It turns out that Moses’s most recent water crises here in Exodus 17:1-7 were not his first. The name “Moses” means ‘to draw out’, so we should expect that his defining moments, both wins and fails, would be related to drawing forth water, or the drawing forth of people through water. As a baby, he himself was drawn out of the river by Pharaoh’s daughter, and of course that foreshadows the slighter larger event of drawing out millions of Hebrews through the sea.
In a second we’ll look at another event in Moses life that Bible readers often skim past, but let’s review one quick flashback to Joseph and his brothers, the original Hebrew refugees that entered Egypt in the first place. At this point in the narrative, Joseph has revealed himself as Pharaohs right-hand-man, and there has been a tearful family reunion. In this specific verse he is conspiring with his family to get prime real estate in Goshen—downplaying the fact that the descendants of Abraham can be violent warriors when they need to be—by accentuating “shepherd” on the family resume:
“When Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.” (Genesis 46:33-34)
‘Abomination’ may be a strong word, but the idea is that shepherds are no threat, they are the lowest of the low. Humility is the key to blessing, even blessing by a Pharaoh.
Over 400 years or so later, Moses is heading the opposite direction, as a solo refugee, and meets what will become his in-laws for the first time:
“Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock. When they came home to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come home so soon today?” They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.”” (Exodus 2:17-19)
These verses contain the first mention in all of Scripture of ‘Yasha’ the Hebrew verb “to save” which of course is the root of Yeshua’s name. Furthermore, “Seven daughters” is what ‘Bathsheba’ means–a subtle (or not-so-subtle) hint to Messiah’s lineage, plus a nod the perfect and complete (the number seven) salvation He will provide to His people. This is how the Hebrew language works. It’s full of winks, nods, and nudges. If you don’t get these hints, keep studying. (Get used to study tools like Blue Letter Bible or e-Sword.)
There is some major intentional irony and even humor in these verses. “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds”. How great is that? Scripture is full of script-flipping, but this is my favorite. We see in just these few short verses, the depth of Moses’ identity crisis, even while the very meaning of his own name is being highlighted. The seven sisters were drawing water, Moses is watering the flock, and Reuel [Jethro] hears the witnesses testimony as such. Moses nature is to draw people out (with water close by) regardless of what clothes he is wearing, and how he is perceived at first glance.
Likewise, the ultimate Savior did not match human expectations. Both Joseph and Moses were Hebrews, dressed like Egyptians, and even their own relatives were completely fooled. Yeshua was no different. “And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of Yakov and Yoses and Yudah and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” (Matthew 13:57)
It goes without saying, but Messiah becoming the ‘Word made flesh’ is the ultimate disguise.
Even those that reject his divinity (or even his historical existence) are nevertheless happy to embrace him as a “cool dude”, or “progressive activist”, or a “spirit of light”—anything but a Savior who expects a transformation of our lives as a result of his free gift.
This man-made rebranding of the biblical Yeshua into the harmless Jesus, sadly reflects a spirit of idolatry. Even those who would never own a physical graven image are still guilty of creating a Messiah that matches the one they’d rather have—not the one being offered by his own words in Scripture.
Maybe it would help to print Messiah’s words in red? Apparently not.
Of course, none of this is a surprise to Yah.
“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”(Proverbs 25:2)
This is also why Messiah taught in parables.
Matthew 13:14-17, “Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
Personally, as I read the Torah, I see each story and even the literal “commands” in the same way as a parable. The truths hidden BEHIND the words, names, and locations show us the heart of what’s expected of those who claim to be redeemed–but not just as an intellectual exercise. We can’t just purchase the treadmill, assemble it, and read the manual–at some point we have to put down the cinnabon and start walking.
Starting tomorrow, (Day 22 of Shavuot, and the start of a new week), we’ll continue to look at the nature of victory in Messiah on the Way to Shavuot—as well as get a good look of the nature of our everlasting enemy.