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(Ex 6:2 - 9:35)

Shemot/Exodus 7:1   See! I have given you [as] G-d to Pharaoh and Aharon your brother shall be your prophet.


Two words in this text make the commentators uncomfortable. The first is , most frequently one of the three fundamental names in the Hebrew Scriptures for G-d, transliterated Elohim, and just occasionally - where the context is usually very clear - taken as a masculine plural noun meaning 'judges'. Given the preceding word - , the Qal affix 1cs form of the root , with a 2ms 'you' object suffix - meaning "I have given you"1, and the following word for Pharaoh with the preposition to make the indirect object "to Pharaoh", the meaning "judges" seems unlikely. Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi nevertheless opts for, "a judge and a ruler, to rule over Pharaoh with plagues". Friedman prefers "I have made you a god", while Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch comments, "To a Pharaoh, Moshe must finally have appeared as an incarnation of a god".

But why is this significant? Nahum Sarna contrasts Moshe with Pharaoh: "Moshe is to fill the role of G-d in negotiations with Pharaoh, who claimed divinity for himself", then adds, "Moshe's divinely endowed power and authority will expose the hollowness of that claim". Umberto Cassuto2 takes us on another step and has G-d explain to Moshe that "although Pharaoh is himself considered a deity, he is nevertheless accustomed to hear the prophets of Egypt address him in the name of their gods; now you will appear before him as one of the divinities, who do not speak directly but through their prophets" We hear a allusion here to the idols that the peoples make: "They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat" (Psalm 115:5-7, ESV). The Egyptian deities were never going to speak, since they were nothing but idols, so their so-called prophets always spoke, in the name of the idols, whatever words the demons inspired them to say.

The second word that concerns the commentators is the last word in the verse: , your prophet. What Is ...

Targum Onkelos: An early (1st-2nd Century CE) translation/paraphrase of the Torah into Aramaic; attributed to a Roman convert to Judaism, Onkelos; used in Babylonian synagogues during the Talmudic era
Targum Onkelos translates this as , "your translator", referring both to its own name - Targum Onkelos, the translation of Onkelos - and to the well-known function of the targuman within the Babylonian Aramaic-speaking Jewish communities in the days of the Talmud. The targuman would stand at the front next to the reader who was reading from the Torah in Hebrew. At the end of each verse, the reader would pause and the verse would be translated into and, if necessary, be explained or expanded in, Aramaic, the first language of those communities. Onkelos is therefore downplaying the supernatural in Aharon's role, making him simply a human language translator. Drazin and Wagner, in their commentary on Onkelos, take that a step further, proposing that the biblical , prophet, "means 'spokesperson'. The word mistakenly took on the connotation of 'seer'. Prophets were spokespersons for G-d, not seers." This seems to be supported by the Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno who summarises: "Moshe will be as Elohim to Pharaoh, and Aharon will serve as interpreter and expounder".

Rashi too follows Onkelos and explains that comes from the root , "So too, every word of the root, one who announces and proclaims word of rebuke to the people". However, he goes on to connect it with another root, - to put forth shoots, to produce or utter - and cites "fruit of the lips" (Isaiah 57:19), "The mouth of the righteous produces wisdom" (Proverbs 10:31, JPS) and "When he had finished prophesying" (1 Samuel 10:13, CJB). Who Is ...

Abraham Ibn Ezra: (1089-1167 CE), born in Tudela, Spain; died in the South of France after wandering all around the shores of the Mediterranean and England; a philosopher, astronomer, doctor, poet and linguist; wrote a Hebrew grammar and a commentary on the Bible
Ibn Ezra, on the other hand, flatly contradicts him: "Those who say that comes from the root (as in Isaiah 57:19) are incorrect. is a two-consonant hollow verb, but comes from , a normal three-consonant verb".

Rav Sha'ul speaks of G-d spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Messiah through us. He writes, "For to G-d we are the aroma of the Messiah, both among those being saved and among those being lost" (2 Corinthians 2:15, CJB). He seems to be suggesting that we are Messiah to both G-d and the people among whom we walk: "to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life" (v. 16, ESV). Two chapters later, he returns to the same theme, when he uses another similar analogy to paint a second picture of who we are: "For G-d, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness', has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of G-d in the face of Yeshua the Messiah" (4:6, ESV). Messiah's face is somehow visible in our hearts; part of us, yet distinct and recognisable: "we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to G-d and not to us" (v. 7, ESV). But this is still not enough; in the next chapter, Sha'ul speaks about the way that G-d uses believers as His agents of reconciliation: "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Messiah, G-d making His appeal through us" (5:20, ESV).

So are we like Moshe - being G-d to Pharaoh - or like Aharon - being the prophet, the translator and explicator? Where has G-d placed us in the mix? The Bible tells us that Yeshua - G-d's own Son - "is the radiance of the Sh'khinah, the very expression of God's essence" (Hebrews 1:3, CJB); we have Messiah dwelling in us: "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27, NIV). The answer is, at times, both. There are times when we are called to be G-d to the people around us - acting as G-d, speaking for G-d, displaying G-d's glory and wisdom, showing G-d's compassion and care. We do this, of course, not of ourselves, but Messiah in us. G-d instructed Moshe what to say and do; Yeshua explains that G-d will tell us in exactly the same way: "it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you" (Matthew 10:20, NASB). Equally, there are times when we are G-d's translator, coming alongside people to explain what G-d has said, to demonstrate how He has worked in our lives and to declare G-d's truth and call on their lives. This too is not of ourselves, but the Spirit working through us: "He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment" (John 16:8, NASB).

Rashi, even though Ibn Ezra disagreed with him, connected the role of the prophet with the fruit of the lips; this is significant. Peter speaks about the way our witness affects those around us, when he says, "Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify G-d on the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:12, ESV). Even if people don't want to accept our witness, our charity, our acts of kindness, they will have to confess on the Day of Judgement that they did see them and were offered them but refused. Their lips will, however reluctantly, have to confess the name of Yeshua as Rav Sha'ul writes: "in honor of the name given Yeshua, every knee will bow - in heaven, on earth and under the earth - and every tongue will acknowledge that Yeshua the Messiah is ADONAI" (Philippians 2:10-11, CJB). We then, have always to be ready and - where necessary, even if at cost to ourselves - bold to proclaim the name of Yeshua. "Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to G-d, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name" (Hebrews 13:15, ESV).

1. - the root most often has the meaning 'to give', but also can sometimes mean "set or appoint", so here, this text could read "I have appointed you [as] G-d to Pharaoh".

2. - Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, Magnes Press, Jerusalem, 1983, 965-223-456-7

Further Study: Shemot 4:15-16; Ephesians 5:1-2

Application: Are you the wild extrovert type or a shrinking violet? G-d has placed you so that you may be seen and proclaim His glory. Ask G-d to give you His boldness, gentleness and firmness to fulfill that role today.

© Jonathan Allen, 2013



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