8.6. A Retrospective of Moses’ Mission (6:28-7:7)

(28) For when the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt

(29) and the Lord said to Moses, “I am the Lord; speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I will tell you,”

(30) Moses appealed to the Lord, saying, “See, I am of impeded speech; how then should Pharaoh heed me!”

(7:1) The Lord replied to Moses, “See, I place you in the role of God to Pharaoh, with your brother Aaron as your prophet.

(2) You shall repeat all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh to let the Israelites depart from his land.

(3) But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that I may multiply My signs and marvels in the land of Egypt.

(4) When Pharaoh does not heed you, I will lay My hand upon Egypt and deliver My ranks, My people the Israelites, from the land of Egypt with extraordinary chastisements.

(5) And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand over Egypt and bring out the Israelites from their midst.”

(6) This Moses and Aaron did; as the Lord commanded them, so they did.

(7) Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they made their demand on Pharaoh.

(28) For when the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt: After enumerating the genealogy of Moses and Aaron, which reinforces their position within the Jewish nation, the text returns to the narrative of their mission. But it will be described not as it appeared from the “inside” (as in the previous chapter, 6:9-13) – fraught with a multitude of doubts and internal problems – but as it looked from the outside. The difference is quite striking.

(29) And the Lord said to Moses, “I am the Lord; speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I will tell you”: This instruction concerns Pharaoh only. The internal problems of the Jews are not mentioned.

(7:1) The Lord replied to Moses, “See, I place you in the role of God to Pharaoh, with your brother Aaron as your prophet”: In a similar passage above (6:13), Moses’ self-doubt had the effect of diminishing his status with respect to Aaron. But here it is presented as merely a technical problem. Moses’ importance is magnified, while Aaron is included only for transmitting his messages to Pharaoh.

(2) You shall repeat all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh to let the Israelites depart from his land: Moreover, Moses will receive from God, as He puts it, “all that I command,” which is much more than simply “Let my people go!” That is, Moses will receive from God much more than what Aaron will relay to Pharaoh. Here, Moses’ status is raised yet further, as it were, as compared with that of Aaron.

(3) But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that I may multiply My signs and marvels in the land of Egypt: The “hardening” of Pharaoh’s heart is necessary so that Pharaoh can withstand the plagues, and not crack under the strain, so that the plagues can be brought to completion. As explained earlier, hardening Pharaoh’s heart does not deprive him of his freedom of choice. On the contrary, it allows him to avoid panicking during the plagues, while leaving him free to make his own, independent decisions.

(4) When Pharaoh does not heed you, I will lay My hand upon Egypt and deliver My ranks, My people the Israelites, from the land of Egypt with extraordinary chastisements: In order to make the necessary impression, the Egyptian plagues must be nothing less than “extraordinary.” Otherwise, the Exodus itself will not create the needed impression, and its impact on the world will be likewise much weaker.

(5) And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand over Egypt and bring out the Israelites from their midst: The Torah is emphasizing here that it is the Egyptians, not the Jews, who will first experience the Divine revelation.

(6) This Moses and Aaron did; as the Lord commanded them, so they did: When viewed from the outside, everything seems to go smoothly. There is no mention of hesitations or doubts, or of Moses’ refusals, or that the people are not ready for the Exodus. All we need to know is that God commanded, and Moses and Aaron did exactly as told.

(7) Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they made their demand on Pharaoh: By indicating the two brothers’ exact ages, the Torah establishes the date of the Exodus in relation to Moses’ birth and life story, as told earlier in this Book. We now also understand how long Moses was living apart from the Jewish people.

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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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