who saves, who delivers his people from bondage.”[2]

[1] Campbell, Iain D. 2006. Opening up Exodus. Opening Up Commentary. Leominster: Day One Publications.

[2] Ryken, Philip Graham, and R. Kent Hughes. 2005. Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.