The stage has been set in the previous chapters of Exodus. The children of Israel have been enslaved in hard bondage; they have cried out to the LORD, the God of their fathers. He has not forgotten them, but has heard them and remembered them. In response to their bondage and their cry, He has prepared a deliverer for them: Moses. When Moses is 80 years old, God calls him, equips him, and commissions him for the work for which he was born.
Pharaoh’s famous response to God’s demand to let His people go that they may serve Him:
“Who is YHVH, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know YHVH, nor will I let Israel go.” Exo 5:2
Instead of respecting YHVH’s firstborn son — Israel — and letting him go, Pharaoh increased his cruelty and his bondage of the people, because he did not know YHVH.
God’s response to Moses’ cry at this turn of events forms a chiastic structure:
1A: Exo 5:2-23, Pharaoh did not heed Moses;
1B: Exo 6:1-2a, God spoke to Moses;
1C: Exo 6:2b, “I am YHVH;”
1D: Exo 6:3a, He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;
1E: Exo 6:3b-4, They did not know His name, YHVH + His covenant to give them the land;
1F: Exo 6:5, Israel kept in bondage as the Egyptians’ people + He has remembered His covenant;
CENTRAL AXIS: Exo 6:6, Therefore say to the children of Israel: “I am YHVH; I will bring you out from under the burden of the Egyptians. I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”
2F: Exo 6:7a, God will take Israel as His people + He will be their Elohiym;
2E: Exo 6:7b-8a, Israel shall know that He is YHVH + when He gives them the land;
2D: Exo 6:8b, He swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;
2C: Exo 6:8c, “I am YHVH;”
2B: Exo 6:9a, Moses spoke to the children of Israel;
2A: Exo 6:9b, The children of Israel did not heed Moses.
God is about to instruct everyone, from Pharaoh on down, what it means that He is YHVH – that He is the I AM THAT I AM. That He is the Self- Existent, Unchanging, and Eternal. What it means that He is YHVH, is that when He makes a promise and a covenant, He keeps it. When no one heeds Him or believes Him, whether Pharaoh, or Israel, He still keeps His word, because He is YHVH.
For further study: Find God’s paragraph divisions for these first six chapters of Exodus (you can find them at the Hebrew Bible in English). What is the topic of each paragraph? What is the Scripture teaching us by emphasizing these paragraphs and these topics?
So they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go three days’ journey into the desert and sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest He fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.” Exo 5:3
Three is a sign of the Messiah! Besides the major Messianic reference in Exo 6:6-8 (if we remember that Egypt is a type of the kingdom of darkness and Moses is a type of Messiah) there is this one that can be easy to miss. The Scripture is here preaching the Gospel of grace: without a (substitutionary) Sacrifice (to cover our sins), we are subject to wrath. But when we answer the call of God to depart the kingdom of darkness and come to Him, the Sacrifice which has been made to the LORD applies, and we are no longer subject to wrath.
For further reading:
The Revelation of the Divine Name by Rev. J. A. Motyer