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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

Exodus - Introduction

The book of Exodus is a book about freedom and obligation, telling one of the Old Testament's central stories. It is the story of the liberation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt (chs. 1–15 ). But the book of Exodus is not only about Israel's freedom. It is also about the people of Israel's entering into a formal covenant * relationship of laws and obligations with God on their way to the promised land of Canaan (chs. 16–40 ). Exodus contains diverse forms of literature: narratives, * poetry, commandments, and laws. Among these diverse literatures, the poetic Song of the Sea in ch. 15 is probably one of the oldest texts within the entire Bible. The book of Exodus began its long history of development with early traditions like ch. 15 , the Ten Commandments in ch. 20 , and the earliest collection of laws in the Bible, the “Covenant Code” in chs. 21–23 . Later writers and editors added many narratives, laws, and traditions over hundreds of years as the book of Exodus reached its final form, sometime in the sixth or fifth century BCE. The many traditions and laws of Exodus are joined together into a coherent story with a central human character, Moses, who led Israel out of slavery and into its covenant relationship with God.

The story of Israel's exodus out of Egypt forms one of the most important, influential narratives of the Bible. The Passover * festival celebrates the event as an annual ritual (ch. 12 ). Israel's experience of slavery in Egypt shaped many Old Testament laws designed to protect the disadvantaged ( 23.9; Lev 19.33–34 ). The Old Testament prophets * used the exodus from Egypt as a continuing model of God's saving power when Israel was in crisis (Isa 51.10 ). The Ten Commandments in ch. 20 and the other laws in Exodus formed the basis for ongoing ethical and legal reflection in Israel's life as a nation and people. The story of Israel's worship of the golden calf and the breaking of the formal relationship of exclusive loyalty to God resonated with the Israelites in exile in Babylon in the sixth century BCE. Most important, God's resolve to remain present in the midst of this sinful people in spite of their sin provided a word of hope to exiles who wondered if the Exile * marked an end or a new beginning in their relationship with God.

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