Exodus takes its Hebrew name Shemot (‘names’) from the first verse, which lists the members of Jacob’s family descending into Egypt– 70 people in all. By the time they left Egypt, they had grown many-fold in numbers but were yet to become a nation. The Israelites’ slavery came to an end, but their journey had just begun.
This book describes the foundations of faith and the formation of the rules governing relations between the Israelites themselves, and between them and God. The delivery from Egypt, the journey through the desert and the gathering at Mount Sinai are the beginning of the joint narrative bonding us as a People for eternity. The Ten Commandments define the early framework for the People of Israel, combining social boundaries and religious faith. It is the basic contract between God and his Chosen People.
The physical and metaphoric journey through the desert is an arduous passage. There are many miracles throughout Exodus but also many moments of doubt, disbelief and despair. These challenges of faith and leadership tested the Israelites specifically, but they are universal trials. Exodus is a timeless tale of deliverance, echoing our own transformations as we journey through life.