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שׁמוֹת - "Names"

Weekly parashah #13: Shemot

  • Torah: Shemot (Exodus) 1:1-6:1
  • Haftarah:
    • Yesha'yahu (Isaiah) 27:6-28:13; 29:22-23 (A)
    • Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 1:1-2:3 (S)
  • Greek Scriptures: Mark 1-2
PHILAE, EGYPT © Jose Antonio Sanchez romero |


Exodus 1:1

Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; they came each one with his household.

<< Previous (Vayechi) Next (Va'eira) >>


The Hebrew Words

Shemot literally means "names". It is the plural form of the masculine Hebrew noun shem (Strong's #8034) which by implication can mean "honor", "authority", or "character". The word is used 852 times in 765 verses in the Tanakh.


First use in Scripture

The first time shem is used in Scripture is in Genesis 2:11.

Genesis 2:11

The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.


Last use in Scripture

The last time shem is used in Scripture is in Malachi 4:2.

Malachi 4:2

"But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.

This is the same "last instance" verse as Parashah Vayetze.


Parashah OutlineFLIGHT TO MIDIAN © 2005 Ted Larson

  • Israel Multiplies in Egypt - Exodus 1:1
  • The Birth of Moshe - Exodus 2:1
  • Moshe Escapes to Midyan - Exodus 2:15
  • The Burning Bush - Exodus 3:1
  • The Mission of Moshe - Exodus 3:10
  • Moshe Given Powers - Exodus 4:1
  • Aharon to Speak for Moshe - Exodus 4:14
  • Israel's Labor Increases - Exodus 5:1
  • G-d Promises Action - Exodus 6:1



Portraits of Messiah

THE BURNING BUSH © 2005 Ted LarsonAs we saw in previous parashyot, the life, character, and events surrounding Yosef presented some clear pictures of Mashiach. In an even greater manner we will see in the remainder of the Torah that Moshe presents a clear image of the Mashiach. There is a separate article that records some of the parallels between Moshe and Yeshua.


Verse by Verse Notes




Other Observations

Was Moshe a Murderer?

In the beginning of chapter 2 (Exodus 2:11-15), we read that Moshe took the life of an Egyptian in apparent case of murder. Does this mean that G-d gave the Law through a law-breaker... a murderer?

Here are some observations:

The same word that is used to describe the manner in which the Egyptian was beating a Hebrew slave ( נכה - nakah) is used to describe the way Moshe responded and beat the Egyptian. It was an equal measure of force: an "eye for an eye" so to speak.

Two specific points should be considered when evaluating the charge of "murder" against Moshe.

  1. Nowhere in the whole of Scripture is Moshe charged with murder by G-d or anyone else.
  2. Genesis 9:6 tells us "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man." Moshe responded with a force equal to that which the Egyptian was using in obedience to the commandment to take the life of a murder.


In this week's parashah G-d's special Name י-ח-ו-ח, (separated here by dashes out of reverence for the holiness of the Name), the Name by which G-d says He shall be remembered throughout all generations (Exodus 3:15) is made known to Moshe. The true pronunciation of this name was lost (likely during the Babylonian captivity) and, out of reverence for the holiness of this special name, we do not try to pronounce it but instead follow the tradition of saying Adonai (which is Hebrew for "Lord"). This consistent with English translations of Scripture which translate this special name as LORD (big capital "L" small capitals "ord"). The Hebraic tradition when writing in reference to this name is to use HaShem (literally "the name").

When Moshe says that the Israelites will ask him "What is His name?" G-d provides an answer to the question that is often interpreted in the King James tradition: "I AM WHO I AM". Daniel Lancaster, in the Torah Club Volume 1 audio commentary, notes that the Hebrew words in this passage אהיה אשׁך אהיה (eh'yeh asher eh'yeh) are in the "imperfect tense" and might better be translated "I WILL BE THAT WHICH I WILL BE". Rather than just a statement of his existence ("I AM") the Hebrew indicates G-d's unchanging and eternal character. He will be that which He will be... forever.

In this revelation of G-d's eternal, unchanging nature and character we can find comfort and the certain knowledge that the covenants that G-d has made He will keep. It is in his very nature. If we somehow think that G-d is changing (in any regard) then it is likely our perception which has changed rather than G-d.



Yitro, Moshe's father-in-law

There are a number of verses that provide insight into who Yitro was and various names that Scripture uses for him. We have compiled several observations in this article regarding Yitro.


Torah Portion




or view this week's triennial cycle reading.

Today is

Yom Sh'lishi, 13 Iyar, 5784

Tuesday, May 21, 2024


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