Did Moses have a plan? Let’s look at what Moses said in Exo 5.1 and Exo 5.3. Exo 5.1 says, “And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says Yehovah, the God of Israel, let my people go, that they may celebrate a feast to me in the wilderness.'” In Exo 5.3 it says, “Then they said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.'”
The first thing Moses said seems confident, and the second seems weak. The responses differ in many ways. From the name used to describe the Israelites (Israel; Hebrews), to the consequences that could happen if Israel doesn’t go into the desert.
Moses shows the Lord as talking directly to Egypt when he tells them to let them go. Then Moses shows the Lord as not speaking directly to Egypt, or anyone. Instead, Moses tells Pharaoh that God “appeared upon us” which is a phrase that something unplanned happened. By what Moses said, it doesn’t seem that the Lord spoke directly to Israel. The request to “go” comes from the people, not the Lord. The KJV and the NASB use “met us” and this makes better sense.
Then we have a “celebration” in 5.1 and a “sacrifice” in 5.3. In 5.1 there aren’t any consequences for not going, and in 5.3 there are some consequences. How do these differences come into meaning? Is there a “tavnit” (blueprint, pattern) that could give us some insight? The two statements of Moses give us two pictures of God. The God of 5.1 is a God who wants to be with his people, to celebrate. He talks directly to his people and tells them what he wants. He calls them “my people” showing closeness.
The God of 5.3 seems very different. The people are called “Hebrews” which seems distant. It is not very clear what he wants but they better go and give korbanot or this God will make them pay. The word “celebrate” is not used. Why does Moses present God like that? Why does he show a God that seems close, and then a God who is rather vindictive? There is one other difference between 5.1 and 5.3 and this is a mystery. In 5.1, Moses spoke of God using the name Yehovah. In 5.3 he does not use that name. Moses says, “the God of the Hebrews.” Is this on purpose? Does Moses really think this will work? Moses thinks it will because 5.3 is how Pharaoh and the believers in polytheism relate to their gods in Egypt. Maybe he can reach Pharaoh by relating to how he thinks of his gods. But we will have more on this later, and the difference between monotheism and polytheism.
Pharaoh has another agenda in this fight with God, and it wasn’t over the slaves. The Lord is using ten plagues rather than just working a great miracle on the Egyptians. He wants Pharaoh to say yes (only to change it to no later). Does the Lord have another agenda? Then we come to Moses, and we have to ask whether or not he had another agenda. Do these three characters know something that we haven’t seen yet?
The key to all this can be found in the names Moses uses in 5.1 and 5.3. God appeared to Moses and remember he discussed his name. Anyone who has read the Scriptures knows that there are many names by which the Lord is called. There is one, then another, and after awhile you don’t even notice the name changes. God doesn’t make a big deal about all these name changes. Where does God correct anyone about what name or title they use? Never! But, a it turns out, God does care about his names. It matters to him as we shall soon see. It may be the only place in the Scriptures where he wants to make sure everyone is using the right name. There are several things in Exodus that the Lord makes sure we know his name. One time is at the burning bush. He went into this topic with Moses at length. Another time is right before the ten plagues begin.
So, Moses has made two requests to Pharaoh, and they seem to be opposite of each other in tone and content. Pharaoh has ignored the first request, and Israel must work harder than before. The Lord tells Moses that he has not done anything yet, but he is now. The next thing he tells Moses is about his names. Exo 6.2-3 says, “And God spoke to Moses and said to him; I am Yehovah. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai, but my name Yehovah I did not make known to them.”
At first, this seems like a strange statement. This is a critical moment because everything has gone wrong as far as Moses was concerned. The Lord assures Moses he hasn’t seen anything yet. What he is going to do to Egypt has never been seen before. Moses could not even imagine it. But before he does anything, the Lord goes into a theological discussion about names! It is like God says, “Oh, by the way, have I ever talked with you about these names? I happen to have one that has never been revealed before, not to anyone. Not even Abraham, Isaac or Jacob.” It seems this conversation is a bit out of place.
We are on the verge of a whole nation being judged, devastated and destroyed and the Lord wants to talk about his name. The Lord seems to be revealing a new name here, but this name is not new at all. It is used with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So, in what way is it new? Why tells Moses now? God had an opportunity to discuss all this at the burning bush when they were talking about his name (Exo 3.13-15).
You would think this would have been the perfect time to discuss his name, but that is not what happened. He tells Moses, “I will be what I will be. Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: I will be has sent me to you.” What kind of answer is that? What kind of name is “ehyeh asher ehyeh” (I will be what I will be)? Then the conversation gets even stranger. After saying he wants to be known as “I will be” the Lord says something different. In Exo 3.15 he says, “And God further said to Moses, ‘Thus shall you say to the children of Israel: Yehovah, the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and God of Jacob-sent me to you. That is my name forever, and this is my remembrance from generation to generation.'” This seems confusing, we wonder how Moses felt at this point.
First God says “My name is Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.” Then he says in the next verse it is “Yehovah.” Back in 3.13, Moses wants to understand God’s name before he accepts his role as shaliach. Then just before the ten plagues begin, the Lord wants to introduce himself through his name Yehovah. This was not only to Moses, but to Egypt and the whole world. These names really are important because of what is going to happen. The Lord wants everyone to know his name, his memorial name. To give someone or something a name gives it identity.
In Part 84 we will pick up here.