Book of Jonah
The Book of Jonah is a book of the Nevi'im in the Hebrew Bible. It tells of a Hebrew prophet named Jonah son of Amittai, sent by God to prophesy the destruction of Nineveh but tries to escape the divine mission. Set in the reign of Jeroboam II, it was written in the post-exilic period, some time between the late 5th to early 4th century BC; the story has a long interpretive history and has become well known through popular children's stories. In Judaism, it is the Haftarah portion read during the afternoon of Yom Kippur to instill reflection on God's willingness to forgive those who repent, it is retold in the Quran. Unlike the other Prophets, the book of Jonah is entirely narrative, with the exception of the poem in chapter 2; the actual prophetic word against Nineveh is given only in passing through the narrative. As with any good narrative, the story of Jonah has a setting, characters, a plot, themes, it relies on such literary devices as irony. Jonah Flees His Mission Jonah's Commission and Flight The Endangered Sailors Cry to Their gods Jonah's Disobedience Exposed Jonah's punishment and Deliverance His Prayer of Thanksgiving Jonah Reluctantly fulfills His Mission Jonah's Renewed Commission and Obedience The Endangered Ninevites' Repentant Appeal to the Lord The Ninevites' Repentance Acknowledged Jonah's Deliverance and Rebuke Jonah is the central character in the Book of Jonah, in which God commands him to go to the city of Nineveh to prophesy against it "for their great wickedness is come up before me," but Jonah instead attempts to flee from "the presence of the Lord" by going to Jaffa, sailing to Tarshish.
A huge storm arises and the sailors, realizing that it is no ordinary storm, cast lots and discover that Jonah is to blame. Jonah admits states that if he is thrown overboard, the storm will cease; the sailors refuse to do this and continue rowing, but all their efforts fail and they are forced to throw Jonah overboard. As a result, the storm calms and the sailors offer sacrifices to God. Jonah is miraculously saved by being swallowed by a large fish, in whose belly he spends three days and three nights. While in the great fish, Jonah prays to God in his affliction and commits to thanksgiving and to paying what he has vowed. God commands the fish to vomit Jonah out. God again commands Jonah to prophesy to its inhabitants; this time he goes and enters the city, crying, "In forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown." After Jonah has walked across Nineveh, the people of Nineveh begin to believe his word and proclaim a fast. The king of Nineveh puts on sackcloth and sits in ashes, making a proclamation which decrees fasting, the wearing of sackcloth and repentance.
God spares the city at that time. The entire city is broken with the people in sackcloth and ashes. Displeased by this, Jonah refers to his earlier flight to Tarshish while asserting that, since God is merciful, it was inevitable that God would turn from the threatened calamities, he leaves the city and makes himself a shelter, waiting to see whether or not the city will be destroyed. God causes a plant to grow over Jonah's shelter to give him some shade from the sun. God causes a worm to bite the plant's root and it withers. Jonah, now being exposed to the full force of the sun, becomes pleads for God to kill him, and God said to Jonah: "Art thou angry for the Kikayon?" And he said: "I am angry unto death."And the LORD said: "Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow, which came up in a night, perished in a night. The story of Jonah has numerous theological implications, this has long been recognized. In early translations of the Hebrew Bible, Jewish translators tended to remove anthropomorphic imagery in order to prevent the reader from misunderstanding the ancient texts.
This tendency is evidenced in the Greek translations. As far as the Book of Jonah is concerned, Targum Jonah offers a good example of this: In Jonah 1:6, the Masoretic Text reads, "...perhaps God will pay heed to us...." Targum Jonah translates this passage as: "...perhaps there will be mercy from the Lord upon us...." The captain's proposal is no longer an attempt to change the divine will. Furthermore, in Jonah 3:9, the MT reads, "Who knows, God may turn and relent?" Targum Jonah translates this as, "Whoever knows that there are sins on his conscience let him repent of them and we will be pitied before the Lord." God does not change His mind. Fragments of the book were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, most of which follows the Masoretic Text and with Mur XII reproducing a large portion of the text; as for the non-canonical writings, the majority of references to biblical texts were made as appeals to authority. The Book of Jonah appears to have served less purpose in the Qumran community than other texts, as the writings make no references to it.
The earliest Christian interpretations of Jonah are found in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. Both Matthew and Luke record a tradition of Jesus’ interpretation of the Book of Jonah (notably, Matthew includes two similar
Book of Ezra
The Book of Ezra is a book of the Hebrew Bible. The two became separated with the first printed rabbinic bibles of the early 16th century, following late medieval Latin Christian tradition, its subject is the Return to Zion following the close of the Babylonian captivity, it is divided into two parts, the first telling the story of the first return of exiles in the first year of Cyrus the Great and the completion and dedication of the new Temple in Jerusalem in the sixth year of Darius I, the second telling of the subsequent mission of Ezra to Jerusalem and his struggle to purify the Jews from marriage with non-Jews. Together with the Book of Nehemiah, it represents the final chapter in the historical narrative of the Hebrew Bible. Ezra is written to fit a schematic pattern in which the God of Israel inspires a king of Persia to commission a leader from the Jewish community to carry out a mission; the theological program of the book explains the many problems. It appeared in its earliest version around 399 BC, continued to be revised and edited for several centuries before being accepted as scriptural in the early Christian era.
The Book of Ezra consists of ten chapters: chapters 1–6, covering the period from the Cyrus the Great to the dedication of the Second Temple, are told in the third person. The book contains several documents presented as historical inclusions, written in Aramaic while the surrounding text is in Hebrew Chapters 1–6 1. Decree of Cyrus, first version: Cyrus, inspired by God, returns the Temple vessels to Sheshbazzar, "prince of Judah", directs the Israelites to return to Jerusalem with him and rebuild the Temple. 2. 42,360 exiles, with men servants, women servants and "singing men and women", return from Babylon to Jerusalem and Judah under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua the High Priest. 3. Jeshua the High Priest and Zerubbabel celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. In the second year the foundations of the Temple are laid and the dedication takes place with great rejoicing. 4. Letter of the Samaritans to Artaxerxes, reply of Artaxerxes: The "enemies of Judah and Benjamin" offer to help with the rebuilding, but are rebuffed.
The officials of Samaria write to king Artaxerxes warning him that Jerusalem is being rebuilt, the king orders the work to stop. "Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia." 5. Tattenai's letter to Darius: Through the exhortations of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah and Joshua recommence the building of the Temple. Tattenai, satrap over both Judah and Samaria, writes to Darius warning him that Jerusalem is being rebuilt and advising that the archives be searched to discover the decree of Cyrus. 6. Decree of Cyrus, second version, decree of Darius: Darius finds the decree, directs Tattenai not to disturb the Jews in their work, exempts them from tribute and supplies everything necessary for the offerings; the Temple is finished in the month of Adar in the sixth year of Darius, the Israelites assemble to celebrate its completion. Chapters 7–107. Letter of Artaxerxes to Ezra: King Artaxerxes is moved by God to commission Ezra "to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God" and to "appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates—all who know the laws of your God."
Artaxerxes directs all Persian officials to aid him. 8. Ezra gathers a large body of returnees and much gold and silver and precious vessels for the Temple and camps by a canal outside Babylon. There he discovers he has no Levites, so sends messengers to gather some; the exiles return to Jerusalem, where they distribute the gold and silver and offer sacrifices to God. 9. Ezra is informed that some of the Jews in Jerusalem have married non-Jewish women. Ezra is appalled at this proof of sin, prays to God: "O God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence." 10. Despite the opposition of some of their number, the Israelites assemble and send away their foreign wives and children. In the early 6th century BC, the Kingdom of Judah rebelled against the Neo-Babylonian Empire and was destroyed; as a result, the royal court, the priests, the prophets and scribes were taken into captivity in the city of Babylon.
There a profound intellectual revolution took place, the exiles blaming their fate on disobedience to their God and looking forward to a future when he would allow a purified people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. The same period saw the rapid rise of Persia an unimportant kingdom in present-day southern Iran, to a position of great power, in 539 BC Cyrus II, the Persian ruler, conquered Babylon, it is difficult to describe the parties and politics of Judea in this period because of the lack of historical sources, but there seem to have been three important groups involved: the returnees from the exile who claimed the reconstruction with the support
Book of Joel
The Book of Joel is part of the Hebrew Bible, one of twelve prophetic books known as the Twelve Minor Prophets. After a superscription ascribing the prophecy to Joel, the book may be broken down into the following sections: Lament over a great locust plague and a severe drought; the effects of these events on agriculture, on the supply of agricultural offerings for the Temple in Jerusalem, interspersed with a call to national lament. A more apocalyptic passage comparing the locusts to an army, revealing that they are God's army. A call to national repentance in the face of God's judgment. Promise of future blessings. Banishment of the locusts and restoration of agricultural productivity as a divine response to national penitence. Future prophetic gifts to all God's people, the safety of God's people in the face of cosmic cataclysm. Coming judgment on God's enemies and the vindication of Israel; the Book of Joel's division into chapters and verses differs between editions of the Bible. Translations with four chapters include: Jewish Publication Society's version of the Hebrew Bible Jerusalem Bible New American Bible Complete Jewish Bible Tree of Life Version In the 1611 King James Bible, the Book of Joel is formed by three chapters: the second one has 32 verses, it is equivalent to the union of the chapter 2 and chapter 3 of other editions of the Bible.
The differences of the division is as follows: As there are no explicit references in the book to datable persons or events, scholars have assigned a wide range of dates to the book. The main positions are: Ninth century BC in the reign of Joash – a position popular among nineteenth-century scholars Early eighth century BC, during the reign of Uzziah c. 630–587 BC, in the last decades of the kingdom of Judah c. 520–500 BC, contemporary with the return of the exiles and the careers of Zechariah and Haggai. The decades around 400 BC, during the Persian period Evidence produced for these positions are allusions in the book to the wider world, similarities with other prophets, linguistic details; some commentators, such as John Calvin, attach no great importance to the precise dating. The Masoretic text places Joel between Hosea and Amos, while the Septuagint order is Hosea–Amos–Micah–Joel–Obadiah–Jonah; the Hebrew text of Joel seems to have suffered little from scribal transmission, but is at a few points supplemented by the Septuagint and Vulgate versions, or by conjectural emendation.
While the book purports to describe a plague of locusts, some ancient Jewish opinion saw the locusts as allegorical interpretations of Israel's enemies. This allegorical interpretation was applied to the church by many church fathers. Calvin took a literal interpretation of chapter 1, but allegorical view of chapter 2, a position echoed by some modern interpreters. Most modern interpreters, see Joel speaking of a literal locust plague given a prophetic/ apocalyptic interpretation; the traditional ascription of the whole book to the prophet Joel was challenged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by a theory of a three-stage process of composition: 1:1–2:27 were from the hand of Joel, dealt with a contemporary issue. Mentions in the first half of the book to the day of the Lord were ascribed to this continuator. 3:4–8/4:4–8 could be seen as later. Details of exact ascriptions differed between scholars; this splitting of the book's composition began to be challenged in the mid-twentieth century, with scholars defending the unity of the book, the plausibility of the prophet combining a contemporary and apocalyptic outlook, additions by the prophet.
The authenticity of 3:4–8 has presented more challenges, although a number of scholars still defend it. There are many parallels of language between other Old Testament prophets, they may represent Joel's literary use of other prophets, or vice versa. In the New Testament, his prophecy of the outpouring of God's Holy Spirit upon all people was notably quoted by Saint Peter in his Pentecost sermon; the table below represents some of the more explicit quotes and allusions between specific passages in Joel and passages from the Old and New Testaments. Plange quasi virgo, the third responsory for Holy Saturday, is loosely based on verses from the Book of Joel: the title comes from Joel 1:8. See works on the Minor Prophets as a whole. Achtemeier, Elizabeth. Minor Prophets I. New International Biblical Commentary. Ahlström, Gösta W. Joel and the Temple Cult of Jerusalem. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 21. Allen, Leslie C; the Books of Joel, Jonah & Micah. New International Commentary on the Old Testament.
Anders, Max E. & Butler, Trent C. Hosea–Micah. Holman Old Testament Commentary. Assis, Elie. Joel: A Prophet Between Calamity and Hope, New York: Bloomsbury, 2013 Baker, David W. Joel, Malachi. NIV Application Commentary. Barton, John. Joel & Obadiah: a Commentary. Old Testament Library. Birch, Bruce C. Hosea, Joel & Amos
Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah. The book has a long and complex history, but its final form is due to a Priestly redaction of a Yahwistic source made some time in the early Persian period; the name of the book comes from the two censuses taken of the Israelites. Numbers begins at Mount Sinai, where the Israelites have received their laws and covenant from God and God has taken up residence among them in the sanctuary; the task before them is to take possession of the Promised Land. The people are counted and preparations are made for resuming their march; the Israelites begin the journey, but they "murmur" at the hardships along the way, about the authority of Moses and Aaron. For these acts, God destroys 15,000 of them through various means, they send spies into the land. Upon hearing the spies' fearful report concerning the conditions in Canaan, the Israelites refuse to take possession of it. God condemns them to death in the wilderness until a new generation can grow up and carry out the task.
The book ends with the new generation of Israelites in the Plain of Moab ready for the crossing of the Jordan River. Numbers is the culmination of the story of Israel's exodus from oppression in Egypt and their journey to take possession of the land God promised their fathers; as such it draws to a conclusion the themes introduced in Genesis and played out in Exodus and Leviticus: God has promised the Israelites that they shall become a great nation, that they will have a special relationship with Yahweh their god, that they shall take possession of the land of Canaan. Numbers demonstrates the importance of holiness and trust: despite God's presence and his priests, Israel lacks faith and the possession of the land is left to a new generation. Most commentators divide Numbers into three sections based on locale, linked by two travel sections. God orders Moses, in the wilderness of Sinai, to number those able to bear arms—of all the men "from twenty years old and upward," and to appoint princes over each tribe.
A total of 603,550 Israelites are found to be fit for military service. The tribe of Levi is exempted from military service and therefore not included in the census. Moses consecrates the Levites for the service of the Tabernacle in the place of the first-born sons, who hitherto had performed that service; the Levites are divided into three families, the Gershonites, the Kohathites, the Merarites, each under a chief. The Kohathites were headed by Eleazar, son of Aaron, while the Gershonites and Merarites were headed by Aaron's other son, Ithamar. Preparations are made for resuming the march to the Promised Land. Various ordinances and laws are decreed; the Israelites set out from Sinai. The people are punished by fire. Miriam and Aaron insult Moses at Hazeroth. Twelve spies are come back to report to Moses. Joshua and Caleb, two of the spies, report that the land is abundant and is "flowing with milk and honey", but the other spies say that it is inhabited by giants, the Israelites refuse to enter the land.
Yahweh decrees that the Israelites will be punished for their loss of faith by having to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Moses is ordered by God to make plates to cover the altar; the children of Israel murmur against Moses and Aaron on account of the destruction of Korah's men and are stricken with the plague, with 14,700 perishing. Aaron and his family are declared by God to be responsible for any iniquity committed in connection with the sanctuary; the Levites are again appointed to help in the keeping of the Tabernacle. The Levites are ordered to surrender to the priests a part of the tithes taken to them. Miriam dies at Kadesh Barnea and the Israelites set out for Moab, on Canaan's eastern border; the Israelites blame Moses for the lack of water. Moses is ordered by God to speak to a rock but disobeys, is punished by the announcement that he shall not enter Canaan; the king of Edom refuses permission to pass through his land and they go around it. Aaron dies on Mount Hor; the Israelites are bitten by Fiery flying serpents for speaking against Moses.
A brazen serpent is made to ward off these serpents. The Israelites arrive on the plains of Moab. A new census gives the total number of males from twenty years and upward as 601,730, the number of the Levites from the age of one month and upward as 23,000; the land shall be divided by lot. The daughters of Zelophehad, who had no sons, are to share in the allotment. Moses is ordered to appoint Joshua as his successor. Prescriptions for the observance of the feasts and the offerings for different occasions are enumerated. Moses orders the Israelites to massacre the people of Midian; the Reubenites and the Gadites request Moses to assign them the land east of the Jordan. Moses grants their request after they promise to help in the conquest of the land west of the Jordan; the land east of the Jordan is divided among the tribes of
The Book of Psalms referred to as Psalms or "the Psalms", is the first book of the Ketuvim, the third section of the Hebrew Bible, thus a book of the Christian Old Testament. The title is derived from the Greek translation, ψαλμοί, meaning "instrumental music" and, by extension, "the words accompanying the music"; the book is an anthology of individual psalms, with 150 in the Jewish and Western Christian tradition and more in the Eastern Christian churches. Many are linked to the name of David; the Book of Psalms is divided into five sections, each closing with a doxology —these divisions were introduced by the final editors to imitate the five-fold division of the Torah: Book 1 Book 2 Book 3 Book 4 Book 5 Many psalms have individual superscriptions, ranging from lengthy comments to a single word. Over a third appear to be musical directions, addressed to the "leader" or "choirmaster", including such statements as "with stringed instruments" and "according to lilies". Others appear to be references to types of musical composition, such as "A psalm" and "Song", or directions regarding the occasion for using the psalm.
Many carry the names of individuals, the most common being of David, thirteen of these relate explicitly to incidents in the king's life. Others named include Asaph, the sons of Korah, Moses, Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman the Ezrahite; the LXX, the Peshitta, the Latin Vulgate each associate several Psalms with Haggai and Zechariah. The LXX attributes several Psalms to Ezekiel and to Jeremiah. Psalms are identified by a sequence number preceded by the abbreviation "Ps." Numbering of the Psalms differs -- by one, see table -- between Greek manuscripts. Protestant translations use the Hebrew numbering, but other Christian traditions vary: Catholic official liturgical texts follow the Hebrew numbering since 1969; the variance between Massorah and Septuagint texts in this numeration is enough due to a gradual neglect of the original poetic form of the Psalms. It is admitted that Pss. 9 and 10 were a single acrostic poem. Pss. 42 and 43 are shown by identity of subject, of metrical structure and of refrain, to be three strophes of one and the same poem.
The Hebrew text is correct in counting as one Ps. 146 and Ps. 147. Liturgical usage would seem to have split up these and several other psalms. Zenner combines into. 1, 2, 3, 4. A choral ode would seem to have been the original form of Pss. 14 and 70. The two strophes and the epode are Ps. 14. It is noteworthy that, on the breaking up of the original ode, each portion crept twice into the Psalter: Ps. 14 = 53, Ps. 70 = 40:14–18. Other such duplicated portions of psalms are Ps. 108:2–6 = Ps. 57:8–12. This loss of the original form of some of the psalms is allowed by the Biblical Commission to have been due to liturgical practices, neglect by copyists, or other causes; the Septuagint, present in Eastern Orthodox churches, includes a Psalm 151. Some versions of the Peshitta include Psalms 152–155. There are the Psalms of Solomon, which are a further 18 psalms of Jewish origin originally written in Hebrew, but surviving only in Greek and Syriac translation; these and other indications suggest that the current Western Christian and Jewish collection of 150 psalms were selected from a wider set.
Hermann Gunkel's pioneering form-critical work on the psalms sought to provide a new and meaningful context in which to interpret individual psalms—not by looking at their literary context within the Psalter, but by bringing together psalms of the same genre from throughout the Psalter. Gunkel divided the psalms into five primary types: Hymns, songs of praise for God's work in creation or history, they open with a call to praise, describe the motivation for praise, conclude with a repetition of the call. Two sub-categories are "enthronement psalms", celebrating the enthronement of Yahweh as king, Zion psalms, glorifying Mount Zion, God's dwelling-place in Jerusalem. Gunkel described a special subset of "eschatological hymns" which includes themes of future restoration or of judgment. Communal laments. Both communal and individual laments but not always include the following elements: address to God, description of suffering, cursing of the party responsib
Book of Proverbs
The Book of Proverbs is the second book of the third section of the Hebrew Bible and a book of the Christian Old Testament. When translated into Greek and Latin, the title took on different forms: in the Greek Septuagint it became Παροιμίαι Paroimiai. Proverbs is not an anthology but a "collection of collections" relating to a pattern of life which lasted for more than a millennium, it is an example of the Biblical wisdom tradition, raises questions of values, moral behaviour, the meaning of human life, right conduct. The repeated theme is that "the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." Wisdom is praised for her role in creation. The superscriptions divide the collections as follows: Proverbs 1–9: "Proverbs of Solomon, Son of David, King of Israel" Proverbs 10–22:16: "Proverbs of Solomon" Proverbs 22:17–24:22: "The Sayings of the Wise" Proverbs 24:23–34: "These Also are Sayings of the Wise" Proverbs 25–29: "These are Other Proverbs of Solomon that the Officials of King Hezekiah of Judah Copied" Proverbs 30: "The Words of Agur" Proverbs 31:1–9: "The Words of King Lemuel of Massa, Which his Mother Taught Him" Proverbs 31:10–31: the ideal wise woman.
"Proverbs" translates to the Hebrew word mashal, but "mashal" has a wider range of meaning than the short catchy sayings implied by the English word. Thus, while half the book is made up of "sayings" of this type, the other half is made up of longer poetic units of various types; these include "instructions" formulated as advice from a teacher or parent addressed to a student or child, dramatic personifications of both Wisdom and Folly, the "words of the wise" sayings, longer than the Solomonic "sayings" but shorter and more diverse than the "instructions". The first section consists of an initial invitation to young men to take up the course of wisdom, ten "instructions", five poems on personified Woman Wisdom. Proverbs 10:1–22:16, with 375 sayings, consists of two parts, the first contrasting the wise man and the fool, the second addressing wise and foolish speech. Chapters 25–29, attributed to editorial activity of "the men of Hezekiah," contrasts the just and the wicked and broaches the topic of rich and poor.
Chapter 30:1–4, the "sayings of Agur", introduces creation, divine power, human ignorance. It is impossible to offer precise dates for the sayings in Proverbs, a "collection of collections" relating to a pattern of life which lasted for more than a millennium; the phrase conventionally used for the title is taken from chapter 1:1, mishley shelomoh, Proverbs of Solomon, is more concerned with labeling the material than ascribing authorship. The book is an anthology made up of six discrete units; the first, chapters 1–9, was the last to be composed, in the Persian or Hellenistic periods. This section has parallels to prior cuneiform writings; the second, chapters 10–22:16, carries the superscription "the proverbs of Solomon", which may have encouraged its inclusion in the Hebrew canon. The third unit is headed "bend your ear and hear the words of the wise": a large part of it is a recasting of a second-millennium BCE Egyptian work, the Instruction of Amenemope, may have reached the Hebrew author through an Aramaic translation.
Chapter 24:23 begins a new section and source with the declaration, "these too are from the wise." The next section at chapter 25:1 has a superscription to the effect that the following proverbs were transcribed "by the men of Hezekiah", indicating at face value that they were collected in the reign of Hezekiah in the late 8th century BCE. Chapters 30 and 31 are a set of appendices, quite different in style and emphasis from the previous chapters; the "wisdom" genre was widespread throughout the ancient Near East, reading Proverbs alongside the examples recovered from Egypt and Mesopotamia reveals the common ground shared by international wisdom. The wisdom literature of Israel may have been developed in the family, the royal court, houses of learning and instruction. Along with the other examples of the Biblical wisdom tradition – Job and Ecclesiastes and some other writings – Proverbs raises questions of values, moral behavior, the meaning of human life, righteous conduct; the three retain an ongoing relevance for both religious and secular readers and Ecclesiastes through the boldness of their dissent from received tradition, Proverbs in its worldliness and satiric shrewdness.
Wisdom is as close. Proverbs was excluded from the Bible because of its contradictions; the reader is told, for example, both to "not answer a fool according to his folly", according to 26:4, to "answer a fool according to his folly", as 26:5 advises. More pervasively, the recurring theme of the initial unit is that t
Book of Exodus
The Book of Exodus or Exodus is the second book of the Torah, the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament following Genesis. Exodus tells how the Israelites leave slavery in Egypt through the strength of Yahweh, the god who has chosen Israel as his people. With the prophet Moses as their leader, they journey through the wilderness to biblical Mount Sinai, guided by divine signs for forty years provided by Yahweh, promising them the land of Canaan in return for their faithfulness. Israel enters into a covenant with Yahweh who gives them their laws and instructions to build the Tabernacle, the means by which he will come from heaven and dwell with them and lead them in a holy war to possess the land, give them peace. Traditionally ascribed to Moses himself, modern scholarship sees the book as a product of the Babylonian exile, from earlier written and oral traditions, with final revisions in the Persian post-exilic period. Carol Meyers, in her commentary on Exodus, suggests that it is arguably the most important book in the Bible, as it presents the defining features of Israel's identity: memories of a past marked by hardship and escape, a binding covenant with God, who chooses Israel, the establishment of the life of the community and the guidelines for sustaining it.
The book is not a historical narrative. Everything is presented as the work of God, who appears in person, the historical setting is only a hazy sketch, its purpose is not to record what happened, but to reflect the story of the exile community in Babylon and Jerusalem, facing foreign captivity and the need to come to terms with their understanding of God. The English name Exodus comes from the Ancient Greek: ἔξοδος, éxodos, meaning "going out". In Hebrew the book's title is שְׁמוֹת, shemot, "Names", from the beginning words of the text: "These are the names of the sons of Israel". There is no unanimous agreement among scholars on the structure of Exodus. One strong possibility is that it is a diptych, with the division between parts 1 and 2 at the crossing of the Red Sea or at the beginning of the theophany in chapter 19. On this plan, the first part tells of God's rescue of his people from Egypt and their journey under his care to Sinai and the second tells of the covenant between them. Jacob's sons and their families join Joseph, in Egypt.
Once there, the Israelites begin to grow in number. Egypt's Pharaoh, fearful that the Israelites could be a fifth column, forces the Israelites into slavery and orders the throwing of all newborn boys into the Nile. A Levite woman saves her baby by setting him adrift on the river Nile in an ark of bulrushes; the Pharaoh's daughter finds the child, names him Moses, brings him up as her own. But Moses is aware of his origins, one day, when grown, he kills an Egyptian overseer, beating a Hebrew slave and has to flee into Midian. There he marries Zipporah, the daughter of Midianite priest Jethro, encounters God in a burning bush. Moses asks God for his name: God replies: "I AM that I AM." God tells Moses to return to Egypt and lead the Hebrews into Canaan, the land promised to Abraham. Moses fails to convince the Pharaoh to release the Israelites. God smites the Egyptians with 10 terrible plagues including a river of blood, many frogs, the death of first-born sons. Moses leads the Israelites out of bondage after a final chase when the Pharaoh reneges on his coerced consent.
The desert proves arduous, the Israelites complain and long for Egypt, but God provides manna and miraculous water for them. The Israelites arrive at the mountain of God. God asks, they accept. The people gather at the foot of the mountain, with thunder and lightning and clouds of smoke, the sound of trumpets, the trembling of the mountain, God appears on the peak, the people see the cloud and hear the voice of God. God tells Moses to ascend the mountain. God pronounces the Ten Commandments in the hearing of all Israel. Moses goes up the mountain into the presence of God, who pronounces the Covenant Code, promises Canaan to them if they obey. Moses comes down the mountain and writes down God's words and the people agree to keep them. God calls Moses up the mountain where he remains for 40 nights. At the conclusion of the 40 days and 40 nights, Moses returns holding the set of stone tablets. God gives Moses instructions for the construction of the tabernacle so that God could dwell permanently among his chosen people, as well as instructions for the priestly vestments, the altar and its appurtenances, the procedure for ordaining the priests, the daily sacrifice offerings.
Aaron becomes the first hereditary high priest. God gives Moses the two tablets of stone containing the words of the ten commandments, written with the "finger of God". While Moses is with God, Aaron makes a golden calf. God informs Moses of their apostasy and threatens to kill them all, but relents when Moses pleads for them. Moses comes down from the mountain, smashes the stone tablets in anger, commands the Levites to massacre the unfaithful Israelites. God commands Moses to make two new tablets on which He will write the words that were on the first tablets. Moses ascends the mountain