Exodus: Israel becomes a nation

The *Israelites leave Egypt

An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Exodus chapters 1 to 18


Hilda Bright and Kitty Pride

This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.


About the Book of Exodus

Exodus is one of the first 5 books of the *Old Testament. We speak about these 5 books together as ‘the Pentateuch’. The *Greek translation gave this book its name ‘Exodus’. It means ‘to go out’. God helped the *Israelites ‘to go out’ from *Egypt. The book is in two parts:

Chapters 1-18: the first part of Moses’ life; the *Israelites’ troubles in Egypt; the events and the *plagues that led the *Israelites to leave Egypt.

Chapters 19-40: how God gave the Law to Moses; how they built the special holy tent (*Tabernacle); the rules for *worship.

Moses was the most important person in all these events. He was the main person who recorded the events. Exodus 24:4 has these words. ‘Then Moses wrote down everything that the *LORD had said.’ Later, when Joshua built an *altar, he followed Moses’ instructions for it (Joshua 8:31).

Moses’ name appears 804 times in the Bible. It appears in the books of both the *Old Testament and the *New Testament. Numbers 12:3 describes Moses as ‘a very humble man. He was more humble than anyone else on the earth’. But Moses was a great leader. He had great courage and he had a very close relationship with God. Without Moses, the *Israelites might not have escaped from the country called Egypt. They might not have reached the country that God had promised to them.

God had prepared Moses. And he chose Moses to act on his behalf (Exodus 3:8-10). God does not change, and he carries out his promises. Many years before that time, God had spoken to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He had told them that the number of people in their families would increase. And they would become great nations in the future. God had told them that he would give to them the country called *Canaan (Genesis 17:3-8). God rescued his people from Egypt, because he controls history. *Pharaoh, Egypt’s ruler, was powerful, but he could not stop God’s plans. God carried out his promise to guide the *Israelites in the *desert. The *desert was a wild place where there are small bushes and not much water. It has poor soil and people cannot grow crops there. Then God brought them to the country called *Canaan.

This book, Exodus, emphasises that God is holy. He looks after his people but he is separate from them. The *Israelites had to stay away from *Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:12). Not even Moses could see God himself (Exodus 33:18-20). They used many objects when they *worshipped God. And each of those objects was special and holy. Each thing reminded the *Israelites that nobody should approach God in a careless way. God expected his people to be holy. ‘Be holy, because I, the *LORD your God, am holy’ (Leviticus 19:2). God’s 10 *commandments and the other rules are in Exodus chapters 20-23. They show what God demands from his people. He wants moral behaviour all the time in people’s ordinary lives.

God is the *LORD (in *Hebrew his name is ‘Yahweh’). His name means: ‘the Person who lives for all time’. And he called himself ‘I AM’ (Exodus 3:14). Nobody can understand his nature completely. But he shows himself to us by means of his acts and his *commandments. He loves and he forgives. Also he acts to punish *sin (Exodus 34:5-7). People gained a more complete knowledge about God when Jesus came to earth. Jesus showed us what God is like (John 1:14 and 14:9).

Chapter 1

This chapter describes how the *Israelites became slaves. They were living in the country called Egypt. Egypt’s king was called the *Pharaoh. He wanted to control the *Israelites because they had become so many people. He wanted to kill some of them because he was afraid. He thought that they might start to fight against him.

The *Israelites – verses 1-7

v1 These are the names of Israel’s sons who entered Egypt with him. (Israel’s other name was Jacob.) Each son had his family with him. v2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; v3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; v4 Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. v5 The total number of Jacob’s children and grandchildren was 70. His other son, Joseph, was already in Egypt.

v6 As time passed, Joseph and his brothers all died. And their children died after them. v7 But their families continued to increase greatly in numbers as the years passed. People called them *Israelites and they filled the country.

Verses 1-4 The *Hebrew word ‘and’ begins verse 1. This word and the list of names show that this book continues the record in Genesis. God had given the name ‘Israel’ to Jacob (Genesis 32:28). So ‘Israel’s sons’ refers to Jacob’s own family. Egypt’s ruler had invited Jacob and his family to live in Egypt. He gave land to them in the region called Goshen. And they had plenty of room for their sheep and other animals there (Genesis 47:1-6). Jacob had 4 wives and he had sons with each wife. This book records names of Jacob’s sons. They appear in the same order as in Genesis 35:23-26. His first wife was Leah. Her sons were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. Then Rachel’s sons were Joseph and Benjamin. Dan and Naphtali were the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant. Gad and Asher were the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s servant.

The list in verses 2-4 does not include Joseph because he was already in Egypt. Many years before these events, his brothers had sold him as a slave. But he became powerful in Egypt (Genesis chapters 37; 39-41).

Verse 5 The number 70 is the number of males in the family who came to Egypt. The *Greek translation of Genesis 46:27 includes 5 more names. They were Joseph’s grandsons. They were the sons of Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph’s sons. They make the number 75. And Stephen mentioned 75 in his speech (Acts 7:9-15).

Verse 7 God had promised Abraham that his family would increase. His family would become a great nation (Genesis 12:2 and 17:2). That promise was becoming true in Egypt. The *Israelites became so many people that they ‘filled the country’. ‘The country’ may mean the region called Goshen. Or ‘the country’ may mean the whole country called Egypt. ‘Filled’ describes how the *Egyptians felt about it. They did not want so many *Israelites to live in their country.

*Pharaoh’s fear – verses 8-10

v8 Then a new king became ruler in Egypt. He did not know about the good things that Joseph had done. v9 The king spoke to his people. ‘Look, there are too many *Israelites in our country now. v10 We must do something to reduce them. We do not want the number of *Israelites to increase even more. If another country starts a war with us, they might join up with our enemies. Then they would fight against us and they would leave our country.’

Verse 8 The word ‘*Pharaoh’ means ‘ruler’. ‘A new king became ruler’. That suggests that he did not become king in the usual way. He was not the previous ruler’s son. He may have been a man called Ahmose. Ahmose made himself king instead of the Hyksos kings. The Hyksos were foreigners who had ruled Egypt for many years. Exodus 12:40 records that the *Israelites lived in Egypt for 430 years. So they were there for hundreds of years after Joseph’s death.

Verses 9-10 Enemies lived on Egypt’s borders. So *Pharaoh was afraid that a great many *Israelites might join up with these enemies. Then they would fight against the *Egyptians. Also he would lose valuable workers.

Hard labour – verses 11-14

v11 So the *Egyptians made the *Israelites be their slaves. The *Egyptians appointed cruel masters over them. And they forced the *Israelites to work very hard. They had to build the cities called Pithom and Ramses, where *Pharaoh stored his supplies. v12 But the *Israelites’ numbers still increased, although the masters of the slaves were very cruel to them. The *Israelites spread over more and more land. So the *Egyptians became very afraid of the *Israelites. v13 The *Egyptians forced them to work very hard. They did not pity the *Israelites. v14 So their lives were very miserable. The *Egyptians forced them to mix mud. And they forced them to make bricks. They forced the *Israelites to do all kinds of hard work in the fields too. The *Israelites had become the *Egyptians’ slaves. And the *Egyptians did not pity them.

Verse 11-12 The masters of the slaves were important *Egyptian officials who organised public works. They appointed some *Israelite slaves to be masters over the other slaves. And each of these masters was responsible for a group of workers (Exodus 5:6, 10 and 14).

‘Pithom’ means ‘the Sun’s House’. The ruler called Ramses 2nd (about 1290-1225 before Christ’s birth) ordered work on these cities. But we do not know if he was the same *Pharaoh as the one in this verse. Either he built or improved these cities. Later, King Solomon built similar cities in *Israel where he stored provisions. Some of these provisions were supplies to use in war.

Verse 14 To make bricks was dirty, difficult work. A great river called the River Nile flows through Egypt. Every year the River Nile floods. When the floods go down, the waters leave plenty of mud. But the *Hebrew workers had to dig out the mud. Then they had to mix it with straw. They placed the mixture in wooden boxes. Then they dried these in the sun. There is a painting on the wall of an *Egyptian building in the city called Thebes. It shows people who are making bricks out of mud. Also there is a record from King Rameses’ time. It gives details about the number of bricks that slaves must produce. It tells about 40 slaves, and each man had to produce 2 000 bricks. One man made only 1 360 bricks, so they punished him. But there is no other record to tell us more about the punishment.

The *Israelites also had to do hard agricultural work. They needed to bring water to the fields. Probably they dug canals to bring water from the River Nile. That was very hard work too. Notice the phrases ‘hard work’ and ‘did not pity’. Those words emphasise that the *Israelites had many difficulties.

The order to kill boys at birth – verses 15-21

v15 There were *Hebrew women who helped other women to have their babies. These women’s names were Shiphrah and Puah. Then the king spoke to them. v16 ‘You help other *Hebrew women when they have their babies’, he said to them. ‘You must watch them carefully when they give birth. If the baby is a boy, kill him. If the baby is a girl, let her live.’ v17 But Shiphrah and Puah respected God. So they did not do what Egypt’s king had told them. They let the boys live.

v18 Then the king sent for them again. ‘Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?’ he asked them.

v19 ‘*Hebrew women are not like *Egyptian women’, they answered *Pharaoh. ‘*Hebrew women are strong. And their babies are born quickly, before we can arrive.’

v20 So God was kind to these women. The number of *Israelites increased more and more. v21 And because Shiphrah and Puah respected God, he gave to them families of their own too.

Verses 15-16 Other nations referred to the *Israelites as ‘*Hebrews’. Usually the name *Hebrew appears in the early part of *Israel’s history. The name for women who help other women during birth is ‘midwives’. The king or ‘*Pharaoh’ may have been powerful, but there is no name for him in Exodus. Moses uses just his title, *Pharaoh. But Moses names the *Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah. They respected God. So they had the courage not to obey the *Pharaoh’s orders. *Hebrew women sat on a special place ‘between two stones’ in order to give birth. Most translations have the words ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ for the babies. But the *Hebrew words are ‘son’ and ‘daughter’. The king’s order was to kill ‘sons’ at birth. That shows more clearly how the *Israelites would have terrible loss and unhappiness. The daughters would remain alive. Probably the girls would marry *Egyptian men later, if there were no young *Israelite men. Then their children would become *Egyptians.

Verses 19-21 Shiphrah and Puah did not obey the king’s cruel order. Their excuse to him was not completely true. But the king believed them. God gave them a reward because they respected him. He gave to them children of their own.

*Pharaoh’s order to the *Egyptians – verse 22

v22 Then *Pharaoh gave this order to all his people. ‘You must throw every *Hebrew baby boy into the River Nile. But let every baby girl live.’

Verse 22 That was *Pharaoh’s final effort to kill the *Israelites. The easiest way to kill all the male babies was to drown them. *Pharaoh was ordering all the *Egyptians to support his terrible plot. They had to kill all these babies. Centuries afterwards, a similar thing happened again. At the time when Jesus was born, King Herod decided to kill all the babies in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16). But neither *Pharaoh’s plan nor Herod’s plan succeeded.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2 shows how God used women again. They became part of God’s plan to rescue his people.

How God rescued Moses – verses 1-10

v1 During this time a man, from the family called Levi, married a woman. She was from the same family. v2 Later, she was expecting a child. And she gave birth to a son. She saw that her baby was a beautiful child. So she hid him for three months. v3 After that, she could not continue to hide him. So she obtained some plants that grow in water. And she used them to make a basket for her son. She covered the basket with a thick black substance so that water did not get into the basket. Then she placed the child in it. And she put the basket among the plants that grew along the edge of the River Nile. v4 The baby’s sister waited at a distance and she watched. She wanted to see what would happen to the baby.

v5 Then *Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the River Nile to wash herself. The servants, walked along the river’s edge with her. And the princess saw the basket among the plants. So she sent her female slave to get it. v6 She opened the basket and she saw the baby. She felt sorry for him because he was crying. ‘This must be one of the *Hebrew babies’, she said.

v7 Then the baby’s sister spoke to *Pharaoh’s daughter. ‘Shall I go and get one of the *Hebrew women?’ she asked. ‘She could look after the baby for you.’

v8 ‘Yes, go’, *Pharaoh’s daughter answered. So the girl went home and she brought the baby’s mother to the princess. v9 ‘Take this baby and feed him for me. I will pay you’, the princess told her.

So the woman took the baby and she looked after him. v10 And when the child was old enough, she took him back to *Pharaoh’s daughter. And he became the princess’s son. She named him ‘Moses’. ‘I pulled him out of the water’, she said.

Verses 1-2 The *Levite’s name was Amram. The woman’s name was Jochabed (Exodus 6:20). Moses was not their first child. Aaron was three years older than Moses (Exodus 7:7). And his sister, Miriam, (Exodus 15:20) was older than Aaron. Moses was ‘a beautiful child’. But perhaps his mother thought that he was a special baby. In *Hebrews 11:23 we read that he was ‘no ordinary child’.

Verse 3 Tall plants with thick stems grew in the River Nile. They are called ‘papyrus’. Sometimes the plants grew as tall as 3 metres or more. The *Egyptians used it to make small boats that floated well (Isaiah 18:2). So that basket was like a very small boat on the River Nile. The thick, black, substance is called ‘tar’. People put it on the outside of boats so that the water cannot get in. Smaller plants like grass, grew in the shallow water. They are called ‘reeds’. The ‘reeds’ gave their name to the Reed Sea or Red Sea (Exodus 13:18). Moses’ mother placed the basket among these plants where it would not float away. Also the plants would protect it from the sun’s heat. Probably she chose the place carefully. A place where she thought that *Pharaoh’s daughter might find her son.

Verses 5-6 If that *Pharaoh was Ramses 2nd, history tells us more about him. He had nearly 60 daughters, but this princess was very different from her cruel father. She realised that she had found a *Hebrew baby. However, she pitied the baby. And she agreed with Miriam’s sensible idea. So Miriam went to get a *Hebrew woman to look after the baby. (Some translations say ‘nurse him’. That means a mother who feeds her baby with her own milk.) Miriam was Moses’ sister and she brought their mother to the princess.

Verses 7-9 Jochabed, Moses’ mother, received wages to look after her own son! Moses’ mother would teach him that he was an *Israelite. She would teach him about the real God whom his people *worshipped.

Verse 10 The name ‘Moses’ is the *Egyptian word for ‘son’. It is in the second part of *Egyptian names like Ahmose. Also ‘Moses’ also comes from the *Hebrew word ‘to pull out’. He was ‘pulled out’ from the River Nile’. As the princess’s son, Moses received a good education. He learnt ‘all the wisdom of the *Egyptians’ (Acts 7:22). Probably he studied mathematics and law. Also, he enjoyed a variety of good food. Perhaps he learnt to hunt with all its excitement. As part of the king’s family, probably he learnt how to fight in a war too.

Moses has to escape from Egypt – verses 11-15

v11 One day, when Moses was older, he went out alone. He wanted to see his own people as they worked. And he saw that they had to work very hard. Also he saw an *Egyptian who was hitting a *Hebrew man many times. And he knew that the man was one of his own people. v12 Then Moses looked round quickly and he did not see anyone. So he killed the *Egyptian. And he hid the dead body in the sand.

v13 The next day he went out again. And he saw two *Hebrew men who were fighting. Moses spoke to the man who had started the fight. ‘Why are you hitting another *Hebrew?’ Moses asked him.

v14 ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?’ the man replied. ‘What are you thinking? Will you kill me as you killed that *Egyptian yesterday?’

Then Moses was afraid. ‘I expect that people have heard about what I did’, he thought.

v15 And then *Pharaoh heard what had happened. So he tried to kill Moses, but Moses managed to escape. Moses ran away to the country called Midian. There he sat down by a well one day.

Verses 11-12 Moses watched his own people, who were working very hard. He was very curious. He saw something that made him angry. The *Egyptian was probably one of the masters of the slaves. They had long, heavy sticks. And they used them to hit the slaves. They wanted to make the *Hebrews work harder. Moses did not think that anyone saw him. So he killed the *Egyptian. And he hid his body.

Verses 13-14 To murder one *Egyptian did not help the *Hebrews much. The *Hebrew man to whom Moses spoke the next day, did not understand. Instead, he was angry with Moses. ‘Why should that man try to stop a fight?’ he thought. ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?’ he asked. He would receive a true answer later, because God made Moses both their ruler and their judge. And Moses became the leader who led the *Israelites away from Egypt. But at that time, Moses had a lot to learn.

Verse 15 *Pharaoh heard what Moses had done. Then Moses knew that he was in danger. So he escaped and he ran away to Midian. The country called Midian was a large area. It was from the Red Sea coast to the border of the country called Moab. Moses sat down by a well to rest. He knew that he would meet people there.

Moses in the country called Midian – verses 16-22

v16 There was a priest in Midian who had 7 daughters. And they came to get water from the well. They had to provide water for their father’s sheep and goats to drink. v17 But some men, who looked after other people’s sheep, came there too. And they tried to chase the girls away. Then Moses stood up and came to rescue the girls. And he gave water to their sheep and their goats. v18 So the girls returned home to their father, whose name was Reuel. ‘Why have you returned so early today?’ he asked them.

v19 They answered this. ‘An *Egyptian rescued us from those men who look after other sheep. He even got water for us, and he gave it to our sheep and goats.’

v20 ‘And where is he?’ Reuel asked his daughters. ‘You must not leave him out there. Invite him here to eat with us.’

v21 Moses agreed to stay with Reuel. And later Reuel gave his daughter, named Zipporah, to Moses. And she became his wife. v22 Zipporah gave birth to a son. Then Moses gave his son the name ‘Gershom’. ‘I am a stranger in a foreign country’, Moses said.

Verses 16-19 The *Israelites were from Abraham’s family. The people in Midian were from Abraham’s family also. They were from his children and grandchildren by means of his second wife Keturah (Genesis 25:1). Reuel (verse 18) or Raguel means ‘God’s friend’. (Reuel’s other name was Jethro – see Exodus 3:1; 18:1.) He was a ‘priest’, so he gave people’s gifts to God. 7 may be the actual number of Reuel’s daughters, or an ideal number. Moses was able to save Reuel’s daughters from those men’s selfish efforts. The men wanted to keep the water for their own animals only. Reuel’s daughters recognised Moses as an *Egyptian. Perhaps he wore *Egyptian clothes. Or perhaps it was the way in which he spoke.

Verses 21-22 ‘Zipporah’ was the name of a small bird. And ‘Gershom’ means ‘someone who stays in a foreign country’. Zipporah’s father is called Reuel. Also he is called Jethro. Perhaps Jethro was his second name, or perhaps it was an official name. An official name would show that people respected him. Hobab (Numbers 10:29 and Judges 4:11) was Zipporah’s brother.

The reason why God spoke to Moses – verses 23-25

v23 After many years, the king in Egypt died. The *Israelites shouted with pain because they were slaves. They called to God to help them. v24 And God heard their cry. He remembered his special promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob many years ago. v25 So when the *Israelites had all this terrible trouble, God saw them. And he cared about them.

Verse 23 We read in Acts 7:30 that after 40 years the king died. It is not certain which king that was. Perhaps it was Ramses 2nd who had ruled for a long time. But his death would mean that it was safe now. So Moses could return to Egypt. Perhaps the *Israelites thought that they would have fewer troubles with a new king. But their loud cries from pain show that they were still very miserable. And they cried to God to help them. They believed God, in the same way that Abraham had believed God many years ago. They knew that God had made a special promise to Abraham (Genesis 17:7). God would continue to be their God if they obeyed his rules. They must believe him.

Verses 24-25 God ‘remembered’. This does not mean that he had forgotten about the *Israelites. It is impossible for God to forget his people (Deuteronomy 4:31 and Isaiah 49:15). Perhaps they thought that God had forgotten them. But God cared about their situation and he was preparing to rescue them. God had not forgotten his special promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He had promised to them that their families would increase. And he had promised to them that they would become a great nation. Also, they would have their own country. He had promised to them that he would always be *Israel’s God (Genesis 17:7,19 and 35:11-12). He had chosen Moses to carry out his plans. But God’s ways are mysterious. People think about time in a particular way. But God’s knowledge of time is different. The prayers of God’s people are an important part in God’s plans. God’s people had cried for God to help them. But they needed to be patient as they waited for an answer.

Chapter 3

God calls Moses 3:1 – 4:17

The bush that burned – verses 1-6

v1 Now Moses was looking after Jethro’s sheep. Jethro was the father of Moses’ wife. And he was the priest in the country called Midian. Moses led the sheep to the western side of the *desert. And he came to God’s mountain called Horeb. v2 There the *LORD’s *angel appeared to him as a fire in a bush. Moses saw the fire, but the bush did not burn to ashes. v3 So Moses was surprised about it. ‘I will go over there and see this strange sight’, he thought. ‘Why does this bush not burn to ashes?’

v4 The *LORD saw that Moses had gone to look at the bush. So God called to him from in the bush. ‘Moses! Moses!’ God said to him. ‘Here I am’, Moses replied.

v5 ‘Do not come any closer’, God said. ‘Take off your shoes. The place where you are standing is holy ground.’ v6 Then God said. ‘I am your father’s God. I am the God that your relatives, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, *worshipped a long time ago.’ When Moses heard this, he hid his face. He was afraid to look at God.

Verse 1 Moses was looking after the sheep that belonged to his wife’s father. He lived in the *desert for all these years. During this time, God was preparing him for his new task. It was not an easy way to live. But he learned where all the paths were. And he discovered where to find grass for the animals. The mountain called Horeb was part of the mountains in the region called Sinai. It may be another name for the main mountain called *Mount Sinai. It became ‘God’s mountain’ because God spoke to Moses there.

Verse 2 *‘Angel’ means ‘someone who takes messages’. ‘The *LORD’s *angel’ means that God was there. A long time ago, Abraham had received three visitors who were called *angels. One of those *angels was ‘the *LORD’ (Genesis 18:1-10 and 18:33).

Verses 2-3 Fire is very powerful and it makes things pure. So ‘fire’ was a suitable *sign for God. It showed that God was present. God had come to talk to Moses. Later, a ‘cloud of fire’ guided the *Israelites at night (Exodus 13:21). And ‘fire’ warned the *Israelites not to go up *Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:18).

Verse 4 God called Moses twice because he wanted to say something important to Moses.

Verse 5 The ground was holy because God was present. So Moses had to remove his shoes. That showed that he respected God. But it does not explain the reason. Perhaps it was because slaves did not wear shoes. Another idea is that soil would make the shoes dirty. Everything must be pure and clean when God is there. In many places today, people remove their shoes when they enter churches. They do that because they respect God. He is completely pure and holy.

Verse 6 God spoke about himself to Moses. God described himself as ‘your father’s God’. Some people translate that as ‘the God of your fathers’. Moses belonged to a family that gave honour to God. His dead relatives from a long time ago were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So they were Moses’ fathers too. God was telling Moses who he was. He was different from the false gods that the *Egyptians *worshipped. God had made a promise to Abraham when he left his home (Genesis 12:1-3). God also made a promise to Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 26:23-25 and 28:1-15). And God would take Moses back to the country that Jacob had left. God had promised Abraham that his people would live in that country.

In the *New Testament Jesus reminded some of the Sadducees (an important group of *Jews at the time of Jesus)) about these words. ‘I am Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God and Jacob’s God’, he said. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been dead for a long time. But they were alive with God (Luke 20:37-38).

God’s message and God’s promise – verses 7-12

v7 The *LORD continued to speak. ‘I have seen my people, who have terrible troubles in Egypt. I have heard them as they cry to me for help. Their cruel masters of the slaves are causing them to be miserable. I feel sorry for them, because I care about them. v8 So I have come down to rescue them from the *Egyptians. I will bring them away from Egypt. And I will bring them to a good country where there is plenty of space. It is a rich country with plenty of milk and plenty of honey. The people called *Canaanites live there now. The people called the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites live there too. v9 But I have heard the *Israelites as they cry for me to help them. And I have seen that the *Egyptians are being very cruel to my people. v10 So now, go and speak to *Pharaoh. The *Israelites are my people and I am sending you to them. You will bring my people away from Egypt, which is *Pharaoh’s country.’

v11 But Moses argued with God. ‘I am not important, so I cannot speak to *Pharaoh!’ Moses said. ‘I am not clever enough to lead the *Israelites away from Egypt!’

v12 So God told him, ‘I will be with you. When you have brought my people away from Egypt, all of you will *worship me on this mountain. That will prove to you that I, myself, have sent you.’

Verse 7 repeats the words from Exodus 2:24-25. God heard the *Israelites’ when they cried for him to help them. He saw what was happening to them. He cared about their miserable lives. So God decided to rescue them.

Verses 8-10 God spoke to Moses. ‘It is a rich country with plenty of milk and plenty of honey’. Those words were a promise that there was plenty to eat. Milk would come from their sheep and their goats. The people would have milk to drink. And they could make butter and cheese. Honey would come from the insects called bees. In Jeremiah 32:22 and Ezekiel 20:6 we read the same words to describe the country. They describe a successful life for people who wandered about with their sheep and their goats.

God could have rescued the *Israelites by means of his power alone. But he chose to work with Moses. ‘I am sending you’, God said. That was how Jesus sent his 12 *apostles in the *New Testament also.

Sometimes *‘Canaanites’ includes all the different nations that lived in *Canaan. In Deuteronomy 7:1, the list names 7 nations that were living in that country. In Genesis 15:19 the list has the names of 10 nations. Moses’ work would be difficult. People from many different nations were living in *Canaan already. But God promised very definitely to give that country to his people.

Verses 11-12 In the past Moses thought that he could help his people (Exodus chapter 2). Now he protested to God that he could not do that task. And God did not deny Moses’ protest. But God promised that he would always be with Moses. God may ask someone to do a special task. But he promises that they will never be alone. God called both Gideon (Judges 6:14-16) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6-8) to do special jobs for him. Both men thought that they were not able to do such work. But God made them able, then they could work for him. And God promised to Joshua that he would always be with Joshua too (Joshua 1:6, 9).

When Moses brought the *Israelites away from Egypt, they would all *worship God at the mountain called Horeb. (People sometimes call this mountain ‘*Mount Sinai’.) Such a promise would encourage Moses. Because of that promise, he could believe that certainly God had sent him. He knew that with God’s help, he would succeed.

God’s name – verses 13-15

v13 Then Moses asked God some questions. ‘Suppose that I go to the *Israelites. I will speak to them and I will say this. “The God, whom your relatives *worshipped a long time ago, has sent me to you.” Suppose that they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’

v14 And God answered Moses. ‘I am who I am. You must say this to the *Israelites. “The God who calls himself I AM. He has sent me to you.” ’

v15 God continued to speak to him. ‘You must tell this to the *Israelites. “The *LORD is the God whom your relatives *worshipped a long time ago. He has sent me to you. He is Abraham’s God and Isaac’s God and Jacob’s God”. My name will be I AM for always. In the future, all people must call me by this name.’

Verses 13-14 Abraham and the *Israelites called God ‘El Shaddai’. That means the All-powerful God (Genesis 17:1). The people would want to know who had sent Moses. Who is that God and what is he like? At that time, the *Hebrew language did not have the letters a,e,i,o,u. They wrote the letters YHWH for the name ‘the *LORD’. And that is similar to the *Hebrew word that means ‘I am’. So ‘the *LORD’ and ‘I AM’ are both special names for God.

 But later, the *Jews thought that God’s name was too holy. People should not say such a holy name. The *Jews did not want to use God’s name wrongly (Exodus 20:7). So they said ‘Adonai’ instead. ‘Adonai’ means ‘my *Lord’. It gave honour to the person when they were speaking to someone important. Later, people put in vowels (which are the letters: a,e,i,o,u) underneath the four letters YHWH. They used the vowels from the word Adonai. So when anyone read the word aloud, he would remember to say ‘Adonai’ instead. English people, who did not understand that, pronounced YHWH as ‘Jehovah’. In English, usually people write ‘I AM’ as ‘*LORD’. That shows that it is different from ‘*Lord’, or ‘Master’. Those words are the translation from the word ‘Adonai’. When Jesus used the words ‘I AM’, the *Jews tried to kill him. He was describing himself as the *LORD (John 8:58).

Verse 15 The *Israelites may have known the name ‘Yahweh’ already. But they may not have realised what their God was like. Moses had to show them more about the God whom their relatives had *worshipped a long time ago. He is the real God, and he is alive. He will be with them always, because he chose them. They were his people. It is impossible to describe God exactly. His *eternal nature is a mystery. He acts only when he chooses to act (Exodus 33:19). Nobody can know him completely, except Jesus, the Son (Matthew 11:27). Later God showed his people how they could approach him. He showed them how they could *worship him.

God’s instructions – verses 16-22

v16 ‘Go and call *Israel’s leaders together. Then say to them, “The *LORD appeared to me. He is the God whom your relatives had *worshipped a long time ago. He is Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God. He told me to tell you this: I have watched, and I have seen you in Egypt. I have seen the terrible things that the *Egyptians have done to you. v17 And I have promised to rescue you. I will bring you away from your terrible troubles in Egypt. I will bring you to the country where the *Canaanites live. People called the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites all live there too. It is a country that has plenty of milk and plenty of honey.”

v18 The leaders will listen to you. Then you and the leaders must go and speak to the king of Egypt. You will say this. “The *LORD, who is the *Hebrews’ God, has met us. He wants us to go on a journey. It will last about three days. So will you allow us to go into the *desert for three days? We want to burn gifts there that we give to the *LORD our God.” v19 But I know that Egypt’s king will not listen to you. He will not let you go. Only a powerful force can make him allow that. v20 So I will reach out with power and I will punish the *Egyptian people. I will perform all kinds of acts that will astonish them. Afterwards, the king will let you go.

v21 And I will make the *Egyptians show great kindness to you and to your people. So that when you leave, you will not go away with nothing. v22 Every woman should ask her *Egyptian neighbour for silver and gold things. And every woman should ask for clothes of good quality. She can ask any *Egyptian woman who lives in her house too. Put all these things on your sons and your daughters. That is how you will take away the *Egyptians’ possessions.’

Verse 16 The word for leaders means ‘those men with beards’. Sometimes they are called ‘elders’. They were men with experience. They had become wise. And usually they were the leaders of families. Later they became judges to help Moses (Exodus 18:21-22). God was aware that terrible things were happening to his people. He had watched them. Or some translations say that he had ‘visited them’.

Verse 17 Many years ago, God had promised to give the country called *Canaan to Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21). Now God promised Moses that he would bring the *Israelites away from Egypt. He would bring them to *Canaan. God can provide for the future in a generous way. He told Jeremiah about his scheme for the *Jews in the country called Babylon. He intended to give to them ‘hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29:11).

Verse 18 ‘Three days’ was not a long time. But Moses did not intend that the *Israelites would return. Probably he was testing *Pharaoh’s attitude by means of that request. And probably *Pharaoh recognised that the polite words were a demand for freedom.

Verses 19-20 God warned Moses that *Pharaoh, the king, would refuse Moses’ request. *Pharaoh would need to see a powerful act that would persuade him. God would show his power by means of many wonderful acts. They would convince *Pharaoh. Finally, he would allow Moses and his people to leave.

Verses 21-22 God had told Abraham that his family would become slaves many years later. But that they would leave Egypt ‘with many possessions’ (Genesis 15:13-14). The *Israelites had served the *Egyptians as slaves for many years. So it was fair that they should receive some reward because of all their hard work. There is a law in Deuteronomy chapter 15:12-18. When a slave gained his freedom, the owner had to send him away with generous gifts. That was the *Israelites’ experience when they left Egypt.

Later, people gave their gold and silver objects to make things for the *Tabernacle. The *Tabernacle was the special tent where they would *worship God. See Exodus 35:22. The amount of gold and silver seems very large. But people who study old places, discovered great *Egyptian wealth. Much of it was objects that people had made from silver and gold. *Egyptian artists were very skilful, and they made beautiful objects from these valuable metals.

Chapter 4

The *LORD gives great power to Moses – verses 1-9

God shows his power to Moses in three ways:

1. The snake – verses 1-5

v1 Moses answered the *LORD. ‘Suppose that the *Israelites do not believe me?’ Moses asked. ‘Suppose that they do not listen to me? They may say to me, “The *LORD did not appear to you”.

v2 ‘What is that in your hand?’ the *LORD asked him.

‘A stick’, Moses replied.

v3 ‘Throw it on the ground’, the *LORD told him.

So Moses threw the stick on the ground. Immediately it became a snake and Moses ran away from it.

v4 Then the *LORD spoke again. He said, ‘Reach out your hand and hold its tail’.

So Moses reached out and grasped the snake’. It became a stick again in his hand.

v5 The *LORD said, ‘This *sign will cause the people to believe you. They will believe that I have appeared to you. I am the God of their dead relatives. I am Abraham’s God and Isaac’s God and Jacob’s God.’

Verses 1-4 Perhaps Moses remembered how a *Hebrew man had refused to accept him as ‘a ruler and a judge’ (Exodus 2:14). People use special sticks when they work with sheep. And Moses used a stick like that when he was caring for his sheep. So it may have been that special stick. Or the stick may have been a long wooden pole that showed a person’s authority.

*Pharaoh had a metal snake, called a cobra, on the front of his crown. It seemed ready to attack. It was a *sign that the king had power against his enemies. Also it showed that *Pharaoh was like a false god with great power. Moses’ stick became a snake and he ran away from the snake. He ran away in the same manner that he had run away from *Pharaoh in the past. It was dangerous to hold the snake’s tail. It could turn round and bite Moses. But Moses obeyed God and the snake became a stick again. It would be dangerous to oppose *Pharaoh’s power. God was showing him that God’s power is much greater than *Pharaoh’s power.

Verse 5 That would be a *sign to the *Israelites that Moses could defeat *Pharaoh. Those acts or ‘*signs’ were powerful. So the *Israelites would believe that the God of their dead relatives had appeared to Moses.

2. The hand with the terrible disease in the skin – verses 6-7

v6 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses again. ‘Put your hand inside your coat’, God said. So Moses put his hand inside his coat. When he brought out his hand, it had become white like snow. It had a terrible disease in the skin.

v7 ‘Now put your hand inside your coat again’, God said. So Moses put his hand inside his coat again. And when he looked at it, the hand was healthy again. It was like the rest of his skin.

Verses 6-7 The *Israelites thought that a sudden disease in the skin was the patient’s fault. It meant that God was angry. But with that powerful act, God showed Moses and the *Israelites that he could send disease. He could also cure disease.

3. The River Nile – verses 8-9

v8 And the *LORD spoke to Moses again. ‘Suppose that the people do not believe you. They may not believe the first wonderful *sign, but then they might believe the second *sign. v9 But suppose that they do not believe either *sign. Suppose that they refuse to listen to you. Then take some water from the River Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water that you take from the river will become blood on the ground.’

Verses 8-9 The *Egyptians thought that the River Nile was a god. The annual flood from it provided excellent soil, which gave very good harvests. There was also a plentiful supply of fish in the river. That *sign showed the power of the *Israelites’ God. He had power over the *Egyptians’ false god of the river.

Moses’ last excuse – verses 10-12

v10 Then Moses replied to the *LORD. ‘My *Lord, I have never been an impressive speaker. I was not a good speaker before you spoke to me. And I am still the same now. I speak very slowly, and it is difficult for me to say the right words.’

v11 So the *LORD asked him. ‘Who gave to people their mouths? Who makes them deaf or makes them dumb? Who gives to them sight or makes them blind? I do these things. It is I, the *LORD. v12 Now go. I will help you to speak. I will teach you what to say.’

Verse 10 Moses used the word ‘Adonai’, which means ‘my *Lord’. He spoke as a servant would speak to his master. He said that it was difficult for him. He could not say the right words. He had always had that difficulty. And he had not improved since God began to speak to him. Almost he seems to suggest that it was God’s fault.

Verses 11-12 God did not say that Moses had given an excuse. God made everybody and he reminded Moses about that. ‘Deaf and dumb’, ‘sight and blind’ are the *Hebrew way to include everyone. Moses had spoken to God as his master, so he must obey God. And God had given to Moses a mouth to speak on his behalf. So God would help Moses to speak. He would teach Moses what to say.

Aaron’s help – verses 13-17

v13 But still Moses argued. ‘My *Lord, please send someone else to do it’, he said.

v14 Then the *LORD became very angry with Moses. God said, ‘There is your brother, Aaron the *Levite. I know that he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you. He will be glad when he sees you. v15 You must speak to him and tell him what to say. I will help both of you so that you can speak. And I will teach you what to do. v16 Aaron will speak to the people on your behalf. He will be like your mouth. And you will be like God to him. v17 But take the wooden stick in your hand. You will do wonderful *signs with it.’

Verse 13 Moses had no more excuses. Actually, he did not refuse to obey God. But he asked God to choose someone else.

Verses 14-16 God was angry because Moses did not trust him. Moses wanted less risk and less responsibility. So God promised that Moses’ brother, Aaron, would help him. Aaron became the chief priest. Like Aaron, all the priests came from the family called Levi. God promised to be with both Moses and Aaron. Aaron would receive God’s messages from Moses. Then Aaron would speak to the people and he would give God’s message to them.

Moses returns to Egypt – verses 18-23

v18 Then Moses went back to his wife’s father, Jethro. Moses said to him, ‘Let me go back to my own people in Egypt. I want to see if any of them are alive still.’

‘Go! And I hope that everything goes well for you’, Jethro replied.

v19 The *LORD had spoken to Moses in the country called Midian. ‘Go back to Egypt’, God told him. ‘All the men who wanted to kill you are dead.’ v20 So Moses took his wife and his sons with him. He put them on a *donkey so that they rode. Then they started to go to Egypt. And Moses took God’s wooden stick in his hand.

v21 The *LORD spoke to Moses again. ‘When you arrive in Egypt, go to *Pharaoh. In front of him, do all the wonderful *signs that I tell you. I have given to you the power to do these wonderful things. But I will let him be unwilling to listen to you. He will not let my people go.

v22 Then you must give to *Pharaoh this message from me. “The *LORD says this to you: The nation called *Israel is like my oldest son. v23 Let my son go, I told you. I want him to *worship me. But you refused. You would not let *Israel go. So now, I will kill your oldest son.” That is what you must tell *Pharaoh’.

Verse 18 Moses went home to Jethro, the head of the family. Moses made a polite request. Jethro should allow Moses to return to Egypt. Moses did not tell everything to Jethro. Jethro’s daughter and his grandsons were going to Egypt with Moses. So Jethro might have worried about them.

Verse 20 Moses had two sons. Exodus 2:22 names Moses’ first son as Gershom. But the name of his second son, Eliezer, does not appear until Exodus 18:4. ‘Eliezer’ means ‘God is my help’.

A *donkey is an animal that works. It is like a horse, but it is smaller. *Donkeys are useful to carry both people and goods. Moses carried God’s wooden stick. God would do wonderful things with that stick in Moses’ hand.

Verse 21 God is the Judge of everything on the earth. He is always fair (Genesis 18:25). God let *Pharaoh be unwilling to listen to Moses and Aaron. But that was only one side of what happened. God’s power and human responsibility are both true. Someone may refuse to do what he should do. He may continue to refuse. Then it becomes more and more difficult for him to change his attitude. The *Hebrew texts say that he makes his own ‘heart hard’. That means that he became unable to change.

Verse 22 The oldest son was special in a family. So God was saying that the *Israelites were his special people. Jeremiah speaks about *Israel as God’s oldest son (Jeremiah 31:9). God had chosen the nation called *Israel. Those people would be the first nation to know God as ‘father’. And Hosea said that God would call his ‘son’ out from Egypt (Hosea 11:1).

God sent a series of terrible events to Egypt. Those events happened to persuade their ruler, *Pharaoh. He must let the *Israelites go. The last of these terrible events would be the death of *Pharaoh’s oldest son (Exodus 11:5; 12:12). *‘Israel’ includes all the people who were *Israelites. So ‘your oldest son’ probably included the oldest sons of all the *Egyptians.

Zipporah and *circumcision – verses 24-26

v24 On the way to Egypt, Moses stopped to camp for the night. The *LORD met Moses there and he was going to kill Moses. v25 But Zipporah took a hard, sharp stone to use as a knife. She *circumcised her son with it. Then she touched his feet with the skin she had cut off. ‘You are my husband, and I must cause my son to bleed’, she said. v26 So the *LORD did not kill Moses. (Zipporah was talking about the *circumcision when she said this. ‘You are my husband, and I must cause my son to bleed’.)

Verse 24-25 On their way, perhaps Moses became very ill. Zipporah thought that Moses had not obeyed God. To ‘*circumcise’ means to cut off the piece of skin at the end of the male sex part. The *Israelites *circumcised all the baby boys. It was the *sign that they believed God’s special promise to his people (Genesis 17:10). And it was the father’s duty to *circumcise his son. But Moses had not done that for his son. So his wife, Zipporah, *circumcised their son. She used a sharp stone as a knife. Verse 25 says that Zipporah touched ‘his feet with the skin’. But that does not tell us whether she touched her son’s feet or her husband’s feet. If she touched her husband’s feet, probably she was including him in her act. She had marked her son. So now he was part of God’s special people.

Verse 26 Moses did not die. It is difficult to know what Zipporah meant. ‘You are my husband, and I must cause my son to bleed’, she said. There are two different explanations:

·  She was blaming her husband that she must cause her son to bleed. Perhaps she hated the custom of *circumcision. Perhaps that was why Moses had not done the custom earlier.

·  She believed that God had given back her husband to her. God did not kill Moses or let him die. So perhaps she had *circumcised their son as a prayer to God. And he had answered her.

The meeting with Aaron and the leaders – verses 27-31

v27 The *LORD spoke to Aaron. ‘Go into the *desert to meet Moses’. So Aaron went into the *desert and he met Moses at God’s mountain. Aaron greeted him with a kiss. v28 Then Moses told Aaron everything that the *LORD had said to him. God had sent him to speak to *Pharaoh. Also Moses told Aaron about all the wonderful *signs. And Moses said that God had given him the power to do these *signs.

v29 Moses and Aaron called together all the leaders of the *Israelites. v30 Aaron told them everything that the *LORD had said to Moses. And Moses did the wonderful *signs in front of the people. v31 Then they believed. They understood that the *LORD cared about them. He had seen all their difficulties. So they bent over and they *worshipped God.

Verses 27-28 Aaron listened to God and he obeyed God. Aaron had not seen Moses for many years, but Aaron believed God. So he went to meet his brother, Moses.

Verses 29-30 The *Israelite leaders organised the people. So the leaders were the first men to hear Moses’ message. Aaron acted as Moses’ speaker, exactly as God had promised. Then Moses did the *signs from God. So the people accepted the message. Later when troubles began, they were not so willing to believe. To ‘bend over’ means that they gave honour to God.

Jesus told a story about different people who accepted his message. The *Israelites were like the shallow soil in that story. The roots could not grow properly from the seed (Mark 4:16-17).

Chapter 5

Moses and Aaron visit *Pharaoh – verses 1-5

v1 Afterwards Moses and Aaron went to see *Pharaoh. ‘This is what the *LORD, *Israel’s God, says’, they told him. ‘ “Let my people go into the *desert. They must *worship me there. They must have a *feast to give me honour.” ’

v2 But *Pharaoh replied to them. ‘Who is the *LORD? Why should I obey him? Why should I let the *Israelites go? I do not know the *LORD. And I will not let *Israel’s people go.’

v3 They told him, ‘The *Hebrews’ God has met with us. Now let us go on a journey that lasts about three days. We want to go into the *desert to give gifts to the *LORD our God. If we do not obey him, he may send upon us terrible diseases or war.’

v4 But Egypt’s king would not listen. ‘Moses and Aaron, you want to take the people away from their work. Get back to work!’ he said. v5 ‘There are large numbers of your people in my country. And you are preventing them, so that they are not working for me.’

Verse 1-2 Moses and Aaron went to see *Pharaoh. But God had told Moses to take *Israel’s leaders with him too (Exodus 3:18). Their first request to *Pharaoh was that they could go into the *desert. Later they spoke about a ‘three day journey’. *Pharaoh said that he did not know the *LORD. He was the *Hebrew God, and *Pharaoh showed angry surprise at their request. Those *Hebrews were expecting *Pharaoh to obey their God! Exodus 8:26-27 explains the reason why they wanted to go into the *desert. That *feast and *worship could not happen in Egypt because it would offend the *Egyptians. The *Israelites would kill cows and give them to God. But the cow was special and holy to the *Egyptian false god called Isis. So the *Egyptians would never kill a cow. Moses and Aaron said that their God could punish them. If they did not obey him, God would send terrible troubles. He would send dangerous diseases, or they would die in a war.

Verses 4-5 ‘Your people in the country’ meant the *Israelites who were working in *Pharaoh’s country. He said that there were many of them. The *Egyptians’ fear was that the *Israelites would increase even more. Then there would be more *Israelite slaves in Egypt than the *Egyptian people (Exodus 1:10, 12). That kind of fear exists in many places. It is responsible for many rules that governments make. They want to control the number of foreign people who enter their countries. *Pharaoh accused Moses and Aaron. They were preventing the *Israelites so that they could not work for him.

Bricks without straw – verses 6-14

v6 That same day *Pharaoh gave an order to the masters of the slaves. And he gave the order to the *Israelite officers who were responsible for their own people. v7 ‘Now you must not supply the workers with straw for their bricks. Force them to get their own straw. v8 But you should require them to make the same number of bricks as before. Do not reduce the number of bricks that they have to make. They are lazy. That is why they are crying out to me. “Let us go. We want to give gifts to our God.” v9 But you must make them work harder. Then they will be too busy to listen to such lies.’

v10 Then the masters of the slaves and the *Israelite officers spoke to the people. ‘This is what *Pharaoh says. “I will not continue to give you any straw. v11 Go and get your own straw. Get it anywhere that you can find it. But you must make the same number of bricks for me.” ’ v12 So the people scattered all over Egypt. They went to collect any kind of straw that they could find.

v13 The masters of the slaves continued to make the people work very hard. ‘You must complete your work’, they said. ‘Each day you must make the same number of bricks that you made before. But we will not give any more straw to you.’

v14 *Pharaoh’s masters of the slaves had made the *Israelite officers responsible for the workers. And *Pharaoh’s masters of the slaves hit the *Israelite officers. They asked the *Israelite officers this. ‘Why have your men not made the same number of bricks as before? You have not produced enough bricks either yesterday or today!’

Verses 6-9 The workers cut up straw and mixed it with the mud. It makes stronger bricks. People have found many examples of old bricks that people made out of mud. And they had pieces of straw in them. In some places, people continue to make bricks in this way. The *Israelites had to work much harder to find their own straw as well. It would take them a long time to find enough straw. But *Pharaoh said that they must produce the same number of bricks each day. He said that the *Israelites were lazy. So he wanted them to work much harder. They had no time to think. They would not remember what Moses and Aaron had promised (Exodus 4:30). *Pharaoh wanted them to think bad things about Moses and Aaron. *Pharaoh believed that their promises were lies.

Verses 10-14 The masters of the slaves and the *Israelites’ officers gave *Pharaoh’s message to the *Israelites. Now the people had to search everywhere for straw. They used even ‘stubble’. And ‘stubble’ is small pieces of stem. They remain in the ground after people have cut the corn. But the workers failed to make enough bricks. So the masters of the slaves hit the *Israelite officers.

The protest to *Pharaoh – verses 15-18

v15 Then the *Israelite officers went to see *Pharaoh. ‘Why have you acted like this towards us?’ they asked him. v16 ‘We are your servants, but we have not received any straw. However, you tell us, “Make bricks!” The masters of the slaves are hitting us with sticks. But the blame belongs to your own people.’

v17 ‘Lazy! You are lazy!’ *Pharaoh replied. ‘You do not want to work. That is why you say to me again and again, “Let us go into the *desert. We want to give gifts to the *LORD.” v18 Now return to work! We will not give you any straw. But you must produce the same number of bricks.’

Verses 15-16 ‘The blame belongs to your own people.’ The *Israelite officers protested to *Pharaoh. Their situation was not fair. The *Egyptians had not given them any straw, so now the job was impossible. It was not the *Israelite’s fault. But the *Egyptian masters of the slaves were hitting the *Israelite officers.

Verses 17-18 *Pharaoh repeated his demands. He said that the *Israelites did not want to work for him. He said that they were lazy. That was why they were asking for a holiday.

The men who were responsible for the workers complain – verses 19-21

v19 The *Israelite officers were in trouble. They realised that, because*Pharaoh expected them to produce the same number of bricks each day. v20 So when the officers left *Pharaoh, they went to see Moses and Aaron. And Moses and Aaron were waiting to meet them. v21 Then they spoke to Moses and Aaron. ‘The *LORD will see what you have done! We want him to punish you! You have made us become like a very bad smell to *Pharaoh and to his servants. You have given to them an excuse to kill us with their swords.’

Verse 20 The men had protested to *Pharaoh. Probably Moses and Aaron were waiting to know the result.

Verse 21 Those *Israelite officers had great difficulties. It was not their fault. They were innocent. So they wanted God to be their judge. They blamed Moses and Aaron as the cause of their awful situation. The *Israelite officers had become like a very bad smell that disgusted *Pharaoh and his officers. It was clear that worse things would happen.

Moses’ prayer and God’s answer 5:22 to 6:8

v22 Moses left the men and went to pray to the *LORD. ‘*Lord, why have you brought trouble to your people? Is this why you sent me here? v23 I went to speak to *Pharaoh and I spoke your name. Since that time, he has brought trouble on your people. And you have not rescued your people yet.’

Chapter 6

v1 Then the *LORD replied to Moses. ‘Now you will see what I will do to *Pharaoh. Because of my great power, *Pharaoh will agree. He will let my people go. He will force them to go away from his country.’

v2 And God continued. ‘I am the *LORD. v3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as El Shaddai, the All-Powerful God. But with them, I did not use my name, the *LORD. v4 I made my special promise to them. They used to live as foreigners in the country called *Canaan. But I promised to give that country to them. v5 And now, I have heard the *Israelites’ cries because of their troubles. I know that the *Egyptians are keeping them as slaves. And I have remembered my special promise.

v6 So you must give this message to the *Israelites for me. “I am the *LORD. The *Egyptians have forced you to do difficult work. But I will free you. And you will not continue to be their slaves. I will use my great power to punish them. And I will rescue you with powerful acts when I act as the judge to the *Egyptians. v7 I will accept you as my own people. And I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the *LORD your God. I brought you away from the *Egyptians’ control. v8 I made a serious promise to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I promised to give to them the country called *Canaan. So now, I will bring you to that country, and it will belong to you. I am the *LORD.” ’

Verses 22-23 Moses was honest with God. He had obeyed God. But the result was that his people had more difficulties. Moses did not understand it. God had promised to rescue his people. But Moses did not know what God was doing. It seemed that things were getting worse. Moses had forgotten that God had warned him about *Pharaoh’s bad attitude (Exodus 3:19; 4:21).

Verse 1 God referred to his great power in order to encourage Moses. *Pharaoh would let the *Israelites go only at the end. But also God would cause *Pharaoh to hate the *Israelites. He would hate them so much that he would force them to leave Egypt.

Verse 2 The words: ‘I am the *LORD’ begin God’s record of his past promises. Those words also end God’s message to Moses in verse 8. And Moses must remind the *Israelites what God’s name is (verse 6). Those references emphasise that God’s power is much greater than *Pharaoh’s power. God is alive for all time. He is ‘I AM’. *Pharaoh was a human king and God had put limits to his temporary power.

Verse 3 God had appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as ‘El Shaddai’. ‘El’ means God, ‘Shaddai’ means ‘All-Powerful’. That name told Abraham that God had great power. God could make him to be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:1-4). Later Jacob prayed to El Shaddai. Jacob wanted God to make Egypt’s’ ruler to be kind to Jacob’s sons (Genesis 43:14). El Shaddai had appeared to Jacob at the place called Luz (Genesis 28:13-19 and 48:3). ‘But with them, I did not use my name, the *LORD’, God told Moses. At first, that seems to be a difficulty. The name ‘*LORD’ appears at the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 2:5. But in verse 3, God is talking about how he uses his name with the *Israelites. He has a special relationship with them. When God chose Moses as their leader, then the *Israelites began to understand God’s nature better. After God chose Moses, ‘Yah’ began to appear in people’s names. That was the short form of Yahweh, which means *LORD. For example, ‘Joshu-(y)a’ (Numbers 13:16), ‘Eli-jah’ (1 Kings 17:1).

Verses 4-8 The *LORD is the God who carries out his promises. He knows our difficulties (verse 4). He causes us to be free (verse 6). He brings us close to himself (verse 7). He will lead us home (verse 8).

Verse 5 ‘Remembered’. That does not mean that God had forgotten before that time. But he had decided to act now. It is time for God to carry out his special promise. God always carries out his promises. His words are always true.

Verse 6 ‘Rescue’. Some translations use the word ‘redeem’. Here it means that God would act like a near relative. If a person became very poor, he might lose his land because of a debt. His nearest relative had the right to buy back family property (Leviticus 25:25). For example, Boaz was the nearest relative to Ruth’s dead husband. Her dead husband, his brother and their father owned land. But Boaz had the right to buy that land. Also he had the right to marry Ruth in place of her dead husband (Ruth 4:1-11). In Exodus God would act to claim back his people from the *Egyptians. The word ‘rescue’ shows the close relationship with God and his people.

Verse 7 God emphasises that close relationship. ‘I will accept you as my own people’, he says. His special promise at *Mount Sinai made these words clearer (Exodus 19:5-6). *Israel would be God’s ‘holy nation’. He had chosen *Israel. God wanted to show other nations what he was like.

Verse 8 God would carry out the promise that he gave to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. He would give the country called *Canaan to their families (Genesis 17:8; 26:3-4; 28:13). And he would bring the *Israelites to that country when he had rescued them from Egypt.

The people lose their hope – verses 9-13

v9 Moses reported God’s message to the *Israelites. But they did not listen to him. They did not believe that God cared about them still. They had to work as slaves and their masters were very cruel to them. So they were too sad and too tired to believe.

v10 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses again. v11 ‘Go to *Pharaoh and demand his attention. *Egypt’s king must allow the *Israelites to go away from his country.’

v12 But Moses replied to the *LORD. ‘The *Israelites will not listen to me. So I am sure that *Pharaoh will not listen to me either. I do not speak well.’ v13 However, the *LORD had spoken to Moses and Aaron about the *Israelites. And the *LORD had spoken about *Pharaoh, who was Egypt’s king. God ordered Moses and Aaron to bring the *Israelites away from Egypt.

Verse 9 The *Israelites had lost their hope for anything better. Moses had promised that God would free them. But their work had become even harder. Now, they had to find their own straw.

Verses 10-13 Moses did not think that he could speak to *Pharaoh again. Moses’ own people would not listen to him. So it was unlikely that *Pharaoh would listen either. Moses declared that he had no skill with words. But God had ordered Moses and Aaron to lead his people away from Egypt.

Moses’ and Aaron’s dead relatives – verses 14-27

v14 This list records the leaders of *Israel’s families:

Reuben was Israel’s (Jacob’s) oldest son. His sons were Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron and Carmi. Those were the names of Reuben’s family.

v15 Simeon’s sons were Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar and Shaul. Shaul was a *Canaanite woman’s son. Those were the names of Simeon’s family.

v16 The records named Levi’s sons next. They were Gershon, Kohath and Merari. Levi lived for 137 years.

v17 And Gershon’s sons, who were leaders of families, were Libni and Shimei.

v18 Kohath lived for 133 years and his sons were Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel.

v19 Merari’s sons were Mahli and Mushi. Those were the families that Levi’s family reported in their records.

v20 Amram lived for 137 years and he married his father’s sister Jochebed. She gave birth to two sons who were Aaron and Moses.

v21 Izhar’s sons were Korah, Nepheg and Zicri.

v22 Uzziel’s sons were Mishael, Elzaphan and Sithri.

v23 Aaron married Elisheba. She was Amminadab’s daughter and Nahshon’s sister. They had 4 sons called Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.

v24 Korah’s sons were Assir, Elkanah and Abiasaph. They were the Korah family.

v25 Aaron’s son Eleazar married one of Putiel’s daughters. Their son was Phinehas.

These are the leaders of the Levi family groups.

v26 Aaron and Moses were the ones to whom the *LORD spoke. He said, ‘Bring the *Israelites away from Egypt with each family in a group together.’ v27 So Moses and Aaron spoke to *Pharaoh, who was Egypt’s king. They asked him to free the *Israelites.

Verses 14-16 Reuben, Simeon and Levi were Israel’s first three sons. ‘Israel’ is the name that God gave to Jacob in Genesis 32:28. The list continues with all their sons’ names.

Verses 17-20 The list shows how Aaron and Moses were Israel’s (Jacob’s) relatives. Amram married his aunt, Jochabed. At that time, they allowed a person to marry his aunt. But later it would not be legal. See Leviticus 18:12-13. Aaron and Moses were their sons. The record shows that Aaron was the older son.

Verses 21-25 The list of Levi’s children and grandchildren emphasises Aaron’s family. They became the priests. Nadab and Abihu both died (Leviticus 10:1-3). But the priests’ family continued by means of Aaron’s son, Eleazar, and Eleazer’s son Phinehas.

Merari (verse 16) and Putiel (verse 25) may be *Egyptian names. Phinehas means ‘person from the country called Ethiopia’. While in Egypt, some *Israelites may have married foreigners, who were living there also. The record shows exactly who Moses and Aaron were. That family is part of a much longer history of the family. We can read about it in Numbers chapter 26.

Verse 26 Aaron’s name comes first in that record because he was older than Moses (Exodus 7:7).

Verse 27 However, Moses was the leader so his name comes first now.

The message that Aaron will give to the king 6:28 – 7:7

v28 The *LORD spoke to Moses in Egypt. v29 He told Moses, ‘I am the *LORD. Tell *Pharaoh, king of Egypt, everything that I tell you.’

v30 But Moses answered the *LORD. ‘I cannot speak easily, so *Pharaoh would not listen to me.’

Chapter 7

v1 Then the *LORD replied to Moses. ‘Listen! Your brother, Aaron, will speak on your behalf. He will speak exactly as a *prophet speaks to the people on my behalf. You *represent me in front of *Pharaoh and Aaron will speak on your behalf. v2 You must say everything to Aaron that I order you to say. Then your brother, Aaron, must tell my message to *Pharaoh. *Pharaoh must let the *Israelites go away from his country. v3 But I will make *Pharaoh continue to refuse this request. I will increase my wonderful acts and my terrible *signs in Egypt. v4 But *Pharaoh will not listen to you. So I will use my great power against him. I will do terrible acts as judgement against his nation. Then I will bring all my people away from Egypt. Every *Israelite family will leave. v5 Then the *Egyptians will know that I am the *LORD. They will see me use my great power against them. They will see the *LORD bring the *Israelites away from their country.’

v6 Moses and Aaron did what the *LORD had ordered them. v7 Moses was 80 years old when they spoke to *Pharaoh. And his brother, Aaron, was 83 years old.

Verses 28-30 Moses repeated his excuse that he was not a good speaker. He did not believe that *Pharaoh would listen to him. So he thought that he could not deliver God’s message.

Chapter 7 verse 1 A ‘*prophet’ was someone who declared God’s message to the people. So Aaron would be like a *prophet and he would speak on behalf of Moses. Moses would give God’s message to Aaron, and Aaron would tell that message to *Pharaoh.

Verses 2-5 God warned Moses and Aaron that *Pharaoh would oppose their request. *Pharaoh did not want the *Israelites to leave his country. So God would do many wonderful acts because he is powerful. But *Pharaoh would not change his decision. God’s power would rescue the *Israelites. God would be the judge of the *Egyptians and he would punish them. Then they would recognise that the *Israelite’s God is the *LORD. And they would know that he had acted on behalf of his people.

Verse 6 Moses was 40 years old when he ran away to Midian (Acts 7:23). He spent 40 years in Midian (Acts 7:30). So he was 80 years old when God called him to speak to *Pharaoh. Both 40 and 80 can be a way to describe an ideal length of time. After 40 years with the *Israelites in the *desert, Moses was 120 years old (Deuteronomy 34:7). People considered that 120 years was the ideal time for a complete life (Genesis 6:3).

Aaron’s stick becomes a snake – verses 8-13

v8 The *LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron again. v9 ‘*Pharaoh will demand that you do a wonderful *sign. When *Pharaoh says that to you, Moses must speak to Aaron. “Take your stick and throw it down in front of *Pharaoh.” Aaron’s stick will become a snake.’

v10 Then Moses and Aaron went to see *Pharaoh. And they did exactly as the *LORD had ordered them. Aaron threw his stick down in front of *Pharaoh and his officials. And the stick became a snake. v11 Then *Pharaoh sent for his wise men and the men who used magic. And they did the same thing by means of their own secret and skilful ways. They made people believe lies. v12 Each of the men threw down his stick and it became a snake. But Aaron’s stick swallowed all their sticks. v13 However, *Pharaoh continued to behave as the *LORD had said. And he refused to listen to Moses and Aaron.

Verses 8-12 That is only one of the three *signs that God gave to Moses (Exodus 4:2-7). Now Aaron did it in front of *Pharaoh. In these verses, the word ‘snake’ does not refer to an ordinary snake. Here, it means something much bigger and more terrible than an ordinary snake. A large snake was the royal *sign of power in Egypt. But Aaron’s stick showed that God’s power was greater. His snake was bigger and more powerful than the other snakes. *Pharaoh’s men, who used magic, managed to imitate Aaron’s action. But God was in control. *Jewish history names two of the men who used magic here. They were Johannes and Jambres (2 Timothy 3:8).

Verse 13 *Pharaoh had decided that he would refuse. Nobody would cause him to change his decision. But God knows people’s secret thoughts. And he had warned Moses that would happen.

The 10 *plagues in Egypt 7:14 to 11:10

A ‘*plague’ is a bad disease or an extraordinary event that affects very many people. Usually it causes people or animals to suffer very much. And sometimes there are many deaths.

*Plague number 1: The River Nile becomes blood – verses 14-24

The *LORD tells Moses to warn *Pharaoh – verses 14-18

v14 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses again. ‘*Pharaoh will not give in. He refuses to let the people go. v15 Tomorrow morning *Pharaoh will be going to the River Nile. Go to the river’s edge and wait for him. Take with you your stick, which became a snake. v16 Then speak to him on my behalf. You must say this *Pharaoh. “The *LORD, the *Hebrews’ God, has sent me to you. The *LORD says to you: Let my people go. They must *worship me in the *desert. But until now, you have not listened to me. v17 So this is what the *LORD says now. You will certainly know that I am the *LORD. I will hit the water in the River Nile with the stick that is in my hand. And the water will become blood. v18 All the fish in the River Nile will die, and the river will have a terrible smell. Then the *Egyptians will not be able to drink the water.” ’

Verses 17-18 The *Egyptians *worshipped the River Nile as a false god. The annual flood from the river caused the earth to produce excellent crops. The river provided water to drink and fish to eat. The river was very important for the *Egyptians. Anything that affected the River Nile affected everyone in Egypt.

The wonderful *sign – verses 19-21

v19 The *LORD continued to speak to Moses. ‘Tell Aaron this. “Take your stick in your hand. And reach out this hand over all the water in Egypt.” All the water in Egypt will become blood. This includes the streams and canals, and all the ponds and pools. There will be blood everywhere in Egypt. Even in the wooden buckets and in the jars there will be blood.’

v20 Moses and Aaron did exactly what the *LORD had ordered them. Aaron raised his stick in front of *Pharaoh and his officials. Then he hit the water in the River Nile and all the water became blood. v21 The fish in the river died. And the smell from the river was so bad that the *Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.

Verses 19-21 Moses told Aaron to raise the stick. That act showed God’s authority. Now the River Nile was not pure water. So the fish died and the water had a terrible smell. It was so bad that nobody could drink it. Some people say that there is a natural cause. A great amount of algae could have grown very quickly. Algae are very tiny plants. They can prevent the movement of air in the water. Also they can make the water look red like blood. However, these verses say that Moses and Aaron obeyed God. So God changed all the water in Egypt. God chose the time for his purpose.

That terrible thing affected all the available water. It even affected the water in buckets and jars in the houses. They made buckets out of wood and they made jars out of stone. They also made images of their *idols out of wood and stone. Perhaps God was showing the *Egyptians that their images of wood and of stone were no use. Such false gods could not protect them (Deuteronomy 29:16-17).

The results – verses 22-24

v22 But the *Egyptians who used magic, did the same things by means of their secret magic. So *Pharaoh would not give in to God. The *LORD had warned Moses and Aaron that *Pharaoh would not listen to them. v23 *Pharaoh turned round and went back to his palace. Even this wonderful act did not change *Pharaoh’s attitude. v24 Then all the *Egyptians had to dig holes near the River Nile to get their water. They could not drink the bad water in the river.

v25 7 days passed after the *LORD made the River Nile to become blood.

Verse 22 The men who used magic could not improve the situation. They convinced the people that they could do the same thing. But that made the situation worse.

Verse 24 People often dig holes in the sand at the side of a river. That is how they get clean water. But it is hard work. And the *Egyptians had to dig fresh holes each time they wanted water.

Chapter 8

*Plague number 2: *Frogs – verses 1-15

The *LORD warns *Pharaoh – verses 1-7

v1 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses. ‘Go to *Pharaoh and tell him this. “This is what the *LORD says to you: Let my people go. They must go and *worship me. v2 You may refuse to let them go. But then I will send animals called *frogs. And those *frogs will go everywhere in your whole country. v3 *Frogs will fill the River Nile and they will come into your palace. They will come into your bedroom and on your bed. And they will come into all the houses where your officials and your people live. They will go into your ovens and into the bowls where you make bread. v4 The *frogs will climb on you, and on your people and on all your officials.” ’

v5 The *LORD spoke to Moses again. ‘Say this to Aaron. “Reach out your hand with your stick in it. Hold the stick over the streams, the canals and the ponds. Make *frogs come up on all the land in Egypt” ’

v6 So they obeyed God. And Aaron reached out his hand with the stick over Egypt’s waters. Then *frogs came out from the water and they covered the country. v7 But the men who used magic did the same thing with their secret skills. They caused *frogs to come all over the country too.

Verse 2 *Frogs are small animals that can live in water or on land. They have very powerful back legs. With these legs they can swim and they can jump up in the air. They make a loud, low noise that can sound very unpleasant. The *Egyptians *worshipped a female false god called Heqt. That false god had a *frog’s head. They thought that she helped women. And then the women could have children.

Verses 3-4 describe how an enormous number of *frogs would leave the River Nile. Those *frogs would be a nuisance everywhere. The *frogs would be in the ovens when people tried to cook. Nobody would sleep because the *frogs would be in the bedrooms and on the beds. The *frogs would be in the bowls when people wanted to prepare food. Those details showed clearly how the *frogs would affect every part of their lives. Even *Pharaoh would not escape. The *frogs would enter his palace. They would go into his bedroom and into his bed. Psalm 105:30 mentions the *frogs in the rulers’ bedrooms.

Verse 7 The men who used magic increased the number of the *frogs! That act did not help *Pharaoh because too many *frogs were already there!

*Pharaoh’s promise – verses 8-15

v8 *Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron. ‘Pray to the *LORD for me’, he said. ‘Ask him to take the *frogs away from me and away from my people. Then I will let your people go. And you can give gifts to the *LORD.’

v9 Moses replied to *Pharaoh. ‘You may choose the time for me to pray. And I will pray for you and for your officials and for your people. I will ask the *LORD to send the *frogs away. He will make them leave you and your houses. Then *frogs will remain only in the River Nile.’

v10 ‘Do it tomorrow’, *Pharaoh said.

And Moses replied. ‘It will happen as you say. Then you will know that there is nobody like the *LORD our God. v11 The *frogs will leave you and your houses. They will leave your officials and your people. And they will remain only in the River Nile.’

v12 Moses and Aaron left *Pharaoh. Then Moses cried out to the *LORD about the *frogs. God had sent them to punish *Pharaoh. v13 But now, the *LORD did what Moses asked him. So all the *frogs died. There were dead *frogs in the houses. They were in the gardens in front of the houses. They were in the fields also. v14 The *Egyptians gathered the *frogs into great piles. And the *frogs’ dead bodies caused a very bad smell over the whole country. v15 Then *Pharaoh saw that the *frogs were dead. So he became proud again. He would not give in. He would not listen to Moses and Aaron. It was exactly as the *LORD had said.

Verse 8 When *Pharaoh himself had suffered, then he spoke to Moses and Aaron. He asked Moses to pray to the *LORD on his behalf. If God took the *frogs away, *Pharaoh would let the *Israelites go. Then they could give gifts to the *LORD. *Pharaoh recognised that the *LORD had sent the *plague of *frogs. He realised that his wise men could not send the *frogs away. His men, who used magic, had no power against God.

Verse 9 Moses was very polite to *Pharaoh, but he also emphasised God’s power. God had sent the *frogs. And God could make that *plague go away at any time.

Verses 12-14 After Moses had prayed, the *frogs died. The people put the frog’s bodies in piles, which made a very bad smell.

Verse 15 But *Pharaoh did not remember his promise. He did not let the *Israelites go. He thought that his country was safe again now. The *frogs had gone, so everything was normal again.

*Plague number 3: Insects called *gnats

*Gnats attack people – verses 16-19

v16 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses again. ‘Tell Aaron to reach out with his stick. He must hit the dust on the ground. And everywhere in Egypt the dust will become tiny insects called *gnats.’ v17 They obeyed God. So Aaron reached out his hand with the stick. And hit the ground with the stick. Then *gnats flew onto the people and onto the animals. The dust everywhere in Egypt became *gnats. v18 So the men who used magic tried to produce these tiny insects by means of their secret skills. But they failed. And the *gnats landed on both people and animals.

v19 Then the men who used magic spoke to *Pharaoh. ‘God has done this’, they said. But *Pharaoh would not give in to God. He would not listen, just as the *LORD had said.

Verses 16-17 Those ‘*gnats’ were probably the insects called ‘mosquitoes’. Such insects develop in enormous numbers in pools of water. And there were pools everywhere after the River Nile’s annual flood. Mosquitoes and *gnats are a nuisance when they fly up from the water. They look like a large black cloud. They sting people and they cause pain and illness. ‘Dust’ and ‘cloud’ are ways to describe their great numbers. God promised Abraham that his family would increase. They would be as many as the ‘dust of the earth’ (Genesis 13:16).

Verses 18-19 The men who used magic could not copy that *plague. So they told *Pharaoh that God had made the *plague of *gnats.

*Plague number 4: Flies – verses 20-32

The *LORD warns *Pharaoh – verses 20-23

v20 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses again. ‘Get up early tomorrow morning. And speak to *Pharaoh as he goes down to the river. Make him listen to this message from me. “The *LORD says this to you, *Pharaoh: Let my people go. They must go to *worship me. v21 And you must let my people go. If you do not allow this, I will send flies to your country like a great cloud. The flies will land on you, on your officials and on your people. I will fill all the *Egyptian houses with flies. And the flies will crawl all over the ground where you live.

v22 But on the same day, it will be different in the region called Goshen. That is where my people live. And I will not send flies in clouds to Goshen. Then you will know that I am in this country. I am the *LORD. v23 I will not deal in the same way with my people and with your people. This wonderful *sign will happen tomorrow.” ’

Verses 20-21 *Pharaoh was going down to the River Nile. Perhaps he was going there to *worship the false god of the river. The *Hebrew word ‘fly’ could refer to a variety of insects. The *Greek translation calls them ‘dog flies’. Some flies give painful bites to people and to animals.

Verses 22-23 Goshen was the area in Egypt where the *Israelites lived (Genesis 45:10). That was the first time that God dealt with the *Egyptians in a different way from the *Israelites. But later, the writer mentions that particular difference. It is during *plagues number 5 (Exodus 9:4, 6), *plague number 7 (Exodus 9:26), *plague number 9 (Exodus 10:23) and *plague number 10 (Exodus 11:7). The *LORD punished the *Egyptians. But at the same time he looked after his own people.

*Pharaoh tries to bargain with Moses – verses 24-32

v24 And the *LORD did as he had told *Pharaoh. Flies, in thick clouds, flew into *Pharaoh’s palace. And they flew into his officials’ houses. Everywhere in Egypt the flies ruined the country. v25 Then *Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron. ‘Go!’ *Pharaoh said to them. ‘You must give gifts to your God, but you must not leave this country.’

v26 Moses replied to *Pharaoh. ‘No, that would not be right. The *Egyptians would hate to see us give our gifts to the *LORD, our God. *Egyptians would think that we are insulting their gods. Then they would throw stones at us to kill us. v27 We must go for a journey of three days into the *desert. The *LORD, our God, has ordered us. There, we can give our gifts to him.’

v28 *Pharaoh said. ‘I will let you go into the *desert to give your gifts to the *LORD, your God. But you must not go very far. Now pray to the *LORD on our behalf.’

v29 Moses answered, ‘As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the *LORD. And tomorrow the flies will leave you. The flies will leave your officials and your people too. But be sure that you are not telling lies to us again. You must not refuse to let the people go now. They must go and give their gifts to the *LORD.’

v30 Then Moses left *Pharaoh. And Moses prayed to the *LORD. v31 And the *LORD did what Moses asked him. The flies left *Pharaoh and his people. Not one fly remained. v32 But *Pharaoh became proud again and he would not give in. So he would not let the people go.

Verses 25-26 Moses reminded *Pharaoh about the customs in his country. It would offend the *Egyptians if the *Israelites gave their gifts to God in Egypt. The *Israelites had to kill cows as a gift for the *LORD. But that was an insult to the *Egyptian false god, Isis. The *Israelites had to kill sheep as gifts for the *LORD. And that was an insult to the *Egyptian false god, Amon. Those animals were special and holy to the many *Egyptian false gods. Nearly every animal that the *Israelites were likely to give would offend the *Egyptians. So the *Egyptians would be very angry. And they would try to kill the *Israelites with stones.

Verses 27-28 *Pharaoh had to agree that was true. And he said that the *Israelites could go into the *desert. But to go for a ‘three day journey’ did not please him. Perhaps he thought that they would not come back! So he said that they must not go very far.

Verses 29-30 Moses promised to pray to the *LORD on behalf of *Pharaoh. Only God could remove the *plague of flies. *Pharaoh had told lies to them in the past. So Moses warned *Pharaoh that he must carry out his promise. He must let the *Israelites go. But as soon as the flies left completely, *Pharaoh became proud again. He would not give in. Again, he refused to let the people go.


Chapter 9

*Plague number 5: The *Egyptians’ animals become ill

The *plague that caused disease in animals – verses 1-7

v1 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses again. ‘Go to *Pharaoh and tell this to him. “This is what the *LORD, the *Hebrews’ God, says to you: Let my people go. They must go and *worship me. v2 Do not refuse to let them go. Do not prevent them. v3 If you refuse, the *LORD’s power will bring a terrible disease. The disease will come on your animals in the fields. He will bring a terrible disease on your horses, on your *donkeys, and on your camels. And he will bring a terrible disease on your cows, on your sheep and on your goats. v4 But the *LORD will make a difference between the *Israelites’ animals and the *Egyptians’ animals. So none of the *Israelites’ animals will die.” ’

v5 Also the *LORD told Moses the time when the *plague would begin. ‘Tomorrow I will send it on the country’, he said. v6 And the next day the *LORD sent this terrible disease. All the *Egyptians’ animals died. v7 Then *Pharaoh sent men to find out about it. They discovered the facts. Not even one of the *Israelites’ animals had died. But *Pharaoh was too proud to give in. So he would not let the *Israelite people go.

Verse 3 ‘cows’ includes both male and female animals. The *Israelites used cows for milk, for meat and for leather. They also used them to pull carts and other equipment.

Verses 5-6 Perhaps the animals died because the insects had bitten them. Both *gnats and flies can carry disease. But the *plague showed God’s great power. He chose when any *plague would happen and its extent. ‘All’ the *Egyptians’ animals means all those animals that were in the fields (verse 3). There were still some animals alive. But the future *plagues affected those other animals (Exodus 9:10, 25; 11:5).

*Plague number 6: *Boils

The *plague that caused *boils – verses 8-12

v8 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron. ‘Fill your hands with ashes. Get the ashes from the fire where you burn bricks. Moses must throw the ashes into the air while *Pharaoh is watching him. v9 The ashes will blow like dust over all the land in Egypt. And this dust will cause painful *boils to appear. They will appear on people and on animals everywhere in Egypt.’

v10 So Moses and Aaron took ashes from the fire and they stood in front of *Pharaoh. Moses threw the ashes into the air. Then painful *boils appeared on the *Egyptians and on their animals. v11 The painful *boils covered the skin of all the *Egyptian people. They covered even the men who used magic. They men could not continue to stand because the painful *boils were all over their skin. v12 But the *LORD made *Pharaoh continue to be proud. *Pharaoh would not give in. So he would not listen to Moses and Aaron. Everything happened exactly as the *LORD had told Moses.

Verse 8 The fires where they burnt the bricks produced a lot of ashes and fine black dust.

Verses 9-10 ‘*Boils’ are large red spots on the skin that are very painful. They become sore places, which produce bad substances. The wind would blow the ashes everywhere and it would be a *sign. People would see how the disease was spreading very quickly.

Verse 11 The men who used magic ‘could not continue to stand’. The painful *boils covered their knees and their legs (Deuteronomy 28:35). The *boils covered the rest of their skin too.

Verse 12 The record tells us that ‘the *LORD made *Pharaoh continue to be proud’. That is the first time during the *plagues that it says that about the *LORD. In the first 5 *plagues, *Pharaoh had become proud. He would not give in to God. *Pharaoh had made so many wrong moral choices. Now he was reaching the limit of his freedom to change. Still *Pharaoh was too proud. So the *LORD decided to punish *Pharaoh with more *plagues.

*Plague number 7: *Hail – verses 13-35

Moses warns *Pharaoh – verses 13-21

v13 Then the *LORD said to Moses, ‘Get up early in the morning. Make *Pharaoh listen to you. You must tell him this message. “This is what the *LORD, the *Hebrews’ God, says to you: Let my people go. They must go and *worship me. v14 If you refuse, I will send the entire force of my *plagues against you this time. I will punish you, your officials, and all your people. Then you will know that there is nobody like me in the whole world. v15 I could have killed you already. I could have punished you and your people with a *plague. I could have removed you completely from the earth. v16 But I let you live. And I am showing you my power. I want people everywhere on earth to give honour to my name.

v17 You have decided to oppose my people. Still you will not let them go. v18 So at this time tomorrow I will send a very bad storm of *hail. This will be the worst storm of *hail ever to fall on Egypt. There has never been a worse storm in all its history. v19 Order your people now. All your animals and everything else that you have outside in the fields must come in. Bring them all into your shelters. The *hail will fall on every person. And it will fall on every animal that is still outside in the fields. Then they will die.” You must warn *Pharaoh about this.’

v20 Some of *Pharaoh’s officials respected what the *LORD had said. So they hurried to bring their slaves and their animals inside. v21 But other people did not listen to what the *LORD had said. So they left their slaves and their animals outside in the fields.

Verses 13-15 God could have killed *Pharaoh and his people completely. But God had been very patient with *Pharaoh. Each *plague had given to *Pharaoh the opportunity to change. He could have let the *Israelites go.

Verse 16 God had allowed *Pharaoh to continue to live. God wanted people everywhere to know his power and his character. ‘Name’ means more than the word ‘God’ or ‘*LORD’. It means all the ways in which people understand God’s character (Romans 9:17).

Verses 17-21 *Pharaoh had become so proud that God punished him with 6 terrible *plagues. But he still refused to listen. He would not let the *Israelites go. So God must punish him again. And the next day God would send a terrible storm of *hail. ‘*Hail’ is a kind of ice. It is rain that has frozen. *Hail can be as small as a tiny seed. Or it can be as big as a small ball. It can hurt people. A strong storm of *hail kills animals. And it damages crops and property.

That storm of *hail would be terrible. It would be stronger than any storm that the *Egyptians had known in their history. *Pharaoh and his people could avoid damage from that *plague. If they obeyed God’s order, they would bring their slaves and their animals inside a shelter. Then they would be safe. Some of *Pharaoh’s officials believed God’s message. Quickly they obeyed the order. They brought their slaves and their animals inside. Other officials did not believe God. So they did not think that they ought to protect their property. Therefore, they left their slaves and their animals outside.

The storm of *hail– verses 22-26

v22 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses. ‘Reach out your hand towards the sky. Then *hail will fall all over Egypt. It will fall on men and on animals. And it will fall on everything that is growing in the *Egyptians’ fields.’

v23 Then Moses reached out with his stick towards the sky. And the *LORD sent *thunder and *hail. And he sent lightning flashes that reached down to the ground. So the *LORD sent *hail everywhere in Egypt. v24 *Hail fell and the lightning flashes hit the ground from all directions. It was the worst storm in the nation’s entire history. v25 All over Egypt, *hail hit all the men and the animals in the fields. It broke down everything that was growing in the fields. And it tore all the leaves off the trees. v26 The only place where it did not rain *hail was the region called Goshen. And that was where the *Israelites lived.

Verses 22-24 *Thunder is the sudden loud noise in a storm. It follows lightning in a storm. And the *hail came in a great storm. The lightning flashes hit the ground from all directions. The *thunder and the lightning were *signs that God was present. Later God showed that he was present on *Mount Sinai in the same way (Exodus 19:16). There had never been a storm as bad as that storm in Egypt’s entire history.

Verses 25-26 That *plague of *hail affected every person and every animal that was out in the fields. It destroyed crops and it tore the leaves off the trees. Only Goshen, where the *Israelites lived, escaped that *hail. God sent that *plague by means of his power. He had decided to rescue his people, the *Israelites, from Egypt.

The results from the *hail – verses 27-35

v27 Then *Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron. He said to them, ‘This time I have *sinned. The *LORD has done what is right. And I my people have done wrong things. v28 Pray to the *LORD on our behalf. We have had enough *thunder and *hail. I will let you go now. You do not have to stay here.’

v29 Then Moses replied to *Pharaoh. ‘When I have left the city, I will pray’, he said. ‘I will raise my hands and I will pray to the *LORD. The loud noise will stop and no more *hail will fall. So then, you will know that the earth belongs to the *LORD. v30 But I am certain that you and your officials still do not respect the *LORD God.’

v31 The *barley was ripe and there were flowers on the *flax. So the *hail had destroyed both those crops. v32 But the two kinds of wheat become ripe later, so the *hail did not destroy them.

v33 Then Moses left *Pharaoh and Moses went outside the city. He raised his hands and he prayed to the *LORD. The *thunder and the *hail stopped. And rain did not pour down on the country. v34 *Pharaoh saw that the storm had stopped. So he *sinned because he and his officials became proud again. v35 And *Pharaoh would not give in. Still he would not let the *Israelites go. Moses had told them what the *LORD had said. And it happened exactly like that.

Verses 27-30 For the first time *Pharaoh agreed that he was guilty. He agreed that the *LORD was right. He agreed that the *LORD was punishing him. And he agreed that the *LORD had sent the terrible *hail. *Pharaoh and his people wanted the *thunder and the *hail to stop. So *Pharaoh said that he would obey God. *Pharaoh would allow Moses and his people to go. Then he ordered Moses to pray on his behalf. Moses promised to pray. And he promised that the storm would stop. That would show that God controls the whole earth. But Moses knew that *Pharaoh and his officials were not sincere. Moses did not believe that *Pharaoh would carry out his promise. But he agreed to *Pharaoh’s request, so that *Pharaoh could make no more excuses.

Verse 31 *Barley was an important crop that became ripe before the wheat. *Flax is a plant with blue flowers. People use the stems to make material of good quality called ‘*linen’. The *Egyptians liked that expensive material. They made clothes out of *linen for their important people. Wheat was Egypt’s main export for many centuries, until *New Testament times. As a prisoner, Paul travelled on ships from the port called Alexandria. They probably carried loads of grain (Acts 27:6 and 28:11). The second kind of wheat can be called ‘spelt’. It would grow in poorer ground. But it was not as good quality as the usual wheat. Wheat became ripe a month later than the *barley and the *flax. So the wheat escaped the *hail. But the next *plague would destroy it.

Chapter 10

*Plague number 8: *Locusts – verses 1-20

Moses warns *Pharaoh again – verses 1-6

v1 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses again. ‘Go to *Pharaoh. I have caused him to be proud. And I have caused his officials to be proud too. They will not give in to me. Therefore I will do terrible things among them as wonderful *signs. v2 Then you can tell your children and your grandchildren how I punished the *Egyptians. Tell them how I did these wonderful acts among the *Egyptians. Then everyone will know that I am the *LORD.’

v3 So Moses and Aaron went to *Pharaoh. They spoke to him. ‘This is what the *LORD, the God of the *Hebrews, says to you. “You are refusing to respect me. You must let my people go. Then they can *worship me. v4 If you refuse to obey me, I will bring *locusts into your country tomorrow. v5 Those terrible insects will cover the ground so that nobody can see it. The *hail has not left much in your fields. But the *locusts will eat it all. They will eat every green thing, and that includes every tree in your fields. v6 They will fill your palace and your officials’ houses. And they will fill all houses of the *Egyptians. Your parents and your people before them have lived here for a very long time. But never have they seen anything like this.” ’ Then Moses turned away and they left *Pharaoh.

Verses 1-2 God had shown his power very clearly when he punished the *Egyptians. They were stupid to oppose the *LORD. The *Israelites must tell their children and their grandchildren about the *LORD’s wonderful acts. Then everyone would know that God is the most powerful Ruler. And he rules for all time.

Verses 4-6 *Locusts are large insects that can jump and fly. They usually live in areas near deserts, especially in Africa and in West Asia. They gather in enormous numbers and they move together. They are like a great, black cloud that rises high in the sky. They make the sky so dark that people cannot see the sun. When they land, they cover a large area. People are very afraid of these clouds of *locusts because they eat everything. They eat everything that is green. They destroy crops and trees. As a result, the people and the animals have no food. God used *locusts to punish people at other times too (Joel chapters 1-2).

*Pharaoh tries to bargain – verses 7-11

v7 Then *Pharaoh’s officials spoke to him. ‘This man will continue to cause trouble for us’, they said. ‘Let the people go. Let them *worship the *LORD their God. We can see how their God has ruined Egypt’

v8 So the officials brought Moses and Aaron back to *Pharaoh. *Pharaoh said to them, ‘Go. *Worship the *LORD your God. But who will be going?’

v9 Moses answered him. ‘All of us will go. We will take our young people and our old people. We will go with our sons and our daughters. And we need our animals for a special *feast. So we will take all our sheep, all our goats, and all our cows. We must have a special *feast together to give honour to the *LORD.’

v10 Then *Pharaoh replied. ‘The *LORD will certainly be with you! I will never let you go with your women and children! Certainly, you intend to do some evil thing. v11 No! Only the men can go and *worship the *LORD. That was what you requested!’ And *Pharaoh forced Moses and Aaron to leave him.

Verses 7-10 *Pharaoh’s officials were becoming anxious about their situation. So they protested to *Pharaoh. They reminded him that the *Hebrew God was destroying their country. So *Pharaoh ordered Moses and Aaron to come to him again. He asked them who would go with them. And Moses said that everyone must go. He said that the animals must go too. They needed them for the special *feast. And they needed them for the gifts that they would give to God. That would be a special occasion to give honour to the *LORD.

Verse 10 ‘The *Lord will certainly be with you’. But *Pharaoh was not blessing them. He meant that in a negative way. He did not really want the *Lord to be with them. If he let the families go, he would be doing a good thing to the *Israelites. But *Pharaoh did not want to do a good thing for the *Israelites. It was usual for the men to kill the animals and to give them to God. But *Pharaoh wanted to keep the women and the children and the animals in Egypt. He wanted to be sure that the *Israelite men would return to their families and their animals.

The *plague of *locusts – verses 12-20

v12 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses again. ‘Reach out your hand towards Egypt. Then *locusts will cover the country. They will eat everything that is growing in the fields. They will eat everything that remains after the *hail.’

v13 So Moses reached out with his stick towards Egypt. And the *LORD caused a wind to blow from the east. The wind blew across the country all that day and all that night. When the morning came, the wind had brought the *locusts. v14 They came into every part of Egypt. Many *locusts landed in every part of the country. There had never been so many *locusts there before. And never again will there be so many. v15 The *locusts covered the ground so that it seemed black. They ate every green thing that remained after the *hail. They ate everything that was growing in the fields. And they ate all the fruit on the trees. No green thing remained on the plants or on the trees anywhere in Egypt.

v16 *Pharaoh sent quickly for Moses and Aaron. ‘I have *sinned against the *LORD your God and against you’, he said. v17 ‘Now forgive my *sin once more. Pray to the *LORD your God to take these terrible insects away from me.’

v18 Moses left *Pharaoh and Moses prayed to the *LORD. v19 And the *LORD changed the wind. Then a very strong wind blew from the west. It carried away all the *locusts to the Red Sea. No *locusts remained anywhere in Egypt. v20 But the *LORD caused *Pharaoh to become proud again. So still he would not let the *Israelites go.

Verse 13 The *locusts came from the *desert. A wind from the east blew them over Egypt. And a wind from the west blew them away again (verse 19). God created the wind and he controls it. So he used these winds to do what he desired. He wanted to teach *Pharaoh a lesson. *Pharaoh was opposing the *LORD who rules the wind and the sea (Psalm 107:29). The *Egyptians *worshipped a false god called Senehem. They thought that false god could protect them from damage. That false god should protect them from insects and animals that were a nuisance. The *plague of *locusts showed that the *LORD’s power was greater than Senehem’s power. Neither *Pharaoh nor any *Egyptian false god could overcome the *LORD.

Verses 16-20 *Pharaoh asked Moses and Aaron to forgive him. He wanted the *LORD to take the *locusts away from Egypt. But his attitude had not changed.

Verse 19 The ‘Red Sea’ is ‘Yam Suph’ in the *Hebrew language. It means the ‘Reed Sea’. Reeds are tall plants that grow in water. But perhaps the ‘Red’ Sea got its name from very tiny red plants. Those plants sometimes grow in the sea.

*Plague number 9: Darkness – verses 21-29

Complete darkness – verses 21-29

v21 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses again. ‘Reach with your hand towards the sky. Then darkness will spread over Egypt. It will be so dark that people can feel it.’ v22 So Moses reached with his hand towards the sky. Then complete darkness covered all of Egypt for three days. v23 Nobody saw anyone else. And nobody went anywhere for three days. But all the *Israelites had light in the place where they lived.

v24 Then *Pharaoh sent for Moses again. ‘Go and *worship the *LORD’, he said. ‘Even your women and your children can go with you. But you must leave your sheep, your goats and your cows here.’

v25 And Moses answered him. ‘You must allow us to take the animals. We need gifts to give to the *LORD our God. v26 Not one animal can remain here. We have to use some of the animals when we *worship the *LORD our God. And we will not know which animals to use until we arrive.’

v27 But the *LORD caused *Pharaoh to become proud again. So he would not let them go.

v28 *Pharaoh said to Moses, ‘Get out of my sight! Make sure that you do not appear in front of me again. If you see my face again, you will die.’

v29 ‘Just as you say’, Moses replied. ‘I will never appear in front of you again.’

Verses 21-23 Moses did not warn *Pharaoh about that *plague. And he had not warned *Pharaoh about the *gnats and the *boils. The chief *Egyptian false god, called Ra, *represented the sun. So darkness was an insult to the false god Ra. In the early Spring, a wind called ‘khamsin’ blows sometimes in Egypt. That wind blows from the south-west. It blows millions of tiny grains of sand from the *desert. And these storms of sand last for two or three days. They make the air so full of sand that it is like the night. The people cannot see and they cannot do anything. It is so hot and so dark. People say that they can ‘feel’ the darkness. Perhaps this is how God caused the darkness in Egypt. But the *Israelites had light in Goshen, the part of Egypt where they lived.

Verses 24-26 *Pharaoh had seen storms of sand before that time. But he realised that the darkness was different. It must be the *Hebrews’ God who had caused it. So he sent for Moses again. He said that the *Israelites could go. Their women and children could go too. But they must leave their animals in Goshen. Many animals had died in Egypt with the diseases and the *hail. So perhaps *Pharaoh intended to take the *Israelites’ animals. Or perhaps he wanted to emphasise that he controlled the situation still. Moses reminded *Pharaoh why they wanted to go to the *desert. They wanted to give gifts to the *LORD. That would be impossible without the animals to give as gifts. And they did not know which animals they would need. They would not know that until they arrived at the place in the *desert. So Moses told *Pharaoh that they must not leave even one animal. Moses had given *Pharaoh no opportunity to bargain about the animals.

Verses 27-29 *Pharaoh was very angry that Moses had won. He told Moses to ‘get out’. *Pharaoh said that Moses should never return. And Moses agreed that he would not appear in front of *Pharaoh again. *Pharaoh would have no more opportunity for to argue with Moses. *Pharaoh could not continue to oppose the *LORD.

(Exodus 12:31 says that *Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron at night. He ordered them to leave. And they could take their animals with them. *Pharaoh probably sent someone to them with that order. Sometimes people say what they do not mean. That happens especially when they are very angry. The death of *Pharaoh’s oldest son changed him and he was very sad. So perhaps he forgot that he wanted to kill Moses.)

Chapter 11

*Plague number 10: The oldest son in each *Egyptian family dies – 11:1-8; 12:1-13 and 12:29-30

The *LORD announces the *plague on the oldest sons of the *Egyptians – verses 1-10

v1 The *LORD told Moses. ‘I will bring one more *plague on *Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you and your people go away from here. And he will force you away completely. v2 Tell all the *Israelite men and women to ask their *Egyptian neighbours for silver and gold objects.’ v3 Then the *LORD caused the *Egyptians to be kind to the *Israelites. *Pharaoh’s officials and his people respected Moses as an important leader.

v4 So Moses spoke to the king once more. ‘This is what the *LORD says to you. “At midnight I will go through the whole country called Egypt. v5 Every *Egyptian’s oldest son will die.” You are the king who sits on the royal seat. But your oldest son will die. And the female slave, who makes wheat into flour, her oldest son will die too. And all your male animals that were born first to their mothers will die. v6 Everyone will cry. They will make a very loud noise everywhere in Egypt. They will weep more than ever before. And nothing like this will ever happen again. v7 But it will be quiet among the *Israelites. You will not even hear a domestic animal bark at any man or at any other animal. Then you will know that the *LORD makes a difference between the *Egyptians and the *Israelites. v8 All your officials will come to me. They will show that they respect me. “Go and take your people with you”, they will say to me. “Go with all the people who follow you!” And after that I will leave.’

Moses was very angry as he left *Pharaoh.

v9 The *LORD had told Moses. ‘*Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you. So I will increase my wonderful acts in Egypt.’ v10 Moses and Aaron had done all these wonderful *signs in front of *Pharaoh. But the *LORD caused *Pharaoh to be very proud. So he did not listen and he would not give in. He would not let the *Israelites go away from his country.

Verses 1-2 *Plague number 10 would be the final wonderful act. Afterwards, *Pharaoh wanted the *Israelites to leave his country. But they would not go as poor people. God had told the *Israelites to ask their *Egyptian neighbours for gold and silver objects. And the *Egyptians were glad to see the *Israelites go away. So they gave to the *Israelites the things for which they had asked (Exodus 12:33). Later, the *Israelites used some of these things in both good ways and bad ways. They gave some things to Aaron to make the young *bull from gold (Exodus 32:2-4). They gave more things to Moses to make things for God’s special tent (Exodus 25:1-3).

Verses 4-5 Verse 4 continues the account about how Moses warned *Pharaoh for the last time. Verses 1-3 interrupt that account. Everybody’s oldest sons would die. That *plague would affect everyone from *Pharaoh, the king, to the least important female slave. Those female slaves did the very humble work. They turned the stones to make the wheat into flour. Every male animal that was born first to the *Egyptians’ animals would die also. The *Egyptians *worshipped a great many false gods that had the shape of an animal. But those false gods had no power to protect the *Egyptians’ own animals.

Verse 6 The *Israelites had called to the *LORD because of their troubles. And he heard their cry (Exodus 2:23-24). Now the *Egyptians cried out. But they did not cry to the real God. The *Egyptians were afraid in the night because Ra, their Sun god, had left them. So they thought that they were without protection. They cried because their sons had died. There would be no oldest son to continue with the name of the family.

Verse 7 ‘quiet among the *Israelites…not hear a domestic animal bark’. The *Israelites had no reason to be afraid. Not one of the *Israelites or their animals would die. The *LORD would act to punish the *Egyptians. But he would act to rescue his people, the *Israelites.

Verses 9-10 The 9 previous *plagues had happened after Moses and Aaron had reached up with Moses’ stick. Or Moses had reached up his hand as a *sign. But for the final *plague, God himself would go all through Egypt (Exodus 11:4; 12:12). God had given to *Pharaoh many opportunities to change his decision. God gives to all people the opportunity to change their behaviour. But nobody can refuse to obey God for all time. God is the judge. And he must punish anyone who has refused to obey him. The time had come for God to punish *Pharaoh and his people.

Chapter 12

The *Passover – verses 1-28

Preparations for the special meal – verses 1-13

v1 The *LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in Egypt. v2 ‘This month will be the first month for you’, he said to them. ‘It will be the first month of your year. v3 Speak to all the *Israelites. Tell them that on day 10 of this month each man must choose a young male sheep or goat. He must choose it for his family to eat. Choose one animal for each home. v4 Perhaps there are not enough people in one home to eat a whole animal. Then they must share the animal with their nearest neighbours. They must notice how many people are in their homes. And they must be sure that everyone gets some of this meat to eat. v5 The animals that you choose must be males of one year old. They must be perfect young sheep or young goats. v6 Each family must take care of their animal until the evening of day 14 in the month. Then they must kill the animal while it is getting dark. v7 They must save some of the animal’s blood. They must protect each house where they will eat the animals. So they must paint this blood on the top and on the side of the beams. These beams go round the doors of those houses.

v8 That same night they must cook the meat over the fire. They should eat the meat with plants that have a bitter taste. Also they must eat flat bread that they make without *yeast. v9 Do not eat the meat when it is raw. And do not cook it in water. You must cook the entire animal over the fire. You must include the head, the legs and the inside parts. v10 Eat all of it that you want. But if you leave any of it until the next morning, you must burn it. v11 When you eat it, you must be ready to travel. You must dress and fasten your belts round your coats. You must wear something on your feet. And you should have your sticks in your hands. Eat the meal quickly. This meal is the *LORD’s *Passover.’

v12 ‘On that same night I will pass through Egypt. I will kill everybody’s oldest son. And I will kill every male animal that is born first. This will be my judgement on all Egypt’s false gods. I am the *LORD. v13 The animals’ blood will be a *sign on your houses. It will show me where you live. So when I see the blood, I will pass over you. I will punish Egypt, but no terrible *plague will touch you.’


Verse 2 They called that first month ‘Abib’. It is the month when the first grain becomes ripe. Later, when they were in the country called Babylon, they called that month ‘Nisan’ (Nehemiah 2:1). It is the same time in the year as the months that we call March and April in English. Before that time, the *Israelites’ year had begun in the autumn. That was after the agricultural year had ended (Exodus 23:16). But God brought the *Israelites away from their past in Egypt. It was a new beginning. So in the future, their year would begin with the month called Abib.

Verses 3-5 The animal must be a perfect male that was one year old. It could be either a sheep or a goat. Each leader of a family counted how many people lived in his home. He had to decide how much each person would eat. A whole animal might be too much for his home if only a few people lived there. Then they must share one animal with their nearest neighbour and his family. In later days, they calculated that ten adults would eat one young sheep.

Verses 6-10 Day 14 would be in the middle of the month. The moon would be complete then. The animal’s blood *represents that it has given its life (Leviticus 17:11). So they painted the blood round the doors of their houses as a *sign. The *Israelites would eat in those houses for which the animals had ‘given’ their lives. They must cook the animal over a fire. God did not want them to eat raw meat. Perhaps people, who did not know God, ate raw meat sometimes.

Later, the plants with a bitter taste reminded the *Israelites about their bitter past as slaves. At that meal they must eat flat bread that they made without *yeast. The *yeast grows slowly in the bread as they make it. Then the mixture rises. So without *yeast the bread is thin and flat. But they would not have time to wait for the *yeast. They had to burn anything that they did not eat completely at that one meal. In that way they were respecting something that they had given to God. Today, the *Jews still eat the *Passover meal. But they have just a part of a perfect animal’s leg. That leg *represents the whole animal.

Verses 11-13 The *Israelites must eat the meal quickly. They must be ready to leave in a hurry. They must fasten their belts round their coats so that they could move easily. They must wear their shoes because they could not walk a long way with bare feet. And they must carry their sticks to help them to walk well. Also they used the sticks to control their animals.

They would be eating the meal at the time when the *LORD ‘passed through’ Egypt. God would bring his judgement on ‘all Egypt’s false gods’. Already the *LORD had punished some of those false gods. Those false gods included the River Nile (Exodus 7:19), Heqt, the false god with the *frog’s head (Exodus 8:2), and Ra, the Sun god (Exodus 10:21). Now God would punish the *Egyptians themselves. He would kill their oldest sons. But the *Israelites had painted the blood on their houses. The blood was a *sign. So the *LORD would ‘pass over’ the *Israelites’ houses. They would be safe. Psalm 78:43-52 refers to God’s judgement on Egypt. It tells how he rescued his people, the *Israelites.

Bread without *yeast – verses 14-20

v14 ‘This is a day that you must remember. You must respect this day for all time. You and your children must remember this day each year. It will be a special day to give honour to the *LORD. This is a law that will last for all time. v15 For 7 days you must eat flat bread that you make without *yeast. On the first day, remove every kind of *yeast from your houses. And for all 7 days, nobody must eat anything with *yeast in it. If they do, they cannot be a part of *Israel’s people. v16 On the first day, meet together to *worship me. Then meet together again on the 7th day. Do not do any work on those two days. However, you can prepare food for everyone to eat on those days.’

v17 ‘Do this every year. And call it “the *Feast when we eat bread without *yeast”. Then you will remember this day. I brought you away from Egypt in your families on this day. This is a law for all the future. v18 Always begin this time on the evening of day 14 of the first month. Continue until the evening of day 21. During that time, eat only flat bread without *yeast. v19 For 7 days you must have no *yeast in your houses. And anyone who eats anything with *yeast in it cannot remain as a part of your nation. This rule is the same for the foreigners who live with you and for *Israelites. v20 Eat nothing that contains *yeast for those 7 days. Wherever you live, you must eat flat bread without *yeast.’

Verses 14-17 God punished the *Egyptians. And he rescued the *Israelites from Egypt. God told the *Israelites to always remember that time. Many writers in the Bible refer back to that time. Today, *Jews continue to remember that time. They continue to have that meal more than 3000 years after it first happened.

Another name for *yeast is ‘leaven’. ‘Unleavened bread’ is bread that they made without *yeast. It is like a thin, flat biscuit. Today, *Jews call bread like this ‘matzos’. The *feast lasts for 7 days. 7 is a *sign that it is complete. At the beginning and at the end of that week God wanted them to meet together. They would *worship God. They could do food preparation. But they must not do any other work on those two days of *worship. God brought his people away from Egypt. During the week after the *Passover meal, they remembered that act. Immediately after the *Passover meal was the *Feast when they ate bread without *yeast. Therefore they considered both these events as one special period (Exodus 23:15).

Verses 18-20 Before the *Passover, the *Israelites had to remove any *yeast from their homes. And they had to remove all food that contained *yeast. Even today, *Jews search their houses to be sure about that. They must not include anyone as part of *Israel if they did not obey that law. That was very serious. It meant that they should punish that person. Either they must send them away, or they must kill them. The rule was for the people who were born as *Israelites. And it was the same rule for the people who had joined them.

The *Passover meal – verses 21-28

v21 Then Moses sent for all *Israel’s leaders. ‘Go at once and choose the animals for your families’, he said to them. ‘Kill the young sheep for the *Passover meal. v22 Hold in your hand some small branches from the plant called hyssop. And make them wet with the sheep’s blood in the basin. Then use them to paint some of the blood. Paint it on the upper beam and on both sides round the door. Go inside your door, and none of you must leave your house until the morning. v23 The *LORD will go through the country and he will kill the *Egyptians. Then he will see the blood round your door, and he will pass over your house. He will not allow his *angel to enter your houses. His *angel, who brings death, will not kill any of you.’

v24 ‘Obey these instructions. They are a law for you and for your children for all time. v25 The *LORD will give to you the country that he has promised to you. When you have entered the country, you must have this ceremony every year. v26 Your children will ask you: “What does this special meal mean for us?” v27 When they ask that question, you must tell them this. “It is the *Passover meal to give honour to the *LORD. He passed over the houses where our people, the *Israelites, lived in Egypt. He did not touch our children, but he killed the *Egyptians.” ’

Then the people bent down and they *worshipped God. v28 The *Israelites did everything that the *LORD had ordered Moses and Aaron.

Verse 22 ‘Hyssop’ was a small bush with a pleasant smell. It grew as a wild bush. If you hold branches of that plant together, you can use it as a kind of brush. They could use hyssop to splash or paint the blood on the beams round the door. After that, nobody must leave the house until the morning. They must stay where the young sheep’s blood was the *sign. The blood would protect them.

Verse 23 ‘His *angel who brings death’ described God’s control. God’s judgement brought death in serious situations.

Verses 24-27 Children will ask why they have that special meal. Then their parents must explain the *Passover. The *LORD had saved the *Israelites when he ‘passed over’ their houses in Egypt. But he entered the *Egyptians’ houses and he killed their oldest sons. Today *Jewish families eat the special meal at *Passover. And the youngest child in the family asks the same question.

The *Israelites leave Egypt – verses 29-36

v29 At midnight, the *LORD killed all the oldest sons in Egypt. *Pharaoh was the king, but his oldest son died. And God killed the oldest sons of men who were in prison too. He also killed the *Egyptians’ male animals that were born first to their mothers. v30 So *Pharaoh and all his officials and all the other *Egyptians got up. Someone had died in every *Egyptian home that night. So they all started to cry loudly.

v31 During that night *Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron. ‘Get up and go away from my country!’ he ordered. ‘Take all the *Israelites with you and leave my people! Go and *worship the *LORD. You asked me for that, so go. v32 Take your sheep and your goats and your cows, as you have said. And also ask your God to be kind to me.’

v33 The *Egyptians urged the *Israelites to hurry. ‘Leave our country quickly’, they said. ‘If you do not hurry, we will all die!’

v34 Quickly the *Israelites prepared some bread without *yeast and they put it in pans. They wrapped the pans in clothes. And they carried the pans on their shoulders. v35 The *Israelites did all that Moses had told them to do. They asked the *Egyptians for silver and gold objects. They also asked the *Egyptians for clothes. v36 The *LORD caused the *Egyptians to be kind to the *Israelites. So they gave all those things to the *Israelites. And that was how the *Israelites took away the *Egyptians’ wealth.

Verse 29 Exodus 11:5 compares *Pharaoh with the female slave who made flour. Here it compares *Pharaoh with a prisoner in the worst prison.

Verses 31-32 At last, *Pharaoh allowed the *Israelites to leave. He was allowing their women and the children to go as well. And all the animals could go too. Although they were slaves, the *Israelites had their own animals. *Pharaoh even asked Moses to pray on his behalf.

Verses 33-36 The *Egyptians wanted the *Israelites to leave as quickly as possible. If the *Israelites did not go, more terrible things would happen. The *Egyptians were afraid that all of them would die.

Exodus 3:21-22 and Exodus 11:1-2. Those verses have recorded already how the *Israelites requested gold and silver objects and clothes from the *Egyptians. So the *Israelites left Egypt like an army that had won a war. They carried away precious goods from the enemy. They did that when they defeated an enemy in a battle.

The first part of the journey – verses 37-42

v37 That night the *Israelites travelled from the city called Rameses to the place called Succoth. There were about 600 000 men who were walking. And there were women and children too. v38 Many other people went with them as well. And they were taking many sheep, goats and cows with them. v39 They baked the mixture for bread that they had brought from Egypt. But it made just flat bread, because it had no *yeast in it. They had left Egypt in a hurry. So there had been no time for them to prepare other food for themselves.

v40 Now the *Israelites had lived in Egypt for 430 years. v41 After exactly 430 years, all the *LORD’s people marched away from Egypt. They were like an army. v42 The *LORD protected them that night as he brought them away from Egypt. So every year on that same night the *Israelites must remember the *LORD. They must give honour to the *LORD in this way for all time to come.

Verses 37-38 Numbers 33:3 records that the *Israelites started their journey on day 15 of the first month. That was the day after the *Passover. And all the *Israelites had gathered together in the city called Rameses. Then they marched to the east through Goshen district to the place called Succoth. In the *Hebrew language, ‘Succoth’ means tents or shelters.

Also Numbers 11:21 tells us that there were 600 000 men. Some people think that the big number is a mistake. They say there were too many people. There were large numbers of women and children as well. But *Pharaoh had worried that so many *Israelites were living in his country (Exodus 1:6-9). And later, he did not want to lose so many free workers. In the future, the *Israelites caused the people called Moabites to be afraid of them (Numbers 22:3). So there were great numbers of *Israelites. Also Moses and their other leaders were very careful. They kept accurate records.

Verse 38 says ‘many other people went with them’. Probably some of these other people had married *Israelites. And some of them may have been prisoners whom the *Egyptians kept as slaves. Perhaps they were from other countries. Now they saw the opportunity to escape from Egypt. But perhaps they did not believe the *Israelite religion. If so, it should not surprise us that they caused trouble. In Numbers 11:4 they encouraged the *Israelites to complain about their food.

Verses 40-42 God told Abraham about the future. Abraham’s family would be slaves for 400 years (Genesis 15:13 and Acts 7:6). The extra 30 years may include some of the time when Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived. ‘After exactly 430 years’ emphasises that the time in Egypt had ended. God had looked after the *Israelites while he brought them away from Egypt. So the *Israelites must remember that fact each year. And they must give honour to the *LORD.

*Passover rules – verses 43-51

v43 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron. ‘These are the rules for the *Passover meal’, he told them. ‘No foreigner can eat this meal. v44 You should *circumcise any slave, whom you have bought. Then he can eat this meal with you. v45 But a worker, whom you employ, cannot eat it. And a foreigner, who stays with you for a short time, cannot eat it.’

v46 ‘You must eat this meal inside your home. You must not take any of the meat outside the house. And you must not break any of the bones. v47 Every *Israelite must eat the *Passover meal.’

v48 ‘Perhaps a foreigner is living with you. Perhaps he wants to eat the *Passover meal with you. He wants to give honour to me, the *LORD. You must *circumcise all the males in his family. Then he can eat the *Passover meal like someone who was born as an *Israelite. No man or boy, whom you have not *circumcised, can eat that meal with you. v49 It is the same law for an *Israelite and for any foreigner, who is living with you.’

v50 All the *Israelites did exactly what the *LORD had ordered Moses and Aaron. v51 And on that same day, the *LORD brought the *Israelite families away from Egypt.

Verses 44-45 A slave would become a part of the family if his master had *circumcised him. So he would belong to God’s family too. To *circumcise someone was a *sign. It marked the special promise that God had made to his people (Genesis 17:12). Men, who stayed only for a short time, were not a part of the family. So they must not eat the *Passover meal.

Verse 46 ‘Inside your home’ reminded them about the unity of the family. The *Passover had brought that unity to them. They must not break the animal’s bones during the *Passover meal. The *apostle called John remembered that. Jesus was like the perfect young sheep for a *Passover meal when he died. In Jesus’ time, many prisoners died on crosses. The soldiers usually broke the prisoners’ legs in the evening. But the soldiers did not break Jesus’ legs, because he was dead already (John 19:33 and 19:36).

Verse 48 Perhaps a foreigner or a stranger wanted to eat the *LORD’s *Passover meal. Then they must *circumcise all the males in his house. That would show that they had joined God’s family. The foreigners or strangers would be exactly like those men who were born *Israelites. Then they would receive the same benefits as the *Israelites received from God’s special promise (Genesis 22:18). In the *New Testament Paul wrote about people who are not *Jews. They can become one family with *Jews. They will all be one family if they all trust Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:6).


Chapter 13

The *Israelites’ oldest sons belong to God – verses 1-16

The time to eat bread that they made without *yeast – verses 1-10

v1 The *LORD spoke to Moses. v2 ‘You must give to me the first son who is born in every family. The first son of every *Israelite mother belongs to me. Also the first animal that is born to its mother belongs to me.’

v3 So Moses spoke to the people. ‘Remember this day. It is the day when you came away from Egypt. You were slaves in Egypt. But the *LORD brought you away from Egypt by means of his great power. Now you must eat nothing with *yeast in it. v4 This is the month called Abib and you are leaving Egypt today. v5 The *LORD will bring you into the country where the *Canaanites live. People called the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites and the Jebusites all live there too. The *LORD made a promise to your parents, who lived a long time ago. He said that he would give this country to you. And this country has plenty of milk and plenty of honey. When you get to this country, you must remember your experiences this month. v6 For 7 days you should eat flat bread that you make without *yeast. On the 7th day, have a special meal when you give honour to the *LORD. v7 Eat only flat bread without *yeast during those 7 days. There must not be any *yeast anywhere in your whole country. v8 On the 7th day, you must explain to your children. “I do this because the *LORD brought me away from Egypt in a wonderful way.” v9 When you remember this day in this special way, it will be like a *sign on your hand. It will be like a *sign on the front of your head to remind you. You should tell to other people what the *LORD has taught to you. The *LORD brought you away from Egypt by means of his great power. v10 So you must obey this law at the same time every year.’

Verses 1-2 and verses 11-16 deal with the order to give their oldest sons to God. Verses 3-10 seem to be an interruption. But the time to eat bread without *yeast is part of the *Passover. It reminds the *Israelites about that great rescue. It was at the time of the *Passover that God rescued the oldest *Israelite sons. So those sons who were born first, belonged to God. They were available for God to use. He could use them in a special way if he wanted to do so. That was why parents gave their oldest sons to God.

Verses 3-7 The *LORD had rescued the *Israelites from Egypt where they had been slaves. But they were going to freedom in a country where there was plenty of food. They will have plenty to eat and plenty to drink in the future. So they must remember how the *LORD had saved them. They must remember that every year in the month Abib. The days when they ate flat bread without *yeast should remind them. And they must eat flat bread without *yeast for 7 days. They must remove all the *yeast and ordinary bread from their homes. There must be no *yeast anywhere in their country.

Verse 8 The *Jews continue the custom every year. They have the special meal at *Passover each year. Today, the youngest son asks his father what it all means. And the father in each family must explain it. That conversation is important. The son’s question and the father’s answer help them to remember their history.

Verses 9-10 The reference to the ‘hand’ refers to what people do. The ‘head’ refers to what people think. The people needed to remember that God rescued them from Egypt. And that memory should affect everything that they did with their hands. And it should affect everything that they thought in their heads.

But later, *Jews thought that they must actually put *signs on their hands. And put *signs on the front of their heads. So even today, strict *Jews write verses from Deuteronomy on tiny pieces of paper. They make the paper from the skins of animals. They put these little papers in small boxes. They use leather to make these boxes. And they bind these boxes onto their left arms. And bind them onto the front of their heads. They use narrow bands of leather to bind them. And they call these little boxes ‘phylacteries’. However, they need to do what God wants. And they should think in the way that God wants. Otherwise, the little boxes cannot help them. Jesus also mentioned ‘phylacteries’ (Matthew 23:5).

The law of the *LORD is ‘what the *LORD has taught you’. That law should affect everything that they say. And the law should affect everything that they do. And they must teach the law to other people.

The *Israelites need to buy back their oldest sons – verses 11-16

v11 ‘The *LORD will bring you into the *Canaanites’ country. He will give that country to you. Certainly, he will remember his special promise to you and to your parents a long time ago. v12 Then you must give to the *LORD the oldest son of every mother. And all the males that are born first to your animals, belong to the *LORD too. v13 But the *LORD cannot accept your animals called *donkeys. You must give a young sheep in order to buy back a male *donkey that is born first. And if you do not save the *donkey in that way, you must break its neck. You must buy back every oldest son too. You must replace them with a perfect young animal.’

v14 ‘In the future your son will ask you about this. “What does this mean?” he will ask. And you will reply to him. “With great power the *LORD brought us away from Egypt where we were slaves. v15 *Pharaoh was very proud. And he refused to give to us our freedom. So the *LORD killed every oldest son in the *Egyptian families. And he killed every animal that was born first to its mother. That is why we give animals to the *LORD. We give to the *LORD our male animals, that are born first. And we give an animal to the *LORD in order to buy back our oldest sons. v16 This will remind you. It will be like a mark on your hand. Or it will be like a *sign on the front of your head. It will remind you that the *LORD brought us away from Egypt by means of his great power.” ’

Verses 11-13 The oldest sons in each family belonged to God. And the male animals, that were born first, belonged to God. But the *Israelites must not kill their oldest sons as a gift to God. That was clear from Abraham’s experience. A male sheep replaced his son, Isaac. God made it possible for Abraham to ‘buy back’ his son (Genesis 22:13). Later, God told Moses that he had chosen all the men in the family called Levi. The young men had helped to give the people’s gifts to God. But the *Levites would replace the other *Israelites’ oldest sons (Exodus 32:28-29). And the *Levites would serve God in place of the oldest sons (Numbers 3:11-13). Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the *temple in Jerusalem. They gave birds to the *LORD to buy back their baby son (Luke 2:22-24).

People had to kill the young animals that belonged to the *LORD. But the *donkey was different. It looks like a small horse with long ears. It works for people and it can carry people and goods. But it was not a *clean animal, so God did not accept it. So the *donkey could not be a gift that they gave to the *LORD on an *altar. But it belonged to the *LORD, so they must ‘redeem’ it. ‘Redeem’ means ‘buy it back’. A young male sheep could take its place. But the *Israelites might not replace the *donkey with a young sheep. If they did not replace the *donkey then they must kill it.

Verses 14-16 The oldest son, and the animal that is born first, belonged to God. The father must explain the reason to his sons. The father must remind them how the *LORD used his great power. He had rescued the *Israelites from Egypt by means of wonderful acts. Verse 9 had explained that they must always remember that. Every year they must eat flat bread that they made without *yeast. Verse 15 says that they must always remember about the oldest sons. Those sons belonged to God because he had saved them. He killed the *Egyptians’ oldest sons and animals. But God saved the *Israelites’ oldest sons and animals.

The journey towards the Red Sea 17-22

v17 *Pharaoh had let the people go away from Egypt. And the road through the country where the *Philistines lived, was a shorter route. But God did not lead his people that way. ‘If they have to fight, they might change their decision. Then they might return to Egypt’, God said. v18 So God led the people round by the road through the *desert. It went towards the Red Sea. God had prepared the *Israelites for battle when they left Egypt.

v19 Moses took Joseph’s bones with them. A long time ago, when Joseph was dying, he had spoken to Israel’s other sons. He made his brothers make a serious promise to him. Joseph had said to them, ‘Certainly God will come to rescue you. Then you must carry my bones with you when you leave this place.’

v20 The *Israelites left the place called Succoth. Then they camped at Etham, which was at the edge of the *desert. v21 The *LORD led them by means of a tall cloud during the day. His cloud guided them on their way. At night, he led them with fire like a column. And it gave light to them. Therefore, they could travel well in the day or at night. v22 During the day, the cloud did not leave its place in front of the people. And at night, the cloud of fire did not leave its place ahead of them.

Verses 17-18 The *Israelites had lived in the Goshen district, which was in Egypt. Now God was taking them to the country called *Canaan. And the direct road to *Canaan was through the country where the *Philistines lived. But there were many *Egyptian guards along that route. They would stop the *Israelites before they reached the border. The *Israelites would be afraid to fight the *Egyptian soldiers. Perhaps the *Israelites would turn and go back to Egypt. So God directed them to go a different way. The ‘Red Sea’ is ‘Yam Suph’ in the *Hebrew language. It means the ‘Reed Sea’. Reeds are plants that grow in shallow water. That may be any part of what we call ‘the Red Sea’ now. It is not certain where that was exactly.

Verse 19 Joseph had insisted that his family should make a serious promise to him. They must take his body with them to *Canaan. That proved that he believed God’s promise. He was sure that later, God would take the *Israelites away from Egypt. And he was sure that God would lead them back to *Canaan. (Genesis 50:24-25). Finally, they buried Joseph at a place called Shechem in *Canaan. Many years ago, Jacob had bought a piece of land there (Genesis 33:19 and Joshua 24:32).

Verse 20 The name ‘Etham’ means ‘Tum’s house’. And Tum was another name for the sun god.

Verses 21-22 The cloud and the fire were impressive *signs. They showed that God was with the *Israelites on their journey.

Chapter 14

The *Israelites cross the Red Sea – verses 1-31

*Pharaoh pursues the *Israelites – verses 1-9

v1 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses. v2 ‘Tell the *Israelites to turn back. Tell them to make their camp near Pi Hahiroth, between the place called Migdol and the sea. They must camp by the sea, opposite the place called Baal Zephon. v3 *Pharaoh will hear about it. He will think, “The *Israelites are wandering round. They are not sure which way they should go. The *desert is all round them now. And they are afraid to cross it.” v4 Then I will make *Pharaoh feel proud again. And he will chase after you. But I will ruin *Pharaoh and all his army. Everywhere people will *praise me when they hear about this. And the *Egyptians will know that I am the *LORD.’

The *Israelites obeyed the *LORD and they camped by the Red Sea.

v5 Egypt’s king heard that the *Israelites had gone away. Then *Pharaoh and his officials changed their decision about them. ‘We have not done a good thing’, they said. ‘We have let the *Israelites leave our country. We have lost all our workers!’

v6 So *Pharaoh ordered his servants to get his *chariot ready. He took his army with him. v7 He took 600 of his best *chariots. And he took drivers with their officers to direct them. He also ordered all the other *Egyptian *chariots, with their officers, to go with him. v8 The *LORD made *Pharaoh feel very proud and angry. He was the king, but he pursued the *Israelites. And they were marching along confidently. v9 So the *Egyptians chased after them. All *Pharaoh’s soldiers were following them. Some soldiers were riding in the *chariots. Other soldiers were riding on horses. The *Egyptians caught up with the *Israelites where they had camped by the sea. They were near the place called Pi Hahiroth. It was across from Baal Zephon.

Verses 1-2 God told the *Israelites to turn back. So they did not continue to go in the same direction (Numbers 33:7). God told them exactly where to camp. Pi-Hahiroth was probably two or three days’ journey from Etham. ‘Migdol’ was the name of a strong building where they could watch for an enemy. And ‘Baal Zephon’ was the name of a *Canaanite false god. The *Israelites camped north of the Red Sea. They were probably about 20 miles east of the city called Rameses and south of Lake Menzaleh.

Verses 3-4 God told them to change direction. That would give the wrong idea to *Pharaoh. He would think that the *Israelites did not know their way through the *desert. And he would think that they could not escape. The sea was in front of them and the *desert was behind them.

Verses 5-7 *Pharaoh and his officials realised that they had lost a very large number of their workers. So *Pharaoh became proud again and he lost his fear of God. He prepared to chase after the *Israelites. Most of his army consisted of *chariots, that they used in a war. Horses pulled these small vehicles with two men in each *chariot. One man *drove the horse and a second man was ready to fight. Egypt was famous for its ‘*chariots and horses’ (Isaiah 31:1). The *Egyptian king had an organisation of 30 captains, who were his officers over these *chariots. In the *Hebrew language the ‘third’ or ‘30’ men were the officers. When Solomon was king in *Israel, usually these *chariots had a third man in them.

The *Israelites’ terror and Moses’ reply – verses 10-14

v10 As *Pharaoh approached with his army, the *Israelites looked behind them. They were afraid. They saw that the *Egyptians were coming after them. Then they cried out to the *LORD for help. v11 Also they complained to Moses. ‘There was room for our graves in Egypt. You should not have brought us into the *desert to die. You should not have brought us away from Egypt. v12 We told you this while we were still in Egypt. We said, “Leave us alone. Let us serve the *Egyptians as their slaves.” It would be better for us to be their slaves! We prefer to serve the *Egyptians rather than to die here in the *desert!’

v13 Moses answered the people. ‘Do not be afraid’, he said. ‘Stand still. Then you will see how the *LORD will save you today. You can see the *Egyptians today. But you will never see them again. v14 The *LORD will fight for you. You need only to stand still.’

Verses 10-12 The *Israelites saw that *Pharaoh and his army were near. Immediately the *Israelites began to blame Moses. That was the first occasion when they complained. They blamed Moses that they had left Egypt. But they said that only because they were very afraid. They quickly forgot how they had suffered as slaves. The *Israelites thought only about *Pharaoh’s soldiers. They thought that the soldiers would kill them in the *desert.

Verses 13-14 Moses believed what the *LORD had promised. So he told the *Israelites that the *LORD would fight on their behalf. They had to to remain calm. That was all that they needed to do. The *LORD would free them from the *Egyptians for always.

The *LORD’s instruction – verses 15-20

v15 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses. ‘You should not be crying out to me for help. Tell the *Israelites to move ahead. v16 Raise your stick. Reach out with it over the sea and divide the water. Then the *Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. v17 I will cause the *Egyptians to feel very proud again. So they will follow you into the sea. People will hear what happens to *Pharaoh and to his army. They will hear what happens to his *chariots and to his soldiers on horses. Then people will give honour to me when they hear about this. v18 All the *Egyptians will know that I am the *LORD. People will give honour to me because of what happens to *Pharaoh and to his army.’

v19 The *LORD’s *angel had travelled in front of the *Israelites. Now he moved behind them. The tall cloud moved from in front of them. It went to a place behind them. v20 So the cloud was between the *Egyptian army and the *Israelites. During all the night, the cloud made it dark on the *Egyptian side. But it was light on the other side for the *Israelites. So neither army went near to each other during the night.

Verses 15-18 God told Moses to give the *sign. Then God would act. And the *Israelites would be able to walk through the sea on dry ground. But *Pharaoh and his army would follow them. God would show that he is the *LORD. And he would gain honour for himself.

Verses 19-20 ‘The *LORD’s *angel’ was God’s servant. He was travelling with them in order to protect the *Israelites. The tall cloud moved to a place behind the *Israelites. Then the *Egyptian army was in darkness. They could not see the *Israelites. That meant that the *Egyptians could not fight the *Israelites during the night.

The *Israelites cross the Red Sea – verses 21-31

v21 Then Moses reached out his hand towards the sea. All that night the *LORD *drove the sea back with a strong east wind. There was dry ground where the water had been. The waters divided and opened a way. v22 So the *Israelites went through the sea on dry ground. There was a wall of water on both sides of them.

v23 Then the *Egyptians pursued them. All *Pharaoh’s *chariots and his soldiers, who were riding horses, followed the *Israelites. They went into the sea. v24 Just before dawn, the *LORD looked down from the cloud of fire. He looked at the *Egyptian army. And he caused confusion among them. v25 He caused the wheels of their *chariots to stop. So it was difficult for the *Egyptian soldiers to *drive the *chariots. So the *Egyptians said, ‘Let us leave these *Israelites alone. The *LORD is fighting for them. He is fighting against us.’

v26 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses again. ‘Reach out your hand over the sea’, God said. ‘Then the water will flow back and it will cover the *Egyptians. And it will cover their *chariots and their horses.’ v27 Moses reached out his hand over the sea. And at dawn the sea flowed back to its usual place. The *Egyptians tried to run away from the sea. But the *LORD caused the water to catch them. v28 The water flowed back and it covered the *chariots and the soldiers who were on horses. It covered *Pharaoh’s entire army that had followed the *Israelites into the sea. Not one of the *Egyptians escaped.

v29 But all the *Israelites went through the sea on dry ground. They had a wall of water on their right side. And they had a wall of water on their left side. v30 That day, the *LORD saved *Israel from the *Egyptians’ power. And the *Israelites saw the *Egyptians’ dead bodies that were lying at the edge of the sea. v31 So the *Israelites knew that the *LORD’s great power had saved them from the *Egyptians. Then they respected the *LORD. And they trusted the *LORD and his servant, Moses.

Verses 21-22 The east wind blew back the water in the Red Sea. Then the *Israelites crossed it on dry ground. The cloud was behind the *Israelites so the *Egyptians could not come past them. Also, there was the ‘wall of water’ on each side. So the *Egyptians could not come along the left side or the right side to surround the *Israelites. The *Egyptians had to follow the same path through the water. They went behind the *Israelites.

Verses 23-25 ‘Just before dawn’ was about 6 o’clock in the morning. That was the best time to surprise the *Egyptians with an attack. God caused the *Egyptian army to become very afraid. The wheels of their *chariots could not move. Psalm 77:16-20 suggests that God sent a great storm at that time. The ground that had been under the sea was mud or sand. The *Israelites walked over the ground. But it was difficult for the *Egyptian soldiers to *drive *Pharaoh’s heavy *chariots through it. The wheels sunk in the mud. And then the men fell off the *chariots. That caused terror for the *Egyptians. So they wanted to turn round and to go back. But they could not move.

Verses 26-28 The sea went back to its ‘usual place’. That proves that the *Israelites were not walking along a dry river. That place was usually under the water and the water returned. That frightened the *Egyptians and they tried to escape. But they could not move their vehicles, so they drowned.

Verses 29-31 The *Egyptian soldiers were dead. The *Israelites were not slaves now. God, who rules the wind and the waves, was the judge. The *Egyptians were guilty and God had freed his people. The immediate result was that the *Israelites recognised God’s great power. They had confidence that Moses would be a good leader. The word ‘servant’ here described an important official who helped to manage the king’s affairs. The *LORD’s servant means a person who obeyed God. He would carry out the orders, because God is king.

Chapter 15

Moses and Miriam sing a song – verses 1-18

v1 Then Moses and the *Israelites sang this song to the *LORD. They sang because he had defeated their enemy in a wonderful way.


I will *praise the *LORD as I sing.

I will *praise him because he is great!

The horses and their riders,

          he threw them into the sea.

v2 The *LORD is my strength.

He is the reason for my song.

He has saved me!

He is my God and I will *praise him.

He is my fathers’ God.

          And I will sing about how great he is.

v3 The *LORD fights wars, 

The *LORD is his name.

v4 He threw *Pharaoh’s *chariots

          and *Pharaoh’s army into the sea.

He has drowned *Pharaoh’s best officers

in the Red Sea.

v5 The deep waters covered them

          and they sank down like a stone.


v6 Your right hand, *LORD, has wonderful power.

And with your right hand,

          you broke the enemy into pieces.

v7 With your great, royal power,

          you defeated those who opposed you.

Your anger is as fierce as fire.

So it burned them completely, like a fire burns straw.

v8 You were so angry that your powerful breath

          caused the water to stand in a pile.

The waves stood up like a wall.

          The deepest part of the sea became solid.


v9 Your enemy was very proud.

‘I will pursue them.

‘I will catch them.

I will divide their goods with my people.

I will take everything that I want from them.

Then we will use our swords

          to kill them’, the enemy said.

v10 But you blew with your powerful wind

          and the sea covered them.

They sank in the water like heavy metal.


v11 *LORD, no false gods compare with you.

You are the great King and you are holy.

People are afraid of you.

And they respect you

          as you shine in wonderful light.

You do wonderful acts.

v12 You reached out your right hand,

          and the earth swallowed the *Egyptians.


v13 Your great love never fails.

So you will lead the people whom you have freed.

You will guide them with your strength

          to the holy place where you live.

v14 The nations will hear about this,

          and they will tremble.

The *Philistines will shake

          with fear and with great mental pain.

v15 The chiefs in the country called Edom will be very afraid.

The leaders in the country called Moab will tremble with fear.

The people in the country called *Canaan will run away,

v16 because terrible fear will seize them.

Your great power will cause them

          to be as still as a stone.

Then your people can pass by, *LORD.

The people, whom you saved, will pass by.


v17 You will bring your people to live

          on the mountain that you gave to them.

*LORD, you have made that place your home,

          and you, *LORD, have established your holy place.

v18 Our *LORD will rule for all time.

Verses 1-3 God rescued the *Israelites from the *Egyptians. The song *praises God because of that powerful act. A king would lead his army to the battle. And the *LORD is king. The*Old Testament sometimes describes him as the ‘*LORD over hosts’. That means he was the *Lord ‘over great armies’.

Verse 4 The *LORD ‘threw’ *Pharaoh’s armies into the sea with force. In those days, a soldier would throw a stone with that kind of force.

Verse 5 Sank ‘like a stone’. That emphasises that the *Egyptians could not escape. So they drowned. (Verse 10 repeats that idea. It says that the *Egyptians sank ‘like heavy metal’.)

Verses 6-7 The *LORD’s ‘right hand’ is a way to speak about God’s power. There are three different descriptions here. They show how God’s great power killed the *Egyptians. He ‘broke them in pieces’. He ‘defeated them’. He ‘burned them completely like a fire burns straw’.

Verse 8 The song talks about God’s ‘powerful breath’ when he sent the east wind. God controls the wind. So the waves went back until the water seemed like a wall.

Verse 9 The enemy was too proud about what he could achieve. Those brief sentences show the enemies thoughts. They show that he was greedy. They are like the rapid orders that an officer would shout to his soldiers.

Verse 10 God made the wind blow the opposite way. So the water returned and covered the enemy. The *Egyptians drowned quickly. They sank like a piece of heavy metal that sinks in water.

Verse 11 The *Israelites had left a country where people *worshipped many false gods. But the *LORD had defeated all the *Egyptian false gods. ‘All who *worship images will be ashamed’ (Psalm 97:7). The *LORD is ‘holy’ and he is completely different from false gods. Only the *LORD can do wonderful things. He rescued his people and he killed their enemies in a wonderful way. People want to *praise him for his great power and impressive beauty.

Verse 12 The ‘earth’ may refer to the grave. The ‘earth swallowed the *Egyptians’ when they sank in the sea. And they all died.

Verses 13-18 These verses describe future events as the *Israelites travel to *Canaan. These verses mention the places on the route that the *Israelites would travel.

Verse 13 ‘The holy place where you live.’ That may refer to the whole of *Canaan. God was guiding the *Israelites there. But when people sang that song later, probably they thought about Shiloh. Shiloh was a special place in *Canaan where they *worshipped God (1 Samuel 1:3). Or after that time, probably they thought about the *temple in Jerusalem (Psalm 76:2).

Verses 14-15 All the nations would hear what had happened in Egypt. So they would tremble with fear as the *Israelites approached them. ‘Chiefs’ was a special name for the rulers in the country called Edom (Genesis 36:15-19). The country called Moab was famous for the great many sheep that the people owned (2 Kings 3:4). Its leaders were strong. But these leaders would all be afraid.The people who lived in *Canaan would lose their courage very quickly.

Verses 16-17 God’s power would prevent these nations so that they would not act against *Israel. The *Israelites passed by the territories called Edom and Moab (Deuteronomy chapter 2). It may also refer to when they crossed over the River Jordan into *Canaan (Joshua chapter 3). The *LORD had promised that country to Abraham and to his children in the future (Genesis 17:8). It was a place where God would make his home. Your ‘holy place’ may refer to the *temple. God would choose his ‘holy place’. He wanted to make it the central place where people would *worship him (for example, Deuteronomy 12:11).

Verse 18 The *LORD is the king whose rule will never end. Those words are in Psalm 10:16 also.

A brief record and Miriam’s song – verses 19-21

v19 *Pharaoh’s horses and his *chariots went into the sea. And his soldiers, who were riding on horses, went into the sea. Then the *LORD brought back the water of the sea to cover them. But the *Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. v20 Sometimes Aaron’s sister, Miriam, told messages from God. Now she took a little drum in her hand, and all the women followed her. They played little drums and they danced.

v21 And Miriam sang to them.

‘Sing and *praise the *LORD!

He deserves great *praise

          because he has defeated his enemy.

The horses and their riders,

          he threw them into the sea.’

Verse 20 The account that tells about Moses as a baby does not name Moses’ sister. But she was a responsible girl when the princess rescued Moses from the river (Exodus 2:7). When Moses was at *Pharaoh’s court, they probably referred to her as Aaron’s sister. Moses was a *prophet greater than all other *prophets (Deuteronomy 34:10). But Miriam said that she had spoken God’s message too (Numbers 12:2).

People also call these small drums ‘tambourines’. Women usually sang and danced. They did that when they were happy. They gave honour to that special occasion because God had defeated their enemies.

Verse 21 Miriam repeated the beginning of Moses’ song. Moses and the *Israelites said that they would sing. And Miriam told the women to sing as well. Later women sang in the *temple too (Ezra 2:65 and Nehemiah 7:67).

Bitter water – verses 22-27

v22 Then Moses led the *Israelites away from the Red Sea. They went into the *desert called Shur. They travelled for three days in this *desert before they found any water. v23 Then they came to the place called Marah. But they could not drink the water there because the water was bitter. (That was why they called the place Marah.) v24 So the people complained against Moses. ‘What can we drink?’ they said.

v25 Then Moses asked the *LORD to help them. And the *LORD showed him a piece of wood. So Moses threw the wood into the water. Then the water was not bitter and the people could drink it.

The *LORD tested the people there and he gave a rule and a law to them. v26 He said to them, ‘Listen carefully to me. I am the *LORD, your God. And I am the *LORD who cures you. Do what I tell you. Do the right things. Listen to my *commandments and obey all my rules. Then I will not punish you with any of the diseases that I sent on the *Egyptians.’

v27 Later the people came to a place called Elim. There were 12 wells of water and 70 palm trees there. So the people camped near to the water.

Verses 22-25 The *Israelites would have brought water with them. But after three days in the *desert, they would have finished that water. Both they and their animals needed water. The word ‘Marah’ means ‘bitter’. The water tasted unpleasant because it had various salts in it. God had appointed Moses as the *Israelites’ leader. So the people were complaining against God when they complained against Moses (Exodus 16:8). Moses cried out to the *LORD. Then God showed him some wood to throw into the water. It changed the bitter taste. Then the people could drink the water. God had tested the *Israelites at Marah. Their attitude to Moses shows also their attitude to God. It showed that they did not trust God.

Verse 26 The word ‘diseases’ probably refers to all the *plagues. In particular, it may refer to the water that changed to blood. So then, the people could not drink that water.

The *LORD taught the *Israelites that they must obey his rules. Then he would know that they trusted him. God changed the water because Moses obeyed him. Then they were able to drink the water. That was a *sign that God can free his people from evil things.

Verse 27 ‘12’ and ‘70’ are probably the actual numbers. Both suggest a perfect place where the *Israelites found food and water. A palm tree has a tall stem and it has big leaves at the top. It grows near to water.

Chapter 16

Food from heaven – verses 1-36

God promises food – verses 1-12

v1 The *Israelites left Elim. It was the second month after they escaped from Egypt. They left on day 15. And they came to the *desert called Sin. This *desert is between Elim and *Mount Sinai. v2 In the *desert all the people complained against Moses and Aaron. v3 ‘If only the *LORD had killed us in Egypt!’ the people said. ‘There we sat round pots that were full of meat. And we ate all the food that we wanted. But you have brought us into this *desert. And all of us will starve and die.’

v4 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses. ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people must go out each day, and they should gather just enough for that day. I will be testing them. I shall see whether or not they will obey my instructions. v5 On the day before the *Sabbath each week they must do this. They must gather twice as much as they gather on the other days. And they must prepare all the food that they gather that day.’

v6 So Moses and Aaron spoke to all the *Israelites. ‘It was the *LORD who rescued you from Egypt. In the evening you will know that. v7 And in the morning you will see the *LORD’s wonderful power. He has heard you when you complained against him. You should not complain against us. We are not important!’

v8 Moses continued to speak to them. ‘You will know that it is the *LORD. He will give to you meat to eat in the evening. And in the morning he will give to you all the bread that you want. He has heard when you complained against him. We are not important. You are not complaining against us, but you are complaining against the *LORD.’

v9 Then Moses told Aaron this message. ‘You must speak to all the *Israelites and tell them this. “Come in front of the *LORD. He has heard you when you complained.” ’ v10 While Aaron was speaking to all the people, they looked towards the *desert. And there, God’s wonderful, bright light was shining from the cloud.

v11 The *LORD spoke to Moses again. v12 ‘I have heard the *Israelites when they complained. Tell them my message. “In the evening you will eat meat. And in the morning, you will eat bread until you are full. Then you will know that I am the *LORD your God.” ’

Verses 1-3 The *Israelites had left Egypt on day 15 of the first month (Exodus 12:6, 31). So they had travelled for a month. They had forgotten the difficulties that they had in Egypt as slaves. But they remembered the pots with meat in them and the other food. Also they also remembered the vegetables with a nice strong taste (Numbers 11:5). They were quick to blame Moses because they had no food. They said that he had brought them into the *desert on purpose. And his purpose was to starve them.

Verses 4-5 The *LORD would test the *Israelites again. He wanted to see if they would obey him that time. They must collect only enough food for each day. But they must collect twice the amount on the day before the *Sabbath. The prayer for our ‘daily bread’ means that we must trust God too. He will provide our food each day (Matthew 6:11).

Verses 6-9 The *LORD would provide their food each day. It was God’s wonderful act that caused the *Israelites to leave Egypt. Only God had rescued the *Israelites. God would send meat to them in the evening. And he would send bread to them in the morning. So they were complaining against God when they complained against his servants, Moses and Aaron.

Verses 10-12 The wonderful light was shining from the cloud. It showed that God was present with his people. In the evening, the sun is just out of sight. But it is not yet completely dark. At that time God would provide meat for the *Israelites. He would provide plenty of bread in the morning.

Quails and *manna – verses 13-15a

v13 That evening, birds called quails came. There were so many quails that they covered the camp. The next morning, the ground was wet all round the camp. v14 When all the water had gone, there were thin bits of a substance on the ground. It seemed like thin bits of ice. v15a The *Israelites had never seen anything like this. And they did not know what it was. ‘What is it?’ they asked each other.

Verse 13 Quails are small fat birds that people like to eat. They fly fairly close to the ground and often there are large groups of them. They fly between South Europe and Arabia in the spring and in the autumn. So they cross the area of the *desert in the region called Sinai. When they become very tired, they fall to the ground. They need to rest. At that time, people can catch them easily. Numbers 11:31 describes how the east wind blew the birds to the ground. There were so many birds, that they covered a large area round the *Israelites’ camp. An ancient writer called Pliny mentions quails. He agreed that very large numbers flew at night. He talked about many quails that landed on a ship near to the shore. Then the ship sank because of their weight.

Verses 13-15 Sometimes, very tiny amounts of water appear in the early morning. They are on the ground or on plants. People call it ‘dew’. If it freezes, it becomes ‘frost’. The *Israelites found a thin substance that seemed like ice or ‘frost’. They did not recognise it, so they called it ‘*manna’. The word ‘*manna’ means ‘What is it?’

Food for each day – verses 15b-21

v15b Moses answered them. ‘This is your bread. The *LORD has given it to you to eat. v16 And this is what the *LORD has ordered you. “Each person should gather as much as he needs. Take an omer (about two litres) for each person who lives in your tent”, God says.’

v17 The *Israelites did as Moses had told them. Some people gathered a lot, and some of them gathered only a small amount. v18 Then they measured it. And those people who had gathered a lot did not have too much. But those people who had gathered a small amount had enough too. Each person gathered as much as he needed.

v19 Then Moses spoke to them again. ‘Nobody should keep any of this bread until the next morning.’

v20 But some of the people did not listen to Moses. So they kept a part of it until the next morning. But it became full of young insects called ‘maggots’. And then it had a nasty smell. So Moses was angry with those people.

v21 Every morning everyone gathered as much *manna as he needed. And when the sun rose, the rest of the *manna melted away.

Verses 15-18 In verse 16 the *Hebrew word is ‘omer’. An ‘omer’ measured just over two litres. It was difficult for some of the older people to collect the *manna. Younger *Israelites collected more. Probably they shared what they had collected. Then everyone had all that they needed. Paul used this example when he was writing to the Corinthians. He urged them to be generous. They should share things with other Christians who were poorer (2 Corinthians 8:14-15).

Verses 19-21 Some *Israelites did not obey God’s command. They showed that they did not trust God. They did not believe that he would continue to provide food every day. So they kept some of the *manna until the next morning. But it went off, and it began to have a nasty smell. It became full of ‘maggots’. Maggots are young insects that develop into flies. The *manna melted away when the sun rose. So the *Israelites had to get up early to collect it each day.

Food for the *Sabbath – verses 22-30

v22 On the day before the *Sabbath, each person gathered twice as much *manna. So they gathered about 4 litres for each person. Then the *Israelites’ leaders came and reported this to Moses. v23 Moses spoke to them. ‘This is what the *LORD ordered. “Tomorrow must be a day when you rest. The *Sabbath will be a holy day that you use especially for me. I am the *LORD. So bake the food that you want to bake. And boil the food that you want to boil. Then save all that remains until the next morning.” ’

v24 So they saved the extra food until the next morning, as Moses had ordered them. It did not have a nasty smell and young insects had not grown in it. v25 ‘Eat it today’, Moses said to them. ‘Today is a *Sabbath day for the *LORD. You will not find any *manna on the ground today. v26 You must gather it each day for 6 days. But the 7th day is the *Sabbath day. There will not be any *manna on the ground on the *Sabbath day.’

v27 Some of the people did not listen to what Moses had said. They went out on the 7th day to gather food. But they did not find any *manna. v28 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses. ‘The people are refusing to obey my *commandments and my instructions. v29 Remember that I am the *LORD. I have given the *Sabbath day to you. That is why I give you enough bread for two days. I do this on the day before the *Sabbath. Everyone must stay in their home on the *Sabbath. Nobody should go out on that day.’ v30 So the people rested on the *Sabbath.

Verses 23-26 The word ‘*Sabbath’ appears here in the *Old Testament for the first time. When God created everything, he ‘rested’ from all his work on the 7th day (Genesis 2:2-3). While they were in Egypt as slaves, the *Israelites had to work every day. The *Egyptians gave them no opportunity to rest for a whole day.

Verses 27-30 But people did not obey Moses’ command. They went to look for *manna on the *Sabbath, but they did not find any. On the day before the *Sabbath, the *LORD’s provision was enough for two days. And the *manna did not go off. The *Sabbath was a good gift from God. They rested on that day. Later, Jesus spoke about it. ‘God made the *Sabbath for people’s benefit’, he said (Mark 2:27). The *Sabbath was a special day that they should use for the *LORD.

The nature of *manna – verses 31-36

v31 The *Israelites called the bread ‘*manna’. It was white like the small seeds called ‘coriander’. It tasted like thin biscuits that people make with honey. v32 Then Moses spoke to the people. ‘This is what the *LORD has ordered. “Keep two litres of *manna for all the people to see in the future. Then people can see the bread that I gave to you. That was how you had food to eat in the *desert. I gave it to you when I brought you away from Egypt.” ’ v33 And Moses told Aaron. ‘Get a jar and put two litres of *manna into it. Then place that jar in front of the *LORD. You must keep it there for all time to come.’

v34 Aaron did what the *LORD had ordered Moses. Aaron put the *manna in front of the special box, which contained God’s special promise to them. Aaron put the *manna there in order to keep it safely.

v35 The *Israelites ate *manna for 40 years. Then they reached the border of *Canaan where many people lived.

v36 (An ‘omer’ measures a 10th part of an ‘ephah’.)

Verse 31 Even today, people can find a kind of *manna. They find it in the region of the *desert called Sinai. Some writers think that it is the same kind of *manna. That *manna is a sweet juice that falls from insects. The insects live on the branches of the bushes called ‘tamarisk’. The juice becomes solid, but it melts quickly in hot weather. There was a supply of *manna each day for the *Israelites. And it continued during all of the years that they were in the *desert. Each week there was a double amount on the day before the *Sabbath. But there was never any *manna on the *Sabbath day (verse 26). The *manna was God’s special provision. Psalm 78:25 says ‘men ate the *angels’ bread’. God tested the people when he provided the *manna. The *Israelites had to trust God for the next day’s supply. And they had to obey his commands. So they had to gather it each day except the *Sabbath day.

Verse 32 God had provided food for the *Israelites in the *desert. In the future, people must remember God’s provision. And they did remember. After Jesus fed 5 000 people, they asked him for a *sign. They wanted to see something wonderful like the *manna that God had sent from heaven. Jesus told them that he is the true bread from heaven. Only he can let us live for all time (John 6:30-35).

Verses 33-34 The special box reminded the people about the special promise that God had made to the *Israelites (Exodus 25:10-22). They placed the box in the Most Holy Place, which was in God’s special tent. Later, they placed the special box in the *temple in Jerusalem. It contained the two flat stones where God wrote his 10 *commandments. Also, the box contained Aaron’s stick and Aaron’s jar with the *manna in it. Hebrews 9:4 refers to Aaron’s jar that contained the *manna as a ‘gold’ jar. Very few people lived in the *desert. So the *Israelites did not meet many other people for those 40 years.

Verse 36 An ephah measured 22 litres. So an omer measures just over 2 litres.

Chapter 17

Water at Horeb – verses 1-7

v1 All the *Israelites left the *desert called Sin. They travelled from one place to another place. When the *LORD ordered them, then they moved. One day they camped at the place called Rephidim. But there was no water for the people to drink at Rephidim. v2 So they quarrelled with Moses. ‘Give to us water to drink!’ they demanded.

‘You should not quarrel with me’, Moses said to them. ‘You are testing the *LORD when you demand this!’

v3 But the people needed water, so they continued to complain against Moses. They said, ‘You should not have brought us away from Egypt. You will make us, our children and our animals die because we are so thirsty!’

v4 Then Moses cried out to the *LORD. ‘What shall I do with these people?’ he said. ‘Soon they will be throwing stones at me. They want to kill me.’

v5 The *LORD answered Moses. ‘Walk on ahead of the people. Take some of their leaders with you. And take your stick in your hand. You used that stick to hit the River Nile. So go now. v6 Go to the rock at Horeb. I will stand there in front of you. Hit the rock with your stick. Then water will come out of it for the people to drink.’ So Moses hit the rock while *Israel’s leaders were watching him.

v7 They were testing the *LORD. They asked, ‘Is the *LORD with us or is he not with us?’ So Moses called that place Massah (which means ‘to test’). And he called it Meribah (which means ‘to argue’). He did that because the *Israelites quarrelled with him there.

Verse 1 Numbers 33:12-14 records all the places where the *Israelites travelled.

Verses 2-4 As soon as there was a problem about water, the people accused Moses. They spoke in a silly way. They said that he wanted to kill them, their families and their animals. Moses had brought them away from Egypt. They said that he wanted them to die. They were getting ready to kill Moses. They intended to throw stones at him. Then Moses referred to the *Israelites as ‘these’ people when he spoke to God about them. It seems that Moses did not want to belong to them.

Verse 6 Horeb was a name that they called the whole *desert. They also called that region Sinai. Or sometimes, they used it as another name for *Mount Sinai. It was the place where God met Moses for the first time (Exodus 3:1-2). Now God met the *Israelites there. When Moses hit the rock with his stick, God provided plenty of water for everybody. Psalm 78:15-16 mentions that event. ‘He brought streams out from a rock. He caused water to flow down like rivers.’ In Exodus 18:5, the writer calls Horeb, ‘God’s mountain’.

Verse 7 ‘Massah’ means ‘to test’. The *Israelites had forgotten how God had guided them. They had forgotten how he had fed them. So they did not believe that God cared about them now. They wanted proof that the *LORD was still with them. ‘Meribah’ means ‘to argue’ or ‘to complain’. The names of those places reminded people about what happened there.

War with the *Amalekites – verses 8-16

v8 Then the *Amalekites came and attacked the *Israelites at Rephidim. v9 So Moses spoke to Joshua. ‘Choose some of our men to go with you’, Moses told him. ‘You will go and fight the *Amalekites tomorrow. I will stand on the top of the hill. I will have this stick in my hand. That stick reminds us about God’s power.’

v10 So Joshua fought against the *Amalekites, exactly as Moses had ordered. Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill with Moses. v11 And while Moses kept up his hands, the *Israelites were winning the battle. But every time that he lowered his hands, the *Amalekites began to win. v12 When Moses’ arms became tired, Aaron and Hur brought a stone to him. They put the stone under Moses, and Moses sat on it. Then Aaron and Hur helped him to hold up his hands. Aaron was on one side of Moses and Hur was on the other side. So Moses’ hands remained high and firm until sunset. v13 That was how Joshua defeated the army of the *Amalekites in the battle.

v14 Then the *LORD spoke to Moses again. ‘Everyone must remember what happened here. So write about this and read it to Joshua. I want people everywhere to forget the nation of the *Amalekites.’

v15 Then Moses built an *altar to *worship God. He called it ‘The *LORD is my Flag’. v16 Moses explained to the people. ‘I raised my hands towards the *LORD’s royal seat. And the *LORD will fight against the *Amalekites for all time.’

Verse 8 The *Amalekites came from Esau’s grandson called Amalek. So they belonged to the family called the Edomites (Genesis 36:12). They lived in the *desert. They waited for any *Israelites who were slow or weak. Those *Israelites were behind everybody else, so they walked without protection. And the *Amalekites attacked them (Deuteronomy 25:17-18).

Verse 9 Joshua was Moses’ assistant (Exodus 24:13). Originally his name was Hoshea. But Moses changed his name to Joshua (Numbers 13:16). ‘Joshua’ means ‘the *LORD saves’. (Yeshua or Jesus is the same name.) Joshua was the leader of the powerful family called Ephraim (Numbers 13:8).

Verse 10 Hur may have been Caleb’s son (1 Chronicles 2:19-20). And that Hur was Bezalel’s grandfather. Bezalel was a skilful worker who helped to build God’s ‘special tent’ (Exodus 31:2). However, Caleb does not seem to be a very old man. So it may be a different man called Hur. But this verse shows that Hur was an important man. And Moses trusted Hur.

Verses 11-13 Moses raised his hands, which was a usual way to pray. But that tired Moses, so he put down his arms. Then he stopped his prayer and the *Israelites started to lose the battle. So Aaron and Hur found a seat for Moses and they supported his arms. It was clear that God was helping the *Israelites. Sometimes people have difficulty when they try to pray. That happens especially if they need to pray for a long time. So they need help from other Christians to ‘fight’ against bad things. When the battle with the *Amalekites stopped at sunset, Joshua had defeated them. ‘Defeated’ means ‘made weak’. Joshua had ‘made weak’ those people who had attacked the weakest *Israelites.

Verse 14 God told Moses to write a record about that battle with the *Amalekites. Moses must read the account to Joshua. And probably Moses read it to other people too. It is possible that the account was in the ‘Book of the *LORD’s Wars’. That book does not exist now, but Numbers 21:14 refers to it. Much later, God’s servant, Samuel, gave God’s orders to king Saul. God said that Saul must kill the *Amalekites (1 Samuel chapter 15).

Verse 15 ‘The *LORD is my flag’. In a battle, a particular soldier would hold up his army’s flag. All the soldiers would see it. That encouraged the soldiers who were fighting. Moses raised his hands and he was holding up the powerful stick. It encouraged the *Israelites. They remembered God’s power and they fought well. Moses was thanking God in front of everybody.

Verse 16 Moses raised his hands to appeal to the *LORD. He knew that the *Israelites needed help. The *Amalekites were opposing God when they attacked the *Israelites. So God would oppose the *Amalekites always.

Chapter 18

Jethro’s visit – verses 1-12

v1 Jethro was the father of Moses’ wife, and he was the priest in the country called Midian. He heard about everything that God had done for Moses and for his people. Jethro heard how the *LORD had brought the *Israelites away from Egypt.

v2 Moses had sent his wife, Zipporah, and her two sons to stay with her father. And Jethro was very glad to receive her v3 and her two sons. ‘I have become a stranger in a foreign country’, Moses had said. So he had named his first son Gershom. v4 ‘My father’s God helped me. He saved me from *Pharaoh’s sword’, Moses had said later. So he had named his other son Eliezer.

v5 Then Jethro, the father of Moses’ wife, came to Moses in the *desert. Moses’ wife and his two sons came with Jethro to where Moses had camped. It was near God’s mountain. v6 Jethro had sent a message to Moses earlier. ‘I am Jethro, your wife’s father. And I am coming to visit you with your wife and her two sons.’

v7 Then Moses went out to meet his wife’s father. He respected Jethro very much. So Moses leaned forward in front of him and he kissed Jethro. They greeted each other and then they went into the tent. v8 Moses told his wife’s father about everything that the *LORD had done on behalf of the *Israelites. Moses told Jethro how God had rescued them from *Pharaoh and from the *Egyptians. And he told Jethro how the *LORD had helped them during all their troubles along the way.

v9 Jethro was very pleased. He heard about all the good things that the *LORD had done for the *Israelites. He heard how the *LORD had rescued them from the *Egyptians’ power. v10 Jethro said, ‘Give *praise to the *LORD. He saved you and your people from *Pharaoh’s power and from the *Egyptians. v11 Now I know that the *LORD is greater than all other gods. He rescued the *Israelites from those people who were so proud. They had behaved very badly towards the *Israelites.’

v12 So Jethro, the father of Moses’ wife, brought a gift to burn in front of God. And he offered other gifts to God. Then Aaron came with all *Israel’s leaders. And they shared a meal with Jethro in the place where they *worshipped God.

Verses 1-4 Probably Moses had sent his wife and his two sons to her father. They would be safe there. ‘Gershom’ means ‘a stranger there’ (Exodus 2: 22). The name ‘Gershom’ shows how unhappy Moses was earlier. He had been happy in Egypt and then he had to leave his home there. Moses’ second son’s name does not appear anywhere else. But ‘Eliezer’ means ‘God is my helper’. By the time his son, Eliezer, was born, Moses understood God better. He had realised how much God had done for him. Moses had left Egypt a few years earlier. And God had helped him in so many ways since that time.

Verse 5 Moses and the people had moved east from Rephidim to ‘God’s mountain’. So they were probably in the lower area near *Mount Sinai.

Verses 7-8 The two chiefs, Moses and Jethro, greeted each other. Moses was humble enough to respect an older person. So he leaned forward in front of Jethro. We say that he ‘bowed’ to him. Then Moses kissed him. Moses told Jethro about everything that had happened. Moses told him how God had rescued the *Israelites from Egypt. Also Moses told him about the difficulties that they had met since then.

Verses 9-12 Jethro was happy to hear about the *LORD’s great power. He heard how God had saved the *Israelites from the *Egyptians. Jethro *praised the *LORD. He declared that all other gods were worth nothing. Those gods were false gods. Some writers think that Jethro had not recognised the real God before that time. He had not known Moses’ God as the real God. The usual way to thank God was to burn a gift in front of him. Nobody ate any part of an animal that they burned in that way. But Jethro gave other animals to God as gifts. And they used some meat from those other animals for a special meal. Aaron and *Israel’s leaders shared that special meal with Moses and Jethro. It was a part of their *worship.

Moses appoints judges – verses 13-27

v13 The next day Moses sat down in the place where he served as a judge of the people. And the people stood round him from the morning until the evening. v14 Jethro, the father of Moses’ wife, saw how much Moses was doing for the people. ‘It is too much!’ he said. ‘Why are you the only judge for all these people? Why do they stand round you from the morning until the evening?’

v15 And Moses answered him. ‘The people come to me to get answers from God. They ask me what God wants them to do. v16 When they do not agree with each other, they come to me. And I decide which person is right. I tell them God’s rules and his laws.’

v17 But Jethro replied to him. ‘What you are doing is not a good thing. v18 You will wear out. And these people who come to you will wear out too. There is too much work for you. You cannot do this alone. v19 Listen to me now, and I will give some advice to you. Then God will help you. You must speak to God on behalf of the people. And you must tell their problems to him. v20 Teach the people God’s rules and his laws. Show them the way to live. And show them the work that they must do for God. v21 But choose some capable men from among the people to help you. These men must respect God. And you must be able to trust them. They must be honest. And they must not gain money from people in the wrong way. Appoint them as officials over groups of 1000 people, or 100 people, or 50 people, or 10 people. v22 Let them serve the people as judges all the time. Let them bring every difficult problem to you. But they can decide the easy things. They will be sharing the responsibility with you. So your difficult responsibility will be lighter. v23 You must do what God wants. And if you do this, then you will not wear yourself out. And you will satisfy all these people. Then they will be happy when they return to their homes.’

v24 Moses listened to Jethro, his wife’s father. He did everything that Jethro had said. v25 He chose capable men from among all the *Israelites and he appointed them as the leaders. They became officials, who each served a group of people. Some served 1000 people, some served 100 people, or 50 people or 10 people. v26 They served as judges for the people all the time. They decided the easier problems. But they brought the people with difficult disagreements to Moses.

v27 Then Moses said goodbye to Jethro, his wife’s father. And Jethro returned to his own country.

Verses 13-16 Moses was making himself very tired. He was trying to do everything without any help. Many of the people wanted to see Moses. They wanted to hear his decision about their problems. They had to wait for a very long time. And they were becoming very tired as well.

Verses 17-23 Jethro told Moses that the situation was not satisfactory. Moses was wearing himself out, and the people would become impatient. Jethro reminded Moses that he must speak to God on behalf of the people. As their judge, Moses must also teach God’s laws to the people. He should teach them how to obey these laws every day. Jethro suggested that Moses should choose some good men but they must have the right moral qualities. They must be honest men, whom Moses trusted. They must not try to get money from the people. They would help Moses. Moses should appoint them as the officials over groups of the people. Then everyone would get attention. He organised the people rather like the army. Those officials dealt with the easy problems. And then Moses dealt only with the difficult problems.

Verse 24-27 Jethro had given his advice in a polite way. He did not order Moses to take his advice. But Moses was humble. He was wise enough to learn from his wife’s father. The record in Numbers 12:3 tells us this. ‘Moses was a very humble man. He was the most humble person in the world.’




Word List

altar ~ a table on which people give gifts or *sacrifices to God or to a false god.

Amalekites ~ people who come from Esau’s grandson, Amalek.

angel ~ a servant of God who sometimes brings messages from him.

apostles ~ the men whom Jesus sent out. Sometimes people call them ‘disciples’

barley ~ a kind of grain like wheat.                                      

boil ~ a nasty, painful lump under the skin.

bull ~ male farm animal; (the female is called a cow). The *Israelites made a metal image of a bull, which they *worshipped as an *idol

Canaan ~ the country that God gave to *Israelites. *Canaanites lived here. And also people called Amorites, Hittites, Hivites, Jebusites and Perizzites lived here.

Canaanite ~ the people who originally lived in the country called *Canaan; something that comes from the country called *Canaan.

chariot ~ a cart with two wheels that men used in a war

circumcise ~ to cut off the piece of skin at the end of the male sex part. This marks *Jewish boys and reminds the *Jews about God’s special promise to them.

circumcision ~ the act of circumcising a person.

clean ~ good in thought and in action. But, in the *Old Testament, many things could make a person unclean towards God. For example, if they touched a dead body, that would make them unclean. And the *Israelites must not eat animals that God called unclean.

commandment ~ a rule or a command that God gave to the *Jews; the 10 rules that God gave to Moses on the mountain called *Mount Sinai (or Horeb); a command from someone who has authority.

desert ~ a wild place where there are small bushes and not much water. It has poor soil and people cannot grow crops there. So, not many people live there.

donkey ~ an animal that is like a horse with long ears. People use donkeys as animals to do work. They can carry people or loads. And they can pull carts or ploughs.

drive ~ to force something to move; to force someone to leave a place.

Egyptian ~ someone from the country called Egypt; anything with a relationship with Egypt.

eternal ~ a thing that has no beginning or ending; a thing that never changes.

exodus ~ a *Greek word that means ‘to leave somewhere’. God helped the *Israelites to leave the country called *Egypt. So people called this book Exodus because it tells that particular story.

feast ~ a special meal, usually with special food. Often a feast reminds people about an important event so they repeat it regularly. For example God said that *Israelite men should gather together for 3 feasts each year. *Jews continue to remember these feasts.

flax ~ a blue flower with a strong stem. People use these stems to make cloth of very good quality called *linen.

frog ~ a small animal with 4 legs. The two back legs are long and they help it to jump. It has a huge mouth. It lives both on land and in the water.

gnat ~ a small insect that flies and that bites people and animals.

Greek ~ people and things from the country called Greece, and the language that they speak. The language in which the authors wrote the *New Testament.

hail ~ rain that has frozen in the sky, so that it falls as hard little balls of ice.

Hebrew ~ the language that the *Israelites spoke. A Hebrew is a *Jewish person or an *Israelite

Israel ~ the nation of people from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the name of the country that God gave to that nation.

Israelite ~ a person from the nation called *Israel. Israelite is another name for the *Jews. Anything that has a relationship with Israel.

Jew ~ a person who is from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.

Jewish ~ a word that describes a *Jew or anything that belongs to the *Jews.

Levite ~ someone who belonged to the family called Levi. Levi was a son of Jacob. Levites had special duties connected to *worship. All *Israelite priests were Levites.

linen ~ a special kind of cloth of good quality. People make it from the plant called *flax.

locust ~ an insect that flies and eats any green plant. When many locusts fly together, they seem to be like a dark cloud.

LORD ~ God gave this special name to himself. It translates the word ‘Yahweh’ in the *Hebrew language. It links to the words ‘I am’; it means that God has been here always.

Lord ~ a name for God. It translates the *Hebrew word ‘Adonai’, which means ‘my ruler’. The word ‘lord’ (without a capital letter) means an ordinary ruler.

manna ~ a food like bread. God provided this food in a special way for the *Israelites to eat in the *desert.

Mount ~ another name for mountain

New Testament ~ the second part of the Bible. It tells about Jesus Christ and his followers.

Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible, it tells about the history and the beliefs of the *Israelites. The *Jews’ holy book

Passover ~ an important holy day for the *Jews. They ate a special meal on this day every year; the Passover *feast reminds the *Jews about how God rescued them from *Egypt.

Pharaoh ~ the *Egyptian ruler or king.

Philistines ~ a group of people who lived near the south coast of the country called *Canaan.

plague ~ a terrible disease or trouble.

praise ~ to tell God how great he is; to give love to God, as when people are praying or singing

prophet ~ a person who hears God’s words and tells them to other people. But there were sometimes false prophets.

represent ~ when a person acts on behalf of someone else; or you put something in place of something else.

Sabbath ~ the 7th day in a *Jewish week. It is from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday The day on which God rested when he created the world. So he wants people to rest on that day. Anything that has a relationship with the Sabbath.

sign ~ a signal; a mark to show that something is special; a powerful act.

sin ~ when people do something wrong against God or against other people; or, not to obey God.

Tabernacle ~ God’s special tent.

talent ~ it weighed 3000 times as much as a *shekel. It was the heaviest standard that they used to weigh things like gold, silver and other metals.

temple ~ the special building in Jerusalem where the *Jews *worshipped God. King Solomon built the first temple.

thunder ~ the loud noise that lightning causes in a storm.

worship ~ when people show honour to God, or to a false god. People may sing or pray. Or they may kneel down or give a gift to God.

yeast ~ a substance that people use to make bread. Yeast makes the bread rise. Without yeast, bread is flat and hard.



Book List

Alan R. Cole ~ Exodus: Introduction and Commentary ~ Tyndale Press 1st edition 1973.

F.C. Cook (editor) ~ Barnes’ Notes on the Old and New *Testaments ~ Baker Book House 1975.

David Daiches ~ Moses, man in the wilderness ~ Weidenfeld and Nicholson 1975.

Alan Millard ~ Discoveries from Bible Times ~ Lion 1997.

Alec Motyer ~ The Message of Exodus, the Bible Speaks Today ~ IVP 2005.

Osborn and Hatto ~ A Handbook on Exodus ~ UBS.

Charles R. Swindoll ~ Moses ~ Thomas Nelson 1999.


Bible versions

New International Version study Bible

New International reader’s version 1998

New Light Bible

Today’s English Version

New English Bible

Jerusalem Bible

Contemporary English Version