Parashah 14: Va’era (I appeared)

Parashah 14: Exodus 6:2-9:35

Yahweh spoke to Moshe and told him that though he appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he did not make Himself known to them by His ‘name’ Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh (YHVH) as He did to him.  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew Elohim only as El Shaddai.

In Parashah 13 Pharaoh asks, “Who is Yahweh, that I should obey when he says to let Isra’el go?  I don’t know Yahweh, and I also won’t let Isra’el go” (Exodus 5:2-3).  In this torah portion and the next, Pharaoh and Egypt, along with Moshe, Aaron and the Israelites will learn exactly who Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, the YHVH, really is and the greatness of His power as well as His faithfulness to the covenants He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Deliverance for Isra’el

There are four ways in which God is going to deliver Isra’el from Egypt.  These four ways are central to the Passover Haggadah used to celebrate a Passover seder.  These four ways of God’s redemption from Egypt allude to our redemption from sin and its enslavement through Messiah Yeshua. 

• “I will free you from the forced labor of the Egyptians and rescue you from their oppression” (Exodus 6:6a).

The definition of ‘oppression’ is cruel or unjust treatment.  It is from the forced labor and cruel treatment of the Egyptians that Yahweh will rescue the Israelites.  Their physical deliverance is the most obvious, but there has been spiritual oppression as well. 

Under the command of Pharaoh to murder their children, they have endured the treachery of the murdering of their newborn babies.  This infanticide can be regarded as child sacrifices to another god; and that god is Pharaoh.  They have been surrounded by numerous other Egyptian gods and goddesses.   They have been immersed in Egypt’s culture of death with spells from the Book of the Dead, the dead traveling to the underworld, and gods of the dead. 

• “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm” (Exodus 6:6b)

Though forced labor is difficult and the Israelites need to be rescued, they also need to be redeemed.  Redemption is gaining possession of something in exchange for payment.  Yahweh is going to buy back the Israelites so they can worship Him on His mountain.

“The arm of the LORD (Yahweh)” is found numerous times in Scripture.  It is the arm of Yahweh that brings salvation (yeshua).

Isaiah 59:1 “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear to dull to hear.” 

Psalm 98:1 “Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.”  

Selah

Psalm 27:1 “The LORD (Yahweh) is my light and my salvation (yeshua).”  When the Israelites saw the arm of the LORD work salvation for them in Egypt, they were seeing Yeshua.  When Yahweh’s right hand worked salvation for Isra’el and the nations millennial later, the world saw them in the person of Yeshua.

• “I will take you as my people and I will be your God” (Exodus 6:7).

God choosing Isra’el as His people, His treasured possession, His priesthood, His wife.  He desires a people who would glorify Him and He chooses Isra’el.

Leviticus 26:12 “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”

Deuteronomy 7:6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”

Isaiah 54:5 “For your Maker is your husband— Adonai Tzva’ot (LORD Almighty) is his name— the Holy One of Isra’el is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth.” 

• “I will bring you into the land I promised to Avraham, Yitz’ak, and Ya’akov and give it to you as your inheritance” (Exodus 6:8).

El Shaddai promised Abraham land for as far as he could see from the east, west, north and south.  This land of promise is on both sides of the Jordan River from the Euphrates to the Sinai Peninsula – much larger than modern-day Eretz Isra’el (Land of Israel).  Each tribe descended from the sons of  Jacob will receive a land inheritance, though not in its fullness until Messiah comes and sets up the Kingdom. 

Hebrews 11:8-10  “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” 

Deuteronomy 26:15 “Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people Isra’el and the land you have given us as you promised on oath to our ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Moshe told the Israelites all that Yahweh was going to do for them, however, they wouldn’t listen.  Their oppression was so great that they were discouraged.

The Levitical Lineage of Moshe and Aaron

This genealogy is presented so there is no confusion about the brothers, Moshe and Aaron, who went before Pharaoh and ultimately led the Israelites out of Egypt.   The bold faced are the heads of the families of Levi to Moshe and Aaron.

Moshe as Yahweh’s Witness

“I have put you in the place of God to Pharaoh and Aaron your brother will be your prophet” (Exodus 7:1). 

Aaron place his staff onto the floor and it turns into a snake.  Pharaoh calls his magicians.  The sorcerers of Egypt also turn their staffs into snakes.  Yahweh isn’t finished showing who is the Sovereign God.  Aaron’s staff consumes the staffs of the magicians.

Though Pharaoh needs humble himself before the Creator of the Universe, Yahweh is giving proof to Moses and the Israelites that He rules over the gods of Egypt  He begins with the goddess Wadjet who protected the land of Egypt.  This snake goddess adorned the headdress of the Pharaoh.  When Aaron’s staff swallows those of the magicians, Yahweh proves that He alone is the One, and only God, higher in divine authority than Pharaoh and his snake goddess.

“Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as Adonai had said” (Exodus 7:13).

Let the Plagues Begin

Ten plagues are going to come upon Egypt.  Ten can symbolize the Creator’s power which is complete and perfect along with His love and light that will be experienced by Isra’el. Ten is the number of Isis and Osiris, the two supreme gods of Egypt. Osiris was believed to be sovereign over the Underworld and the Judge of the Dead; his sister/wife, Isis, ruled over magic and nature.  While Yahweh is going to use the plagues to judge Egypt’s gods and goddesses, He will also use the plagues to heal the Israelites from their centuries of suffering, to prove to them that He is their Deliverer and transform them from slaves into a free and holy nation. 

With the first three plagues, all of Egypt suffered the consequences of the plague including the Israelites. With the next six, Goshen is spared in order that God’s power might be revealed and Isra’el’s faith strengthened.

The people of Egypt will suffer greatly because of Pharaoh’s hard heart while Isra’el’s protection will come through Yahweh’s mercy and compassion.  With the final plague, every head of family whether Egyptian or Israelite will have to make a decision about who is God: Pharaoh or Yahweh.

Blood, Blood, Blood Plague 1

“This will let you know that I am Yahweh; I will take the staff in my hand and strike the water in the river, and it will be turned to blood” (Exodus 7:17).

This judgment of the first plague is against Hapi, the Egyptian god of the Nile. Wearing a beard, Hapi was pictured with pendulous breasts and a large belly.  He is  blue or green representing water.  In Lower Egypt, he was adorned with papyrus plants and attended by frogs.

Moshe is told to warn Pharaoh when he goes down to the river in the morning so he would understand with whom he is dealing.  But, he wouldn’t listen and let the Israelites leave.  Moshe took his staff and reached out his hand over the waters of Egypt and they turned to blood.

Turning the water of the Nile River into blood was not only a judgment on the god of the Nile, but a sign to Isra’el that Yahweh controls their water supply, the lifeline of Egypt.  Yahweh also wanted to show both the Israelites and the Egyptians that Hapi was not capable of protecting Egypt’s water from Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.   

The Nile River is the source of life for Egypt.  With blood as water, everyone and everything dies.  The fish in the river die, the river stinks and the Egyptians become thirsty.  All rivers, canals, ponds, reservoirs, wooden buckets and stone jars have blood in them.  Even digging around the banks of the Nile does not produce fresh, living water.   The account says that the Egyptians magicians did the same thing, but it is only Yahweh who is able to turn the blood back into living water. 

Pharaoh’s response: “He just turned and went back to his palace, without taking any of this to heart” (Exodus 7:23) 

Frogs, Frogs, Frogs – Plague 2

“Go into Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Here is what Yahweh says, ‘Let my people go, so that they can worship me.  If you refuse to let them go, I will strike all your territory with frogs’” (Exodus 7:26).

This judgment of the second plague is against Heket, the Egyptian goddess of fertility and renewal. Heket, this frog-goddess was a woman’s body with a frog head.  She was associated with the germination of corn after the Nile flooded.  Frogs became a symbol of fertility in Egypt since millions of them were born after the annual flooding of the Nile which made the land fertile. 

Seven days after the water has turned to blood,  Moshe goes to Pharaoh and gives him another warning.  Pharaoh still will not relent and let the Israelites leave to worship Yahweh. Moshe reaches out his hand with his staff another time and frogs came up on the land.  They enter the palace and go into bedrooms and onto the beds.  They are in the ovens and kneading bowls of the servants.  Frogs climb all over the people including the servants of Pharaoh.  To prove their magic equal, the magicians did the same thing.

Pharaoh’s response: “Intercede with Yahweh to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let the people go and sacrifice to Yahweh. …But when Pharaoh saw that he had been given some relief, he made himself hardhearted and would not listen to them…” (Exodus 8:15).

Lice, Lice, Lice – Plague 3

 “Yahweh said to Moshe, ‘Say to Aaron, Reach out with your staff and strike the dust of the ground and it will become lice throughout all the land of Egypt” (Exodus 8:16).

The judgment of the third plague is against Geb, the Egyptian god of the earth.  The dust of the earth bringing forth lice was an affront to Geb.  As god of the earth, the ground formed his body and was called the ‘house of Geb.’  Represented by a man who wears a white crown with a goose, Geb was often portrayed lying on his side on the ground, painted green with plants springing from his body.  This plague was an embarrassment to the Egyptians because they gave offerings Geb for the ‘bounty of the soil.’   

This plague was sent on Egypt without warning.  Yahweh just told Moshe what instructions to give Aaron.  When the dust of the ground becomes lice throughout the whole land of Egypt, people and animals are infested and experience physical suffering.  The magicians tried to produce lice, but they couldn’t and told Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.”

Pharaoh’s response: “But Pharaoh was made hardhearted, so that he didn’t listen to them, just as ADONAI, had said would happen” (Exodus 8:19).

With the completion of the first three plagues initiated by Aaron with Moses’ staff, Yahweh has shown Pharaoh who He is.  The magicians even proclaim to Pharaoh that the judgments are the working of God.   Just knowing that Yahweh exists doesn’t necessarily change a person’s heart which is seen with Pharaoh.

Selah

The magicians imitate the first two judgments and try with their magic to create lice.  As blood, frogs and lice plague Egypt from the Hand of Yahweh, the magicians want to copy His judgments on their own land and people.

Swarms, Swarms, Swarms – Plague 4

“Yahweh said to Moshe, ‘Get up early in the morning, stand before Pharaoh when he goes out to the water and say to him, ‘Here is what Yahweh says, ‘Let my people go, so that they can worship me.  Otherwise, if you won’t let my people go, I will send swarms of insects on you, your servants and your people and your houses.  …BUT I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people live – no swarms of insects will be there – so that you can realize that I am Yahweh, right here in the land.  I will distinguish between my people and your people and this sign will happen tomorrow” (Exodus 8:20-24). 

The judgment of the fourth plague is against Khepri, the Egyptian god of rebirth.  In the original Hebrew, the fourth plague is arob or ‘swarm’ suggesting incessant buzzing or motion.  Kephri was the deified scarab, or dung beetle. It  is about the size of a nickel and lays its young in a ball of dung.  It rolls the ball around until its young are born.  With mouths that could saw through wood more destructive than termites,  they must have caused great distress for the Egyptians.   Because they were considered ‘little gods’, they could not be killed. Ra, the sun god,  had this beetle as his head. 

Yahweh now lets the Egyptians see that He is taking control of their land.   And, He is going to distinguish between His people and the Egyptians.  The swarms of dung beetle ruined the whole land of Egypt.

Pharaoh’s response:  “Go, and sacrifice to your God here in the land” (Exodus 8:25).

Moshe explains that worshipping God in Egypt would be inappropriate.  Because their animal sacrifice of cattle would be an abomination to the Egyptians, they will stone the Israelites.  He says that they will go the three days’ journey to the desert to worship Yahweh as He commands them to do.

Pharaoh says, “I will let you go, so that you can sacrifice to Yahweh your God in the desert.  Only you are not to go very far away.  Intercede on my behalf” (Exodus 8:28).

Moshe prays to Yahweh and He does what Moshe asks.  The swarms leave and not a beetle remains.  “But this time, too, Pharaoh made himself stubborn and didn’t let the people go” (Exodus 8:31).

Cattle Disease, Cattle Disease, Cattle Disease – Plague 5

“Yahweh says to Moshe, ‘Go to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘Here is what Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, says, ‘Let my people go, so that they can worship me.  If you refuse to let them go and persist in holding on to them, the hand of Yahweh is on your livestock in the field – on the horses, donkeys, camels, cattle and flocks – and will make them suffer a devastating illness.  But Yahweh will distinguish between Egypt’s and Isra’el’s livestock – nothing belonging to the people of Isra’el will die” (Exodus 9:1-4).

The judgment of the fifth plague is against Hapis, the bull god and the cow-headed Hathor, Egyptian goddess of love and protection.  Hapis was considered the intercessor between man and Osiris.  Their worship was so extensive that even the Israelites had begun to worship them.  It was Apis, the image of the golden calf, that they dedicated to Yahweh at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  The disease that killed Egypt’s livestock also killed the sacred bulls and cows for their temple sacrifice taking away any hope of  Osiris intervening between Egypt and the God of Isra’el.

Through Moshe, Yawheh warns Pharaoh of the coming judgment that will be against all their sacred animals while keeping the Israelites’ livestock alive.   With the disease that kills all livestock, Yahweh  shows Egypt that nothing can be protected from His judgments except His people.   With this plague, He breaks their religious pride and causes them to submit to His authority.

Pharaoh’s response: “Pharaoh investigated and found that not even one of the animals of the people of Isra’el had died.  Nevertheless, Pharaoh’s heart remained stubborn and he didn’t let the people go” (Exodus 9:7).

Boils, Boils, Boils – Plague 6

“Yahweh said to Moshe and Aahron, Take handfuls of ashes from the kiln and throw it into the air before Pharaoh’s eyes.  They will turn into a fine dust all over the land of Egypt and become infected sores on men and animals in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 9:8-9).

The judgment of the sixth plague is against Thoth, the ibis-headed god of medicine and theology.  This plague in Hebrew is called shechiyn or inflamed spots; the root of the word is ‘burning. ’ There was so much physical suffering this judgment that the Egyptians would call on this god to cure their pain, however,  his healing powers could not overrule the authority of Yahweh.

Even the sorcerers could not escape the skin disease and were so infected they could not stand before Moshe or carry out their priestly duties.  It was their responsibility to take the ashes of human sacrifices and cast them into the air.  Floating in the wind over the people of Egypt,  they were viewed as a blessing.  Now, the ash remains of human sacrifice were burning the flesh of the Egyptians and even their cats and dogs. 

Pharaoh’s response: “But Yahweh made Pharaoh hardhearted so that he didn’t listen to them …” (Exodus 9:12).

With the completion of the second set of three plagues,  Yahweh reveals to the ancient world (and to us)  that He makes a distinction between souls: the sin-darkened stubborn souls of the Egyptians and the souls of His chosen people, the soon-to-be redeemed nation of Isra’el.   As He reveals Himself to Pharaoh as Judge; He proves Himself as Protector of Isra’el.

Selah

Yahweh uses judgments to ‘smite Egypt’ while those same judgments draw His people closer.

“Yahweh said to Moshe, ‘Get up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Here is what Yahweh says; ‘Let my people go so that they can worship me.  For this time I will inflict my plagues on you, yourself, and on your officials and your people; so that you will realize that I am without equal in all the earth.  By now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with such severe plagues that you would have been wiped off the earth.  But it is for this very reason that I have kept you alive – to show you my power, and so that my name may resound throughout the whole earth” (Exodus 9:13-16).  

The next three plagues prove Yahweh’s power over the heavens as the Creator. There is no other god equal to him in the heavens above or the earth below.  These judgments will be experienced not only by people of Egypt, but also by Pharaoh and everyone in his palace, while He protects His chosen in Goshen.  Yahweh could actually just wipe the Egyptians off the earth, but He wants His power and His Name to resound in Pharaoh’s ears and throughout the whole earth.

Hail, Hail, Hail – Plague 7

“I will cause a hailstorm so heavy that Egypt has had nothing like it from the day it was founded until now.  …Every human being and animal left in the field that hasn’t been brought home … will die. … Moshe reached out with his staff toward the sky, and Yahweh sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth.  … it hailed and fire flashed up with the hail.  …But in the land of Goshen, where the people of Isra’el were, there was no hail” (Exodus 9:17-19).

The judgment of the seventh plague is against Nut, the Egyptian goddess of the sky and heavenly bodies.  Depicted as wearing a dress covered with starts, her body arches over the sky protecting earth.  She is given credit for bringing order out of chaos in the heavens. As the hail and fire beat the earth, she has no power to protect Egypt from the chaos coming down out of heaven.

Some Egyptians begin fearing Yahweh and bring their slaves and whatever livestock remains into their homes for protection.  The hail and the fire ruin the flax and barley crops because the barley was ripe and the flax was budding.  Wheat and buckwheat were not affected because they are harvested later.  This is the first time there is a season given for a judgment.  The barley is abib or ‘green ears’; this occurs in the springtime, March/April, while the wheat harvest occurs 50 days later.  Both of these harvests coincide with the Biblical holy days of Passover and Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).

Pharaoh’s two response: “Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “Yahweh is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong.  Pray to Yahweh, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer” (Exodus 9:27-28).

When the hail with fire stops, Pharaoh’s response:

“When Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail and thunder had ended, he sinned still more my making himself hardhearted, he and his servants.  Pharaoh was made hardhearted, and he didn’t let the people of Isra’el go …” (Exodus 9:34).

Haftarah (Readings from the Prophets)

Ezekiel 28:25-29:21

The Prophet Ezekiel about Egypt

B’rit Hadashah (New Testament Readings)

Romans 9:14-17

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

Midrash Ya’era:  Idolatry in Egypt

The Hebrew in Exodus 6:9 says the Israelites did not listen to Moshe because of their kotzer ruach or shortness of spirit, broken spirit and their avodah kesheh or cruel bondage.  Though this can be taken as discouragement under the yoke of slavery, it could also be that they had fallen into idolatry.  Thus, Yahweh needed to separate them from Egypt for the plagues.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Yoke or ol – עול – ayin, vav, lamed

to see or watch the binding to a leader

©2013 Tent Stake Ministries

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