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“Shemot” or names is an intriguing name for this portion, wouldn’t you say? One may expect the genealogy of a patriarch or another long list of names. This portion does begin with the names of the sons of Israel but then it proceeds with the beginning of an amazing story of salvation. The first use of the word shem (name) is in Genesis 2:11 where it mentions the names of the four rivers that flow from the Garden of Eden. The verse says:

“The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.”

The interesting part about this verse is the similarities to this week’s portion. The name Pishon means “increase” which is exactly what the children of Israel did!

“But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” Exodus 1:7

Also, “there is gold” in the land that the Pishon river encircles which is exactly what the children of Israel will possess when they are saved from Egypt!

“And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.” Exodus 3:21-22

As the portion progresses, we quickly discover that this portion and the whole book of Exodus is about salvation. Of course, the entire Bible is about salvation as well but Exodus records the miraculous details of G-d saving His people from Egypt. This event was so incredible that we are literally commanded to “remember” when HaShem brought us out of the land of Egypt in Deuteronomy 5:15. I find it interesting that G-d uses Moses to lead the exodus because G-d also used a river to spare his life or “save” him. This goes right back to the verse in Genesis that describes the river of increase flowing from the Garden of Eden. We await the day when everything will come full circle and we will dwell, once again, with HaShem in the Garden of Eden, but the only way that is possible is if He saves us through the blood of Messiah Yeshua.

To strongly emphasize the fact that Israel needed a savior, the phrase “ruthlessly made them work as slaves.” is repeated twice in Exodus 1:13-14. Life must have been absolutely miserable and it clearly reached the point where salvation by any human effort was impossible. Though G-d does not forsake His children (Dt. 31:6) and, as it says in Exodus 3:7, G-d heard the cry of the people and saw their affliction. Just as Pharaoh’s daughter took pity on Moses because he was crying G-d also took pity on the children of Israel and rescued them.

In the Bible names can describe a function, reveal character, string together many verse to form an idea, and they can identify something/someone. It is amazing to see that even in the midst of a death sentence on Hebrew male boys Moses was still able to survive and maintain his identity.

“One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people (mayechav).” Exodus 2:11

The word mayechav contains the root word ach which means “brother.” It is clear from this verse that Moses knew who he was and who his brothers were. You may say, “Well what about this verse?:

“They said, ‘An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.’” Exodus 2:19

The daughters of Reuel thought Moses was Egyptian!” Personally I think he was disguised as an Egyptian or perhaps he always dressed like one. Otherwise he would not have been able to escape Egypt so easily. No one would question an Egyptian leaving Egypt but if he looked Hebrew the soldiers would have caught him. Besides Moses never refers to himself as an Egyptian, but he does call the Hebrews his brothers.

“Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, ‘Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.’ And Jethro said to Moses, ‘Go in peace.’” Exodus 4:18

In conclusion, I recently had the privilege to hear an excellent response to the Sacred Name movement from Mr. Tim Hegg of Torah Resource.  The information about the class is on the home page of his website here. I bring this up because several verses in this week’s parasha contribute significantly to the biblical understanding of G-d’s name.

I leave you with a few questions to ponder this week.

Why was G-d about to kill Moses? (4:24)

What was the significance of Zipporah’s statements when she circumcised her son? (4:25-26)

What was significant about the 3 signs HaShem commanded Moses to perform? Why those signs? (4:3-9)

Why aren’t the names of Moses’ parents revealed until chapter 6?

Did Jochebed actually raise Moses and then give him to Pharaoh’s daughter? (2:8-10)

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