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The Core Curriculum


1000 BCE – 500 BCE
Dates are approximate

Moses with the Ten Commandments by Rembrandt, 1659 (Wikimedia Commons)Moses with the Ten Commandments by Rembrandt, 1659 (Wikimedia Commons) Exodus has three main parts: “liberation” (Jews freed from Egypt), “covenant” (God gives them the Ten Commandments), and “tabernacle” (God provides blueprints for a temple in His honor). The story takes place over 129 years from the time of Joseph’s death (2320 on the Jewish calendar) until the first tabernacle is built (2449). The events recounted in this book are celebrated in the yearly holiday known as Passover, whose corresponding prayer book the Haggadah recounts the liberation from slavery. 

In Genesis, the first book of the Tanach, the main characters must always leave to go to the land that God tells them. No one is encouraged or allowed to stay put. Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, etc--all leave their homes. The same is true for this second book of the Tanach, called, appropriately enough, Exodus. It is very much a book of leaving: Moses flees from Egypt after committing murder, Moses gives up his comfortable existence as a shepherd when a burning bush tells him he must, and the Jewish people leave their enslavement in Egypt. While uncomfortable, this movement often results in laws, guidance, and God’s protection. Exodus is best known for the most famous case of this movement-to-law: the Jews escape from Egyptian slavery and receive from God, while wandering in the desert, some of western civilization's most important rules and regulations, the Ten Commandments.


Written by David Backer, Program in Philosophy and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University


Sources Consulted:

Encyclopedia Judaica