Gospel Doctrine Lesson #13, the Exodus
The people of Israel moved to the delta region of Egypt in order to escape a severe drought and famine. Joseph became the Pharaoh’s adopted son in being his Second in the land. Many scholars believe that the Pharaohs of this time were from the Hyksos. The Hyksos were a Semitic/Asiatic people that entered Egypt and later ruled it for over a century. They Hyksos were shepherd kings, something regular Egyptians would have despised or looked down upon. The main Hyksos kings from the 15th Dynasty had Canaanite names. They introduced the compound bow and horse-drawn chariot to Egypt, and moved the capitol to Thebes.
Wikipedia tells us: “The people are shown below wearing the cloaks of many colors associated with the mercenary Mitanni bowmen and cavalry (ha ibrw) of Northern Canaan, Aram, Kadesh, Sidon and Tyre.” Note the possible tie with Joseph’s coat of many colors. Hyksos - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In the 18th dynasty, the Hyksos were pushed out of Egypt by Ahmose I. It is possible that at this time, the Pharaoh “knew not Joseph”, as the Semites from Canaan were now out of power. The remaining Semites in the land of Egypt would either have to be driven out or enslaved to keep them from regaining power. The children of Israel, along with many other Asiatics living in the Nile Delta region were enslaved by the Egyptians, to prevent them from joining with the Hyksos (the enemies of Exodus 1:10), thereby gaining the throne of Pharaoh again.
Merneptah Stele, Cairo Museum
The new Pharaohs would use the Israelite slaves to make bricks and build a new group of cities for the new Pharaoh. These were “treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses” (Ex 1:11). These two cities were built by the Pharaohs Seti I and Raamses II, who are considered by many to be the Pharaohs of Israel’s oppression. This would possibly make Raamses II or Merneptah the Pharaoh of the Exodus. A lot of it depends upon the interpretation of a writing where it mentions in the Year 5 Merneptah Stele (ca. 1208 BC) that "Israel is wasted, bare of seed." Was it propaganda to cover up this king's own loss of an army in the Red Sea? Or was it disdain for the Israelites, who would now be wanderers in the desert without a land of their own? Either way, it helps us to determine approximately when Israel left Egypt (Merneptah Stele - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ).
Merneptah Stele: “Israel is wasted, bare of seed.”
Amram, Father of Moses’ Vision
In the Testament of Amram (4Q Amram, Dead Sea Scrolls), we find that Moses’ father has a unique vision. In it, he sees two “Watchers” or divine beings who are arguing over Amram. He asks who they are and they tell him they “rule over sons of men” in all the world. Amram is given a challenge: “And they said to me: ‘Which of us do you [choose]?’”
He studies them and sees that one of them is “like a viper” ruling over darkness. The other being rules “over all light”. This one has three names, one of which is probably Melchizedek, the high priest of El/God in Abraham’s day (see previous lesson blog on Abraham for more on Melchizedek). We find again that sacred names are important, giving the individual power. We are then warned about the battle between the “Sons of Light” and the “Sons of Darkness”, a major theme in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
This sits well with the story of the Exodus, which is exactly that. We have the Sons of Light, the Israelites in mortal combat with the Sons of Darkness, the Egyptians and any other enemies they might have. As we consider the Bible story and other related materials, we’ll see how this fits in.
Books of Jubilees and Jasher on Israel’s stay in Egypt
We find out in the Book of Jubilees, chapter 46, that the “treasure cities” of Pithom and Raamses are cities of defense, to defend against warring Canaanites (such as the Hyksos). Upon enslaving the Israelites, the Egyptians slew the children for a period of seven months (ch 47).
The Book of Jasher tells us that Israel was very powerful. They were warriors that initially fought with the Egyptians to fend off attacks by the Asiatics (Chittim), which included Sea Peoples (Asiatics who were originally from the Greek isles) and the Canaanites. In one battle, the Egyptians fled from the Asiatics, leaving Israel to fight them alone. The Israelites succeeded in winning the war. Angry that their counterparts fled, they slew many of the Egyptian soldiers for cowardice, and returned to their homes. Egypt fears Israel’s power, as they are obviously much mightier in battle than they are.
In order to subdue the Israelites, Egypt turns to cunning methods to enslave them. They ask the Israelites to come build up the fortified cities of Pithom and Raamses as a protection in the area. They are offered workers’ wages for the effort. All the tribes go, except for the tribe of Levi, which remains behind to tend the flocks, etc. With cunning, they end up enslaving the Israelites and force them to build the cities of protection. (Jasher 64-66).
And so things are when Moses is born.
Moses’ birth and the Massacre of the Innocents
Moses’ birth comes at a very difficult period. The Pharaohs have enslaved the Israelites, but still see them propagating so quickly that they fear a future overthrow could occur. Pharaoh first calls upon the midwives of Israel to ensure the males are aborted. The midwives quietly refuse to do such wicked work, and tell Pharaoh that the Hebrew women give birth before they can even show up. Pharaoh goes to more drastic measures and openly calls for the death of all male Israelite babies in Egypt as a birth control method. In keeping their numbers down, the hope is to keep them under control for future dynasties.
In the Book of Jubilees, we find that the children are slain for seven months (Jub. 47:3). The Book of Jasher details exactly how it came about: Pharaoh has a nightmare. In it, he sees an old man waving a balance (scales for weighing) in front of Pharoah. He calls forth his wise men to interpret the disturbing dream. Baalim of Beor tells him that it means that Israel would weigh Pharaoh in the balance and find him wanting. Israel would destroy Egypt and then leave.
Fearing such a disaster, Pharaoh consults to see what should be done. Reul/Jethro of Midian tells him he should let the Israelites go, and save his land of Egypt. Pharaoh becomes angry at this suggestion, and Jethro quietly leaves back to his home land. Baalim suggests drowning all the newborn sons of the Israelites in order to stop them from overthrowing Egypt. Pharaoh tells the Israelites to slay their own children. The women choose instead to deliver their babies in the fields and leave them. Angels come to the babies, washing and anointing them. Each baby is given two stones to suck on: one containing milk and the other honey. When the Egyptians find the babies prospering in the fields, they begin throwing them into the Nile River to drown.
This period of killing foresees the massacre of the innocents in Bethlehem by King Herod more than 1000 years later, when he feared that he and his royal line would be overthrown by a king born in the city of David. Moses becomes a symbol for Jesus Christ. While Jesus fled with his parents to Egypt to escape King Herod’s tyranny, Moses escapes the dangers of his enemies by becoming a member of the royal family of Egypt! The Book of Jubilees states that after he is weaned and grown a little, Moses is taken into Pharaoh’s house and becomes his son (Jub 47:10-11). However, unlike Cecille B. DeMille’s movie Ten Commandments, Moses knows he is an Israelite by birth. His skin would be lighter, and he would have Asiatic/Semitic features, while the Pharaoh’s family would most certainly be of Egyptian descent.
Moses’ birth is foreseen by his older sister Miriam: “And it was at that time the spirit of God was upon Miriam the daughter of Amram the sister of Aaron, and she went forth and prophesied about the house, saying, Behold a son will be born unto us from my father and mother this time, and he will save Israel from the hands of Egypt” (Jasher 68:1).
While Pharaoh’s daughter called his name “Moses” (drawn out), “Jochebed his mother called his name Jekuthiel, Because, she said, I have hoped for him to the Almighty, and God restored him unto me” (Jasher 68:26).
In the Book of Jasher it tells us that at 3 years of age, while eating with the royal family, Moses takes the crown off Pharaoh’s head. All are astonished, and Baalim tells the king that this is the Hebrew child that would one day overthrow him, and that he must be killed instantly. An angel, disguised as one of Pharaoh’s counselors, suggests they place an onyx stone and a hot coal before the child. If the child takes the onyx stone, they would know he was aware of what he was doing in taking the crown from Pharaoh. The angel guides the boy to grab the coal, burns himself on his lips and mouth. This is why Moses would later tell God he had a speech defect and needed Aaron to speak for him (Jasher ch 70).
As he grew, he learned of Balaam’s actions against Israel and Moses, and sought to slay Balaam. Balaam found out and fled Egypt.
Moses goes to Midian
Before we discuss this, I would note that I was planning on discussing how the story of Moses and the Exodus is a Creation/Temple story. However, as I was preparing this lesson, my friend David Larsen beat me to the punch and gave an excellent explanation of it on his blog. I recommend you study it here:
The Exodus Narrative as Another Creation Story (for Old Testament Lesson 13) | Heavenly Ascents
Moses sees an Egyptian whipping a Hebrew slave. Some accounts state that the Hebrew was Moses’ best friend, while another states the man ran to Moses pleading for his/Pharaoh’s protection, as the Egyptian had stolen his property and wife, and was now going to kill him over them. Moses confronts the Egyptian and ends up slaying him. Hoping to hide the evidence, he buries the Egyptian in the sand, however he soon finds out that the murder is spreading everywhere.
God leads Moses from Egypt to the land of Midian. The land of Midian is believed to have been in northwest Arabian peninsula on the east shore of the Gulf of Aqaba. Some scholars, however, do not think they were so much geographical as they were a league of tribes. The Midianites worshiped a variety of gods, including Baal and Ashtoreth. It is possible they also worshiped the Egyptian goddess Hathor, as an Egyptian temple to her was also in the area. Midian - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
However, at least one Midianite worshiped the Lord. We learn in D&C 84:6-7 that Moses was ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood by his father-in-law Jethro. He would also have learned about the gospel from Jethro, as well.
According to the Book of Jasher, Moses was a warrior, helping the people overtake other nations. Moses fled initially to Cush, where he soon became its leader, when the king died. For years he fought Arabs and many tribes as the king of Cush. However, he knew he could not marry a Canaanite woman, as was commanded by Abraham concerning his son Isaac. He refused to marry the queen, and so he reigned for twenty years. Eventually, the queen’s son became a man, and she asked the people to throw down Moses as a foreigner and replace him with her son, the rightful heir of Cush. They gave Moses great gifts and thanks for his service, and then sent him packing. So Moses eventually made his way to Midian. (Jasher 76).
The Sapphire Staff of Adam
However, the Midianites are concerned that Moses has fled from Cush, and thinking he may be a fugitive, they place him in prison. Zipporah cares for him while he serves ten years in prison. In the meantime, the Pharaoh contracted leprosy. He tries curing it by spreading the fresh blood of a sacrificed Israelite child on his skin, each day for more than a year. But it does no good. Eventually his rotted body dies, and his son takes his place as Pharaoh (Jasher 76). Moses’ wrongful imprisonment is symbolic of the imprisonment of Joseph, who would later save his people in Egypt; and Jesus who would after his false imprisonment save his people from spiritual Egypt.
Upon release from prison, Moses prays in the garden of Reul/Jethro. While praying, he sees a sapphire staff planted in the ground with the name of the Lord of Hosts upon it. He takes the staff, which stuns Reul. The staff had belonged to Adam in the Garden of Eden. It was passed down to Noah and then to Abraham, who passed it down the line to Joseph. It became a treasure of Egypt, and when Reul left Pharaoh, he took the staff with him and planted it in his garden. Many mighty men tried to pluck the staff from the ground but could not. When Moses succeeded, Reul gave him Zipporah as his wife (Jasher 77).
The Holy Mountain
Outside of major kingdoms, such as Egypt, were the nations large enough to build vast cities. The Midianites were likely a tribal shepherd people with a few small towns. They would not have had a place for a major religious building.
Holy places were created in the wilderness. Jacob saw God in a dream and set up a pillar, which he called Beth-El, the House of God. For Moses, it was a mountain on fire that attracted him to Jehovah’s sacred place in the wilderness. The temple is a holy mountain, a sacred space, where earth and heaven are connected. It is where people go to enter into the glory and presence of God. And it is here that Moses sees God and receives his commission as prophet.
Return to Egypt and the Plagues
The Book of Jubilees tell us that on Moses’ return to Egypt, the demon Mastema sought to destroy him, and save his children, the Egyptians.
Moses’ initial attempt to impress the Egyptians fails. While he can turn his hand leprous and heal it, and while he can turn his staff into a serpent, so can the Egyptian sorcerers through Mastema’s power (Jub 48). God wreaks vengeance upon the Egyptians through the plagues, however. The Egyptian magicians cannot duplicate them, nor stop them. It is a classic battle of who has the true authority. In the stories of Abraham, including the Book of Abraham, we see a clash of titans, each side insisting that their God can beat up the other person’s God. In the Book of Abraham, we see that Pharaoh claims to have the ancient authority, while Abraham insists HE is the one that God has chosen as the rightful servant and heir of Jehovah. This competition between gods will happen time and again through Israel’s history, but is punctuated in the story of Moses and Pharaoh.
Eventually Pharaoh is forced to allow Moses to leave with Israel. The land is so demoralized and left in such chaos that no one has the will to stop Israel from leaving. At least for a few days. Suddenly they realize they have lost their meal ticket, and the Egyptians rush out to get Israel back. Again, Jehovah thrashes the Egyptians, opening a road in the chaotic waters for Israel to arrive safely on the other side, and then allowing chaos to resume in drowning the Egyptian army.
Order from Chaos
Most gods of the time were national or tribal gods. They were limited to where and when they could work their power. Jehovah demonstrated in the past that he is stronger than the gods of Pharaoh, as he saved Abraham from the priest of Elkaneh and the gods of Egypt. Jehovah saved both Israel and Egypt in raising Joseph up in Egypt. Now Jehovah would show his might once again, by illustrating his destructive and creative forces over the land of Egypt. Why do I say that? Because the Destruction and Creation go together. David Larsen’s article goes into this somewhat. With the destruction of Egypt, Jehovah is able to create a new people of Israel. They leave the chaos and desolation of Egypt behind and go toward the ordered Land of Promise, where milk and honey flow.
The Passover – Exodus 11
The Passover was designed by Jehovah to be Israel’s first national festival. It celebrated the night when the Angel of Death passed over the homes of the Israelites and killed the first born children of Egypt. Once again, it is representative of Creation/Order out of Destruction/Chaos. With Pharaoh and Egypt’s continual refusal to let Israel leave, they had proven themselves ripened for destruction. They had slain the infant sons of Israel, enslaved thousands more, and had become an indolent, evil and proud people.
Now it was time for the Lord to redeem his people. There are several portions to the Passover that we’ll review.
Paschal lamb: The lamb was to be without blemish and the first born of the field that spring. They were to eat all of it, not leaving any to spoil. If a family was too small to eat it alone, they were to invite the neighbors in to eat it with them. It represents the future role of Jehovah as sacrificial lamb for Israel and the entire world. He would take the chaos of death and reorder it into a new creation, immortality and eternal life. Since there is more than enough of Christ’s atonement, we are also encouraged to invite our neighbors to partake of the atonement of Christ with us, that they too might be saved.
Blood on the door posts: The blood of the lamb was smeared on the posts of each door. This was an outward sign that the person within accepted the blood of the Lamb to save him from death and chaos. Today, we partake of the Sacrament in memory of the Blood of the Lamb, as an outward sign that we accept his atonement and salvation from death and chaos.
Unleavened Bread: This is bread that has not been filled with leaven, or yeast. It is flat bread. The Israelites did not have time to wait for bread to expand with yeast, before cooking it. They had to be prepared for the Exodus at a moment’s notice. The concept here is we also must be prepared at a moment’s notice to go when God calls us. Prior preparation means one is not caught unprepared or unaware. Christ’s parable of the 10 Virgins ties in nicely. All are virgins, but only half were prepared with extra oil, to leave to the main event on a moment’s notice.
Bitter Herbs: This life is tough. We need to always remember our bondage, whether it is as slaves in Egypt, or slaves to an addiction. One of the key terms in the Book of Mormon is the word, Remember. Alma told us that if we do not remember the captivity of our fathers, we will be doomed to also be captive (Alma 5). It teaches us to appreciate the good blessings Jehovah wishes to pour down upon us when we are obedient and listen. When we forget our sins and mistakes of the past, we are doomed to relive them.
God’s Presence – Exodus 13
Israel experiences the protection of Jehovah in the wilderness as they flee. God goes before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. They are just outside His presence, but it is with them as their advanced guard.
Today, we are promised the Gift of the Holy Ghost as a constant companion. When we are confirmed members of the Church, though, we are not ordained nor set apart with the Holy Ghost. Instead, we are commanded to “receive the Holy Ghost.”
This member of the Godhead becomes our “pillar” that can constantly be with us. But it is up to each of us on whether it remains with us. While Jehovah’s pillar led Israel towards the Red Sea, what would have happened had the Israelites chosen a different route for themselves? They would have walked away from the pillar and its protection. They would have literally walked away from God’s presence. When we disobey the Spirit, which is a divine member of the Godhead, we literally walk away from God’s presence. So while we are told the Gift means the Holy Ghost can be our constant companion, how often is it in each of our lives? Are we seeking to have him as our constant companion, or are we satisfied with just crossing paths occasionally along the way?
Wikipedia - Hyksos: Hyksos - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wikipedia – Merneptah Stele: Merneptah Stele - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Testament of Amram (4Q Amram, Dead Sea Scrolls): Testament Of Amram - (4Q543, 545-548)
Book of Jubilees: Jubilees
Book of Jasher: Jasher
Massacre of the Innocents, Wikipedia: Massacre of the Innocents - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
David Larsen’s Heavenly Ascents excellent article on how the Exodus symbolizes the Creation: The Exodus Narrative as Another Creation Story (for Old Testament Lesson 13) | Heavenly Ascents
Jim F’s version of the lesson, where he looks at chiasmus, and asks several very excellent questions: OT Lesson 13: Exodus 1-3, 5-6, 11-14 Feast upon the Word Blog