THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION:
From ancient times there has been a weekly portion (Parashah) from the first five books of Moses (The Torah) and an ending (Haftarah) from the Prophets read on the Sabbath in synagogues around the world. This portion is given a Hebrew name drawn from the opening words of the Torah passage. An illustration of this practice appears to have been recorded in Luke 4:16 where Yeshua (Jesus) arrived in the synagogue in Nazareth and was asked to read the portion (Isaiah 61) from the Prophets.
We have found that in perusing these weekly readings, not only are we provided opportunity to identify in the context of God’s Word with millions of Jewish people around the world, but very often the Holy Spirit will illumine specific passages pertinent that week in our intercession for the Land and people of Israel. The Haftarah, unless otherwise noted, will be that read in Ashkenazy synagogues around the world. The references for all texts are those found in English translations of the Scriptures.
The readings for this week January 22-27, 2017 are called Va’Era—“And I Appeared” (–to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai.)
TORAH: Exodus 6:2—9:35
HAFTARAH: Ezekiel 28:25—29:21
(NOTE: Because this week’s Sabbath falls on Rosh Chodesh (beginning of the 11th month Shevat), a special passage from the Prophets Isaiah 66:1-24 will in many synagogues be added to or replace the reading from Ezekiel)
*Exodus 6:26b; 7:4. “These are the same Aaron and Moses to whom YHVH said, ‘Bring out the children of Israel from the land of Egypt according to their armies.’” (NKJV)...“And Pharaoh will not heed you, and I shall set my hand against Egypt and I shall bring out my battalions [or, “armies”], My people the Israelites, from the land of Egypt with great retributions, that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD [YHVH], when I stretch out My hand over Egypt and bring out the Israelites from their midst.” (Alter).
YHVH (The LORD) is Sovereign over many “armies.” This is first shown in Genesis 2:1 when “The heavens and the earth, and all the armies/hosts (Hebrew: tzevaoth) of them, were finished.” In Joshua 5:14, a Being appears before Joshua who is “Captain of the Armies of YHVH.” From I Samuel 1:3 onwards, the name YHVH-Tzevaoth (Yehovah of Armies/LORD of Hosts) will be used over two hundred-fifty times in the Hebrew Bible. As we have often pointed out, when David meets Goliath in battle, he testifies his trust in this Name: “I come to you in the name of YHVH of Armies…”—but he also adds another, “Elohei-ma’arkhot Yisrael”—God of Israel’s Arraying.”
The masses of Israelites in Egypt had no idea that they were already an army—yet, as the above verses show, in God’s eyes, they were. Indeed, we shall see in Exodus 12:41 how “all the armies of YHVH” would go forth from the land of Egypt, and Exodus 13:18 (NAS) adds, they would be in “martial array!” When we come into the Kingdom, we enter (or become aware of) a war which is already raging. Yet, not to be bewildered or afraid! Our Captain already has a “positioning” for us in which to begin, and He will oversee our advancement!
PLEASE PRAY: That the latter-day Army of the Lord in Israel will have confidence in its Captain, and come into array at His command!
*Exodus 7:1. “So the LORD said to Moses: ‘See, I have made you Elohim (literal Hebrew) to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet.”
In a very real way, we are God’s body through whom He looses His will “on earth as it is in Heaven.”
*Exodus 7:9-10. “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Show a miracle for yourselves.’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and cast it before Pharaoh, and let it become a serpent’…and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent” (NKJV).
The Hebrew here translated “serpent” is a different word and may designate a different creature than that used for the snake from which Moses fled (Exodus 4:3 and 7:15). There the word was nakhash, the common Hebrew word for snake (such as that which tempted Eve in Eden). Here the word is tanin, used in modern Hebrew for “crocodile” or “alligator” (the Nile Crocodile has been feared from ancient times for its propensity, more than any other of the species, to prey upon humans). In Genesis 1:21 tanin is a “great sea creature” created by God.
But this creature is also often used as a metaphor for spiritual or physical powers in opposition to God. In Ezekiel 29:3 (part of this week’s Haftarah), this word tanin is translated “monster” (NKJV), and depicts another Pharaoh (or the spiritual power controlling him), “Behold, I am against you, O Pharaoh king of Egypt, O great monster (tanin) who lies in the midst of his rivers, who has said, ‘My River is my own; I have made it for myself.’ But I will put hooks in your jaws…” (The word is also translated “monster” in Jeremiah 51:34 where it pictures Nebuchadnezzar swallowing up sinful Israel “like a tannin.”). In Psalm 74:13 it is depicted as a many headed “sea monster” (NASB) whose heads God can break in delivering those who trust in him. And in Isaiah 27:1 the NASB reads, “And He will kill the dragon (tanin) who lives in the sea.”
In modern Hebrew translations of the New Covenant Scriptures, the “great, fiery red dragon having seven heads” of Revelation 12:3, who stands before the woman clothed with the sun to devour her baby, is call a tanin…and in 12:9 both tanin (dragon) and nakhash (serpent) are equated with “the Devil and Satan.” Lastly, in Psalm 91:13 (NASB, margin) “tanin” is the dragon which those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High and abide under the shadow of the Almighty, will trample underfoot!
And so, the rod which had become a serpent (nakhash Exodus 7:15), through Moses’ obedient faith became in his and Aaron’s hands “the rod of God” (4:20), which could become a different fearful creature (tanin) which swallowed up other fearful creatures (7:12), or it could become a scepter of authority which could turn the waters of the Nile, over which the Pharaohs claimed sovereignty (Ezek 29:3 above), into blood (7:17).
In short, the rod became the symbol of authority through which Moses would “be God” to Pharaoh (7:1), through whom YHVH would manifest Himself as the supreme spiritual Power who would defeat, subdue and swallow up all other opposing spiritual powers.
*Exodus 7:14. “So the LORD said to Moses: ‘Pharaoh’s heart is hard; he refuses to let the people go.”
The LORD knew that Pharaoh’s heart was hard (two words are used for “hard” or “hardened” in these passages, one meaning “heavy” or “settled”, the other “tightened”, “strengthened” or “fortified”). Through the early signs, wonders and plagues, we see Pharaoh’s heart growing hard according to its own nature (7:13, 22), or his actively hardening his own heart (8:15). In 8:29, 32, after the plague of flies, Moses especially warns him against continuing to do this, “But Pharaoh made his heart heavy and insensitive this time also.” Finally, in 9:12 it is specifically stated that “the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh.” We have here depicted both the choice and responsibility of man—and the foreknowledge and sovereignty of God. After Moses prays that the rain, hail and thunder cease, Pharaoh “sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hard.”
*Exodus 8:23. “And I shall set a ransom between My people [in Goshen] and your people.”
(Robert Alter Translation; see also NASB margin). The word “ransom” is often translated here as “difference”—but everywhere else in the Bible the root means “to ransom, to redeem, to rescue from danger”. It is in the last sentence of Psalm 25— “Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.” Israel would here come to see that his God was already redeeming him out of his troubles. Through the work of his Messiah, the LORD would eventually redeem not only Israel but all peoples from the bondage of sin.
*Ezekiel 28:25-26. “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘When I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and am hallowed in them in the sight of the Gentiles, then they will dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob. And they will dwell safely there, build houses, and plant vineyards; yes, they will dwell securely, when I execute judgments on all those around them who despise them. Then they shall know that I am YHVH their God.”
In praying for Israel’s restoration, it is important that we not only pray for her return to the Land, but that afterward, within that Land, the God of her Fathers will come to be hallowed in her midst. Nowhere is Israel promised safety for herself or her roots in the Land just because she has been returned there. We pray for the work of the Holy Spirit in awakening awareness of sin and uncleanness and a longing for cleansing, holiness and restoration—for removal of the veil over Jewish hearts, and illumination of the truth of the love and life of Israel’s God and Savior.
Zion continues to serve as a “signpost” to the nations (that is what the root of the word probably means). But it is also God’s heart and purpose that she will be a signal in the eyes of the world of a place where HE is hallowed! He has promised a day when He will be a wall of fire around Jerusalem (Zechariah 2:5) and her glory within!
Martin & Norma Sarvis
The readings for next week (January 29—February 4, 2017) are called Bo—“Come”
TORAH: Exodus 10:1—13:16
HAFTARAH: Jeremiah 46:13-28