Torah Portion: Exodus 6:2-9:35
Haftarah: Ezekiel 28:25-29:21
New Testament: Rev. 3:10-13, Luke 21:19, 2 Cor. 7:9, 10
In today’s lesson, the God of the Hebrews, as He calls Himself six times in the Book of Exodus, makes Ten Declarations. The first and the last are identical.
- I am יהוה
- I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
- I will rid you of their bondage.
- I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments.
- I will take you to Me for a people.
- I will be your God.
- You shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
- I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
- I will give it to you for a heritage.
- I am יהוה
The declaration of His name absolutely dwarfs the promises. Yahweh will make His awesome power known to Moses’ generation.
They have heard the story of the Creation. They have been told of the Flood. They are not ignorant of the miraculous substitution on Mount Moriah. But, the children of Israel are about to be become personally acquainted with the unequivocal power of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
“(T)he children of Israel… heeded…not for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage” (6:9). The word “anguish”, according to Strong’s Concordance, means impatience due to grief, vexation, and discouragement. The frazzled and frustrated Hebrews could not comprehend God’s message through Moses. Their harsh bondage made it almost impossible for them to hear.
Jesus/Yeshua admonished His disciples that at the end of days a great tribulation would come upon the earth. He advised them that to be clear-headed in the midst of the panic that would ensue, they must patiently continue in what He had taught them.
“In your patience possess you your souls” Luke 21:19 (KJV).
The Interlinear Bible reads, “By your patience you will gain your souls.”
In other words, by the persistent, patient, continuance in obedience to the word of God, we will have the ability to overcome.
The church at Philadelphia in the Book of Revelation apparently stands alone in this key attribute:
“Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him My new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”(Rev. 3:10-13).
How did Jochebed have the presence of mind to craft a water-proof basket and place her dear son in it, while all around her the air was pierced by the screams of mothers whose infants had been snatched by the Egyptian soldiers?
Jochebed’s actions demonstrate more than great faith. The crafting of the little “ark” sealed with bitumen demonstrated intimate knowledge of the story of Noah. I imagine that the eyes of all of Heaven were riveted upon her. Yahweh assured her success.
“For the eyes of the LORD search to and fro throughout the whole earth seeking how to strongly support those whose hearts are fully His.” (2 Chron. 16:9 AMP)
Who are those whose hearts are fully His? It is those who keep His commandments! (See John 14:15, 1 John 2:3, 2:4, 2:7,3:22, 3:24, 5:2,5:3, 2 John 4, 2 John 6.)
In last week’s lesson, we noted that the Levites apparently escaped the bondage of slavery which came upon their brothers. Their knowledge of God’s word and God’s ways preserved them from the torture that others were forced to endure.
If we recall that the things that happened to our forefathers are foreshadows what what will happen to their offspring, we should take notice of the Levites relative freedom.
God takes great pleasure in things that are pure (holy); and He hates things that are mixed (impure). Somehow the Levites of Moses’ day were able to grasp this all-important concept. Their understanding and obedience kept them safe from the traps that ensnared their brethren. Peter likewise urges us:
“But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1;15-16)
The Torah made the point three times in last week’s portion that our Father chose the Levites to be His leaders in the Exodus. This week Moses’ family is introduced with a genealogy that begins with Reuben and ends with Levi. If we recall Leah’s words at the birth of her first three sons, we find that a comforting message to the enslaved house of Jacob is hidden in this curtailed genealogy.
At Reuben’s birth, Leah said: “The LORD has surely looked upon my affliction” (Gen. 29:32).
At Simeon’s birth, she reasoned, “Because the LORD has heard that I am hated, He has therefore given me this son also” (29:33).
At Levi’s birth Leah proclaimed, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me” (vs.34)
Yahweh is going to use the Levites to proclaim freedom to the Israelites! The eyes of the King of the Universe are upon them! He has seen their affliction, He sees that they are hated, and, amazingly, He desires to make Israel his bride!
Who said genealogies are boring?!!
Look at the meaning of the names of the Levites: Levi means “attached”; Amram means, “exalted people”; Jochebed means “Yahweh’s servant”; Aaron means “bringer of light”; Miriam means “bitter,” and Moses means “drawn out.”
The ten plagues were designed to contrast the power and authority of Yahweh to Egypt’s many deities and Pharaoh’s wise men, sorcerers, and necromancers (those who inquire of the dead).
When Aaron’s staff turned into a snake (Ex. 7:8-9), Pharaoh’s servants were able to do likewise. But, when Aaron’s snake devoured their own, they stood by, helpless.
When Yahweh turned the Nile into blood (7:20), Pharoah’s elite were powerless to cleanse it. Though they could call up frogs into the land, as Moses had done (8:7), it took the power of Yahweh to get rid of them. (The frogs represented the goddess Hetq, who supposedly assisted women in childbirth.)
Ultimately, it took the lice (8:16) for the sorcerers to begin to admit the power of Yahweh exceeded their own. “It is a finger of God!” (8:19) they exclaimed. Still, Pharaoh would not heed Moses and Aaron.
The first three plagues were designed to get the attention of anyone, Israelite and Egyptian alike, who wavered between obedience to Yahweh and compromise.
Beginning with the fourth plague, the children of Israel were wholly insulated.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself to Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. Or else, if you will not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants and your people, and into your houses. And the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they stand. But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. Thus I will put a division between my people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall happen.”And the LORD did so. There came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and into his servants’ houses… (8:20-24).
Now, both Israelite and Egyptian would clearly see that Yahweh lacks no power to protect His people in the midst of judgment. Seeing that some are spared from torment is a powerful incentive for others to seek the means to alleviate their own suffering.
While the King James Version would have us to understand the fourth plague as a swarm of flies, the Stone Tanach translates it as something far more menacing, wild beasts. It appears the Egyptians had to stay home to defend their houses. Therefore, the slave-drivers had to take the day off. In the midst of tribulation, God granted rest to Jacob’s offspring.
I imagine it was right about then that the scales started dropping off of the eyes of the “mixed multitude” (Ex. 12:38), who would very soon by-grace-through-faith-paint-the-blood-on-their-doorposts, along with Jacob’s offspring.
The fifth plague was an epidemic that killed the livestock (Ex. 9:4). The Stone Chumash reminds the reader that Egyptian herds were kept in Goshen, the very reason that Joseph had requested the previous Pharaoh to set aside Goshen for his family in the first place. Yet, no harm came to the animals belonging to the Israelites.
By this time, even Pharaoh had to sit up and take notice. He sent a messenger to investigate and was told that only livestock belonging to the Egyptians were slain (9:6). But, as repentance would not bring back dead animals, Pharaoh hardened his heart yet again.
During these first five plagues, God did not tamper with Pharaoh’s free will. If Pharaoh had repented sincerely at any point, he and his people would have been spared further suffering. Five is the Hebrew number for grace.
Pharaoh’s offer to let the people leave (8:8) was only because his human ability to withstand the effects of the plagues was about to come to an end. Yet, he demonstrated no remorse for the mistreatment of the the Israelites or for the suffering of his own people. Neither did he demonstrate any bowing of his heart toward Yahweh.
Beginning with the sixth plague, God strengthened Pharaoh’s heart in much the same way that a doctor strengthens a patient after surgery by administering medication to enable him to go through physical therapy and rehabilitation. God strengthened Pharaoh’s heart to endure the pain of the plagues because Pharaoh’s heart was hard toward Yahweh.
When the boils of the sixth plague (Ex. 9:9) incapacitated Pharaoh’s magicians and sorcerers, the scales fell off of the eyes of the mixed multitude. A clear pattern has emerged. The first two plagues were preceded by warnings. Third plague, no warning. Plagues four and five were preceded by warnings. Plague six, no warning. When the warning of the hail (plague #7, Ex. 9:18) came, the mixed multitude sprung into action. Quickly, they brought their livestock inside, then locked themselves and their servants inside their homes.
“He who feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his livestock flee to the houses. But he who did not regard the word of the LORD left his servants and his livestock in the field.” (9:20, 21).
The Egyptians had likely purchased livestock from the children of Israel to replace what they had previously lost. “So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, so very heavy that there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. And the hail struck throughout the whole land of Egypt, all that was in the field, both man and beast, and the hail struck every herb of the field and broke every tree of the field” (Ex. 9:24,25).
Surveying the landscape of Egypt when morning arrived, Pharaoh must have felt like the mayor of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. As far as his eye could see, the fields of flax and barley are utterly destroyed. It is an economic disaster of national proportions. Not a tree or bush is left standing; yet still the thunder booms and rock-size hail crashes down.
Pharaoh asks for mercy:
“This time Pharaoh proclaims, ‘I have sinned this time. The LORD is righteous and my people and I are wicked’” (9:27).
Yet, even as Moses prays for the thundering and hail to cease, he is quite aware there is no bowing of Pharaoh’s heart. True repentance is an acknowledgment of Yahweh’s right to rule, turning away from one’s own ways, and turning to God’s ways.
“But Pharaoh’s heart was hard; neither would he let the children of Israel go, as the LORD had spoken by Moses.” (9:35).
“(T)he sorrow of the world produces death” but “godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:9, 10).
We who have come to understand the abominations that we committed in ignorance, the keeping of pagan holidays and eating unclean animals, and have repented, know certainly that we are the most blessed people who have ever lived on the planet. Our merciful Abba has remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and is opening the eyes of the gentiles, just as He did with the “mixed multitude”!
Never forget that a second exodus is coming!
“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers. Behold, I am sending for many fishers, declares the LORD, and they shall catch them. And afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks.” (Jer. 16:14-16)
The hunters are coming! May we take hold of His instructions for life and blessing and patiently live in such an exemplary manner that on the great day when we are introduced to our precious patriarchs their faces will glow with pride! Remember, “it is NOT too hard for you!” (Deut. 30:11) “It is NOT a vain thing for you!” (Deut. 32:47) “It is your wisdom and understanding!” (Deut. 4:6-7)
Until next week, shalom!