Parashah 14: Va'era (I appeared)
Exodus 6:2 through 9:35
Parashah 14: Va'era (I appeared) - Exodus 6:2 through 9:35
Haftarah (Writings and Prophets): Ezekiel 28:25 through 29:21.
B'rit Hadasha (New Testament): Romans 9:14-17; 2 Corinthians 6:14 - 7:1.
Tanach Scriptures are from Stern's Complete Jewish Bible; B'rit Chadash Scriptures from the Aramaic English New Testament.
Welcome "newbies" and "oldies!" As you all know, Torah was written by Moshe (Moses) and consists of the first five Books of the Bible which contain God's original Divine Instructions in Righteousness. Since this is a Netzarim (Nazarene/Messianic) website, we refer to God by His proper Name: Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, transliterated into English as YHWH, and most likely pronounced "Yah-way" (see Exodus 3:13-15). His Son's Name is Y'shua (most likely pronounced "Ye-shoo-ah"). Enjoy this week's Torah portion!
This Torah portion is awesome on many fronts; mainly because it reveals the raw power of our God!
First, in Exodus 6:2, we see YHWH giving His Name to Moshe (Moses): "I am ADONAI. 3 I appeared to Avraham, Yitz'chak and Ya'akov as El Shaddai, although I did not make myself known to them by my name, .
The tetragrammaton, Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, consists basically these letters in English: YHWH (mostly likely pronounced Yahweh).
So, God Himself revealed His Name to us, and man has had access to it all along as we saw in Genesis 4:26, yet actually only knowing Him up until then as El Shaddai, the God who performs hidden miracles and exercises mastery over Nature (Exodus 6:3)! Ironically, traditional Jews refuse to utter his Name for fear of mispronouncing it or misspelling it, etc., and on the other end of the spectrum, you'll never hear the Father's Name in most Christian churches as they are all concentrating on "Jesus" whom they believe came to abolish the Torah (YHWH's divine Instructions in Righteousness)....
Moving on to Exodus 6:6-7, we see YHWH making a wonderful promise to His people:
Exodus 6: 6 "Therefore, say to the people of Isra'el: 'I am ADONAI. I will free you from the forced labor of the Egyptians, rescue you from their oppression, and redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am ADONAI your God, who freed you from the forced labor of the Egyptians.
The word "redeem" stands out because it basically means "to free from captivity by payment of ransom." The Israelites couldn't extricate themselves from the Egyptians; they were held captive under hideous, deplorable conditions - and YHWH Himself promised to "redeem" them. Two thousand years ago, He sent His Son Y'shua to redeem the whole world from "Egypt" (paganism, sin, a life of separation from YHWH). How awesome for the Creator to bother with a creation that has been disobeying and disappointing Him since the very beginning!
In Exodus 6:9 when Moshe (Moses) related the above to the people of Israel, "they wouldn't listen to him, because they were so discouraged, and their slavery was so cruel."
In Exodus 6:12 (also see Exodus 6:30), we see Moshe complaining of his fear that no one will listen to him because he is a "slow speaker." The thing he apparently didn't realize is that YHWH "chooses" those whomever He wishes, regardless as to their short-comings! That is welcome news for those of us with "hang-ups" or inferiority complexes.
It's part of human nature to become discouraged, depressed, angry, etc. whenever we experience severe hardships or when YHWH is pushing them to do something that makes no sense at the moment (as was the case for poor Moshe who feared he simply wasn't qualified). But we would do well to remember: Whenever YHWH gives us a "God-sized" task, it will always lead us to a crisis of belief...And what we choose to do about it, reveals how we truly feel about God! Just something to think about....
In last week's Torah portion it was puzzling to see Moshe's brother Aharon (Aaron) seemingly "coming out of nowhere," but this week we learned that the brothers were from the Tribe of Levi, the priests (see Numbers 1:47-54, etc):
Exodus 6: 19 The sons of M'rari were Machli and Mushi. These were the families of Levi with their descendants. 20 'Amram married Yokheved his father's sister, and she bore him Aharon and Moshe.
Some have attempted to "prove" predestination (via Pharaoh's condition of "being made hard-hearted"), or the idea that before the creation God determined the fate of the universe throughout all of time and space ... HOWEVER ... read on....
IMPORTANT: In Exodus 7:3, God does say that he will "harden" Pharaoh's heart, but did you know that the two words used in the entire story that were translated "harden" have nothing to do with hardness? Each time a plague comes and breaks Pharaoh's will, it says he "strengthened" Pharaoh's heart or that he "made Pharaoh's heart heavy." This makes it even less a situation of Pharaoh's decisions being controlled against his will. Rather, with each plague, Pharaoh's will was broken. YHWH then strengthened his heart (gave back to him the strength he had before the plague) and Pharaoh chose defiance of his own free will.
Pharaoh was thought to be a god in Egyptian theology, so YHWH was determined to show His glory over pharaoh, the elements, nature, and so on - all designed to prove that YHWH was in charge. Could pharaoh have repented? Did he have that choice? Sure, if he had renounced his crown and the spiritual claims that came with it and given his life to YHWH. But, he never did that - YHWH knew all this beforehand....
And so this week we witnessed a true tug-of-war between YHWH and man - and guess who won! Every time Pharaoh attempted to challenge YHWH, he caused his people (who blindly and apparently unbegrudgingly followed/obeyed their leader) severe grief (as is the case of many leaders today who manage to deceive people into thinking they are perfect and have the answers to everything). Cases in point can be found in the first seven of the ten plagues YHWH sent to Egypt: Blood, frogs, lice, insects, death of livestock, sores and hail (Exodus 7:1 - 8:25).
Pharaoh and his cronies honestly believed they could "take on" the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and they even attempted to use magic in their attempts to discredit Him:
Exodus 7: 8 ADONAI said to Moshe and Aharon, 9 "When Pharaoh says to you, 'Perform a miracle,' tell Aharon to take his staff and throw it down in front of Pharaoh, so that it can become a snake." 10 Moshe and Aharon went in to Pharaoh and did this, as ADONAI had ordered - Aharon threw down his staff in front of Pharaoh and his servants, and it turned into a snake. 11 But Pharaoh in turn called for the sages and sorcerers; and they too, the magicians of Egypt, did the same thing, making use of their secret arts. 12 Each one threw his staff down, and they turned into snakes. But Aharon's staff swallowed up theirs. 13 Nevertheless, Pharaoh was made hardhearted; and he didn't listen to them, as ADONAI had said would happen.
Only YHWH could turn a stick into a snake, but the sages and sorcerers used trickery in attempt to duplicate YHWH's powers. Note, however, in verse 12 we see that Aharon's staff "swallowed up theirs" - a sure sign that human "magic" is no match for YHWH!
In Exodus 7:22, the magicians were even able to duplicate YHWH's "blood" plague. Please read this scripture with the following question in mind: What result did Pharaoh's actions have on all the people who witnessed the awesome feats of the magicians?
Exodus 7: 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts, so that Pharaoh was made hardhearted and didn't listen to them, as ADONAI had said would happen. 23 Pharaoh just turned and went back to his palace, without taking any of this to heart.
When Pharaoh (who was thought to be a god) arrogantly attempted to show the people that he was mightier than the God of the Israelites, he not only used magicians to "show up" YHWH; but he coldly "turned and went back to his palace, without taking any of this to heart" - an action designed to ridicule YHWH and to prove to all the people that Pharaoh was all-knowing and all-powerful! This is exactly why YHWH insists His people stay away from magic, sooth-saying, Tarot card readings, astrology and the like, as these dark "arts" are specifically designed to fool and deceive people in various ways, ultimately keeping them from His Truth and His ways! (This is evidenced in some religions and religious circles via Voodoo, holy laughter and snake handling, etc.)
Pharaoh's actions have reverberated throughout the millennia because YHWH said the following about Egypt - and it holds true to this very day as evidenced in today's Haftarah reading:
In today's haftarah reading the prophet Ezekiel is told to prophesy against Pharaoh, king of Egypt.
Ezekiel 29: 8 "Therefore Adonai ELOHIM says, 'I will bring the sword against you and eliminate both your people and your animals. 9 The land of Egypt will become a desolate waste, and they will know that I am ADONAI; because he said, "The Nile is mine; I made it." 10 So I am against you and your Nile; and I will make the land of Egypt a totally desolate waste from Migdol to S'venah, all the way to the border of Ethiopia. 11 No human foot will pass through it, and no animal foot will pass through it; it will be uninhabited for forty years. 12 Yes, I will make the land of Egypt desolate, even when compared with other desolate countries, likewise her cities in comparison with other ruined cities; they will be desolate forty years. I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them through the countries.'
13 "For this is what Adonai ELOHIM says: 'At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the peoples where they were scattered - 14 I will restore the fortunes of Egypt and cause them to return to the land of their origin, Patros. But there they will be a humble kingdom, 15 the humblest of kingdoms. It will never again dominate other nations; I will reduce them, so that they never again rule other nations. 16 Moreover, they will no longer be a source of confidence for Isra'el to turn to; rather, it will only bring to mind their guilt in having turned to them before. Then they will know that I am Adonai ELOHIM.'"
Take a look at this profound statement by Moshe in Exodus 8: 10 Moshe said, "It will be as you have said, and from this you will learn that ADONAI our God has no equal."
This is reiterated in the "New Testament" as seen below....
B'rit Chadasha reading:
Romans 9: 17. For in the Scripture, he said to Pharaoh: For this very thing have I raised you up; that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
Halleluyah! Truer words were never spoken! Believers, we urge you to proclaim the Names of YHWH and His awesome Messiah Y'shua in all the earth!
In Exodus 9:1 YHWH said, "Let my people go so they can worship me." We who belong to YHWH have been set free from the enemy through the amazing grace of YHWH and the wondrous atoning blood of Messiah Y'shua!
2 Corinthians 6: 14. And don't be yoked with those who do not believe: for what fellowship has righteousness with iniquity or what fellowship has light with darkness. 15. Or what agreement has the Mashiyach with the Accuser or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16. Or what agreement has the temple of Elohim with that of demons? For you are the temple of the living Elohim; as it is said, I will dwell among them, and walk among them, and will be their Elohim, and they will be my people. 17. Wherefore, you come out from among them, and be separate from them says Master YHWH; and don't come near the unclean thing, and I will receive you; 18. And will be to you a Father, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says Master YHWH the Almighty.
Food for thought:
Check out the following scriptures and see if they remind you of anything:
Exodus 7: 9 "When Pharaoh says to you, 'Perform a miracle,' tell Aharon to take his staff and throw it down in front of Pharaoh, so that it can become a snake."
Exodus 7: 20 Moshe and Aharon did exactly what ADONAI had ordered. He raised the staff and, in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, struck the water in the river; and all the water in the river was turned into blood.
Exodus 8: 1 ADONAI said to Moshe, "Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, 'Here is what ADONAI says: "Let my people go, so that they can worship me.
Exodus 8: 10 He answered, "Tomorrow." Moshe said, "It will be as you have said, and from this you will learn that ADONAI our God has no equal. 11 The frogs will leave you and your homes, also your servants and your people; they will stay in the river only." 12 Moshe and Aharon left Pharaoh's presence, and Moshe cried to ADONAI about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. 13 ADONAI did as Moshe had asked -the frogs died in the houses, courtyards and fields; 14 they gathered them in heaps till the land stank. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that he had been given some relief, he made himself hardhearted and would not listen to them, just as ADONAI had said would happen.
Exodus 8: They did it -Aharon reached out his hand with his staff and struck the dust on the ground, and there were lice on people and animals; all the dust on the ground became lice throughout the whole land of Egypt. 18 The magicians tried with their secret arts to produce lice, but they couldn't. There were lice on people and animals. 19 Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." But Pharaoh was made hardhearted, so that he didn't listen to them, just as ADONAI had said would happen.
Exodus 9: 23 Moshe reached out with his staff toward the sky, and ADONAI sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. ADONAI caused it to hail on the land of Egypt - 24 it hailed, and fire flashed up with the hail; it was terrible, worse than any hailstorm in all of Egypt since it became a nation. 25 Throughout all the land of Egypt, the hail struck everything in the field, people and animals; and the hail struck every plant growing in the field and broke every tree there. 26 But in the land of Goshen, where the people of Isra'el were, there was no hail.
Note that Moshe was acting on BEHALF of YHWH. Whenever he raised his staff, it was an "extension" of YHWH, the "finger of God"....Just like Y'shua was an "extension" of YHWH, or the "arm of YHWH" as mentioned in Isaiah 53:1.
Whenever the magicians attempt to duplicate in order to fool the people, it's a reminder of the scripture that tells us, "Many will come in my Name"....
Matthew 24: 5 For many will come in my name, saying, `I am the Messiah!' and they will lead many astray.
Mark 13: 6 Many will come in my name, saying, `I am he!' and they will fool many people.
Luke 21: 8 He answered, "Watch out! Don't be fooled! For many will come in my name, saying, `I am he!' and, `The time has come!' Don't go after them.
The plagues in Egypt are very significant! First, it is interesting to note that YHWH placed 10 plagues on Egypt, as the number ten is the number of trials and testing and also the Ten Commandments - law and order! YHWH knew how deeply they would affect the Egyptians...It's amazing that Pharaoh???s heart was so hardened in spite of these awful plagues.
A study of the plagues reveals some interesting facts as to why the Egyptians were so tormented by them. It is interesting to note that some of these plagues YHWH used were things that were important to the Egyptians who regarded them as gods, like the frogs. However YHWH???s power was manifest as greater than the Egyptian gods and His power was declared among the nations - see Exodus 9:14-16.
The frogs were a symbol of life and fertility and the plague caused them to become a curse to the Egyptians. Frogs are also a symbol of demons and unclean spirits.
The Egyptian magicians were able to duplicate only three things: The snakes (Exodus 7:11-12) and the plagues of blood (Exodus 7:22) and the frogs, Exodus 8:7. It was when the magicians were not able to replicate the gnats or lice, Exodus 8:18, that they told Pharaoh "This is the finger of Elohim." The Egyptian magicians were not able to replicate any of the other plagues.
The plague of the lice is significant because the Egyptians were obsessed with cleanliness and hygiene. In ancient tombs remains of lice have been found. The Egyptian men and women kept their heads shaved and would wear elaborate wigs because of the lice. Artifacts have been found such as wigs, eye makeup palettes, tweezers, combs and razors. Notice too that the plague of lice never was taken away.
The next plague, the plague of flies - symbolic of evil spirits - did not come near the set apart children of Israel who lived in Goshen - and had done so since they moved to Egypt when Joseph was "lord" of all Egypt (see Genesis 45:9; Genesis 45:10-13).
The plague of "murrain" (disease) upon the livestock was a series of highly infectious diseases, such as anthrax. Again, notice that the livestock of the children of Yisra???el were not affected. The flies were a contributing factor in the spread of the disease on the livestock; they would bite the livestock and thus spread the disease.
The next plague was the boils ??? when Moshe took the soot from the pottery kilns - Exodus 9:10-11, (NAS) 10 So they took soot from a kiln, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses threw it toward the sky, and it became boils breaking out with sores on man and beast. 11 And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians as well as on all the Egyptians. The boils symbolize uncleanliness ??? remember the Egyptians were big on hygiene! These boils caused such pain and cramping that the magicians couldn???t stand or walk!
The next plague we see is the plague of thunder and hail and fire. "Fire flashed up with the hail!" - is describing terrific bolts of lightning, because if you've ever been next to a bolt of lightning, it does appear to "flash back up"! ("Man" seems to think this phenomenon of "fire flashing up" has only been known since the 1930's. See this video clip from the Discovery Channel.) Regardless, this experience that YHWH brought to them in Egypt would have been terrifying. It was also something the Pharaoh's magicians could not do, even though Pharaoh was supposed to be a god! But yet again, we see YHWH???s hand of protection upon the children of Yisra???el in the land of Goshen!
Through all this we see Pharaoh???s heart hardened. The Hebrew word is chazaq ??? used more than 300 times in the Bible. Pronounced khaw-zak it means amongst other things: obstinate, to be strong or hard and to withstand. Therefore, since Pharaoh was considered a god to the Egyptian people, he was not willing to give up his "throne" and submit himself to YHWH, the King of Kings!
Note that YHWH protected HIS people. As we say in this Torah portion, YHWH took all power away from the Egyptians (pagans, people who refused to acknowledge Him as God), crushed them, showed their impotence and established himself as the Mighty One of Israel! He still protects us today - those who are truly His, doing their best to obey Him.
Obedience means DOING His will - not just "believing in Jesus" but actually paying attention to the fact that He has some "forever" commands, such as the Seventh Day Sabbath and the biblical feasts, etc. Yes, "the world" can happen to us - sickness, disease, accidents, death. Sometimes, we might end up as "collateral damage" because we are in a fallen world, but the good news is: No matter what happens to us here on earth, the end result is that believers WILL receive eternal life and get to serve Him forever!
There is so much more that could be said about today's study, and we wholeheartedly urge you to read the cited scriptures through, if you haven't already done so. If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to write! Thank you for reading our Torah study notes for this week, and we pray for you a blessed week ahead, that may you ever grow in your knowledge of YHWH. And, as always, please let us know if you ever see anything in our studies that sounds "off the mark"! Nobody has the market cornered on absolute Truth; we are all learning and obeying to the best of our abilities....
The next Parashah reading will be:
Parashah 15: Bo (Go) - Exodus 10:1 through 13:16.
Haftarah (Writings and Prophets): Jeremiah 46:13-28.
B'rit Hadasha (New Testament): Luke 2:22-24; John 19:31-37; Acts 13:16-17; Revelation 8:6 through 9:12; 16:1-21.
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