“These are the names [ve’eleh shemot] of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family.” (Exodus 1:1)
In last week’s Torah portion (Parasha), the first of the five books of Moses, Genesis (Bereisheet—In the Beginning), ended with the deaths of Jacob and Joseph.
This week, we begin the second book of the Torah, Exodus, called Shemot in Hebrew, which means names.
This Parasha describes the suffering of the Israelites under bondage to the Egyptians, the birth of Moses, and his miraculous salvation from out of the Nile River. It also describes his calling to deliver Israel and his encounter with Pharaoh.
Like Moses, Like Yeshua
“The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; Joseph was already in Egypt.” (Exodus 1:5)
Although only 70 descendants of Jacob (whom God renamed Israel) came into the Land of Egypt at Joseph’s invitation, they soon multiplied into such a great and mighty people that the new pharaoh, who did not know Joseph, felt threatened by them. He feared that the Israelites might join Egypt’s enemies in battles against them.
“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)
To counter the growing strength of the Israelites, the Egyptians forced them into bitter labor, building store cities for Pharaoh and working the fields.
When they continued to multiply, he ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all newborn males. But at least two, Shifrah and Puah, did not. God, therefore, supernaturally protected their lives, even blessing them with families and multiplying the Israelites even more (Exodus 1:16–21).
So Pharaoh turned to the Egyptians, commanding them to throw all male newborn Hebrews into the Nile River (Exodus 1:22).
The Levite parents of Moses had such great faith that instead of complying with the Pharaoh’s order, they hid their infant son for the first few months of his life.
But babies grow and, eventually, he could no longer be hidden, so they put him in a basket and set him afloat on the Nile among the reeds.
Even in this desperate circumstance, the protective hand of God was on this boy of destiny. Pharaoh’s daughter spotted the basket. When she saw the Hebrew baby inside, she had pity on him and took him as her own.
Instead of drowning in the Nile or dying at the hands of the Egyptians as the other newborn boys did, Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s palace as a prince of Egypt.
This dramatic account of the infant Moses parallels the life of the infant Yeshua (Jesus), who was also sentenced to death by the order of King Herod, who decreed that all Jewish male infants in Bethlehem be killed.
“Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.” (Matthew 2:16)
Just as Moses was saved by his mother, so was Yeshua saved by the obedience and faith of his earthly father, Joseph, who was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt.
“Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up ! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.’ So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.” (Matthew 2:13–14)
What irony that the very place of danger and death for the Hebrew babies in the days of Moses became a place of refuge for Yeshua when He was but a baby!
Egyptian Prince Moses Becomes a Shepherd
Because Pharaoh’s daughter drew the baby from the Nile, she called him Moshe (מֹשֶׁה) from the word moshech, meaning pull or draw.
Moses grew up in the royal Egyptian palace, but it seems that the burdens of his fellow Israelites troubled him.
One day, he saw an Egyptian slave master beating a Hebrew. Even as a young man, Moses felt the calling to deliver his people, but he stepped ahead of God’s timing. In the process of defending this Israelite slave, Moses killed the Egyptian and fled to Midian to escape Pharaoh’s death decree over him. (Exodus 2:15)
Again in Midian, Moses expressed his calling as a deliverer by saving the daughters of the Priest of Midian who had come to the well where he sat. They wanted to draw water for their flock, but shepherds tried to drive them away. Moses intervened and watered their flocks for them.
The Priest of Midian welcomed Moses to live with him and even gave Moses his daughter, Zipporah, as a wife.
Moses spent the next 40 years shepherding sheep in the land of Midian, a period of time that God used to prepare him to shepherd His people Israel out of Egypt.
Only when the children of Israel cried out to God, did the time come for God to make His move: “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” (Exodus 2:24)
An angel of God appeared to Moses from out of the flame of a bush that burned but was not consumed.
From the midst of this burning bush at the foot of Mount Sinai, God told Moses he had heard the cries of His People and was sending Moses to go back to Pharaoh in His name and His power on His behalf.