AskDefine | Define exodus

Dictionary Definition



1 a journey by a large group to escape from a hostile environment [syn: hegira, hejira]
2 the second book of the Old Testament: tells of the departure of the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt led by Moses; God gave them the Ten Commandments and the rest of Mosaic law on Mount Sinai during the Exodus [syn: Book of Exodus]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Exodus



  1. A sudden departure of a large number of people.
    There was an exodus when the show ended.
    ''In the movie The Sinking of Japan, virtually all Japanese desperately try to find any form of transportation out of Japan in a massive exodus to flee the sinking country.


sudden departure





Extensive Definition

Exodus (Greek: "departure") is the second book of the Jewish Torah and of the Christian Old Testament. It tells how Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness to the Mountain of God (Mount Sinai). There Yahweh, through Moses, gives the Israelites their laws and enters into a covenant with them, by which he will give them the land of Canaan in return for their faithfulness. The book ends with the construction of the Tabernacle.
According to tradition, Exodus and the other four books of the Torah were written by Moses in the latter half of the 2nd millennium BC. Historians and archaeologists have been unable to verify any of the events recounted in Exodus, and modern biblical scholarship sees it reaching its final form around 450 BC.


The title "Exodus" derives from the Greek , Exodos, meaning "departure, out-going," the name given to the book in the Septuagint, a Greek translation of Jewish scriptures made between the 3rd to 1st centuries BC. In Hebrew it is called Shemot () from the opening phrase Ve-eleh shemot, ואלה שמות, "These are the names", a practice in line with the other four books of the Torah.


There is no universally accepted method of dividing Exodus into smaller units, and the following headings are adopted purely for convenience.

Bondage in Egypt

Pharaoh, fearful of the Israelites' numbers, orders his people to throw all newborn Hebrew (Israelite) boys into the Nile. A Levite woman saves her baby by setting him adrift on the river in an ark of bulrushes. Pharaoh's daughter finds the child, and names him Moses, and brings him up as her own. But Moses is aware of his Hebrew origins, and one day, when grown, kills an Egyptian overseer who is beating a Hebrew man, and has to flee into Midian . While he was herding the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro on Mount Horeb, Moses encounters God, who reveals his name Yahweh and tells him to return to Egypt and lead the Israelites into(Canan) the land promised to Abraham.
On Moses' return to Egypt, Yahweh reveals his name and instructs him to appear before Pharaoh and inform him of Yahweh's demand that he let God's people go. Moses and his brother Aaron do so, but Pharaoh refuses. Yahweh sends a series of plagues, but Pharaoh does not relent. Yahweh instructs Moses to institute the Passover sacrifice among the Israelites, and then Yahweh kills all the firstborn children of the Egyptians. Pharaoh agrees to let the Israelites go. Moses explains the meaning of the Passover: it is for Israel's salvation from Egypt, so that the Israelites will not be required to sacrifice their own sons, but to redeem them.

Journey through the wilderness to Sinai

The Exodus begijiuh. The Israelites, 600,000 men plus women and children and a mixed multitude,"with their flocks and herds, set out for the mountain of God. but Pharaoh pursues the Israelites,and Yahweh destroys the pharaoh's army at the crossing of the Red Sea. The Israelites celebrate their deliverance with the Song of the Sea.
The Israelites continue their journey, but immediately begin to complain of the hardships. In the Wilderness of Sin they complain about the lack of food and speak with longing of Egypt, and Yahweh sends them quail and manna to eat. At Rephidim, he provides water miraculously from the rock of Meribah. The Amalekites attack the Israelites, and Yahweh orders an eternal war against them. The Israelites arrive at the mountain of God, where Moses' father-in-law Jethro visits Moses; at his suggestion Moses appoints judges over Israel.

At Sinai: Covenant and laws

The Israelites arrive at the mountain of God. Yahweh asks whether they will agree to be his people, and the people accept. The people gather at the foot of the mountain, and with thunder and lightning, fire and clouds of smoke, and the sound of trumpets, and the trembling of the mountain, God appears on the peak, and the people see the cloud and hear the "voice". Moses and Aaron are told to ascend the mountain. God pronounces the Ten Commandments (the Ethical Decalogue) in the hearing of all Israel.
Moses goes up the mountain into the presence of God, who pronounces the Covenant Code, (a detailed law code of ritual and civil law), and promises Canaan to the Israelites if they obey. Moses descends and writes down Yahweh's words and the people agree to keep them. Yahweh calls Moses up the mountain together with Aaron and the elders of Israel, and they feast in the presence of Yahweh. Yahweh calls Moses up the mountain to receive a set of stone tablets containing the law, and he and Joshua go up, leaving Aaron in charge. Yahweh appears on the mountain "like a consuming fire" and calls Moses to go up, and Moses goes up the mountain.
Yahweh gives Moses instructions for the construction of the tabernacle so that God can dwell permanently amongst the Israelites, priestly vestments, the altar and its appurtenances, (Bezaleel and Aholiab are identified by God as the appointed craftsmen to construct these things), the ritual to be used to ordain the priests, and the daily sacrifices to be offered. Aaron is appointed as the first High Priest, and the priesthood is to be hereditary in his line. Then Yahweh gives to Moses the two stone tablets of the testimony, written by God's own finger.
Aaron makes a golden calf, which the people worship. God informs Moses and threatens to kill them all, but Moses intercedes for them. Moses comes down from the mountain, smashes the tablets in anger, and commands the Levites to massacre the disobedient. Yahweh commands Moses to make two new tablets on which God will personally write the words that were on the first tablets. Moses ascends the mountain, God dictates the Ten Commandments,, and Moses writes them on the tablets.
Moses descends from the mountain, and his face is transformed, so that from that time onwards he has to hide his face with a veil. Moses assembles the Israelites and repeats to them the commandments he has received from Yahweh, to keep the Sabbath and to construct the Tabernacle. "And all the construction of the Tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting was finished, and the children of Israel did according to everything that Yahweh had commanded Moses", and Yahweh dwelt in the Tabernacle, and ordered the travels of the Israelites.


There is no single, universally accepted theory regarding the origins of Exodus; instead various theories are currently advanced placing it in a variety of different periods ranging from the 2nd millennium BC to the period after 300 BC. Jews and Christians have traditionally understood the Torah to have been written by Moses. The most well-regarded scholarly theory, the documentary hypothesis, describes Exodus as comprising three sources, combined c 400 BC.

Mosaic authorship

The traditional belief in both Jewish and Christian circles was that Moses was the author of all five books of the Torah. This theory is still advanced by Orthodox Jewish and evangelical Christian scholars but is not considered viable by mainstream biblical critics.

Documentary hypothesis

According to most scholarly analyses, the Yahwist source (J) provides the main narrative of Exodus, supplemented by the Elohist (E). The priestly editors (c 400 BC) reworked the JE source and added substantial material, such as the description of the tabernacle in chapters 35-40.
19th century biblical criticism concluded that the Torah was composed of four originally independent documents, known as the Yahwist, the Elohist, the Deuteronomist, and the Priestly source. Of these the Elohist is identified as uniquely responsible for the episode of the golden calf, and the Priestly source as uniquely responsible for the chiastic, and monotonous, instructions for creating the tabernacle, vestments, and ritual objects, and the account of their creation. The poetic Song of the sea, and the prose Covenant Code, both in Exodus, were identified as smaller independent works embedded in the main documents. In 1878 Julius Wellhausen, in his Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels, argued that the Priestly source was the last to be composed, in the 6th century BC, and his formulation became the consensual view.
The southern Jahwist source promotes Aaron, the progenitor of the southern, Aaronite priesthood. Meanwhile, it portrays Moses in a less flattering light. The northern Elohist denigrates Aaron as instigating worship of the golden calf. It also includes the Covenant Code, incorporated from an earlier source.
Scholars disagree over whether the sources were written documents.
Other historians suggested years seem to range from 1580 BC to 1215 BC. Most scholars currently favor the first or second third of the 13th century BC. and while it is often assumed that this Thutmose died young, Professor Cyril Aldred shows that he was the commander of the king's chariot forces. The Jewish historian Josephus Flavius similarly records that Moses was an Egyptian prince and army commander.
  • Many others have been suggested, such as Dudimose, the Hyksos expulsion, and others.


Further reading

  • Colin J. Humphreys, The Miracles of Exodus: A Scientist’s Discovery of the Extraordinary Natural Causes of the Biblical Stories 2003, HarperSanFrancisco
  • W. F. Albright From the Stone Age to Christianity (2nd edition) Doubleday/Anchor
  • W. F. Albright Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (5th edition) 1969, Doubleday/Anchor
  • Encyclopedia Judaica, Keter Publishing, entry on "Population", volume 13, column 866.
  • Y. Shiloh, "The Population of Iron Age Palestine in the Light of a Sample Analysis of Urban Plans, Areas and Population Density." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR), 1980, 239:25-35
  • Exploring Exodus: The Origins of Biblical Israel Nahum Sarna, Shocken Books, 1986 (first edition), 1996 (reprint edition), chapter 5, "Six hundred thousand men on foot".
  • "Those Amazing Biblical Numbers: Taking Stock of the Armies of Ancient Israel" William Sierichs, Jr.
  • "The Rise of Ancient Israel : Symposium at the Smithsonian Institution October 26, 1991" by Hershel Shanks, William G. Dever, Baruch Halpern and P. Kyle McCarter, Biblical Archaeological Society, 1992.
  • The Biblical Exodus in the Light of Recent Research: Is There Any Archaeological or Extra-Biblical Evidence?, Hershel Shanks, Editor, Biblical Archaeological Society, 1997
  • ''Secrets of the Exodus: The Egyptian Origins of the Hebrew People", by Messod Sabbah, Roger Sabbath, Helios Press, 2004
  • "Did the Red Sea Part? No Evidence, Archaeologists Say", by Michael Slackman, New York Times, April 3, 2007

External links

Online versions and translations of Exodus

Jewish translations

exodus in Arabic: سفر الخروج
exodus in Asturian: Éxodu
exodus in Min Nan: Chhut-Ai-ki̍p-kì
exodus in Bulgarian: Изход (Библия)
exodus in Catalan: Èxode
exodus in Czech: Exodus
exodus in Welsh: Llyfr Exodus
exodus in Danish: Anden Mosebog
exodus in German: 2. Buch Mose
exodus in Estonian: Teine Moosese raamat
exodus in Spanish: Éxodo
exodus in Esperanto: Eliro
exodus in Basque: Irteera (Biblia)
exodus in Persian: سفر خروج
exodus in French: Exode
exodus in Friulian: Libri di Esodi
exodus in Irish: Eaxodus
exodus in Scottish Gaelic: Ecsodus
exodus in Galician: Éxodo
exodus in Hakka Chinese: Chhut-âi-khi̍p-ki
exodus in Korean: 출애굽기
exodus in Upper Sorbian: Eksodus
exodus in Croatian: Knjiga Izlaska
exodus in Indonesian: Kitab Keluaran
exodus in Italian: Libro dell'Esodo
exodus in Hebrew: שמות
exodus in Javanese: Pangentasan
exodus in Swahili (macrolanguage): Kutoka (Biblia)
exodus in Latin: Liber Exodus
exodus in Limburgan: Exodus
exodus in Hungarian: Mózes második könyve
exodus in Malayalam: പുറപ്പാട്
exodus in Dutch: Exodus (boek)
exodus in Japanese: 出エジプト記
exodus in Norwegian: Andre Mosebok
exodus in Norwegian Nynorsk: Andre mosebok
exodus in Polish: Księga Wyjścia
exodus in Portuguese: Livro do Êxodo
exodus in Romanian: Exodul (capitol biblic)
exodus in Russian: Книга Исход
exodus in Sicilian: Èsudu
exodus in Simple English: Exodus
exodus in Slovak: Exodus (Biblia)
exodus in Serbian: Друга књига Мојсијева
exodus in Serbo-Croatian: Knjiga Izlaska
exodus in Finnish: Toinen Mooseksen kirja
exodus in Swedish: Andra Moseboken
exodus in Tagalog: Aklat ng Exodo
exodus in Thai: พระธรรมอพยพ
exodus in Vietnamese: Sách Xuất hành
exodus in Turkish: Çıkış (Tevrat)
exodus in Yiddish: ספר שמות
exodus in Contenese: 出埃及記
exodus in Chinese: 出埃及记

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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