Parashat Va’era (and he appeared)

Va’era  (Exodus 6:2 to 9:35) – recounts that the LORD had appeared to Abraham Isaac and Jacob with whom He made a covenant. The Patriarchs knew him as “God Almighty” (El Shaddai) but did not refer to him by his unpronounceable name YHWH which today we say as Adonai or write as “LORD”. He had seen the suffering of His people in Egypt and have heard their anguish.

Having told Moses that He is the great “I AM” He continues with seven promises (“I will’) to be found in Exodus 6:8. These are

  1. I WILL rescue you from the Egyptians 
  2. i WILL free you from being slaves 
  3. I WILL redeem you with acts of judgement
  4. I WILL take you as my own people
  5. I WILL be your God
  6. I WILL give you the land I promised to Abraham
  7. I WILL give it to you as your own possession

Moses relays to the people what he had been told by the Lord, but they do not believe him because they are so discouraged and burdened by slavery. Moses goes back to God who instructs him to speak to Pharaoh but Moses answers that if the Israelites don’t listen, why on earth should Pharaoh?

The passage goes through the genealogy of the first three sons of Jacob. The genealogy of the sons of Levi proves the pedigree of Moses and so no more genealogies need to be investigated.

Moses and Aaron go before Pharaoh. Aaron throws down his staff in front of Pharaoh. It immediately turns into a snake. Pharaoh’s magicians can do exactly the same thing, but Aaron’s snake eats up all the other snakes. Pharoah however was still unimpressed and refuses to let the people go.

Blood

Then Moses takes the same staff and tells Aaron to hold it over the Nile. The Nile turns to blood. It stinks and the Egyptians must dig elsewhere for water. However, the magicians were able to do the same thing.

Frogs

Moses asks the same question again a week later. He tells Pharaoh that this time there would be a plague of frogs. Once again Moses instructs Aaron to hold his staff over the ponds and streams and frogs come out everywhere and get into Pharaoh’s own kitchens and bedrooms. The magicians were still able to do the same thing, so Pharaoh did not believe that the God of Israel was more powerful than the gods of Egypt. Nevertheless, this time Pharaoh relented and said the people can go. However, once the frogs have gone, he changes his mind.

Gnats

Moses then instructs Aaron to strike the dust of the ground with his staff and the dust turns into gnats. Gnats are everywhere. This time Pharaoh’s magicians cannot do the same and admit that it has to be the “finger of God”.

Flies

The next plague was flies. They get into the houses and cover the ground. They do not however get into the land of Goshen where the Israelites live. Pharaoh starts to weaken. He tells Moses they can make a sacrifice but only in Egypt. Moses replies that they need to go into the wilderness for three days. Pharaoh reluctantly agrees and asks Moses to pray for him. Moses prays and the flies disappear. Once again Pharaoh, being relieved of the suffering, hardens his heart and changes his mind again.

Livestock

Moses comes to Pharaoh again and this time warns him that a plague on the livestock will come the next day. Sure enough, the following day all the camels, horses, donkeys, flocks and herds belonging to the Egyptians die. Only the land of Goshen where the Israelites live is untouched. Pharaoh’s heart was still hard and he refused to let the people go.

Boils

Then God commands Moses to take some soot and toss it in the air. All the Egyptians are infected with boils. Even the magicians in Pharaoh’s court could not appear before him since they were covered in boils. Just as the Lord had predicted, Pharaoh still hardens his heart and does not let the people go.

Hail

Moses once again confronts Pharaoh and warns him about a plague of hail taking place the next day. All the wise officials in Pharaoh’s household take shelter and bring their families and possessions undercover. God could have wiped out Pharaoh and all the Egyptians, but he preserves them only so that his glory would be revealed. Only in the land of Goshen where the Israelites live is there no hail. Pharoah reluctantly admits His sin and Moses waves his hands to stop the hail. As before, when Pharoah sees that the plague has stopped, his heart becomes hard again along with his officials and he refuses to let the people go.

Haftarat Va’era                             הפטרת וארא

The connection between the Haftarah (Ezekiel 28::25 to 29:21) and the Sedra (Torah reading) is God’s judgment on Egypt. The prophecy of Ezekiel although taking place at a different period of history the judgement is the same and the sins of Egypt are the same. The prophet berates Pharoah for his pride and arrogance in believing he himself created the Nile. All the plagues challenge the gods of Egypt since for the Egyptians the Nile was holy and frogs were a deity. When Israel turned to Egypt for help it was like leaning on a reed which would simply give way and damage your hand in the process by cutting it. For the way Egypt had treated Israel God was going to hand over the land of Egypt to the control of the Babylonians who would become God’s instrument of vengeance on behalf of Israel.

Messianic Message

It was not the Israelites’ fault that they were in bondage and God had no feelings for our ancestors other than compassion and empathy. The plan was there from the beginning and the thread of salvation had begun when God made his covenant with Abraham. God knew His people were going to become slaves but now He was going to show the greatness of His power by delivering them.

Likewise, we cannot blame ourselves for the sinful situation that we once found ourselves in irrespective of how sin manifested itself, be it addiction, sexual sin, financial irregularities or simply living for ourselves rather than God. He does not and never did want to condemn us. His only concern was to deliver us and bring us fully into being able to enjoy the promises of God. His seven “I WILLs” promise not just to free us but to bring us in to a place of plenitude.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17 NIV)

The Land of Israel is a physical illustration of spiritual truth, but for the spiritual truth to be real so must the physical illustration. This is why ‘land for peace’ is such a deception since the land belongs to God and as tenants, it is not ours to give away. There is no clause in our tenancy agreement to sublet, although saying that does not give license to mistreat or deny anyone their human rights. Only God can bring peace. Palestinians and for that matter, all the other nations of the Earth can be part of the commonwealth of Israel and partake in our blessings through the blood of the Messiah.

At that time, you were separate from Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.  (Ephesians 2:12,13 TLV)

Don’t dwell on the mistakes and mess-ups of the past. Irrespective of whether we made these errors being ignorant of God or we did them even after we had become believers. God wants us to put the past behind us and join in an exciting adventure to a place full of hope and abundance in following

He who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)

This article originally on the BMJA website and is reposted with permission.