V’eira

V’eira

I appeared

Exodus 6:2-9:35
Ezekiel 28:25-29:21

“Appearance Promises Executed”


by Mark Huey

This week’s parashah begins with a reminder that the Creator God appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that He made—among many declarations—certain promises regarding their descendants’ eventual deliverance from bondage in Egypt. Hence, the narrative of the Book of Exodus now summarizes the first seven plagues, which resulted from a hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, after he would not adhere to Moses’ plea to release the Israelites. While these plagues and judgments are well known by those who annually commemorate the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread, there are some profound spiritual principles revealed to those now indwelt by the presence of the Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 14:16-17). Recognizing and acknowledging this understanding, is essential to maturing in one’s walk with the Messiah of Israel. After all, by faith, every child of God needs to believe that the Almighty Creator God not only appeared to the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in ancient days—but that He alone is committed to fulfill His promises, as recorded from Genesis to Revelation. Hopefully with this fuller appreciation in mind, the testimonial witness of what occurred millennia ago—coupled with an additional judgment on Egypt prophesied in the Ezekiel 28:25-29:21 Haftarah reading—Believers’ faith should soar, knowing that the Father will ultimately execute and accomplish all that He has declared.

As is God’s widescale pattern for the history of the world, He utilizes various nations, key figures, or normal individuals to rebuke, chastise, or ultimately judge His own. After all, the vocational calling upon Israel to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6), has had serious repercussions down through the ages—especially when there has been a deviation into following the ways of the world, the flesh, and the Devil (1 John 2:5-18; Ephesians 2:3; 6:11-12; 1 Peter 2:11). Throughout Holy Scripture, Egypt will be remembered as the one power which subjugated the emerging nation of Israel, to the humble state of human bondage—and which was humiliated via the judgments and plagues of the Lord. So as our Torah reading commences, we see how God spoke to Moses and affirmed His promises, noting that He has heard the groans of His people, guaranteeing that He will set His people free:

“God spoke further to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them. I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, “I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the LORD.”’ So Moses spoke thus to the sons of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage” (Exodus 6:2-9).

Notice that despite this profound declaration by Moses, the Israelites were still not convinced, because of their despondency resulting from cruel bondage. Even though the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were well known and now reiterated by Moses’ statements—the reality of constant physical oppression was impeding belief in the words spoken. This is a reminder today—to even those indwelt with the Spirit of God—that even when belief in the Word of God is strong, the trials of life can be overwhelming, and bring doubt and despair into the mind. At such times, the plea for a “sign” to confirm that God is present in the trial or tribulation, can usher forth from the heart of still the most ardent Believer.

With further encouragement from the Lord, the text records some biographical information (Exodus 6:10-30) about the Israelites. Following this, we encounter that the task to speak to Pharaoh, and make demands for Pharaoh to release Israel from its slave status, is too much for the inarticulate Moses (Exodus 6:30). The Lord replied with a description of the roles that Moses and Aaron would have before Pharaoh, whose heart will harden intermittently throughout the judgments about to begin:

“They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about bringing out the sons of Israel from Egypt; it was the same Moses and Aaron. Now it came about on the day when the LORD spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, that the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘I am the LORD; speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I speak to you.’ But Moses said before the LORD, ‘Behold, I am unskilled in speech; how then will Pharaoh listen to me?’ Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.’ So Moses and Aaron did it; as the LORD commanded them, thus they did. Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they spoke to Pharaoh” (Exodus 6:26-7:7).

Here is another reminder that the Holy One does not necessarily require those possessing mellifluous speaking ability, to communicate what is on His heart. Spiritually speaking, God has foreordained each individual to take on roles and responsibilities in His Kingdom’s work. The key to fulfilling these vocations is to be exactly what He has called a person to be, and not strive to focus attention on one’s mortal self to the people of the world, but to perform the assignments with His leading. Let God be God, and simply be thankful that He has, at the very least, called many into His chosen family for His purposes (Romans 8:28).

Our Torah reading continues, with some final instructions from the Lord on what Aaron was to do with his staff, when Pharaoh would ask for a sign. It is notable that what might appear to be a “miracle” by some, was indeed a counterfeit conjured up by the Egyptian sorcerers and magicians’ arts. In this instance, the magicians were able to turn their staffs into serpents, and with their secret arts were also able to turn water into blood:

“Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, “Work a miracle,” then you shall say to Aaron, “Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.”’ So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the LORD had commanded; and Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts. For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he is going out to the water, and station yourself to meet him on the bank of the Nile; and you shall take in your hand the staff that was turned into a serpent. You shall say to him, “The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness. But behold, you have not listened until now.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood. The fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will become foul, and the Egyptians will find difficulty in drinking water from the Nile.’”’ Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their reservoirs of water, that they may become blood; and there will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.”’ So Moses and Aaron did even as the LORD had commanded. And he lifted up the staff and struck the water that was in the Nile, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, and all the water that was in the Nile was turned to blood. The fish that were in the Nile died, and the Nile became foul, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. And the blood was through all the land of Egypt. But the magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts; and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said. Then Pharaoh turned and went into his house with no concern even for this. So all the Egyptians dug around the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink of the water of the Nile. Seven days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile” (Exodus 7:8-25).

For the children of God living today, a profound spiritual principle is revealed that needs to be taken seriously—because of the widely commonplace, carnal inclination, for people to demand a “sign” for verification of God’s hand upon a matter (cf. John 2:18; 6:30). There is one significant warning given by Yeshua the Messiah about what has and will be occurring, as the End of the Age approaches:

For false Messiahs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).

An even more explicit admonition is offered by the Apostle Paul, as he had to offer some words of clarity to the Thessalonicans, who were confused about the return of the Messiah:

“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).

This sobering assessment definitely applies today, to those who are seeking truth and knowledge of the Holy One—because in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 is a certain warning that a great apostasy or falling away from the faith, is just a matter of time! All Messiah followers should be forewarned, and not let things that appear to be “miracles” or supernatural “signs” lead them astray to follow after the ones who appear to be orchestrating the signs. After all, a part of the Lord’s plan to test people with false prophets, is found in Deuteronomy ch. 13:

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).

The people of God have been warned, as they will be tested, and they are to purge the evil from their midst. If we take the warning of Deuteronomy 13:1-5 seriously, perhaps much of the confusion, strife, division, and even despair that tends to disrupt today’s Messianic community, could be minimized. But lamentably, not enough people take this command seriously, and continue to seek signs, want their ears tickled (2 Timothy 4:3-4), or simply will not discontinue listening to false teachers and false prophets. This needs to change!

Returning to our Torah portion, we see that the Egyptian magicians were able to imitate the plague of frogs—and as is noted, despite the wretched stench—Pharaoh hardened his heart to the demands of Moses and Aaron:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite your whole territory with frogs. The Nile will swarm with frogs, which will come up and go into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed, and into the houses of your servants and on your people, and into your ovens and into your kneading bowls. So the frogs will come up on you and your people and all your servants.’”’ Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the streams and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.”’ So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. The magicians did the same with their secret arts, making frogs come up on the land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Entreat the LORD that He remove the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.’ Moses said to Pharaoh, ‘The honor is yours to tell me: when shall I entreat for you and your servants and your people, that the frogs be destroyed from you and your houses, that they may be left only in the Nile?’ Then he said, ‘Tomorrow.’ So he said, ‘May it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God. The frogs will depart from you and your houses and your servants and your people; they will be left only in the Nile.’ Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried to the LORD concerning the frogs which He had inflicted upon Pharaoh. The LORD did according to the word of Moses, and the frogs died out of the houses, the courts, and the fields. So they piled them in heaps, and the land became foul. But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the LORD had said” (Exodus 8:1-15).

Finally, however, the fourth plague consisting of a creative act, befuddled the Egyptian magicians. They proclaimed, in frustration, that even with their secret arts, they were unable to duplicate the plague of insects:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, that it may become gnats through all the land of Egypt.”’ They did so; and Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff, and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats through all the land of Egypt. The magicians tried with their secret arts to bring forth gnats, but they could not; so there were gnats on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’ But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said. Now the LORD said to Moses, ‘Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he comes out to the water, and say to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For if you do not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of insects on you and on your servants and on your people and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians will be full of swarms of insects, and also the ground on which they dwell. But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of insects will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD, am in the midst of the land. I will put a division between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign will occur.’”’ Then the LORD did so. And there came great swarms of insects into the house of Pharaoh and the houses of his servants and the land was laid waste because of the swarms of insects in all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.’ But Moses said, ‘It is not right to do so, for we will sacrifice to the LORD our God what is an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice what is an abomination to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not then stone us? We must go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as He commands us.’ Pharaoh said, ‘I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away. Make supplication for me.’ Then Moses said, ‘Behold, I am going out from you, and I shall make supplication to the LORD that the swarms of insects may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people tomorrow; only do not let Pharaoh deal deceitfully again in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.’ So Moses went out from Pharaoh and made supplication to the LORD. The LORD did as Moses asked, and removed the swarms of insects from Pharaoh, from his servants and from his people; not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and he did not let the people go” (Exodus 8:16-32).

The plague of insects notably did not afflict the Israelites residing in Goshen. The great division between how the Lord separated His judgments between those who were directly opposed to Him, versus those who were His own, was witnessed. While this can be comforting to many who know that judgment is inevitable, it should prompt each of us to the place where we know—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that we are His children and His alone. Without the faithful realization and belief that the Lord can and will protect His people during times of trial and tribulation, a spirit of fear will predominate and have people return to various carnal patterns of relying upon their own machinations for survival—or worse, resort to following the advice of false teachers, false prophets, and other misguided souls.

V’eira concludes with Exodus 9 describing the plagues of pestilence killing the livestock, a pestilence that induced boils and sores on the Egyptians, and finally a raining of hail that utterly ruined the crops of the Egyptians. But through it all, note that God continued to prevent the judgments to directly affect the Israelites:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and speak to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For if you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them, behold, the hand of the LORD will come with a very severe pestilence on your livestock which are in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the herds, and on the flocks. But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing will die of all that belongs to the sons of Israel.’”’ The LORD set a definite time, saying, ‘Tomorrow the LORD will do this thing in the land.’ So the LORD did this thing on the next day, and all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the sons of Israel, not one died. Pharaoh sent, and behold, there was not even one of the livestock of Israel dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go. Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Take for yourselves handfuls of soot from a kiln, and let Moses throw it toward the sky in the sight of Pharaoh. It will become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and will become boils breaking out with sores on man and beast through all the land of Egypt.’ So they took soot from a kiln, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses threw it toward the sky, and it became boils breaking out with sores on man and beast. The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians as well as on all the Egyptians. And the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth. Still you exalt yourself against My people by not letting them go. Behold, about this time tomorrow, I will send a very heavy hail, such as has not been seen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. Now therefore send, bring your livestock and whatever you have in the field to safety. Every man and beast that is found in the field and is not brought home, when the hail comes down on them, will die.’”’ The one among the servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD made his servants and his livestock flee into the houses; but he who paid no regard to the word of the LORD left his servants and his livestock in the field. Now the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that hail may fall on all the land of Egypt, on man and on beast and on every plant of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.’ Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt. So there was hail, and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very severe, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. The hail struck all that was in the field through all the land of Egypt, both man and beast; the hail also struck every plant of the field and shattered every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the sons of Israel were, there was no hail. Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘I have sinned this time; the LORD is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones. Make supplication to the LORD, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail; and I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.’ Moses said to him, ‘As soon as I go out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease and there will be hail no longer, that you may know that the earth is the LORD’s. But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the LORD God.’ (Now the flax and the barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. But the wheat and the spelt were not ruined, for they ripen late.) So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread out his hands to the LORD; and the thunder and the hail ceased, and rain no longer poured on the earth. But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not let the sons of Israel go, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses” (Exodus 9:1-35).

As this parashah concludes with the description of each of these plagues which harmed the Egyptians, but averted direct harm to Israel—there is the reminder that whenever the immediate damage was mitigated, the tendency for Pharaoh to harden his heart returned in full force. This is a reminder that those opposed to the Holy One of Israel will continually refuse to acquiesce and admit that there is a Creator God, who is ultimately in control of the affairs of humanity. Such is the hardness of heart by people, toward even the most vivid demonstrations of God’s involvement in the creative order. History will repeat itself. At some future time, when the Great Tribulation begins, there will be an horrific war raging against the saints, as more fully described in Revelation ch. 13:

“And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’ There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints. Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six” (Revelation 13:1-18).

There is a solution for God’s people to overcome the inevitable “beast system”—whose arrival has been prophesied, and whose emergence is only a matter of time. The solution can be found in the emerging Messianic community of faith, among people who are ardently attempting to become and will persevere as the end-time saints, who will have a testimony of Yeshua and obey His commandments:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Messiah have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.’ And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Yeshua” (Revelation 12:10-17; cf. 14:12).

While many are concerned about the future war against God’s people enacted by the antimessiah/antichrist—war against the saints is present and raging even now. The beginning stages of the grand apostasy against the Holy Scriptures, the gospel of salvation, and even the Creator Himself have already begun! We each need to make sure to employ the full armor of God, as Paul originally detailed to the Believers in Asia Minor:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH [Isaiah 11:5], and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS [Isaiah 59:17], and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE [Isaiah 52:7]; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION [Isaiah 59:17], and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:10-17).

Whether we look back to the example of the Ancient Israelites who were delivered from the oppression of slavery by the Lord’s hand using judgments upon their Egyptian overlords—or we look forward to the Great Tribulation and how to overcome the actions of the antimessiah and the beast system—it is personally most beneficial to remain in the here and now, and utilize the knowledge received from studying the Scriptures, to attain victory over the daily, evil influences. After all, each day has enough trouble of its own, and the command from Yeshua is very precise without equivocation:

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:33-34).

Inevitably, according to the Holy Scriptures, the Second Coming will take place, and Yeshua the Messiah will be present among us to fulfill all of the promises which have been spoken and written about down through the ages. We do not know if those living today, or their children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren, will be the end-time saints who must content with another set of plagues and judgments that are to befall the wicked. Only time will tell. So in the meanwhile, brothers and sisters, be about the Father’s business!

 

Shemot

Shemot

Names

Exodus 1:1-6:1
Isaiah 27:6-28:13; 29:22-23 (A);
Jeremiah 1:2-3 (S)

“God’s Promises Require Faithful Deliverers”


by Mark Huey

We begin our Torah reading this week, by turning to the second book of the Pentateuch. The English title Exodus is derived from the Septuagint label of Exodos, which thematically communicates the overall message of Ancient Israel’s deliverance from, and transference out of, Egypt. The traditional Hebrew title, taken from Exodus 1:1, is Shemot, as this text begins with a listing of the Twelve Tribes of Israel that constituted the fledgling nation. However, beyond simply naming the descendant tribes of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the theme of the entire Book of Exodus is a sure record of how God fulfilled His promise to Abram to deliver his progeny from a foreign land by judging the oppressive nation of Egypt, after a long period of exile from the Promised Land:

“Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete’” (Genesis 15:12-16).

Abraham’s God was bound by His promises to restore His people to the territory He promised them. But, as is generally the case in His intervention in the affairs of humanity, He typically uses chosen individuals to accomplish His will. In our Torah reading for Shemot, the life of Moses and his initial interactions with the Almighty are described, as he was uniquely chosen to be the Lord’s instrument for leading Ancient Israel from the clutches of slavery to the Egyptian Pharaoh. Despite the magnitude of Moses’ unique accomplishments, on the Lord’s behalf, in His ongoing plan of salvation history—something that is seemingly beyond duplication—the Torah student should always recognize that God is constantly, throughout history, surveying humanity for those people who can be used for His Divine purposes. As the Psalmist informs us,

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance. The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; from His dwelling place He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works. The king is not saved by a mighty army; a warrior is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a false hope for victory; nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness, to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O LORD, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You” (Psalm 33:12-22).

With this in mind, God’s pattern of choosing faithful men and women, to fulfill His promises, should inspire each of us as His children to faithfully and fearfully seek Him—knowing that in whatever capacity, large or small, He who fashions the heart has prepared good works (Ephesians 2:10) for each of us, which can serve as integral aspects of His plan for the ages. How humbling is it to know that the Creator God can use anyone He chooses? As recorded this week in Shemot, the testimony of Moses reveals a mere man who recognized that it was not him (Numbers 12:3), but rather the Holy One through him, achieving a great deliverance for His people.

As the parashah opens, naming the twelve tribal leaders, some significant time has passed since the death of Joseph—and because his influential works had been forgotten, coupled with the emergence of a blessed and fruitful Israel—the new Egyptian regime felt threatened by some of their own subjects. This led the reigning Pharaoh to impose harsher labor requirements on the Israelites, in order to keep them at bay, completing many of his construction projects:

Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; they came each one with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt. Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them. Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.’ So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel. The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them” (Exodus 1:1-14).

Since the elders of Israel knew of the promises made by the Lord to Abraham regarding the period of oppression, which would come to a timely conclusion—rumors about the birth of a “deliverer” must have surfaced, to compel Pharaoh to put to death all of the newborn male children:

“Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; and he said, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.’ But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.’ So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, ‘Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive’” (Exodus 1:15-22).

This wicked decree by the king of Egypt obviously foreshadowed what would occur centuries later, when Herod the Great ordered a similar execution of infant males prior to the birth of Yeshua the Messiah (Matthew 2:16).

Here in Shemot, it is noted that the Hebrew midwives feared God, and hence by faith, disobeyed the edict and saved the lives of many children, including a son of Levi in Moses. Significant details about the birth, rescue, adoption, naming, and eventual altercation that led to Moses’ escape to avoid death, are recorded as our Torah portion continues:

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him. The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews’ children.’ Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for you?’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Go ahead.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child away and nurse him for me and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed him. The child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. And she named him Moses, and said, ‘Because I drew him out of the water.’ Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, ‘Why are you striking your companion?’ But he said, ‘Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid and said, ‘Surely the matter has become known.’ When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well” (Exodus 2:1-15).

This unusual upbringing for Moses, likely created some conflicts in his heart, regardless of how much or how little Moses realized that he was a Hebrew, up until he slew the Egyptian. According to the author of Hebrews, by faith in the Holy One of Israel, it was in Moses’ heart to choose ill-treatment with the people of God, rather than partake in the passing pleasures of sin, as he reached a point where he refused to continue to be recognized as an Egyptian:

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Messiah greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen” (Hebrews 11:24-27).

With this amplification of what was transpiring in the heart of Moses, one discovers the choice that every child of God must contend with on a moment-by-moment basis. By his example of faith in the Almighty—above the physical influences of riches, power, fame, and all of the attendant devices that vie for carnal consumption—God found a heart which was focused on Him, rather than personal gratification, when the time was right for His plan to take shape. When Moses left Egypt, he was drawn into a rather nomadic and isolated lifestyle, which lasted for some forty years in the Midian region, where he married a wife, had children, and became a shepherd:

“Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them and watered their flock. When they came to Reuel their father, he said, ‘Why have you come back so soon today?’ So they said, ‘An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and what is more, he even drew the water for us and watered the flock.’ He said to his daughters, ‘Where is he then? Why is it that you have left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat.’ Moses was willing to dwell with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses. Then she gave birth to a son, and he named him Gershom, for he said, ‘I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.’ Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them (Exodus 2:16-25).

As noted in due time, the cries of the Ancient Israelites for deliverance were finally heard. Because God remembered His promises and covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses’ previous forty years growing up in Egypt, and even murdering an Egyptian, coupled with forty years shepherding flocks—would now all be used to commission him for the deliverance task at hand. We might be reminded of how, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans (8:28).

At God’s appointed time, He revealed Himself to Moses in a very dramatic way. The experience of the burning bush, Moses standing on holy ground, and the amount of direct communication the Lord had with Moses—must have been quite incredible to consider. As is seen, Moses never considered himself a useful tool for the Lord’s work, and hence what is witnessed is a back and forth discussion, that Moses was totally incapable of doing anything in his own strength apart from God’s leading:

“Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, ‘I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.’ When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said also, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. The LORD said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. 1Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’ And He said, ‘Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain’” (Exodus 3:1-12).

Just the magnitude of the task described, was overwhelming to Moses, as he proceeded to question God. So, God took some time to fill in some of the details. God affirmed that He was ehyeh asher ehyeh, “I AM WHO I AM,” as He had every means to accomplish His will for the Israelites. The Lord then gave Moses some specifics about how the deliverance of His people was going to take place:

“Then Moses said to God, ‘Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you.” Now they may say to me, “What is His name?” What shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’ God, furthermore, said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, “The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, ‘I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt. So I said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, to a land flowing with milk and honey.’” They will pay heed to what you say; and you with the elders of Israel will come to the king of Egypt and you will say to him, “The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now, please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.” But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go. I will grant this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be that when you go, you will not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor and the woman who lives in her house, articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and you will put them on your sons and daughters. Thus you will plunder the Egyptians’” (Exodus 3:13-22).

Needless to say, after hearing some of the things that were to occur, Moses continued to doubt that he could possibly convince the Israelites that he had been chosen to be their human leader, and deliver them from their bondage in Egypt. So once again, the Lord mercifully filled in some of the gaps, by giving him three signs which would persuade the people that Moses had indeed been, not only in the presence of the Holy One, but chosen for this special assignment:

“Then Moses said, ‘What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, “The LORD has not appeared to you.”’ The LORD said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ And he said, ‘A staff.’ Then He said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. But the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail’—so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand—‘that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.’ The LORD furthermore said to him, ‘Now put your hand into your bosom.’ So he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then He said, ‘Put your hand into your bosom again.’ So he put his hand into his bosom again, and when he took it out of his bosom, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. If they will not believe you or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe the witness of the last sign. But if they will not believe even these two signs or heed what you say, then you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water which you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.’ Then Moses said to the LORD, ‘Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ The LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.’ But he said, ‘Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.’ Then the anger of the LORD burned against Moses, and He said, ‘Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do. Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him. You shall take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.’ Then Moses departed and returned to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, ‘Please, let me go, that I may return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see if they are still alive.’ And Jethro said to Moses, ‘Go in peace.’ Now the LORD said to Moses in Midian, ‘Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead’” (Exodus 4:1-19).

However, despite watching the staff turn back and forth from being a serpent, to his hand turning white with leprosy—the inarticulate Moses was still concerned about how he was even going to communicate what he had seen and heard to the Israelites. The Lord resolved this apprehension with the mention that Moses’ older brother Aaron would be commissioned to work with him, as his speaker. At this point, the objections are overcome, and Moses went to his father-in-law Jethro, receiving his blessing, and then obeyed the command of the Lord to go back to Egypt.

On the way to Egypt with his wife Zipporah and two sons, Moses received an appropriate rebuke from his wife, because he had not followed the basic instruction from God to circumcise his two sons. In this revealing aside, the wisdom of a wife is highlighted, because Zipporah was most concerned about her two sons not having the sign of the covenant made with Abraham. In a dramatic fashion, she actually circumcised her sons while on the trip to Egypt, and cast the foreskins at the feet of Moses with the railing declaration that Moses was a “bridegroom of blood to me,” because the rite had not been performed. Husbands need to be very thankful for the wives they have been given by God, perhaps knowing that they can have significant limitations, and that their wives are leaders of the family along with them:

“So Moses took his wife and his sons and mounted them on a donkey, and returned to the land of Egypt. Moses also took the staff of God in his hand. The LORD said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, “Let My son go that he may serve Me”; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.’”’ Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at Moses’ feet, and she said, ‘You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.’ So He let him alone. At that time she said, ‘You are a bridegroom of blood’—because of the circumcision. Now the LORD said to Aaron, ‘Go to meet Moses in the wilderness.’ So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD with which He had sent him, and all the signs that He had commanded him to do. Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the sons of Israel; and Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses. He then performed the signs in the sight of the people. So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped” (Exodus 4:20-31).

While Moses and Zipporah were having their revealing encounter, the Lord spoke to Aaron, telling him to go into the wilderness to greet his brother. After Moses described to Aaron what he had been called to do by the Lord, the two of them assemble the elders of Israel, with Aaron now as his designated speaker. When the elders heard the words and saw the signs Moses performed, they believed that perhaps the Lord has heard their cries, and that the time of their deliverance was soon at hand. The choice of someone who had been away for forty years after growing up in Pharaoh’s palaces, and fleeing after murdering an Egyptian, is overcome—as they all worshipped the Lord, believing that this was His will for the deliverance of Israel.

The difficult part began as Moses and Aaron approached the Egyptian Pharaoh, with the demand of the Lord God they represent, to let His people go into the wilderness to celebrate a feast to Him. But a quick release was not granted. Instead, the request to a Pharaoh who believed he was a god, and who did not know or acknowledge the God of the Hebrews, was to send the Israelites back to their hard labor. In fact, because Pharaoh believed that the Israelites might have started to stir up a revolution of sorts, he made their daily work even tougher, by not supplying straw for their quota of bricks to be produced. Consequently, the troubles for Moses and Aaron, now burdened with the Israelites starting to complain about this great plan of deliverance going awry, were just commencing:

“And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.”’ But Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.’ Then they said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, otherwise He will fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.’ But the king of Egypt said to them, ‘Moses and Aaron, why do you draw the people away from their work? Get back to your labors!’ Again Pharaoh said, ‘Look, the people of the land are now many, and you would have them cease from their labors!’ So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters over the people and their foremen, saying, You are no longer to give the people straw to make brick as previously; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the quota of bricks which they were making previously, you shall impose on them; you are not to reduce any of it. Because they are lazy, therefore they cry out, “Let us go and sacrifice to our God.” Let the labor be heavier on the men, and let them work at it so that they will pay no attention to false words.’ So the taskmasters of the people and their foremen went out and spoke to the people, saying, ‘Thus says Pharaoh, “I am not going to give you any straw. You go and get straw for yourselves wherever you can find it, but none of your labor will be reduced.”’ So the people scattered through all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. The taskmasters pressed them, saying, ‘Complete your work quota, your daily amount, just as when you had straw.’ Moreover, the foremen of the sons of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, ‘Why have you not completed your required amount either yesterday or today in making brick as previously?’ Then the foremen of the sons of Israel came and cried out to Pharaoh, saying, ‘Why do you deal this way with your servants? There is no straw given to your servants, yet they keep saying to us, “Make bricks!” And behold, your servants are being beaten; but it is the fault of your own people.’ But he said, ‘You are lazy, very lazy; therefore you say, “Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.” So go now and work; for you will be given no straw, yet you must deliver the quota of bricks.’ The foremen of the sons of Israel saw that they were in trouble because they were told, ‘You must not reduce your daily amount of bricks.’ When they left Pharaoh’s presence, they met Moses and Aaron as they were waiting for them. They said to them, ‘May the LORD look upon you and judge you, for you have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.’ Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all’” (Exodus 5:1-23).

The great lesson which is going to be taught in the coming weeks as the Book of Exodus continues, is that freedom from the bondage of slavery—and/or by extension being freed or delivered from the bondage of sin—never comes without a struggle. Whether on a physical plane or a spiritual plane, the Lord will use the challenges, trials, tests, discouragements, and triumphs of life to mold people for His specific use and tasks in the world. In the coming weeks this will become more and more evident, and for the purposes of God today, hopefully used in the lives of contemporary Messianic Believers to persevere through all of the challenges of life.

Finally, our Torah reading concludes with a promise from the Lord to Moses, that the Pharaoh will eventually let His people go:

Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land’” (Exodus 6:1).

It is not going to be a pleasant exercise for Pharaoh and the Egyptians, as the ten plagues or judgments upon them are going to decimate and humiliate this great, Ancient Near Eastern power. But is this not what was promised centuries earlier to Abram by the Lord? Hopefully, by reading and meditating upon this week’s Torah portion, there will be some spiritual benefits to those today, who are turning to the Torah to learn about their spiritual inheritance. These are instructions written for the admonitions of Messiah followers, as they learn to handle the circumstances of human life:

Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:11-13).

The Torah has been recorded and preserved by His grace, in order that those reading it today—who are closer to the culmination of the ages—will decisively grow in their walks with Yeshua the Messiah. After all, “God is faithful” to fulfill His promises to His people. The question is whether each of us will have the faith required to walk into His promises, and their resultant blessings. May we each take our personal responsibility to be faithful servants to heart, and by His grace continue to advance His Kingdom!

V’yechi

V’yechi

He lived

Genesis 47:28-50:26
1 Kings 2:1-12

“Blessing Israel”


by Mark Huey

This week, the final parashah for the Book of Genesis is studied, as the period of the Patriarchs and details about the unique family chosen by God to receive His faithful blessings, finally comes to a dramatic close. Here in Genesis’ last three chapters, the similar dying requests of both Jacob/Israel and Joseph, to be buried in the Promised Land, may be said to simply “bookend” the specific blessings that Jacob bestowed upon his immediate progeny. Apparently, belief in the promises of God for the descendants of Abraham and Isaac, for them to multiply and reside in Canaan, was genuine for Jacob and Joseph—or the preferences to be buried among their relatives would not have been a priority. Additionally, the desire to pass on to future generations, some of the blessings received, was of paramount importance to Jacob/Israel. So as we study V’yechi, it is important to consider how we can individually follow the practices and examples of our forebearers in faith—by not only believing in God’s promises, but also in passing God’s blessings down to our own future generations.

V’yechi begins after Jacob and his entourage had relocated to Egypt, to avoid the ravages of the regional famine. His family was well received by the ruling Pharaoh, and they were living in the choice land of Goshen, tending to their herds. The name of our Torah reading comes from its opening verse, where it is recorded that Jacob lived in the land of Egypt. In V’yechi, Jacob/Israel’s time to die was drawing near. He called upon his favored son Joseph, to faithfully return him to the land of his fathers, knowing that Joseph had the authority to make this happen:

“Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the length of Jacob’s life was one hundred and forty-seven years. When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, ‘Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but when I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.’ And he said, ‘I will do as you have said.’ He said, ‘Swear to me.’ So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed” (Genesis 47:28-31).

Blessing Manasseh and Ephraim

While being returned to the burial grounds of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah was important to Jacob, the desire of Joseph to have his own sons receive the blessing of their grandfather was most crucial to him. Joseph knew the power of blessings from his ancestors. After all, there is an indication that he attempted to retain some connectivity to his forebearers when he significantly named his sons Manasseh and Ephraim, despite their mother being an Egyptian:

“Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’ He named the second Ephraim, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction’” (Genesis 41:51-52).

Consequently, upon learning that his father Jacob/Israel was sick and about to die, Joseph took his two sons to his father, to seek his blessing upon his sons. But more than receive just a blessing, Jacob/Israel literally adopted them into his family, giving them equal status with their uncles and Joseph. However, another interesting thing occurred when the nearly blind Jacob/Israel went to place his hands upon the heads of Manasseh and Ephraim. He actually crossed his arms, and placed his right hand of blessing upon the head of the younger Ephraim, and his left hand upon the elder Manasseh. This did not go unnoticed by Joseph, who pointed it out to his father. Yet, the Lord ordained these blessings, as Jacob/Israel was simply following the leading of His Holy Spirit:

“Now it came about after these things that Joseph was told, ‘Behold, your father is sick.’ So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him. When it was told to Jacob, ‘Behold, your son Joseph has come to you,’ Israel collected his strength and sat up in the bed. Then Jacob said to Joseph, ‘God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and He said to me, “Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession.” Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. But your offspring that have been born after them shall be yours; they shall be called by the names of their brothers in their inheritance. Now as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, in the land of Canaan on the journey, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).’ When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, ‘Who are these?’ Joseph said to his father, ‘They are my sons, whom God has given me here.’ So he said, ‘Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.’ Now the eyes of Israel were so dim from age that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them close to him, and he kissed them and embraced them. Israel said to Joseph, ‘I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well.’ Then Joseph took them from his knees, and bowed with his face to the ground. Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right, and brought them close to him. But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn. He blessed Joseph, and said, ‘The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and may my name live on in them, and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.’ When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to his father, ‘Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.’ But his father refused and said, ‘I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.’ He blessed them that day, saying, ‘By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!”’ Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow’” (Genesis 48:1-22).

There is something extremely powerful about acknowledging the blessings of any of our predecessors, which was something certainly true for Jacob/Israel and Joseph in ancient times. However, the irony that the younger would be greater than the older must have taken Jacob back to the time when he was in a similar predicament with his older twin brother Esau. He probably recalled the blessings of Isaac, and the fact that once the blessing was uttered and bestowed upon him, it could not be rescinded (Genesis 27:33). Ephraim received the more powerful blessing of his grandfather. Despite a momentary startlement with the disposition of the blessings, Joseph did not protest but simply accepted and embraced the blessings as they were uttered.

Israel Blesses His Sons

In Genesis 49, we see a selection of text that is devoted to relating all of Jacob/Israel’s blessings, to his natural born sons. The prophetic picture of this aged patriarch, proclaiming the blessings and/or prophecies over his sons, is a majestic scene for each of us to contemplate. Imagine your own father or mother, speaking insightful words such as these. Or, perhaps imagine yourself—at sometime in the distant future—declaring words like these to your own children. After decades of watching his sons mature, Israel’s ability to speak prophetically into their lives was set. Without going into the specific statements about each of the sons, note the greater amount of explicit details regarding the future of Judah and Joseph, the two sons who rose to prominence in their generation:

“Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, ‘Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come. Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; And listen to Israel your father. Reuben, you are my firstborn; my might and the beginning of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch. Simeon and Levi are brothers; their swords are implements of violence. Let my soul not enter into their council; let not my glory be united with their assembly; because in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they lamed oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. He ties his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; he washes his garments in wine, and his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are dull from wine, and his teeth white from milk. Zebulun will dwell at the seashore; and he shall be a haven for ships, and his flank shall be toward Sidon. Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between the sheepfolds. When he saw that a resting place was good and that the land was pleasant, he bowed his shoulder to bear burdens, and became a slave at forced labor. Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a horned snake in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider falls backward. For Your salvation I wait, O LORD. As for Gad, raiders shall raid him, but he will raid at their heels. As for Asher, his food shall be rich, and he will yield royal dainties. Naphtali is a doe let loose, he gives beautiful words. Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; Its branches run over a wall. The archers bitterly attacked him, and shot at him and harassed him; but his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), from the God of your father who helps you, and by the Almighty who blesses you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; may they be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers. Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, and in the evening he divides the spoil.’ All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him” (Genesis 49:1-28).

Much speculation has been compiled, which has been devoted to analyzing these final words of Jacob/Israel directed toward his sons. In fact, when one couples the blessings of Israel found in Genesis 49, with the blessings of Moses to the tribes of Israel found in Deuteronomy 33, one can discern that these great servants of God were given a glimpse of the future—regarding some destiny of the descendants of Israel. Particular attention to the blessings or prophecies uttered toward Judah and Joseph, indicate that these tribes which bear their names would surely have prominence, as can certainly be seen in the Historical Books of the Tanakh.

In the case of Judah, a definite ancestor of Yeshua the Messiah, there appears a statement that the tribe Judah and/or his descendants was going to be in a position of leadership or prominence, at least somehow until His arrival (Genesis 49:10). Yeshua, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, after all, is the quintessential Jew (Revelation 5:5). For Believers in Him, that there is Messianic expectation interwoven into Jacob/Israel’s blessings in Genesis 49, means that we have to exhibit much confidence that all of his pronouncements have been coming to pass over the centuries.

Joseph’s Insight

After the death of Jacob/Israel, the sons of Israel had a genuine fear that Joseph might then take revenge on them, for their heinous acts toward Joseph years earlier. It is here, where we witness a definite contrast between the faith of Joseph and his brothers. Despite seventeen years of living in Goshen, the brothers were still concerned that Joseph might be harboring a grudge toward them. But, Joseph was not only sincere in his actions toward his family, but most critically, he truly understood the circumstances of his extraordinary life from God’s perspective:

“Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Now Joseph stayed in Egypt, he and his father’s household, and Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s sons; also the sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were born on Joseph’s knees. Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.’ So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt” (Genesis 50:18-26).

Joseph was not only used by the Almighty to save his family during the regional famine, but he was also able to see the hand of God upon the incidents that led him to be in the position to save his family. This is a great lesson for each of us to consider when we are disappointed with some of life’s inevitable challenges. When things do not necessarily go as we hoped or expected—but they inadvertently take a turn for what might have seemed the worse at the time—are we able to recognize that God is still sovereign? Can we have enough trust in the Lord to understand that what happens in our lives is a part of His will for each of us? Joseph certainly did, and perhaps, his own brothers might have learned the same life lesson.

Faith and Blessing

So what can we glean from the concluding Torah portion from the Book of Genesis, regarding faith and the power of blessings? We need to each recognize that the Holy One is truly faithful to His chosen vessels. Despite the circumstances of life that might seem difficult, God is faithfully accomplishing His will. If we, as limited mortal humans, could better understand things from His perspective—then we would have the wisdom and discernment to see His fingerprints on all that occurs in life, whether good or bad.

For a reflection back on much of Genesis, we can look and compare the lives of Jacob/Israel and Joseph, and note how each one learned to be faithful to God in very different ways. We can recall how at relatively young ages, they each had encounters with the Almighty through dreams or visions. Yet, we can also see from their personalities that the level of faith was not the same throughout their lives. Still, when the end of their lives came, their faith was quite strong, and they each wanted the blessing of burial in the Promise Land along with their relatives. They each wanted God’s blessings to be passed on to their progeny.

Jacob/Israel and Joseph knew the power of blessings. They not only desired the blessings of their elders, but they also gladly participated in extending blessings to their descendants. For modern-day followers of the Messiah, these examples are something to emulate. However, in order to even want to extend blessings, we each must have faith in the ultimate Provider of blessings. The two go together hand in hand. After all, the Almighty chooses human vessels to extend His blessings to others, but He requires faith as one of the critical ingredients to not only give blessings but also receive them. So, let each of us seek more faith—so that in being blessed with it, we will in turn be able to pass on the blessings we have received from the Lord!