Welcome to Shemot (Names), this week’s Torah / bible study Portion. Exodus 1:1–6:1; Isaiah 27:6–28:13, 29:22–23; Jeremiah 1:1–2:3; Romans 12:1–21 “These are the names [ve’elehshemot] of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family.” (Exodus 1:1).
In last week’s Torah portion (Parasha), the first of the five books of Moses, Genesis (Bereisheet, In the Beginning), ended with the deaths of Jacob and Joseph. This week, we begin the second book of the Torah (God’s instructions), Exodus, called “Shemot” in Hebrew, which means names. This section describes the suffering of the Israelites under bondage to the Egyptians, the birth of Moses, and his miraculous salvation from out of the Nile River. It also describes his calling to deliver Israel and his encounter with Pharaoh.
So far we have seen the ways of Yahweh God were firmly established and kept by His obedient followers (individuals and family) before the forming of a nation or group of people, Israel. Appointed times (Gen 1:14), burnt and other offering criteria (Gen 22:7) etc. We also saw anti god worship and practices, some similar to Yahweh’s as adultery being forbidden (20:9). We should now see this family had multiplied into a nation over 430 years. Yahweh’s ways were passed onto the newly formed nation through Moses. Neither had much knowledge of Yahweh’s ways having been under Egyptian rule and lifestyle for 430 years. Even His name and way, that of their fathers, they had forgotten. They had become "Egyptian" in nature, knowledge and lifestyle and needed to be reborn into a new nation and lifestyle.
Like Moses, Like Yahshua. “Exo1:5 And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already”. We should not think it was only 70 people who went into Egypt.
It could have been at least over two hundred when women, servants, captives and others are taken into account. The 70 descendants of Jacob (whom God renamed Israel) out of “his loins” (46:26). Remember after the rape of Dinah in Gen 34:29, they took all the little ones and the women who then would have become part of Jacob’s household. In 35:2 we read of him referring to more than those of his loins. In Egypt they soon multiplied into such a great and mighty people that the new pharaoh, who did not know Joseph, felt threatened by them. He feared that the Israelites might join Egypt’s enemies in battles against them. This is because they had recently been invaded and ruled by the Hyksos and had now regained power. When Jacob first went down to Egypt, he went only to sojourn there until the famine had passed. It was supposed to be temporary. But the temporary stay turned into what looked like permanent residence. They settled, and they prospered. They might have remained in Egypt, happy and well fed. Life in Egypt was good. Perhaps it was too good. Happy, well-fed, and prosperous, the children of Israel could have easily forgotten about their great spiritual heritage. Content with the comforts and luxuries of Egypt, they might have abandoned their aspirations of inheriting Canaan. Who would want Canaan when he already had Egypt? The children of Israel found their situation in Egypt suddenly reversed when the Egyptian government forced the Hebrews into servitude.
“The Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.” (Exodus 1:7). In Jacob’s mind he originally went to Egypt to escape a famine. They prospered, remained until their circumstances changed for the worse. We too can be lured into a materialistic life style. A person becomes accustomed to privileges and luxuries and begins to think of those things as necessities. Things that, at one time, they could not afford and therefore did not worry about, become indispensable needs as they prosper. Their own wealth and success become "golden handcuffs" from which they cannot escape. While we are in the service of materialism, our spiritual health inevitably suffers. Yahshua warned us, saying, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth" (Matthew 6:24). Assimilation into a materialistic society poses a greater danger to the people of God than persecution. When we are persecuted, we band closely together and firm up our convictions. We remember that we are not part of the greater culture. When we are received into the culture however, we lose those distinctions, and we begin to lose our identity. We fall sway under the powerful spell of social allure. It happened with the children of Israel in Egypt. They forgot and neglected their identification of circumcision. Hence God practices a principle of separation of His people and others.
To counter the growing strength of the Israelites, the Egyptians forced them into bitter labour, building store cities for Pharaoh and working the fields. When they continued to multiply, he ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all newborn males; but at least two, Shifrah and Puah, did not. God, therefore, supernaturally protected their lives, even blessing them with families and multiplying the Israelites even more (Exodus 1:16–21). Pharaoh turned to the Egyptians, commanding them to throw all male newborn Hebrews into the Nile River (Exodus 1:22). The Levite parents of Moses had such great faith that instead of complying with the Pharaoh's order, they hid their infant son for the first few months of his life; but babies grow and, eventually, he could no longer be hidden, so they put him in a basket and set him afloat on the Nile among the reeds. Even in this desperate circumstance, the protective hand of God was on this boy of destiny. Pharaoh’s daughter spotted the basket. When she saw the Hebrew baby inside, she had pity on him and took him as her own. It is said she thought it was a gift from the Egyptian river god. Because Pharaoh’s daughter drew the baby from the Nile, she called him Moshe (מֹשֶׁה) from the word moshech, meaning pull or draw. Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s palace as a prince of Egypt.
This dramatic account of the infant Moses parallels the life of the infant Yahshua (called Jesus), who was also sentenced to death by the order of King Herod, who decreed that all Jewish male infants in Bethlehem be killed. “Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.” (Matthew 2:16).
Just as Moses was saved by his mother, so was Yahshua saved by the obedience and faith of his earthly father, Joseph, who was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt.
“Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.’ So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.” (Matthew 2:13–14).
What irony that the very place of danger and death for the Hebrew babies in the days of Moses became a place of refuge for Yahshua when He was but a baby! Egyptian Prince Moses Becomes a Shepherd. Because Pharaoh’s daughter drew the baby from the Nile, she called him Moshe (מֹשֶׁה) from the word moshech, meaning pull or draw out. Moses grew up in the royal Egyptian palace; but it seems that the burdens of his fellow Israelites troubled him. One day, he saw an Egyptian slave master beating a Hebrew. Even as a young man, Moses felt the calling to deliver his people. At least his mother, had raised him to remember his identity and loyalty to his brethren. In the process of defending this Israelite slave, Moses killed the Egyptian and fled to Midian to escape Pharaoh’s death decree over him. (Exodus 2:15). The Midianites were descendants of Abraham by another wife, Keturah whom Abraham married after Sarah died (Gen 25:1). So Moses and Midianites are relatives.
Again in Midian, Moses expressed his calling as a deliverer by saving the daughters of the Priest of Midian who had come to the well where he sat. They wanted to draw water for their flock, but shepherds tried to drive them away. Moses intervened and watered their flocks for them. The Priest of Midian welcomed Moses to live with him and even gave Moses his daughter, Zipporah, as a wife. Moses spent the next 40 years shepherding sheep in the land of Midian, a period of time that God used to prepare him to shepherd His people Israel out of Egypt. Only when the children of Israel cried out to God, did the time come for God to make His move: “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” (Exodus 2:24).
When Moses encountered YHWH God at the burning bush, Yahweh did not introduce Himself by saying, “I am God most high, creator of heaven and earth.” Moses lived in a world that revered many gods, several of which might have claimed that title. Raised in all the wisdom of Egypt, Moses was familiar with the gods of the Egyptian pantheon. After forty years in the household of a Midianite priest, he had become familiar with the gods of Midian. “God” was a pretty broad term then just as it is now. God identified himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. That narrowed the field down significantly. By identifying Himself as the God of the patriarchs, the LORD distinguished Himself from the pantheons of clamouring fakes and would-be-gods of the world.
Moses had been nursed by his mother and had lived among his people. He was well-versed in the lore of his fathers, the stories of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From boyhood he knew the stories of the God who appeared to Abraham and made a covenant with him, but the stories only became a reality in his life as the voice from the bush declared, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
The Angel of Yahweh appeared to Moses from out of the flame of a bush that burned but was not consumed. From the midst of this burning bush at the foot of Mount Sinai, God told Moses he had heard the cries of His People and was sending Moses to go back to Pharaoh in His name and His power on His behalf.
By this point, this prince of Egypt had been so humbled by his lengthy wilderness experience that he seemed to lack confidence when it came to his role as a leader of a nation. First, Moses asked what he was to say to the Hebrews when they presumably would ask who sent him. This was because in Egypt he had got used to many gods. God replied tell them, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh אֶהְיֶהאֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה (Ex 3:14). Widely translated as I am that I am. The Hebrew grammatical form is actually in the future tense. Therefore, is more accurately translated as I will be what I will be. However, this WAS NOT Yahweh’s name, only a reply. He later says Exo 3:15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Yahweh God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. Whenever we see the word “Lord” it is a replacement for the name of God, YHWH. The replacement occurs almost 7,000 times. That is how many times God told us His name, so obviously wants us to use it; yet not in vain.
The message to Moses is perhaps that God can look after the details of the future. He will be to us whoever and whatever He chooses to be, father, friend, comforter, counsellor, or even disciplinarian. We can trust in God’s infinite wisdom to be who we need in our lives at each moment in time. These attributes as “Yehovah-jired” (Gen 22:14) meaning Jehovah (Yahweh) will provide, IS NOT A NAME; but an attribute of Him!! Even with this assurance, Moses still feels unqualified for the task, especially since he claims to be slow in speech. He begs God to send someone else; therefore, He allowed Aaron, Moses’ brother, to accompany him and act as his spokesperson. When they reached Pharaoh, the message to be delivered to him would be: “Thus says Yahweh, ‘Israel is My firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve Me.” (Exodus 4:22–23). We see Yahweh refer to this group as “my people”. Not Jews and never Christians. Exo3:10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou may bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. They were brought out to serve him (v12). Likewise, when you are called out of the world it is not to do your own or a denominations understanding of the bible; but His. Exo5:1 And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my peopleH5971 (Armi) go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. Armi is group of people with common heritage. It included birthright Israelites and strangers who grafted themselves in; i.e. mixed multitude of Ex 12:38.
Like Israel, Like Us: There is much we can take from this story of Moses’ progression as a leader. He was not ready for leadership overnight. Likewise, we may understand that we have a calling on our lives, and this might become evident time and time again. Still, we must wait for that time when Yahweh chooses to release us into the fullness of our destiny. We must follow His instructions to the letter. If he says speaks to the rock we speak not hit and visa versa. We do it when he says as delayed obedience is disobedience!! As well, we might also feel incapable of accomplishing anything for Yahweh, having lost much of our self-confidence through the trials and tribulations of life; whatever our experience, it still remains true that God’s presence and help is all we need to fulfil the destiny He has assigned to us; be holy and teach others to be holy.
We can also learn from the suffering of the Israelites. Despite the tyranny by the Egyptians, the People of Israel still grew mighty in number. Oppressive circumstances cannot prevent God from carrying out His purposes and fulfilling His promises. We might suffer under some sort of bondage or pain for what seems like a very long time, but we can rest assured that God hears our cries. He remembers the covenant we have with Him through our Messiah Yahshua, which provides a way out of our spiritual bondage and into our inheritance, if only we accept it. Though God is true to His promises, we still need to keep crying out to Him for deliverance and waiting in faith and hopeful expectation to move on our behalf in our spiritual and our earthly afflictions. God is not deaf, nor aloof to our suffering. His arm is not too short to save: “The righteous cry out, and Yahweh hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17).
Let My People Go: Though Moses entered Egypt and delivered God’s message to Pharaoh, nothing changed immediately. Pharaoh refused to let the Hebrews go. Moses might have felt like he failed God; but God has a greater plan for even our failures and they end in glorifying His name. Through plagues and judgments (called makotin Hebrew which can also mean beatings), God proved His position as the One True God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that the gods of the Egyptians were nothing. Through these judgments, we also see that whatever a nation or even an individual does to Israel, for good or for evil, God will return it unto them: “For the day of Yahweh upon all the nations is near; as you have done, it shall be done to you; your reprisal shall return upon your own head.” (Obadiah 1:15; see also Genesis 12:3).
Moses and Yahshua:
Act 3:22; 7:37 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.
After fleeing Egypt, Moses spent forty years shepherding sheep. The Scriptures frequently compare Israel to a flock. She is the flock of the LORD. Her leaders are her shepherds, appointed by her ultimate Shepherd, the LORD Himself: “You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Psalm 77:20). “Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock” (Psalm 80:1).
Israel’s greatest leaders herded sheep. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob followed the flocks. David shepherded over his father’s flocks. A Jewish oral teaching says, Moses proved himself worthy to shepherd Israel by faithfully taking care of his father-in-law’s flocks:
Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, was tending the flock of Jethro in the wilderness when a little kid escaped from him. He ran after it until it reached a shady place … and the kid stopped to drink. When Moses approached it, he said, “I did not know you ran away because of thirst, you must be weary.” So he placed the kid on his shoulder and walked away. Thereupon God said: “Because you have mercy in leading the flock of a mortal, you will surely tend my flock, Israel.” (Shemot Rabbah 2:2).
The Scriptures also refer to the Messiah as a shepherd over the flock of Israel: “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd” (Ezekiel 37:24). Yahshua saw Himself, like Moses, as the Good Shepherd over the flock of Israel. He undertook a mission seeking the lost sheep of Israel: the sinners and backslidden among the Jewish people of His day. The parables of John 10 further illustrate the messianic role of the shepherd over Israel. The disciple Peter said, “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).
ORDINARY BECOMES EXTRAORDINARY.
When Moses got up that morning and counted the sheep, he did not say to himself, “I think I’ll take the sheep out on the west side of the wilderness over by the Mountain of God.” Mount Horeb was simply Mount Horeb, an indistinct rock in the wilderness like so many other hills and mountains, completely ordinary looking. There was nothing special about it. Mount Horeb became Mount Sinai, the mountain of God, simply because God chose it, not because it was taller, mightier or holier than any of the surrounding hills and mountains.
In a similar way, Moses became Moses, the Man of God because God called him, encountered him and commissioned him, not because he was more pious, mightier, smarter or more eloquent than other men. God is in the ordinary, and encounters with God happen in ordinary places. But when God is encountered, the ordinary is immediately transformed into the extraordinary. The very ordinary Mount Horeb was transformed into the extraordinary, Mount Sinai because of God’s presence was there. The very ordinary Moses, a simple Hebrew exile from Egypt, a shepherd in the wilderness, was transformed into Moses the Man of God, the greatest prophet of all time because he encountered God. God transformed the ordinary man into something extraordinary. Most of us do not regard ourselves as extraordinary people. You probably think of yourself as a fairly ordinary person with a fairly mundane life. From God’s perspective, that is perfect. You are the perfect person with whom He can do extraordinary things. He is not looking for prophets; He is looking for normal people who are carrying on under normal circumstances.
When Moses saw the burning bush, he turned aside to investigate. Only then did the Holy One reveal Himself to Moses. Our problem is that we do not take the time to turn aside and investigate. We all intend to grow spiritually. We all imagine that one day, we will take time to study, take time to grow in Torah, to do a mitzvah, to pray regularly. You can’t take good intentions to the grave. A famous rabbi once said, “Do not say to yourself, ‘When I have more time, I will study Torah. Perhaps you will not have more time'" (m.Avot 2:4) Do not say, when I have more time, I will turn aside, you might not have more time.
Moses was not read for leadership overnight, especially being in the ways of Egypt (the world for so long). As well, we might also feel incapable of accomplishing anything for Yahweh, having lost much of our self-confidence through the trials and tribulations of life. Whatever our experience, it still remains true that submitting to God’s presence and following His direction is all we need to fulfil the destiny He has assigned to us. You too can be transformed from ordinary to extraordinary by choosing and following Yahweh God. Not necessarily to be one claiming they have this or that gift as many falsely claim or boast; but a humble servant proclaiming His ways and directing souls to Him. Not to mention gaining your special place in the promised land.
We might suffer under some sort of bondage or pain for what seems like a very long time, but we can rest assured that God hears our cries. He remembers the covenant we have with Him through our Messiah Yahshua, which provides a way out of our spiritual bondage and into our inheritance if only we accept it. Though God is true to His promises, we still need to keep crying out to Him for deliverance and waiting in faith and hopeful expectation to move on our behalf in our spiritual and our earthly afflictions. Like with Abel in Genesis 4, God heard His cry and avenged Him. God is not deaf, nor aloof to our suffering. His arm is not too short to save: “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17).
Section “Shemot” does not end with a mighty deliverance; but rather with the situation becoming even worse, if that were even possible. Pharaoh made the Israelites’ labour even more difficult by demanding that they find their own straw, while maintaining the same quota of bricks (Exodus 5:18). The people turned on Moses and Aaron in their bitterness. Moses responded by turning to Yahweh. With raw honesty, Moses asked why He had not delivered His people as He promised. “Yahweh, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all.” (Exodus 5:22–23).
We might also feel this way when it seems we are doing what God has asked us to do and things get worse, not better. How did God respond to Moses? “Then Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh. For with a strong hand he will let them go, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.’” (Exodus 6:1).
Sometimes, when God is preparing to do something great and mighty in our lives, the situation can worsen for a time. In our lives, pharaoh represents those who oppress us and even Satan, the spiritual enemy of our souls, who resists our freedom with all his might. In such circumstances, we should not give up our faith, for in due time we will see God’s mighty hand and outstretched arm deliver us in His perfect way and time. With many people, if deliverance came quickly and easily they would think it was by their might. Only when all options have failed they know it must have been God’s hand that saved. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12).
In these last days as anti-Semitism is once again on the rise and Israel is beset with those who desire to destroy her, please pray for the salvation of the Jewish People who try to keep the commandments of God. That like many believers they would add to that the faith of the Yahshua the Messiah and those Christians who have the faith would add the commandments of God. Doing one without neglecting the other. "Israel will be saved by Yahweh with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting." (Isaiah 45:17).
Isaiah 27:6-28:13. A few things for your observation.
Isa 26:11 LORD, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them. Isa 26:12 LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us. Isa 26:13 O LORD our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name.
Isa 27:6 He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.Some of the Jews will take root, blossom and bud and fill the world with fruit; those obedient to the Word of God. i.e. be a light to the gentiles.
Isa 27:9 By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up. Who god loves He chastens. In Israel’s case, it was putting them in bondage to Babylon and Assyria for a period of time in order to purge their sin of going after false gods. The time will come when they will put away those false gods. In the New Testament we do not read of Israel going after false gods any longer; only false traditions of the leaders.
See also verses 11-13 and Isaiah 37:31; 2:11; Matt 24:31; Rev 11:15.
Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Rom 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Rom 12:9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Rom 12:13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
To be holy means not to defile it with unclean food nor sinful actions. Sin being transgression of God’s law (1Jhn 3:4). Do not become of the world, chasing nor valuing what it says is of value. Seek first the kingdom of God and He will give you what is truly valuable. It starts with your mind and then your actions.
Rom 12:9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.