The name of this week’s parasha is Va’era, which means “and I appeared,” and covers Exodus 6:2 through 9:35. God tells Moses that He had established His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and He has remembered His covenant. Moses is to tell the Israelis that Adonai will rescue them from Egyptian slavery and bring them into the Promised Land just as He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Moses told the Israelis these things, but they didn’t listen because of their hardships. Adonai told Moses to tell Pharaoh to let the Jewish people leave Egypt, but Moses doesn’t believe he can speak to Pharaoh, since he considered himself unskilled in speech. Moses and Aaron’s genealogy follows this conversation and shows they had the background to lead the Israelis.
When Moses questions his ability to speak to Pharaoh, Adonai encourages Moses in chapter 7, telling him to speak what Adonai has commanded him, and Aaron will speak to Pharaoh that Pharaoh let the Israelis go. However, Adonai will harden Pharaoh’s heart in order to multiply His signs and wonders throughout Egypt. When Pharaoh doesn’t listen, Adonai will then show His power and remove the Jewish people from Egypt, and the Egyptians will know that Adonai is the Lord. Moses and Aaron obeyed God’s instructions.
Adonai told Moses and Aaron that when Pharaoh requests a miracle, Aaron is to throw down his staff before Pharaoh and it will become a serpent. When Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh, they obeyed God and the staff turned into a serpent before Pharaoh and his servants. When Pharaoh’s magicians did the same thing by their secret arts, Aaron’s staff swallowed their staffs. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he wouldn’t listen to Moses and Aaron, just as Adonai said.
God then struck the Egyptians with multiple plagues that demonstrated His power and majesty, and showed that He was in control, not Pharaoh. The Egyptians suffered miserably during these plagues; however, we see that Adonai continued to protect and provide for the Jewish people. Although some of the plagues were replicated by the Egyptian magicians, their actions were a cheap imitation of the real and awesome power displayed by Almighty God when He struck the Egyptians with these plagues-at best, they could only imitate what God had done, and they couldn’t even replicate all the plagues!
Despite the suffering that the Egyptians experienced during these plagues, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he refused to let the Jewish people go. Not only did Adonai hardened Pharaoh’s heart, we see that Pharaoh often hardened his own heart and wouldn’t change his ways, which shows that his rebellion against God was active and deliberate. Although God could have struck down Pharaoh and his people with pestilence, He raised Pharaoh up for this purpose; that His power would be shown to Pharaoh and His name proclaimed throughout all the earth. When discussing God’s exercise of His sovereignty, Rabbi Paul references Adonai’s use of Pharaoh here to show His power and glory in Romans 9.
Although Pharaoh often tried to stop the plagues by asking Moses to intercede for him and his people, along with offering concessions to the Israelis, Pharaoh wasn’t showing a genuine change of heart because he continued in his defiance and kept the Jewish people in bondage, even when Moses interceded for Pharaoh and his people on several occasions and Adonai honored Moses’ requests. The parasha ends with Pharaoh continuing to sin when he hardened his heart and wouldn’t let the Israelis go.
Parasha Va’era shows us that God’s sovereignty extends over all His creation. When He declares He will do something, He will do it according to His timing and purposes, and nothing can stop Him. Pharaoh thought he was all-powerful and could do what he wanted, but he soon found out that he was wrong the hard way. When faced with Adonai’s power and might, the actions of Pharaoh’s magicians were no match for God’s mighty power.
God also shows His power and sovereignty here in using human beings to accomplish His purposes when He chooses Moses, who was insecure about his speaking abilities, to confront Pharaoh about releasing the Israelis from slavery. Adonai equips Moses to do this by giving him the words to speak, and God displays His mighty power against the Egyptians to show that Moses was indeed speaking what Adonai told him to say. This should encourage us to know that when God chooses us to be used for His glory, He will equip us to do what He has chosen for us, and what He chooses for us to do will work according to His purposes.
This parasha shows the futility of opposing God’s sovereignty-no matter what we might think or want, we must humble ourselves to Adonai’s will, because there are serious consequences to defying God. So, if there’s sin in your life that you’re holding on to, don’t be like Pharaoh and continue to defy Adonai by persisting in your sin; instead, humble yourself before God by turning from your sin and living in obedience to Him. Living in obedience to Adonai’s sovereignty means doing what He commands of us, so if you haven’t done so already, turn from your rebellion to obedience by obeying what God has commanded and loyally following Messiah Yeshua as Lord and Savior!