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Parsha Shemot “Names” Exodus 1:1-6:1

Parsha Shemot “Names” Exodus 1:1-6:1

This week we have fast forwarded from the life of Joseph and moved straight into a new (but very old) book, continuing the same story line, but with new characters and a different setting. In other words, “the plot thickens.” I could write instead “the plot dickens,” but that would only make sense to those of you who are Charles Dickens fans. Anyway, you get my point…
We start out this new book Exodus with the story of the children of Israel becoming enslaved in the land of Egypt. In Hebrew, the name of this book is Shemot, but Shemot doesn’t translate to Exodus in English, instead it translates to the word “Names.”
If we go back two portions ago in the Parsha Vayigash, it gives us a list of the family of Jacob that descended into Egypt. All the names are listed out in Genesis 46 where it tells us, “All the persons of the house of Jacob who went to Egypt were seventy.” Yet, when we add everyone together, it comes to only 69 persons. Who was the 70 person? There are many discussions and calculations on the different possibilities to answer this question. Yet the one I like the most and find the simplest, is an answer we find in the Talmud, Megillah 29 where it states, “They were exiled to Egypt and the Shekhinah (God’s Presence) was with them.” God Himself was the missing person in the count of Jacobs’s family. Which leads us to the verse found in Numbers 24, in one of Balaam’s prophecies, “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob…” This star is the “Star of Messiah,” who comes out of Jacob, but represents God to man, He is the one who walks with His people through their exile. Even as God promised to Jacob, “I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again…” We find Israel and the Messiah’s destinies linked as they both must leave the exile in Egypt behind, in order to fulfill the verse in Hosea 11, “…out of Egypt I called My son.” I say all this to say, when we read through the book of Exodus, look for names. Added names, missing names, “misspelled” names (in Hebrew), meanings of names…there is much to be learned! Just from seeing a missing name in the family of Jacob leads us to the amazing conclusion that God went with His people into exile!
“Israel in Egypt” by Edward Poynter (1836-1919)
Now, before I get ahead of myself, let’s dive straight in to Exodus chapter 1. The first chapter of Exodus tells us, Joseph is out. A new Pharaoh is in. As it says, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” In Hebrew, the word “know” is the word “ya’da.” This Hebrew word implies a deeper knowledge than just knowing about someone. It can also mean, “to discern, perceive, recognize or acknowledge.” In other words, this King/Pharaoh may have known all about how Joseph saved Egypt and how this foreign nation/Joseph’s family came to dwell in the land, but he would not acknowledge Joseph for all the good he had brought to the land.
Depending on what Jewish commentator you read, this Pharaoh could still be the same Pharaoh as from the time of Joseph or it could have been a totally new Pharaoh all together. How the Rabbis come to these different understandings is beside the point. Whatever the case was, the obvious conclusion is the attitude of the Egyptians had completely changed toward the nation of Hebrews.
In the commentary Daat Zekenim (Knowledge of the Elders), concerning verse 8 about “Pharaoh knowing Joseph,” it tells us that behind this verse is a parable to help us better understand a greater concept we read about later, in Exodus 5. I’ll start with the verse in chapter 5 and then explain the correlation behind these two verses. “And Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go.’” The short parable goes as such, “There was someone who insulted the picture of the King. Having gotten away with that, the following week he insulted the king himself.”
Here is the explanation to the correlating parable. In the beginning of the story of the Exodus, in chapter 1, Pharaoh won’t recognize or acknowledge Joseph. He insulted a “picture of the King” through his own arrogance. When you insult a picture of the King, it eventually leads to insulting the King himself, as we read Pharaoh’s response to Moses and Aaron in chapter 5, Who is the Lord…I do not know the Lord.” In other words, just to help clarify even more. When someone kills the messenger of the King, in the end they are willing to kill the King himself.
Every culture in this time period had their gods and goddesses. At the time of Israel’s enslavement, Egypt had expanded their dominion and rule throughout the known world, which showed to everyone that Egypt’s gods were the most powerful of the region. Yet, it was in the midst of this pagan, idolatrous, powerful culture that the God of the Hebrew Israelites stepped in to intervene. He chose a certain man named Moshe, or Moses. But before we jump right into Moses’ calling to be the savior of Israel, we need to start with his humble, or maybe, not so humble upbringing.    
In Exodus chapter 1, Pharaoh has ordered all his subjects to cast their children into the river Nile, which was one of the god’s of Egypt. (Gen. 1:22) Though we don’t understand his motives behind this order, his demand for child sacrifice, however appalling in our modern world, was very common among the ancients.
Through all the chaos going on, one family decided to continue heeding the commandment of God to, “be fruitful and multiply.” Many Hebrews had decided to stop having children during the time of Pharaoh’s decree. But because of one couple’s faith, the savior of Israel was born into the world. This little boy was placed in a basket of reeds and sent off on the river Nile to a destiny that only God knew.
As fate and God would have it, the daughter of Pharaoh saw the basket with the little child, raised him as her own child and called him “…Moses, saying, ‘Because I drew him out of the water.’” It is funny because, Moses’ name is actually a play on words. In Egyptian, the name Moshe means, “child or son.” But there is also a meaning for this name in Hebrew.  Pharaoh’s daughter names him Moses “…Because I drew him out of the water⁠—Ki Min-HaMayim Meshitihu.” His name means “drawing out.” Little did she know that Moses would one day become the deliverer and savior of Israel, who would “draw out” his people from slavery. As we continue reading the story we find that Moses eventually has to flee Egypt for murder, and is now dwelling in the land of Midian as a shepherd. 
Moses was the son of Pharaoh. Pharaoh was considered one of the gods of Egypt. With this in mind we could say, “Moses was a son of the gods.” But it wasn’t until Moses was humbled and broken, from the riches of Egypt to the desert sands, that he became “the son of God.” In the wilderness of Moses’ life, God found him and resurrected him to become one of the greatest leaders of history that the world has ever known. His legacy changed the world.
Rabbi Ari Kahn from Aish.com writes, “…we see that not only does Moses have an Egyptian name, but his name is steeped with idolatrous connotations. How ironic that the savior of the Jews should be seen as a god by the Egyptians.”
The Egyptians viewed Moses as a god, but in truth, he was really the savior of Israel in disguise. Both sides, Hebrew and Egyptian thought they knew Moses, but then, years later God revealed him for who he really was.
In the Midrash Rabbah it tells us, “R’ Berachia said in the name of R’ Yitzchak, the last redeemer will be just as the first.” Who was the first redeemer? Moses. Who is the last Redeemer? The Prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19), and he is the Messiah.
Yet in Deuteronomy 34 we read, “…Since then (the time of Moses) there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” How do we reconcile this verse to the idea that the Messiah is greater than Moses? Wouldn’t Yeshua have precedence over Moses? Why then would it say that “…there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses?”
The Ralbag (Rabbi Levi ben Gershon) wrote concerning this verse, ‘There will not arise a prophet like Moses’ (Deut. 34.10) who was a prophet in Israel only, but there will be a prophet from this people (Israel) for the nations and this is the King Messiah, as it says in the Midrash, “Behold my servant will prosper” that he will be greater than Moses… Moses only brought Israel alone to the service of G-d…[Messiah] will bring all the nations to serve G-d…”
The Messiah will not be a Prophet in Israel alone, He will be a Prophet, from Israel, to the nations! Moses only brought the nation of Israel to a place of worshiping God, the Messiah will bring all nations to worship and serve God! The Messiah, who we believe to be Yeshua, is not restricted to Israel alone. He will be greater than Moses, but not in Israel only, His “…dominion [is] from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” (Psalm 72. Speaking about the King and the King’s Son)
Hebrews 3 tells us the difference in the positions of Moses and Yeshua. “For this One (Messiah Yeshua) has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant…but Messiah as a Son over His own house…” This verse tells us, Moses was the most faithful of all mankind in God’s house. But Yeshua is not a part of God’s house, He is the one over God’s house and He is also the builder of this house. As John 1 puts it so well, “For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Yeshua Messiah.”
“Law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Yeshua.”
“Jesus Teaches the People by the Sea”
by James Tissot (1836-1902)
Rabbi Ari Kahn from Aish.com has another great quote about the Messiah and His role… “He will help teach the world that being a child of God transcends lineage. Indeed, being a first-born of God is about how we lead our lives – the manifestation of the image of God within, not a question of sequence of birth.”
To this I would add, not only is it not important concerning our birth order, but our bloodlines don’t matter either. Jew or non-Jew, our identity is in Yeshua. If our identity is in anything else, without first being grounded in who we are as followers of Yeshua, then we have lost the reason He came…to make us children of God. You see, when man was formed and put in Gan Eden (The Garden of Eden) it says in Genesis 1:27, that God made him “B’tzalmo b’tzelem Elokim—In His image, in the image of God.” 
We were made in the image of God. To repeat what Rabbi Ari wrote, “Indeed, being a first-born of God is about how we lead our lives…” Are we living like God’s children? Do we take it seriously that we have been adopted into His family? If we are made in God’s image, then do we look like God’s children? Do people see any resemblance?
Both Moses and Yeshua represented God to the world. They called people out of the darkness of slavery and into God’s glory, as written in 1 Peter, “who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” So, do we live different from the world?
Remember, God went with Israel into exile. He is with every one of us, wherever we are in our lives. He wants us to turn back to him. As He states in Zechariah, “Return to Me…and I will return to you”
I want to remind you of a statement I made earlier in this observation. When someone kills the messenger of the King, in the end they are willing to kill the King himself. Consider if I were to switch this saying around…when someone loves the messenger of the King, in the end they are willing to love the King Himself. Can you imagine the impact we could have? When people love us because of who we are, they will ultimately come to realize that our source is rooted in the King Himself!
I heard a sermon in the song “My Portion” where the Preacher (who I believe was John Piper) said, “My whole life is devoted to helping people fall out of love with the world and fall in love with God!”
May it be for us as well! And may we be recognized in this dark world as children of the most high God. Just as the daughter of Pharaoh recognized Moses as one of the Hebrew children, may we also be recognized as “Ivrim ⁠—Hebrews,” those who have “crossed over” from death to life, separating ourselves from the world and joining ourselves to God.

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