Welcome to the Book of Exodus. The English title of this book gets its name from the Greek exodos which means departure. This title was given in the 4th century B.C. by the rabbis who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, the Septuagint. However, the title given it in the Hebrew Bible is taken from the opening words Ve Eleh Shemot וְאֵ֗לֶּה שְׁמוֹת֙ meaning, these are the names, and so in Hebrew the name is Shemot.

On closer examination, we see how the book opens with the conjunction ve. Ve is our word and. It is very unusual to begin a new book with the word and, so what this tells us is that one cannot go beyond this first word unless we consider what happened before. This will help us make sense of what comes next, confirming further the place and reason for Israel, and how she is positioned among the nations of the world even today.

What happened during these thousands of years in Genesis before Israel came into existence, and how does that relate to her? Looking back, we see something very important: many nations were in existence before the nation of Israel was created. They are all listed in the Table of the Nations in Genesis 10, and if you count them, there were 70 of them. When compared to the other nations of the world, Israel is young, very young. Gentiles were there before her.

What then is the history between these nations and God? We see from the beginning, and before the formation of these nations, God had allowed man to govern himself through a patriarchal system where the father was the head. But then we read in Genesis 6:5, Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And so, God ordered the flood because man’s heart had reached a wicked point of no return.

This, by the way, is the first of the 600 times the word heart, lev is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, and it is not a rosy picture because God sees the truth about the heart. After the flood, God allowed man to form the nations. This did not work well at all, for man began to build the Tower of Babel and defiantly said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:4

These nations turned their back on God and decided to build the Tower of Babel This term means door to the gods, the gods they formed themselves. This is when God intervened to stop the madness and confounded their language. This was an act of grace, for if the Lord allowed them to continue speaking the same language, we would have had a much earlier Armageddon. It is only after these two major events, the Flood and the Tower of Babel that Israel was born.

But here we learn something crucial in helping us to put Israel in her proper place today. Many are under the impression that because Israel rejected the message of the Scriptures and rejected God,  God then went to the nations of the world. But history shows us that the nations of the world were the first to have rejected God. After that rejection, He turned to the man Abram, and created Israel through his loins.

Notice the word describing their creation. It is the Hebrew word bara בָּרָא . This is when He says in Isaiah 43:15a, I am the LORD, your Holy One, the one who created / בָּרָא  Israel. What is baffling in this verse is that the word create in Hebrew is the word barah and always has the elements of something that is created ex-nihilo that is, out of nothing. As Paul explains this term in Romans 4:17b, he writes that God calls into being that which does not exist. Just like it was in Genesis 1:1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. That is, He created, bara, everything from ex-nihilo.

And what is extraordinary and surprising, is that He uses the same word for the creation of Israel. How is this possible? We know that the nation descends from Noah and Shem and Abraham. Doesn’t she therefore have her roots in that genealogy? So, in which sense was she created ex-nihilo? This is where we are going to realize that her creation is a unique and exclusive act of God as is our own election, our salvation. What was created ex-nihilo, is not the physical nation of Israel per se, but rather what was brought to man through that nation; it was the unconditional covenant and promises made with her and given to her because through her the Savior of the world would come. This is the unconditional promise of redemption. Only God can make the promise to redeem and clean man, only God can bara, make this necessary and new alliance with man so that she can be saved from her sins. It is the unconditional promise of adoption that nothing can destroy. It is wholly from God and new.

This is when we can realize the importance of Israel in the life of the believer. God had the experience with the 70 and more nations from the past and He saw their heart that it was only evil continually, so God decided to save humankind and the only way to do that, was if He came down Himself and this is what He did through the venue of the nation of Israel through Jesus. If He had not done that, it would have been the end of humanity and a long time ago. This is why God created Israel and this creation is the story of the Exodus. It is a story filled with His glory and mighty miracles. If God’s choice of Israel is unconditional, it is because He knows that if He left it to the people of Israel, they would have fallen, in fact they did so many times.

It is the same with the believer today. God knows that if our salvation depended on us, on our actions and promises, we would lose it and, in no time. This is why He made our salvation unconditional.

There was yet another new thing that happened at the time of Israel’s creation, a new term emerges in Exodus; that of firstborn, for Israel would now become His first born. This is what God told Pharaoh, Israel is My son, My firstborn. Exodus 4:22b. This goes beyond any promises He made to Abraham, Isaac or Jacob; God here deemed Israel, the only nation of the world, His firstborn with an open door for any individual to come in and be grafted into that same Olive Tree.


Click here for the complete teaching: The Book of Exodus, Sermon 1: Israel Ex-Nihilo