The name of this week’s parasha is Beshalach, which means “when he sent” or “when he let go,” and covers Exodus 13:17-17:16. After Pharaoh finally released the Jewish people, Adonai led them along the Red Sea with a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Moses took Joseph’s bones when Israel left Egypt, fulfilling the oath sworn by their ancestors 400 years earlier to Joseph before he died.
In chapter 14, Adonai told Moses that Pharaoh’s heart would once more be hardened, and that he would pursue the Israelis, but that the Egyptians would ultimately see God’s glory and power unleashed. Pharaoh did, in fact, change his mind again and, with evil intent, led his army in pursuit of Israel at the shore of the Red Sea. As the Jewish people began to panic, Moses told them not to fear, promising that God would fight for them. Adonai told Moses to raise his staff and stretch out his hand over the sea, so that the water would be divided and the Jewish people could safely cross.
Moses obeyed, and God divided the sea into two enormous walls of water. Through the night, the Israelis crossed on dry land. At first, God prevented the Egyptians from pursuing, but when the pillar of cloud moved off, the Egyptians chased in after them. Once Israel was safely on the other side, God told Moses to stretch out his hand again, and the waters rushed back down, drowning the Egyptian army. After seeing what Adonai did for them, the Jewish people feared and trusted Him, and also trusted Moses.
Chapter 15 opens with Moses and Israel singing a song praising God’s mighty deeds, as well as His protection and blessings. Moses and Aaron’s sister, Miriam, is described here with honor as being a prophetess.
After traveling in the desert for 3 days, the Jewish people came upon water, but it was bitter. Subsequently, this place was called Marah (“bitter”). When they complained, God told Moses to throw a piece of wood into the water, which made it sweet and drinkable. Adonai told the Israelis that if they obeyed Him, they would suffer none of the diseases with which He struck Egypt, since He is their Healer.
In chapter 16, the Israelis accused Moses and Aaron of leading them into the desert to starve. Adonai told Moses that He would send bread from Heaven to feed them, and gave instructions on collecting the bread. Moses and Aaron told the Jewish people to watch for God’s glory, and warned that their grumbling was against God Himself. Aaron brought the people before the Lord, and Adonai’s glory appeared in the cloud. He told Moses to tell the Jewish people to expect meat that night, and bread the next day.
Moses gave the Israelis God’s instructions regarding this food, and although they didn’t always obey them, the Jewish people had all the food they needed. The bread was called ‘manna’ and tasted slightly sweet. Aaron obeyed God by placing some manna in a jar in the Ark of the Covenant, and the Israelis ate manna for 40 years until the day they entered Canaan.
In chapter 17, the Israelis demanded that Moses give them water. God told Moses to strike the rock at Horeb to bring out water, which Moses did in front of the elders. But because of the disrespectful behavior shown by the Jewish people there, which is referenced in Psalm 95 and Hebrews 3 as an example of disobedience, Moses named the place Massah (‘testing’) and Meribah (‘rebellion’).
The parasha ends with the Amalekites attacking Israel at Rephidim. Moses told Joshua to take some warriors to fight, and that he would stand on a hill holding the staff of God. Joshua followed Moses’ instructions, and Moses was accompanied on the hill by Aaron and Hur (whom the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus said may have been Miriam’s husband).
As long as Moses held his hands up, the Israelis were winning, but whenever his arms grew tired and came down, they were losing. So Aaron and Hur had Moses sit down while they held up his hands throughout the battle, and the Jewish people were victorious. Adonai promised that He would completely obliterate the memory of Amalek from under Heaven for what they did. Moses set up an altar to Adonai to commemorate the victory there.
Parasha Beshalach teaches us some important lessons that we can apply to our lives. We can trust God to provide for our needs, because His faithfulness doesn’t change. During their journey to Canaan, God protected His people from the Egyptians, provided food and water for them, and gave them victory over the Amalekites. His mighty actions here are also proclaimed in Psalm 78 and 105.
We are meant to see that obedience to God’s commandments is always beneficial. When Moses and the Jewish people obeyed God’s commandments, they experienced His blessings. Adonai’s provision of manna here is alluded to by Paul in 2 Corinthians 8 to encourage believers to be aware of the needs of others and always be prepared to help. Let’s strive to obey God in every part of our lives, so that we can experience the blessings He wants us to have!
Although the quail and manna from Heaven were wonderful blessings, they were only temporary. Of course, we need our daily bread, but “man does not live by bread alone…” Humanity’s greatest need is to be reconciled to God. This can only be accomplished by loyally following Messiah Yeshua, who is the Bread of Life. He gives eternal life to all who receive Him and loyally follow Him as Lord and Savior. Following Messiah Yeshua brings everlasting spiritual sustenance. So, if you haven’t done so already, change your spiritual diet ASAP to Messiah Yeshua, and be spiritually nourished for all eternity!