Va’era / And I Appeared
HafTorah Portion Ezekiel 28:25-28:21
Brit Chadasha Romans 9:14-24
The Hardened Heart…
In Exodus chapter 7, as God is instructing Moshe on His plan, God informs him of the end result, ‘So the Lord said to Moses: “See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you. And Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to send the children of Israel out of his land. 3 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. 4 But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. 5 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them.” Exodus 7:3-5. He tells Moshe He will harden Pharoah’s heart and display ‘great judgements.’
This information was given to Moshe in the beginning of Exodus in the Parsha Shemot. Exodus 4:21; ‘And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.’
God told Moshe that He will harden the heart of Pharoah. Throughout the Parsha Va’era and continuing with the next Torah Portion, Bo, we find this: the sixth plague, boils, Exodus 9:12, the eighth, locusts, Exodus 10:1, and the tenth, the firstborn, Exodus 11:10.
The sages have three different theories on this:
One: Pharaoh’s loss of freewill during the last five plagues was a punishment for his obstinacy in the first five, where he acted freely.
Two: the relevant verb, ch-z-k, does not mean “to harden” but “to strengthen.” God was not taking away Pharaoh’s freewill but, to the contrary, preserving it in the face of the overwhelming disasters that were hitting Egypt.
Three: God is a partner in all human action, but we only usually attribute an act to God if it seems inexplicable in ordinary human terms. Pharaoh acted freely throughout, but it was only during the last five plagues that his behavior was so strange that it was attributed to God.”
Could the answer to the question ‘why’ be hidden in the Torah Portion Shemot? Is God purposefully shaping both Moshe and Pharoah, unknowingly, for the outcome, as God says: ‘Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. 23 So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.” Exodus 4:22.
God warns Pharoah and allows him a free will choice, a change of heart – but if he doesn’t there is one final consequence. ‘If you refuse…’
The plague of blood – Pharoah’s heart became hard after the magicians did the same thing.
The plague of frogs - Pharoah hardened his heart when he saw the relief
The plague of gnats – When the magicians told Pharoah, ‘This is the finger of God,’ he would not listen and his heart was hard.
The plague of flies – Pharoah hardened his heart.
The plague on the livestock – Pharoah’s heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.
The plague of boils – The Lord hardened Pharoah’s heart and he would not listen to Moshe
The plague of hail – Pharoah’s heart was hard when he saw the hail stop.
Whether we harden our hearts or God allows it, it renders us immobile.
Psalm 95:8-9 ‘Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness “When your fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen My work.’
The author of Hebrews quotes this: Hebrews 3:7-9 ‘Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw My works for forty years.’
Ephesians 4:17-19 ‘This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.’
Proverbs 28:14 ‘How blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.’
Zechariah 7:12 ‘They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.’
Hebrews 4:5-7 “They shall not enter My rest.” Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Exodus 6:6-8 contains the four cups that we celebrate at Passover. ‘Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”
Then, a fifth promise appears: "I will bring you into the land...." Each cup of wine is a symbol of the joy we feel as beneficiaries of God's promises. But is the fifth promise connected to the prior four, or is it a separate promise? On this the rabbis could not agree. Some said there should be four cups in honor of four promises; others said five cups for five promises. This later became the Cup of Elijah.
These cups of promise will not be experienced if our hearts are hard as Pharoah, and God will allow our hearts to remain hard; He will harden our hearts.
2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 ‘For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. ‘
Vayera / And I Appeared
HafTorah Portion Eekiel 28:25-29:21
Brit Chadasha Romans 9:14-24
The darkness is manifested, and the light is illuminated. This Torah portion reveals the heavy hand and the hardened heart of Pharaoh and the miracles and wonders of Elohim. Vayera / And I Appeared contains the miracle of Aaron’s rod, and seven of the ten plagues.
One part that is often overlooked is the very beginning of this parsha. Exodus 6:3-4. ‘And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name Lord I was not known to them (I was known to them). 4 I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers.’
We see in this verse that Elohim is declaring that He has already established (different than establish -established: to be in existence, to be confirmed, having been in existence for a long time and therefore recognized).
Exodus 6:6-8 lists the four declarations, which we symbolize in the four cups of Pesach. ‘Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord.’
He will bring us out from burdens
He will rescue us from bondage
He will redeem us with Yeshua
He will take us as His people
In Exodus 6:3-4 Elohim spoke; Vayidabeir which implies a more authoritative and strong speech, while said/vayomer; implies more of a relationship, a softer speech. In this, we have a pattern to follow when we speak. When Moses questions Adonai He declares His dominion and also His loving relationship with two/both words: ‘He spoke and He said…’ Spoke…said.
This is Lashon HaKodesh – The Holy Tongue. Elohim spoke creation into existence in Beresheet/Genesis. He spoke to the earth, and then He spoke in Exodus 6 to the people. He spoke and shaped the people. He was making them witness His power – HE SPOKE! The sea, the rocks, the creatures already knew His power- it was the people back then and so often now- this generation who does not.
Psalm 50:1 ‘A Psalm of Asaph. The Mighty One, God, the Lord, has spoken, and summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.’
Psalm 99:7 ‘He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept His testimonies and the statute that He gave them.’
Psalm 107:25 ‘For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.’
Joel 2:11 ‘The Lord utters His voice before His army; surely His camp is very great, for strong is he who carries out His word. The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome, and who can endure it?’
Joel 3:16 ‘The Lord roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth tremble. But the Lord is a refuge for His people and a stronghold to the sons of Israel.’
Amos 3:8 ‘A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?’
Amos 1:2 He said, “The Lord roars from Zion and from Jerusalem He utters His voice; and the shepherds’ pasture grounds mourn, and the summit of Carmel dries up.”
Matthew 8:25-27 ‘Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”26 But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
Hebrews 1:2 ‘In these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.’
God speaks to us in many ways and forms. It is up to us to listen. He speaks to us through His Word and if we are ignorant of the total Word, then we might be ignorant to the instructions when He does speak. We might presume we heard His voice yet due to our lack of understanding, have we? Hosea 4:6 ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the Torah of your God, I also will forget your children.’ Ephesians 4:17-24 ‘This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But you have not so learned Messiah, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Yeshua: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.’ Proverbs 19:2 ‘Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge,
and he sins who hastens with his feet.’
Elohim establishes, He speaks into existence, He roars.
But what about our speech? Are we to speak or roar? Shouldn’t we say according to His Word?
Ephesians 4:29 ‘Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.’
Psalm 141:3 ‘Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!’
Psalm 19:14 ‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.’
Psalm 49:3 ‘My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.’
Proverbs 18:13 ‘If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.’
Proverbs 8:13 ‘The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.’
Proverbs 18:21 ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.’
Va’era / And I Appeared
HafTorah Ezekiel 28:25-29:21
Brit Chadasha Romans 9:14-33
This parsha contains the four promises from God to His people which are represented by the four cups at Passover. This is pivotal; showing the character of the God that we serve and the very foundation of the Torah. Exodus 6:6-8 ‘Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…’
Take…Deliver…Redeem…Acquire… The four promises of God to His people.
This is how Va’era begins. It continues with the plan of God towards His people and Pharaoh. The clue as to ‘why’ is in Exodus 7:4-5 - ‘But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. 5 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them.” Right before this declaration, God states that it is He who will cause the hardened heart: ‘But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. ‘
It would seem as if God is allowing Pharaoh to harden his heart, and He is. The first time is Exodus 7:13 during the sign of the rods turning into snakes. In Exodus 7:14 God reveals the hardened heart to Moshe as if to warn him. The second incident is Exodus 7:22 during the water turning to blood. The third time is in Exodus 8:13-15, but only after Pharaoh saw that there was ‘relief from the frogs’. ”And he said, “Let it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God. 11 And the frogs shall depart from you, from your houses, from your servants, and from your people. They shall remain in the river only.” Exodus 8:10-11.
Exodus 8:15 states: ‘But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the Lord had said.’
These first few plagues and miracles, the magicians ‘worked with their enchantments’ and produced what Moshe had produced. The result was: ‘…and Pharaoh’s heart grew hard.’ However, in Exodus 8:16-19 the magicians were not able to produce lice, the third plague. They declared to Pharaoh that ‘this is the finger of God; even so his heart grew hard.
The fourth plague, flies occurs in Exodus 8:20-32, and once again Pharaoh hardened his heart. Exodus 9 contains the fifth, sixth and seventh plagues; the death of livestock, boils and hail. In Exodus 9:7 the Scriptures state that ‘Pharaoh investigated and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.’
However, In Exodus 9:12 after the plague of boils it is the Lord who hardens the heart of Pharaoh. ‘But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses.’
During the seventh plague, that of hail and fire, Pharaoh makes a revealing statement that he ‘has sinned’. Exodus 9:27-28 ‘And Pharaoh sent and called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “I have sinned this time. The Lord is righteous, and my people and I are wicked. 28 Entreat the Lord, that there may be no more mighty thundering and hail, for it is enough. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.” Yet, when the plague subsided, he hardened his heart yet again; ‘And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35 So the heart of Pharaoh was hard; neither would he let the children of Israel go, as the Lord had spoken by Moses.’
The critical detail is Exodus 9:12 which is the first time that the Torah tells us that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but we see evidence of Pharaoh impacting his own heart many times before and after.
The sages state that “Since God sent the opportunity for repentance and doing the right thing five times to him and he sent no notice, God then said, ‘You have stiffened your neck and hardened your heart on your own…. So it was that the heart of Pharaoh did not receive the words of God.’” We see evidence that Pharaoh knew he was wrong in Exodus 9:27-28. Pharaoh sealed his own fate, for himself, the people that followed him and his relationship with God.
This whole scenario can be very confusing as the Midrash states. Did Pharaoh have free will, and how could he if it was God who hardened his heart? Obviously, God knew the outcome, so was it even necessary to harden his heart? However, wasn’t it all ordained for the glory of God?
Yes, as Romans 9:17 states: ‘For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’
Jeremiah 17:9-10 gives us great insight about the heart, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
1 Samuel 16:7 shows the omniscient God: ‘But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
In Mark 8:14-21 Yeshua references hard hearts when He rebukes the disciples: ‘Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?’
Proverbs 27:19 reflect the heart of Pharaoh: ‘As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.’
As does Matthew 15:8 ‘‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me…’
Hebrews 3:13 explains how the lies of sin deceives and hardens our hearts: ‘But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.’
Hebrews 3:8 references the Israelites in the wilderness: ‘Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness.’
Proverbs 10:8 ‘The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.’
Psalm 90:12 ‘So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 73:1 ‘A Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.’