Parashah 14: Va’era (I appeared)

Parashah 14: Exodus 6:2-9:35

“God spoke to Moshe; he said to him, “I am Adonai” (Exodus 6:2).

Though Elohim appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He did not make Himself known to them by His name, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, as He did to Moshe.  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knew Elohim only as El Shaddai.

In the previous parashah, Pharaoh asks, “Who is Adonai, that I should obey when he says to let Isra’el go?  I don’t know Adonai, and I also won’t let Isra’el go” (Exodus 5:2-3).  In this parashah and the next, Pharaoh and Egypt along with Moshe, Aaron and the Israelites will learn exactly who Yahweh 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 the Hebrews

There are four ways in which Elohim is going to deliver the Hebrews from Egypt.  These four ways are central to the Passover and used to celebrate a Passover meal.  These four ways of Elohim’s redemption from Egypt are a shadow of Messiah Yeshua and our redemption from sin and its enslavement. 

• “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 the cruel treatment of the Egyptians that ‘I AM’ will rescue the Hebrews.  Their physical deliverance is the most obvious, but there has also been spiritual oppression.

Under the command of Pharaoh to kill their children, they have endured the despicable act of murdering their newborn sons.  This infanticide could be regarded as child sacrifices to another god; and that god is Pharaoh.  They have been surrounded by a pantheon of Egyptian gods and goddesses.   They have been immersed in Egypt’s culture of death, the dead traveling to the underworld and gods of the dead, and its religious  ideology from the Book 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 regaining possession of something in exchange for payment.  Elohim is going to buy back the Hebews so they can worship Him on His holy mountain.

“The arm of the LORD” is found numerous times in Scripture.

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

“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” (Psalm 98:1).  

Selah

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

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

Elohim is choosing Isra’el as His people, His treasured possession, His priesthood, His wife.  He wants a nation who will glorify Him and His choice, out of all the nations of the world, is Isra’el.

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

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

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

• “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 east to west, north and south.  This land of promise was on both sides of the Jordan River from the Euphrates to the Sinai Peninsula – much larger than modern state of Isra’el. Each tribe descending from the sons of  Isra’el receive a land inheritance, though not in its fullness until Messiah sets up his Kingdom.

Moshe told the Hebrews all that ‘I AM’ 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

The genealogy of Moshe and Aaron is given so there is no confusion about the brothers who went before Pharaoh and ultimately led the Israelites out of Egypt.  Within the genealogy is the foundation of the Levites and eventually the Levitical priesthood through 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 places his staff onto the floor and it turns into a snake.  Pharaoh calls his magicians.  The sorcerers of Egypt turn their staffs into snakes.  Yahweh isn’t finished showing who is the Sovereign Elohim and Aaron’s staff consumes the staffs of the magicians.

Though Pharaoh needs to be humbled before the Creator of the Universe, Elohim is giving proof to Moshe and the Hebrews that He rules over the gods of Egypt.  He begins with the snake goddess Wadjet who protected the land of Egypt.  When Aaron’s staff swallows those of the magicians, Yahweh proves that He alone is the One, and only Elohim, higher in divine authority than Pharaoh or 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 Judgments Begin

Ten plagues are going to come upon Egypt.  Ten symbolizes the Creator’s divine power which is complete and perfect in judgment, and His love and light that will be experienced by the Hebrews. Ten is also the number of Isis and Osiris, the two supreme gods of Egypt. Osiris was believed to be sovereign over the Underworld and Judge of the Dead; his sister and wife, Isis, ruled over nature.  While Elohim 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 and prove He is their Deliverer who will transform them from slaves into a free and holy nation.

With the first three judgments, all of Egypt will suffer the consequences of the plagues including the Hebrews. With the next five, Goshen is spared in order that Elohim’s power is revealed and the Hebrews’ faith is strengthened.  The people of Egypt will suffer enormously because of Pharaoh’s hard heart while Isra’el will receive Yahweh’s mercy and compassion.  With the final and tenth plague, every head of family whether Egyptian or Israelite will have to make a decision about who is Elohim: Pharaoh or Yahweh.

Blood, Blood, Blood Plague 1

“Adonai, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you to say: ‘Let my people go, so that they can worship me in the desert.’ But until now you haven’t listened; so Adonai says, ‘This will let you know that I am Adonai: I will take the staff in my hand and strike the water in the river, and it will be turned into blood” (Exodus 7:17).

The judgment of the first plague is against Hapi, the Egyptian god of the Nile. Hapi was pictured wearing a beard 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 of the impending plague when he goes down to the river in the morning so he would understand with whom he is dealing.  But, Pharaoh wouldn’t listen.  Moshe takes his staff and reaches out his hand over the waters of Egypt and they turn 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 Egypt that Elohim controls their water supply, their lifeline. He also wanted to show both the Israelites and the Egyptians that Hapi was not capable of protecting Egypt’s water from its Creator. 

The Nile River is the source of life for Egypt.  With its water turned to blood, everything in the river dies.  The fish 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 drinking water.    The account says that the Egyptians magicians did the same thing, but it is only Elohim 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 Adonai 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).

The judgment of the second plague is against Heket, the Egyptian goddess of fertility and renewal. Heket, a frog goddess, had a woman’s body with a frog head.  She was associated with the germination of corn after the Nile flooded.  Frogs were 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 turns to blood, Moshe goes to Pharaoh and gives him another warning.  Pharaoh still will not relent and let the Hebrews leave to worship Elohim. Moshe reaches out his hand with his staff and frogs come 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 power equal, the magicians do the same thing.

Pharaoh’s response: “Intercede with Adonai to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let the people go and sacrifice to Adonai…. 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

 “Adonai 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 him.  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, Elohim has shown Pharaoh who He is.  The magicians even proclaim the judgments are the working of Elohim.   Just knowing that Yahweh exists doesn’t necessarily change a person’s heart and Pharaoh’s heart remained hard.

Selah

The magicians imitate the first two judgments and try to create lice.  As blood, frogs and lice plague Egypt from the hand of Elohim, the magicians want to copy the judgments afflicting their own land and people.

Swarms, Swarms, Swarms – Plague 4

“Adonai 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 Adonai 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 Adonai, 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’ implying 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.  More destructive than termites, the scarab has a mouth that can saw through wood and great distress for the Egyptians.   Because the beetles were considered ‘little gods’, they could not be killed.

Elohim is going to judge Egypt, its land and its people. However, He is now going to distinguish between the Egyptians and His people.  The swarms of dung beetle ruined the whole land of Egypt except for Goshen.

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

Moshe explains that worshipping Yahweh in Egypt would be inappropriate because their sacrifices of cattle would be an abomination to the Egyptians.  They would want to stone the Hebrews.  Moshe says they will go the three days’ journey into the desert to worship the ‘I AM’ as He commands them to do.

Pharaoh says, “I will let you go, so that you can sacrifice to Adonai 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 answers Moshe’s prayer.  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

“Adonai says to Moshe, ‘Go to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘Here is what Adonai, 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 Adonai is on your livestock in the field–on the horses, donkeys, camels, cattle and flocks–and will make them suffer a devastating illness.  But Adonai 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 Apis, the bull god and the cow-headed Hathor, Egyptian goddess of love and protection.  Apis 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, they dedicated to Elohim at the foot of Mount Sinai.  The disease that killed Egypt’s livestock also killed their sacred bulls and cows for their temple sacrifice taking away any hope of  Osiris intervening between Egypt and the Elohim.

Moshe warns Pharaoh of the impending judgment that will be against all their sacred animals while keeping the Hebrews’ livestock alive.   With the disease that kills all livestock, Elohim shows Egypt that nothing can be protected from His judgments except His people.   With this plague, He breaks Egypt’s 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

“Adonai 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 Egyptian god of medicine and theology.  This plague in Hebrew is called shechiyn or inflamed spots; the root of the word for ‘burning. ’ There was so much physical suffering with this judgment that the Egyptians would call on this god to cure their pain, however,  his healing powers could not overrule the authority of Elohim.

Even the sorcerers could not escape the skin disease and became so infected they could not stand before Moshe or carry out the priestly duties.  They were responsible for taking the ashes of human sacrifices and casting them into the air.  Floating in the wind over the people of Egypt was considered a blessing. Now, the ash remains of human sacrifice were burning the flesh of the Egyptians – including their cats and dogs. 

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

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

Selah

Elohim uses plagues to ‘smite Egypt’ and through those same plagues draws His people closer.

 

“Adonai said to Moshe, ‘Get up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Here is what Adonai 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 Elohim’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.  Elohim 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 Adonai 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 stars, 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 from the skies.

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’ which 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, counting the omer, and Feast of Weeks.

Pharaoh’s response: “Then Pharaoh summoned Moshe and Aaron. ‘This time I have sinned,’ he said to them. ‘Adonai is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong.  Pray to Adonai, 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).

Yeshua and The Plagues

“So he got up, took the child and his mother, and left during the night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod died. This happened in order to fulfill what Adonai had said through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son…. After Herod’s death, an angel of Adonai appeared in a dream to Yosef in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to Eretz-Yisra’el, for those who wanted to kill the child are dead” (Matthew 2:14-19).

“Then I saw another sign in heaven, a great and wonderful one—seven angels with the seven plagues that are the final ones; because with them, God’s fury is finished….  After this I looked, and the sanctuary (that is, the Tent of Witness in heaven) was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean bright linen and had gold belts around their chests.  One of the four living beings gave to the seven angels seven gold bowls filled with the fury of God, who lives forever and ever. Then the sanctuary was filled with smoke from God’s Sh’khinah, that is, from his power; and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels had accomplished their purpose” (Revelation 15:1-8).

The Seven Plagues of Elohim’s Fury

Plague on the earth: Ugly and painful sores broke out on those who had the mark of the beast and worshipped his image (Revelation 16:2). 

“So it [the beast] opened its mouth in blasphemies against God to insult his name and his Sh’khinah, and those living in heaven; it was allowed to make war on God’s holy people and to defeat them; and it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. Everyone living on earth will worship it [the beast] except those whose names are written in the Book of Life belonging to the Lamb slaughtered before the world was founded” (Revelation 13:6-8).

Plague on the sea: The sea turned into blood like that of a dead person and every living thing in it died (Revelation 16:3).

Plague on the rivers and springs: All living water turned to blood (Revelation 16:4).

“O HaKadosh, the One who is and was, you are just in these judgments of yours. They poured out the blood of your people and your prophets, so you have made them drink blood. They deserve it!” (Revelation 16:5).

Plague of the sun: The sun was given power to scorch people with fire.  They were burned by the intense heat and cursed Elohim who had control over the plagues, but refused to repent from their sins and glorify Him (Revelation 16:8-9).

Plague on throne of the beast: The kingdom of the beast was plunged into darkness.  Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed Elohim because of their pains and sores, but did not turn from their sinful behavior (Revelation 16:10-11).

Plague on the Euphrates River:  The River dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East.  Three ‘unclean’ spirits that looked like frogs came from the mouths of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet.  These frog-demons work miracles and go out into the whole world preparing the kings of the nations to gather for war on the Day of Elohim in Har Megiddo (Revelation 16:12-16).

Plague on the air:  “A loud voice came out of the Temple from the throne, saying, “It is done!” There were flashes of lightning, voices and peals of thunder; and there was a massive earthquake, such as has never occurred since mankind has been on earth, so violent was the earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Bavel the Great and made her drink the wine from the cup of his raging fury. Every island fled, and no mountains were to be found. And huge seventy-pound hailstones fell on people from the sky. But the people cursed God for the plague of hail, that it was such a terrible plague” (Revelation 16:17-21).

Haftarah (Readings from the Prophets)

Ezekiel 28:25-29:21

B’rit Chadashah (New Testament Readings)

Romans 9:14-17

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

Midrash Ya’era:  Broken and Bound to Egypt

The Hebrew phrases are kotzer ruach or ‘shortness and brokenness of spirit’ and avodah kesheh or ‘cruel bondage.’  Discuss what these phrases imply for the Hebrews, physically and spiritually, after being enslaved and why Elohim had to separate them from Egypt  (Acts 7:40).

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