This week’s portion comes from Exodus 18:1-2:23(26).
There are several important things in this portion, as usual. But the one thing I want to focus on comes from Exodus 19:4-6 (ESV).
“4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians,
and how I bore you on eagles’ wings
and brought you to myself.
5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant,
you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;
6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
There are several classic stories told by Jewish sages about this passage which tell of the damsel (Israel) being rescued from a wicked captor (Egypt) by a great King (HaShem). The King then wisps the damsel away and makes a marriage proposal to her. I think these stories are very appropriate.
In this passage, Adonai is telling Israel, “Look at all the things I’ve already done for you! If will come under my authority and protection, do what I ask, and be faithful to me, not only will I continue to do these thing for you, but I’ll make you my own and you’ll be special to me above everyone else.”
In other words, it was a gentleman’s proposal: “Will you marry me?”.
But why is this so significant? Why is this such a big deal? Let’s talk about that because until we understand why the nature of this proposal is such a huge deal, we can’t fully appreciate how G-d was expressing Himself to Israel.
What’s So Unique About HaShem’s Proposal?
Well, HaShem’s proposal stands in stark contrast to how this young damsel had previously been treated by her captor, Egypt. And this proposal stands in direct opposition to how the “gods” of Egypt had treated her.
The way the other so-called “gods” treated her was more in line with how a modern day human trafficker or pimp might treat a woman or girl who is his “property”, and certainly without any genuine concern. The “gods” of the other nations, including Egypt, existed only for their own pleasure and self-gratification at the expense of their followers.
The other “gods” were unpredictable, vindictive, and capricious. One could never tell what they were going to do or what kind of a mood they would be in. Maybe the sacrifice you brought would be sufficient. Or maybe it wouldn’t. You could never know – even if the sacrifice was your own flesh and blood.
The G-d of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob was different.
Let’s take another look at how G-d had conducted Himself with Israel. He:
- Dramatically rescued them from their oppressive “owners”
- Literally clothed them in gold (and helped them to plunder their captors)
- Strengthened them for their journey
- Brought them to Himself
- Made his formal introduction, coupled with his proposal
He went out of His way to repeatedly prove himself to the nation of Israel before ever asking anything of the Israelites. And when He made His offer, it was one of specialness, closeness, and even love.
The King treated the damsel with love and compassion for a long time before ever asking her to commit to Him. And His offer wasn’t a selfish one. He wanted to continue taking good care of her, to make her beloved from among all the nations, and to make her His special possession. Singularly.
This was Adonai’s coming out to the world. He made himself known by going out of His way to show love and compassion to those who would be His people. He showed them what His true character – one of love – was.
He popped the question and she said “Yes!”.