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: A Rabbinical Perspective on Pharaoh’s Daughter [2021]

We have just finished reading the book of Genesis. The book of Genesis from the beginning to the end deals with families and individuals. Right from the beginning of the book of Exodus the scene changes and the focus is on a people, a nation, united tribes that have the same fate and the same problems.

The reading starts in Exodus 1:1 – 6:1, and from the prophets the reading is from for the Sephardic Jews is chapter 1 of Jeremiah and for the Ashkenazi Jews it is from Isaiah chapter 27. From the New Testament we read Acts 7:17-29.

The book of Exodus is called “Shemot” (“names” in Hebrew), because the first words of the text are the names of the sons of Jacob. The Hebrew bible doesn’t have book names or chapters or verse numbers. That tradition developed with the Septuagint (translation of the Hebrew Bible to Greek in the 2nd Century B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and in Medieval Europe.

The Hebrew text was written in a scroll and the names are not based on logic like in the Greek bible, but on the first word or words of the scroll Exodus is a logical name because the book starts with the coming down to Egypt of Jacob and his family, all the sons and their tribes and clans and the book ends with the children of Israel going out of Egypt into the wilderness of Sinai and on the way to the land that God has promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel.

The first chapter starts with the 70 souls of Jacob’s family going down to Egypt receiving from Joseph the best part of Egypt, the land of Goshen, in the Nile River Delta, and enjoying life in the diaspora. As long as Joseph was living the Israelites were living well and enjoying the wealth of Egypt.

It was after Joseph died – and probably after a major demographic change in the structure of Egyptian society and government – that a pharaoh came into power that didn’t know Joseph. This phrase means that this pharaoh didn’t appreciate Joseph and his contribution to Egypt. This pharaoh looks at the growth and the wealth of the children of Israel in the land of Egypt and feels a threat from their numbers and power.

You see, dear brothers, the Israelites have some set in their way characteristics. Israelites don’t mix or mingle well with people from another race or another nationality. The pharaoh who does not know Joseph feels that these strangers who have grown in numbers are like a 5th column in Egypt.

So, the first thing to do is cut down the population growth. An order, a royal order, is issued by Pharaoh that male babies are to be killed by drowning them in the river. The midwives are to do the job and kill all the male babies.

Here is the first and very important lesson for us all to learn. This lesson was not learned by the enemies of Israel in World War II or earlier in the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition.

The German, Austrian, Hungarian, Rumanian, Estonian, Latvian, Ukrainian, and Polish Christians didn’t disobey the German Nazis who appointed them to be the guards and the executioners that killed Jews in the death camps. They didn’t object to the killing of Jews on their land, in their backyards (so to speak) and in fact participated and even at times they outdid the German Nazi officers in the killing of the Jews.

Although it must be stated that there are thousands of Christians in Europe that did exactly what the two Egyptian midwives Puah and Shiphra did. These Christians endangered their own lives to save Jews and Jewish children from the Nazi death camps.

These very special people have a very special name. They are called Righteous Among the Gentiles. I am speaking of thousands of such men and women who saved Jews in the face of great self-sacrifice.

The state of Israel has the Yad VaShem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem to remember the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust. In that same place there is also a memorial for these Christians who saved Jews. There’s a tree with a name on it for each of these Righteous Among the Gentiles.

Although it must be stated that in proportion to the numbers of those who supported and participated in the Nazi killing machine the percentile is small, just like the two midwives in Egypt. Christians today ought to know that again there is a very real threat by Iran to delete the state of Israel and the Jews living here from the map!

Stand with Israel and pray! Also don’t neglect to let your voice for Israel and your Jewish neighbors be heard in the chambers of your government!

These two women who were appointed as the directors of this project of drowning the Hebrew male babies in the waters of the Nile River found ways of allowing these babies to live and didn’t kill them in the waters of the great river.

It is not clear if the two midwives who saved the Hebrew male babies at birth were Egyptian or Hebrew. Their names could be either Egyptian or Hebrew. These two very creative women found a good way to disguise themselves and get by with saving Hebrew males from sure death.

The second chapter introduces the reading with a family from the tribe of Levi, no names are given at this point of the story. The family from the tribe of Levi is determined to save their newborn baby boy.

They manage to hide the baby for three months but the danger of getting caught by the Egyptian taskmasters is too great. The mother is very creative, and she makes a basket of wicker and waterproofs it and floats the child inside the basket on the Nile River.

At this point there is a dramatic lesson to be learned, especially during times of persecution and horrible governmental official persecution. This lesson is often ignored by Christian theologians.

When there is persecution and suffering and horrible treatment and loss of human rights and social privileges, never give up! Always resist in smart and intelligent ways, without getting caught by the enemy.

Never lose the hope of freedom and never stop dreaming of better times. Always look for ways to get around the evil and ungodly laws and survive and do it not only for yourselves, but for all those around yourself.

The rule is this: always resist evil and oppression and enslavement and always keep the flame of hope burning and giving life and strength and encouragement to yourself and to those people around you whom you know well and whom you trust. Even when these people around you are very good friends and very good people, still look over your shoulders and suspect and confirm that your friends are faithful and trustworthy.

We say in Hebrew; honor and suspect, even your closest friends and it could also be family members. Always look for ways to improve your situation and find your freedom.

So, Moses’ mother is resourceful and floats the baby in the basket down the river. At this same time the daughter of Pharaoh is going with her servants and maidens to the river to wash.

There is a strange detail in this text that is most times ignored by biblical students:

“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.’” – Exodus 2:5-6 [NKJV]

Here, it is important to pay attention to the details in the text. A prince of Egypt always has maidens that accompany her, especially when she is going to bathe in a river like the Nile.

The Nile River is one of the great rivers of the world and it has beauty and danger at the same time. There are crocodiles and dangerous fish and other dangers that are common in such big rivers like the Nile. It is very unusual to have the daughter of Pharaoh to go to bathe (wash) in the river and enter by herself.

If it is just bathing for washing sake – normally it would be done inside the palaces of the pharaohs’. There were pools and baths for washing in every one of the palaces and often very rich and fancy pools for washing. Even with warm water.

So, why is it in our text that Pharaoh’s daughter enters the water alone and her maidens are outside of the water walking alongside of the river? The rabbinical commentators paid attention to another detail. How is it possible that when the basket that was floating on the river and is brought to the princess, she opens it up and immediately recognizes that this baby is a Hebrew baby?

When has this daughter of the most powerful leader of the ancient world of the greater Middle East and North Africa been exposed to Hebrew babies? How would this very well-protected and well-guarded child of the great Pharaoh have an opportunity to see and handle and know what a Hebrew baby looks like, or a circumcised male child that is only three to four months old?

There is only one explanation to this scene with the daughter of Pharaoh, the rabbis reasoned, she was a convert to Judaism, and she went alone into the river for purification purposes not for fun or for a normal bath, but for a Jewish ritual purification a Mikveh.

This means that she had had some exchange and contact with Jews and especially with Jewish babies. The only plausible explanation of these scenes is that Pharaoh’s daughter was some kind of convert to the faith of the Hebrews and knew their traditions well enough to recognize that this baby floating on the Nile River was a Hebrew baby.

This is also the explanation of why she decided to keep this baby and bring it to the palace and raise it as her own child. By taking this baby and keeping it alive and by bringing the child to the palace and raising this male child as her own son inside the palace of the great Pharaoh she broke her own father’s law to kill every Hebrew male child.

The name that this Egyptian princes gives the baby is Moses. Moses is a name in the Egyptian language. It means exactly “son of the water.” (“Mo” is water and “Ses” is son of.) As you can see in the names of the pharaohs themselves: Ramses means the son of Ra, the chief god of the Egyptians during the late bronze period.

The second lesson that we ought to learn from this text is that no matter how hard our lives are and how hopeless things look from the outside, the Lord God who created the world is still in charge and still rules the Heavens and the Earth.

God is faithful to keep His promises and our history is proof positive that God’s faithfulness is uncompromised. Yes, we might not have the wisdom and foresight to see through the veil and see all the possible and impossible options, but God knows options that are beyond our own ability to know and to understand.

This is what faith means, it means that although we don’t see the solution or the light at the end of the tunnel, the light is there and the Lord is with us in the foxhole during the battle.

The third lesson from this Torah portion is from chapter 3 of Exodus. Moses has run away from Egypt and has left his family and his people and the palaces of Egypt and joined a band of Midianites under the leadership of Jethro, a priest of Midian.

Moses takes Zipporah, Jethro’s daughter, for a wife, and has two sons by Zipporah. He spends his days shepherding Jethro’s sheep. The Bible tells us that for the Egyptians shepherding is one of the more despised professions, for an honorable man to be a shepherd.

In chapter 3 of Exodus, Moses, the shepherd of Jethro’s flocks, is leading his sheep to a very prominent mountain called Sinai. Suddenly Moses sees something unusual, a burning bush that is not consumed by the fire.

There near that burning bush the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob reveals Himself to Moses and commissions him to deliver the children of Israel out of slavery into freedom out of Egypt to the land the Creator Himself gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Moses is a person who does not speak well and may have a strong stutter. God argues with Moses like a merchant in a typical Arabic market anywhere in the Middle East.

This situation of arguing, and not being decisive, and looking for excuses, which is why he is the wrong person for the job, goes round and round between Moses and God. The amazing and wonderful thing in this narrative is that God is willing to argue with Moses and not give up on this man with a heavy speech impediment, a person who had lost hope, and lost any vision or desire to change his lifestyle.

Here we come to chapter 4, now with another encounter and argument between God and Moses. This time God takes a different approach.

He asks Moses: Moses what do you have in your hand? Moses answers that he only has a stick, a shepherd’s staff in his hand, a piece of wood to drive the sheep.

God tells Moses to cast this stick to the ground. Moses does not suspect anything dramatic to happen. This same stick has fallen down to the ground many times, and nothing happened.

The stick falls down on the ground and becomes a snake. You can imagine how surprised Moses would have been. This stick that had served Moses so well, as a shepherd, for so many years, now has a surprise for him. That same stick that he was so familiar with, turns into a snake.

A shepherd of sheep in the Sinai Desert has more than a few opportunities to see and handle snakes. The Lord surprises Moses a second time when he tells Moses pick the snake up by the tail. Anyone who has handled snakes knows that this is the most stupid thing to do to a live snake.

Could it be the absolutely most unwise way to handle a snake? The snake by instinct will turn around very quick and give you a bite on your hand or leg or anywhere that the snake can reach you. But now Moses has gained a new experience and he can trust the Lord and obey even this unusual and seemingly stupid command of the Lord.

Here is the lesson from this narrative: God can use anyone that He chooses. He can even use a person like Moses who is not ready and doesn’t want the job. He can use a person that is damaged exactly in the area that he will need most in his mission.

God does not mind using a person like Moses who doesn’t want this mission of freeing the children of Israel from Egypt. He finds every possible excuse not to go back to Egypt and not to meet Pharaoh.

When God sets His mind on a person – He also equips him with the tools and the talents and the gifts that this person is going to need to accomplish the task set before him by the Almighty One of Israel.

We have so much to learn from Moses that can help us, especially here in Israel, to first of all, stop criticizing God’s servants and looking and concentrating on what we don’t have, but allow God to use what we do have and sharpen it exactly for the job that is set before us.

Each one of us has a stick and some kind of stutter (imperfection and blemish), but God can use our imperfections and blemishes for his glory. None of the heroes of our faith were perfect individuals and everyone had his own faults, but in God’s hand the faults and problems that our forefathers had become their advantage.

Let us stop criticizing the blemishes of our brothers and allow the Lord to use our blemishes and problems to His advantage. For now we ought to be ready to use our stutter and our stick for the glory of the Lord and prepare to see the Arm of the Lord lead and guide us to be perfect, by being the violin, and the Lord the violinist.

In the Lord’s hands the cheapest violin can produce the best sound of heavenly music!

Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Shemot [2021]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.

Shalom. My name is Joseph Shulam. And together with Brad TV, we are doing a series of all the weekly portions of reading that are read in all the synagogues around the world, including in our synagogue in Jerusalem, a synagogue of Jewish disciples of Yeshua. And we just finished the book of Genesis. We’re starting the book of Exodus. And this is the first portion of the book of Exodus. And it’s called in Hebrew Shemot, which means “the names.”

And the books of the Bible in English follow the Greek Septuagint, which gave the books a logical name. The Hebrew text doesn’t have names and doesn’t have chapters and doesn’t have verses in the ancient Hebrew text. In the modern Hebrew text, there is everything. But the names remain the first word of the texts. It’s not logical. The book of Exodus is logical, it talks about the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt. In Hebrew it is called “the names” because these are the names of the children of Israel who came down to Egypt.

Joseph was a big shot in Egypt and he invited his brothers and his father and his family to come down to Egypt and they came down to Egypt and Pharaoh gave them the best part of Egypt, the land of Goshen, to live in. Then years passed, more than 100 years for sure, and a new Pharaoh came, several Pharaohs past through the rulership of Egypt. And the first thing we know after the names of the 12 tribes are named is that Joseph dies in verse six of chapter one and all of his brothers died, that whole generation that came down to Egypt, and the children of Israel grow. Verse seven of chapter one, “But the children of Israel are fruitful and increased abundantly and multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty and the land was filled with them.”

The Children of Israel Grew

That’s good news. Children of Israel grew. And the word that is used in the Hebrew is very interesting. In verse seven, they multiplied and they spawned like a fish spawns, like a frog spawns. They increased greatly and became very powerful. So I learned from my father, that was the generation of World War II. He was born before World War I, he was born in 1906. So as a teenager, he experienced World War I. And then as an adult, he experienced World War II. And his conclusion was Jews should live in the land that God gave them in the land of Israel and not get involved in the lands of the Gentiles.

It’s not healthy for Jews to be involved in the politics and in the power struggle in the land of the Gentiles. That was his conclusion from his experience in the two World Wars. They should stick to business, they should stick to their own communities and not get involved in the politics of the world. I don’t know if he was right or wrong, but this text in the book of Exodus tells us that when they grew, the Egyptians and Pharaoh himself start feeling threatened. What would happen with these people that have a different allegiance to ours, to the Egyptians? If we have an enemy from the outside, will they join that enemy? Will they be a fifth column?

And that’s what starts the saga of the slavery of the children of Israel that lasted around 200 years in Egypt. Maybe more than 200 years of slavery. After the 200 years that they were in the land of Goshen and enjoyed the wealth of Egypt, and as they grew, they became a potential threat to the Egyptians and to the Egyptian government and to the pharaohs. And then verse 10 of the book of Exodus, Pharaoh comes in and says, “Let us deal shrewdly with them lest they multiply. And it happened in the event of war, they also will join our enemies and fight against us.”

Fear of the Power of the Hebrews Leads to Their Enslavement

That fear, that fear of the power of the children of Israel, in the diaspora of Egypt, spawns the idea of making the Hebrews into slaves. And they put over the children of the Hebrews, “Therefore they set task masters over them to afflict them and their burdens and they build Pharaoh supply cities Pithom and Ramses, and more than afflicted them and more they multiplied and grew and they were in dread of the children of Israel.”

The Egyptians were in dread of the children of Israel. So here we are, the children of Israel are in bondage in the land of Egypt and the Egyptians dread them and they work hard in servitude and rigor according to the book of Exodus chapter one, verse 14. And they continue multiplying. So there has to come now some kind of measure that the Egyptians will slow down the growth of the Hebrews and they appoint midwives to control the birth rate. And that is killing every baby that is a male baby.

They appoint these midwives, Shifra and Puah. And these midwives, it’s not clear whether they’re Egyptians or they’re Hebrew women, it’s not clear, but whatever they are, it doesn’t make any difference. They don’t obey Pharaoh. They allow some of the male children of the Hebrews to live and Pharaoh comes in and complains about them. And they said, look, the Hebrew women are quick. By the time we get to them to help them give birth, boom, the baby’s are out already, we can’t do anything about it. It’s a good excuse.

Moses is Born

The scene changes and goes from the midwives and their discussion of the Hebrew women to the birth of a baby in the house of Levi. That’s in chapter two of Exodus. And a man of the house of Levi went and took as a wife the daughter of Levi. So the woman conceived and bore a son and once she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months. But once you could no longer hide him, she took an ark, a basket, covered it with pitch, made it waterproof, put the baby inside because he was already three months old, he was beginning to cry, we was beginning to sound off.

He’s Placed in a Basket

You can’t hide him. And of course it endangered the whole family if he found that this baby was born during the time when every male baby of the Hebrews was to be drowned in the river then the whole family would pay the price. So she puts this baby in the basket. Boom. She floats the basket in the Nile River. And then the scene changes. The daughter of Pharaoh, we don’t know her name, goes down to the river to bathe. That’s chapter two, verse five.

And of course she’s the princess, the daughter of Pharaoh, she has an entourage. She has handmaids there to serve her, to hold her towel, to hold her clothes, to help scrub her back, to do whatever is necessary when she bathes in the river, the Nile.

But strange text. Most people don’t pay attention to this. She goes into the river in verse five to bathe. Her handmaids walked along the riverside and once she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her handmaid to get it. Okay, this is strange text. The daughter of Pharaoh, the princess, goes into the river, into the Nile River by herself and her handmaids are out on the shore. They don’t go in the water with her? What kind of thing is that? If they’re there to protect her and to help her bathe, why is she going to the river by herself?

Why Does Pharaoh’s Daughter Bathe Alone?

To this question that Christians don’t ask rabbinical Jews asked. What is this? That the daughter of Pharaoh goes down with her handmaids, we don’t know how many there were, and they stay out in the shore and she goes into the water herself to bathe? Unlikely. Unless, she goes down to bathe a ritual bath. A mikvah. Unless she has accepted the faith of the Hebrews and she goes there during the time of the month to be purified.

Yes. Yes, dear brothers. That’s how the rabbis interpret this text. She converted to Judaism. And what is in support of this view is when she sees the child, the baby, a Hebrew baby, boom, she opens the basket, she looks at the baby and says, oh, this is a Hebrew baby. How would you know that? She’s the princess. She lives in the palace. She’s not mixing with the slaves. She’s not mixing with the slaves, the community of the enslaved Hebrews in the land of Egypt.

How Does She Know Moses Is a Hebrew Child?

How would she know that this is a Hebrew baby? Unless she knows something about the Hebrews. And how would she know about the Hebrews if she did not identify with them and probably convert to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and observed the purity laws. That’s why she goes down in the river by herself and her handmaids stay out on the shore walking around watching her. So here she finds a Hebrew baby and she wants that Hebrew baby. But in the meantime, Miriam, that older sister of Moses, is up on the shore observing what is happening, following the ark along the shores of the Nile River.

And once she sees the daughter of Pharaoh finding the basket with the baby inside floating in the Nile she goes and says, oh, well, maybe you’d be interested in a wet nurse to come and nurse this baby since the daughter of Pharaoh was not married and since she didn’t have milk to give. So Miriam offers help. She offers somebody that will nurse that baby. And of course, who comes to nurse that baby? Moses’ own mother, Jochebed.

Yes. And so it’s all arranged you could say by the hands of God. You could say by the partnership of the hands of God, with the intervention of men. And that baby’s raised in the palaces of Pharaoh as the grandson of Pharaoh. We don’t know how Pharaoh reacted when his daughter brings in a baby into the palace. And she knows it’s a Hebrew baby, I don’t know if Pharaoh knew it was a Hebrew baby or didn’t know it was a Hebrew baby. But he accepts his daughter’s decision and respects her desire.

And that baby grows up as the prince of Egypt in the palaces of the Pharaohs and whoever has visited Karnak, Heliopolis, and the other great cities of ancient Egypt, knows that the palaces of the pharaohs were sumptuous, were beautiful, were huge, were rich and powerful. Egypt was the most powerful empire of that day. That ruled from Tunisia on the shores of the Mediterranean all the way down to past Lake Victoria in Africa.

A Third of Africa Is a Part of Egypt

So about a good third of all of Africa was in the empire of Egypt. So there we are. Moses grows up there. And he is now 40 years old. Educated as an Egyptian. Ate, lived, dressed as an Egyptian in the house of Pharaoh. But suddenly, in verse 10 of chapter two, we find the following text. “And the child grew and she,” the daughter of Pharaoh, “brought him to Pharaoh’s Palace and he became her son. So she called his name Moses saying because I drew him out of the water. And now it came to pass in those days when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burden and their suffering. And he saw the Egyptians beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.”

Moses Sees Slave Being Beaten

Oh, wow. Look, dear brothers and sisters, this prince of Egypt, 40 years old, he knows who he is. In this text, verse 11, chapter two of Exodus, we know he already knew who he was. He knew that these slaves that are being beaten and worked into slavery to their bone are his brothers, are his brethren. But it took him 40 years to realize that. It took him 40 years to feel that he belongs to them. That they belong to him. And then he goes down to them and the English says, he went out to his brethren. In the Hebrew, he went down to his brethren. And he sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren, he identifies with this Hebrew that is being beaten by the Egyptian slave driver.

And he looked this way and that way, in other words, he knew what he was doing. He looked to the right, he looked to the left, he saw there’s nobody watching so Boom! He hits that Egyptian, he kills him. Frees the slave. Sends him home. And when the second day, behold, the Hebrew men were fighting, two Hebrews were fighting. And he sees one striking the others and he sees that it is wrong. He comes to separate the two Hebrews that are fighting with each other and one of them says, “Who made you prince and judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” In other words, the news, the secret, went viral in the Hebrew community. The prince of Egypt killed an Egyptian for our sake. And now they know.

Look, I’m going to be frank with you, dear brothers and sisters, it’s hard to keep a secret in Israel. Now, just as then. We’re people who like to share good news and sometimes even bad news. It’s hard to keep a secret in Israel. And so Moses realizes that his identity has been compromised. His position as prince of Egypt has been compromised and that if he has to stand trial before Pharaoh, all of his history will be exposed and that will finish his career and bring punishment on the Hebrews in general. So he runs away to the desert, to the Sinai desert. And there he meets a priest of Midian and he falls in love with his daughter or marries his daughter.

Her name is Zipporah and she was drawing water, he saw her and he becomes a shepherd serving the prince of Midian. Now, one thing that we don’t know from this text, we know from other text, is that the Egyptians hated shepherds. Being a shepherd was the lowest possible occupation in Egypt. So Moses from the princehood of Pharaoh’s house ends up being a servant of a pagan priest named Jethro, named Hobab, he’s got several names.

Moses and the Burning Bush

And I’m going to jump a little bit of the text. He has children from Zipporah and then while shepherding, he’s out on the mountain of Sinai and he’s in the mountain of Sinai and there chasing after a sheep, he sees a burning bush that is burning, burning, burning, and not being devoured. And God reveals himself to Moses. God reveals himself to Moses and asks him to go on a mission. The mission is, dear brothers and sisters, go down to Pharaoh and tell him to let my people go. Deliver my people.

Of course, Moses doesn’t want to go. Moses is impressed by the burning bush enough, but he doesn’t want to go down to Egypt because he killed a person there and he’s afraid of what’s going to happen to him if he goes down to Egypt. And he finds excuses. One of his major excuses. I stutter, I can’t speak clearly. Send somebody else. God is as stubborn as Moses. And he doesn’t let Moses get off the hook so easily. And Moses argues and God argues with him. It’s a very interesting discussion between God and Moses.

Go Down Moses

But in the end, of course, who wins? God wins. God wins with an argument that we find in chapter four of the book of Exodus. Moses says I can’t express myself right. And God says, “Who do you think made your mouth?” You think I don’t know who you are? I don’t know your capacities? Here. You have a stick in your hand. Let me show you what I can do. Throw the stick down.

Chapter four. And Moses throws the stick down, it becomes a snake. Depends how you interpret the word. It becomes an alligator, it becomes a snake, it becomes a vicious animal. And then God says to Moses, pick it up from the tail. Which anybody knows that if you pick up a snake or an alligator from the tail, he’s going to turn around and bite you. And Moses has to be obedient. He picks it up from the tail, it becomes a stick again. And God says here is one sign. You go down to Pharaoh, you have the power. I’m giving you the tools to face Pharaoh and his wise men.

Let My People Go

And tell Pharaoh let my people go. This is not a small thing. Moses, with a stick and a stutter, goes down to Egypt. On the way, there’s all kinds of problems that he faces. But the big news is that in the end Moses gives in to God with his stick and with his stutter and God provides him with Aaron, his brother, to be his mouthpiece. Aaron, his brother, is his mouthpiece and he can speak and Moses is there with the power of God in him, with the mission of God in him.

And with his stick and he stutter, he faces Pharaoh and Pharaoh’s wise man and they have some tricks also. But of course God’s demonstration of power before Pharaoh and his wise men is much greater than that of the Egyptian magicians and wise man. This is the end of our portion of the week.

Next week, we’ll see what happens in Egypt when Pharaoh refuses to let God’s people go. God bless all of you. And read the text for yourselves every week. Read the texts for yourself. You’ll gain so much more by reading for yourself than just hearing me. Thank God for Brad TV that he’s using this opportunity to share from God’s word things that will inspire you and empower you. In Yeshua’s name, amen.

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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