Parshat Shemot - Shemot (Exodus) 1:1 - 6:1
Israel Meets the Deliverer
The Torah is HaShem’s telling of the story of creation of the universe, the planet Earth and all that dwells on the world, including human beings.
There are many such stories in the myriad of cultures both past and presently existing. What makes the telling so unique in Torah and throughout the Tanakh is the Source of the story. In nearly every story of creation and mankind’s beginnings gods, spirits or even extraterrestrials are given as the progenitors of the universe and humans. Only one story claims that there is just One G-d Who has no genesis to His Being; was One, is One and will be One forever and ever. That One Supreme Eternal Being is the only Creator of all that did exist, is existing now and will exist.
The Torah is related in stages. The opening lifts the curtain on creation and Who is the One doing the creating. It quickly jumps to this One’s pinnacle of creation, a being, the only type on planet Earth that is created in the image and likeness of the Creator Himself — Man — ”male and female, He created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
As the story unfolds it moves from this first man and his family to the family of men and the development of the earliest civilizations. After an indescribable desolation of the planet the telling moves on from the surviving family of the catastrophe and begins its narrow focus to one family in particular — Avram (Avraham) and Sarai (Sarah). These two will become the progenitors of a people HaShem will focus all His attention on for all time. The future of the world and all creation will be fixed on His relationship and dealings with this group who are small in number — and always will be — when compared to the peoples of the rest of creation.
In Genesis we learned where we Jews and the Gentile nations came from. How the family of Avraham grew in number from three (Avraham, Sarah and Yitzhak) to hundreds of thousands composed of twelve tribes.
In Exodus and throughout the rest of Torah HaShem will begin turning these tribes into a nation that follows His holy Laws and commandments transforming them into the nation that will one day be the center of rule on Earth for HaShem. From this Land promised to Avraham and his descendants — the Jewish people — HaShem will rule through the administration of His Mashiach while writing the laws and commandments of His Torah upon the minds and souls of His people.
”But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says Adonai, I will put My law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their G-d, and they shall be My people; and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying: ‘Know Adonai’; for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says Adonai; for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.” Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 31:33-34
Exodus begins by reminding us who our forefathers were and how they ended up in Egypt. After the death of Yosef and his brothers and that entire generation the children of Avraham continued to prosper and grow in number and became a multitude in Goshen.
Eventually a ruler in Egypt came to power that did not know of Yosef and all he had done to save the empire in the long forgotten past. It is here that we have to ask: After an undesignated time did this Pharaoh really not remember the savior of Egypt? To find that answer we have to look at a section of history not directly mentioned in this part of Torah.
In the time of Yosef the ruling class in Egypt were not true Egyptians. The land of the Southern Kingdom (the Lower Nile) had been conquered much, much earlier by a Semitic peoples commonly referred to by later historians as the Hyksos.
The Hyksos rulers over time adopted the pageantry and ways of the Egyptian rulers they conquered and even called their leader Pharaoh. However, being a Semite race of peoples they were not completely at odds with or against the Hebrews who also sprang from a Semitic heritage, that of Avraham, originally of Chaldea of the Land of Sumer. That is why a Hebrew slave like Yosef could hold such a high office as Viceroy to Pharaoh. That could have never occurred if a true Egyptian was sitting on the royal throne of Egypt — the Egyptians loathed the Semitic peoples of all types. They were the equivalent of “the deplorables” to them.
Over time, long after the death of Yosef and his brother’s generation the Hyksos were defeated and driven out of Lower Egypt and a new Egyptian Dynasty led and ruled by a true Egyptian was reinstated. Therefore, to say that this Pharaoh ruling at the time of Exodus did not know or remember Yosef and all he had done is a gross understatement. It is highly likely that he chose to not regard Yosef as a hero of the empire and simply blotted out those events from their history and did not allow that history to be taught to their children. That was a very common occurrence in those days — as we are witnessing even in our day — particularly in America.
The reason Pharaoh and his court feared the Israelites was because being a member of Semites they may one day, if a future group of Semitic invaders should attack Egypt from without, these Hebrew peoples living in Goshen would be well situated to attack from within causing another defeat of what Pharaoh considered to be the true Egyptian Dynasty and right to rule.
However, like most dictators he wasn’t willing to just let the people leave Egypt and go back to the land of their fathers. He considered them a resource for labor and practically free labor at that. In other words — slave labor! All he needed was a way to keep their numbers manageable while at the same time demoralizing them. His solution? Destroy all males born to Hebrew women. This would accomplish both goals while also removing any future threat these baby boys might pose to the empire when they grow to be men of fighting vigor.
Pharaoh’s plans are thwarted by the least of possible conditions in the guise of two women — HaShem fearing midwives named Shiphrah and Puah. At the risk of their own lives and those of their families they refused too adhere to Pharaoh’s order to kill all the males born to Israelite women. As a result the future deliverer, a Mashiach, is born.
The story of the birth and saving of Moshe is an interesting one. It parallels the more ancient story of a mighty king of Akkad named Sargon I or Sargon the Great (circa 2400 BCE). This Akkadian King, when he was born was placed in a basket and set afloat in a river where he was discovered by someone and one day grew up to become one of the most renowned kings of historical import.
Many who make it their career in life to try and bring doubt into the validity and reliability of Torah use this story of Sargon to shore up their claim that the Bible is just stories borrowed from more ancient sources and woven into the fabric of the history of the Jewish people. They also do this with the creation and flood stories, stating these came from more ancient Sumerian and Babylonian tales such as the Enuma Elish and the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Why would anyone be surprised that these more ancient stories would find their way into the Jewish account of those same events? Where did Avraham come from? Sumer! Would he not bring with him all the stories of the Sumerian and Akkadian peoples? The difference is Avraham would relate those stories with the revelation that it wasn’t gods or even Annunaki astronauts that was the source of all creation, the flood and more. It was the One and Only True G-d. That was the revelation that created a revolution of thought that exists to this very day.
Therefore, I find it not at all surprising that the mother of Moshe, knowing full well the stories of the ancient past and like Sargon as a baby, saw something special and unique in her son, placed him, like Sargon, into a basket, set him adrift in a location on the Nile River that would likely place him in the care of someone powerful enough to protect him — in this case the known favorite bathing place of Pharaoh’s childless daughter.
How did Pharaoh’s daughter know the boy was a Hebrew? Because he was circumcised. Yet, her soul was filled with compassion for the infant and she adopted him as her own son. I’m sure that didn’t sit well with her dad, the Pharaoh; but he loved his daughter and after all this was just one child so what possible threat could this one baby boy be to him or the empire — especially since he would be raised in the ways of Egypt and not in the ways of the Hebrew peoples. Little did this Pharaoh know that this boy would actually be raised and taught by his own mother; and she, his father and his older brother Aharon would teach him all the ways of their people so that he would have a firm foundation of who he was and where he came from. He may have looked like an Egyptian on the outside but on the inside where it counts, he was a true child of Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov — a child of HaShem.
As he grew Moshe must have had a sense that his destiny was to free his people from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. What he lacked was the wisdom and HaShem’s timing. So, like many of us righteous but impatient followers of HaShem he acted before being called by Adonai which resulted in him killing an Egyptian taskmaster who was beating a fellow Hebrew. I imagine Moshe was feeling pretty good that this act would show the Israelite slaves that he, a fellow Jew, raised in the House of Pharaoh, was best suited to deliver them from their enslavement. Did he ever get that wrong. Sometime later he tried to break up a fight between two Jews and they turned on him accusing him of killing an Egyptian. Knowing that if word was out about his act of murder and treason Pharaoh, even though he was his adopted grandson, could not overlook this and would have to penalize him with death. Moshe fled Egypt and ended up in Midian on the East side of the Sea of Reeds.
In Midian he met Reuel (aka Jethro), married his oldest daughter Zipporah and had children with her.
All was going well in his life. Forty years had passed since fleeing Egypt. His adopted Pharaoh grandfather and all who remembered him in the royal court were now dead. His mother and father were likely gone as well and there had been limited contact with his older brother Aharon and sister Miriam over the last four decades.
His well ordered life as a shepherd of Midian however was about to come to a halt and all because his curiosity got the better of him when he spotted something beyond explanation. On the side of Mount Horeb was a burning bush that, although aflame, was not consumed.
Moshe is about to meet his destiny, the very thing he was born to do — deliver HaShem’s people up out of the land of Egypt. This time it was in Adonai’s timing and it would ultimately succeed — but not easily.
Moshe meets up with his brother Aharon along the way back to Egypt. The two work out a plan to reach the peoples. They appear before this newer Pharaoh and are soundly rebuked by him and thrown out of the throne room. Add to that Pharaoh puts more harsh labor on the Israelites.
When in his distress Moshe calls out to HaShem — Adonai delivers this promise:
”You shall soon see what I will do to Pharaoh: he shall let them go because of a greater might; indeed, because of a greater might he shall drive them from his land.” Shemot (Exodus) 6:1
We too shall soon see in next week's parsha. Until then Shabbat Shalom.