At midnight, YHWH struck down all the firstborn of Egypt. No Egyptian household escaped the plague. From the poorest of servants up to the house of Pharaoh, all of Egypt mourned. Pharaoh summoned Moses and told him to take his people and go.
Moses said to the people, “Remember this day as the day YHWH brought you out. No one should eat any leaven bread.”
And YHWH told Moses, “It is by my strong hand that you have been delivered from Egypt. I have taken every first-born son of the Egyptians for your sake, both of humans and animals, so all the first-born males of your flocks and herds will belong to me, and every first-born son of the people, they should redeem with a perfect lamb. When I deliver you to the land I will give you, for seven days you will eat unleavened bread, and the seventh day will be marked with an elaborate feast. When your children ask you why, you will tell them that on this day YHWH with a mighty hand brought us out of Egypt.”
Now, as the people of Israel streamed away from the walls and monuments of Egypt, they numbered six hundred thousand men plus woman and children, nearly two million people. They were leaving Egypt and on their way to inhabit the land promised to their father Abraham. These people who days ago were slaves were about to become a great nation.
But YHWH was not yet finished with the Pharaoh of Egypt. Rather than send the people of Israel directly east toward the land of Canaan, he instructed Moses to take them south, an indirect route that would lead them through a series of caverns and eventually to a large beach beside the Red Sea. When they arrived there at the seaside, the people camped as Moses waited for instructions. YHWH came to Moses and said, “I have hardened Pharaoh’s heart again and he has changed his mind about you. He received reports that you are camped here by the sea, hemmed in by the caverns and rocky terrain of this wilderness. He assumes you are confused and lost and he intends to lead his army through the caverns and trap you against the sea. He sees you as easy prey. He has forgotten I AM with you! He will pursue you with fierce and determined anger. But it is I who has entrapped him. I will gain the last victory over him and all peoples throughout the region will know that YHWH is God.”
Just as YHWH had said, when Pharaoh heard reports that the people of Israel had camped up against the Red Sea, he readied 600 of his chosen chariots and pursued Moses.
When the people of Israel realized they were trapped between the approaching army of Egypt and the sea, their hearts sank. Filled with fear, they turned against Moses. “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have brought us out here to die in the wilderness?”
Moses said, “You are responding in faithless fear. Don’t be afraid – YHWH is with us and he intends to rescue you today – he will fight for you! In fact, after this day, you will never see these Egyptians again.”
YHWH said to Moses, “Tell the people to walk into the sea and stretch out your staff over the sea.” As the people moved into the sea, the waters immediately opened as if YHWH had pulled back a great zipper and the water built up on two sides leaving a cavern like passage straight through the sea. Behind them, YHWH stirred up a great wind that stirred the dust and left the Egyptians in confusion.
When all of Israel was safely on the far shore, the great wind dispersed and Pharaoh and his army rushed into the sea cavern in hot pursuit of the former slaves. Once they were all in the midst of the sea, following hard after the Israelites on dry ground, YHWH told Moses to stretch out his staff again. When he did YHWH released the waters and the sea collapsed back over Pharaoh and his army. All were drown before the stunned eyes of the people of Israel. A great, spontaneous party broke out. The people sang songs! They danced! They celebrated with great joy! And all the nations in the region heard of YHWH and what he had done at the sea and they became fearful of the people of Israel. Moses penned a song of worship and he and the people danced and sang.
About three months after leaving Egypt, the Israelites arrived at the base of Mount Sinai. Here YHWH shared with Moses what he wanted to say to the people. ‘YOU SAW HOW I RESCUED YOU FROM EGYPT. NOW IF YOU OBEY ME AND KEEP MY COVENANT, YOU WILL BE MY TREASURED PEOPLE – A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS – SET APART TO REPRESENT ME.’”
When Moses shared this with the people they responded with great confidence, “We will do everything that YHWH asks us to do.” So YHWH told Moses to gather the Israelites at the bottom of the mountain so he could speak to them. As the people gathered, Yahweh warned them not to climb the mountain or even touch the edge of it. If they did he said they would die. A dark cloud covered the mountain and Yahweh spoke these ten commands:
I am Yahweh, the EVERPRESENT ONE who brought you out of Egypt. Don’t worship other gods. Make me first in everything. Don’t worship created things. Don’t make images of anything I have created and worship them. Don’t bow down to images or serve them in anyway. Don’t call me your God and than disregard me. This is a misuse of my name, and don’t speak my name lightly. Keep the seventh day set aside. It’s a rest day. Work for six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day will be set aside for me. You shouldn’t do any work. And no one in your house should work either. It was in six days that I
made the heavens, the earth and the sea and everything else and I rested on the seventh day. When you do this, remember it is I that gives you all you need. It is I that makes you righteous. Obey and honor your parents and it will go well with you in the land where I’m sending you. You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not lie. You must not long to have anything that others have. You must not long after your neighbor’s wife, your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s livestock or other possessions. Don’t crave after anything your neighbors have, but be content with what I give you.
As Yahweh spoke, the people were experiencing the thunder and lightning, the darkness covering the mountain and bursts of sound that were like trumpet blasts. They couldn’t take it all in and they became increasingly fearful. They begged Moses saying, “We’ll do whatever you tell us Moses, only let us hear it from you and not from YHWH or else we may die.” Moses told them, “Don’t be afraid, YHWH is showing you his awesome power. From now on let respect keep you from sinning!”
Nonetheless, the people retreated to what they considered a safe distance and watched. Moses climbed up the mountain into the dark clouds with some of the leaders to where YHWH was. Up on the mountain YHWH gave Moses many other community rules, practices and celebrations that the people were to live by. Moses came back down from meeting with YHWH and explained everything to the people. Again they said, “We will certainly do everything YHWH tells us to do!”
So Moses wrote everything down just as YHWH had instructed him. When he had finished writing, he built an altar and commanded young men to prepare to sacrifice a bull. After he had gathered the congregation together, the young men slaughtered the bull and Moses threw half the blood of the bull in the fire. This signified YHWH’s part of the covenant. The rest of the blood he put in bowls. He sat the people down and read YHWH’s instructions to them again word for word. When he had finished, the people said without hesitation, “We will do all YHWH has told us to do!”
So Moses took the bowls of blood and, going along through the people, he sprinkled them with the blood as he moved through the crowd. As he did he reminded them, “This is the blood of the covenant that YHWH has made with you based on all these things I have read and you have agreed to.” When Moses had completed the ceremony, he went back into the presence of YHWH. This time he stayed for forty days. And YHWH wrote out the details of all this agreement between himself and the people with his own finger on tablets of stone.
While Moses was away on the mountain, the people became anxious and begged the brother of Moses, Aaron, to make them a god they could see. “We don’t know what has happened to Moses. Why don’t you make us a god that we can see and touch and we will have it lead us!” So Aaron did and when they saw it, they said, “Here is the god that saved us from Egypt!”
The next day the people had a wild party and worshipped the gold calf. When YHWH saw how the Israelites were acting he said to Moses, “I see your people are already acting out in rebellion against this covenant. I will destroy all of them with fire and create a new nation from their children.” But Moses begged YHWH not to kill them and YHWH relented. So Moses returned to camp taking with him the stone YHWH had carved with his finger. When he saw all that was going on with his own eyes, he was beside himself with anger. He lifted the stone tablets over his head and smashed them on the ground!
Then Moses went directly to the idol. He pulverized it into dust, threw it into the water supply and then forced the people to drink. He called everyone to cease from worshipping anything but YHWH. But many families continued in their rebellion. So Moses enlisted as many men as would join him and that day they struck down all those men who refused to return to worship YHWH, some 3000.
This Story is a paraphrase. Details & references found in Exodus 1-12; Act 7:18-35; Hebrews 11:23-28