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Shemot/Exodus 8:7(11) And the frogs will be removed from you, your houses, your servants, and from your people
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The verb comes from the root which can have both an active and a passive meaning: to depart from - which is often used in the sense of departing from G-d and His ways - or to be removed. In this context, although the active meaning is possible: "the frogs will depart from you ...", the second seems more likely: "the frogs will be removed ..." and also emphasises that G-d needed to make it happen.Ramban picks up on this when he comments, "Moshe emphasises that as soon as he prays they will all retreat to keep Pharaoh from fearing that that these frogs would die but others would come up from the Nile. The plague will depart entirely, even though frogs remain in the Nile. All of this was to make clear to Pharaoh that the plague was carried out by G-d."
Ibn Ezra, on the other hand, shows up another concern that the rabbis had with this verse: "The frogs shall retreat - Moshe made the promise without consulting G-d, confident that He would not embarrass him; Moshe even adds 'and your servants' although Pharaoh had not asked for this (v.4)". This is a really interesting question, for it touches on the degree of control or free-will that Moshe experienced when talking to Pharaoh and whether G-d was bound by Moshe's promise, or how much Moshe knew of G-d's plans so that he could speak from certainty or guess-work. The text itself gives no help in answering the question - it isn't important to the main flow of the narrative, so we are left to speculate whether Moshe knew that the frogs would be removed or simply that G-d would bring the plague to an end and assumed or guessed the rest. Was the working relationship between G-d and Moshe so tight that Moshe could say things or fill in details that G-d would then have to execute in addition to the basic plan? Or was it instead that Moshe was so close to G-d that he just naturally spoke exactly what G-d had in mind all along?
Hundreds of years later in Jerusalem, at a low point in our people's history, approaching the destruction of Jerusalem itself and the first Temple by king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, a prophetic drama was played out in the house of the L-rd before the priests and the people. Hananiah, whom the text acknowledges to be a prophet, said, "Thus says the L-rd of Hosts, the G-d of Israel, 'I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I am going to bring back to this place all the vessels of the L-rd's house, which Nebuchadnezzer king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon ...' declares the L-rd, 'for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon'" (Jeremiah 28:3-4, NASB). Then, despite Jeremiah's warning, Hananiah took the yoke off the neck of Jeremiah and broke it as a symbolic gesture and picture to confirm his words, which he then repeated. Yet the following verses tell us that the L-rd then told Jeremiah to go to Hananiah and rebuke him for speaking falsely in G-d's name: "Listen now, Hananiah, the L-rd has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie ... this year you are going to die, because you have counseled rebellion against the L-rd" (Jeremiah 28:15-16, NASB).
What went wrong here? How could a man whom the Tanakh confirms is a prophet get things so desperately wrong that he brings a completely invalid word from G-d and pays for this offence with his life? The previous chapter gives us the background context to this scene, where G-d warns King Zedekiah of Judah and the kings of the surrounding nations that they are to serve Nebuchadnezzer and not believe false prophets, diviners, dreamers or soothsayers (27:9,16). Hananiah thought that he was speaking for G-d, but G-d said, "No", he was only speaking on his own initiative; G-d had not sent him. A clue is given in Jeremiah's warning to Hananiah: "The prophets who were before me and before you from ancient times prophesied against many lands and against great kingdoms, of war and of calamity and of pestilence" (28:8, NASB) - Hananiah was speaking out of line with not only the political situation around him, but with the previously spoken words of the L-rd through many other prophets. If he had stopped to think, to weigh what he was about to say against what G-d has already said, then Hananiah might not have fallen prey to saying what the people wanted to hear rather than what G-d knew they needed to hear.
This makes all the more remarkable the words of Yeshua: "Yes! I tell you that whoever does not doubt in his heart but trusts that what he says will happen can say to this mountain, 'Go and throw yourself into the sea!' and it will be done for him" (Mark 11:23, CJB). This promise of Yeshua can be found at least three more times in similar or slightly different contexts in both Matthew (17:20, 21:21) and Luke (17:6) so it must have made a significant impact upon the gospel writers and the early church. Yeshua continues, "Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, trust that you are receiving it, and it will be yours" (Mark 11:24, CJB). When G-d has already spoken into your heart and told you what to say and what He is about to do, then you can speak out in faith, commanding that action to take place and it will, because you will be speaking in the faith that comes from knowing that you have heard from G-d.
Further Study: Ezekiel 13:1-3; Luke 11:9-13
Application: If you shrink back from proclaiming what G-d has laid on your heart, be encouraged today to start taking the first steps to being a little more bold. Find someone whom you trust to share some of these words with, who can pray with you and help to build up your faith and discernment as you develop G-d's gift, so that G-d's word for today may be clearly heard by His people.
© Jonathan Allen, 2007
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