Bible Overview
Exodus and Conquest The Patriarchs The Beginnings Israel’s Exile A Divided Kingdom The Monarchy The Early Church The Story of Jesus The ‘Silent’ Years Judges and Ruth Israel’s Return Revelation

The story of the Israelites exodus from Egypt

and their journey to the Promised Land as recorded in Exodus to Deuteronomy


Generations later, a new Pharaoh, who knows nothing of Joseph, fears the Israelites’ increase in numbers and begins to persecute them, putting them into slavery and contriving to eliminate the survival of newborn males. Moses’ mother ensured his survival by placing him in an ark and hiding him by the riverside where he was then discovered by Pharaoh's daughter, who rescues him and brings him up as her own. At the age of forty Moses, aware of his roots, kills an Egyptian in defence of a Hebrew, then has to flee Egypt. He takes refuge in Midian where he meets the priest Jethro, tends his sheep, marries his daughter and a son by her. It’s possibly about this time that Job suffers terribly at the hands of the devil. He disputes with his friends, who say his condition is the result of some sin he must have committed. Job holds fast to his innocence, but questions God’s actions. He is eventually reproved by God and graciously restored to his former state, with interest. Years later, whilst tending sheep near Horeb, Moses sees a burning bush that isn’t consumed by the fire. From this bush, the angel of the Lord speaks to Moses and instructs him to return to Egypt, taking his brother Aaron with him, to deliver the Israelites out of bondage and bring them to this mountain. When Moses approaches Pharaoh, he naturally refuses to let the Israelites go and increases the burden on their slavery. God responds by reminding Moses of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and, in doing so, promises deliverance of His people. This Moses repeats to the people but, because of their increased burden, they are not of a mind to heed Moses’ words. It takes ten plagues imposed on the Egyptians to persuade him, the last being the death of all the firstborn. Israel’s own firstborn are saved by the sacrifice of a lamb and the daubing of the households’ door posts and lintel with the lamb’s blood, a sign for the angel of death to pass over the house. This event was later to be celebrated as Passover. The Israelites are now able to leave with great riches given by the Egyptians. Pharaoh soon has a change of heart and pursues them, catching up with them at the sea of reeds. Here the Israelites are able to cross the river by the miracle of the parting of the waters, whilst a pillar of smoke and a cloud keep the Egyptians at a distance. When the cloud disperses and the Egyptians try to follow them, the waters are released and they are all drowned. Directed by a pillar of smoke during the day, and a pillar of fire by night, they travel on towards Mount Sinai. Suffering from hunger and thirst on the way, they are relieved by divine intervention with the provision of manna for food and later water when Moses is instructed by God to strike a rock to bring forth the water. Along the way they are attacked by the Amalekites, but defeat them in battle whilst Moses, looking over the battle scene, holds his staff up high.

At Mount Sinai

During the third month of leaving Egypt, the Israelites arrive at Sinai and camp close to the mountain. God calls Moses to the mountain and directs him to remind the Israelites that it was He who brought them out of Egypt, and if they obey His voice and keep His commandments and covenant (to be given a little later) then they shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people…. and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation . When Moses repeats God’s words to the people, they agree with one voice that All that the LORD hath spoken we will do . This is the Mosaic Covenant which is conditional in that it requires obedience from the Israelites, reaffirmed later after more laws are given to them. Moses reports their response to God and is then told to sanctify [to set apart for special use or purpose, that is, to make holy or sacred] the people for two days to be ready on the third day to approach the mountain. Following their sanctification, Moses is again called to the mountain, and to only bring Aaron with him. God then speaks to Moses, giving him the Ten Commandments, followed by laws Moses is to tell the people. These are laws concerning the treatment of slaves, restitution for wrong doing and social justice, (that is, treatment of others), and laws concerning the Sabbath and three festivals: the feast of unleavened bread (connected to Passover), the feast of harvest (first-fruits) and the feast of ingathering (Pentecost). Their follows a promise from God that Canaan will be conquered and conditions are given to ensure that conquest. A covenant (the Mosaic Covenant) is then confirmed by Moses telling the people God’s words to which all the people agree they will obey. Moses writes down God’s words, then in the morning builds an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. Moses is again called to the mountain to receive tablets of stone with the law and commandments written by God so that Moses can teach his people. This time, Moses is on the mountain for forty days and forty nights during which time he is also given instructions for constructing the tabernacle, for the design of priestly garments and for consecration of the priests. People are identified as having been filled with the spirit of God, enabling them to have the skills to carry out work in construction of the tabernacle. Moses is then instructed to remind the people to keep the Sabbath. Because he has been on the mountain for so long, the people lose hope in Moses and persuade Aaron to make a golden calf and an altar, which they then used for worship followed by partying. When Moses comes down from the mountain and sees their behaviour, he breaks the stone tablets in anger, then administers punishment to them before returning to the mountain to make atonement for their sin and receive new tablets. At this time, the Mosaic Covenant is reaffirmed. The tabernacle is now constructed. When all the work is completed a cloud descends and God’s glory fills the tabernacle. From this point, in all the Israelites travels through the desert, whenever the cloud is above the tabernacle they stay encamped, but when the cloud lifts they break camp. The Lord‘s presence remains visible to the people at all times by the cloud during the day and by a fire at night.

The laws are given at Sinai

It’s now a year since the Israelites left Egypt, the last nine months of which were in Sinai. With the erection of the Tabernacle now having been completed, the Israelites are given all the laws that are to govern their lives, beginning with their five main offerings. They are: Burnt Offering: Voluntary atonement for unintentional sin in general Grain Offering: Voluntary - recognition of God’s goodness and provision Fellowship Offering: Voluntary - thanksgiving and fellowship Sin Offering: Mandatory atonement for specific unintentional sin Guilt Offering: Mandatory atonement for unintentional sin requiring restitution The proc ess for ordaining priests is now given with Aaron and his sons ordained as the first priests to serve in the tabernacle. Then follows laws for cleanliness concerning: clean and unclean food; purification after childbirth; regulations about infectious skin diseases and mildew; cleansing from infectious skin diseases and mildew; and discharges causing uncleanness. Aaron is instructed in the procedure for the Day of Atonement, which is to become an annual holy day for the Jews - Yom Kippur. (The title ‘Day of Atonement’ is not used until later - Chapter 23). Moses is instructed to give the law concerning blood to Aaron, his sons and all the people. No one other than a priest is permitted to make a blood sacrifice in the tabernacle, and no one is permitted to consume blood. Blood of any animal is to be drained before the animal is eaten. Laws are given concerning all manner of sexual relations (Ch 18), followed by a variety of laws (Ch 19), then a list of punishments for sins (Ch 20). Rules are given that are applicable only to priests, as well as rules concerning unacceptable sacrifices. Observance of appointed feasts follow for the Sabbath, Passover and Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The rules are then given for the continual burning of the lampstand and the continual provision of shewbread. (The shewbread is twelve cakes of unleavened bread, which are a perpetual representation of the twelve tribes of Israel before Jehovah. There follows rules for the continual burning of the lampstand and the continual provision of shewbread. (The shewbread is twelve cakes of unleavened bread, which are a perpetual representation of the twelve tribes of Israel before Jehovah.) Punishments are given for blasphemy, murder, and killing of a neighbour’s animal. The level of punishments in general is to be appropriate for the offence: “an eye for an eye”. The laws concerning the Sabbath and Jubilee years are given. The Sabbath year is every seventh year when the land is to be rested from farming, but the Israelites can feed from crops that naturally grow on the land. The Jubilee year is every fiftieth year when all land is returned to its owner and all Israelite slaves freed. Consequently, land is bought and sold on the basis of how many years are left before the Jubilee year. God says The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. Provision is also to be made for redemption of the land when an owner has had to sell but later has the means to redeem it, either of himself or by a kinsman redeemer. The conditions of the Mosaic Covenant agreed to at Mount Sinai are now restated in the form of blessings and curses. The people are told that if they observe God’s Sabbaths, respect His sanctuary and obey His commandments, then their crops will be abundant and they will live without fear and in peace. But if they do not do these things, then the consequences will be terrible and increase all the time they do not repent, until they are eventually taken captive by their enemies. Yet He will not forget them in the land of their enemies, and will wait for their repentance to honour His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Finally, rules are given for things vowed to the Lord in kind. A value is put on them, whether they be people, animals or houses, and provision is made for their redemption should circumstances deem it necessary.

The journey to the Promised Land

It has now been thirteen months since the Israelites left Egypt. A Census is taken of all the men of twenty years or older who are able to serve in an army, the numbers being recorded by tribe. The Levites are excluded from the census as they are to be responsible for the tabernacle and its furnishings, for the erection and disassembly of it, and for carrying it from camp to camp. The order of which the tribes are to camp around the tabernacle, and the order for marching is given, with the twelve tribes assembled in four groups of three headed by Judah, Reuben, Ephraim and Dan. Before leaving Sinai, offerings from each tribe are given for the dedication of the tabernacle. The Israelites now start their journey from Sinai to Kadesh, but within days complain about the manna, kindle God’s wrath and are plagued. After this they travel on to Hazeroth where they camp for a while before travelling on to the Desert of Paran, in the region of Kadesh. When at Kadesh, twelve men are sent to explore Canaan. On their return, ten of them report that the people are very powerful and their cities large and fortified. Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb try to persuade the people that God will deliver the land and its people into their hands, but they become fearful and rebel. Consequently, God condemns them to wander and die in the wilderness; only their children will enter the Promised Land. The next morning, some men attempt to enter the Promised Land to somehow make up for their mistrust, but do so without God’s approval and are defeated at Hormah by the Amalekites and Canaanites. Various laws are now given to Moses for when they eventually enter the Promised Land. A man is found gathering sticks on the Sabbath, and under instruction from God is stoned, effectively demonstrating the seriousness of Sabbath-breaking. The people are then required to make fringes in the border of their garments as a constant reminder to keep the Lord’s commandments. Korah and his companions rebel against Moses and Aaron and are executed by God. The priesthood is then confirmed to Aaron and his family by the budding of his rod overnight in the tabernacle in favour of others. They are then given instructions for priests’ duties, for the support they are to receive from the Levites, and some laws relating to oblations and purifications. After the people again complain to Moses about lack of water, Moses offends God by striking a rock to produce the water instead of speaking to it as instructed. Having been refused passage through Edom, they travel on to Mount Hor where Aaron dies and is succeeded by his son Eleazar. Following an incident with some Canaanites, then subsequent victory over them, the camp heads south to avoid Edom, in the opposite direction to the Promised Land. The people are discouraged and again complain about the lack of water and food. As a consequence they are plagued by serpents, but healed by looking upon a fiery serpent on a pole held up by Moses. They continue on their way but are then refused passage through the Amorites’ land. The Amorite king goes to war with the Israelites, but is defeated. Consequently, the they are able to stay in their land for a time. Balaam, at Balak’s request, three times attempts to curse the Israelites. But God, using the voice of his donkey and an angel, instructs him to bless them and announce destruction upon their enemies. Many of the Israelites have now been seduced by Moabite women and enticed into worshipping their gods. God’s wrath is kindled and a plague brought upon the people until Phinehas, a priest and a grandson of Aaron, deals with two of the offenders. A second census is now taken in preparation for invading the Promised Land. A law concerning inheritance when a man dies without sons is given. From Mount Abarim, God shows Moses the Promised Land, but he will not be permitted to enter it and Joshua is formally proclaimed his successor. Required offerings and feasts are restated and the law concerning vows given. Following a petition from the daughters of Zelophehad, God provides the law concerning inheritance when a man dies without sons. Vengeance is taken on the Midianites as Moses’ last act before his death. The tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh request to have the land east of the Jordan as their inheritance. The boundaries of inheritance west of Jordan, the towns and pastures for the Levites, and the six cities of refuge for those who caused death by accident, are all now allotted. Safeguards for the inheritance for Zelophehad’s daughters are put in place, completing all the commands and regulations given by God through Moses on the east side of the Jordan. Moses recounts the wilderness wanderings, how, as a consequence of their rebellion after hearing the negative report from ten of the men from the twelve sent to spy out the Promised Land, they were to wander in the desert for another thirty eight years. After all this time, when finally reaching their destination, Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh requested possession of the land on the east side of the Jordan river. It was granted to them providing the men took part in the battles to possess Canaan. Moses reminds the people of the incidents with Moabite women and followers of Baalpeor, then calls them to obedience as they take possession of the Promised Land. They are to teach their children the laws given at Horeb, and they are not to make any form of idols for worship. Moses then warns them that if they become corrupt in future generations, they will be scattered amongst other peoples and only a remnant will survive and return in later days. Moses summons all Israel to hear the laws given by God at Horeb. He first repeats the Ten Commandments followed by the rest of the laws, which they are to continually recall to their children and have them written in places where they will always be seen. They are God’s chosen people and must always remember He is the Lord their God. They will possess the land promised to them, not because of their righteousness, but because of God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for they are a stiff-necked people who have continually provoked God. He recalls the golden calf incident, how he broke the tables, and fearing God’s anger against them interceded on their behalf. New tables of stone were provided on which God wrote the Ten Commandments. They are now to circumcise their hearts and no longer be stiff-necked. They have witnessed all the great things God has done for them, but He will do even more when they possess the Promised Land, providing they love the Lord their God, and serve him with all their heart and with all their soul. They are now to circumcise their hearts and no longer be stiff-necked. They have witnessed all the great things God has done for them, but He will do even more when they possess the Promised Land, providing they love the Lord their God, and serve him with all their heart and with all their soul. They are now to circumcise their hearts and no longer be stiff-necked. God will do even more for them than they have previously witnessed when they posses the Promised Land, providing they love the Lord their God and serve him with all their heart and with all their soul, Their need for obedience will be stated again when they possess the land, at which time they will be required to proclaim the blessings of obedience from Mount Gerizim, and the curses of disobedience from Mount Ebal. They are to rid the land of all idolatrous places and their offerings are only to be made in a place God will choose and declare once they have settled in the land. Moses then recalls the laws concerning clean and unclean food, tithing and the feasts they are to keep. They are to appoint judges and set up courts, but anything too difficult for their courts is to be taken to the priests, whose decisions are to be binding. Kings and prophets will be raised and guidance is given concerning them. Instructions are given for: Cities of Refuge; the need for two or more witnesses; going to war; atonement for an unsolved murder; marrying a captive woman; the right of the firstborn; dealing with a rebellious son, cross-dressing, marriage violations and more. Moses instructs the people to build an altar on Mount Ebal when they have crossed the Jordan. This altar is to be finished in plaster and all the laws Moses has given them are to be clearly written on it. The tribes of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin are to stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people; the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali are to stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce curses. The Levites are then to recite twelve curses, all with the response of “Amen!” from the people. Moses then tells them all the ways in which they will be blessed by God if they obey His commandments. He then gives them a lengthy list of terrible curses that will come upon them if they are disobedient. The people are about to receive another unconditional covenant, referred to as the Land Covenant. They will remain in the Promised Land and prosper all the time they are obedient. Yet Moses emphasises the choice is theirs to avoid God’s wrath or not. However, there is a promise from God that if they are dispersed from the land for their disobedience, they will later be restored with circumcised hearts. At the age of 120 years, Moses announces Joshua as his successor. He blesses all the tribes, then climbs Mount Nebo where God shows him the land for the last time before he dies. Moses is buried by God in a place not known by any man. And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.

The Conquest of the Promised Land

as told in the book of Joshua God reaffirms Joshua’s authority, reviewing the task ahead and encouraging him to be strong and very courageous. Joshua is reminded that observance of the law is a condition of prosperity and success. Joshua, sends spies to Jericho. Having been aided by Rahab, a harlot, they are successful in their mission and return with a favourable report. The Israelites cross the Jordan in a miraculous manner, after which the men are circumcised and Passover observed. Jericho is then conquered with a strategy given by God. Next, about three thousand men are sent against the city of Ai, but are defeated. God tells Joshua it is because someone has lied and stolen some of the things from Jericho meant for the Lord’s treasury. To correct this sin, the culprit has to be identified, punished and the things stolen burned. Achan is identified as the culprit and he and all his family are then executed and everything burned and covered with rocks. Ai can now be taken, again with a strategy given by God. Following a deceitful approach from the Gibeonites, the princes of the congregation make a treaty with them and is ratify it with an oath. Three days later they hear that they had been deceived but, because of the oath made, Joshua has to let the Gibeonites live, but make them serve as wood-cutters and water-carriers for the community. Five Amorite kings join forces to attack Gibeon. Joshua marches to Gibeon with all his fighting men, having been told by God not to fear the five kings, and with His help they are defeated. However, towards the end of the campaign, there is not enough time in the day for Joshua to complete the defeat of the Amorites, so he calls out to God for the sun to stand still to allow more time: And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. …….. So the sun stood still in the midst of the heaven, and hastened not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: For the Lord fought for Israel [Jos 10:13b, 14] . Joshua then attacks and defeats Makkedah, where the five kings have been hiding, totally destroying it and everyone in it. From Makkedah, Joshua and his army move on to take and destroy the cities of the south as God had commanded, leaving no survivors. They then return to Gilgal. Led by Jabin, king of Hazor, the northern kings gather together at the Waters of Merom to war with Israel. Having been told by God that He will deliver these enemies into their hands, as He had done in the south, Joshua leads his whole army against the alliance and defeats the royal cities of the north, leaving no survivors in Israel’s land. However, some Anakites survived in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod. Joshua and his army return to Gilgal and the land now has rest from war. Joshua is now very old and not all the cities of Canaan have been taken. God tells Joshua that He himself will drive out all the remaining cities, and that Joshua is to include their land when dividing the whole land amongst the Israelites. [This doesn’t relieve the Israelites of their responsibility to conquer the territories, rather, confirms their need to trust in God]. Reuben, Gad and the half tribe Manasseh, at their request, had been allotted territories east of Jordan. However, not all the territories allotted to Reuben had been expelled and continued to dwell amongst the Israelites. Caleb, of the tribe of Judah, was one of those supporting Moses after the spies returned from surveying the Promised Land. Moses consequently promised him a specific territory. Joshua honours that promise, blesses Caleb and gives him Hebron as his inheritance. But he first has to drive out the inhabitants, which he does. Judah is now allotted the remainder of their territory as their inheritance. Part of the tribe of Manasseh had been allotted land east of the. The other part are to settle on the west bank of the Jordan, and here we have the areas allotted to this half of Manasseh and to Ephraim. However, the Canaanites that dwell in Gezer are not driven out and dwell among the Ephraimites, albeit they served under tribute. Now there is a problem with Manasseh driving out all the inhabitants: Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land. Yet it came to pass, when the children of Israel were waxen strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute; but did not utterly drive them out [Jos 17:12-13] . Now Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, were two of the larger tribes, so they question Joshua asking why they had been given just one lot and suggesting that, because of their size, they really should have two lots. Joshua agrees to their suggestion and another lot is drawn. Manasseh are now able to dwell next to Ephraim on the West Bank. (Remembering, of course, that the other part of Manasseh are over on the east bank of the Jordan River). The tabernacle is now set up at Shiloh making Shiloh the spiritual centre for the Israelites from where the priesthood would perform their duties. There are still seven tribes who have yet to receive their inheritance. Three men from each of these tribes are chosen to go and survey the territory and draw out the boundaries. On their return, the casting of lots for the remaining tribes could begin. These tribes are Benjamin, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and Dan. Then finally a city is given to their leader Joshua in the general area known as Mount Ephraim. The Levites do not have territories of their own but are given cities with surrounding land for their farming. Forty eight cities are given from amongst the tribes. The Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh now return home, east of Jordan, where they erect a memorial altar to God. Joshua convenes the tribes of Israel and reminds them of God’s favour to them, and their responsibilities to God. If they do not follow His commandments and are unfaithful to Him, they will quickly be driven from the land He has given them. Joshua dies at the age of 110, and is buried at Mount Ephraim.