Most people know the story of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt. Whether you learned it in Sunday School, or by watching Charlton Heston’s portrayal of Moses in the classic The Ten Commandments, or by watching the animated movie Prince of Egpyt (also a classic), you know the basic structure of the story: Jacob and his sons go to Egypt to survive a famine (thanks to God’s providence in sending Joseph ahead), the Israelites are eventually enslaved by Pharaoh, God raises up Moses to save them, Pharaoh refuses to let the Israelites go, God sends 10 plagues, Israel is delivered, and as they leave the Egyptians give them a bunch of riches for the road. There is so much more going on in the story than this generalized overview, but the pattern is important. It recalls an earlier episode in Genesis that involves the man from which the nation of Israel came: Abra(ha)m. Abram and Sarai have an Exodus experience of their own, one that should sound strangely familiar.
“Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. It came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. “Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.” It came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels. But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. Then Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? “Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her and go.” Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they escorted him away, with his wife and all that belonged to him.” Gen. 12:10-20
Notice the pattern: Abram and Sarai go to Egpyt because of a famine, Sarai is taken into Pharaoh’s household as part of his harem (a slave), God sends plagues on Pharaoh and his household, the plagues cause Pharaoh to send Abram and Sarai on their own exodus, and then Abram and Sarai leave with riches from Egpyt. Just as Abram and Sarai were delivered by God from Egypt so their descendants, Israel, will be delivered by God from Egpyt. Also, we cannot miss what Abram and Sarai’s “exodus” is sandwiched between–two promises that they and their descendants will receive the Promised Land (Gen. 12:1-3[note]1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.[/note] and Gen. 13:14-17[note]14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward;15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.16 “I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.17 “Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”[/note]). In the book of Exodus, God is fulfilling the Abrahamic Covenant in a way that is reminiscent of the deliverance He brought the man he covenanted with, Abram. Abram has become a Nation and this Nation’s experience matches her father’s. God shows himself time and time again to be a God that delivers His people. A God that brings Exodus.