In Exodus Pharaoh and Egypt are portrayed as the symbols of Satan and the world, who had enslaved the people of Yahweh (Ex. 13:3). It was in one great act that Yahweh redeemed His people from these two evil forces, bringing both glory to Himself and deliverance to His people. It was then in the wilderness that He would begin the process of redeeming them from their own sinful nature and revealing to them Himself and how they could have a relationship with Him.

Though Israel’s new state was not as free, autonomous individuals. They had been freed from their bondage and service to Egypt only to be brought into bondage and service to Yahweh their redeemer. Thus Exodus tells of the movement from one master to another. However, their new Master brought true freedom, for He is sovereign over all things and has their best interest in mind. In fact, as He demonstrated through the exodus and later through the cross, He was willing to move heaven and earth to redeem them. This bondage to Yahweh is clearly seen when He brought them to Sinai and established a covenant of requirements and blessings with them.

The Plagues of Egypt

The Egyptians worshiped everything in creation as a god that had created that element or creature and therefore also had control over it. Through each of the plagues Yahweh was attacking the different gods of Egypt and showing that their power over the creation was false and that they were nothing compared to Him. This is seen most clearly at the final plague where Yahweh says, “and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment” (Ex. 12:12). Likewise in Num. 33:4, He states that the plagues were an attack on the gods of Egypt. (See Yahweh Versus the Gods of Egypt article).

Yahweh demonstrated His power in order to show that He is the only true God and the only one worthy of worship. The gods were seen as limited in power to a particular land and to the people who worshiped them. The plagues demonstrated that Yahweh is not limited to a certain region; His sovereignty and power are universal. Thus, He gave not only the nations a powerful and unforgettable demonstration of His sovereignty and power (Josh. 2:8-13) but also to Israel, in order to encourage them to never go after lesser gods. These plagues also served to demonstrate Yahweh’s desire for repentance and His ability to deliver His people from bondage.

Through the plagues Yahweh promised that He would do three things (Ex. 6:6-8). He would deliver the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage, adopt Israel as His nation (which took place at Sinai; Ex. 19:5), and bring Israel into the Promised Land. These are the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-4). Notice the repetition of the phrase “I will” seven times in these verses, emphasizing that Yahweh would certainly do this for Israel.

These plagues can also be seen as a type of de-creation. In Exodus 7-12 Yahweh took the creation order of Genesis 1 and reversed it, turning that order and structure into chaos to bring judgment on Egypt. What was originally declared good in Genesis 1 was now a curse on the Egyptians. The plagues were a further attack on the gods of Egypt since they were credited for the creation of the earth and humanity. Now the true Creator was undoing creation right before them to show who really had the power, almost as if to say, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.”

A further testament to the divine power and protection of Yahweh was the fact that throughout the de-creation of Egypt, Israel remained unaffected. Israel experienced life in Yahweh’s creation while the Egyptians suffered around them. They would then be recreated into a new creation and nation through the exodus and their entrance into the Promised Land.

Through the plagues Yahweh promised that He would do three things (Ex. 6:6-8). He would deliver the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage, adopt Israel as His nation (which took place at Sinai; Ex. 19:5), and bring Israel into the Promised Land. These are the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-4). Notice the repetition of the phrase “I will” seven times in these verses, emphasizing that Yahweh would certainly do this for Israel.

The Exodus of Israel

The exodus became one of the most significant events in Israel’s history because it was in this event that Yahweh personally came down to His people and redeemed them. The significance of this event is emphasized by the festival of Passover, where Yahweh struck the final blow against Egypt that freed His people from slavery (Ex. 12:12-13). Through the Passover Yahweh accomplished three major things. First, He struck down the firstborn male of every Egyptian as justice for the males that Egypt killed under the old Pharaoh (Ex. 1:22). Second, it provided a means for Yahweh to not just save Israel but to redeem them to Himself (Ex. 12:3-10; 13:1-2). Third, it became a foreshadowing of Christ to come as the sacrificial lamb.

The next morning after the Passover, Yahweh appeared to Israel as a large pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night (Ex. 13:20-22). The Jews called this pillar the Shakaniah glory of Yahweh, the same fire that appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3:2). Through Shakaniah glory Yahweh not only made His presence visibly known to His people, but it also guided them and protected them as well. Yahweh Himself was in the pillar (Ex. 13:21; 14:24) and often spoke to the people from it (Ex. 19-20; Num. 12:5-6; Deut. 31:15-16; Ps. 99:6-7). The Shakaniah lead Israel out of Egypt and to the Red Sea where it moved to the rear of Israel to cut the enemy off from them. The fact that pillar was simultaneous a cloud and fire at this time suggest that the pillar would have been a dark cloud on the side that faced Egypt shrouding them in darkness and fire on the side that faced Israel lighting up the night. This is the way that it is portrayed at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19; Deut. 4:11; 5:22) and other places along Israel’s journey (Ex. 13:21; Num. 14:14; Deut. 1:33; Neh. 9:12, 19; Josh. 24:7; Ps. 78:14; 105:39). The Egyptians who have made themselves an enemy of Yahweh are shrouded in darkness, but the Israelites who have followed in faith see the light of Yahweh.

Yahweh used the parting and crossing of the Red Sea (Ex. 14:13-31) to simultaneously destroy the Egyptian army and baptize His people into a new life with Himself (1 Cor. 10:1-2). First, Yahweh used the chaos of the sea to judge the Egyptians (Isa. 51:9-10)—much like He did in Noah’s day (Gen. 6:11-21; 7:17-24)—and then subdued the chaos in order to establish His new people—much like He did in the creation of the universe for Adam and Eve (Gen. 1-2; Ps. 74:12-17; 89). The wind that comes from the east is the same means by which He subdued the sea in the previous two events (Gen. 1:1-2; 8:1). Second, Israel’s passing through the Red Sea became their baptism, wherein they were cleansed from their life of slavery to sin and death and ushered into a new life that would lead them to receiving Yahweh’s law and then into His Promised Land.

The exodus as a foreshadowing of Christ’s salvation is evident through the symbols that Yahweh used in this epic event. First, in Ex. 13:3 Moses called Egypt the “house of slavery,” which is what Egypt represents in the Scriptures. Egypt as the “house of slavery” is a picture of this world, and this is the place into which all of humanity is born. Second, while Israel was in the “house of slavery,” Yahweh told them to sacrifice a lamb and place the blood on the doorpost, which would save them from the wrath that He would bring on the “house of slavery.” They were to eat the lamb and enjoy with thankfulness the blessings of the salvation they had just experienced. Throughout this time Yahweh kept reminding Israel that He was preparing another land for them, one flowing with milk and honey. Third, He manifested Himself in a pillar of fire and cloud and told them to keep their eyes on Him and follow. This Pillar was the glory of Yahweh that would later indwell the temple and guide and protect the people of Israel. It was a symbol of the Holy Spirit who now indwells believers, who are the new temple of Yahweh (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21). Fourth, when Yahweh brought Israel through the Red Sea, it was their water baptism (1 Cor. 10:1-2). The pillar of fire then moved behind Israel, separating them from the “house of slavery” and consecrating them. Thus, the fire was the wrath of Yahweh on the “house of slavery” and the purification of Israel (Matt. 3:9-12; Lk. 3:16-17).