Grafted In, Part 3
Who is next? Who will God pass this covenant on to? Who will be God’s chosen? First of all, we see that it is God who does the choosing. He chose Avraham in the beginning and Isaac over Ishmael. God said, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” (Romans 9:13). We see this with Yeshua. He said, “You have not chosen Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). And that it is by no merit of ours, “Not by works that any man should boast” (Romans 9:10-12, Ephesians 2:9). Scripture tells us that Abraham received the promises of the covenant by faith before any work of his own, such as circumcision (Romans 4:1-3, 9-10).
This is God’s, unmerited favor, His goodness, His mercy. We are saved by faith. We see that it was through faith that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob entered into the covenant and received the promises. It was God that called them and brought them to this faith. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is a God of mercy; there is no shadow of turning with Him. So now we have seen in the Old Testament that God’s grace was in operation. God has not changed, His ways are still the same. But when faith comes, obedience always follows.
“By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than enjoy the passing pleasure of sin, esteeming the reproach of Messiah greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.” Hebrews 11:24-26
We have seen that the patriarchs not only had revelations of the coming Messiah, but their lives paralleled His; and we see this to be true with Moshe’s life. We want to look at a few of these parallels in his life.
We start with the text in Hebrews 11. We see here that Moshe rejected the pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Messiah as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. The question at hand is when did Moshe have this revelation of the reproach of Messiah? Nowhere in the five books of the Torah do we see that he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter—only here in the Apostolic Scriptures; and where in the Torah do we see that Moshe considered the reproach of Messiah except here in Hebrews?
Did Moshe have a foreknowledge about the coming redeemer who would die for the sins of the world? What we are seeing here in the Apostolic Scriptures is that the writer can see for himself the reflection of the Messiah Yeshua in Moshe. Here is another life which is being lived out without the one living it even knowing that he is a type, or better yet, an example—which in many ways we, as believers, should be the same example—of Messiah’s life. The passage tells us that Moshe chose to endure ill-treatment with the people of God. The Midrash Rabbah sheds some light on this subject. “Now it came about in those days, when Moshe had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors” (Exodus 2:11). What is the meaning of, “looked on their hard labors”? It means that he looked upon their burdens and wept, saying, “Woe is me, for you would that I could die for you!” There is no labor more difficult than brickmaking, and he used to shoulder the burden and help each one (Exodus Rabbah 1:27). Both the author of Hebrews and the Midrash appear to have a common source, and that source may have been the oral teachings of Moshe himself. Even though the Torah never tells us these things, we are told that he saw the people’s hard labor and that he killed the Egyptian. The tradition in the Midrash was that Moshe longed to die on behalf of his people. Like Moshe, Paul tells us in Romans 9:3 that he wished that he was cursed and cut off from Messiah for the sake of his own people. Moshe, instead of taking the power and throne of Egypt, humbled himself, stripping himself of his royalty; he took on the form of a slave, being found in appearance as a Hebrew; he humbled himself even to the point of death. Paul tells us this same thing in Philippians 2:8 of Messiah.
Moshe did so because he had a conviction of the unseen God and confidence in the things hoped for, such as the promises of God. He took on the burden, affliction, and suffering of his people, willing even to die for them, because he crucified his flesh and forsook the world by rejecting the riches and power that the world had offered him. We must remember that when Moshe was born, his mother saw that he was beautiful. What did she see in her child that made her know he had to live? Maybe like each of the matriarchs she too, knew that her child was destined to be the receiver of the covenant, even their deliverer, and maybe even their messiah. Moshe was drawn out of the water by Pharaoh’s daughter and given the name Moshe. This concept of being drawn out of the water has an implication of salvation, just like Yeshua, whose name means salvation.
So Exodus 2:11-12 tells us that Moshe struck down the Egyptian. Stephen tells us his version, which again is the same Apostolic rendering as the book of Hebrews. It is not that Moshe had foreknowledge of the reproach of Messiah; rather, he took on the reproach of Messiah when he identified with the Hebrew people and attempted to redeem them. According to Stephen, Moshe intentionally left Pharaoh’s household to try to bring salvation to his people. Stephen explained that Moshe believed “God was granting them deliverance through him” (Acts 7:25). He said, “And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian” (Acts 7:24). Moshe is perceived as a murderer and therefore a sinner like everyone else, unworthy of God’s grace and the salvation that comes through him. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and that includes Moshe.
Moshe struck down the Egyptian while defending the life of his fellow Israelite. Saving someone from an attacker is not the same as a cold-blooded murder. Leviticus 19:16 says, “You shall not stand over the blood of your neighbor.” This means you shall not idly watch him die when you are able to save him. Stephen explained that Moshe struck down the Egyptian as the first act in his attempt to redeem Israel. He said, “And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand” (Acts 7:25). “He went out the next day and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other. And he said to the offender, ‘Why are you striking your companion?’ But he said, ‘Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’” (Exodus 2:13-14).
Stephen explained to the Sanhedrin how Moshe took on the reproach of Messiah. He pointed out that Moshe, like Messiah, was sent as a ruler and judge over Israel and was rejected by his kinsmen.
“On the following day, Moshe appeared to the Hebrew slaves as they were fighting together and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying ‘Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?’ But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying, “Who made you a ruler and judge over us? You do not mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday, do you?” (Acts 7:26-28).
Stephen interpreted the prophecy of Moshe, “God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren” as a prophecy concerning Messiah. By citing this prophecy, Stephen reminded the Sanhedrin that Moshe set the pattern for Messiah. Just as they had rejected the Messiah, Israel also rejected Moshe when they said, “Who made you a ruler and judge over us?” Stephen contended that their rejection of Yeshua did not discredit His Messianic claims.
The same had happened to Moshe: this Moshe whom they disowned, saying, “Who made you a ruler and judge?” is the one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush (Acts 7:35).
Like Moshe before Him, Yeshua called on the people of his generation to repent of hatred, fighting, and murder. “He supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand” (Acts 7:25).
“Then Moshe was afraid and said, ‘Surely the matter has become known.’ When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moshe, but Moshe fled from the presence of Pharaoh” (Exodus 2:14-15).
The Torah tells us that after Moshe had killed the Egyptian and realized the matter was public knowledge, “Moshe was afraid… Moshe fled from the presence of Pharaoh.” Stephen concurred with this remark: “Moshe fled and became an alien in the land of Midian” (Acts 7:29).
The writer of Hebrews, however, objected to that literal reading.
Moshe is shown in Hebrews 11:27 as having no fear for his life for it says. “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he persevered, as though seeing Him who is unseen.”
Moshe was willing to suffer and die for his people. It was faith—not fear, that motivated him to leave Egypt . The Midrash claims that Moshe was afraid not of Pharaoh, but of the fact that the Hebrews had not accepted him as their deliverer, and he was afraid that they were not ready to be delivered. Moshe feared God more, and he went out by faith, trusting in God.
We see this also with Yeshua in the garden when He asks the Father to remove the cup from Him. People also say that Yeshua was afraid of suffering and dying, but like Moshe, this was not true. Yeshua said that no man takes His life, but He lays it down freely (John 10:18).
The Comparison of Moshe and Yeshua
Fled to wilderness
Shepherds of Israel
Exodus 3:1, Numbers
John 10:10-11, Matthew 9:36
Knew God face to face
Exodus 3:1-10, Deuteronomy 34:10
Moshe like God/Yeshua was God
Did signs and wonders
Teachers of Torah
Matthew 22:16; John 3:2
Gave people bread from Heaven
Faithful to God
Mediators of the covenant
Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20,
Offered to die on behalf of people’s sins
We saw Moshe reject all that Egypt has to offer and go with the people of Yisrael (the “heel,” the ones who will struggle and triumph in the face of overwhelming odds, the people of perseverance). This is where we will pick up his story, Moshe the great deliverer and lawgiver. There has never been a person whose life so parallels the Messiah. So let us continue in Exodus 2:23 which tells us that the people of Yisrael were crying out in their bondage and God heard them and remembered His covenant with Avraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is the fulfillment of the word spoken to Avraham by God, that the people would be slaves for four hundred years and then God would bring them back to the land He had promised them. God did remember His covenant and appointed a leader to bring them back. He calls Moshe.
In Exodus 3, we find Moshe tending his father-in-law’s flock, and he comes to Horeb. Many texts seem to identify this location with Sinai, but there are also indications that they may not be identical. Thus, while reference to Mount Sinai appears frequently, mentions of Mount Horeb are rare and there is no reference to the wilderness of Horeb as there is to that of Sinai. Furthermore, an impression of some distance between the two is gained from the story of the water crisis at Rephidim as told in Exodus 17:1-7. Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. So the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water so that we may drink!” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people were thirsty for water there; and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why is it that you have brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “What am I to do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. Then he named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us, or not?”
The divine Spirit is said to have been manifest before Moshe, closeby “on a rock at Horeb;” yet Rephidim was the last station of the Yisraelites before entering the Wilderness of Sinai. We may be dealing with different strands of tradition, or Horeb may have been the name of a wider region in which Mount Sinai, a specific peak, was located; perhaps that peak eventually lent its name to the entire area. Horeb means “desolate, dry.” Its location has not been identified.
Once in Horeb, God speaks to Moshe in a burning bush. In Hebrew, the word is senah, and it occurs both here and in Deuteronomy 33:16 where God is poetically named “the Presence in the Bush.” Senah is most likely word play with Sinai, a hint of the Sinaitic revelation foreshadowed in verse 12. The bush in question has been variously identified as the thorny desert plant Rubus Sanctus, which grows near wadis and in moist soil, or the Cassia Senna shrub, known in Arabic as sene. Moshe is drawn to the bush, and when he turns to look, God calls to him: “Moshe, Moshe!” In the Bible, repetition of a name often characterizes a direct divine call. “Here I am,” Moshe replies. The Hebrew word used here is hineni, the standard, spontaneous, unhesitating response to a call. “Remove your sandals from your feet,” God commands. In the Ancient Near East, removal of footwear (here probably sandals of papyrus or leather) was a sign of respect and displayed an attitude of humility. Priests officiated barefoot in the sanctuary; to this day they remove their footwear before pronouncing the priestly benediction in the synagogue service. “I am the God of your father…” This epithet, frequently used in the Book of Genesis, all but vanishes in Yisrael during the period of the Exodus, to be replaced by “the God of the Fathers,” the plural form referring to the three patriarchs. We go from the theophany at the burning bush to the divine call. God tells of the promise to bring the people back to their land and He goes as far as to describe the land. “Come,” God commands directly, “I will send you to Pharaoh, and you shall free my people.” God has now appeared to Moshe and has called him to be the deliverer. Moshe, not full of faith, questions God’s calling on his life. As with his forefathers before him, God reaffirms that He will be with him. That’s not good enough for Moshe; he obviously does not know God very well, and he asks for His name. “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh,” is God’s reply; it is a phrase that has variously been translated as, “I Am That I Am,” “I Am Who I Am,” and “I Will Be What I Will Be.” It clearly evokes YHVH, the specific proper name of Yisrael’s God, known in English as the Tetragrammaton, meaning “the four consonants.” The phrase also indicates that the earliest recorded understanding of the divine name was as a verb derived from the stem h-v-h, taken as an earlier form of h-y-h, “to be.” Either it expresses the quality of absolute being, the eternal, unchanging, dynamic presence, or it means, “He causes to be.” YHVH is the third person masculine singular; ehyeh is the corresponding first person singular. The latter is used here because name-giving in the ancient world implied the wielding of power over the one named; hence, the divine name can only proceed from God Himself. In the course of the Second Temple period, the Tetragrammaton came to be regarded as charged with metaphysical potency and therefore ceased to be pronounced. It was replaced in speech by Adonai or Lord and rendered into Greek as Kyrios. Often the vowels present in Adonai would accompany YHVH in later written texts. This gave rise to the mistaken form Jehovah. The original pronunciation was eventually lost; modern attempts at recovery are conjectural. God’s response to Moshe’s query cannot be the disclosure of a hitherto unknown name, for that would be unintelligible to the people and would not resolve Moshe’s dilemma. However, taken together with the statement in Exodus 6:3, the implication is that the name YHVH only came into prominence as the characteristic personal name of the God of Yisrael in the time of Moshe. This tradition accords with the facts that the various divine names found in Genesis are no longer used, except occasionally in poetic texts; that of all the personal names listed hitherto, none is constructed of the prefixed yeho-/yo- or the suffixed -yahu/-yah contractions of YHVH; that the first name of this type is Yokheved (Jochebed), that of Moshe’s mother. Ibn Ezra points out that Moshe, in direct speech, invariably uses the name YHVH, not Elohim (God). Without doubt, the revelation of the divine name YHVH to Moshe registers a new stage in the history of Yisraelite monotheism. God’s continued dialogue requires some notice. First in Exodus 3:16, God says, “I have taken notice;” the root word being paqad, which echoes the dying words of Joseph as recorded in Genesis 50:24. This promise was handed down from generation to generation. God clearly wants Moshe to take the time to go through the promises that He has made, specifically the promise made to the patriarchs of the giving of the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and the Jebusites. God now was ready to fulfill this promise. Second, the dignified departure from Egypt promised in Exodus 3:21-22 was foretold in the original covenant with Avraham: “I will execute judgement on the nation they shall serve, and in the end they shall go free with great wealth” (Genesis 15:14). This promise was fulfilled at the time of the Exodus. Early Jewish exegesis as reflected in Jubilees 48:18 and Philo of Alexandria as well as in the Talmud looked upon these spoils as well-deserved compensation to the Yisraelites for their long years of unpaid forced labor. It is also possible to interpret the development as being in accordance with the law of Deuteronomy 15:13-14 that requires the master to provision his slave liberally at the time of emancipation.
God now begins His deliverance and the fulfillment of His promises. Moshe takes his wife and his son and heads toward Egypt. When camping for the night, a strange but very significant thing happens to them. Verses 24-26 of chapter 4 is a fragmented narrative, but there are some conclusions that can be made. The phrase “sought to kill” in
verse 24 echoes “who sought to kill you” in verse 19; “her son” in verse 25 recalls “his sons,” “my son,” and “your son,” in verses 20, 22, and 23, and the Hebrew for “encountered him” (va-yif-gesh-ehu) in verse 24 is identical with that for “met him” in verse 27. Besides these shared expressions, there is the issue of circumcision; following the reference to the firstborn, an artfully wrought literary framework for the entire narrative is provided, one that encompasses the struggle for liberation from Pharaoh’s oppression. That struggle begins with Moshe’s setting out to return to Egypt (verse 20), and its successful conclusion is signaled by the death of the Egyptian firstborn (12:29-36). This latter is followed immediately by the law requiring circumcision as the precondition for participating in the paschal sacrifice (12:43-49), which in turn is followed by the law of the firstborn (13:2, 11-15). The effect is a thematically arranged chiasm:
In addition to the literary structure, there is also a functional correspondence between the blood of circumcision and the visible sign of the blood on the paschal sacrifice. In both instances, evil is averted on account of it (4:26, 12:7, 13, 22-23).
The inseparable tie between circumcision and the Passover is plainly set forth in 12:43-49 and is also unmistakably operative in chapter 5 of the book of Joshua. It is related there that after crossing the Jordan into the promised land, a mass circumcision ceremony was performed as a prelude to the first celebration of the Passover feast inside the country (verses 2-11).
Rabbinic exegesis gave midrashic expression to this association in interpreting Ezekiel 16:6: “When I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you ‘Live in spite of your blood.’ Yea, I said to you, ‘Live in spite of your blood.‘” The Hebrew phrase be-demayikh hayi, emphatically reiterated, was interpreted by the rabbis to mean “survive through your blood (plural)”; that is, the survival and redemption of Israel was assured because of the two mitzvot—that of circumcision and that of paschal sacrifice.
Genesis 17:9-14, it should be noted, made circumcision the indispensable precondition for admittance to the community of Israel.
But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant. (Genesis 17:14)
During the apostolic era, many believers insisted that Gentiles also needed to receive circumcision. In other words, they believed that Gentiles needed to become Jewish before they were eligible for the kingdom. They probably argued their case on the strength of Genesis 17. The LORD says that circumcision is incumbent upon “every male among [the household of Abraham],” even a non-Jew “who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants… shall surely be circumcised” (Genesis 17:10, 12-13).
The apostles ruled against this opinion. They argued that God-fearing Gentile believers did not need to undergo circumcision unless they wanted to become Jewish and physically become part of Abraham’s household in a literal sense. Paul dedicated many passages of his epistles to this argument.
Some Christian interpretations teach that the commandment of circumcision has been canceled. Some say that circumcision was only a temporary commandment, but the Torah says that it is “an everlasting covenant” (Genesis 17:13). Some teach that the true meaning of circumcision is spiritual circumcision of the heart and that God never intended the commandment literally, but the Torah says, “You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin” (Genesis 17:11).
Where do people get the idea that circumcision no longer applies? The idea comes from a common misreading of the epistles of Paul, particularly the Epistle to the Galatians. Paul’s arguments concerning circumcision and Gentiles are explored in detail in other publications. Here, suffice to say that Paul argued that Gentiles do not need to undergo circumcision or conversion to become Jewish in order to attain salvation through Yeshua the Messiah. The arguments Paul puts forward in his epistles, however, are often misunderstood to imply that Paul dismissed circumcision for both Jews and Gentiles. For example, some people thought that Paul was “teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs” (Acts 21:21).
If Paul taught Jews not to circumcise their children, he was an apostate from Judaism. Of course, he did not teach Jews to abandon circumcision or Torah. He only argued against compelling Gentiles to receive circumcision as a means for attaining salvation and covenantal status. He even went so far as to discourage all Gentile believers from circumcision, but he encouraged Jewish circumcision. He personally oversaw Timothy’s circumcision, but he did not require Titus the Gentile to receive circumcision.
In sum, the brief narrative in verses 24-26 underscores the paramount importance of the institution of circumcision and the surpassing seriousness of its neglect. We see Zipporah adamantly against having to perform this ritual. Zipporah was familiar with the rite of circumcision; the practice was widespread among the ancient Semites and was prevalent in Egypt. Verse 25 says, “She took the flint knife and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched his legs with it.” It is unclear whose leg she touched with it. It may have been symbolic for the genital organs of the child. The act might signify: See, the foreskin has been cut off; the requirement of circumcision has been fulfilled! Or it may well be a reference to placing a bloodstain on the child because the Hebrew verb used here (rendered “touched”) is the same as that used for daubing of the blood of the paschal lamb on the lintel and doorpost in 12:22 (rendered “apply”). In both cases, the purpose would be the same: the blood would act as a protective sign against plague; the Destroyer would not smite.
She uses the term “a bridegroom of blood.” This is the traditional English rendering of the unique Hebrew phrase hatan damim, for which, so far, no parallel has been found in Ancient Near Eastern literature. If hatan possesses its usual meaning of “groom,” it would hardly be applicable to Moshe, who by now has been married for some time. Conceivably, it might be a term of endearment addressed to the child, but the meager evidence for such a usage stems from rabbinic, not Biblical, times. Hatan damim may be a linguistic fossil, pre-Israelite or Midianite, the meaning of which has been lost. However, it can hardly be coincidental that in Arabic the stem h-t-n denotes “to circumcise” as well as “to protect.” This latter is also its meaning in Akkadian. Hence, the enigmatic phrase could convey, “You are now circumcised and so protected by means of the blood—the blood of circumcision.” Curiously, p-s-h, the Hebrew stem behind Passover, can mean “to protect” also. Now Moshe was able to continue on to Egypt knowing that he was with God and God was with him.
Even though Moshe is a main character in the wilderness wanderings and the giving of the law, for the purpose of this study, this is where we will end with him. We see, once again, God’s grace in His election and calling of Moshe, but we begin to see another trend, and quite possibly, we have seen it all along. Even though God extends His grace and it was through faith that all have entered in, it was through obedience that they continued in their walk of faith.
The Bible says much about Moshe. Because he was the central figure in the wilderness and such a great prophet and deliverer, the Bible even says that all were baptized into Moshe and that he was the giver of the law (even though he was only the mediator), but one would come after him that was even greater; He would be the new mediator of the Renewed Covenant. “Moshe was indeed faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken of afterward” (Hebrews 3:5). Avraham was the father of faith, but Moshe was the father of faithfulness. Moshe is truly a pillar of the church.
This is our heritage to be faithful.
Moshe: the Pillar of Faithfulness
We have seen by the lives of these great men that they truly possessed the qualities that God requires of us today. We also see that they came to God just like each one of us comes today: in faith. They were all called by God and chosen by Him to fulfill His purpose. God imparted His grace to each one of them, and each of them were obedient to God because of their great faith in Him. As we have said, “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Even today, God is referred to as the God of Avraham, Yis’chak, and Ya’akov. We also have seen that God is a covenant God. Today it is so common to make a covenant with someone and then break it; but when God makes a covenant, it is forever. God’s purpose is to have a redeemed people who will walk by faith and be faithful to Him. We see this all through Scripture. Most believers, if not all, would say that the Avrahamic Covenant is still in effect today because Scripture tells us that through faith we are the seed of Avraham and we now receive the blessings from that covenant. If this is so, then God would also have to be (and He is) faithful to every Jew, because He promised to Avraham, Yis’chak, and Ya’akov that His covenant with them would be forever. Part of the condition with Avraham was the “cutting of the covenant,” which means if any one party would violate the covenant, they would be done away with (as the “cutting up” of those animals that were sacrificed, Genesis 15:9-21). This will be discussed in further lessons. God would self-destruct if He would not keep His word. The theory that the Church replaced Yisrael can not be true because of the covenant with Avraham, and soon we will see the same to be true with Moses and the people of Yisrael. This now takes us to Mt. Sinai and the giving of the Mosaic Covenant.God is building a spiritual house which started with Avraham and it will continue until the Messiah returns, for He is the Cornerstone, and God Himself will dwell there (Ephesians 2:19-22).