3. SHABBAT READINGS & COMMENTARY

Friday, January 27, 2006 | 
VA’ERA (And I Saw): Exodus 6:2–9:35; Ezekiel 28:25-29:21

In our weekly Torah portion (parasha), the power struggle in the spiritual realm between the god of this world (Pharaoh) and the true God of Israel begins. It cost the Egyptians a lot of pain and sorrow. The Ten Plagues were planned by God because of Pharaoh’s “hardened heart” in order to show the world through “mighty acts of judgment” … “That I am the LORD your God!”

We see from the acts of Pharaoh’s magicians in response to some of the plagues, that there are satanic spiritual powers in the world. But God always prevails, for example, the one snake of Aaron’s staff consumed the others (7:8-12). By the way, Aaron’s staff is preserved later in the Ark of the Covenant.

In the first verses of our parasha (6:5 to 8), God repeats Himself by saying He hears the “groaning of the Israelites” and remembers His covenant with the patriarchs. In this passage we find the four terms of redemption – where the Jew drinks four cups of wine during Passover – as a sign of victory over the four world kingdoms mentioned by the prophet Daniel. They are symbolic in that God promises His people to: bring you out, free you, redeem you and take you (as His people). That’s also the same order in our personal walk after salvation through Jesus Christ, starting with our exodus from the world and ending with becoming His people!

We also read about the first four plagues – Blood, Frogs, Gnats and Flies. An interesting thought in 7:1, “See, I have made you (Moses) God (Elohim) to Pharaoh.” (See also Chapter 4:16)

Moses often showed mercy to Pharaoh and the Egyptian people and even prayed for them after some plagues. “And the LORD did what Moses asked.” (8:13 & 31) What a close fellowship Moses had with God, that God even heard and did what he asked! That same strong relationship is evident later at Mount Sinai when God reverses His judgment of the Israelites after the sin of the golden calf. One of the main reasons for this is Moses’ humble heart and his full submission to God. (By the way, if you read Moses Hebrew Name Moshe backwards, you get Hashem – the Name of the Almighty!)

God said to Abraham: “Then the LORD said to him, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.’” (Genesis 15:13) According to Jewish tradition, one generation is 40 years. Egypt underwent one plague for each generation of Israelites in captivity (400 years). And with which plague did God begin? The Nile River turned into blood. A clear reminder of the killing of the Hebrew Boys when they were drowned by the Egyptians in the Nile! The Ten Plagues get increasingly painful and also attack nature, animals and humans. But God’s people, the Hebrews, were protected (8:18).

In our reading of the prophets, Egypt is punished with 40 years of exile, but to the people of Israel come words of comfort: “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘When I gather the people of Israel from the nations where they have been scattered, I will show myself holy among them in the sight of the nations. Then they will live in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. They will live there in safety and will build houses and plant vineyards; they will live in safety when I inflict punishment on all their neighbors who maligned them. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God.’” (Ezek. 28:25-26) - Michael Schneider -

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