‘Exodus Old and New: a Biblical Theology of Redemption’ by L. Michael Morales

Exodus Old and New is a remarkable, compelling and deeply insightful exploration of the Exodus theme in Scripture. Dr Morales demonstrates that the exodus is a central theme in the Bible; it is foundational to redemptive history: the storyline of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is a story of exile and exodus. He shows that the exodus of God’s people from Egypt is the pattern for the second exodus―that is, the salvation accomplished by Jesus the Messiah. That salvation is for all God’s people, both Israel and those from among the nations; it culminates in God’s people living in God’s presence in a new creation.

This book bridges the gap between books written at an introductory and popular level and those aimed at advanced students and at scholars. The book is relatively brief (around 200 pages) and accessible. The text is accompanied by footnotes, and there’s a small list of books for further reading at the end. Dr Morales’ book brought home to me, in a new way, how fundamental and pervasive the theme of exodus is in Scripture. His book is a rich feast of Biblical truth that both edifies the mind and stirs the heart, and I unhesitatingly commend it. In his preface, the author writes, “My hope and prayer is that this book may in some small way lead readers through their own “sort of exodus,” closer to God.”

Chapter 1 sets the scene by taking us back to the beginning of the Bible story, and traces the story through the first 11 chapters of Genesis. After their sin, mankind―now alienated from God―began a life of exile from God outside the garden. Genesis chapters 1-11 describes mankind’s increasing exile from God, an widening alienation that is reflected by escalating wickedness. But “the exile of the nations is the backdrop for the story of Israel,” the nation whom God creates to “reclaim the nations for Yahweh” .

Chapter 1 concludes by commenting that to bring the nations back to God: “will require an exodus” , which is, in fact, “the reversal of exile, . . . resurrection from the dead.” Thus the stage is set for the rest of the book, which comprises three parts. The first part (chapters 2-7) covers the Exodus from Egypt, preluded by an exploration of the life of Abraham, a life that was “exodus-shaped” . Part 2 (chapters 8-11) deals with the prophesied second exodus. Part 3 (chapters 12-14) covers the new exodus accomplished by Jesus the Messiah – His death, burial, resurrection and ascension to His Father’s right hand in heaven.

Chapter 2 traces the story of Abraham, followed by a literary outline of the patriarch’s life. Morales traces how Abraham’s life is stamped with the motif of exodus, the reversal of exile. Overall, his life was an exodus journey out of exile in Ur to a climax on Mount Moriah, the mount where the Temple would one day be built. Within that journey there are further exoduses: Abraham’s exodus from Egypt, his vision of Israel’s exodus from Egypt (Genesis 15.7-21), Lot’s exodus from Sodom, and the near-sacrifice of his son Isaac, recorded in Genesis 22, a narrative that Morales calls “a Passover journey”, and which foreshadows Israel’s exodus from Egypt.

The next five chapters cover major themes of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Chapter 3 considers Israel’s exile in Egypt, and the plagues that God sent on that land. Israel’s suffering in Egypt is seen as their experience of the nations’ own exile from God. Morales explains that mankind’s exile from God led into ever-deepening ignorance of God; thus the key point of the Exodus was to make God known, to reveal his “matchless glory, power, supremacy, and judgments” , to cause Pharaoh and Egypt to know that He is Lord of Heaven and Earth, and King above all gods. And God revealed Himself to Israel through His “mighty acts and fatherly compassion” .

In chapter 4, Morales considers “the creation theology of the sea crossing . . . , including how Yahweh’s battle at the sea is described elsewhere in Scripture as the slaying of a sea dragon”. He explores this account’s allusions to the creation and flood stories in Genesis. He notes that the sea symbolises death and Egypt symbolises Sheol, the watery realm of death. Egypt is a land of exile for Israel; exile symbolises death. Morales writes, “Through the waters Israel has died to death and has been reborn, resurrected as the people of Yahweh. Salvation is an act of new creation.” He then explains that, in some poetic Scriptures, the sea pictures chaos and the forces of evil; the sea is also personified as a sea-monster. He looks at the Scriptures that use the imagery of a sea-dragon’s slaughter to picture (1) creation and (2) the dividing of the waters of the sea and God’s defeat of Pharaoh and Egypt. Finally, he explores the larger Biblical narrative of slaying the dragon, from the serpent (an embodiment of Satan) in the garden of Eden to the defeat of the dragon, who is Satan, portrayed in the Book of Revelation.

Chapter 5 explores the Passover. Morales sees the Passover “as the heart of the exodus”, and notes a number of aspects of the narrative that show “the crucial role of Passover”. He provides a theology of the Passover ritual, focusing on (1) the sacrifice of a lamb or young goat (involving the idea of substitutionary atonement); (2) the smearing of the animal’s blood on the doorposts of each Israelite house (an act of purification); and (3) the eating of the sacrifice (which served to consecrate those who ate). He then explores the meaning of the unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and the significance of circumcision, closely associated with the Passover. Finally, he shows how the redemption of Israel’s firstborn sons from death at the Passover pictured the redemption of the whole nation, God’s firstborn son, from Sheol, the realm of death.

Chapter 6 looks at the role of Moses in the Exodus from Egypt, a role that “may be summed up by the designation mediator”. Morales looks at three aspects: (1) how, through his own personal life experience before the Exodus, Moses was a forerunner of Israel’s deliverance; (2) his mediatory role in Yahweh’s covenant with Israel, and (3) his intercession for Israel. In conclusion, Morales explores the uniqueness of Moses’ prophetic ministry, and his foreshadowing of the One Who would be a new Moses.

Chapter 7 explores the sacrificial system in the Tabernacle, God’s dwelling place. The purpose of the sacrificial system was to restore God’s people to Himself; the ritual was “a journey” into God’s presence in heaven. Morales explains Israel’s liturgy as a threefold movement to God’s dwelling place; together, three key sacrifices―the purification offering, the whole burnt offering, and the peace offering― “may be traced historically as an exodus pattern” . He then describes the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement, in which “humanity’s expulsion from Eden was reversed ritually”. Finally, he describes the liturgy of the daily burnt offerings. These offerings “would surely have recalled the same message of Passover” ―redemption and consecration. And the sacrificial lambs represented Israel; by identifying with these offerings, Israel vicariously and symbolically underwent an exodus into God’s presence in Heaven.

Part 2 (chapters 8-11) deals with the prophesied Second Exodus. Morales opens chapter 8, entitled “The Pattern of Sacred History”, by looking briefly at Israel’s history after the exodus from Egypt. This history was in three stages: (1) the exodus; (2) the covenant-making at Mount Sinai, by which Israel became God’s royal priesthood and holy nation, called to draw the nations to God and (3) the occupation of the Promised Land climaxing with “with Israel’s worship of Yahweh God at Mount Zion”. The building of the Temple reversed the building of the Tower of Babel; the Temple was the place where the nations may be gathered to God and enjoy God’s blessing. Morales then traces Israel’s catastrophic failure―a failure that ends with the devastation of the ten northern tribes, and Judah captive in Babylon. Once again, God’s people are in exile. Morales now briefly surveys the prophets’ promise of a second exodus―an exodus that the nations, too, would share in. The prophets foretold that this threefold pattern of history would be repeated: there would be (1) a new exodus, (2) a new covenant by which Israel would be consecrated to God and enjoy a new relationship with Him, and (3) a new life for Israel and the nations in a new creation, with God living in their midst.

In chapter 9, Morales explains that the second exodus would far surpass and transcend the first. He looks briefly at the historical return from Babylon―which he sees as only ”a dim foretaste of the new exodus”. He then focuses on five features of the new exodus as foretold by the prophets: (1) the glorifying of God’s Name; (2) a new David and his accomplishments; (3) the visitation of Yahweh, to be prepared for by another Elijah; (4) the outpouring of God’s Spirit, Whose Person and work is “the gift of the new covenant” ; under which covenant Israel would repent and love and obey God; and (5) resurrection of God’s people from the dead.

In chapter 10, Morales considers Isaiah 40-55, chapters that include the four servant songs, and Isaiah 56-66, which prophesy about the servants of God’s servant. The Book of Isaiah, Morales points out, begins with sinful Jerusalem; by the end of Isaiah, “there is a new, Jerusalem, an Israel that is cleansed, holy, . . . and obedient, joined by many among the nations . . . ―indeed, there is a new heavens and earth”. The key to this transformation is God’s servant. Morales briefly analyses Isaiah 40-66 into three parts, 40-48 (unfaithful Israel, God’s disobedient servant); 49-55 (the true Israel, God’s obedient servant), and 56-66 (renewed Israel, who are obedient servants). He expounds the identity and work of the servant as presented in the four servant songs. Israel, as God’s servant, was called “to restore the nations to God”, “drawing humanity to the blessings of Zion”. But Israel’s failure is solved by the appointment of an individual Israelite, who will embody Israel and fulfil Israel’s calling. He will lead Israel and the nations, in a new exodus greater than the exodus from Egypt. The final servant song reveals how the servant restores mankind to God – by “atonement through the sacrificial suffering of the servant of Yahweh” . But the servant is not just a substitute; he dies and is resurrected in order for Israel to die and be resurrected with him. The servant’s “transforming exodus from suffering and death to resurrection glory is the kernel of the second exodus for Israel and the nations” . Morales concludes by looking at the identity and vocation of the servants of this servant, as revealed in Isaiah 56-66. Their role is to take up Israel’s vocation.

Chapter 11 is entitled, “Who is the Servant of Yahweh?”, and answers by considering His identity as a new Moses, as a new David, the Messiah, and as a manifestation of Yahweh Himself. The servant is Jesus―who fulfilled Israel’s vocation and, by his resurrection, “became the center and stem of a renewed Israel”.

The final part, part 3 (chapters 12-14) explores the new exodus accomplished by Jesus the Messiah. Chapters 12 and 13 examine this theme, using only the Gospel of John, rather than the whole New Testament (because of constraints of space). He considers that “the Gospel of John is able to serve as something of a summary of New Testament theology for us—at least on the exodus theme”. However, I think it would have been helpful to include a few of the clearest references to the Exodus in the rest of the New Testament―if for no other reason than to demonstrate how pervasive this theme is there. As an example, Luke describes Jesus’ transfiguration in Luke 9:28-36; in verse 31, Jesus speaks about his ‘departure’―in other words, His death and resurrection and ascension into heaven―as an exodus; the Greek word for ‘departure’ here is exodos.

In chapter 12, Morales considers “Jesus’ crucifixion as Passover Lamb of the new exodus”. He notes that the new exodus is a key theme in the New Testament, and “the theological lens” for understanding Jesus’ death and resurrection. He comments that, among the New Testament books, John’s Gospel provides “the deepest meditation on the new exodus, especially in its use of Passover theology”. He notes the Gospel’s frequent mentions of the feast of Passover, and some allusions to the theme of exodus found there. He observes that John’s Gospel has “what may be called paschal bookends, passages that introduce Jesus and portray his death in terms of the Passover lamb”. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and he is the perfect Passover Lamb, whose sacrificial death rescues people from death and slavery to sin. Morales looks at Jesus’ death as his “departure” from this world, and his resurrection as the new exodus. He writes, “By his death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus departed the old creation and entered into―or better, both became and ushered in―a new creation”. He explains the Sabbath symbolism in John’s Gospel, which shows Jesus as the one who brings true Sabbath rest and renewal to creation, noting the uses of the numbers six and seven, and the significance of the eighth day. Morales looks at the allusions to the Garden of Eden at the end of John’s Gospel; these allusions reveal Jesus’s death, resurrection and ascension “as the new exodus out of the old creation and into the new creation, . . . ―all from the angle of the Bible’s main plotline: an exodus out of the primal exile and into paradise with God (authors’ emphasis).

Finally, Morales asks how we can experience the New Exodus as well. He answers this question in the next chapter. Here, he explains that it is through the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus leads people in a new exodus and makes them part of the Father’s household. The giving of the Holy Spirit is “regularly portrayed in Scripture with water imagery”. Morales shows how John portrays Jesus as the giver of the Spirit, also noting Old Testament references to the giving of the Spirit. He explains that the giving―the outpouring―of the Spirit is through Jesus’s sacrificial death on the Cross. He then expounds John 20:22, which he thinks “may well be the culmination and climax of the Gospel’s narrative and theology”. The Spirit unites believers to the Son, thus bringing them into His Father’s household. This theme of birth into God’s household, becoming children of God, is, Morales says, “a major unifying theme” of John’s Gospel. Their birth into God’s household means they are united by the Spirit to the Son, and through the Son, united to the Father. Jesus returned to the Father through His death and resurrection to open the way―“this new exodus”―to bring people into the Father’s house. Morales then asks how we ourselves may experience this exodus. He explains that it is by being united to Jesus, and to his death and resurrection and ascension, through the Spirit. Our spiritual regeneration will be consummated in our bodily resurrection and life in the new creation―”the culminating exodus of glory”.

The closing chapter is an inspiring exploration of the glorious truth of the resurrection. The hope provided by Jesus’ resurrection, Morales observes, lights up the whole New Testament, and “especially the life and letters of the apostle Paul”. Morales notes that the ideas of exodus and resurrection are repeatedly closely connected in Scripture. He asks why so the resurrection is a focal point in the Scriptures; the reason, he points out, is death, God’s judgment on sin. Sin is the underlying problem: the world is exiled from God, in thrall to the power of sin. Sin impacts not only humanity but all creation―all creation needs redemption and renewal. Through God’s Spirit, all creation “will undergo the new exodus”: creation holds together in the Son, and will participate in his death and resurrection, and thus be renewed. So the remedy for sin and death is Jesus’s resurrection. Paul teaches that Jesus brought the old creation to an end by his death, and brought a new creation into being by his resurrection; the apostle “describes salvation as an exodus from the first Adam, along with the old creation, and an entry into the last Adam and the new creation”. The first Adam’s sin resulted in mankind’s exile from God; “the last Adam’s obedience leads to humanity’s exodus back to God”. By the Spirit, God’s people are united to Jesus, and to his exodus, that is, his death and resurrection and ascension into the Father’s presence. They are resurrected from spiritual death; they become a new creation. This exodus is first spiritual, then, at Christ’s return, physical. The destiny of God’s people is the glorious scene we see in Revelation 21:3―here we see the climax and completion of the second exodus, the exodus of Jesus Christ.

Read the publishers’ description HERE.

This book is the second volume in the Essential Studies in Biblical Theology (ESBT) series, edited by Benjamin L. Gladd. This series explores the central themes of the Bible’s storyline from Genesis through the whole of redemption history. The series aims to provide accessible introductions to the themes, and to apply these themes to Christian life, ministry, and worldview.

L. Michael Morales is professor of biblical studies at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Taylors, South Carolina. He is the author of Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus (in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series, edited by D.A. Carson) and The Tabernacle Pre-Figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus.

I thank IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

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