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Parasha Bo (Come!): Pharaoh Syndrome and How Pride Impedes Excellence

Bo (Come!)
Exodus 10:1–13:16; Jeremiah 46:13–28; Romans 9:14–29

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go [Bo / come] to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them.”  (Exodus 10:1)


In a traditional ceremony called hagbah, a young man prepares to lift the heavy Torah scroll for all to see.

In last week’s Parasha, God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand that the Israelites be allowed to worship Him in the desert.

Pharaoh, however, refused to send the Israelite slaves to worship God, so God unleashed seven of the Ten Plagues on the Egyptians.

The seventh plague (hail) was so severe that Pharaoh begged Moses to end it, promising to send the Israelites away if he did.  (Exodus 9:27–35)

Instead of freeing them, however, he made their lives more difficult.


Three neatly dressed young girls walk together on a quiet street in the Orthodox Jewish Quarter of Mea Shearim.

Pride Comes Before the Fall

“How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?  Let My people go [shalach / send away], so that they may worship Me.”  (Exodus 10:3)

Although this week’s Parasha chronicles the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, the title, Bo, does not mean go as is commonly translated in English.  It also is not the same word that is translated “go” in Exodus 10:3, which means send away.

Bo has more of the meaning of come in.  In this portion of Scripture, God told Moses, “Come in to Pharaoh” rather than “Go to Pharaoh.”

Perhaps this was God’s way of encouraging Moses to carry on, despite the apparent failure of the last seven plagues.

Since the stubborn king of Egypt remained unmoved by these acts of Divine judgment, it was as if God was now saying, “Come (Bo) with me; we will fill that empty void of Pharaoh together.” 

The final three plagues sealed Egypt’s doom: locusts, three days of darkness, and the death of the firstborn.

An ancient Jewish sage, Rabbi Shimon, has said, “When God warns a person on three occasions and he does not turn from his (evil) ways, God closes the door of repentance.”

Pharaoh and his dead son-James-Tissot

Pharaoh and His Dead Son, by James Tissot

The Heart: Seat of All Emotional and Moral Choices

God had given Pharaoh, like all human beings, the gift of free will to choose between good and evil.

Pharaoh chose cruelty over compassion and stubbornness over obedience, thereby bringing destruction on his family and the entire nation of Egypt.

In fact, the Hebrew letters of the word Pharaoh, if re-arranged, also spell arufah, which means the back of the neck, a term Biblically symbolic of being stiff-necked, or stubborn.

God’s Word tells us that stubbornness is a serious sin:  “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”  (1 Samuel 15:23)

Pharaoh’s pride and obstinacy led to his downfall:  “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.”  (Proverbs 16:18)

Har Homa-new synagogue-Torah-scroll

A group of residents in the Jewish quarter of Har Homa in Jerusalem singing and dancing to celebrate the arrival of a new Torah scroll that is being brought to their synagogue.

Pharaoh’s refusal to humble himself before the Almighty God was caused by the hardening of his heart.

The Hebrew word for heart (lev / levav) occurs more than 850 times in the Bible.

According to traditional Jewish thinking, the heart, despite its tiny size, contains the entire world.  The heart is the seat of all emotional and moral choices.

Pharaoh’s heart became so cold and callous that he had no empathy; he had become immune to the pain and suffering of others, and it adversely affected his ability to lead effectively.

In ancient Jewish texts, in fact, the term “Pharaoh Syndrome” describes a person in power who gets in the way of things working out well.

When God evaluates a person, He does not look at the outward appearance; He probes the heart looking at the spiritual condition.  (1 Samuel 16:7)

He is so concerned with the spiritual condition of man that He promised to perform spiritual heart surgery by removing hearts of stone and replacing them with hearts of flesh when He brought the Jewish People home.

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you.  I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”  (Ezekiel 36:26)

May our hearts never become hardened or calloused by life’s trials or our own sinful nature, but remain as soft clay in the Potter’s hands.

Sign on the Door-James Tissot

The Signs on the Door, by James Tissot

The Passover Lamb

“The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.  No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”  (Exodus 12:13)

This Parasha records the institution of the first Passover, within which is the central message of the Gospel: salvation through the blood of the Lamb.

We can be so thankful that the person whom the Son has set free is truly free.

Just as Moses told Pharaoh “Let My people go, so that they may worship Me,” Yeshua (Jesus) commands the enemy of our souls to release us from sin and spiritual darkness.  (Exodus 7:16; Isaiah 49:9)

He came to set the captives free!

“He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”  (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18)

Through His blood we can find healing, deliverance, and freedom from every bondage and oppression.  Like the Israelites in Egypt, we must declare our complete victory and believe in it even before we see it.

Not only do we inherit eternal salvation through the blood of Yeshua, we are also transformed through it:

“How much more, then, will the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”  (Hebrews 9:14)

During Yeshua’s final Passover, He connected the freeing of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt through the blood of the lamb to the freeing of souls through His own blood.

Holding up the third cup of wine at the Passover, the cup of Redemption, He said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”  (Luke 22:20)

Yeshua paid the entire price for our redemption with His own blood.


The wine and matzah (unleavened bread) of Passover

Haftarah Bo (Prophetic Portion)

“There they will exclaim, ‘Pharaoh king of Egypt is only a loud noise; he has missed his opportunity.’”  (Jeremiah 46:17)

Egypt’s devastation under the rule of a proud and idolatrous Pharaoh was not an isolated event.

In the Haftarah, centuries after God freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, He brings judgment on the pharaoh and gods of Egypt through Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.  (Jeremiah 46:25–26)

The Haftarah initially also describes the punishment of the Jewish People but ends with a beautiful promise that one day God would bring Israel (Jacob) back to the Land and destroy the nations who oppressed her during her time of exile.

This prophetic portion describes God’s mercy toward Israel and His judgment on all nations.

“Do not be afraid, Jacob my servant; do not be dismayed, Israel.  I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile.  Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid.”  (Jeremiah 46:27)

Western Wall-Plaza-Temple Mount

An Orthodox Jewish man looks toward the Temple Mount, which is currently occupied by the Islamic Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

In fulfillment of this and other prophecies like it, the nation of Israel has been miraculously reborn in our generation.

God is still bringing the children of Israel out of the lands of their exile, from where He scattered them.

Things might look tenuous here, at best.  We are surrounded by hostile neighbors who are bent on the complete destruction of Israel, calling their people to Jihad (Islamic term for struggle or Holy War).

Even those who are supposed to be her friends pressure her to give up more and more of the precious Promised Land in exchange for peace with people who are not committed to it.


Israel Defense Forces soldiers read the Torah in the field.

The Bible, however, makes it clear that a day will come when everything will look hopeless.

It will look like Israel will be destroyed by her enemies.  Nevertheless, God’s Word promises that we need not fear.  He will be with us and will save us.

According to the book of Revelation, God is going to do a repeat performance of the plagues upon Egypt to deliver His people.  The plagues in the book of Revelation include water turned to blood, boils, fire, hail, darkness, locust, and frogs.

What will become of the followers of Yeshua the Messiah in the nations when God’s judgment rains down upon the earth?  Those who are in covenant with the God of Israel through the blood of the Messiah, living in obedience to Him and blessing their Jewish brothers and sisters have nothing to fear.

True covenant Believers will be protected supernaturally, by the blood of the Lamb:  “And when I see the blood I will pass over you.”  (Exodus 12:13)

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