In last week’s Parasha, God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand that the Israelites be allowed to worship Him in the desert.
Pharaoh, however, refused to send the Israelite slaves to worship God, so God unleashed seven of the Ten Plagues on the Egyptians.
The seventh plague (hail) was so severe that Pharaoh begged Moses to end it, promising to send the Israelites away if he did. (Exodus 9:27–35)
Instead of freeing them, however, he made their lives more difficult.
Pride Comes Before the Fall
“How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go [shalach / send away], so that they may worship Me.” (Exodus 10:3)
Although this week’s Parasha chronicles the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, the title, Bo, does not mean go as is commonly translated in English. It also is not the same word that is translated “go” in Exodus 10:3, which means send away.
Bo has more of the meaning of come in. In this portion of Scripture, God told Moses, “Come in to Pharaoh” rather than “Go to Pharaoh.”
Perhaps this was God’s way of encouraging Moses to carry on, despite the apparent failure of the last seven plagues.
Since the stubborn king of Egypt remained unmoved by these acts of Divine judgment, it was as if God was now saying, “Come (Bo) with me; we will fill that empty void of Pharaoh together.”
The final three plagues sealed Egypt’s doom: locusts, three days of darkness, and the death of the firstborn.
An ancient Jewish sage, Rabbi Shimon, has said, “When God warns a person on three occasions and he does not turn from his (evil) ways, God closes the door of repentance.”
The Heart: Seat of All Emotional and Moral Choices
God had given Pharaoh, like all human beings, the gift of free will to choose between good and evil.
Pharaoh chose cruelty over compassion and stubbornness over obedience, thereby bringing destruction on his family and the entire nation of Egypt.
In fact, the Hebrew letters of the word Pharaoh, if re-arranged, also spell arufah, which means the back of the neck, a term Biblically symbolic of being stiff-necked, or stubborn.
God’s Word tells us that stubbornness is a serious sin: “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:23)
Pharaoh’s pride and obstinacy led to his downfall: “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)
Pharaoh’s refusal to humble himself before the Almighty God was caused by the hardening of his heart.
The Hebrew word for heart (lev / levav) occurs more than 850 times in the Bible.
According to traditional Jewish thinking, the heart, despite its tiny size, contains the entire world. The heart is the seat of all emotional and moral choices.
Pharaoh’s heart became so cold and callous that he had no empathy; he had become immune to the pain and suffering of others, and it adversely affected his ability to lead effectively.
In ancient Jewish texts, in fact, the term “Pharaoh Syndrome” describes a person in power who gets in the way of things working out well.
When God evaluates a person, He does not look at the outward appearance; He probes the heart looking at the spiritual condition. (1 Samuel 16:7)
He is so concerned with the spiritual condition of man that He promised to perform spiritual heart surgery by removing hearts of stone and replacing them with hearts of flesh when He brought the Jewish People home.
“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
May our hearts never become hardened or calloused by life’s trials or our own sinful nature, but remain as soft clay in the Potter’s hands.
The Passover Lamb
“The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (Exodus 12:13)
This Parasha records the institution of the first Passover, within which is the central message of the Gospel: salvation through the blood of the Lamb.