Moses’s Renewed Mission

Exodus 6:2-30

Last week’s portion left Moses greatly discouraged. Not only did Pharaoh not release the Israelites from bondage, he made things even worse! God must reassure Moses that this, too, is part of His Divine Plan for the development of the Israelite Nation. He outlines the five stages of His plan, from taking them out of slavery to bringing them to the land of their forefathers as a heritage. Moses brings God’s words to the children of Israel, but they are too oppressed to appreciate them.

 

God then sends Moses back to Pharaoh to offer one more chance to make the right choice, but Moses is still skeptical that he is the man for the job. The Torah takes this opportunity to show the reader that Moses is, indeed, the ideal individual, by listing his righteous lineage from Jacob forward.

 

The Israel Bible points out a significant semantic distinction in God’s plan for the Exodus. When telling Moses of His promise to give the nation the land of their forefathers, he calls it a morasha, a heritage, and not a yerusha, an inheritance. This indicates the people will have to work for the land and will be responsible to care for it for the sake of future generations.

 

Over the centuries, the Jewish people have taken that responsibility very seriously. Even when the land was not under Jewish self-rule, many individuals and groups made great personal sacrifices to come to the land of Israel. Despite the hardships, they worked the land and laid the foundation for the thriving country it is today. From draining swamps for farmland to building a high-tech haven, Jewish immigrants to the land of Israel are committed to preserving their heritage from God!

 

Virtual Classroom Discussion

Although the Torah is relatively progressive in its attitude towards women as compared to the surrounding cultures of the time it describes (think Deborah the Judge), there aren’t many female characters in leading roles in the text. Yet, in Moses’s genealogy, three women are mentioned specifically: Moses’s mother, Jochebed, Aaron’s wife, Elisheba, and Aaron’s daughter-in-law, whose name is not given. Why do you think these women in particular are included? What might be their significance in Moses’s life?

 

Comments ( 24 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • The significance of Jochebed is of course very clear: she was the one that gave birth to Moshe, she breastfeeded him and through her he received the first kindness. She was of the tribe of Levi. Elisheva married to Aaron was of the royal tribe of Jehudah. The name of the daughter in law of Aaron is not mentioned, only that she was a daughter of Putiel, probably “a highly respected man in his generation”. These names of the women probably were mentioned to show that not only the offspring of these great people descended from great fathers, but that also the mothers have been great and maybe that here is a connection of Levi with Jehudah that will show to be important. Moreover they are the mothers that are mainly responsible for the training of "great men".

  • Thank you for these comments above, they're enriching, especially knowing the priestly and kingly connection that Elisheva, Aaron's wife represents.

  • Deborah, a woman after my own heart, a 'mother in Israel, warrior, judge and prophetess'. I have a picture in my mind of a modern day Deborah. She might stand holding food and comfort for those lost and in need, and carry a book of Psalms [to read about justice and the mercy of G-d], a pair of binoculas around her neck [so as to see things far off] and hold her Bible in the hand too [for without it our knowledge could be shallow].

  • Margaret

    Jochebed, related in spelling to YHVH, was given this name before He revealed Himself to Moses by this name. It appears that He is already writing the history of the Exodus before the birth of Moses. She, not her husband Amram, was given the task of, and granted the courage, to find a way to preserve Moses’ life. Elisheba, wife of Aaron, is from the tribe of Judah..connecting the priestly tribe with the royal tribe before they were designated as priests or kings.

  • Richard

    I don’t know why Elisheva and Aaron’s daughter in law are mentioned, but women play a very important role in the redemption of Israel from Mitzrayim. In many cases their names are not given, perhaps emphasising their importance behind the scene.
    According to midrash Miriam convinced her parents to come together and have children, thus playing an active role in bringing the redeemer to Israel (promoting life). She then courageously watched the baby by the river, approached Pharaoh’s daughter with a solution for feeding the baby (promoting life). This solution would also bring Moshe back home so that he could learn his mother’s values.
    Yocheved, her mother must have been something special, her three children were all leaders. She had the courage to have a child and devise a plan to save the child.
    Shifrah and Puah, the midwives play a very important role in saving the life of the redeemer, they also give us the first recorded instance of civil disobedience, “teaching us the primacy of conscience over conformity, the law of justice over the law of the land.” (Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Covenant and Conversation, 5774)
    Pharaoh’s daughter also plays an important role. Although her name is not given here, she stretches out her arm and saves the boy against her father’s orders. She gives him the name that sticks to this day. Her name is later given as Bityah of Batyah, daughter of God and she is one of the nine persons who entered Eden alive according to tradition.
    We can see from the above that women are indeed very important in this narrative – I would really like to know the importance of Elisheva and Aaron’s daughter in law, please tell us!

    • Thanks to everyone for their great comments and insights on this particular question. There seems to be agreement here that women in general played an important role in Egypt. In fact, our sages teach us that it is because of the righteous women that we were redeemed from Egypt. Yocheved’s attempt to save her son, and Miriam’s courage to watch over him in the reeds and then dare to speak to the princess, all with the plan to bring baby Moses back to his mother for a little longer, is not something to be taken for granted. And as some pointed out, Miriam and Yocheved have been identified by some commentators as non other than Shifra and Pu’ah-the midwives who really risked their lives to save others.
      In addition to all these wonderful ideas about the important messages, and qualities these women were passing down to the future generation, the classic commentators on the Torah discuss why specifically these women were mentioned. Elisheba is mentioned as the daughter of Avinadav, sister of Nahshon, who we know is from the Tribe of Judah. This links Elazar, Phinehas and all future priests to the Tribe of Judah, and thus to the kingship. As for Elazar, he takes a wife from the daughters of Putiel. The midrash explains that Putiel either descended from Jethro or Joseph, again, connecting the future priests to royalty.
      As for Yocheved, the commentators are more interested in her relationship with Amram — as his aunt, a later-forbidden relation, she represents Moses’s “moral weakness”, which Sforno (Italy 1475-1550) uses to demonstrate that no leader should be flawless so that he can better relate to his followers.

      • Michael

        Thanks for the explanation! The Temple Institute also shares some interesting and similar thoughts, http://universaltorah.com/programming/category/temple-institute-light-to-the-nations/weekly-torah.

      • I am so glad you said that as I was thinking I was too shallow in my intended response. I am learning so much just reading the input. There is so much here I never realized. This is my first serious study of the Old Testament and my head is just spinning!

  • Magda

    I think that Moses is destined to play a major part in G-d’s redemption of Israel out of Egypt. Although a very humble man, he is be a prophetic picture of a Redeemer of Israel. Both his mother Yochebed and his sister, Miriam, risk their own safety and lives to rescue him from the Pharao of his time’s murdering of new-born male Hebrews. Miriam later also plays an important role in the history of the wandering Israelites. About Elisheva, I can’t say?? Maybe because she is Aaron’s wife?

  • Kenneth

    Observation & question: Moses is hesitant in being the messenger of God. He uses the term uncircumcised lips (twice) in this portion and in 4:10 he used the words “…I am not a man of words…for I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.”
    Why does he used the term uncircumcised lips?

    • Drew

      A metaphorical expression among the Hebrews, who, taught to look on the circumcision of any part as denoting perfection, signified its deficiency or unsuitableness by uncircumcision.
      From a commentary not mine 🙂

      • Drew

        I would have gone with Unclean Lips as in Isaiah 🙂

  • Kenneth

    observation unrelated to your question. This portion gives the genealogy of 3 tribes and spans 4 generations. Example: Levi-Kohath-Amram-Moses (age 80). If we take an average generation as 70, this would mean roughly 280 years in Egypt. The names of the children are mainly male, so presumably, there were daughters and possibly other male children born, but names not recorded. This is where our faith is can be challenged by the skeptics.

    • Drew

      Did a study on this some time ago and the age i got was 120 years. The only way i got to 400 was going all the way back to Abraham

      • This age-old question as to how the years add up has been tackled by many of our great sages. Abraham was told that his children will sojourn in land that is not theirs for 400 years, however Egypt is not specifically named in the covenant. If we do the math, it seems like the Israelites spent just over 200 years in Egypt. Kehat, the son of Levi, who lived until 133, was part of the group of 70 who went down to Egypt. His son Amram, lived 137 years and his grandson (Amram’s son) Moses was 80 years old when he stood before Pharaoh. It is impossible to say that the Hebrews spent 400 years in Egypt. At the same time, God did not err in His calculations. Rather, the 400 years began from the time Isaac was born. From that moment, Abraham’s seed was living in a land that was not theirs (for at that time, the Land of Israel was Canaan, ruled by the Canaanites). Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born, and Jacob was 130 when he went down to Egypt. This adds up to 190 years of living as ‘strangers’ in the land of Canaan, which leaves 210 years of slavery in Egypt. Hope my math wasn’t confusing!

        • Michael

          I heard that G-d reduced to the exile in Egypt to 210 years because the Hebrews had sunk to such a low level that had they remained any longer they would be become unredeemable. It also teaches that no negative prophecy, even from Hashem, must come to pass. Thoughts? BTW Sicha Jacobivicci’s documentary “Exodus Decoded” does an excellent job of finding the archaeological and scientific evidence for the Exodus.

  • Christine

    Sorry misspelled Eleazer. Christine

    • There is definitely truth to what you are saying Christine! Thanks so much for joining the discussion.

  • Christine

    Possibly because they were righteous women who bore righteous men. References being Ruth 4.19, lev. 10.1, It is interesting to follow through on the sons of Aaron and the fact that sleazed was the righteous one. Christine

  • Kenneth

    I don’t see any direct influence of these 2 women other than by possible association with others of influence. Elisheba was sister to Nahshon and he was a leader in Judah.

    • These verses are definitely setting the stage, as it were, letting us know about future ‘cast members’ who will play a significant role (i.e Korah and Phinehas). As Kenneth mentioned, Nahshon was a leader of Judah (according to tradition, it was Nahshon who jumped into the Sea of Reeds, demonstrating his complete faith in God, who then split the Sea). However, Nahshon does not fit in to the direct lineage being presented here, except as the sister of Elisheba, wife of Aaron, so perhaps that is why she is mentioned.

  • Drew

    Cant think why these women were mentioned.
    What i did find though after Moshe has his litle rant 5:22, Elohim ( Justice ) never speaks to him again, it,s always YHVH (Grace ).

    • Such an interesting observation….I’m going to try to pay more attention as we read through the rest of the Torah.

      • Drew

        Jochebed. Her name is the first name to have the short form of YHVH and her name means YHVH is glory. Any wonder she gets a mention 🙂

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