Parashat Bo: And The Plague Shall Not Be Upon You

Come Here!

I have written several times here that any unusual textual detail in Scripture is an invitation to delve more deeply. What is unusual about the beginning of this portion – something that we don’t see in translations, but see very clearly in Hebrew?

Those of my readers who know some Hebrew might be surprised when they read the first verse of this portion in Hebrew. The words “Go to Pharaoh” – the first verse of Exodus 10 and of our parashah – would normally translate the Hebrew words: lech leparo. “Go” in Hebrew is “lech” (you remember, of course, lech-lecha that God says to Abram in Genesis 12), while “bo” means “come”, not “go”. However, here, instead of lech, we have bo. God is sending Moshe on a very challenging and difficult task, but instead of saying: “Go”, He says: “Come”! Why?

I believe there is a very profound message here: God never sends us away from Himself, especially when He sends us on a difficult task! With God, it’s never “Go there,” it’s always “Come Here”.  One has to come closer to God, in order to be able to go where one is sent. It’s never Lech, it’s always – Bo! And this is the name and the call of one of the most important Torah Portions of the year: our people are defined by what happened in Exodus 12! Not only by Exodus itself – but by God’s call to His people: Bo! Come Here!

Covid-19 and Exodus

This Torah Portion is also crucial for Christians, and there are many details and nuances here that should be discussed in the light of the New Testament. Surprisingly, however, some of them should be discussed in the light of our current reality as well. I’ll try to explain.

We live in the time of a Pandemic—the time of the corona virus. Coronavirus in Hebrew is Negif Korona – negif  (נגיף) meaning “virus”. Those who have studied Biblical Hebrew would recognize a very frightening root in this word: negef, or magefa – words that, according to the dictionary, mean “plague, pestilence (divine judgment)”.  I don’t think there is another language where the word “virus” is derived from the word “plague”, so why do these words have the same root in Hebrew?

Hebrew, as I’ve said many times, is an essentially different and deeply prophetic language. You probably know that, when the Hebrew language was being restored and updated, many new words (words that did not exist in biblical times) had to be derived from the existing roots. For some reason (prophetically, I would say), the word “virus” was derived from the word “plague”. This is exactly what we see today: the frightening reality of a biblical “negef” (plague) shows clearly through the contemporary meaning of the word “negif” (virus).

Prompted by the word,“negif”, I decided to study all the cases of “negef”, or “magefa”, in the Tanach[1]. It’s not difficult to guess where we first meet the word “negef” in the Bible: of course, it’s in Exodus, in our current portion, which details the story of the Exodus from Egypt: “… when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you when I smite the land of Egypt.”[2] The Hebrew word which is rendered by “the plague” here is, “negef”.

The slain lamb, with whose blood the doorposts were stained, was the symbol, the promise and the basis, for Israel’s salvation from slavery. The Lamb looking as though it had been slain,[3] with whose blood the heart of the one who accepts His sacrifice is anointed, is the symbol, promise, and basis for the salvation Jesus brought to the earth. Everything that happened to Jesus, slain during the time of Passover two thousand years ago, precisely fulfilled the role God assigned to the sacrificial lamb during the time of the Exodus. However, the question arises: have those saved by the blood of the Lamb fulfilled their role? If the slain lamb of Exodus foreshadowed the Lamb of God, then the people of Israel foreshadowed those who are saved by His blood—Jews and Gentiles alike—all those who believe in Jesus. Have they done everything that the children of Israel were commanded to do? Have they missed anything?

Bitter Herbs  

And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.”[4] Once sheltered under the blood of the slain lamb, Israel was commanded to feed on this lamb. Likewise, Christians do have the Holy Communion, or Eucharist – the Christian ceremony established by Jesus Himself; is there anything missing in this “eating the Lamb”?

Today, it is especially important for us to understand how this lamb was eaten,   because it’s exactly during this meal—this prophetic Messianic meal—that the plague passed over their homes. “…with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. …” Much has been said about unleavened bread and what it symbolizes in the New Testament; but what about bitter herbs?

The expression “bitter herbs” renders the word “bitter”, or “bitterness” (“maror”).  We have only a few more occasions in Scripture where this root “mar” – “bitter”, occurs. One of them is in the book of Ruth: after her return to Bethlehem, Naomi adopted the name Mara (“bitter”), as an expression of her bitter and grievous life. You probably know that the book of Ruth is the story of a righteous gentile girl choosing Israel and her God, and you probably remember the famous words of Ruth: “your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”[5]  Ruth  says  these words in the very first chapter of the book, when she decided to keep going with Naomi; when she chooses Israel and her God, even though this choice seemed absolutely hopeless and “mar”, bitter, at that point, while Naomi’s second daughter in law, Orpah, turned back. What was the difference between these two women – between the one who went and the one who did not? In English, Ruth 1:18 reads: “When she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.” This “steadfastly minded” (sometimes translated as “determined”) translates a Hebrew word‎ מִתְאַמֶּ֥צֶת – to make an effort. In the Hebrew Scriptures, as well as in some English versions, it is the same word that we hear from Jesus in Luke 13:24: Make every effort to enter through the narrow door.” To join God’s people, to walk God’s path, requires an effort, and Ruth made this effort – while Orpah, with all her good intentions, didn’t make that effort. That’s why we have the book of Ruth – and not the book of Orpah – in our Bibles.

We all know that there is no better commentary on the Scripture than Scripture itself. That’s why, having this allusion to the book of Ruth, I really believe that spiritually, maror can mean only one thing: Israel. Every Jewish child knows how bitter and unpleasant the taste of maror can be – especially when you are hungry, enduring the long Seder ceremony, and can’t wait to eat some real food. It is undoubtedly an effort, to eat maror, when all you want is to eat lamb. In the same way, bitter and unpleasant can be a taste of standing with Israel; it is a real effort to remember Israel when all you want is to partake of the Lamb – but I do believe that it’s what God commanded us in Exodus 12:8. As Ruth made this effort and went with  Mara; as Jesus called His followers to “make every effort to enter through the narrow door”; as every Jewish wedding, Hupa,  at the top of the joyful ceremony commemorates the destruction of the Temple by breaking a glass  – in the same way, God wants us to make an effort and to eat the lamb “with maror”.

[1] You can find this study in my book “Corona and the plagues: lessons from the Bible”

[2] Ex. 12:13

[3] Rev. 5:6

[4] Ex.12:8

[5] Ruth 1:16

 

I  would like to remind you, dear friends that eTeacher offers a wonderful course, where you can learn from Parashot Shavua commentaries along with their New Testament interpretation. As always, you are welcome to contact me for more information!  Also, if you like the articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books,  you can get them here .

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Emunah

    … touching my heart . Thank you dear Julia. Let God bless you with His abundance.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Emunah. I am always so glad to hear from you. Blessings!

  2. Yuliya Nalarinke

    —-7777—-
    Let Elohim be true and every man a liar.
    ( romans 3:4let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.” Amplified Bible says: “Let God be found true [as He will be], though every person be found a liar, just as it is written [in Scripture], “THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED [by sinful men].”)
    Yahuwah is exceedingly Elyon in righteousness, loyalty, veracity and overwhelming love. He fixes what we did as oops. He restores and vindicates us – by His wounds we are healed ( and we are the ones who inflicted them)

    — regarding ” it is finished” —
    Fulfilled : the cross – tetelestai paid in full.
    John 19:30
    It is finished.”
    Τετέλεσται (Tetelestai)
    Strong’s Greek 5055: I fulfill, accomplish, I pay. From telos; to end, i.e. Complete, execute, conclude , discharge .
    It is finished = it is completed, fulfilled .
    ——
    From the cross Yeshua announced : tetelestai! Paid in full.
    Teruah triumph cry that shattered the earth and ushered in God’s kingdom .
    Matthew 27
    50When Yeshua cried out again in a loud voice, He yielded up His spirit. 51At that moment the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked and the rocks were split (torn ). Its the covenant – cut in 2. ( also Matthew 27:54. 1 Peter 3:18. Hebrews 10:5-10. Hebrews 10:14. His people are brought back, restored to Him with the shouts of joy and triumph. Shout – He and we. Teruah)
    Mark 7:37 He has done ALL things well.

    In the book called Glory in Sacrifice author timothy pain mentions Aqedat- binding of Isaac. Timothy said when Abraham raised the knife he reached the heights of worship unknown to many today who regularly raise their hands in praise and prayer . Hebrew word for worship means bow down.God is worshipped when self is bowed down to Him with recognition His will is the best and should be accepted with thanksgiving. His will may mean waiting, failing, suffering and even dying and when all those are embraced – God is worshipped. God shares in our pain, anguish and desolation -and the end result of it is glory – His glory ( and it becomes our glory because He gives Himself to us, share His anguish and share His triumph) – that’s why book is called glory in sacrifice. It is reference to Yeshua’s sacrifice on the cross. He told His disciples to deny themselves pick up their cross daily and follow Him.luke 9:23. We are to say what Yeshua said : not my will but Yours be done. Joy or pain. Timothy the author of glory in sacrifice book says: glory without sacrifice is impossible.

    — to become His —

    Mark 9:49
    For everyone shall be salted with fire, and every offering shall be salted with salt.
    Matthew 3
    11He shall immerse you in the Set-apart Spirit and fire.
    Philippians 1
    29Because to you it has been given as a favour, on behalf of Messiah, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake
    ( our pain is His. Loyalty is His alone )
    John 12
    24Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Whoever loves his life will lose it, but whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

    Seems like the end of the world? And yet it is the beginning of life, the life that is given over to Him and became His. Teruah.
    ( and circumcision- separated unto Him – romans 2: 28For the one on the outside a Jew is not, neither that on the outside in flesh is circumcision. 29But he who is a Jew is one on the inside; and circumcision is of heart, in spirit, not in letter, of whom the praise is not of men, but of God.- colossians 2:9-17)

    7777

  3. Remy Dubeau

    “And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.”[4] Once sheltered under the blood of the slain lamb, Israel was commanded to feed on this lamb. Likewise, Christians do have the Holy Communion, or Eucharist – the Christian ceremony established by Jesus Himself; is there anything missing in this “eating the Lamb”?

    Not all christians denominations believe in the Holy Communion or Eucharist. I had given once this argument to someone and he was reluctant to acknowledge but I felt he could deny..

    1. Remy Dubeau

      I felt he could NOT deny.

    2. Julia Blum

      Yes, Remy, I believe this should be a strong point: Israel is commanded to feed on the lamb. If one believes Jesus is the Lamb – he must also believe in this ” eating the Lamb”. However, as I write here, Israel was commanded to eat the lamb with the unleavened bread and bitter herbs. In Christian life, the first one symbolizes holiness. The second one symbolizes Israel.

  4. Beth

    Thanks much Julia. Always read your blog and enjoy it although I seldom comment. Just love the Word of God and the deeper inroads and meanings you present. God bless you and all your readers. Praise the LORD.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your kind words, Beth! It’s always wonderful to hear from you. Blessings!

  5. Dorothy Healy

    What profound thoughts you bring out here Julia: that if God calls us to a difficult task, we must first ‘come to Him’ and remain close to Him in order to ‘go’ and carry out the task in faith – and have the strength and resilience to persevere.
    The Jewish people have indeed endured much bitterness in this world over the centuries, and I agree that we, as Christians, are called to stand with Israel. Of course we know that millions of Christians over the centuries, and still today, have also endured extreme bitterness, simply because they believe in Jesus – in Israel’s God. We will recall how Jesus, in Matt 10:16-39, warns his disciples about the persecutions they will endure for His name’s sake; He acknowledged openly that he was sending them into a dangerous world. John also says, ”… in the world you will have tribulation…”. So figuratively, thousands of believers throughout the ages, and still today, have had to ‘eat bitter herbs with the Lamb’.
    The way the world is turning, Western Christians will soon be ‘eating bitter herbs’ also. We must draw close to our God so that we will stand strong in the days ahead.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Dot, for your profound comments. I also believe that these two points are connected: for a modern Christian, in order to be able to “eat bitter herbs with the Lamb”, to stand and go with Israel, he first needs to hear and follow this “Bo” call: to come closer to God, to find in Him the strength and the determination.

  6. Gladys

    Thank you Julia , I as always learn so much from you .I don’t I have the money to pay for lesson, but I do have all your books and can’t wait for your next one . I very highly recommend your books .
    Some Christians think that taking that piece of bread and that sip of wine is all you need to do . If Jesus is the word of God made flesh then we must devour God’s word . I believe that the Spirit of Jesus is found in the Thanakh and His life in the what some call the New Testament and by studying the Bible we are truly eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood and I am very grateful to have you as a teacher . I believe that God Himself said to me ” Come and I will teach you through My servant Julia
    I believe that my love for God’s people the Jewish people is of great importance. It is the true blood of the Lamb and without that love we really are not accepting the Real Jesus .
    May God Bless you and your readers and keep you all safe and well !

    1. Gladys

      I just read for the second time your book ” Corona and the Plagues ” and now I have a question . God told David to take a census of the people,but did David take the wrong census for the wrong reason ? Did God want a census like the one Moses took in Exd :30 11-38 which was for all the people 20 years and older to pay a half a shekel as a payment for their sins and to keep the plague from happening . David took a census of the warriors instead and that would have hurt God because He was their true Champion . I also read Deut:.17 :18-20 and 1 Chron. 21: 1 . Thanks for helping me with this

      1. Julia Blum

        Hi Gladys, as I wrote in the book, in Exodus the Lord clearly explained to Moses what had to be done during a census: “every man shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord,” otherwise, Moses was told, a plague would follow the census. Of course, it was not about the money, it was about the heart’s attitude: every person had to be ready to acknowledge a simple fact that he belonged to the Lord. Definitely, they knew about this warning in the time of David – that’s why Joab was very concerned and tried to persuade David not to do it. “Nevertheless, the king’s word prevailed against Joab”: Joab “went throughout all Israel” and numbered the people – and then came back to David with the numbers. We read then that “David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people” – doesn’t it prove that unlike Moses, David did this out of the pride in his heart? David took the census with the wrong motivation and for the wrong reason – and that what God was angry about.

    2. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Gladys, for your kind and generous words and for your never-failing support! I so appreciate you buying all my books, and thank you so much for your faithful love and prayers for Israel! May God bless you!

  7. John Akin

    It is interesting that in Exodus 10:16, even a hard hearted Pharaoh asked Moses to ask Adonai to remove the plague. Strange that we don’t witness American or Israeli leaders getting together to ask God to remove the plague of Corona virus.

    1. Julia Blum

      Absolutely! I can’t agree more, John. I would also love to see our leaders getting together and asking God to remove the plague. These Torah Portions are so educational, they show clearly how much the wellbeing of the land depends on the decisions of the king (Pharaoh, President, Prime Minister), and how his hardheartedness made the lives of the people miserable. Let’s hope and pray for the hearts of the modern kings!

  8. Nick

    “Maror” and “yissurim” seem to be indeed a part of the journey of the Jewish people as well as that of Jesus. I am convinced that Gentiles of the “nations”
    also must learn from these elder first-born “brothers” if they too are making the effort like Ruth. Huge teaching from you Julia – it helps me to restate, I think, what you have said. Thank you!
    Nick