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Introduction to the Book of Exodus

Julian Spriggs M.A.

Related articles

How to interpret OT Narratives How to interpret OT law
Covenants in the OT Names of God in the OT
Sacrifices and offerings Jewish feasts and festivals
Tithing Jewish calendar and religious festivals
The Tabernacle The Ten Commandments

Introduction to the Book of Exodus

The Book of Exodus begins the history of Israel as a nation. At the end of the Book of Genesis the family of Jacob move down from the land of Canaan to Egypt. A large family with a total of seventy people came (Gen 46:27). During the years between Genesis and Exodus, this large family multiplied until their numbers became a threat to the rulers of Egypt (Ex 1:7-10). According to the census taken in the book of Numbers, there were 603,550 adult males belonging to the twelve tribes of Israel (Num 1:46). Including women and children, we can estimate that the total population of Israelites was between two and three million.

The book has two main parts. The first is the account of the actual exodus from Egypt, including the ten plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea and the journey to Mt Sinai. The second contains the making of the covenant and giving of the law on Sinai, and the rebellion of the golden calf while Moses was up the mountain receiving the instructions for the tabernacle. The climax of the book is right at the end when the people construct the tabernacle and it is filled with the glory of God (40:34), so God can literally dwell in the midst of his people.

Where did the Israelites live while in Egypt?

When Egypt is viewed from space it is very clear that most of the land is desert, apart from a narrow strip of fertile land adjacent to the River Nile, and around the delta of the Nile where it divides into many smaller channels as it flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the Book of Genesis, "Joseph settled his father and his brothers, and granted them a holding in the land of Egypt … in the land of Rameses" (Gen 47:11). In the Book of Exodus, "They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh" (Ex 1:11). The land of Rameses is likely to be a later name for an earlier settlement, where the Israelites settled and lived during their time in Egypt.

An Austrian team of archaeologists led by Manfred Bietak excavated a site called Tell el-Dab’a, which was originally the Hyksos capital of Avaris. By 1446 BC, city was called Perunefer, which means 'happy journey', probably because it was the start of overland route to Canaan, the Horus Road, or the "Way of the Philistines" (Ex 13:17). It was renamed Rameses in 13th cent BC, by Rameses II. It was an important commercial and military centre, as well as being a seaport, with access to sea by Pelusiac branch of Nile, which is the delta channel furthest to the east.

The location can be seen on the map of the Nile Delta or on an aerial view of the site.

The majority of the houses that have been excavated are homes with two rooms measuring 6m by 8m. There was one larger four-room house measuring 10m by 12m. This had two side rooms, and a back room around a central courtyard, the same plan as iron-age houses in Israel. The date of the houses is estimated to be during the 19th century BC, the time of Jacob and Joseph, so it is suggested that the larger house may have belonged to Joseph.

To the South-west was the cemetery, which had mud-brick tombs with Asiatic contents, including pottery. One tomb was much larger, and unlike any other tomb in Egypt, and probably belonged to an important asiatic official. It had a burial chamber reached through a chapel and passage, where fragments of a statue were found. It is possible that this was the tomb of Joseph. There was no body in the burial chamber, which would match with Joseph's instructions that they take his body back to Israel (Gen 50:25, Ex 13:19).

The statue was one and half times life-size, and was of a seated official. The face had been defaced. The features were quite different from typical Egyptian statues, with a yellow skin colour, a mushroom-shaped hairstyle, and a multicoloured coat. He was holding a throwstick, which would indicate that the person was not an Egyptian.

The Palace of Pharoah

Also found in Tell el-Dab'a, adjacent to the Pelusiac branch of the Nile was a complex of buildings built with mud bricks, influencing two major palaces, workshops, military areas, storage and religious cultic facilities. The walls of the palace were three meters thick, suggesting they supported a huge structure.

If this was the palace of Pharaoh, it would have been the location where “The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river” (Ex 2:5), and where Moses would have been brought up after being adopted by Pharaoh's daughter, “Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). Later, it was where Moses met the Pharoah during the plagues, “Go to Pharaoh … as he is going out to the water, stand by the river bank to meet him … Moses struck the water and it was turned to blood" (Ex 7:15, 20).

In the palace, a limestone bath with a drain was found, together with a vessel to contain water. This was where people with official business would wash before entering the presence of Pharaoh. After being released from prison Joseph would be washed (Gen 41:14), and later Moses and Aaron would have to wash before entering presence of Pharaoh (eg Ex 5:1).

Identifying the Pharaoh

The word 'Pharaoh' was the title of the Egyptian ruler, so does not identify a particular person. There are two pharaohs to be identified in the book:

1. The Pharaoh who oppressed the Israelites (Ex 1).
This was the ruler who did not know Joseph (Ex 1:8) and forced the Israelites into slave labour to build supply cities (1:11). He commanded that the baby Israelite boys were thrown into the river, but it was his daughter who adopted Moses (Ex 2:5-10). He evidently ruled a long time, “After a long time the king of Egypt died” (Ex 2:23).

2. The Pharaoh of the Exodus
This was the ruler who refused to let the Israelites go, and hardened his heart. His eldest son died in the final plague (Ex 12:29). It is likely that he was drowned in the Red Sea (Ex 14:23). In the Psalms, it says, "The Lord … overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea" (Ps 136:15).

Working out the date of Exodus

Egyptian history is divided up according to the number of the dynasty of the Pharaoh's, from the first dynasty to the 31st dynasty, each dynasty containing a number of rulers from the same family line.

There are many debates and contentions over the date of the Exodus, with a number of different suggestions.

Many scholars claim that the exodus from Egypt is merely a legend. Instead of a dramatically large movement of people at one time, the Israelites gradually moved back to Israel from Egypt in smaller numbers. This removes the need to attempt to date the Exodus.

Late date during the 19th dynasty in the 1200's BC.

This gives a shorter time span between the entry into the Promised Land and the time of the monarchy under David. There is not much doubt over the date of David's reign and the establishment of the monarchy of around 1000 BC. A late date exodus would compress the chronology of the period of the judges to about 200 years. It is quite likely that there could be two or more judges ruling over different tribes at the same time, as each judge only ruled over a few tribes, rather than the whole nation.

A late date for the Exodus would suggest that the family of Jacob came to Egypt in 1700’s BC. This was during the period when Egypt was ruled by the Hyksos, who were a Semitic people who would perhaps welcome the Israelites as fellow Semites. It would also explain why the Pharaoh did not know about Joseph (1:8). The cities of Pithon and Rameses (Ex 1:11) built by Israelites. Rameses II belonged to the 19th dynasty and ruled 1290-1224 BC, and the city was named after him. Merneptah’s Stele contains the first mention of Israel in history outside the Bible, and records a successful Egyptian battle against Israel in 1220 BC.

For a late date Exodus, the Pharaoh who oppressed the Israelites would be Rameses II. He is known to have been a powerful ruler. Merneptah (1224 - 1214) would then be the Pharaoh of the Exodus.

Early date during the 18th dynasty in the 1400's BC.

The early date gives a longer time span for the period of the judges, which would match the dating noted in the Old Testament. According to the Book of Kings, they began to build the temple, "In the 480th year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel …" (1 Kg 6:1). Solomon became king around 970 BC, so his fourth year would be 966 BC, setting the date of the Exodus around 1446 BC, and the entry into the Promised Land forty years later in 1406 BC.

A similar chronology is described in the Book of Judges, when referring to the time of Jephthah, "Israel lived in Heshbon … Aroer …, and all the towns that are along the Arnon, three hundred years …" (Judges 11:26).

Evidence for a early date would be found in the Tel-el-Amarna tablets. These were from the time of Akhenatan (1350-1330) and his father Amenhotep III in the 18th dynasty. In these, Canaanite vassals of Egypt write asking for help against the Hittites and marauders called 'Habiru', from the hill country. It is suggested that the Habiru are referring to the Hebrews entering the Promised Land.

The early date oppressor would be Thutmose III (1490-1437), and the Pharaoh of the Exodus would be Amenhotep II (1450-1417).

It has been suggested that there were actually two Amenhotep II's. The first ruled from 1450 to 1446, who died by drowing in the Red Sea, and whose son died in the final plague. The second ruled from 1446 to 1417 replacing his brother as pharaoh. The first Amenhotep II was famous for his personal strength, athletic abilities, bravado, skill as horseman, archer, runner and rower. He was boastful and arrogant. It has been suggested that his death was covered up by his officials, as the great god-king could not die pursuing runaway slaves. He was replaced as pharaoh by his brother, who took the same name.

Inscriptions describing the second Amenhotep II are not boastful or bragging, suggesting that he had quite a different character.

A pharaoh called Amenhotep II led a number of campaigns into Asia. One was in the second year (before the Exodus) when 800 captives were brought back. There was another campaign in the seventh year (after the Exodus), but both campaigns were referred to as the first campaign. This could suggest that the campaign in the second year was led by the first Amenhotep II, and the one in the seventh year by the second Amenhotep. Another campaign in the ninth year, brought back 89,600 captives, perhaps to replace slave workforce lost when the Israelite slaves left Egypt. His tomb has been found in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor.

Around this time, the city of Perunefer was suddenly abandoned, perhaps as a result of the plagues and the Exodus of the Israelites.

Another suggestion was that the daughter of pharaoh who rescued Moses was Hatshepsut (born 1533 BC). She married her half-brother Thutmose II, but had no sons. After Thutmose II, she reigned as co-regent for her infant step-son Thutmose III. She took the name and title as king, setting up obelisks and making offerings to the gods. She is portrayed as king, with a royal beard. She as the only woman who could have had the title 'Pharaoh’s daughter' during this period. She was described as a "A strong-willed woman who would not let anyone or anything stand in her way”. If she wanted to adopt an Israelite baby, no one would have been able to prevent her. She died in 1483, perhaps by murder. Later, images portraying her were obliterated, perhaps because she had brought up Moses, who had caused such a disaster to come to Egypt.

Revised Egyptian Chronology

Some recent scholars have claimed that the whole chronology of Egyptian history should be revised. One of these is David Rohl, who claims that the Third Intermediate Period (TIP), from the 21st to the 25th dynasties, which he calls 'The Centuries of Darkness', does not exist, so should be removed from Egyptian history. This shortens the period of Egyptian history by between 300 and 500 years. He would give an early date for the Exodus in the 1400's BC, but in the 12th dynasty, rather than the 18th dynasty.

The revised chronology oppressor would be the rather grumpy looking Sesostris III in the 12th dynasty, and the pharaoh of the exodus would be Amenemhet III, who ruled for 46 years. No body was found in his tomb, perhaps because he drowned in the Red Sea pursuing the Israelites. His daughter was Sobekneferu, one of the very few female pharaohs, the final leader of the 12th dynasty, who may have been the daughter of pharaoh who found baby Moses in the river.

Red Sea or Sea of Reeds?

The Hebrew for the Red Sea is 'Yam Suph', which is often translated 'Sea of Reeds'. Many scholars claim that this implies that the Red Sea crossing was through a smaller, shallower piece of water or marshland, rather than the open sea, and therefore not particularly miraculous. It is often suggested that the reeds are describing fresh water plants and that the Israelites crossed one of the smaller lakes north of the Gulf of Suez.

Yam Suph describes the Red Sea in the following places: "The LORD changed the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea (Yam Suph)" (Ex 10:19). "So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea (Yam Suph)" (Ex 13:18). "I will set your bounds from the Red Sea (Yam Suph) to the sea of the Philistines and from the wilderness to the Euphrates" (Ex 23:31).

After the rebellion in the wilderness, God commanded, "Now since the Amalekites and Canaanites live in the valleys, turn tomorrow and set out for the wilderness by way to the Red Sea (Yam Suph)" (Num 14:25, also Deut 1:37-40). "From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea (Yam Suph) to go around the land of Edom" (Num 21:4, also Deut 1:46 - 2:1).

"King Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea (Yam Suph) in the land of Edom" (1 Kg 9:26). Eloth is near the modern town of Eliat at the top of the Gulf of Aqaba, the right hand fork of the Red Sea. So Yam Suph is referring to the Gulf of Aqaba. With the help of the Phoenicians, Solomon built a fleet of ships to trade to the east, including to the east coast of Africa, and to India and beyond.

Interestingly the same word (suph) is used in the book of Jonah to describe sea vegetation, "The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds (suph) were wrapped around my head" (Jonah 2:5).

The concept of a sea of reeds was also significant to the Egyptians. One of the tasks of the pharaoh was to be the one who leads his people through the waterways of the Sea of Reeds into the afterlife along a pathway opened by the gods. In the Exodus account, pharaoh failed to lead his people through the sea of reeds, while Yahweh opened the way for the Israelites through the sea of reeds.

The geographical location of the crossing of the Yam Suph should probably be identified as one of the two branches at the northern end of what is known today as the Red Sea, the Gulf of Suez to the west of the Sinai Peninsular, or the the Gulf of Aqaba to the east of the Sinai Peninsular.

The Route of the Exodus

Numbers chapter 33 gives a list of the camping places over the forty years from leaving Egypt to the land of Edom, immediately before the entry to the Promised Land (Num 33). It is very difficult to trace the exact route, as the location of these places is not at all certain. This is particularly because people camping for brief periods and quickly moving on do not leave any archaeological remains.

Again, there are a number of different opinions concerning the route of the Exodus. These are particularly based identifying the location of Horeb, or Sinai, the mountain of God. The location of the Red Sea crossing will then be determined by the choice of the location of Sinai.

1. The traditional route - the Sinai Peninsular

The traditional location of Horeb, or Mt Sinai, is now known as 'Gebel Musa', one of the highest points towards the south of the Sinai Peninsular, with St Catherine's Monastery lying below, which is claimed to have been built on the site of the burning bush.

2. Horeb in Midian - north-western Saudi Arabia

The Book of Exodus states that Moses met with God at the burning bush at Horeb in Midian, which is east of the Gulf of Aqaba. "Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush." (Ex 3:1-2). It will to this same location that Moses was told to bring the Israelites, "When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain. (Ex 3:12). Also at Horeb, is the location of the water out of the rock, "I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink." (Ex 17:6). This is also where Moses met with Jethro, "Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came into the wilderness where Moses was encamped at the mountain of God." (Ex 18:5).

If Sinai is located in Midian, then the route of the Exodus would be quite different. The Red Sea crossing would be at the southern end of the Gulf of Aqaba, at the Straits of Tiran. This is a relatively narrow and shallow entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba. From Egypt, the route would run along the relatively flat western side of the Sinai Peninsular, beside the Gulf of Suez to the southern tip, where the modern resort of Sharm al Sheikh is located. Beyond this, the Israelites would have become trapped before mountainous terrain as they were pursued by the army of Pharaoh (Ex 14:1-9). At the time of the Exodus, the whole of the Sinai Peninsular was under the control of Egypt.

The Israelites were told to "… camp in front of Pi-hahiroth (mouth of the .. water?) between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-Zephon" (Ex 14:2,9). "They set out from Etham, and turned back to Pi-hahiroth, which faces Baal-zephon, and they camped before Migdol" (Num 33:7). On the eastern side of the Strait of Tiran is a prominent mountain, clearly visible from the western side, which may be identified as Baal-zephon.

The mountain of God would be indentified with 'Jabal al Lawz' in north-western Saudi Arabia. Although this site is extremely difficult to access, there are some very interesting things to note about it. Firstly the rocks at the top of the mountain are blackened, as if by fire. Nearby is a dramatic split rock which could well be the site of where God provided water (Ex 17:1-6).

On the east shore of the Gulf of Aqaba is a location known as the 'Springs of Moses'. This may the location of Elim, "where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees" (Ex 15:27).

The Plagues of Egypt

A number of times in the Old Testament, it is stated that the plagues of Egypt, and in many ways the whole Exodus event, was a demonstration of the power and authority of God, showing his power to judge and overcome all the gods of Egypt. “The LORD executed judgements even against their gods” (Num 33:4). Before the Passover he declares, “For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgement: I am the Lord” (Ex 12:12). He also states that, “… and that you may tell your children and grand-children how I made fools of the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them - so that you may know that I am the LORD.” (Ex 10:12). Jethro declares: “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because he delivered the people from the Egyptians” (Ex 18:11).

The Egyptians worshipped a multitude of different gods, including gods of the River Nile, gods of frogs, falcons, bulls. The Pharaoh was seen as the personification of these gods, and his son was seen as the next manifestation of the gods.

The plagues demonstrated that true sustenance only came from Yahweh, and not from these pagan Egyptian gods. This was a lesson both for the Egyptians, who had to learn that the God of Moses was more powerful than any of their gods, including their pharaoh, as well as being a lesson to the Israelites, who will have to learn how to trust in the One True God as they leave Egypt to travel through the wilderness to the Promised Land.

The Serpent Confrontation (Ex 7:8-13)

One of the most important gods was Wadjet or Edjo, the serpent mother and protector of the delta. She was symbolised by the coiled cobra or urae, with hood enraged ready to strike, which was the symbol of Lower Egypt. Each pharaoh claimed his crown from her at his coronation. Statues of pharaohs are always portrayed with a snake on their forehead, representing their power over lower Egypt. Egyptian magicians claimed their power came from this serpent god. Their magical rods also had the head of a cobra with enraged hood.

In the first sign performed by Moses (Ex 7:8-13), he threw down his rod and it became a snake, which then ate the snakes that the magicians made from their staffs. It was this snake rod that Moses then used to strike the water to turn it into blood (7:15-18). The sign was a demonstration before Pharaoh that the God of Moses was more powerful than the snake god of the pharaoh and his magicians.

Moses and Aaron threw down the actual emblem of pharaoh before him. The snake on his forehead was the symbol of his deity and majesty, so to throw down a snake before him was to insult that symbol. Pharaoh's cobra had no power against Yahweh and it gave Pharaoh no protection against Yahweh.

First Plague: Nile turned to blood (Ex 7:15-25)

Hapi was the god of the River Nile, the life-blood of Egypt, and 'giver of life to all men'. Through the waters of the Nile, he was the bringer of fertility, and the nourisher of gods and man. He was portrayed as a big fat man covered in blue or green mud from the river, with water plants on his head, and carrying offerings of plants and flowers. The regular annual flooding of the Nile, known as 'the arrival of Hapi', brought great fertility to the soil from the sediment desposited by the flood waters. Turning the Nile to blood killed the fish, which were an important part of the Egyptian diet, so people could no longer eat or drink from the river. The river and its god could no longer supply food and water for the people.

Another god of the Nile was Anknet or Anukhet, who was the personification of the Nile, the protector of fresh water, and the nourisher of the fields. She had a crown of ostrich feathers, and carried a sceptre and an ankh.

Hat-mehyt, the fish goddess portrayed as a woman with a fish above her head was the provider of a regular supply of fish from Nile.

Second plague: Frogs (Ex 8:1-6)

Hekhet, or Hegt was frog goddess, having a human body with the head of a frog. She assisted as a midwife at births, and blew breath of life into human bodies. She controlled the multiplication of frogs and frog-eating crocodiles, but during the plague could not control the population of frogs.

Fifth plague: On cattle and horses (Ex 9:1-7)

Apis or Haap was the bull god, believed to be the embodiment of Ptah and Re, the most sacred god. The bull was the symbol of fertility and life, and the symbol of Pharaoh. He carried the sun represented as a disk on his head.

It was the calf god who was represented by the golden calf made by Aaron while Moses was up the mountain (Ex 32:4). After the division of the kingdom, Jeroboam of the northern kingdom of Israel made two golden calves, and set them up in sanctuaries in Bethel and Dan (1 Kg 12:28-30). Both Aaron and Jeroboam claimed that these were the gods that had brought the Israelites out of Egypt.

Hathor was the cow goddess, who had a woman’s head with cow’s ears, or female figure with cow’s head. She was the personification of the sky, goddess of festivity and love, protectress of women and of the king.

Sixth Plague: Boils and sores (Ex 9:8-12)

Sekhmet was the goddess of plagues, who had the head of a lion. She was both the bringer and healer of pestilence. Priests of Sekhmet were the doctors and vets in ancient Egypt, but could not heal the boils and sores of the plague.

Seventh plague: Hail and fire (Ex 9:13-35)

Nut was the sky goddess, a woman whose body arches across the heavens. She was blue and covered with stars, supported by her father, Shu . She ate stars in the morning, and gave birth to the stars in the evening. She also gave birth to Ra (sun god) in morning. She was believed to protect land from destructions coming down from the heavens, but could not protect Egypt from the hail and fire of the seventh plague.

Shu or Su was the god of light and air, who separated the earth from the sky and brought the wind, and supported the sky goddess Nut. He wore a headband with a feather.

Ninth plague: Thick darkness (Ex 10:21-29)

Re or Ra, (later became Amon-Re) was the sun god, the king of all the gods. He travelled across sky each day in a boat. He symbolised life, vitality and rebirth. He was a falcon headed man carrying ankh and sceptre, and crowned with the sun disk. Aten or Aton the sun disk, with arm-like rays to give life to all. This god was proclaimed to be the sole deity by Akhenaton (14th cent BC).

Kheper (Scarab) was the dung beetle which pushed the sun across the sky, just as a dung beetle pushed balls of dung along the ground. He symbolised creation and family happiness. Model dung bettles called Scarabs were often placed in mummies.

Tenth plague: Death of firstborn (including firstborn of Pharaoh) (ch 11-12)

Osiris or Asar was the ruler of the dead, including the previous Pharaohs, and the chief judge at the gateway to the afterlife. Osiris was killed by his evil brother Set, and his death was avenged by Horus.

Horus or Hor was the sky god and god of the living. He was the personal symbol of pharaohs, giving courage and protection. Horus represents the living pharaoh, and Osisis represents the dead pharaoh. The son of the living Pharaoh was the next manifestion of Horus. This would explain why the final plague broke the Egyptians when the first-born of the pharaoh died.

Pharaoh's Hard Heart

One of the difficult questions often asked during the study of the Book of Exodus is the problem of God hardening the heart of Pharaoh, which is one of the main themes in the conflict between Yahweh and Pharaoh in the first part of the Book of Exodus, used to explain Pharaoh's refusal to obey Yahweh's command to release Israel.

One of the three Hebrew words used to describe the state of Pharaoh's heart is to be heavy. Knowledge of the Egyptian understanding of the heart is essential to comprehend this issue. According to Egyptian sacred texts, the heart was the essence of a person, being the inner spiritual centre of the person and the most important part of a human being. It therefore played a critical part in the belief about the afterlife.

In the Egyptian Book of the Dead we see the importance of the heart in determining the outcome of judgement after death. When a person dies, Anubis, the jackal-headed god of the dead, calls for the heart of the dead person to be weighed against the feather of truth and righteousness. If the heart is heavier than the feather then the person is judged to be a sinner, and is cast to be devoured by the crocodile-headed goddess Amemit. If the heart is lighter than the feather, then the person receives the reward of eternal life, and enters into paradise.

Basically the Egyptians believed in a form of righteousness by works. Anyone whose heart was heavy-laden with bad deeds will be devoured, while anyone whose heart is filled with integrity, truth and good deeds will be taken to enjoy heavenly bliss.

By saying that Yahweh was making Pharaoh's heart heavy, the Book of Exodus is saying that Yahweh is acting as the judge of Pharaoh. Yahweh was weighing the heart of Pharaoh, and publicly declaring him to be judged as imperfect and therefore deserving condemnation. Their perfect god-king was not of pure and untainted character, as popular belief would claim.

There is a photograph of a judgement scene in the Book of the Dead in the British Museum Egyptian Gallery page.

Related articles

How to interpret OT Narratives How to interpret OT law
Covenants in the OT Names of God in the OT
Sacrifices and offerings Jewish feasts and festivals
Tithing Jewish calendar and religious festivals
The Tabernacle The Ten Commandments

The Bible

Pages which look at issues relevant to the whole Bible, such as the Canon of Scripture, as well as doctrinal and theological issues. There are also pages about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and 'lost books' of the Old Testament.

Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Why These 66 Books?
Books in the Hebrew Scriptures
Quotations in NT From OT
OT Passages Quoted in NT
History of the English Bible
Twelve Books of the Apocrypha
The Pseudepigrapha - False Writings
Lost Books Referenced in OT

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

OT 1: Creation and Patriarchs
OT 2: Exodus and Wilderness
OT 3: Conquest and Monarchy
OT 4: Divided kingdom and Exile
OT 5: Return from Exile
OT 6: 400 Silent Years

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

NT 1: Life and Ministry of Jesus
NT 2: Birth of the Church
NT 3: Paul's Missionary Journeys
NT 4: Paul's Imprisonment
NT 5: John and Later NT

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Genesis Exodus Leviticus
Numbers Deuteronomy

Joshua Judges Ruth
1 & 2 Samuel 1 & 2 Kings Chronicles
Ezra & Nehemiah Esther

Job Psalms Proverbs

Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations
Ezekiel Daniel

Hosea Joel Amos
Obadiah Jonah Micah
Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah
Haggai Zechariah Malachi

Introductions to New Testament Books

This is a collection of introductions to each of the 27 books in the New Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Matthew's Gospel Mark's Gospel Luke's Gospel
John's Gospel

Book of Acts

Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians
Galatians Ephesians Philippians
Colossians 1 & 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy
2 Timothy Titus Philemon

Hebrews James 1 Peter
2 Peter 1 John 2 & 3 John


Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

Canaanite Religion
Israel's Enemies During the Conquest
Syria / Aram
The Assyrian Empire
Babylon and its History
The Persian Empire
The Greek Empire
The 400 Silent Years
The Ptolemies and Seleucids
Antiochus IV - Epiphanes

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

OT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Jewish Calendar
The Importance of Paradox
Talent Converter (weights)
Cubit Converter (lengths)
OT People Search
Ephah Converter (volumes)
Holy War in the Ancient World
The Holy Spirit in the OT
Types of Jesus in the OT

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Are chapters 1-11 of Genesis historical?
Chronology of the Flood
Genealogies of the Patriarchs
Table of the Nations (Gen 10)
Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9)

Authorship of the Pentateuch
Chronology of the Wilderness Years
Names of God in the OT
Covenants in the OT
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle and its Theology
Sacrifices and Offerings
The Jewish Festivals
Balaam and Balak
Highlights from Deuteronomy
Overview of Deuteronomy

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Dates of the Kings of Judah and Israel
King Solomon
The Kings of Israel
King Jeroboam I of Israel
The Syro-Ephraimite War (735 BC)
Sennacherib's Invasion of Judah (701 BC)
King Josiah of Judah
Differences Between Kings and Chronicles
Chronology of the post-exilic period

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

Prophets and the Future
The Call of Jeremiah (Jer 1)
The Fall of Satan? (Is 14, Ezek 28)
Daniel Commentary (10 pages)
Isaiah Commentary (13 pages)
Formation of the Book of Jeremiah

Daniel's Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27)

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

NT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Kingdom of God / Heaven
Parousia (Coming of Christ)
The Importance of Paradox

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Unique Passages in the Synoptic Gospels
The SynopticProblem
Genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1)
Birth Narratives of Jesus
Understanding the Parables
Peter's Confession and the Transfiguration
Was John the Baptist Elijah?
The Triumphal Entry
The Olivet Discourse (Mark 13)
Important themes in John's Gospel
John's Gospel Prologue (John 1)
Jesus Fulfilling Jewish Festivals
Reclining at Table at the Last Supper
The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey. More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Apostolic Messages in the Book of Acts
Paul and His Apostleship
Collection for the Saints
The Church Described as a Temple
Church as the Body of Christ
Jesus as the Last Adam
Food Offered to Idols
Paul's Teaching on Headcoverings
Who are the Fallen Angels
The Meaning of Redemption
What is the Church?
Paul and the Greek Games

Romans Commentary (7 pages)

1 Corinthians Commentary (7 pages)

Galatians Commentary (3 pages)

Philemon Commentary (1 page)

Hebrews Commentary (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Introduction to the Book of Revelation
Characters Introduced in the Book
Structure of Revelation
List of Allusions to OT
The Description of Jesus as the Lamb
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
The Nero Redivius Myth
The Millennium (1000 years)
The Rapture and the Tribulation
Different Approaches to Revelation
Predicted Dates of the Second Coming

Revelation Commentary (10 pages)

How to do Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

How to Study the Bible Inductively
I. The Inductive Study Method
II. Observation Questions
III. Interpretation Questions
IV. Structure of Books
V. Determining the Historical background
VI. Identifying Figures of Speech
VII. Personal Application
VIII. Text Layout

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

How to Understand OT Narratives
How to Understand OT Law
Hebrew Poetry
OT Wisdom Literature
Understanding the OT Prophets
The Four Gospels
The Parables of Jesus
The Book of Acts
How to Understand the NT Letters
Studying End Times (Eschatology)
The Book of Revelation

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Search for Geographical Locations
Major Archaeological Sites in Israel
Archaeological Sites in Assyria, Babylon and Persia
Virtual Paul's Missionary Journeys
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
Photos of the City of Corinth
Photos of the City of Ephesus

Biblical Archaeology in Museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also page of photographs from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem of important artifacts.

Search Museums for Biblical Archaeology
Israel Museum Photos

Difficult Theological and Ethical Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

Christian Ethics
Never Heard the Gospel
Is there Ever a Just War?
Why Does God Allow Suffering
Handling Disappointment

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

What is Preaching?
I. Two Approaches to Preaching
II. Study a Passage for Preaching
III. Creating a Message Outline
IV. Making Preaching Relevant
V. Presentation and Public Speaking
VI. Preaching Feedback and Critique
Leading a Small Group Bible Study

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.

Teaching on SBS Book Topics for SBS