Beth Elohim messianic Synagogue
Parashah #8: Vayishlach (He sent) B’resheit (Genesis 32:4-36:43)
Haftarah: Hoshea Ovadyah (Obadiah) 1-21 (S)
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 7:1-12
A great confrontation is about to take place. Jacob and Esau are destined to meet after at least 20 years. Esau is the older brother who was “tricked” out of his birthright because he regarded a bowl of stew as more important. We must also remember that his surrender of the birthright was in perfect accordance with G-d’s plan although the choice was Esau’s. However, Esau and Jacob did not have this insight and Jacob is fearful that Esau may kill him and his family, and distressed that he may be forced to kill his brother. The differences in possible courses of action explain the difference between being fearful and distressed (Gen. 32:8).
We must explore who Lavan was to correctly understand the extent of the preparation Jacob makes and the words he directs his servants to relate to Esau when they confront him. This understanding will also explain the detailed account of the spotted and colored sheep.
First, Jacob represents himself as being subservient to Esau which can be interpreted as humility or a prudent strategy to divert Esau’s attention from losing his birthright and blessings from Isaac. Next, Jacob has the servant tell Esau that “I have been living with Lavan and have stayed until now.” Why should this impress Esau? Lavan the Aramean was famous throughout the world as a master magician and sorcerer whose spell no man could escape. He was the father of Beor, who was the father of Balaam (Josh.13:22). But for all Lavan’s skill and pre-eminence in sorcery and magic, he could not prevail over Jacob, although he diligently tried. Therefore, Jacob’s first intimation to Esau was “I have sojourned with Lavan…” he stayed with Lavan for 20 years without succumbing to his sorcery and magic as evidenced by the account of the sheep and his accumulation of oxen, asses, maid-servants and men-servants, and flocks (Gen. 32:6). This information would certainly change the mental and subsequently physical playing field. Note that we can be sure that the Ruach prompted Jacob to this course of action. G-d knew Esau would fear sorcery and magic. We may understand that Lavan employed ten kinds of magic and divination against Jacob as evidenced by Jacob’s statement in Genesis 31:41 “I served you fourteen years for your daughters and six years for your flocks: and you changed my wages 10 times!” The word for “10” used in this sentence is related to the term minim (kinds). These ten kinds of witchcraft are alluded to in the verse saying “There shall not be found among you… one that useth divination, a soothsayer, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or one that consulteth a ghost or a familiar spirit, or a necromancer (Deut. 18:10-11). This applies to us today just as when G-d made the original statement.
Jacob’s next actions provide other valuable lessons for us. Jacob is guided by the angels of G-d and Yahshua himself as the Angel who wrestled Jacob in a later passage. He strategically plans for the meeting with Esau by directing his servants in what to say ahead of the meeting. He is informed of the number of men accompanying Esau. He divided his assets into two camps in case one was attacked, the other would escape. Then he prays to G-d. First he humbles himself and acknowledges his unworthiness. Then he makes direct supplication and admits his fears. Next, he chooses gifts from among his possessions to present to Esau in increments with each servant. This strategy was used to soften Esau’s mind through repetition of each servant stating Jacob is presenting the gifts as his [Esau’s] servant. In fact, this is much more effective than presenting a quantity of gifts all at once. When the two meet, after all the presents are presented and Esau has had time to think, slaves, and eleven children across the stream followed by his possessions after fording the Yabok. The Yabok is an eastern tributary of the Jordan, joining it about 26 miles north of the dead Sea. Its steep banks make it a natural boundary: it divided the countries of Sihon and Og, and, later, north and south Giliad. Note that his favorites, Rachel and Joseph were positioned in the safest rear position.
Since ancient days, crossing a river has been symbolic of overcoming hazard and going forward to a new experience. In this sense, Jacob passed over the tributary to meet Esau, crossing the watershed of his life. Everything that has happened to Jacob since he obtained the birthright and Isaac’s blessing was tainted by his own guilt, and Esau’s hatred that exists to this day. As a different man with a new name and more spiritually mature character, Jacob can now achieve reconciliation with Esau and reconcile himself with G-d through the battle with “the man” Yahshua. This could only be achieved when Jacob separated himself from his family and his possessions. Jacob prevailed and G-d/Yahshua blessed him by renaming him and making him the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. Jacob knew he had encountered and persevered with G-d and survived (Gen. 32:31). Jacob refuses to let the “man” go until He blesses him. What does this mean? A psychological interpretation by E. Spitzer maintains Jacob would not part from the experience until he was shown the meaning of his suffering. Suffering itself does not heal as we have previously discussed. Only suffering that has meaning and is accepted willingly has the power to heal; to transform the individual into a whole person. That is, one who is singular in focus and purpose toward ascending to a closer relationship with G-d; one who can come to terms with friends and enemies. This process of growth from one stage of awareness to another is named individuation. Transformation, change of character and personal growth can only occur with pressure such as suffering, when humans are engaged in an active struggle with that which G-d allows for our spiritual growth and refinement of our souls. The formerly self-assured and successful Jacob is now diminished in appearance; no longer with proud, purposeful strides, but with a hesitant limp will he greet Esau. He is more aware than ever of the need for G-d’s intervention for his survival and success.
We might be led into thinking because the brothers kissed upon their meeting that all was forgiven. However, the Hebrew informs us differently. Esau’s approach to Jacob is insincere The “neck” mentioned in Gen. 33:4 is an allusion to Jerusalem, which is considered the neck of the universe according to the Zohar, and the singular form of zavaro is used instead of the regular dual form zavorav as a hint that the seed of Esau would one day fall upon and destroy one of the two Temples. The dots above the word vayishaqehu (and he kissed him), indicate that he kissed him reluctantly. The reference to “and they wept” (Gen. 33:4) is explained as follows; Jacob wept because he had been afraid of being killed, and Esau because he knew Isaac was still alive and that prohibited him from harming Jacob. Another interpretation of the kiss posits that the dots above the word vayishaqehu indicates Esau’s latent love for his brother broke through at the meeting. I disagree with this interpretation based on the continued enmity with which Esau/Edom holds for Jacob/Israel to the present and Easu’s destiny described in Genesis 25.
Haftarah: ‘Ovadyah (Obadiah 1-21)
As previously mentioned, Esau and Edom are synonymous. The prophet Ovadyah (servant of G-d) is given a vision dealing directly with the future of Edom. The United States as an offspring of the Roman Empire is included as described in verse 4, 6-7. Edom and all associated will be cut off forever as a people who gloated over the destruction of Israel/Judah and their suffering, handing over their survivors. “For the Day of Adonai is near for all nations (goyim): as you did, it will be done unto you; your dealings will come back on your own head… But on Mount Tziyon there will be a holy remnant who will escape, and the house of Jacob will repossess their rightful inheritance. The house of Jacob will be a fire and the house of Joseph (Menassah and Ephraim) setting aflame and consuming the stubble which is the house of Esau. None of the house of Esau will remain, for Adonai has spoken… Then the victorious will ascend Mount Tziyon to rule over Mount Esau, but the kingship will belong to Adonai.” This passage validates our opinion that there was, is, and will be no love lost between the house of Jacob and that of Esau. The house of Jacob (Israel to this day seeks a peaceful relationship with her brother and Arab cousins. Conversely, the house of Esau/Edom continues to seek annihilation of the house of Jacob and all who associate themselves with her. G-d assures His own of the future victory through Ovadyah’s vision among other scripture if we will persevere and continue to run the race to win the prize of salvation and eternity with YHVH/Yahshua (Phil. 3:14).
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 7:1-12
In this passage we learn that there will be no harm inflicted on the land, sea, or trees until the 144,000 servants of G-d from the new designation of the 12 tribes of Israel are sealed. Here, as in the case of the first four seals, John’s language echoes the prophecies of Ezekiel, where scattering to the winds was the culmination of a divine judgment that included plague, famine and the sword: “A third of your people will die of the plague or perish by famine inside you; a third will fall by the sword outside your walls; and a third I will scatter to the winds and pursue with drawn sword (Ezekiel 5:12).
These four angels, like the four riders in chapter 6, have been given something (Greek edothe; compare 6:2, 4, 8), in this case, power to harm the land and the sea (v. 2) by releasing the terrible four winds. Instead they hold the winds back, at least for the time being (v. 1). Another angel, ceremoniously introduced (v. 2), commands their restraint and supplies the reason for it: until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God (v. 3). Once again the imagery is drawn from the world of Ezekiel’s visions, where a “man clothed in linen” was told to “go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it”; those so marked are spared the destruction threatening the city (Ezekiel 9:4, 6; in later Jewish literature see Psalms of Solomon 15.6, “For God’s mark is on the righteous for [their] salvation. Famine and sword and death shall be far from the righteous”; Charlesworth 1985:664). John does not claim that he saw this ritual of sealing in his vision, only that he heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel (v. 4). Note the following differences from the original naming of the 12 tribes listed in our parashah and in Numbers 1:1-15:
Dan is no longer listed; M’nasheh and Yosef are listed (½ tribes as the sons of Joseph); Levi is now a tribe.
Levi is a tribe because we as true believers are the new priesthood according to 1 Peter2:9. Rev. 7:9 describes a huge crowd too numerous to count from every tribe, nation, people, and language standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb in white robes (repentance) and holding palm branches praising G-d and the Lamb. All the angels, elders, and four living beings are described as falling face down before the throne and worshiping G-d. These people are identified as those “who have come out of the Great Persecution. They have washed their robes (repented) and made them white with the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are before G-d’s throne.”
May we be included in the raptured or sealed who will one day prostrate ourselves before the throne and YHVH/Yahshua and praise Him forever. Amein!
R. Tamah Davis-Hart