Scripture Portion of Week 13: Shemot

Exodus 1:1-6:1

“Life is a relay race for the truth.” Just as one runner sprints his 100 meters and passes the baton over to the next runner, so do we run the course of our life and pass our knowledge over to our children, nephews, and nieces. To lose knowledge only takes one generation, about 70 years, of complacency and idleness.

Just a couple of generations after the death of Egypt’s Prime Minister Joseph, the rulers of Egypt forgot who he was, forgot Joseph’s God, and forgot the importance of God’s people, the sons of Israel (Exodus 1:8-10). Because the rulers of Egypt did not know Joseph, they did not really know Israel; and because they did not know Israel, they feared Israel to the point of feeding the Hebrew newborn sons to the Nile River predators in order to quell the population (1:20-22). The adult Hebrews were enslaved, forced to serve the government in building projects (1:11).


Moses was born to a family from Levi, making Moses a Levite, which would have special meaning later in Moses’ life. Baby Moses was secretly set on the river in a basket, in hopes that someone might find him and care for him. Moses’ older sister Miriam watched and waited, then saw the princess of Egypt draw him out of the water. The princess hired a Hebrew woman, whom Moses’ sister Miriam ensured was their mother, to nurse Moses (2:7-9). The princess named the boy Mosheh (מֹשֶׁ֔ה), which comes from the verb meshitihu (מְשִׁיתִֽהוּ), which means I drew him out. However, as the princess most likely used Egyptian to name him rather than Hebrew, the meaning of Mosheh in Egyptian was born. Therefore, if the princess named him Mosheh according to the Egyptian meaning, she thought of him as her own son. Later, Moses became the man who drew out the nation of Israel from Egypt, which gave his name yet a third meaning. So the triple-play on the name Mosheh here includes the meanings I [the princess] drew him [Moses] out, born/birthed, and I [Moses] dew him [Israel] out.


The Childhood of Moses by the Providence Lithograph Company, 1900

He grew to adulthood and went to look at the state of living his Hebrew people were in. He was overwhelmed with emotion and secretly executed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave (2:11-12). As a result of this becoming known to Pharaoh, Moses escaped to Midian (2:13-15), which is in Saudi Arabia today. The Midianites came from Midian, a son of Abraham through his second wife Keturah (Genesis 25:1). While in Midian, Moses saved several women from some aggressors (, one woman being Zipporah, whom Moses later marries (2:21). So Moses married within the family line of Abraham just as Isaac and Jacob had. Not only was Moses from the tribe of Levi, which God later set apart to be a tribe of priests, but he also married Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro (also called Reuel), who was the priest of Midian.


Ancient people in today’s Saudi Arabia

God sent a message to Moses while he was shepherding for his father in-law because God remembered the covenant that he had made with Abraham concerning Abraham’s descendants and the promised land of Canaan (2:24). An angel of Yehovah visited Moses with the sign of a bush (Hebrew סְּנֶֽה senah) set on fire (3:2-3), making common one of the mountain’s names Sinai (16:1). The other name for the mountain is Horeb (Hebrew  חֹרֵֽבָ horev), meaning desert. 

The message of God had two parts. In the first part, He established who He was: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…. I am who I am…. Yehovah” (3:6, 14, 15). God’s name was known and remembered from the beginning (Genesis 4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 16:13; 21: 33; 26:25). Israel’s wife Rachel named her first son Joseph in faith that Yehovah would add more children to her family (Genesis 30:24). Joseph (Hebrew יוֹסֵ֖ף Yoseph) is the contracted form of Jehoseph (Hebrew יה֨וֹסֵ֤ף Yehoseph), which means Yehovah will increase. However, after a few generations of the Hebrews’ oppression in Egypt, perhaps God’s name had been forgotten among the youth. So God instructed Moses to return to Egypt and gather the elders of the Hebrews together to tell them His message as perhaps they may remember God’s name (Exodus 3:16). God clearly stated that from that point forward, His name was not to be forgotten by anyone (3:15). God’s name expresses His eternal attribute, “I am who I am” (3:14). Yehovah is a composite of the Hebrew be verb forms was (הָיָה haya), is (הוֹוֶה hoveh), and will be (אֶהְיֶה ehye). God’s full name with vowels and the accent is first found in Genesis 3:14 and appears throughout the Bible as Ye-ho-VAH.


The second part of God’s message was that He would save them from Egypt through His servant Moses, and give them to the promised land of Canaan through Moses (Exodus 3:8). God made Moses His messenger and Aaron the mouthpiece; what Moses stated was the direct message of God Himself (4:14-16). He gave Moses the ability to perform miraculous signs to confirm that Moses was His messenger (4:17). God told Moses to warn Egypt that if Egypt did not let Israel go, God would kill the firstborn of Egypt, because God considered Israel His firstborn son (4:23).

Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, “Let My son go that he may serve Me.” But you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn. – Exodus 4:22-23

Moses returned to Egypt with his family in order to fulfill his obedience to God, deliver the news to Israel, and warn Egypt. However, before arriving in Egypt to do these things, Moses had to circumcise his son in order to remember and keep the covenant between Yehovah and Abraham (4:24-26). Moses demonstrated his faithfulness.

About Jonathan Lankford

Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Jonathan has provided education and training services to organizations and individuals in Vietnam since 2007.
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