Hebrew Roots/Torah observance/Va'era
- Parshat Va'eira - 'I appeared'
- Exodus 6 -9:35; Ezekiel 29:22-23
Moshe is now called into Yahweh’s service as the leader of His people. Exodus 6:2-8 He is speaking to Moshe and He tells Moshe that this is the first time He is revealing Himself to mankind as Yahweh. Before this He has only appeared as El Shaddai or God Almighty, yet we know that the Name of God, Yahweh, is used before this in Scripture. It’s there in the Hebrew, but although they knew His Name as Yahweh, they did not know Him in the capacity of the meaning of His Name.
The Name of Yahweh
Va-Eira - 'and I appeared'. Yahweh appeared to Avraham, Y'tzchak and Ya'akov and was known to them as El Shaddi (God self sufficient or Almighty). He went on to say that although He appeared to them, they did not know Him as Yahweh. Why did Moshe think the people would ask for the name of the God of their fathers? Had Israel forgotten God? Yes, during their stay in Egypt, the Israelites had compromised and worshipped Egypt’s gods (Josh. 24:14, Ezek 20:5-10). Yahweh was known to them, but probably only as one among many gods.
"And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of ‘El Shaddai’ (God Almighty), but by my name ‘Yahweh’ (I AM) I was not known to them." Exodus 6:3 At a crucial point in the fateful struggle to liberate the children of Yisrael from Egyptian bondage, Yahweh tells Moshe that He was not known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by the tetragrammaton name (Ex. 6:3). In this passage and in the next four verses that follow, God reveals to Moshe His purpose in bringing Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. But what is the significance of the different names by which God may appear and by which we may call upon Him?
Each name refers to a different aspect or attribute of Yahweh, and He is explaining to Moshe here the religious significance of this entirely new period in Israelite history which is now beginning with the Exodus from Egypt. The Patriarchs experienced God primarily as One who appears in visions and who makes long term promises which are not fulfilled in their lifetime. Now, however, begins a new era of fulfillment, of keeping promises, of carrying out the terms of the Covenant. This is signified by His tetragrammaton name, which denotes His attribute of “faithfulness” – whereby he can be “trusted to verify His words.”
Under Moshe’ leadership, they were to experience the redemptive power of Yahweh made real, certified before their own eyes, and for generations still yet to come, the Children of Israel could testify as to the power of Yahweh's name. Previously, as shepherds, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had only known Yahweh as el Shaddai (the Almighty) in their experience (Genesis 17:1) proving His power, but not in such a redemptive manner as the Children of Israel were now to experience. When we come to Exodus 6:6, we now have the promise of a redeemer - a kinsman redeemer, One who would be with them, identified with them in all that they needed Him to be.
The Patriarchs lives has been based upon the Divine promises but they had never witnessed the fulfillment of these promises - now the people are progressing on in spiritual maturity, they were to experience the essential aspect of God which is His “truth-ness” – His “faith-fulness.” were made known. How fortunate then were the generation of the Exodus and those who entered and settled the Land! Not merely because they were now “free” or because they became “property owners,” but because they had now experienced the “faithfulness” of God, witnessing God fulfilling His promises through His redemption of them.
Meaning of His Name
Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey has sent me to you”—God’s name is actually based on the four letters (YHWH) and is not actually Ehyeh. Yahweh is probably an archaic form of the verb “to be” from a root y'hi which means "to be" or "become". It is difficult to translate because of the conceptual nature of Hebrew.
In Genesis 1:3 "… and there was light.", the word y'he "was" is from the same root as Yahweh. Effectively, God is now pointing out His nature toward mankind. The beginning of this revelation is evidenced by signs and wonders. On the mountain, when God first brought to light this name, He caused a bush to burn without being consumed, and changed Moshe’s rod into a serpent.
It probably means, “He will be” or perhaps a Hiphil form, “He brings into being”. The form of “he will be” in the Hebrew Bible is Yihyeh (Yod-Hey-Yod-Hey). But in a more ancient form of Hebrew scholars think the second Yod would have been a Vav and that Vav was pronounced like a “W” instead of a “V”. Because Yahweh says in 3:14 that he is “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh”, it would seem that His name has something to do with being or existence. God is truly existent in a way that all others beings are not. He is the first being and the uncaused cause. He is the only non-contingent being, the only being not dependent on anyone or anything else for His existence. All other things came into existence because of him and by means of Him.
It would be better translated “I will be who I will be” (Ehyeh asher Ehyeh). The word “Ehyeh” is the imperfect form of “to be”. Usually in Hebrew the imperfect is a future tense, or suggests incomplete action. Rashi felt God was saying, “I will be (with them in this sorrow) as I will be (with them in other sorrows.” The Midrash says that this name means God is eternal and timeless—I am now what I always was and will always be what I am.
Tell them, “I AM has sent me to you”—Again the word is “Ehyeh” or “I will be”. This is my name forever— the next phrase says, “This is my memorial name to all generations”. In other words, God said, “This is my name forever” Considering the Hebrew letters themselves, He told Moshe I am Yahweh (I WAS, AM and WILL BE). This reveals another aspect of His attributes toward Mankind. He opened knowledge of His nature and Kingdom, as demonstrated by the two hays, which are open on the bottom, and the vav which reaches down to us. The vav represents Yeshua coming to us from heaven.
God is above and we are below, looking up into the letters, the shin is closed on the bottom and yud is elevated, not reaching down to us. Dalet is bent over as in worship. This is indicative of the nature of God toward mankind, to this point in time. He was exalted and worshipped but unreachable and mysterious to man.
The Name of Yeshua contains the Yod which does not reach down, the Shin which is closed on the bottom and appears to be worshipping with hands reaching upward, and vav u which reaches down to us. The Ayin has what looks like two vavs attached and we see in this His second coming, increased in power, as King and Priest of the whole world.
Deliverance From the Land
And His promise is to take them to a land flowing with milk and honey—In other words, he would bring them to a land well-suited for raising sheep, cattle, and goats and also fruit. A three days’ journey—At first God did not have them ask to be set free, but only to travel and worship. This would involve one day to travel out, a full day for the ceremony, and a day to return. By showing Pharaoh’s unwillingness to grant this simple request, God shows all the more how unreasonable Pharaoh was.
Thus you will plunder the Egyptians—This promise must have seemed incredible to an enslaved people. When God finished, not only would the Israelites leave, but the Egyptian would send them out with treasure. God shows his power by making the impossible happen.
It was through Pharaoh’s heart being hardened by God that allowed the power of God to be demonstrated. Opposition causes the true nature of beings to be displayed openly. This is why mankind has to deal with Satan. Through Satan our desire and nature are tested, to see if we will choose God over all other obstacles.
He had said to Moshe, as repeated to Pharaoh, "I will make a distinction between My people and your people" (Exodus 8:19) It was obvious that He did this from the fourth plague onwards. With all of the commandments and regulations, they had the purpose of keeping Israel separate from the nations around her.
Predictably, when Moshe goes to Pharaoh with his credentials from the Almighty, refuses to listen to Moshe’s demands. Pharaoh's uncooperativeness was due in part to the economic loss of so many slaves and so pressure needed to be brought to bear upon him to relinquish them. The Ten Plagues which will punish the Egyptians for their brutal oppression of the Children of Israel, while establishing that only Yahweh is Master of all, are about to begin.
Moshe and Aaron display Yahweh's power with the rod of authority he has been given to become a 'snake'. This word in the Hebrew is actually a crocodile which was the symbol for Egypt. This in Pharaoh's court would have created a scare and a display of Yahweh's authority over the source of their god, the crocodile. And so the power play begins between the magicians of Pharaoh and Yahweh using Moshe and Aaron to display that His power is the greater. In Ezekiel 29: 3, in His prophecy against Egypt, Yahweh refers to the crocodile and says, "I am against you Pharaoh, King of Egypt, the great sea-monster that crouches within its rivers .. "
The further demonstrations of Yahweh's power are directed at the gods of Egypt which displays to the Egyptians as well as the Israelites, who is the true God. It is also an engagement in spiritual warfare to break the spiritual powers of darkness over the land of Egypt which allowed many of them to choose to join themselves with the children of Israel and leave with them. Also it effectively broke Egypt as a world power and she never rose again to her former glory. Egypt was judged for her idolatry.
The Egyptians had 'gods' for everything. They worshipped fish, frogs, animals and everything else imaginable. God was showing proof that He is in control of all the elements and that there is no need for any other gods. Moshe was given three initial signs to demonstrate His power. Moshe Rod was made into a serpent and his hand was made leprous and he was to take water from the river and it would become blood. (Ch.3:6-9)
If we understand that each plague represented a judgment on a specific Egyptian deity, then we see that Yahweh was truly demonstrating to the most powerful ruler of the most powerful nation of that day that He is Lord of all heaven and earth!
"Then I will lay my hand on Egypt with great acts of judgment. Then, when I stretch out my hand over Egypt and bring the people of Isra'el out from among them, the Egyptians will know that I am Yahweh" (7:4, 5).
Here is a list of the miracles God did in Egypt to judge the gods of Egypt.
- Water to blood - judged Khnum, Sati, Hapi, Osiris, Hathor, Neith, Sobek, and Apepi.
- Plague of frogs - judged the creator goddess Heka.
- Plague of flies - judged Vatchit, Beelzebub, and the Scarab beetle.
- Plague of lice - judged Seth, Geb, Ra, and Osiris.
- Death of the animals - judged Ptah, Apis, Hathor, and Osiris.
- Plague of boils - judged Ptah, Osiris, Sekhmet, Imhotep, Serapis, the Egyptian priesthood, casting ashes ritual.
- Plague of hail - judged Nut, Geb, Amun-Ra, Osiris, and Pharaoh.
- Plague of locusts - judged Sobek, Ra, Shu, Geb, and Osiris.
- Plague of darkness - judged Nut, Hathor, Amun-Ra, and the Egyptian priesthood.
- Death of the firstborn - judged Heka, Isis, Min, Horus, Bes, Seker, and the Pharaoh.
- Finally there was the parting of the Red Sea. He also provided protection for Israel through the last six plagues and a pillar of fire and a cloud to lead them out of Egypt. Yahweh catches our attention through the supernatural as well. Every time we see or hear of a healing or miracle, our faith is increased. He is the One who controls the elements and makes Himself known to man. With Yahweh for our God, who needs anything else? "Oh that men would praise Yahweh for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Psalm107:8
Stand on the promises of God. Quit sitting on the premises.
The story of the deliverance from Egypt is meant to remind all of God's true children (those who have joined with him in covenant faithfulness) that He, Yahweh who is God alone —is worthy to be praised as the Great and Mighty Deliverer!
The People's Response
Moshe didn't have an easy job. Yahweh called him to stand before a powerful leader of a powerful nation to demand that they give up their slave labor force. It was not surprising that Pharaoh, King of Egypt, didn't listen to him. That was to be expected, but the very people whom he was to lead didn't listen to him either.
The people had been so overburdened with heavy labour that they failed to respond to the message of deliverance to come. They had sunk into an apathy that comes with a being a depressed people with no vision or purpose except to get through the next day's existence. It must have been encouraging to him to see his own people's initial positive response, but then he had to stand alone except for the companionship of his brother Aaron.
The Bible has many examples of people who dramatically encountered God, yet were not up to the task, or did well for a while, but failed in the end. Moshe chose to continue to be faithful to his calling.
It's not the encounter that makes the difference. There is something much deeper that must happen inside a person to enable them to stick to their calling against all obstacles. Somehow Moshe was able to keep perspective in spite of the difficulties before him and trust that what God was saying was right in spite of the circumstances he faced. Moshe had performed some signs for them, which seemed to impress them, but their increased suffering proved to have greater influence upon their outlook than anything Moshe said or did. But Moshe' response was to continue to believe God.
This is the challenge each of us face. Whatever our life situation, will we base our outlook on life on our circumstances, or will we base it on what Yahweh has said to us in the Scriptures. If we seek to live out what God says, we will be confronted by situations that will try to intimidate us. Whatever our God-given responsibilities are, as we face similar challenges, we must continue to hold on and not lose faith.
The redemption that He promised them was --- Exodus 6: 7 These are the Passover promises. These four things or stages of redemption are represented in the Seder service by the four cups of redemption.
- I will bring you out
- I will deliver you
- I will redeem you
- I will take you
However He not only said He would bring them out and take them to Himself, but that He would bring them into the land that He promised their fathers. He brought them out to bring them in. This is to give them the promised inheritance. (6: 8)
He effected the deliverance by His mighty power, however, receiving the inheritance depended on them walking in obedience to Him and was delayed by their lack of faith at Kadesh Barnea when they failed to believe His Word because of their hardness of heart, and as a result wandered forty years more in the wilderness. Our deliverance and redemption is unconditional but receiving our spiritual inheritance depends on our faith.
With all the plagues, opportunity is first given to repent - mercy is extended first before the hand of judgement. In each one, the god that they worship is shown to be under Yahweh's power and a mere element of the earth - a potential pestilence. The first three plagues of blood, frogs and lice are different from the others: not Moshe, but Aharon, initiates them:
1. And Yahweh said to Moshe, “Say to Aharon: ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt over their rivers, over their canals and over their ponds and over all their gatherings of water, and they shall become blood; and there shall be blood in all the land of Egypt, and in the wood and in the stone [vessels]”’ Ex.7:19 2. And Yahweh said to Moshe, “Say to Aharon: ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the canals, and over the ponds, and raise up the frogs over the land of Egypt”’ (8:1). 3. And Yahweh said to Moshe, “Say to Aharon: ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the land; it shall become lice throughout the land of Egypt”’ (8:12).
Some of the Nile was kept in wooden vats for filtering and purifying purposes. That this was mentioned as also turning to blood, indicates that Yahweh's power was greater than their attempts to purify the water. JPS op. cit. p36
After this third judgment the sorcerers recognised that it was the hand of God as they were unable to duplicate it. However Pharaoh's heart was still hardened. It took almost a whole year to weaken Pharaoh. It would appear that Moshe and Aaron first appeared to Pharaoh late Spring or early Summer. The plagues continued through the summer, autumn and they came out in the beginning of spring in the month of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar.
The plagues were sequenced with what takes place in the natural at that time in Egypt. In July/August the Nile turns a dull red - frogs then made their appearance in the Nile basin around September. Cattle are sent out to pasture after the rains in the green pastures and the crops come at the end of January/February. So Yahweh used the natural cycle of nature and the productivity of the land to address the demonic powers that controlled it.
With the ensuing judgments, the balance of power changes from Pharaoh to Moshe, the humble servant of Yahweh. Although he still does not truly repent, there is recognition of the power of the God whom Moshe serves.
The plagues are administered in series of three. In each set of plagues, Moshe presents himself to Pharaoh in the first and second one, but with the failure of Pharaoh to comply, the third one comes automatically without any further consultation. With each of these series there is opportunity given to repent, but with the last in each grouping, the judgment comes without that opportunity.
From the fourth judgment on, only the Egyptians were affected by the plagues, demonstrating that Yahweh had put a distinction between them and His people. By this time, His people had been motivated to come to repentance and their faith would have been activated to hope in the salvation to come through seeing His hand moving on their behalf.
At the end of the first set of plagues Pharaoh admits that "this is the finger of God" (8:19). After the second set (7th plague), he says "I have sinned this time. Yahweh is righteous, and my people and I are wicked" (9:27). Finally he admits, "I have sinned against Yahweh your God and against you" (10:10) It took seven plagues for Pharaoh to admit that he had sinned and although he admits it, there is no true repentance that brings a change of heart.
Pharaoh was the god of all the gods of Egypt. They were all supposed to be under his control, so it was a humiliating experience to be so stripped of his 'power' over the gods of the land. Even against the advice of his counsellors, he refused to repent. With the progression in the deterioration of the wise men's ability to use their demonic powers they not only could no longer imitate them and were powerless to stop them.
Pharaoh's heart was already hardened toward God, so Yahweh used the condition of his heart to fulfill His will. The hardened state of Pharaoh's heart still allowed him free-will to change and he was given that opportunity many times but he hardened his own heart in his exercise of his free-will. If Pharaoh had no free will then he was not guilty of anything, as a man cannot be blamed for what is not within his own control.
For the last three judgments to come, Yahweh says "Let My people go that they may serve Me, for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth" Exodus 9:14 There is an increase in the intensity and the impact of the judgments from this time onwards. Many of the Egyptians responded and took warning of the judgments. (9:20-21) When His judgments are in the earth, the people learn righteousness. Isaiah 26: 9