The story began in episode one with the creation of the earth, and God’s first dealings with humankind. We met Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and followed Isaac’s sons to Egypt. This episode picks up in the book of Exodus.
In time, Joseph and each of his brothers died, ending that generation. But their descendants had many children and grandchildren. In fact, they multiplied so quickly that they soon filled the land.
Then a new king came to the throne of Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He told his people, “These Israelites are becoming a threat to us because there are so many of them. We must find a way to put an end to this. If we don’t and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.”
So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves and put brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down under heavy burdens. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more quickly the Israelites multiplied! The Egyptians soon became alarmed and decided to make their slavery more bitter still.
Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Throw all the newborn Israelite boys into the Nile River. But you may spare the baby girls.”
During this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw what a beautiful baby he was and kept him hidden for three months.
But when she could no longer hide him, she got a little basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the edge of the Nile River. The baby’s sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him.
Soon after this, one of Pharaoh’s daughters came down to bathe in the river, and her servant girls walked along the riverbank. When the princess saw the little basket among the reeds, she told one of her servant girls to get it for her. As the princess opened it, she found the baby boy. His helpless cries touched her heart. “He must be one of the Hebrew children,” she said.
Then the baby’s sister approached the princess. “Should I go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” she asked.
“Yes, do!” the princess replied. So the girl rushed home and called the baby’s mother.
“Take this child home and nurse him for me,” the princess told her. “I will pay you for your help.” So the baby’s mother took her baby home and nursed him.
Later, when he was older, the child’s mother brought him back to the princess, who adopted him as her son. The princess named him Moses, for she said, “I drew him out of the water.”
Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his people, the Israelites, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of the Hebrew slaves. After looking around to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.
The next day, as Moses was out visiting his people again, he saw two Hebrew men fighting. “What are you doing, hitting your neighbour like that?” Moses said to the one in the wrong.
“Who do you think you are?” the man replied. “Who appointed you to be our prince and judge? Do you plan to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?”
Moses was badly frightened because he realized that everyone knew what he had done. And sure enough, when Pharaoh heard about it, he gave orders to have Moses arrested and killed. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and escaped to the land of Midian.
Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites still groaned beneath their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their pleas for deliverance rose up to God. God heard their cries and remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the Israelites and felt deep concern for their welfare.
Exodus 2:11-15, 23-25
Moses left Egypt and settled in the land of Midian. He married, raised a family and became a shepherd.
One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he went deep into the wilderness near Sinai, the mountain of God. Suddenly, the angel of the LORD appeared to him as a blazing fire in a bush. Moses was amazed because the bush was engulfed in flames, but it didn’t burn up. “Amazing!” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go over to see this.”
When the LORD saw that he had caught Moses’ attention, God called to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
“Here I am!” Moses replied.
“Do not come any closer,” God told him. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he hid his face in his hands because he was afraid to look at God.
Then the LORD told him, “You can be sure I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries for deliverance from their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come to rescue them from the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own good and spacious land …Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You will lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they won’t believe me. They will ask, ‘Which god are you talking about? What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”
God replied, “I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS. Just tell them, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said, “Tell them, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
“I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go except under heavy pressure. So I will reach out and strike at the heart of Egypt with all kinds of miracles. Then at last he will let you go. And I will see to it that the Egyptians treat you well. They will load you down with gifts so you will not leave empty-handed … In this way, you will plunder the Egyptians!”
Moses was afraid to speak to the people, so God appointed his brother-in-law Aaron to help him. He also gave Moses power to do miraculous signs to convince the people.
The stage is set for a showdown – the revered Gods of the Egyptians against the God of the slaves, the all-powerful Pharaoh and a long-lost prince turned shepherd blown in from the desert.
And we are here: frightened and inadequate ambassadors with an impossible task – called to confront the powers, to declare God’s name to a world that has forgotten it.
So Moses and Aaron returned to Egypt and called the leaders of Israel to a meeting. Aaron told them everything the LORD had told Moses, and Moses performed the miraculous signs as they watched. The leaders were soon convinced that the LORD had sent Moses and Aaron. And when they realized that the LORD had seen their misery and was deeply concerned for them, they all bowed their heads and worshipped.
Exodus 4:19, 29-31
After this presentation to Israel’s leaders, Moses and Aaron went to see Pharaoh. They told him, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `Let my people go, for they must go out into the wilderness to hold a religious festival in my honor.’ ”
“Is that so?” retorted Pharaoh. “And who is the LORD that I should listen to him and let Israel go? I don’t know the LORD, and I will not let Israel go.”
But Aaron and Moses persisted. “The God of the Hebrews has met with us,” they declared. “Let us take a three-day trip into the wilderness so we can offer sacrifices to the LORD our God. If we don’t, we will surely die by disease or the sword.”
“Who do you think you are,” Pharaoh shouted, “distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work!”
Pharaoh was angry at Moses’ request, and he ordered the Israelites to work even more than before. The Israelites cursed Moses and Aaron for making things harder for them.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh once again and tell him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. If you refuse, then listen carefully to this: I will send vast hordes of frogs across your entire land from one border to the other. The Nile River will swarm with them. They will come up out of the river and into your houses, even into your bedrooms and onto your beds! Every home in Egypt will be filled with them. They will fill even your ovens and your kneading bowls. You and your people will be overwhelmed by frogs!'”
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron to point his shepherd’s staff toward all the rivers, canals, and marshes of Egypt so there will be frogs in every corner of the land.” Aaron did so, and frogs covered the whole land of Egypt!
Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and begged, “Plead with the LORD to take the frogs away from me and my people. I will let the people go, so they can offer sacrifices to the LORD.”
So Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, and Moses pleaded with the LORD about the frogs he had sent. And the LORD did as Moses had promised. The frogs in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields all died. They were piled into great heaps, and a terrible stench filled the land. But when Pharaoh saw that the frogs were gone, he hardened his heart. He refused to listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had predicted.
After the frogs God sent swarms of gnats over all of Egypt, and then flies. Then a disease killed many of the cows and sheep. Still Pharaoh would not let the people go, so God sent an outbreak of boils, then a terrible hailstorm, swarms of locusts, and finally caused it to be dark for three days. Only the Israelites were spared. Each time Moses warned Pharaoh of the terrible thing that would happen, but still he did not change his mind.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will send just one more disaster on Pharaoh and the land of Egypt. After that, Pharaoh will let you go. In fact, he will be so anxious to get rid of you that he will practically force you to leave the country.
So Moses announced to Pharaoh, “This is what the LORD says: About midnight I will pass through Egypt. All the firstborn sons will die in every family in Egypt, from the oldest son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the oldest son of his lowliest slave. Even the firstborn of the animals will die. Then a loud wail will be heard throughout the land of Egypt; there has never been such wailing before, and there never will be again. But among the Israelites it will be so peaceful that not even a dog will bark.
Then God told the Israelites that each family should choose a lamb to sacrifice. The lamb had to be perfect – without blemish or defect.
The Lord said to them: “Take special care of these lambs until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then each family in the community must slaughter its lamb. They are to take some of the lamb’s blood and smear it on the top and sides of the doorframe of the house where the lamb will be eaten. That evening everyone must eat roast lamb with bitter herbs and bread made without yeast.
“Wear your traveling clothes as you eat this meal, as though prepared for a long journey. Wear your sandals, and carry your walking sticks in your hands. Eat the food quickly, for this is the LORD’s Passover. On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and kill all the firstborn sons and firstborn male animals in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the LORD! The blood you have smeared on your doorposts will serve as a sign. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.
”You must remember this day for ever. Each year you will celebrate it as a special festival to the LORD.”
So the people of Israel did just as the LORD had commanded through Moses and Aaron. And at midnight the LORD killed all the firstborn sons in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn son of the captive in the dungeon. Even the firstborn of their livestock were killed.
Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron during the night. “Leave us!” he cried. “Go away, all of you! Go and serve the LORD as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, and be gone. Go, but give me a blessing as you leave.”
So the people of Israel followed all the LORD’s instructions to Moses and Aaron. And that very day the LORD began to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, division by division.
Exodus 12:28-29, 31-32, 50-51
God led them along a route through the wilderness toward the Red Sea, and the Israelites left Egypt like a marching army.
The LORD guided them by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. That way they could travel whether it was day or night. And the LORD did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from their sight.
Exodus 13:18, 21-22
When word reached the king of Egypt that the Israelites were not planning to return to Egypt after three days, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds. “What have we done, letting all these slaves get away?” they asked. So Pharaoh called out his troops and led the chase in his chariot … All the forces in Pharaoh’s army – all his horses, chariots, and charioteers – were used in the chase. The Egyptians caught up with the people of Israel as they were camped beside the shore (of the Red Sea)
As Pharaoh and his army approached, the people of Israel could see them in the distance, marching toward them. The people began to panic, and they cried out to the LORD for help.
But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand where you are and watch the LORD rescue you. The Egyptians that you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you.”
Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the LORD opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. So the people of Israel walked through the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side! Then the Egyptians – all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and charioteers – followed them across the bottom of the sea. But early in the morning, the LORD looked down on the Egyptian army from the pillar of fire and cloud, and he threw them into confusion. Their chariot wheels began to come off, making their chariots impossible to drive. “Let’s get out of here!” the Egyptians shouted. “The LORD is fighting for Israel against us!”
When all the Israelites were on the other side, the LORD said to Moses, “Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back over the Egyptian chariots and charioteers.” So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea. The water roared back into its usual place, and the LORD swept the terrified Egyptians into the surging currents. The waters covered all the chariots and charioteers – the entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived.
When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the LORD had displayed against the Egyptians, they feared the LORD and put their faith in him and his servant Moses.
Exodus 14:21-28, 31
Unless marked, all Bible text taken from New Living Translation,©2007