Chapter Two:  The Exodus Intervention

By David Schnittger

The Bible presents Yahweh God as both transcendent and immanent.  By transcendent, we mean that He stands beyond and is unaffected in His essential being by the circumstances of earth and the universe.  By immanent, we mean that He is, at the same time, concerned and intimately involved in the affairs of this universe, and, in particular, with mankind.  As such, God has chosen to be responsive to man’s actions, whether judging and punishing sin and unbelief, or granting merciful intervention in response to man’s repentance and faith.  It is the latter subject that we will explore in this series of articles.

In this article, we are going to examine the Divine intervention that took place with Israel at the time of the Exodus.  We are going to look at the main points of this intervention and then discern whether there is a pattern evident in this intervention.  In subject articles, as we look at other examples of national intervention, we will explore whether this same pattern is evident.  The purpose of this study is to discern the times in which we live to see if America is in the midst of yet another gracious Divine national intervention.


At the outset, it is helpful to establish the circumstances that brought Israel into Egypt in the first place, as well as the promises attached to that event.  In the providence of God, Joseph, though betrayed and rejected by his brothers, came to a place of great prominence in Egypt.  In the course of time, famine brought Jacob and his sons to Egypt seeking help.  Once Joseph’s identity became known to his aged father, Jacob was directed by the Lord to relocate his family to Egypt:

And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob.  And he said, Here am I.  And he said, I am God, the God of thy father; fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:  I will go down with thee into Egypt: and I will also surely bring thee up again . . .” (Gen 46:2-4).

All went well with Israel in their new homeland for many years, but in the course of time, after the death of Joseph, the favor that the Hebrews enjoyed in Egypt began to sour.

Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.  And he said, unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:  Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.  Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens.  And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.  But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.  And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.  And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour.  And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field, all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour  (Exodus 1:8-14).

In addition to these strictures, Pharaoh plotted the extinction of the Hebrews by ordering the murder of all the baby boys.  While this was partially thwarted by the “disobedience” of godly Hebrew midwives, and the providential deliverance of baby Moses into Pharaoh’s own household, the plight of the rank and file Hebrews worsened over time.

And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.  And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them (Ex 2:23- 25).

The suffering of the Hebrews under hard Egyptian bondage became so acute that God Himself heard their groanings, and, no doubt, their earnest prayers.  Along with the hearing came the remembering of His covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  These covenant promises included the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 15:13, 14:

And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.


In response to the groanings of God’s people, and in remembrance of His covenant promises to the patriarchs, the Lord activates His “rescue plan” by raising up Moses to be their reluctant deliverer.  At this point in Moses’ life, he had been sidelined in Midian for forty years tending sheep   Undoubtedly, this humble task was preparing him for the great challenge of shepherding the fickle and faithful host of Israel.  The time had come to put those preparations into action.   Immediately following the narrative of Exodus 2:23-25, God appears to Moses in the burning bush and commands Moses to lead Israel out of Egyptian bondage:

And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people  which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.  Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.  Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt (Ex 3:7-10).

Moses was quick to mount the argument for his inadequacy for this gargantuan task.  Not only was he reluctant, he was resolute in his refusal.

And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast thou spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.  And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the LORD?  Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.  And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.  And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.  And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do (Ex 4:10-15).

At the very least, Moses considered himself to be an imperfect and improbable choice for so great a task as the deliverer of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage.  It is also quite likely that Moses’ reputation among the Hebrews was soiled as a result of murdering the Egyptian so many years before.  Moses had no idea how he would be received by his brethren upon his return.  Beyond that, was the even greater challenge of overcoming resistance by the pharaoh.  We learn of that resistance in Exodus 5:1, 2:

And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.  And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?  I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.

Thus began the great contest of wills between the hardhearted pharaoh and the persistent Moses.  This contest, involving ten increasingly severe plagues, culminates in the Angel of Death taking every firstborn of Egypt.  It was this plague that, for a time, broke the pharaoh’s resistance:

And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel, and go serve the LORD, as ye have said,  Also take your flocks and your hears, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.  And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.  And the people took the dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in the clothes upon their shoulders.  And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they requested.  And they spoiled the Egyptians (Ex 12:31-36).


I believe that we see in the Exodus narrative the beginning of a pattern of divine intervention.  Let me summarize it as follows:  A needy people cry out to God in desperation.  God has respect to their cry and raises up an imperfect person, who, against the resistance of the establishment, is God’s agent to affect deliverance.  In subsequent chapters, we will see whether this Exodus intervention is an anomaly or a pattern.