Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parasha #16 B’shallach (After he had let go) Sh’mot (Exodus 13:17-17:16)
Haftarah: Shof’tim (Judges) 4:4-5:31
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 15:1-4
This parashah begins with a reality we don’t like to acknowledge; that we are a stubborn (stiff-necked) people many times throughout our lives. G-d created us with the animal soul that wants to dominate our thoughts, speech, and actions while the soul that is most intimately connected to G-d strives for a constant, closer connection with Him. We may ask why didn’t G-d make us all “good” in the first place? If we were made without evil inclinations, or at least human instincts, we could not ascend in our relationship with G-d while we are on this race to win the prize of eternal life with Him. Indeed, we are created and placed on Earth to glorify and make His Name known just as He states throughout this parashah and the Torah.
Our rebellious attitude is described several times in our parashah. G-d already knowing what the Israelites would do and what we often do is quickly forget the good/blessings of G-d and too readily recall and verbalize our complaints. Notice that G-d “led the people by a roundabout route, through the desert by the Sea of Suf” because He knew the people might change their minds about leaving Egypt which represents the antinomian paradigm once they perceived trouble (Sh’mot 17-18).
With G-d leading the Israelites out into the desert, the column of cloud by day and the column of fire by night 24 hours a day to lead them, one would think that there would be a sense of security in this as G-d promised He would lead them to the Land, good and spacious, flowing with milk and honey as He told Moshe in Ex. 3:8. Yet the people then like now forget the power of G-d and the kindnesses of others in helping them to achieve a closer relationship with G-d. The Israelites’ trust and faith waned after only three days! Although they followed Moshe’s direction in setting up camp as G-d commanded (Ex. 14:4), as soon as they saw Pharaoh and his army approaching, all the trust and faith in Moshe’s direction and G-d vanished. How typical for us to do the same when things do not happen according to our plans! The Israelites complain and lament for the past life in Egypt as slaves. How quickly they forget their cries to G-d for deliverance! Ex. 2:23 reads: “ Sometime during those many years the king of Egypt dies, but the people of Israel still groaned under the yoke of slavery, and they cried out, and their cry for rescue from slavery came up to G-d.” How quickly we forget! Moshe’s response reflects his faith in G-d as he tries to console the people and calm them down. When Moshe entreats G-d the response is as if G-d expected Moshe to know that all he had to do was lift the staff and spread his arms out over the waters to part them. Just maybe Moshe didn’t have as much faith as we humans perceived. The next statement of interest is found in verse 19-20 of Chapter 14; “Next the angel of G-d, who was going ahead of the camp of Israel, moved away and went behind them; and the column of cloud moved away from in front of them and stood behind them. It stationed itself between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel- there was cloud and darkness here, but light by night there; so that the one did not come near the other all night long.” Note that the angel of G-d went and the column of cloud stood. The column of cloud placed itself between Egypt (everything that represents sin) and Israel (G-d’s Chosen People). Can we equate this to Yahshua placing Himself on the execution stake to separate us from Egypt (sin, death being the final act of sin)? The dark and light did not come near each other all night long. Similarly, when Yahshua hung on the stake, He was separated from G-d for a time and “the skies became dark from noon until three o’clock in the afternoon, all the Land was covered with darkness. At about three Yahshua uttered a loud cry, “Eli! Eli! L’mah sh’vaktani?” (My G-d! My G-d! Why have you deserted me?” Just as light and darkness were separated in our parashah, G-d (the Light) could not look upon the One who had taken on the darkness of sin. Interestingly, the crossing of the sea seems to have occurred during the night. Verse 14:24 tells us “Just before dawn, Adonai looked out on the Egyptian army through the column of fire and cloud and threw them into a panic.” Then in verse 27 “Moshe reached his hand out over the sea, and by dawn the sea had returned to its former depth.” By examining these verses, we are reminded that G-d provided a light in the darkness for the Israelites just as we are commanded to do for a lost world in order that He may be glorified (Matt. 5:16). The narrative of the crossing of the Sea of Suf supports the truth that we find in other scripture, including Psalms 119:105 that identifies Yahshua as a Lamp and Light: “Your Word is a lamp for my foot and light on my path.” The Israelites were following the King’s highways of sorts by day and night with no darkness; the waters of chaos on either side, Egypt and its sin behind them, and a clean slate ahead.
They were to move forward as it is written in Proverbs 4:25, “let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze on what lies in front of you. Level the path before your feet, let all your ways be properly prepared; then deviate neither right nor left; and keep your foot far from evil.” God prevented the Israelites from looking back by making it dark behind them and lighting the way ahead. Only after this most recent miracle did the people fear Adonai, believe in Him and in Moshe, but this fear and belief would be short lived. But for now, Moshe and the people rejoice with the song that is contained in Chapter 15. Miryam the prophet, sister of Aharon, joins in with her tambourines and all the women danced.
After only three days in the desert, the people started complaining again, this time about the water. Adonai provided for them, and at the same time made the laws and rules for life for them “and he tested them” (Ex. 15:25). It is the next verse where we first see the conditionality of salvation through the description of the diseases of Egypt; “If you will listen intently to the voice of Adonai your G-d, do what He considers right, pay attention to his commands and observe his laws, I will not afflict you with any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians; because I am Adonai your healer.” Today we are reaping the fruits of our rebelliousness as a people against our G-d evidenced by the increasing frequency and intensity of everything from global warming, to famines, plagues, the diseases of Egypt revisited upon us, and calamities not specifically named in the Torah (Deut. 28:15-69; Matt. 24; Rev.22:18-19).
Chapters 16 and 17 are filled with the peoples’ grumblings and quarrelling about food and water. G-d provides heavenly man (manna) to meet the needs of each person and quail for meat. This is another example of G-d’s loving kindness toward a weak-faithed people at best. If G-d brought them through the Sea of Reeds, could they not assume He would feed and water them too? Moshe tells each family to gather just enough man for the family and not to hoard it. But you guessed it! Some of the people hoarded the leftovers anyway. This reminds me of the bathroom tissue crisis of 2020! In the case of the manna hoarding, G-d intervenes causing worms to breed in it and rotting it. The lesson for the Israelites and us is that we are not to take more than we can use of anything. We are to trust in G-d’s promise to provide and know that it is for our best no matter what form His provision is manifest. The exception for storing manna is in preparation for Shabbat. G-d even took a break on Shabbat and did not send manna that day. The people ate manna for forty years. Another lesson we can glean is that we are not to place such emphasis on what we eat contrary to all the food channels and food reality shows put before us today. We should be satisfied with a simple diet.
G-d uses manna in another illustration in Ex. 16:31-35. Two quarts of manna were to be set aside for all generations to enable the Children of Israel to see the bread provided by G-d as sustenance throughout their desert sojourn. This manna was placed in front of the testimony “so that they (the Children of Israel) will be able to see the bread which I fed you in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt.” (Ex. 16:32). There is much debate about what happened to this jar as it cannot be found today. I submit to you the physical bread was removed according to G-d’s plan when Solomon’s temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar to represent the arrival of Yahshua as the “Bread of Life” that would feed us until we reach the Promised Land through His Torah. We read in 1 Kings 8:9 (and 2 Chron. 5:10) that “there was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone.” 2Kings 25:8-18 describes the removal of all the holy things in Solomon’s temple of which the jar of manna was surely included. The manna was kept in a jar most likely made of gold or silver. Recall if you will, what Yahshua said about those who believe although have not seen… Although the physical bread is not present currently, we have the Bread of Life in Yahshua HaMashiach, from whom we gain our daily sustenance. Similarly, the Children of Israel ate manna until they arrived at the borders of Kena’an at which time they entered the next level in their relationship to and with G-d.
Haftarah: Shof’tim (Judges 4:4-5:31)
This haftarah describes D’vorah who was a prophet and a judge of Israel. Her role as judge provides quite a contrast to religions that teach women are to be silent in the “church”. The specific verse regarding this issue is mistranslated and misunderstood as is much of G-d’s Torah. But this is a lesson for another time. G-d himself ordains D’vorah to judge Israel. This narrative should at least stimulate a question or two in the minds of those who have been taught according to contrary doctrine and teaching. The fall of the Canaanite general Sisera and his armies are described with D’vorah’s song of thanks for G-d’s help. This episode parallels our Torah portion which discusses the drowning of the Egyptian forces in the Red Sea and the subsequent songs led by Moses and Miriam.
Deborah the Prophetess was the leader and judge of the Israelites at a difficult time when the Israelites were being persecuted by King Jabin of Canaan and his general Sisera. Deborah summoned Barak son of Abinoam and transmitted to him G‑d’s instruction: “Go and gather your men toward Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and Zebulun. And I shall draw to you, to the brook Kishon, Sisera, the chieftain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will give him into your hand.” At Barak’s request, Deborah accompanied him, and together they led the offensive.
Sisera was informed of the Israelites’ mobilization and he gathered his forces and proceeded towards the Kishon River. Barak’s army below and the heavens above waged battle against the Canaanites and utterly destroyed them. The river washed them all away; not one of the enemy survived. Sisera fled on foot and arrived at the tent of Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite. She invited him in and offered to hide him. When he fell asleep, Jael took a tent-peg and knocked it through Sisera’s temple. She really drove her point home!
The next chapter of the haftorah is the Song of Deborah, which describes the miraculous victory and thanks the One Above for His assistance. This is our reasonable service; to praise the One who is our provision every minute of the day.
B’rit Chadasha: Revelation 15:1-4
This passage describes the conclusion of G-d’s fury, those who defeated the beast, its image and the number of its name standing by the sea of glass with harps given them by G-d himself. This event can be compared to our parashah where the Israelites stood at the Sea of Reeds and rejoiced after the destruction of the Egyptian army. Verse 3-4 reads “They were singing the song of Moshe, the servant of G-d and the song of the Lamb: Great and wonderful are the things you have done, Adonai, G-d of heaven’s armies! Just and true are your ways, king of the nations! 4 Adonai, who will not fear and glorify your name? Because you alone are holy, all nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous deeds have been revealed.”
The Song of Moshe reveals the might and justice of G-d; His commandments, while the Song of the Lamb speaks of the testimony of Yahshua and exalts the justice of G-d in an inextricable relationship. But unlike the Song of Moshe it also brings out that in the final judgment G-d is revealed as King of the nations, King of the whole world, as prophesied in Zech. 14:9, so that the nations will come to worship before him. The Song of Moshe and the Song of the Lamb exemplify and support the co-existence of grace and law; the cloud by day and the fire by night, and the theme of the seven-fold-witness in Revelation that defines a true believer in the word of Yahshua Himself. Indeed, He will have the last word on this subject when we stand before Him.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart
Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue