Shabbat Commentary

Friday, January 12, 2007 |  by Michael Schneider

SHEMOT – “Names”
Exodus 1:1-6:1; Isaiah 27:6-28:13; 29:22-23


Our reading portion starts a new (the second) Book of the Torah called “Shemot” and speaks about the Exodus of the children of Israel out of Egypt hundreds of years after the death of Joseph (approx. 1430 BC). According to the Egyptologue David Rohl the exodus occurred in the year 1207 BC (including the 40 years of Moses’ preparation time in the desert!). Out of 70 souls from the house of Jacob it developed into a nation of 600,000 men. We enter a time where the descendants “did not know Joseph.” Interesting to know that the Biblical word for knowing is “yada,” in verse 8, that can also be understood as “loved”.

The people multiplied themselves also through the hardship and afflictions. Also we face in our scriptures the first oppression and persecution of a people but that will end with a deliverance and salvation! Again it began with impositions of taxes until it came to “child murder in the Nile” (verse 22). In the same way the persecution of Jews had started and ended during the whole history – where the worst happened less than 70 years ago!

The sigh and groan of the Hebrew slaves (verses 23-24) rose up to God. He heard and remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but the answer to their cries came later. Before that He needed to humble the right person, a redeemer – yes, an entire generation more, of suffering for that single goal.

Chapter two speaks about the birth of the little Levi, baby Moses, and how he was put into a tar basket to survive and about his growing-up in the house of Pharaoh’s daughter until he became the “prince of Egypt.”

Chapter three speaks about the “marvelous sight” of the Burning Bush where Moses, for the first time, got the promise of “a land flowing with milk and honey” – and that before starting the exodus. Here the LORD called Moses to deliver the people of Israel out from Egypt from the hands of Pharaoh.

Chapter four shows the human doubts and weaknesses: like “what should I say or they will believe me?” Are we not also often so small in faith? Only a wonder-making staff and great faith Moses now confronts a hard-hearted Pharaoh and hard-necked people. He was assured that God Himself will put the words in his mouth (4:2). Luke writes: “…do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." (Luke 12:12-13) The same LORD is also calling us today.

Then we get to the interesting verse 16: “…he will be as a mouth for you and you will be (as) God to him!” Moses “as God”? What does this mean? Moses was the mediator and representative of God between man and God, and later as the last Redeemer of all mankind, Yeshua the Messiah will be (see 1 Tim. 2:5).

God foresaid to Moses that he would not have it easy because God will harden the heart of Pharaoh. It will be a power battle between the Almighty God of Israel and the God of man.

In chapter five we experience Moses’ first baptism in fire but also with his brothers.

Our reading ends with the words of the prophet Isaiah in chapter 29: “But when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst, They will sanctify My name; Indeed, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.” (verse 23) Here is our comfort!

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