God of the Fathers

When the voice from the burning bush announced, “The place on which you are standing is holy ground,” Moses realized he stood in the presence of a deity. He just did not know which one it was.

God called to Moses from within the burning bush, Exodus 3 (Image: © FFOZ/Bigstock)

Shemot

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Shemot (שמות | Names)
  • Torah: Exodus 1:1-6:1
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 27:6-28:13, 29:22-23
  • Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Exodus 1:1 | Introduction
    • Exodus 1:8 | The Israelites Are Oppressed
    • Exodus 2:1 | Birth and Youth of Moses
    • Exodus 2:11 | Moses Flees to Midian
    • Exodus 3:1 | Moses at the Burning Bush
    • Exodus 3:13 | The Divine Name Revealed
    • Exodus 4:1 | Moses' Miraculous Power
    • Exodus 4:18 | Moses Returns to Egypt
    • Exodus 5:1 | Bricks without Straw
    • Exodus 6:1 | Israel's Deliverance Assured
  • Prophets
    • Isaiah 26:1 | Judah's Song of Victory
    • Isaiah 27:1 | Israel's Redemption
    • Isaiah 28:1 | Judgment on Corrupt Rulers, Priests, and Prophets

Portion Summary

Shemot (שמות) is both the title for the second book from the scroll of the Torah and the title of the first Torah portion therein. Shemot means "names." The English-speaking world calls this book Exodus. The Hebrew title for the book comes from the opening phrase of the book: "Now these are the names (shemot) of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob" (Exodus 1:1).

The English name Exodus comes from the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. The Greek title for the book is Exodus Aigyptou, which translates as "Departure from Egypt." The name Exodus is an abbreviated form of that title. Exodus means "departure." The book of Exodus tells the story of the children of Israel enslaved in Egypt and their miraculous redemption through the hand of Moses, the story of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, the construction of the golden calf and the construction of the Tabernacle.

As we study the first week's reading from the book of Exodus, we find the children of Israel in slavery. It seems at first that the God of their forefathers has forgotten them. But God has not forgotten His promises. He remembers His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and brings a Redeemer to their children's children, for the sake of His name, with love.


The LORD did not introduce Himself by saying, “I am God most high, creator of heaven and earth.” Moses lived in a world that revered many gods, several of which might have claimed that title. Raised in all the wisdom of Egypt, Moses was familiar with the gods of the Egyptian pantheon. After forty years in the household of a Midianite priest, he had become familiar with the gods of Midian. “God” was a pretty broad term then just as it is now.

God identified himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. That narrowed the field down significantly. By identifying Himself as the God of the patriarchs, the LORD distinguished Himself from the pantheons of clamoring fakes and would-be-gods of the world.

Moses had been nursed by his mother and had lived among his people. He was well-versed in the lore of his fathers, the stories of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From boyhood he knew the stories of the God who appeared to Abraham and made a covenant with him, but the stories only became a reality in his life as the voice from the bush declared, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:6)

The holy martyr Stephen says that when he heard these words, “Moses shook with fear and would not venture to look” (Acts 7:32). This was not some local deity or mountain god, it was the God Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth. Moses immediately concealed his face lest, in seeing God, he die.

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