The book of Exodus begins with a list of Jacobs sons/the tribes of Israel. We see that the blessings of God did not end for the nation when Joseph and his brothers died. But we are told that a new Pharaoh came to power (likely Pharaoh Ahmose I), one who did now know Joseph. This Pharaoh did not show favor to the nation like his predecessor. In fact, because of the blessings God had given them, he opposed them, and in the process, opposed God.
We see in 1:11 the building of Rameses (previously Goshen). And we see that despite losing the favor of the world, Israel had not lost the favor of God. Moses makes a point of telling his readers that the Egyptians feared Israel, indeed that this is what prompted their harsh treatment of them. Over against those who feared Israel, we have the midwives, who feared God, and treated Israel rightly.
Chapter 2 records the birth of Moses. Fearing for his life, his mother hides him, then places him in the basket in the river. Miriam, his sister, stood watching to see and “know” what would happen (v. 4), and we see that it was really God that was watching, and Moses is saved. After he is grown up, Moses hides himself for fear of his life, yet he could not hide from God. There is nowhere outside the providence of God. The same is true for all of Israel – God watched and knew (2:25). We see in verse 23 that Ahmose I dies (by the time the exodus happens, we are two Pharaohs later).
Chapter 3 is the well-known story of Moses meeting YHWH in the burning bush. This happens on Mt. Horeb (Horeb is believed to mean “heat”), which is one and the same with Mt. Sinai (see Psalm 106:19). In 3:6, Moses is sure to point out that the God that sent him to free Israel, and the God Who freed Israel, is the same God that orchestrated the events of the book of Genesis to protect and preserve His people. This is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In verse 7 we see God’s providence (“I have seen” and “I have known). We also see what He knows: their suffering. And God says to Moses that He has “come down to deliver” His people from their oppression and their oppressors. This gives a glimpse of how the exodus is a type of the salvation wrought in Jesus Christ, Who literally came down from heaven to know the suffering of His people, and to suffer for us, and to deliver us. Both events are the fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham way back in Genesis 15.
Moses then asks for God’s name. And in verse 14 we have an inexhaustible theological truth in the revealed name of God: YHWH (Hebrew יהוה – derived from the verb “to be”). It points to the absolute self-existence of God. And YHWH tells Moses to tell Israel Who He is: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And this name, YHWH, will be the covenant name of God for the nation He was about to save (v. 15).
God then tells Moses what he is to say to Israel, and that they will listen. The sheep know the voice of their Shepherd. Then, God tells Moses what he is to say to Pharaoh, and that he will not listen. Because of Pharaoh’s obstinance, God will miraculously punish him, and then not only will Israel be freed, but they will have the restored favor of Egypt (v. 21). And God instructs him that they are to plunder the Egyptians (v 22).
Note a few things here. First, God frames Pharaoh’s disobedience as Pharaoh’s choice and and responsibility. We will see later that God, in fact, hardens Pharaoh’s heart. Both are absolutely true. We see again that interplay between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Notice, second, that God will do the work of salvation. He makes sure His promises stand. Finally, notice that through the sin of the Egyptians and the suffering of Israel, God will work it all for ultimate good. God will bless His people.
Chapter 4 begins with another “what if” from Moses. In order to allay Moses’ fears, God gives him two signs to perform. One is the (temporary) creation of life. One is the (temporary) destruction of life. These point to Him Who has power over life and death, and foreshadow the miracles God will perform against Egypt. And notice that these signs Moses will perform are to convince Israel that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob sent him (v. 5). This is the fifth time already in the book that Moses, and God, point out that the same God Who was God of the patriarchs is the God of Israel.
In verse 10, we have yet another objection by Moses. He does not feel up to the task. God reminds Moses Who is really in control (vv. 11-12). God’s salvation is not done in man’s power. Yet, Moses objects again. Even in His anger, God provides for Moses and assigns Aaron to be his mouthpiece. Aaron will mediate between Israel and Moses, who will mediate between Aaron and God. The mediatorial element of the Mosaic Covenant is meant to be in contrast with the God mediated New Covenant in which God’s promises culminate (Gal 3:20).