Monday on the Mount of Olives — What is the Point of the Book of Exodus?

What is the point of the Book of Exodus?  What is the most important event contained in the book?

Early in the book, when Moses complained to God that He was not acting on behalf of Israel, God graciously responded:

Ex. 6:1    Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them  [the Israelites]  go . . . .

Ex. 6:2     God also said to Moses, “I am the LORD.  3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them.  4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens . . . and I have remembered my covenant.

Ex. 6:6     “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out . . . I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God . . .  8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’”

Certainly the above passage clearly links the events of the Exodus with the Promise that God had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

But quick, what is the most important event found in the book of Exodus?  The Burning Bush incident?  The 10 Plagues?  The first Passover?  The Crossing of the Reed Sea?  The giving of the Law at Mount Sinai?  I believe that the answer is found after you plow through 13 (boring?) chapters describing the details of how the Tabernacle was supposed to be constructed.


A modern reconstruction of the Tabernacle, Courtyard, and Sacrificial Altar — This life-size replica was built under the supervision of Dr. Randall Smith — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

I believe, in spite of all the highlights, that the book of Exodus climaxes with the construction of the Tabernacle (chapter 40) and God coming to reside with His people.

Ex. 40:34     . . . the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory (כָּבוֹד kâvôd)of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  35 Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory (כָּבוֹד kâvôd) of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

What in fact is the glory (כָּבוֹד kâvôd) of the LORD”?  The basic meaning of the Hebrew word for glory has to do with “heaviness, and weight“—not luminosity as many think (see C.S. Lewis below).  In other words, the heavy, weighty, all encompassing, presence of the True and Living God came to “dwell” in the Tabernacle!  God was now dwelling with His people!

And what do we find in Leviticus?  We find specific instructions as to where the priests, the Levites, and all the Israelites were to camp around the Tabernacle (Leviticus 2–3).  Putting this together, God was now dwelling with His people who were arranged around His “Tabernacle/Dwelling” to live their lives in His Presence!  Now what were they supposed to do?  They were to live their lives in the Presence (kâvôd) of God, worshiping and obeying Him.  This is exactly what God had intended for humanity in Eden!!  All the potential for returning to God’s original “Edenic” intention is here!

Take Away:  God’s Presence is enthroned above the ark of the covenant in the Tabernacle.  God’s People are gathered around it.  God is Providing for his people (think manna and water).  God is Protecting His people (think Reed Sea and going before them in the cloud and pillar of fire).  God is Ruling His people (think commandments).  And God has provide a way for Restoration/Atonement when His people sin (think altar for sacrifices).  Question: In what way are these items related to Jerusalem during the days of the First Temple (Solomon’s Temple)?

Next Monday — more from the Pentateuch/Torah as we consider the biblical theology of Jerusalem.

As an aside, please note that God did NOT “liberate” random slaves to merely become “liberated”!  The Israelites were not liberated to become capitalists.  Not liberated to become socialists.  Not liberated to become Marxists.  But “liberated” to become the People of the True and Living God, people who worship only Him (Deut 6:4) and who live their lives in His Presence in worshipful obedience!

C. S. Lewis‘ 1942 sermon “The Weight of Glory” is correctly titled but in the sermon he says/writes “Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity.”  See conveniently his book The Weight of Glory.  BUT “Means to me” is not a criterion to seek the meaning of a word—Hebrew lexical studies (in context) win out!  Although not the exclusive meaning of kâvôd, you will be pleasantly surprised when you substitute “the heavy, weighty Presence of God” for kâvôd “glory” in many places.

For the pivotal importance of Exodus 5:22–6:8 see Martens, Elmer A. God’s Design — a Focus on Old Testament Theology. Baker: Grand Rapids, 1981.


2 responses to “Monday on the Mount of Olives — What is the Point of the Book of Exodus?

  1. I love this, Carl: “God did NOT ‘liberate’ random slaves to merely become ‘liberated'” Pretty tough to remember that these days. Thanks much.

  2. Michelle Trevino

    I should be using your generous, scholarly resources more often! I dont believe I’ve ever said thank you, so thank you for wonderful teachings and most talented photos. I’ve always appreciated the high resolution over the years. Btw you have a tiny typo concerning the layout of the tribes around the Tabernacle in Leviticus but it’s in Numbers. Over the last 10 years the Father has recurrently spoken to me concerning the Tabernacle, “Go into the Tent.” It has manifested in many ways but now there is actually a worship event coming in October, during the Feast of Tabernacles, on the D.C. Mall. There will be 50 tents, one for each state, plus 12 for the tribes worshipping God for 3 days in our state capital! It’s web page is in case you’re interested. Thank you again Doctor for all your dedication and hard work. God is certainly moving us.

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