The parashah tells of the Israelites’ affliction in Egypt, the hiding and rescuing of the infant Moses, Moses in Midian, the calling of Moses, circumcision on the way, meeting the elders, and Moses before Pharaoh.
Teaching For Shabbat of January 9, 2020
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Shemot (שְׁמוֹת) — Hebrew for “names,” the second word, and first distinctive word, of the parashah) is the thirteenth weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parashah) in the annual cycle of Torah reading and the first in the Book of Exodus. The parashah covers Exodus 1:1–6:1
Torah Parashah Shemot Summary
The Book of Sh’mot (Exodus) begins by chronicling the names of those who comprised the creation of the nation of Israel from Ya’acov down listing his descendants. The word ‘Sh’mot’ means “names” and the first couple of chapters give the backdrop for the development of Yah’s plan which is being fulfilled by them becoming a nation.
The “sojourn in Egypt” begins with the call of Abraham and God’s promise to him (Genesis 12:1-3) and ends with the Exodus. That is, the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) sojourned in Canaan for 215 years and their descendants lived in Egyptian bondage for an additional 215 years. The total, then, would result in the 430-year number listed in Exodus 12:40-41 and Galatians 3:17.
Their new home in Egypt becomes an exile and a bondage from which they will need to be redeemed, but the experience caused a refining and a purification of them and their enslavement wrought compassion in them and an appreciation of humanitarian treatment to others. Yah’s plan was in place from the beginning to bring them redemption from the slavery and bondage and cause them to come out as a great nation. Egypt is the place provided for their development into nationhood while during that period the iniquity of the Amorites is coming to a fullness that will warrant divine judgement and displacement by Israel. Genesis 15:13,16
When Yaakov’s family settled in Egypt, they were but a small nation of seventy souls (1:5). However, after the death of that generation, the nation grew into a nation of about three million strong.
“And the Children of Israel were fruitful, and they teemed, and increased, and they became very, very strong; and the land became filled with them” (verse 7), thus fulfilling Yah’s promise to Yaakov: “Fear not of descending to Egypt, because I will make you into a great nation there.” (Bereishit 46:3).
The Planned Redemption After the death of Joseph (at age 110) and the rest of his brothers (the last to die was Levi, at age 137 [Exodus 6:16]), there arose a new pharaoh over Egypt who did not acknowledge Joseph’s contributions to the former regime. We are not told the exact number of years that had transpired, but we know that Joseph is no longer remembered and that a few generations have passed as the sons of Israel have multiplied and become a formidable presence in the land of Goshen.
Pharaoh regards this rapidly emerging nation-within-a-nation as a threat: “And he said to his people, “Behold the Children of Israel are more numerous and stronger than we. Come, let us act wisely towards it [the nation], lest it become numerous, and it may be that if a war will occur, it, too, may join our enemies and wage war against us and go up from the land” (1:9-10).
Israel went from being guests of the monarchy of Egypt to being taxed ( 11), then to being forced to work ( v11) and finally their enslavement and hard bondage(13). They were dealt with in the final instance as a cursed people-group that needed to be exterminated. They gave them work to do with the intent of breaking their bodies and their spirits, but instead of being broken, they became stronger under the oppression. Threatened by their growing numbers and fearful that they would join his enemies in overthrowing him, this new Pharaoh instituted a policy of oppressive forced labor for the Israelites. Supervised by cruel taskmasters, the descendants of Jacob were conscripted to build the storage cities of Pithom and Rameses. They were cities built on the sand which would need continual maintenance – a constant burden and an unrewarding frustrating work that had no finishing point.
Despite the imposed hardships by the Egyptian government, the Israelite population continued to steadily increase, which led Pharaoh to command the Hebrew midwives to kill all male infants at birth. The midwifes disobeyed Pharaoh, however, which then led Pharaoh to decree that every newborn Israelite male was to be drowned in the Nile river.
The Formidable Nation Because the Children of Israel have already demonstrated that they do not intermingle with the Egyptians, in the event of Egypt being attacked by another people, they cannot be counted upon to defend their host nation. The Children of Israel might serve as a demoralizing force within Egypt; worse still, they might join Egypt’s enemies. Therefore, Pharaoh must emphasize that they are not equals, but a barely-tolerated alien nation. Above all, the rampant growth of the Children of Israel must be stopped.
“And they appointed tax collectors over [the nation] in order to afflict it (ANNOTO) with their burdens; and [the nation] built storage cities for Pharaoh, Pitom and Raamses” (verse 11).
The primary goal of Pharaoh’s plan is to impede the Hebrews’ population explosion. However, Yah promised that Yaakov’s children would become a great nation in Egypt, and so: “But as much as they would afflict (Y’ANNU) it, so would it increase and so would it burst forth; and they were disgusted because of the Children of Israel (verse 12).
Thus, the Egyptians intensify the workload: “And the Egyptians enslaved the Children of Israel with crushing labor. And they embittered their lives with hard work, with mortar and with bricks, and with every labor of the field; all their labors that they performed with them was crushing labor” (verses 13-14). But this, too, is of no avail, so Pharaoh employs more drastic measures: “And the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives the name of one was Shifrah and the name of the second was Puah and he said, “When you assist the Hebrew women and you see on the birthstool; if it is a son then you shall kill him, and if it is a daughter, she shall live” (verses 15-16).
Pharaoh commands the secret killing of the baby boys, so as to remove potential soldiers from the midst of the Hebrews and to decimate the population as a whole.
Once again, Yah acts to fulfill His word, this time through His human messengers: “But the midwives feared God and they did not do as the king of Egypt said to them, and they kept the boys alive. And the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, that you have kept the boys alive?” And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are unlike the Egyptian women, for they are skillful: before the midwife comes to them they have given birth” (verses 17-19).
Pharaoh does not punish them for their disobedience as it is impossible for two women alone to assist at all the births, Pharaoh reasoned, so their claim, that the Hebrew women do not need midwives, is plausible. Yah rewards His representatives, who take great satisfaction as He does in the continued growth of the nation: And it was, because the midwives feared God that He made houses (BATIM) for them (verses 20-21).
And Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son that will be born, into the river shall you throw him, and every daughter shall you keep alive” (v. 22). But, despite Pharaoh’s schemes, the nation grows, and their liberator Moshe is born. Pharaoh chose to fight the Hebrews on the “battlefield” of their fruitfulness.
The result of the persecution in Mitzrayim was that the people cried out to Yah and “He looked upon them and acknowledged them” (2:25). In stating that He knew their situation, the word used is from a root which indicates a depth of knowledge akin to marriage relationship – hence an intimacy based on His covenant with them which He was about to keep.This cry was the cause for great manifestations of power during the exodus. Supernatural acts of power are a result of our sacrifice to Yah.
In the Apostolic era we see that there were positive results from the pressure that the congregation in Jerusalem was under. It caused them to pray fervently. Instead of praying to be delivered from the oppression, they prayed for power to resist and to increase in the midst of it. Our response to persecution is not to run and hide, but rather to increase and to spread the Torah and the message of the Messiah Yeshua in the power of the Spirit even more. Acts 4:24-31; 8:1b, 4
We should not fear persecution, because it is a tool that helps us to increase. When there is no opposition we can easily become lax in our commitment and dedication to Yah. Conflicts and persecution keep us constantly alert and cause us to be dependent on our heavenly Father. Don’t defend yourself when you are slandered, but increase!
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Messiah Yeshua will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12 HNV)
“For our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we don’t look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” ( 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 HNV)
The suffering that we go through in this world for the sake of the Messiah, will produce for us an incredibly rich glory in the world to come. The only way to be able to endure the pain and suffering is to look up and consider the results they will have. There will be a great reward for those who suffer on account of the kingdom of heaven, as Yeshua said in Luke 6:22-23: “Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven, for their fathers did the same thing to the prophets.”(HNV)
The Birth of Moses The parashah then turns to the story of the birth of Moshe, the great deliverer of the people of Israel. Amram, the grandson of Levi, married his aunt Jochebed (the daughter of Levi), and together they had a daughter (Miriam) and a son (Aaron). However, at the time of Pharaoh’s decree, Jochebed gave birth to Moshe and attempted to hide him for a few months. After realizing that she could no longer keep his birth a secret, she placed her son in a basket among the reeds of the Nile before anyone could kill him. Her seven year old daughter Miriam stood by and watched to see what would happen to her brother.
This perceived threat precipitated an edict that in many ways prefigures a similar action that ushers forth from Herod, centuries later prior to the birth of Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel (Matthew 2:16). The further step of initiating genocide upon all the male children was enacted again in the time of Yeshua’s birth by Herod to once again circumvent the plan of God to bring about His redeemer of His people. With Moshe it was the literal redemption as a nation and with Yeshua it was their spiritual redemption..
Moshe In the Royal Household Exodus 2 Providentially, Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe in the Nile and discovered the ark among the reeds. Moved by pity, the princess decided to adopt the baby even though he was a despised Israelite. Pharaoh’s daughter recognises that he was a Hebrew – circumcision would have made that obvious, but she has compassion on him and makes provision for his life according to the will of Yah, even with his own mother raising him at the princess’ command. Miriam (who witnessed all this) then approached the princess and offered to find a nursemaid for the child – and cleverly arranged for Moshe’ own mother (Jochebed) to do the job!
When the child grew up, Jochebed brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moshe, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water” (a play on the word Moshe, which means “to draw out, to save”).
Josephus records that Moshe was trained and educated with great care and led the Egyptian army in their battles with the Ethiopians. His place of education was at Heliopolis, as Hertz says – “the Oxford of Egypt” were boys of the highest rank were educated. The training consisted of practical subjects as well as in Egypt’s theological system.
In Acts 7:17-36 we are given a narrative about Moshe, many details about his life are included to enhance our understanding about the man Moshe and some of the obstacles he had to overcome in order to be the one chosen to be the deliverer. Stephen gives us a fuller picture of how he is not only brought up in the house of Pharaoh, but he is just as knowledgeable about the things of the world as his peers.
But Moshe did not forget his roots and after he had matured, Moshe went to be among his kinsmen and observed their suffering and his heart was toward them (2:11) His identification with them is such that he steps in to take the part of an Israeli being ill-treated with disastrous results, in that because of his uncontrolled passion, he killed the Egyptian taskmaster and then hid him in the sand.
Moshe seemed to know his calling as a deliverer of his people, but he attempted to do it in the flesh, before the time. As a powerfully placed Israelite in the house of Pharaoh, he thought his brothers would recognize him as a savior when he slew their taskmaster.
The following day, Moshe attempted to mediate a quarrel between two Israelites, during which one of them asked him, “Who made you a prince and judge over us?” – or “Who made you Messiah over us?”, and then asked Moshe if he intended to kill them as he had killed the Egyptian overseer the day before. Moshe then was afraid his crime was known, and sure enough, Pharaoh heard the news and sought to have Moshe killed and he had to flee. Moshe was in the line of succession to the Egyptian throne, but Yah had other means to accomplish His purposes.
Moshe in the Desert Moshe is 40 when he flees from Egypt to Midian, to the land of his distant cousins. There he came to a city well where he magnanimously defended the seven daughters of Jethro (also known as Reuel) from unfriendly shepherds. After learning of his kindness and bravery, Jethro rewarded Moshe by employing him as a shepherd and giving his daughter Zipporah to him as a wife (Moshe and Zipporah had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer). Forty years pass in all in the wilderness on the “back side of the desert” while Moshe keeps sheep.
While Moshe dwelt in Midian, the Pharaoh who wanted to kill him finally died, though his successor intensified the Israelites’ oppression. The Israelites cried out to Yah for help, and God heard their groaning, and remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. “God saw the people of Israel – and God knew” (Exodus 2:25).
It would seem that their groanings reached Yah and He heard them in their affliction and remembered His covenant with them and set about to inaugurate His plan of redemption through Moshe.
Moshe’s Preparation The first part of Moshe’s preparation was to know the enemy. By growing up in the palace, he learnt the ways, customs and knowledge of the Egyptians. He needed to know the ways of Pharaoh’s court and what to expect in opposition and how to handle it. It is always necessary to know how the enemy functions to be able to defeat him. So he was placed in Pharaoh’s court itself, and by identifying with his own people, he experienced the assault upon his own life. As well as knowing the enemy, he also needed to know His own people. Being raised by his own mother and learning from her, the ways of his own people were inculcated into him. Later, when going out to see their misery and affliction he was able to identify with them in that and be motivated to do something about it.
He “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time”. Heb.11:25
The third area of knowledge Moshe needed was to know himself. His uncontrolled emotions in his sense of the injustice suffered by his people was an area of his flesh that he needed to overcome. Also he needed to become a ‘nobody’ to become sufficiently humbled for God to use him so mightily. Exposed and ashamed in his act of violence, he is driven to the ‘backside of the desert’ and became a keeper of sheep, a humble shepherd. There patience with the sheep is worked into his character to prepare him for leading Yah’s sheep through that very same wilderness.
Finally He has an encounter with Yah Himself and sees himself in the light of His holiness. Whereas he previously wished to deliver his people in his own strength, now he almost refuses to take the challenge and fulfill the calling. It is said of him “the man Moshe was very meek” (Numbers 12:3) We see that he has so sufficiently been humbled to feel completely insufficient for the task and therefore ready to come into personal encounter with He who IS AND EVER WILL BE there for His people. He made sure that Moshe would see that He is sufficient for all things and that in knowing his personal insufficiencies, he would rely on the power of God and not on any vestige of his own abilities.
When Moshe goes to the people, the fact that the four hundred years from the declaration of this prophecy was coming to be certainly added credence to what Moses and Aaron were declaring and the children of Israel responded accordingly. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were trusting in the God of their fathers and that He was going to perfect His Word in its appointed time and deliver them.
The Call of Moshe Throughout the Bible, Israel is compared to a flock. She is the flock of Yah and Her leaders are her shepherds, appointed by her ultimate Shepherd, Yah Himself. Yeshua describes Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11) Learning the skills of a shepherd seems to be one of the best instructional tools that the Father employs with selected vessels for His use. Israel’s greatest leaders were shepherds. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were men with flocks who had all likewise been molded by their experiences as shepherds.
After forty years of shepherding, Moshe is ready for a formal introduction to the Holy One of Israel in a dramatic manner where the humbled murderer/turned shepherd could handle the light of revelation as the Almighty reveals Himself in the midst of a burning bush: Exodus 3:2-6
When Yah finally calls Moshe at the burning bush to commission him, it is a very different man from the one who relied on his own wisdom and ability to fulfill the call which he knew was upon his life before he left Egypt. The Holy One of Israel has a broken vessel for use in His work with His people Israel. We see that he has been so sufficiently humbled to feel completely insufficient for the task and therefore ready to come into a personal encounter with He who IS AND EVER WILL BE there for His people. He made sure that Moshe would see that He is sufficient for all things and that in knowing his personal insufficiencies, he would rely on the power of God and not on any vestige of his own abilities. “not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5 HNV revised)
He is no longer “mighty in word and deed”, but meek and unassuming and lacking in confidence of any ability of his own to speak or do what was required of him. His self nature had been stripped and broken over forty long years. Now Yah could trust Him with the assignment of delivering His people and to be a true shepherd of His flock.
The voice of God does not stop with simply declaring that He is the God of Moshe’ forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He goes on to declare that He has heard the cries of His people Israel and that He has decided to use Moshe as His instrument to convey His words to Pharaoh and ultimately the children of Israel. Moshe enquired the knowledge of His Name, for His Name would reveal the covenant-keeping qualities of the One he would be serving. And in the name Yah was the unlimited sufficiency to meet every need he would have in the fulfillment of his commission.
Some time later, Moshe and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh to deliver the message from Yah: “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”
To this the Pharaoh replied, “Who is Yah, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go?. Not only did Pharaoh reject their request, but he imposed even harsher decrees against the Israelites — commanding that they now deliver the same amount of bricks but without any straw supplied to them. The overseers then flogged the Hebrew foremen because they were unable to meet the impossible quotas. When the foremen appealed to Pharaoh for mercy, they were accused of being idle, since they listened to Moshe and Aaron, and were told to keep the quota of bricks despite the lack of straw. The foremen blamed Moshe and Aaron for worsening their situation, and Moshe complained to Yah.
The parashah ends with God assuring Moshe, “You shall soon see what I will do to Pharaoh: he shall let them go because of a greater might; indeed, because of a greater might he shall drive them from his land.”
Haftarah (Prophets) Summary
Isaiah 27:6–28:13; 29:22–23
This week’s haftorah parallels the week’s Torah reading on many levels. One of the parallels is the message of redemption conveyed by Isaiah—“and you shall be gathered one by one, O children of Israel”—that is reminiscent of the message of redemption that God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, a message that Moses then communicated to Pharaoh.
The haftorah vacillates between Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the future redemption, and his admonitions concerning the Jews’ drunken and Godless behavior. Isaiah starts on a positive note: “In the coming days, Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom, filling the face of the earth . . .” He mentions God’s mercy for His nation, and the measure-for-measure punishment He meted out upon the Egyptians who persecuted them. And regarding the future redemption: “You shall be gathered one by one, O children of Israel. And it will come to pass on that day that a great shofarwill be sounded, and those lost in the land of Assyria and those exiled in the land of Egypt will come, and they will prostrate themselves before the L‑rd on the holy mount in Jerusalem.”
The prophet then proceeds to berate the drunkenness of the Ten Tribes, warning them of the punishment that awaits them. “With the feet they shall be trampled, the crown of the pride of the drunkards of Ephraim . . .”
The haftorah ends on a positive note: “Now Jacob will no longer be ashamed, and now his face will not pale. For when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst, who shall sanctify My name . . . and the G‑d of Israel they will revere.”
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Torah Parashah teaching with video and audio and illustrations by Rabbi Isaac. © 2020 Assembly of Called-Out Believers. Use by Permission.