The Book of Exodus

The book of Exodus tells the tale of Israel's liberation and birth, and of the beginning of God's covenanted nation.

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Literary Development

The text of the book as we now have it is the result of a long literary development.  In part it goes back to old traditions which were transmitted orally at first and then committed to writing. That being the case, are there elements in Exodus which may be assigned to Moses and his time? Most likely some traditions went back to him and others may be even older. As the centuries wore on, new materials were added and old ones altered so that even within one segment we may now find diverse reflections. Thus, the first part of the Song at the Sea (chapter 15) is probably of presettlement origin while its second part contains references to postsettlement conditions.

The Book of Exodus is intimately connected with Genesis and Numbers--and after the composition of Leviticus the four--were combined into one book, and later on Deuteronomy was added to form the Torah (or Pentateuch) as we have come to know it.

The Name of the Book

"Exodus" is derived from the Greek exodos which is paralleled by an old Hebrew ascription Sefer Yetziat Mitzrayim ("The book of the departure from Egypt"). But the general Hebrew title is Sefer Shemot ("Book of names"), so called after the opening words of chapter 1: "These are the names..."

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Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut

W. Gunther Plaut (1912-2012) was a leading figure in modern Reform Judaism. He was rabbi emeritus and senior scholar at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, Canada. Rabbi Plaut is the author of numerous books including The Torah: A Modern Commentary and The Haftarah Commentary.