What Does the Title of the Book of Exodus Mean?

Kevin Zuber
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The title of Exodus in Hebrew (w’elleh semot) is taken from the first few words of 1:1, “Now these are the names.” This phrase, which also appears in Gn 46:8, introduces the list of the persons who “came to Egypt with Jacob.” Since the book begins with an adverb of time, “Now,” as well as this unmistakable connection with Genesis, it is evident that Exodus was meant to be a continuation of the narrative of Genesis. Furthermore, the subject matter of the tabernacle (the last major portion of Exodus) and the subject of the functions of the Levitical priests who served in the tabernacle (the first chapters of Leviticus) tie the second and third books of the Torah (Law) or Pentateuch (five books) together. Plainly the Torah was intended to be read as one book with five volumes, not five separate books.

The title of the book in the English Bible is derived from the Septuagint (the ancient Gk. version of the OT) through the Latin (exodus is the Lat. of the Gk. exodos which means “going out”). This title is, of course based on the major theme of the first part of the book, the “exodus,” the departure of the nation of Israel from bondage in Egypt. This departure was the first vital step on a journey to the land of promise (cf. 3:8, 17; 13:5; 32:13; 33:1; 34:11-12). That journey, which began with the exodus, is taken up again in the book of Numbers (cf. Nm 15:2) only to be delayed by fear and unbelief (see commentary on Nm 13, 14). When the story of that journey is taken up once more in Deuteronomy (cf. Dt 1:68), it ties together the narrative of the nation’s promise from the Lord (Gn 12–50), deliverance by the Lord (Exodus), provision, preservation, and protection from the Lord (Exodus–Numbers), and preparation (for entering the land, Deuteronomy). Viewed in this way “Exodus forms the heart of the Torah” (Walter C. Kaiser Jr., “Exodus,” in vol. 2 Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990], 287).

For Further Reading:

The Moody Bible Commentary

by Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham

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