We start the Book of Exodus this week with the Portion Shemot (“Names”). In Genesis, we saw the birth of Abraham’s family, and ended with the death of Joseph in Egypt. In Exodus we will see Abraham’s family come out of Egypt as a Nation.
Exodus begins with Moses, the 4th generation of Levi. The Pharaoh that welcomed Joseph and his family into Egypt in Genesis is now dead and buried. In Exodus there is a Pharaoh “that knew not Joseph” and we see the Children of Israel in slavery to this new Pharaoh. He is alarmed at their explosive growth and feared they may become a threat to him. He ordered the murder of all males born to Hebrew women; and in this dark time we see the birth and miraculous salvation of Moses by Pharaoh’s daughter.
Moses was raised as an Egyptian in Pharaoh’s court for 40 years … until he murdered an Egyptian who was abusing an Israelite slave. He fled into Midian (Saudi Arabia) to escape Pharaoh’s wrath. After another 40 years in Midian, Moses met God in the Burning Bush. God gave him his instructions for the final 40 years of his life: return to Egypt and lead his People out of their Egyptian bondage.
Moses’ attempts to persuade Pharaoh to release the Children of Israel failed (in his eyes). Instead of a release, Pharaoh increased the burdens upon Israel. The Portion ends with Moses telling God: “I haven’t done a very good job here.” God answered him: “You have done what I have asked; now watch what I will do!”