Chapter By Chapter: Exodus

This study breaks down the book of Exodus using my Chapter By Chapter Bible study template. The short version: for each chapter, I write down a summary, the meaning in the larger context of the book, and a representative verse. Get the full rundown, or use it for your own study by filling out the form below.

Israel continues to multiply in Egypt. A new king, who had forgotten Joseph, arises and worries about Israel’s population. He enslaves them, instructs their midwives to kill infant boys, and eventually attempts genocide.

The first verses of Exodus make clear that it is a continuation of Genesis, not a new story. The Israelites’ faith in God strengthened them to reject Pharaoh’s order. Not the first genocide attempted against Israel.

8: Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.


Moses is born. His mother sets him in a basket on the river, where Pharaoh’s daughter finds and raises him. When he grows up, Moses kills an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite. He flees to Midian, marries Zipporah, and has a son.

All the people opposing Pharaoh are women: the Hebrew midwives, Moses’s mother and sister, and Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses’s miraculous upbringing foreshadows his miraculous deliverance of Egypt.

10: When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”


God appears to Moses in the burning bush and tells him to bring Israel out of Egypt. God names Himself. God promises to bring Israel out of Egypt with miracles and wonders.

God commits to Moses the promise He had made to Abraham to bring them back out of Egypt. Moses tries twice to get out of it, bu God promises to overcome his weakness.

10: “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”


God shows Moses His power by turning his staff into a serpent and back and turning his hand leprous and back. He responds to Moses’s final objection by giving him Aaron as a spokesperson. God says He will harden Pharaoh’s heart. Moses returns to Egypt.

God answers all of Moses’s objections with expressions of power. God didn’t call Moses, and doesn’t call you, because of who you are, but because of who God is. He hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that all might know His power.

12: “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”


Pharaoh rejects Moses’s request to go into the desert and worship. He makes the Hebrews gather their own straw for bricks, but doesn’t reduce the quota. The people blame Moses and Aaron. Moses complains to God.

The Israelites have to leave Egypt to worship because their sacrifices were abomination to Egyptians. Pharaoh calls Moses’s and Aaron’s demand to “let my people go” “vain words.” God will prove him wrong.

1: Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’”


God sends Moses to the Israelites to proclaim salvation and God’s covenant despite Pharaoh. They don’t listen. God reminds Moses he still needs to bring them out, even if they complain. The genealogy of Aaron and Moses. Moses complains yet again about his speech.

The patriarchs knew God, but not like Moses will show the people, as the redeemer of His people. Moses and Aaron are from the tribe of Levi, the tribe that later became the priesthood and temple workers.

1: But the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.”


God promises to harden Pharaoh’s heart to demonstrate His power. Aaron shows the rod-serpent miracle, and the Egyptian magicians copy it (but Aaron’s rod swallows theirs). God turns the Nile and all other water to blood, but the magicians copy it, so Pharaoh is not swayed.

The turning of the water in wood and stone vessels makes any natural explanation of the plague of blood impossible: this was a miracle. The Nile is the lifeblood of Egypt, now incapable of giving life.

20: Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood.


The plague of frogs (copied by the magicians), the plague of gnats (not copied), the plague of flies (only on Egyptians). Pharaoh agrees to let the Israelites go if Moses takes away the flies. God takes them away, and Pharaoh changes his mind.

All the frogs on land died, but all the frogs in the river lived, showing that the frogs’ appearance and death were not natural, but supernatural. Similarly, God clearly shows His power by sending flies on only Egyptians.

22: “But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth.”


The plague on livestock spares the Israelite livestock. The plague of boils spares the Israelites. The plague of hail and fire kills all the Egyptian grain, but not the Israelite grain. Pharaoh sees his sin, but stays the course.

The death of livestock and grain was devastating to Egypt, but God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to ensure that God’s total power would be known forever.

34: But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants.


The plague of locusts eats up everything the hail left behind. Pharaoh tries to send just the Israelite men away, but God sends the plague. The plague of darkness covers Egypt, but not Israel.

God does not claim men only, but every person who is his, and all their possessions and resources, too. He will leave not the least of these behind in Egypt or anywhere else.

9: Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.”


God tells the Israelites to request gifts from their Egyptian neighbors. Moses informs Pharaoh of the coming tenth plague, the killing of the firstborn. It will pass over the Israelites. He predicts that Pharaoh will force them out afterward.

The final plague shows most powerfully God’s power and his judgment: all Egyptian firstborns will be killed, and all Israelite firstborns will be spared. Not only is it tragic, but it will wreak havoc on Egyptian society.

7: “But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.””


God institutes the Hebrew calendar and the passover. It is a meal of roasted lamb or goat with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, eaten ready to travel. God kills all the Egyptian firstborns, and Israel leaves Egypt.

The passover becomes a symbol of God’s mercy and power, and its laws lead us to the greatest passover of all, the Last Supper, where the firstborn of all creation, Jesus, is Himself the sacrifice.

51: And on that very day the LORD brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.


God claims all the firstborn of Israel, man and beast. Moses gives instructions for the passover and the dedication of the firstborn. Moses brings the bones of Joseph. God leads the Israelites by pillars of fire and smoke.

Since God spared the firstborn of Israel in the tenth plague, He now claims them all as His own. Moses brings Joseph back up out of Egypt as a final fulfillment of God’s promise not to leave them there.

2: “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.”The Feast of Unleavened Bread


God turns the Israelites back to meet the pursuing Egyptians. Moses parts the sea, and God drowns the Egyptian chariots in it.

The Egyptians still haven’t gotten the message of God’s sovereignty and claim on the Israelites. They pursue, so God turns the Israelites back to show once again His power over all creation.

4: And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” And they did so.


The song of Moses recounts the destruction of the Egyptian army and the Israelites’ rescue through the sea. The song of Miriam echoes it. God turns the bitter water at Marah sweet.

In this chapter, we have access to a millennia-old worship song, connecting our worship every week to theirs before Israel became a nation. What are we singing today that will be around three or four thousand years from now?

21: And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”Bitter Water Made Sweet


God gives the Israelites manna to eat in the wilderness. He confirms the Sabbath day by not providing manna for them to gather on it. Aaron gathers some manna for the tabernacle. The people survive on manna until they get to Canaan.

Few stories elicit the truth of “God will provide” more strongly than this, where an entire nation wandered a wilderness for forty years, and God provided food six days a week, every week, for the entire duration.

30: So the people rested on the seventh day.


The Israelites complain about the lack of water, and Moses strikes the rock to produce water. Israel, under Joshua’s command, defeats the Amalekites; while Moses’s hands are held in the air, they are victorious.

God recently tested the Israelites with the manna; now they test him. They quarrel with Moses, and through him, God. God continues to provide them not only water but victory over their enemies, showing that He is sufficient for them.

3: But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”


Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, suggests to Moses a system of judges, so Moses does not spend all his time adjudicating disputes.

Unlike the Amalekites, the Midianites (represented by Jethro) acknowledge God’s power. Moses listens to wisdom rather than hoarding power. He sets up a new system of government, moving Israel that much closer to becoming a nation.

23: “If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”


Israel encamps at Sinai (they won’t leave again until the end of Exodus). God promises, in exchange for obedience, to make them “his treasured possession.” The people agree, and God comes down to Sinai to make the covenant with Moses.

This chapter begins the formation of the Mosaic covenant, and it bears the same symbols as Abraham’s: fire and smoke. God had promised Moses on his way into Egypt that Israel would worship on the same mountain on the way out.

5: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine”


God gives the Ten Commandments, the basic outline of the covenant between Him and Israel: love and honor God above all others, forsaking all other gods; honor the Sabbath; honor your father, mother, and neighbors. God sets out initial rules for altars.

The structure of the Ten Commandments is the same as other ancient covenants: identify the king, give the history of the relationship, and set out the stipulations of the covenant. The order of the commandments reflects God’s priorities for us.

2: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”


God gives laws about servants, who be treated well and released after six years. He distinguishes premeditated murder from manslaughter. He initiates the right of sanctuary.

God’s laws indicate His values of justice—punishments must fit the crime—and the sanctity and value of life—taking a life is punished harshly, and the death penalty is applied sparingly. He expects us to treat others the way He treats us.

1: “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them.”


God continues giving the laws of the covenant, including laws about property rights; respecting defenseless people like foreigners, widows, orphans, and the poor; and offerings to God.

God’s concern for the defenseless continues throughout all of Scripture, magnified by Jesus’s particular compassion. Property rights are enforced, but protections are given against abuse of the law to justify abuse of people.

22: “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.”


God continues giving the laws of the covenant, including justice in lawsuits, keeping the Sabbath of the week and of the land, and keeping the three appointed feasts. God promises to drive out the current inhabitants of Canaan and bless the Israelites there.

Verses 1–9 expound on the commandment not to bear false witness. The Feast of Harvest/Weeks becomes Pentecost, which gains new significance in Acts. God has prepared Canaan for the Israelites; Jesus has likewise prepared a place for us in His Father’s house.

20: “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.”


God calls Moses and the elders of Israel up to Sinai to worship. The people agree to the covenant Moses wrote down and read to them, and Moses consecrates the covenant with sacrifice. The elders eat a covenant meal in God’s presence. God calls Moses further up.

Moses does not consecrate the people until they know and agree to the words of the covenant. The covenant meal with Moses and the elders foreshadows the Last Supper, where blood is again made a symbol of the covenant. Moses and Jesus both fast for forty days.

3: Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”


God commands Moses to take an offering from the people and make the ark of the covenant and its cherubim, the table for the bread and its utensils, and the golden lampstand and its lamps and utensils. God shows him the pattern for all of these things.

Blue, purple, and scarlet, the yarn of the offering, are royal colors. Linen is the royal cloth of Egypt. The tabernacle is where God dwells with His people, so its materials must be fit for the king of kings. The ark is symbolic of God’s throne.

40: “And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.”


God details the plans and coverings of the tabernacle, the holy place, and the most holy place, including its materials (gold, silver, bronze, linen, ram skin, and goat skin), its dimensions, and its construction with wooden frames set in metal bases.

The tabernacle contains a representative throne room for God guarded by cherubim (probably a flying sphinx-like creature) and an antechamber separated by a veil. The interior has bread and light, like a human home.

30: “Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to the plan for it that you were shown on the mountain.”


God details the plans of the altar of burnt offerings and the courtyard around the tabernacle. He commands Moses to keep the lamp burning every night.

The horns of the altar symbolize both power for atonement and, later, refuge. The utensils for the inner altar, closer to the throne room, were gold; the utensils for this outer altar are bronze.

1: “You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits broad. The altar shall be square, and its height shall be three cubits.”


The design of the garments for the high priest, made from fine linen in royal colors. Also two onyx stones with the names of the tribes and twelve precious gems to symbolize the tribes and bells on the hem of the robe.

The priest’s garments symbolize his dual nature: the same royal colors and gold of the tabernacle represent God; the names of the tribes represent the people of God; and pomegranates represent the garden of Eden, the place of God.

2: “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.”


The consecration ritual for priests involves sacrificing a bull as a sin offering, a ram as a burnt offering, and flour. The priests are marked with the blood of the sacrifice. Consecrating the priests and the altar will take seven days of sacrifices.

The consecration ritual begins the daily morning and evening sacrifices that Israel will continue forever. The sacrifices atone for the sins of the priests in particular and sanctify the tabernacle for God to meet with His people.

44: “I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests.”


The design of the incense altar, covered in gold. The collection of offerings for the tabernacle. The design of a basin to wash in. The recipe for the anointing oil (which includes myrrh) and the spiced perfume (which includes frankincense).

The incense symbolizes the prayers of the people and the priests. The mixtures for the oil and perfume are unique to the priests and the tabernacle.

1: “You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood.”


God appoints Bezalel and Oholiab as master craftsmen to oversee the construction of the tabernacle, the instruments, and the courtyard. God repeats the commandment to keep the sabbath as a sign of the covenant.

God has provided strict requirements for the tabernacle, but He has also satisfied those requirements. The sabbath is a very visible covenant sign that distinguishes Israel from its neighbors not occasionally but every week.

17: “It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”


Aaron makes a golden calf for Israel to worship and offers burnt offerings to it. God tells Moses He will kill them for it, but Moses convinces Him otherwise. Moses and Joshua go down the mountain, break the tablets, destroy the calf, and kill 3,000 of the worshipers.

We were made to worship, but there is only One who is worthy. When we worship anything else God’s wrath is justice. The Levites’ service in killing the blasphemers earned them the position of caretakers of the tabernacle and aides to the priests.

35: Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.


God sends the Israelites to Canaan and promises to drive out its inhabitants before them, but He will not Himself go with them. Moses asks for His presence not to depart, however briefly. Moses prays to see God’s glory, and God agrees to let Moses see a small part.

God goes with us despite our failings. Moses was an effective mediator between God and man—how much more effective must Jesus be! Moses asks to see God’s glory, and he will in the next chapter, but his prayer foreshadows the night with him and Elijah and Jesus.

15: And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.”


Moses makes two more tablets and takes them up the mountain. God passes before him to show him His glory. Moses prayes for forgiveness, and God renews His covenant, repeating His commands. Moses returns down the mountain with his face shining.

God proclaims His own nature when He passes by Moses: “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” Moses’s forty-day fast again foreshadows Jesus’s fasting in the wilderness. His face reflects God’s radiance.

27: And the LORD said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”


Moses reminds the people of the Sabbath laws. He takes up the offering for the materials to make the priests’ clothes and construct the tabernacle and courtyard. The people give an offering both of materials and of time and skill.

The people are reminded of the Sabbath laws every time Moses talks about the tabernacle; Sabbath rest and worship are intimately connected. The work of the tabernacle is directed by God but taken up by the entire nation of Israel.

29: All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the LORD had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD.


The people bring more than enough for the tabernacle, so Moses stops collecting. The craftsmen make the curtains and frames for the tabernacle and the veil as God specified to Moses.

In response to God’s commission and inspired by God’s Spirit, the people bring more than enough for the work, and those God has gifted offer their time and talents to bring it to completion. So all faithful answer God’s call to do His work for His glory.

2: And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work.


The craftsmen complete the furniture for the tabernacle: the ark, the mercy seat, the altar, the lampstand, and all the utensils. They also make the oil and the incense as directed.

God provided an extraordinary combination of materials (including spices and incense) and craftsmen (including carpenters, metalworkers, engravers, weavers, embroiderers, tanners, leatherworkers, and perfumers) to complete the work of the tabernacle.

1: Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half was its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height.


The craftsmen make the larger altar and its utensils, the bronze basin, and the courtyard of the tabernacle. An accounting of the weights used: almost 30 talents of gold, more than 100 talents of silver, and 70 talents of bronze.

The silver offering was exactly half a shekel per person, showing that every member of the fledgling nation contributed to the glory of the tabernacle. The incredible weights—tons of each metal—demonstrate God’s preparation even as they fled Egypt.

25: The silver from those of the congregation who were recorded was a hundred talents and 1,775 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary


The making of the garments for Aaron and the priests, including thread made of hammered gold. The completion and final inventory of the elements of the tabernacle. Moses blesses the craftsmen for their work.

When Moses inspects and blesses the tabernacle after it’s completed, we are reminded of God’s inspection and blessing of Creation after He completes it. In both cases, God has built a space where He intends to dwell with His people.

43: And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them.


Moses erects the tabernacle, screens off the ark of the testimony with the veil, sets up the holy place, burns incense, offers sacrifices, and presents and anoints the priests. God’s glory fills the completed tabernacle so completely even Moses cannot enter.

For the first time since Genesis 3, God once again dwells with His people, this time in a house whose construction He directed. The epilogue shows that the people literally followed God during their wanderings, and He made His presence known day and night.

38: For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.