What was Zechariah praying when the angel Gabriel appeared to him? He was praying the 15th Amidah, and it goes like this, “Speedily cause the offspring (“tzemach”= “branch”=Isa 4.2; Jer 23.5-6; 33.15-16) of David, thy servant, to flourish (“tatzemeach”), and lift up his glory by thine divine help because we wait for thy salvation (“Yeshuat’cha) all the day. Blessed are you, O Lord who causes the strength (“kern”=horn) of salvation (yeshua) to flourish.” Zechariah was praying for the coming of the Messiah. This teaches us that the second redemption of Israel is possible only through the Davidic Messiah. When Gabriel said in Luke 1.13 that “your petition has been heard” he is referring to Amidah #15 that prays for the coming of the Messiah. He then tells Zecahriah that he will have a son that will be the “voice” and the “messenger of the covenant” that will go before the Messiah in the spirit (anointing, calling, purpose) of Elijah. Zechariah couldn’t finish the rest of the Amidah, also called the 18 Benedictions, because he was struck deaf and dumb by Gabriel for doubting his word to him. The people outside of the Temple sanctuary were praying the same prayer, and they knew how long it took. But, Zechariah was delaying because of his conversation with Gabriel. When he finally came out, he was to say the Priestly Blessing over the people, but he was unable to speak (Luke 1.18-23).
Now remember, we have said that the Messianic Redemption is built upon the Egyptian redemption. However, we want you to see it in the Gospels and Epistles, and we are going to bring out some examples. Exo 12.38-40 says that Israel had been sojourning 430 years and they came out of Egypt with a “mixed multitude” or “erev rav.” This mixed multitude is sometimes seen as a problem, or in a negative sense, but here is the truth. Erev is used to describe knitted material. These non-Jews were “woven” in with the Israelites. Now, we know you cannot weave two types of material or mix two “seeds” together, so they were of the same “seed” (Lev 19.19; Dan 2.31-45; 2 Sam 6.23; Luke 8.4-15).
Exo 12.35-36 with Exo 3.21-22 tells us that the Israelites were going to “plunder the Egyptians.” In the book “The Pentateuch and Haftorahs” by Rabbi Joseph Hertz (the late Chief Rabbi of Great Britain) and he has a commentary on the Torah and Haftorah (prophets) and here are his comments on Exo 3.21-22 and “plunder.” On page 217 he writes a commentary on “ye shall spoil the Egyptians.” His commentary is interesting and it says, “This rendering should be replaced by ‘ye shall save the Egyptians’ (B.Jacob). ‘Spoil the Egyptians’ (or, strip Egypt) is incorrect, nay impossible rendering of the Hebrew text. The root natzal, which is here translated ‘spoil’ or ‘strip’, occurs 212 times in Scripture; and 210 instances its meaning is admitted by all to be, ‘to snatch’ (from danger), ‘to rescue’ (from a wild beast), ‘to recover’ (property), ‘to plunder’ (booty). Its direct object is never the person or thing from whom the saving or the rescuing or the snatching has taken place, but always the person or thing rescued. The usual translation here and in 12.36, ‘ye shall spoil the Egyptians,’ is, therefore, unwarranted, for two reasons. It takes the persons from whom things are snatched as the direct object; and furthermore, it necessitates an entire reversal of the meaning of natzal from save to despoil!
There is no justification for departing, in this verse, or in 12.36, from the rendering which is absolutely unchallenged in the 210 other places where it occurs. The words “v’nitzaltem et mitzraim” can only be translated ‘and you shall save the Egyptians’ meaning clear the name, and vindicate the humanity, of the Egyptians. Bitter memories and associations would have clung to the word ‘Egyptians’ in the mind of the Israelites, as the hereditary enslavers and oppressors of Israel. A friendly parting, and generous gifts (3.21-22), however, would banish that feeling. The Israelites would come to see that the oppressors were Pharaoh and his courtiers, not the Egyptian people. They would be enabled thereby to carry out the command to be given to them to them forty years later, ‘Thou shall not abhor the Egyptian’ (Deut 23.8).
It is for such reasons that the Israelites are bidden to ask their neighbors for these gifts, in order to ensure such a parting in friendship and goodwill, with its consequent clearing of the name, and vindication of the honor of the Egyptian people (B. Jacob). Verse 21 and 22 lend a poetic and unforgettable touch of beauty to the going out of Egypt; and yet those verses, as few others, have been misunderstood and been looked upon as a ‘blot’ on the moral teaching of Scripture. The Talmud records a formal claim for indemnity put forward by the Egyptians before Alexander the Great for the vessels of gold and silver which the Israelites had taken with them at the Exodus. The Jewish spokesman, however, had little difficulty in proving to Alexander that, if any indemnity was to be paid, it was the Egyptians who were the debtors, seeing that they enslaved and exploited the Israelites for many centuries without any pay for their labors.
In modern times, enemies of the Bible vie with one another in finding terms strong enough in which to condemn the ‘deceit’ practiced on the Egyptians. Apologists, both Jewish and non-Jewish, usually reply that this silver and gold was in exchange for the property the Israelites left behind them (Malbim); or they repeat the reply of the Alexandrian Jews: ‘Though God’s providence, the Israelites were enriched at the expense of their oppressors, and gained as it were a prize of victory in compensation for their long oppression’ (Dillmann). Far better than any of these current explanations is that given by Rabbiner Dr. B. Jacob, which we have adopted. It meets all the apparent difficulties, and brings out unexpected beauties in the Divine command. Thus, the phrase ‘spoiling the Egyptians’, which has become a proverbial expression, is, like the phrase ‘brand of Cain’ (Genesis, p. 15), due to a complete misunderstanding of the text.”
In the book “Book of Our Heritage” by Eliyahu Kitov, it says the Egyptians were begging the people to stay. Again, this reflects something totally different than what must have been told or gotten out of this verse. In other words, these verses should read “save the Egyptians.” Again, this is a pattern that you will see in the Messianic Redemption. There will be nations that will hate Israel during the birth pains. It was Pharaoh, his house, his taskmasters, his court leaders and so on who were the ones who had abused Israel during the slave years. The Egyptian people were not involved in it so much. In the birth pains, the leaders of the nations will be the ones responsible for persecuting Israel during this time.
If you go to a map of ancient Egypt, find the Faiyum. It will be connected to the Nile by the Bahr Yusef (River of Joseph). It connects to a lake called Lake Moeris. In the past, it was much bigger than it is now. Hawara is one of the chief places in the Faiyum and this was where Joseph was. The pyramid of Amenemhat III, Joseph’s Pharaoh when he was elevated, is there. He was the one who “provided the solution” to survive the seven year famine. He enlarged the river of Joseph going up to Lake Moeris and he built a large mortuary, labyrinth temple at Hawara. The word Hawara is related to the Hebrew word “chavurah” meaning “fellowship.”
The most fertile area in Egypt at the time of Amenemhat III, as a result of the River of Joseph, was the Faiyum according to the Egyptian Antiquities Authority. Succeeding pharaohs did not maintain the locks that let the water in and out of Lake Moeris through the river of Joseph, and over time, the Faiyum was not the most fertile area. It is only one-third of the area it once was. At Hawara, he built this huge labyrinth, as we have mentioned, with 3000 rooms, with three floors and twelve gates into it. We know it was a mortuary temple, and it also was a granary. This matches up with the story of Joseph. It was the royal storehouse and primary distribution point up and down the Nile during the famine. When Amenemhat III dies, he is buried in one of the two pyramids there at Hawara. When these were discovered, one had no bodies in it, but the other one did, and they found Amenemhat III. The other one was empty and this was probably the tomb of Joseph, and we know his body was taken by Moses. Joseph lived and died in this region, and his body was put into an “ark” or box according to Gen 50.26. It was like a sarcophagus. When Israel left Egypt, a contingent led by Moses went down to the Faiyum and took the box containing the bones of Joseph, and then met the tribes at the Gulf of Suez.
This area is called “Succos” or “Sukkot” (Exo 12.37) where they journeyed from. The term “Sukkot” is also used in Gen 33.17 where Jacob returned back to the land from Laban and built “sukkot” or stables for his livestock. This name is also the name for a festival (Lev 23). So, there must be a link between these usages, but more on that later.
In Part 6, we will pick up here.