Parashat Shemot (Names)

Shemot (Exodus) 1:1–6:1

Our weekly reading takes us to a new book called Shemot (“Exodus”). The literal translation of the Hebrew word is, “Names”, which comes from Exodus 1:1: “These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household.” We are then reminded of their names: “Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. And all the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt.(Exodus 1:2–5)

I want to point out the significance of when the name Jacob is used versus Israel. We remember that Jacob’s name was changed to “Israel” after he wrestled with the divine being in Genesis 32. In the passage from Exodus, both names are used, but the first name used is Israel.  The reason is that this account is about the birth of the people of Israel; not only is it the birth of the people, or nation, but also the story of the redemption of Israel from slavery in Egypt.

I also find something interesting in the use of the number twelve here; there’s an amazing similarity between this story of redemption (that comes later in the book of Shemot), and the story of redemption of the world in the New Covenant. Both redemptive periods are clearly connected to the number twelve — the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve disciples.

The first chapter of the book also raises another interesting point, which is a reality that Israel faced throughout history, and continues to suffer until today: the jealousy, fear, and pride of the nations toward the Jewish people. But, just as in ancient times, so it is today – the more the Jewish people are oppressed and persecuted, the stronger we become.  This is not because of our own greatness, but because of Almighty God’s grace and love!

And Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation.  But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them. Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we.  Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply and in the event of war, they also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us, and depart from the land.” (Exodus 1:6–10)

Shemot (Exodus) also introduces us to Moses, the man through whom God would choose to deliver His people; the man that God would choose to be the mediator between He and the people; the man whose authority the people of Israel would question, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us?(Exodus 2:14a)

What an amazing parallel we find in Moses to Messiah Yeshua! Messiah was chosen by God to bring deliverance to the children of Israel, as well as to mediate a New Covenant between God and men. Furthermore, just like Moses, the people of Israel questioned His authority from the beginning of His ministry.  In fact, Stephen referred to our Parasha (and more) when he testified before the Sanhedrin:

But as the time of the promise was approaching which God had assured to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt, until THERE AROSE ANOTHER KING OVER EGYPT WHO KNEW NOTHING ABOUT JOSEPH. It was he who took shrewd advantage of our race, and mistreated our fathers so that they would expose their infants and they would not survive. And it was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God; and he was nurtured three months in his father’s home. And after he had been exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away, and nurtured him as her own son. “And Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.  But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian. And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him; but they did not understand. And on the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?’ But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying, ‘WHO MADE YOU A RULER AND JUDGE OVER US? YOU DO NOT MEAN TO KILL ME AS YOU KILLED THE EGYPTIAN YESTERDAY, DO YOU?’ And at this remark MOSES FLED, AND BECAME AN ALIEN IN THE LAND OF MIDIAN, where he became the father of two sons. And after forty years had passed, AN ANGEL APPEARED TO HIM IN THE WILDERNESS OF MOUNT Sinai, IN THE FLAME OF A BURNING THORN BUSH. And when Moses saw it, he began to marvel at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the Lord: ‘I AM THE GOD OF YOUR FATHERS, THE GOD OF ABRAHAM AND ISAAC AND JACOB.’ And Moses shook with fear and would not venture to look. BUT THE LORD SAID TO HIM, ‘TAKE OFF THE SANDALS FROM YOUR FEET, FOR THE PLACE ON WHICH YOU ARE STANDING IS HOLY GROUND. I HAVE CERTAINLY SEEN THE OPPRESSION OF MY PEOPLE IN EGYPT, AND HAVE HEARD THEIR GROANS, AND I HAVE COME DOWN TO DELIVER THEM; COME NOW, AND I WILL SEND YOU TO EGYPT.’ This Moses whom they disowned, saying, ‘WHO MADE YOU A RULER AND A JUDGE?’ is the one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush. (Acts 7:17–35)

Moses is arguably the most important and revered figure to the Jewish people today. Yet, the Word says, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to (obey) him.(Deuteronomy 18:15)

Just as Joseph’s life foretold of Messiah, so did Moses’ life. Let us continue to pray that the Jewish people will recognize Yeshua as the ultimate fulfillment of the these two great forerunners of the faith!


Shabbat Shalom,


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