The Rescue Of The Israelites From Slavery In Egypt

This article is part of a series of Bible passages, which together are mainly about how the Bible says the Jewish race developed and were given laws, how they settled in ancient Israel, and how it says God sometimes punished them for disobeying his commands, which led to them changing their ways.
This is Part 2 (of 5) in Section 3: "The life and leadership of Moses".

Some parts of the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation are very unpleasant. If you become offended by anything, please read An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.

The purpose of the Old Testament seems to have been mainly to try to scare lawless societies into behaving decently, giving up the cruel ways the Bible says they were guilty of. Hence much of the gruesomeness, which is at least in part meant to warn people committing cruel and hurtful actions to change.

In the Second book of the Bible, the Book of Exodus, it says:

Exodus chapter 3 (NIV)

[Recapping on the story]:

1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does not burn up."

4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." 5 "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." 6 Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob."

At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. 7 The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey ..

16 "Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers--the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob-- appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites--a land flowing with milk and honey.' 18 "The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, 'The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.' 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go. 21 "And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 22 Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians."

Exodus chapter 4 (TEV)

1 Then Moses answered the Lord, "But suppose the Israelites do not believe me and will not listen to what I say. What shall I do if they say that you did not appear to me?" 2 So the Lord asked him, "What are you holding?"

"A walking stick," he answered. 3 The Lord said, "Throw it on the ground." When Moses threw it down, it turned into a snake, and he ran away from it. 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Reach down and pick it up by the tail." So Moses reached down and caught it, and it became a walking stick again. 5 The Lord said, "Do this to prove to the Israelites that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has appeared to you."

Exodus chapter 8 (TEV)

20 The Lord said to Moses, "Early tomorrow morning go and meet the king as he goes to the river, and tell him that the Lord says, "Let my people go, so that they can worship me. 21 I warn you that if you refuse, I will punish you by sending flies on you, your officials, and your people. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies, and the ground will be covered with them. 22 But I will spare the region of Goshen, where my people live, so that there will be no flies there. I will do this so that you will know that I, the Lord, am at work in this land. 23 I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This miracle will take place tomorrow.'"

24 The Lord sent great swarms of flies into the king's palace and the houses of his officials. The whole land of Egypt was brought to ruin by the flies. 25 Then the king called for Moses and Aaron and said, "Go and offer sacrifices to your God here in this country." 26 "It would not be right to do that," Moses answered, "because the Egyptians would be offended by our sacrificing the animals that we offer to the Lord our God. If we use these animals and offend the Egyptians by sacrificing them where they can see us, they will stone us to death. 27 We must travel three days into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, just as he commanded us." 28 The king said, "I will let you go to sacrifice to the Lord, your God, in the desert, if you do not go very far. Pray for me." 29 Moses answered, "As soon as I leave, I will pray to the Lord that tomorrow the flies will leave you, your officials, and your people. But you must not deceive us again and prevent the people from going to sacrifice to the Lord."

30 Moses left the king and prayed to the Lord, 31 and the Lord did as Moses asked. The flies left the king, his officials, and his people; not one fly remained. 32 But even this time the king became stubborn, and again he would not let the people go.

Exodus chapter 9 (NIV)

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh and say to him, 'This is what the LORD , the God of the Hebrews, says: "Let my people go, so that they may worship me." 2 If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, 3 the hand of the LORD will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field-on your horses and donkeys and camels and on your cattle and sheep and goats. 4 But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die.' " 5 The LORD set a time and said, "Tomorrow the LORD will do this in the land." 6 And the next day the LORD did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died. 7 Pharaoh sent men to investigate and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.

8 Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. 9 It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on men and animals throughout the land." 10 So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on men and animals. 11 The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians. 12 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.

Exodus chapter 9 (NLT)

13 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Get up early in the morning. Go to Pharaoh and tell him, 'The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. 14 If you don't, I will send a plague that will really speak to you and your officials and all the Egyptian people. I will prove to you that there is no other God like me in all the earth. 15 I could have killed you all by now. I could have attacked you with a plague that would have wiped you from the face of the earth. 16 But I have let you live for this reason - that you might see my power and that my fame might spread throughout the earth. 17 But you are still lording it over my people, and you refuse to let them go. 18 So tomorrow at this time I will send a hailstorm worse than any in all of Egypt's history. 19 Quick! Order your livestock and servants to come in from the fields. Every person or animal left outside will die beneath the hail.'"

20 Some of Pharaoh's officials believed what the LORD said. They immediately brought their livestock and servants in from the fields. 21 But those who had no respect for the word of the LORD left them out in the open.

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Lift your hand toward the sky, and cause the hail to fall throughout Egypt, on the people, the animals, and the crops." 23 So Moses lifted his staff toward the sky, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and lightning struck the earth. The LORD sent a tremendous hailstorm against all the land of Egypt. 24 Never in all the history of Egypt had there been a storm like that, with such severe hail and continuous lightning. 25 It left all of Egypt in ruins. Everything left in the fields was destroyed - people, animals, and crops alike. Even all the trees were destroyed. 26 The only spot in all Egypt without hail that day was the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel lived.

27 Then Pharaoh urgently sent for Moses and Aaron. "I finally admit my fault," he confessed. "The LORD is right, and my people and I are wrong. 28 Please beg the LORD to end this terrifying thunder and hail. I will let you go at once."

29 "All right," Moses replied. "As soon as I leave the city, I will lift my hands and pray to the LORD. Then the thunder and hail will stop. This will prove to you that the earth belongs to the LORD. 30 But as for you and your officials, I know that you still do not fear the LORD God as you should."

31 All the flax and barley were destroyed because the barley was ripe and the flax was in bloom. 32 But the wheat and the spelt were not destroyed because they had not yet sprouted from the ground.

33 So Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. As he lifted his hands to the LORD, all at once the thunder and hail stopped, and the downpour ceased. 34 When Pharaoh saw this, he and his officials sinned yet again by stubbornly refusing to do as they had promised. 35 Pharaoh refused to let the people leave, just as the LORD had predicted.

Exodus chapter 10 (TEV)

1 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go and see the king. I have made him and his officials stubborn, in order that I may perform these miracles among them 2 and in order that you may be able to tell your children and grandchildren how I made fools of the Egyptians when I performed the miracles. All of you will know that I am the Lord." 3 So Moses and Aaron went to the king and said to him, "The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says, "How much longer will you refuse to submit to me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 4 If you keep on refusing, then I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. 5 There will be so many that they will completely cover the ground. They will eat everything that the hail did not destroy, even the trees that are left. 6 They will fill your palaces and the houses of all your officials and all your people. They will be worse than anything your ancestors ever saw.' " Then Moses turned and left.

7 The king's officials said to him, "How long is this man going to give us trouble? Let the Israelite men go, so that they can worship the Lord their God. Don't you realize that Egypt is ruined?"

8 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to the king, and he said to them, "You may go and worship the Lord your God. But exactly who will go?" 9 Moses answered, "We will all go, including our children and our old people. We will take our sons and daughters, our sheep and goats, and our cattle, because we must hold a festival to honor the Lord." 10 The king said, "I swear by the Lord that I will never let you take your women and children! It is clear that you are plotting to revolt. 11 No! Only the men may go and worship the Lord if that is what you want." With that, Moses and Aaron were driven out of the king's presence.

12 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Raise your hand over the land of Egypt to bring the locusts. They will come and eat everything that grows, everything that has survived the hail." 13 So Moses raised his stick, and the Lord caused a wind from the east to blow on the land all that day and all that night. By morning it had brought the locusts. 14 They came in swarms and settled over the whole country. It was the largest swarm of locusts that had ever been seen or that ever would be seen again. 15 They covered the ground until it was black with them; they ate everything that the hail had left, including all the fruit on the trees. Not a green thing was left on any tree or plant in all the land of Egypt.

16 Then the king hurriedly called Moses and Aaron and said, "I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you. 17 Now forgive my sin this one time and pray to the Lord your God to take away this fatal punishment from me." 18 Moses left the king and prayed to the Lord. 19 And the Lord changed the east wind into a very strong west wind, which picked up the locusts and blew them into the Gulf of Suez. Not one locust was left in all of Egypt. 20 But the Lord made the king stubborn, and he did not let the Israelites go.

21 The Lord then said to Moses, "Raise your hand toward the sky, and a darkness thick enough to be felt will cover the land of Egypt." 22 Moses raised his hand toward the sky, and there was total darkness throughout Egypt for three days. 23 The Egyptians could not see each other, and no one left his house during that time. But the Israelites had light where they were living. 24 The king called Moses and said, "You may go and worship the Lord; even your women and children may go with you. But your sheep, goats, and cattle must stay here."

25 Moses answered, "Then you would have to provide us with animals for sacrifices and burnt offerings to offer to the Lord our God. 26 No, we will take our animals with us; not one will be left behind. We ourselves must select the animals with which to worship the Lord our God. And until we get there, we will not know what animals to sacrifice to him."

27 The Lord made the king stubborn, and he would not let them go. 28 He said to Moses, "Get out of my sight! Don't let me ever see you again! On the day I do, you will die!" 29 "You are right," Moses answered. "You will never see me again."

Exodus chapter 11 (NLT)

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will send just one more disaster on Pharaoh and the land of Egypt. After that, Pharaoh will let you go. In fact, he will be so anxious to get rid of you that he will practically force you to leave the country. 2 Tell all the Israelite men and women to ask their Egyptian neighbors for articles of silver and gold." 3 (Now the LORD had caused the Egyptians to look favorably on the people of Israel, and Moses was considered a very great man in the land of Egypt. He was respected by Pharaoh's officials and the Egyptian people alike.)

4 So Moses announced to Pharaoh, "This is what the LORD says: About midnight I will pass through Egypt. 5 All the firstborn sons will die in every family in Egypt, from the oldest son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the oldest son of his lowliest slave. Even the firstborn of the animals will die. 6 Then a loud wail will be heard throughout the land of Egypt; there has never been such wailing before, and there never will be again. 7 But among the Israelites it will be so peaceful that not even a dog will bark. Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites. 8 All the officials of Egypt will come running to me, bowing low. 'Please leave!' they will beg. 'Hurry! And take all your followers with you.' Only then will I go!" Then, burning with anger, Moses left Pharaoh's presence.

9 Now the LORD had told Moses, "Pharaoh will not listen to you. But this will give me the opportunity to do even more mighty miracles in the land of Egypt." 10 Although Moses and Aaron did these miracles in Pharaoh's presence, the LORD hardened his heart so he wouldn't let the Israelites leave the country.

Exodus chapter 12 (GWT)

29 At midnight the LORD killed every firstborn male in Egypt from the firstborn son of Pharaoh who ruled the land to the firstborn son of the prisoner in jail, and also every firstborn animal. 30 Pharaoh, all his officials, and all the [other] Egyptians got up during the night. There was loud crying throughout Egypt because in every house someone had died. 31 Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron during the night. He said, "You and the Israelites must leave my people at once. Go, worship the LORD as you asked. 32 Take your flocks and herds, too, as you asked. Just go! And bless me, too!" 33 The Egyptians begged the people to leave the country quickly. They said, "Soon we'll all be dead!"

34 So the people picked up their bread dough before it had risen and carried it on their shoulders in bowls, wrapped up in their clothes. 35 The Israelites did what Moses had told them and asked the Egyptians for gold and silver jewelry and for clothes. 36 The LORD made the Egyptians generous to the people, and they gave them what they asked for. So the Israelites stripped Egypt of its wealth.

37 The Israelites left Rameses to go to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, plus all the women and children. 38 Many other people also went with them, along with large numbers of sheep, goats, and cattle. 39 With the dough they had brought from Egypt, they baked round, flat bread. The dough hadn't risen because they'd been thrown out of Egypt and had no time to prepare food for the trip. 40 The Israelites had been living in Egypt for 430 years. 41 After exactly 430 years all the LORD's people left Egypt in organized family groups. 42 That night the LORD kept watch to take them out of Egypt. (All Israelites in future generations must keep watch on this night, since it is dedicated to the LORD.)

Explanations for the Plagues of Egypt

The Bible continues:

Exodus Chapter 13 (NLT)

17 When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them on the road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest way from Egypt to the Promised Land. God said, "If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." 18 So God led them along a route through the wilderness toward the Red Sea, and the Israelites left Egypt like a marching army.

20 Leaving Succoth, they camped at Etham on the edge of the wilderness. 21 The LORD guided them by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. That way they could travel whether it was day or night. 22 And the LORD did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from their sight.

Exodus chapter 14 (TEV)

1 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 "Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp in front of Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the Red Sea, near Baal Zephon. 3 The king will think that the Israelites are wandering around in the country and are closed in by the desert. 4 I will make him stubborn, and he will pursue you, and my victory over the king and his army will bring me honor. Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord." The Israelites did as they were told. 5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had escaped, he and his officials changed their minds and said, "What have we done? We have let the Israelites escape, and we have lost them as our slaves!" 6 The king got his war chariot and his army ready. 7 He set out with all his chariots, including the six hundred finest, commanded by their officers. 8 The Lord made the king stubborn, and he pursued the Israelites, who were leaving triumphantly. 9 The Egyptian army, with all the horses, chariots, and drivers, pursued them and caught up with them where they were camped by the Red Sea near Pi Hahiroth and Baal Zephon.

10 When the Israelites saw the king and his army marching against them, they were terrified and cried out to the Lord for help. 11 They said to Moses, "Weren't there any graves in Egypt? Did you have to bring us out here in the desert to die? Look what you have done by bringing us out of Egypt! 12 Didn't we tell you before we left that this would happen? We told you to leave us alone and let us go on being slaves of the Egyptians. It would be better to be slaves there than to die here in the desert."

13 Moses answered, "Don't be afraid! Stand your ground, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you today; you will never see these Egyptians again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and all you have to do is keep still."

15 The Lord said to Moses, "Why are you crying out for help? Tell the people to move forward. 16 Lift up your walking stick and hold it out over the sea. The water will divide, and the Israelites will be able to walk through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will make the Egyptians so stubborn that they will go in after them, and I will gain honor by my victory over the king, his army, his chariots, and his drivers. 18 When I defeat them, the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord." 19 The angel of God, who had been in front of the army of Israel, moved and went to the rear. The pillar of cloud also moved until it was 20 between the Egyptians and the Israelites. The cloud made it dark for the Egyptians, but gave light to the people of Israel, and so the armies could not come near each other all night.

21 Moses held out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind. It blew all night and turned the sea into dry land. The water was divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on both sides. 23 The Egyptians pursued them and went after them into the sea with all their horses, chariots, and drivers. 24 Just before dawn the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw them into a panic. 25 He made the wheels of their chariots get stuck, so that they moved with great difficulty. The Egyptians said, "The Lord is fighting for the Israelites against us. Let's get out of here!" 26 The Lord said to Moses, "Hold out your hand over the sea, and the water will come back over the Egyptians and their chariots and drivers." 27 So Moses held out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the water returned to its normal level. The Egyptians tried to escape from the water, but the Lord threw them into the sea. 28 The water returned and covered the chariots, the drivers, and all the Egyptian army that had followed the Israelites into the sea; not one of them was left. 29 But the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on both sides. 30 On that day the Lord saved the people of Israel from the Egyptians, and the Israelites saw them lying dead on the seashore. 31 When the Israelites saw the great power with which the Lord had defeated the Egyptians, they stood in awe of the Lord; and they had faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

Exodus chapter 15 (TEV)

1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:

"I will sing to the Lord, because he has won a glorious victory;
he has thrown the horses and their riders into the sea.
2 The Lord is my strong defender;
he is the one who has saved me.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father's God, and I will sing about his greatness.

20 The prophet Miriam, Aaron's sister, took her tambourine, and all the women followed her, playing tambourines and dancing. 21 Miriam sang for them:

"Sing to the Lord, because he has won a glorious victory;
he has thrown the horses and their riders into the sea."

The next file in this section (Part 2), is entitled "The Israelites' Journey Into The Desert After Having Crossed The Red Sea".

The main Bible pages on this site:

Bible Bible Part 1: Bible Quotations, The Holy Spirit, People And Their Stories
Bible Part 2: The Lives and Suffering of the Ancient Israelites
Bible Part 3: The Bible, Articles About Alleged Inaccuracies in it, And Stories of People who Became Christians.
If you have found parts of the Old Testament or the Book of Revelation offensive, please read An Attempt to Explain Gruesome Bible Passages.

The selections of Bible quotations have been put together by Diana Holbourn.

Throughout this series, wherever the initials TEV appear, they stand for Today's English Version (The Good News Bible).

Other initials:

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