2.2. The Structure of the Book of Exodus

The book of Exodus can be divided thematically into three main parts.

  1. A) The Exodus from Egypt and the birth of the Jewish people;
  2. B) The making of God’s Covenant;
  3. C) The building of the Tabernacle (movable Temple) and hashra’at ha-shechinah, the resting of the Divine Presence upon the Jewish nation.

These three parts correspond to three aspects of holiness: the nation, the Covenant, and the Shechinah.

After Exodus, the next three books of the Pentateuch are further elaborations on these same three themes:

(3) Leviticus continues the theme of God’s Sacred Presence among the people of Israel. It deals with the functioning of the Temple and the commandments associated with holiness.

(4) The fourth book, Numbers, continues the theme of general Jewish history, recounting the wanderings of the Jews through the wilderness.

(5) Deuteronomy continues the theme of the Covenant between God and the Jewish people, and speaks of the realization of that covenant in the Land of Israel.

The detailed structure of the Book of Exodus (like that of the Book of Genesis) can be more clearly seen when its weekly portions are grouped in pairs:

  1. A) The Exodus from Egypt and the birth of the Jewish nation

(1) Shemot (1:1–6:1): Preparation for the Exodus, the internal aspect (Moses);

(2) Va’era (6:2–9:35): Preparation for the Exodus, the external aspect (Aaron);

(3) Bo (10:1–13:16): The Exodus, internal aspect (Moses);

(4) Beshalach (13:17–17:16): The Exodus, external aspect (Aaron)

  1. B) The making of the Covenant

(5) Yitro (18:1–20:26): General principles of the covenant (Moses);

(6) Mishpatim (21:1–24:18): Detailed coverage of the covenant (Aaron)

  1. C) The Tabernacle and hashra’at ha-Shechinah, the resting of God’s Sacred Presence on the people of Israel:

(7) Terumah (25: 1–27:19): The command to build the Tabernacle (the “Moses” aspect);

(8) Tetsaveh (27:20–30:10): The command to build the Tabernacle (the “Aaron” aspect);

(9) Ki Tissa (30:11–34:35): Crisis (unpaired portion);

(10) Vayakhel (35: 1–38:20): Building the Tabernacle (the “Moses” aspect);

(11) Pekudei (38:21–40:38): Building the Tabernacle (the “Aaron” aspect);


Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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