Parashat Shemot (Names)
Shemot (Exodus) 1:1–6:1
Haftarah: Isaiah 27:6–28:13, 29:22–23
Again, and again, I am amazed at the richness of God’s Word and its continuity. The deeper we dig, the more treasures we find in it. This week we start reading from a new book, Shemot, the “Book of Names” in Hebrew, or “Exodus” in English. The first part of the book tells us of the suffering of the children of Israel in Egypt once the new king (Pharaoh), who did not know Joseph, became ruler over Egypt. As he saw the children of Israel growing in numbers and feared their strength, he began to enslave them. But, as we will find, God redeemed Israel from slavery and they began their long journey to the Land of Promise, which is a very important point to remember.
Our Parasha opens with this description:
Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came (הַבָּאִים, haba’im in Hebrew) to Egypt with Jacob; they came, each one with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. All the people who descended from Jacob were seventy people, but Joseph was already in Egypt. And Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the sons of Israel were fruitful and swarmed and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them.”
Exodus 1:1–7 (emphasis mine)
I believe that when studying God’s Word, we must pay close attention when we find words or phrases repeated. Because the language of Scripture is very precise, it can reveal some important meanings that we might otherwise miss. We find a very similar description to Exodus 1:1 regarding the sons of Israel who came/went to Egypt in Genesis 46:8:
Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who went (הבאים, haba’im) to Egypt, Jacob and his sons: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn.
Just prior to this verse, we find God’s words to Jacob in the vision of the night when He tells him:
And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also assuredly bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.”
In these three verses, God reassures Jacob of the covenant that He made with Jacob’s fathers; He tells him not to fear going down to Egypt; He promises to make Jacob into a great nation (just as a reminder, only 70 family members went down to Egypt); He promises Jacob that He will be with him, and that He will bring him back to the Land.
I believe that these prophetic points are important for us to keep in mind as we progress in our study in the coming weeks, because we will see the fulfillment of these promises. And as you continue to read with me, have these points in mind as they may illuminate the entire story.
For example, in our reading this week, we see that “the sons of Israel were fruitful and swarmed and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them” (Exodus 1:7). In simple words, Israel grew from a family of 70 people into a nation or people group. However, Israel’s destiny was not to stay in Egypt, but rather to inhabit the Land that God promised their forefathers.
That is where the first verse from our Haftarah portion connects to our Parasha:
The days to come (came or will come) (הַבָּאִים haba’im), Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, and they will fill the face of world with produce.
Isaiah 27:6 (emphasis mine)
Many translations refer to the Hebrew word “הַבָּאִים” (haba’im) in this verse as “those” who are to come, but in actuality, here the word haba’im refers to “the days to come”. They specifically speak of the fact that, in future days, the roots of Jacob will go deep into the land, and will blossom and sprout. Ultimately, the descendants of Jacob — Israel — will fulfill their destiny to be a fruitful blessing to the rest of the world. In fact, the words from Isaiah 27:6 confirm the covenant between God and Abraham (Genesis 13:14–17; 17:4–8), of which the Land was (and is) an integral part. In other words, the prophetic promises uttered in all these passages rely on fulfillment through a people and a land – the Land of Promise.
Isaiah 27:12–13 further affirms the significance of these promises being fulfilled in connection to the descendants of Jacob inhabiting the Land of Promise:
On that day the LORD will thresh from the flowing stream of the Euphrates River to the brook of Egypt, and you will be gathered up one by one, you sons of Israel. It will come about also on that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.
In closing, while we have already begun to see the re-gathering of Israel back to the land, I am personally waiting for the day when we will be able to worship the LORD together on the holy mountain in Jerusalem in freedom and truth!
Did you know? — Lone Soldier
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