EXODUS: A STORY OF LIBERATION AND AS AN INSPIRATION TO OPPRESSED NATIONS: SYRIA, IRAQ, PARKISTAN, KOREA, AFGANISTAN, SUDAN, NIGERIA AND IN THE WORLD - jerkand

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EXODUS: A STORY OF LIBERATION AND AS AN INSPIRATION TO OPPRESSED NATIONS: SYRIA, IRAQ, PARKISTAN, KOREA, AFGANISTAN, SUDAN, NIGERIA AND IN THE WORLD


INTRODUCTION
This paper presents a discussion on the book of exodus which tells the story of liberation of the Israelites and as an inspiration to oppressed people. It is very necessary to start with the meaning of exodus, the theological importance of exodus for the story of liberation, and the covenant of Sinai that consecrate the Israelites as a people of God. In all these Moses emerged as a prominent figure and a leader. The Exodus traces the rise of a people; it also traces the movement of the deity named Yahweh. The movement of the book reaches its mid-point with the defeat of pharaoh and his soldiers at sea of reeds and the consequent exaltation of Yahweh as victor over pharaoh and all other gods. So, exodus is the record of the intervention of God in human history and the covenant at Sinai leads us to two focal point: a single God and a single people bound together for better and for worse.

THE MEANING OF EXODUS
EXODUS: the word exodus comes from the Greek term exodus, which means “going out” or “departure”. Here begins the story of liberation or departure of God’s chosen people from the slavery of Egypt. The book Exodus begins with people in an alien land oppressed by a cruel pharaoh. God defeats pharaoh by a series of ten plagues and brings the people to his holy mountain (Ex 1-18). The book begins with theophany at Mount Sinai. Moses is confirmed as their leader and the covenant is established by giving the Ten commandments by Yahweh (19-24)
Exodus tells the epic story of the liberation of the people of Israel from virtual slavery in Egypt in the 13th century B.C., under the leadership of Moses. The language and the episodes are dramatic, apt to stir the heart and the devotion of later generations. This book is calculated to confirm the believer in his/her sense of identity, as a privileged member of God's Chosen People. It describes in graphic, visual terms the people's special relationship with God, in the covenant made at Sinai. This narrative of liberation and covenant transmits a strong, redemptive flavour to all the rest of the Old Testament.

THE OPPRESSED ISRAELITES
The book Exodus begins with people of Israel in an alien land oppressed by a cruel pharaoh. The oppression of Israelites is found in the book of exodus chapter 1:8ff., now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, "Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land." Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them. It was this oppression set upon the Israelites that made them called on God for liberation.

  THE LIBERATION OF THE ISRAELITES
The people Moses led from Egypt were a tattered group of refugees. It is the groans and the cries of the oppressed Israelite slaves that forced God to recall the covenant with the patriarchs. God’s commissioning of Moses and the divine intervention, especially the plagues, clearly establishes the priority of Divine presence. The oppression of the Israelites brought about their liberation.
Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh for the freeing of Israelites … But Pharaoh said, "Who is the Lord that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go."  Then they said, "The God of the Hebrews has revealed himself to us; let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to the Lord our God, or he will fall upon us with pestilence or sword." (EX 5: 1-3)
The consequence of the intervention of Moses and Aaron on behalf of the Hebrews was painful for the Hebrew slaves. Pharaoh ordered the taskmasters and foremen not to supply straw for making bricks and required them to force the Hebrews to collect straw for themselves and yet make the same number of bricks as before. When the people failed to complete the heavy task within the require time, the task masters beat up the Hebrew foremen. However, the hard heartedness of the king pharaoh many plagues came upon him.

The Israelites were brought out from under the pharaoh’s power by Yahweh’s miraculous intervention travelled towards Sinai instead of going directly to Canaan via the shortest route. Yahweh was at their head leading them to Sinai. The people Moses led from Egypt were tattered group of refugees. They argued with Moses, complained about their hardships, and at times even wanted to return to Egypt. The Israelites were suffered of their sins during the journey.  Recalling the speech of Moses in (Exodus 5:22) Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, "O Lord, why have you mistreated this people? Why did you ever send me?

THE COVENANT OF SINAI
The Lord was to form the Israelites into the people of God. The covenant of God with the people is expressed in what God had done and the response of the Israelites to the commandments of God. At Mount Sinai, God made a covenant with Hebrews that is centered on the Ten Commandments. The proper response of Israelites would be an act of gratitude and faith. The covenant was sustained by Yahweh’s continual saving power from generation to generation in the life of the Israelites. “It is God’s free offer of a special relationship and the people will respond in faith by agreeing to take on the obligations to worship and obey only this God, Yahweh. It forms a fundamental event that creates Israel as a people who are essentially united more by faith than by blood ties”. The essence of Yahweh’s covenant demands on Israel is found in the ten commandments. They are the basic statements of the Mosaic Law. Here are found the ethical claims that Yahweh as a God of holiness makes on the chosen people. The covenant relationship was grounded in ethical obedience to Yahweh. The first four commandments clarify specific obligations of the covenant towards Yahweh: you shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy honor your father and your mother. The last six deal with responsibility towards other persons:  Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor, You shall not covet your neighbour's house; you shall not covet your neighbour's wife.

BLESSINGS FOR KEEPING THE COVENANT
The covenant that God made with the Hebrews is centered on the ten commandments. By keeping the commandments preserve the Israelites in the presence of God. The commandment was to keep them free from a worse bondage- slavery of sin.
According to exodus chapter (23: 20-25), I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Be attentive to him and listen to his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him. But if you listen attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes. When my angel goes in front of you, and brings you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, you shall not bow down to their gods, or worship them, or follow their practices, but you shall utterly demolish them and break their pillars in pieces. You shall worship the Lord your God, and I will bless your bread and your water; and I will take sickness away from among you. The blessing of keeping the covenant by the Israelites was composed in those verses of exodus.

IMPORTANCE OF EXODUS AS AN INSPIRATION TO OPPRESSED PEOPLE
The book exodus is not only to preserve the memorial of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, but to present to view the Church of God in her afflictions and triumphs; to point out the providential care of God over the oppressed ones. The primary importance of Exodus is that it was the time that Yahweh established the covenant- the BERITH- at Sinai. It clearly shows the accomplishment of the divine promises and prophecies delivered to Abraham: that his posterity would be numerous, (Gen 15:5). The deliverance from Egypt was the fulfillment of the promises made to the Abraham.
The narrative of their deliverance is interwoven with the giving of the commandments and laws by which they should live, and the cultic ritual in which their God must be worshipped. Exodus also describes in some detail the annual Passover ritual whereby this deliverance and its associated covenant obligations will be indelibly imprinted in the people's memory. In the New Testament the exodus is understood the saving work of Jesus Christ, whose passion and resurrection opened up a new Exodus-route into the eternal presence of God. The exodus in many particular ways prefigures the state of Christ's Church in the wilderness of this world, until her arrival in the heavenly Canaan.

CONCLUSION
Exodus is God's saving intervention in history by which he liberated the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt, made a covenant with them, and brought them into the Promised Land. The Book of Exodus, the second of the Old Testament, narrates this saving history. The exodus is commemorated by the Jewish people at Passover, which for Christians is a foreshadowing of the "Passover" of Jesus Christ from death to life and is celebrated in the memorial of the Eucharist. Covenant means a solemn agreement between human beings or between God and a human being involving mutual commitments or guarantees. The Bible refers to God's covenants with Abraham, and Moses as leader of the chosen people, Israel. God revealed his law through Moses and prepared his people for salvation through the prophets. In the New Covenant, Christ established a new and eternal covenant through his own sacrificial death and Resurrection. Divine presence is a theological theme of Exodus.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Revised edition, Paulines Publications,  Africa, 1994.
Chris Angelo Otuibe, The World of the New Testament: The Pentateuch (A Handbook for Biblical Theological), Dominican Publication, Lagos, 2005.

Oscar Lukefahr, C.M. The Privilege of Being a Catholic, Liguori Publications, USA, 1993.
Sebastian Kizhakkeyil, The Pentateuch: An Exegetical Commentary, St Paul Training School, Bandra Mumbai, 2009.

Oscar Lukefahr, C.M. A Catholic Guide to the Bible (Revised and Expanded), Liguori Publications, USA, 1992.

The New Community Bible, (Catholic Edition), St Paul Publications, Ibadan.
By
‘Bisi-Oluwole
Date: January, 2016.

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