Exodus is about one mythic character, Moses, who directed the Israelites out of Egypt into the desert. He led the sons of Israel, the Israelites, through the desert after their deliverance from Egypt. Three main events dominate this book, the Passover from Egypt, the Ten Commandments covenant, and the building of the sanctuary for the Ark of the Covenant with all the trapping that go with it. These events became the heart and soul of Israel. Later they became important for the followers of Jesus, the Christians. Moses, the reluctant leader, led the descendants of the sons of Jacob towards the Promised Land. During many years in the wilderness, the covenant between Yahweh and Moses was sealed with the famous Ten Commandments.
Moses was unaware of his role until in his eighties Yahweh spoke to him from a burning bush. He was called by Yahweh to speak to the King of Egypt, the Pharaoh, who always remains nameless. Moses refused this role because he was a bad speaker, but Aaron his brother helped him. We know very little about the childhood of either Moses or his brother Aaron. However, they worked together to help get the Israelites out of Egypt.
Moses and Aaron performed wonders, tricks, or miracles to convince the hard hearted Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. They generally used a somewhat magic staff to show what they are doing. Yahweh protected them and showed his mighty hand in the ten plagues that occurred to the Egyptians. The Israelites were exempt from these plagues.
However, the last plague became the Passover of the Israelites. Yahweh killed all the first-born Egyptian children, all those who did not have blood on their door post. Finally, Pharaoh and his officials told the Israelites to leave. He changed his mind, as usual, and went after them until he overtook them before they got to the Red Sea. The great Mosaic miracle was the parting of the Red Sea to let the Israelites pass through the dried up water. When the Egyptians tried to follow, they were wiped out by the water as they tried to cross the Red Sea. The Israelite victory chant set the stage for things to come.
They headed southeast until they reach Mount Sinai. There Moses received the Ten Commandments and the so called ‘Mosaic Law’ from Yahweh. At one point, Moses spent forty days and forty nights on the mountain top with Yahweh as they became better friends. There were a series of laws that outlined what they were to do and what was wrong in society. Various sins offended God and neighbor. There was a long list of cultic elements about the Ark of the Covenant, the tabernacle, the reunion tent, the various types of offerings and the how they were to be done.
After a few misunderstandings, Aaron, the brother of Moses created a golden calf so that the Israelites could worship something, while Moses was with Yahweh at the top of the mountain. Moses and Yahweh both got angry. Moses convinced Yahweh to save the children of Israel. Anyway, Moses broke the tablets of the covenant. Yahweh rewrote the covenant on both sides of new tablets. Moses came down and wrote all the ordinances for the people. The Israelites all agreed to follow these laws. However, Aaron began to take on a lesser role as Joshua seemed to be more involved in things. Nevertheless, Aaron and his sons took on a major role in the cultic worship as chief priests.
There were a series of instructions on how to build the sanctuary which housed the Ark of the Covenant, containing the covenant treaty between Yahweh and Moses. The instructions were very precise about how big things were to be and what kind of covering and materials should be used. These priestly details concern the kind of clothing that Aaron and his sons should wear as they exercise their role as priests. Incidentally, Moses and his sons were not considered as priests, only Aaron and his sons and the other Levites.
After getting these instructions, there is another section which repeats the instructions of how to do things, while saying that things were done the right way. They took up a great collection where they got too much stuff. Special artisans were assigned to complete these tasks as Yahweh had spoken to Moses. The details are almost mind boggling with exact sizes and specific mention of acacia wood, gold, silver, bronze, yarns, and linens. Finally all was completed and the sanctuary established in the desert. Yahweh took possession of the sanctuary put together by Moses and the various artisans.
Clearly Moses was the central figure, the mediator and intercessor between Yahweh and his people. Aaron fell out of favor as a leader, but became more important as the worship leader or high priest. The completion of the sanctuary meant that Yahweh could be with the Israelites as a cloud by day and in the fire by night.