In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.

Joseph Shulam: Heroic Women of the Bible [2021]

The book of Exodus opens with Jacob and his clan, the tribes of Israel, coming down to Egypt to dwell in the finest part of the land of Egypt, the land of Goshen, in the Nile River Delta, just next to the Mediterranean Sea. They even received Pharaoh’s blessing because of his appreciation for the fine job that Joseph did saving Egypt from seven years of severe drought.

The book of Exodus starts seemingly well, but just a few verses into it and about 200 years later, a new Pharaoh rises up in Egypt who doesn’t know Joseph. What does this mean?

It means a change in government. It means that the political system changes, and a new dynasty comes into power in Egypt, a Pharaoh of a different political party who didn’t appreciate Joseph and what he did for Egypt This happen in history often, and there is a bloody history of changes of dynasties by war, and by revolution, and by subterfuge.

This should not surprise us at all. The United States of America as we know it today was born out of a revolution. Today’s Europe was born out of a revolution. Russian Communism was born in a revolution, and in all these cases there was a “purge” of the old regime and the establishment of a new system of government that put new people and sometimes, as in Egypt, a new race of people in power.

When this happens, it is not unusual that the leadership of the previous power is exterminated. So, here you have it! A Pharaoh came into power that didn’t know and didn’t appreciate Joseph and his contribution to the economy of Egypt A Pharaoh that didn’t know Joseph means simply that he didn’t recognize or appreciate Joseph, and probably didn’t appreciate the preferential treatment that Joseph and his family had received – being allowed to settle in the best part of Egypt.

In this Torah reading from Exodus chapter 1 to chapter 6, the real heroes are really heroines, women! Five women that are little appreciated in most Christian circles.

The first women that were real heroes were the midwives, the one, Shiphrah and the other Puah. There is some discussion among scholars as to whether these two women were Egyptians or Israelites. It is my opinion that these two women are neither Egyptians nor Israelites.

Egypt was full of Semitic tribes and nations that had moved from both Europe and Asia to Egypt. One of the largest groups was the Hyksos. The Hyksos came from Asia, they were of Semitic origin and they ruled Egypt during the 15th dynasty, around 1500-1600 B.C.E. They were deposed by a new Dynasty that was not Hyksos.

Judging from the names of these two midwives, they are probably of Hyksos origin. The name Shiphrah means “beautiful” – like Linda in Spanish. This name is the same name as Saphira in Acts chapter 3. Puah can also be a Semitic name.

Would the Pharaoh of Egypt assign two Hebrew women to do this job?! Could he trust them to do it? When he finds out that they have not killed every male child of the Hebrews would Pharaoh be so incompetent as to accept the excuses that these two women gave him?

Take this into consideration: These two women took the job to drown every male child of the Hebrews in the River. They must have been very professional for Pharaoh to choose them for this job. They accepted the Job. But they didn’t obey the ruler of Egypt, the Great Pharaoh who ruled from Lake Victoria in Africa to Tunisia of today. They took a terribly dangerous chance to not obey the command of the Pharaoh and to save the Hebrew male babies. They were brave, they were moral, they were faithful to God and not to the Egyptian Pharaoh.

The third woman that was very brave and special was the wife of Amram a man from the tribe of Levi who married a woman from the tribe of Levi. This simple text reveals a great deal of what we should be aware of. Through this text, the Holy Spirit reveals to us that this family was faithful to God’s commands.

They had lived many years in Egypt, the greatest empire of the world in those days. The family of Moses was from the tribe of Levi, a tribe that was destined to become the priests of Israel. Baby Moses was hidden from the Egyptian secret police for three months.

His mother and father took a big chance hiding this baby and preserving his life, but the situation had become dangerous for the whole family and the baby had to be dispatched and put into the hands of God. Yocheved the Baby’s mother with great courage and trust in the Lord God of Israel, the creator of the world, put the baby in a water-proof basket and floated the basket down the Nile River. Moses mother and father had faith in God that He would not let this child be killed by Pharaoh’s police.

The waterproof basket is floating down the river. They have no control over this basket with the Hebrew baby inside and no one knows where and what is going to happen to this child. At the same time the Princes of Egypt, the daughter of Pharaoh himself, is going down to the river to bathe accompanied by her handmaids. The text is strange:

“Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river. And her maidens walked along the riverside; and when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it. And when she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews’ children.’ Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?’ And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Go.’ So the maiden went and called the child’s mother. Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed him. And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. So she called his name Moses, saying, ‘Because I drew him out of the water.’” – Exodus 2:5-10 [NKJV]

Notice the strange things in this text: Pharaoh’s daughter goes in the water of the Nile River alone. Her maids don’t go down into the water. The Nile River is not a small river it is one of the greatest rivers of the world. It has fish, and big alligators, water snakes, and a variety of wildlife that could be dangerous.

If Pharaoh’s daughter was going to just bathe in the river – it would be natural for her maids to enter the water with her and help her bathe. If she was going to the river to play and enjoy the river – she would not go into the river alone.

From this text the Jewish rabbis deduce that Pharaoh’s daughter was already a convert to the faith of Israel, and she was in that time of her month, and went to the river to wash ceremonially and to be purified. This is the reason she went into the water alone and her maids stayed out of the water.

The second part that seems to strengthen this rabbinical commentary is that when Pharaoh’s daughter opens the basket and looks at the baby Moses, she immediately identifies the child as a Hebrew child. How would this protected daughter of the greatest king in the world of that time, who lives in one of the most luxurious palaces in the world, with guards, and maids, locked up in a palace that is the very definition of the word “luxury,” know a Hebrew child from a Nubian, or a Hyksos child, or a child from one of the other tribes and nations that lived in Egypt during that period? Pharaoh’s daughter had to have had some relationship with, some knowledge of this nation of slaves that worked on her father Pharaoh’s grandiose projects.

The Jewish rabbis very early on noticed the hidden subtext in this story and understood that Pharaoh’s daughter must have been acquainted with the Hebrew slave nation and have known their customs and identifying marks. She was able to immediately identify this as being a Hebrew child.

The next point reveals that the rabbinical commentaries might be right in saying that Pharaoh’s daughter might have known about the faith of Israel and had at least gained respect for the slave nation who had worked as slaves for several generations.

If Pharaoh’s daughter would be faithful to the laws of Egypt and the edicts of her father the Pharaoh and be obedient to the laws of Egypt, she would have been afraid to claim this baby.

The last woman who is a hero in this story is Miriam, the older sister of this Baby in the basket. She is hiding by the river and without doubt expecting something like this to happen. Miriam is considered a prophetess and she must have had a premonition that God will take care of this baby in the basket.

As soon as Miriam sees Pharaoh’s daughter pick up the basket, Miriam appears from behind the vegetation on the river banks and comes to talk to Pharaoh’s daughter and suggests a Hebrew woman to take the baby as a wet-nurse and raise him until it is time to deliver the child to Pharaoh’s daughter. It is not so simple to believe that a simple girl, a Hebrew slave, has access to the royal shores of the Royal palace precinct. Without doubt it must have taken more than courage for Miriam to enter there and address the daughter of the great Pharaoh.

The most important woman in this Bible story is actually Pharaoh’s daughter. Without her saving that Hebrew Baby and giving it the Egyptian name Moses (notice that most of the Pharaoh’s of Egyptian History have names that end with “ses”: Ramses, Tuthmoses, and many other of the Pharaohs had the suffix “ses” in their names).

Consider this, this Egyptian, non-Hebrew woman saves the savior that is to bring Israel out of slavery and into freedom and to receive the Torah from God. If Pharaoh’s daughter had not saved Moses, there would be no Israel, no King David, and finally no Yeshua…

Praise God for courageous women who chose to follow God and His righteousness and not the evil laws of this world’s dictators.

Joseph Shulam: One of the Greatest Heroes of the Bible is Nameless [2020]

We are starting the reading of the book of Exodus. All the synagogues in the world will be reading the first chapters of the book of Exodus. The reading of Exodus is the greatest story of salvation and redemption and deliverance from slavery to freedom, from idolatry to faith in One God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

It is also one of the great historical dramas that has the elements of “from riches to rags” and “from rags to riches”. Actually, this story has every element of drama that imagination can conjure up.

The point that amazed me is the attitude and actions of Amram and Jochebed, the father and mother of Moses. The first verse of chapter 2 of Exodus caught my attention:

“And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi. So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank.” – Exodus 2:1-3 [NKJV]

This is an interesting text. What makes it interesting is that it comes right after the declaration of Pharaoh’s decree to kill all of the male babies, and drown them in the Nile River. Here you have some interesting hints…

Amram, the father of Moses, is called here “a man of the house of Levi”, and his wife Jochebed is called here “a daughter of Levi”. This Levite man, the father of Aaron, Miriam, and Moses, “went”. Where was this Levite that suddenly he “went”?

The implication is that this Levite left his wife Jochebed, because he could not imagine that a baby boy would be born that would have to be drowned in the river of Egypt. At a certain point this Levite man understood that Pharaoh’s scheme is to destroy Israel, and take away the promises that the Lord had given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

At this point, this Levite man decides to go back to his wife and make a baby, a baby boy, a baby that was a fine child (a healthy and beautiful baby). The Levite woman, Moses’ mother, decides to keep this baby boy hidden for three months.

The three months of living and hiding this healthy baby were both wonderful and terrible. They were wonderful because it gave this mother of three children now a period of bonding with this baby, that was born as an act of defiance and demonstration of rejection against Pharaoh and Egypt’s authority. The birth of this baby is a rebellion against the forces and powers of this world, the forces of colonialism and racism, and enslavement of the stranger, the weak, and the outsider.

What this act is saying to us today is that Pharaoh thinks that he can stop the Almighty God from keeping His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – and Israel. This Levite man and woman, with two older children, Aaron and Miriam, who are now in this hour of great danger to every baby boy that is born to an Israelite woman, take the bull by the horns and make a baby.

This baby is hidden for three months, and is set afloat on the waters of the Nile River in a small basket. The baby is delivered into the hands of history, the hands of the One God who directs history.

To save her household and the life of this baby by putting this child in the hands of God, the mother of Moses makes the decision to float the baby in the water of the river, not knowing where and how and who will save this baby, or how this baby will be raised. The idea that this baby will land in the hands of the princess of Egypt, the daughter of Pharaoh, and be raised and educated as prince of Egypt, was for sure so far from the wildest imagination of Jochebed.

The Lord had prepared the right person for the task. The Lord took the most unlikely person. A person who even the wildest imagination could not imagine to be the person who will find the basket floating on the waters of the river, and find a Hebrew baby in this basket, and save this baby, and raise this baby as the prince of Egypt.

Netivyah | Parashat Shemot | The finding of Moses who, is rescued from the Nile by the maidservants of Pharaoh's daughter. Bartolomeo Biscaino (1629–1657)
The finding of Moses who, is rescued from the Nile by the maidservants of Pharaoh’s daughter. Bartolomeo Biscaino (1629–1657)

Pharaoh’s own daughter, a nameless person, a woman who becomes one of the most important women in the whole Bible. This gentile woman, an Egyptian, a pagan woman raised in the great palaces of Egypt, with golden spoons and silk sheets, is apparently chosen by God to find this Hebrew baby.

The Rabbis presume that Pharaoh’s daughter was already in the process of converting to the Hebrew faith. They interpret that she went into the waters of the Nile River alone not to take a bath and not to play, but to make a ritual immersion in the water for the monthly purification rite. This is why the maidens that accompanied Pharaoh’s daughter did not enter the water with her.

This woman, nameless, is the woman who saved Moses, and raised this baby as a prince of Egypt, as Pharaoh’s grandson. She saved the holy history of Israel, and the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel and to the whole world.

The whole story is contingent on this chain of events, that leads to the Savior of the world, a son of David, and a son of Abraham.

This Egyptian woman is the pivoting point of history. She takes the right turn and saves this Hebrew baby, who saves Israel, brings the Torah from God, and carries the Hebrew children to the edge of the Promised Land.

What if this one gentile woman would not have made this one act of kindness and saved this Hebrew child? This events leads to salvation from slavery, and preparation for the salvation of the whole world, by a Hebrew son born in Bethlehem and crucified in Jerusalem, Yeshua.

Yehuda Bachana: Moses’ Excuses, Our Calling [2018]

Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.

In some respects, Parashat Shemot, our weekly Torah portion, connects us to some of the major parts of the Torah. This parasha brings us back to the beginning, as well as connects us with the giving of the Torah, the prophets, and even the New Testament.

The portion begins with the following concept:

But the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them. – Exodus 1:7 [NIV]

This verse should remind us of Genesis, but in contrast to the beginning, when God brought order to the chaos, in Exodus Pharaoh rearranged the social structure of his world and brought demographic chaos to Egypt. Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people:

‘Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.’ – Exodus 1:22 [NIV]

Why does Pharaoh command such a terrible and gruesome order? Does he know with royal intuition that a royal successor and redeemer of the people was born? Did Pharaoh want to kill the same redeemer that Herod did, when he followed Yeshua’s star to Bethlehem?

In Genesis it is the woman who violated the commandment and also in Exodus, the woman (five women actually – Jochebed, Miriam, Shiphrah and Puah the midwives, as well as Pharaoh’s daughter) violate an explicit order. Although contrary to what occurred in Genesis, they brought life.

Moses’ Excuses

parashat-shemot
What can we learn from the 5 excuses that Moses gave God?

 

In chapter 3 of our Torah portion, there is a long and detailed description of a special, historical event: when Moses drew near to find out why the bush was not consumed by the fire (Exodus 3:3), he heard God call out to him. God presented Himself as God of his fathers and of the patriarchs, and informed him that He is about to free the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and bring them to the Promised Land.

It turns out that God imposed on Moses a major role in the task of liberating the enslaved Israelites:

So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt. – Exodus 3:10 [NIV]

In a very interesting and human way, Moses refused to accept his calling five times, and each time he was asked he made another excuse to explain why he is not the right person for the task. I am sure that Moses had mixed emotions about all of this. On the one hand, we saw that Moses identified with the people of Israel so much that he risked his life and reputation just to rescue one of them. If he could, I’m sure he would have been happy to continue to help.

However, at the same time, he escaped from Egypt under the threat of capital punishment, and now he has a family, a job, and a whole other life. Moses’ excuses are as follows (Exodus 3:11-4:13):

  1. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11 [NIV])
  2. “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (Exodus 3:13 [NIV])
  3. “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” (Exodus 4:1 [NIV])
  4. “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Exodus 4:10 [NIV])
  5. “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13 [NIV])

For every argument, question, and demand, God answers patiently, until the last excuse: “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Then God got angry:

Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses… – Exodus 4:14a [NIV]

How is his fifth reason different from the other excuses? What can we glean from this today?

God asked Moses to take upon himself a very practical role with very fateful consequences – to save an entire people from slavery to freedom, to bring the people out from the mighty Egyptian empire. In order to succeed in this, he will not only have to convince Pharaoh to release a people who had worked there for hundreds of years, but to convince them that they are able to go out to freedom. From a human perspective, this is an impossible task. Therefore, Moses’ first four responses were justified, if not necessary. To convince the people of Israel, Moses had to know the answers to questions 2 and 3. To convince the house of Pharaoh, Moses had to remove the doubts he had about his abilities and talents, and for this came questions 1 and 4. God responded to this excuse and provided him with answers that were the tools needed for the task. In response to Moses’ last excuse, “Please send someone else”, God got angry. Why?

Because it’s likely that Moses is saying here that if he can not complete the task of bringing the children of Israel into the Promised Land, it’s better not to start at all (the “all or nothing” mentality).

Our Calling

There is a saying from Pirkei Avot that teaches us:

It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it. – Pirkei Avot 2:16

This sentence teaches us that when there is an opportunity to get up and do something, it is permissible to check whether we have the proper tools to carry out the task, and if so, to get up and do as much as possible. If it is needed, you can rely on others to aid in carrying out the task.

I believe that this is the meaning of our calling as believers. To see how and what I can do for the Kingdom of God, for the sake of the Gospel. We are all the workers of God, and we must build the body of the Messiah and the Kingdom. There is so much work that Yeshua even asked us to pray for more workers because the time is short and the work is great, as it says in Matthew 9:

Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’ – Matthew 9:37,38 [NIV]

We have to get started. Regardless of whether we will be the ones who finish, or if we’ll have to hand off the work for others to finish. We must plant the seeds, and one day God will send someone else to harvest. Who are the workers of God who contribute to the creation and construction of the body of Messiah? The answer must be, “all of us together”.

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