5.3. Moses is Afraid to Look at the God of the Patriarchs (3:6-10)

 (6) I am,” He said, “the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

(7) And the Lord continued, “I have marked well the plight of My people in Egypt and have heeded their outcry because of their taskmasters; yes, I am mindful of their sufferings.

(8) I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the region of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

(9) Now the cry of the Israelites has reached Me; moreover, I have seen how the Egyptians oppress them.

(10) Come, therefore, I will send you to Pharaoh, and you shall free My people, the Israelites, from Egypt.”

(6) “I am,” He said, “the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God: Moses did not hide his face out of ordinary human fear. We have already just seen that when God revealed Himself to him, Moses answered, “Here I am,” and he did not then cover his face.

But now, after the Almighty has identified Himself as “the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” Moses is afraid to look at God in this new aspect.

This can be explained as follows. Moses thought that he had severed his ties with the Jews of Egypt, distanced himself from the line of the Patriarchs, and already begun to implement his new program. But now he comes to learn that this is not possible. God informs Moses that the line of the Patriarchs will continue, and that Moses’ plans to put the Patriarchs’ descendants aside and give birth to a new chosen people from his marriage with Midian were all in vain. Moses is not pleased with the new approach, and so he covers his face, not wanting to look at the God of the Jewish nation.

(7) And the Lord continued, “I have marked well the plight of My people in Egypt and have heeded their outcry because of their taskmasters; yes, I am mindful of their sufferings”: God clarifies the situation to Moses and emphasizes: “My people are none other than those now suffering in Egypt. You must not hope to create a new nation, nor should you think that the Jewish people are not worthy of the Exodus. Before you blame the Jews for not living up to your expectations, have you thought about their suffering? Having grown up in Pharaoh’s house, you have different standards of measurement and different requirements. Did you really think that all the people needed was to be encouraged by the killing of a single Egyptian overseer, and they would immediately perk up? You obviously don’t understand how difficult things are for the people, how depleted they are of their energies and hopes. You deserted them because they did not acknowledge you. But I will not desert them!”

(8) I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey: It is not enough just to deliver the Jewish people from oppression at the hands of the Egyptians. The nation must relocate from Egypt to the Land of Israel, because only there can it properly develop and realize its mission.

The region of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: The Torah here enumerates the territories that will later be conquered by Israel.

At the conclusion of His covenant with Abraham, God says: “And they shall return here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Gen. 15:16). At that time the nations did not yet deserve to be exiled. The Holy Land belongs to the Jews, of course, but they have no right to expel other nations from the Land until those nations are themselves guilty of committing inherently immoral acts. If the peoples of Canaan can be corrected (which includes rejecting idolatrous practices and accepting Jewish authority over the Land), then the Jewish people will have neither the right nor the need to expel them. If they would be amenable to correction, those nations could continue to live in the Holy Land under Jewish rule. But by refusing to be reformed, their “iniquity” becomes complete, and those nations ipso facto lose their right to the Land.

(9) Now the cry of the Israelites has reached Me; moreover, I have seen how the Egyptians oppress them: This serves as justification for not postponing the Exodus to a later date. It must begin immediately.

(10) Come, therefore, I will send you to Pharaoh, and you shall free My people, the Israelites, from Egypt”: God mentions here neither the Torah nor the covenant at Sinai. This is all about national values – leaving Egypt and taking possession of the Promised Land.

I will send you to Pharaoh, and you shall free My people: In times past, Moses was simultaneously both an Egyptian Jew and a prince in Pharaoh’s house. In order to accomplish his new mission, Moses will need to bring both of these identities to bear.

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Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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