Shemot (Exodus) 10:1-13:16
And Hashem said to Moshe, Come!" The word come when read in Scripture conjures up images of Hashem calling and beckoning us toward Himself or directing us somewhere for blessing and our ultimate good. When Moshe heard "Come to Pharaoh," he must have been extremely concerned. Adonai was not calling him to a pleasant task! Several times before, Moshe showed signs of doubt as to his ability to perform the tasks that he was called to.
The name Pharaoh tells us much about the drama that is taking place. Pharaoh is more than just a title that the Egyptians gave their leaders. It is derived from an Egyptian word for great house.1 It was originally used for the palace in which the king of Egypt lived. The Egyptians viewed the ruling Pharaoh as god, the son of the sun god Ra, and not merely as a representative of the gods. The titles that were accorded him were "The Sun of the Two Worlds", "Lord of the Crown" "The Mighty God" and "The Eternal."2 Adonai sent Moshe to forewarn Pharaoh of impending doom and with every miracle that took place, proved His sovereignty over the deities of Egypt. It is written in Exodus 10:35, that He made a mockery of Egypt. He wanted His great Name to be declared over all the nations and he chose Israel as the vessel for this purpose. Hashems master plan of redemption for the nations, through His chosen people Israel, was taking shape.
Let My People Go!
Let my People Go! The Hebrew word for go here is shalach, (◊©◊ú◊ó) which means to send out. This is the root of the word for shaliach, an emissary or apostle. Israel is the shaliach (emissary) of Hashem and the wilderness was part of His divine plan for them to receive His Torah, ¬≠Israels ketubah--love covenant and gift--to be shared with the nations. Israel was chosen, a particular nation with a universalistic call and mandate: "Be a light unto the nations."
The Eighth Plague
Pharaoh had resisted the previous seven plagues and was adamant not to let the Israelites go. There is subliminal comfort in Hashems call. Hashem was present and central to all of what was happening including the hardening of Pharaohs heart. The intimation was that Moshe would not be alone, that YHWH was with him. "Come to Pharaoh for I have made his heart and the heart of his servants stubborn."
The eighth plague consisted of locusts that consumed all the crops. In some way Hashem was telling Pharaoh that even that which Israel had labored over would be taken away from him. Pharaohs reaction to this devastating plague by requesting forgiveness for his sin against Hashem was not sincere, but only a means to try to escape his current situation. Although He removed the plague and all the locusts, yet Pharaoh remained defiant and would not let the People of Israel go. Ibn Ezra reminds us: "If one wishes to contaminate himself, the way is opened for him."3
The Ninth Plague
Subsequently, Hashem told Moshe that He would cover Egypt with darkness, but as happened with the third and sixth plague, there was no warning to Pharaoh of this impending plague. Hashem showed His favor to Israel by providing their households with light whilst all of Egypt was enveloped with impenetrable darkness.
Throughout this drama, Hashem drew increasing lines of distinction between those who worship idols and those who choose to follow His decrees and worship Him. Moshe was summoned by Pharaoh and told that they may go, but must leave all their livestock behind. However Moshe replied that not only would they take their livestock, but that he, Pharaoh, would also provide animals for sacrifices and burnt offerings. Hashem was not providing a way of atonement for Pharaoh, but was really bringing him to the final place of submission in acknowledging that He is Sovereign over all. "And Egypt shall know that I am YHWH," Shemot 7:5a. Pharaoh, finally, in great anger, ejected Moshe and threatened him with death should he ever seek an audience again. Pharaoh remained unrepentant.
The importance of these events and the Hebrews final liberation is such a major episode in the history of Israel, that this month (Nisan) was demarcated as "the beginning of months" for the year. All the chagim (festivals) find their reference from this Rosh Chodesh (new moon). Today Rosh Chodesh is celebrated monthly as a reminder of our Father and King, Who is intimately involved with His covenant People on an ongoing basis, renewing, shaping and forming their very lives and future through events, times and seasons. The Hebrew calendars pivot point is the "beginning of months," but it also contains the weekly reminder of the liberation from oppression, as read in the reaffirmation of the Shabbat commandment, Devarim (Deuteronomy) 5:15.
The Final Plague
When Moshe announced the final plague, the death of the firstborn males of all in Egypt, young and old, of animals and mankind, Hashem gave the assurance to Israel, in contrast to what was about to happen to the Egyptians, that not even a dog would snarl at a Hebrew; they would be unharmed.
Hashem said to Moshe that on the fifteenth day of that month they would ¬≠celebrate the Passover by sacrificing a lamb or kid that was without spot or blemish--a lamb that you have kept with you in your house for four days. The Sages explain that the Egyptians must have wondered what the purpose was for keeping these animals tethered in Jewish homes. Rambam comments that the reason for using lambs or kids was that these were Egyptian deities, and their slaughter proved Egypts final subjugation to ¬≠Hashems will and authority.4 The evidence of the blood on the door post and lintel from the sacrificed animal was Israels protection from the plague. Only the blood of the innocent lamb was sufficient for Hashem to pass over the houses of the sons of Israel, because He Himself was bringing judgment against Egypt (Shemot 12:12).
Passover was to be celebrated for seven days, abstaining from any form of leavened bread with a festival shabbat on the first and seventh days. This seven day period of abstaining from chametz (leaven), which is synonymous with sin, was sandwiched between two set apart, festival days. Separation or "holiness" encapsulates perfect surrender. The number seven is most significant; it reminds us of the six days of creation, with the seventh day separated and crowned with a name, Shabbat. Seven symbolizes completion and perfection. In Avot de Rabbi Natan 36:5 we read: "Seven attributes help to bring a person nearer to the Throne of Glory: wisdom, righteousness, judgment, grace, mercy, truth and peace." These were the very attributes that were absent in the life of Pharaoh. Perfect judgment is also depicted in sevens. "And if, for all that, you do not obey Me, I am going to discipline you sevenfold for your sins" (Vayikra 26:18).
It was at midnight that Hashem smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt--from Pharaohs firstborn on the throne to the captive in the dungeon. There was wailing and lament in Egypt as there was not a house without a corpse. Pharaoh relented! He called for Moshe and Aharon and finally ordered Israel to leave Mitzraim, showered with lavish gifts. The Hebrews were feared greatly as we see from Pharaohs parting request, "Bless me, as well."
The liberation from Egypt is such a momentous event in Jewish history that Hashem instructed us to put it as a sign on our arms and as a reminder between our eyes. This pre-dates and pre-empts the giving of the Torah on Sinai but underscores the divine purpose Hashem has for Israel. Four passages are contained in the tefillin. Two of those passages come from this section about the Exodus from Egypt. We are reminded of this every Shacharit service when Jewish men lay tefillin.6 Likewise, shaliach Shaul enjoins followers of Yeshua within a Jewish context and religious practice, to daily put on the Messiah as He is the Torat HaChaim, the living word that abides within.7
The parasha draws to a close with the commandment to set apart unto Hashem, and redeem the firstborn of all our livestock and also our firstborn males. The ceremony of pidyon haben, the redemption of our firstborn sons, is still practiced today. This is once again a sign to all our generations that Hashem led us out of bondage with a strong hand when He struck all the firstborn in Egypt.
The underlying theme in todays portion is, "For Hashem so loved the world." Hashems faithfulness is obvious and evident in seeing a divine plan of redemption through to its fulfillment. He alone is the Redeemer of Yisrael. He is the All-sufficient One. He is the One who promised a Messiah, the seed of Avraham through Whom the nations will be blessed, the Lamb of YHWH that will take away the sin of the world.
For Hashem so loved the world that he gave Yisrael through whom Messiah came and to whom He will return. And though He may delay, we patiently wait and say, Dayeinu--it is all-sufficient.
1 Websters Dictionary, 1977
2 History of Ancient Egypt. G. Rawlinsohn 1880 Vol. pp. 373, 374 / History of the World, Ridpath 1901 p72
3 The Stone Edition Chumash, commentary p.344. Mesorah Publications Ltd.
4 Ibid., p.350
5 Rashi, Parashat Bo, Shemot.
6 Shacharit service, The Akeidah, Bereshit 22:1-19
7 Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27, Eph. 6:11, Col. 3:10
Adapted from Bikurei Tziyon #62. ¬© 2012 First Fruits of Zion. All rights reserved. We encourage you to share this material with your friends for further personal study. However, this material may not be republished, in print, electronically, or any other form without our prior permission.
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