Thursday, December 15, 2016

Parashah Vayishlach ("and he sent"); Genesis 32:3-36:43 by Jon Eaton



Parashah Vayishlach ("and he sent");  Genesis 32:3-36:43    by Jon Eaton
          
This week's parashah begins with Jacob sending messengers to his brother Esau in the land of Edom in hope of reconciliation (and not being killed):
“And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.” Genesis 32:3

Rashi claimed that the "messengers" that Jacob sent to Esau were literally angels (מַלְאָכִים malachim).  In verse 1 Jacob was met by angels and one verse later the “malachim” were sent to Esau.  Was Jacob able to command angels?  Just thinking out loud…

Jacob was severely stressed and arose in the middle of the night to send his wives and children away to a safer place over the river Jabbock.   Remembering still that Rachel and her children were placed in the safest position with poor ol handmaids preparing to be slaughtered first and then Leah:
And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost”.  He really did not like Leah…..

The Hebrew word Yabok יַבֹּק means “emptying”.  Jacob had finally emptied himself of his selfishness and personal pursuit of his destiny and was now left alone to struggle with the ‘man’ (וַיֵּאָבֵק אִישׁ עִמּוֹ).  It is later in verse 29 and 30 that this ‘man’ is revealed to be Elohim (
אֱלֹהִים).

The battle ensued all night and finally the man displaced Jacob’s hip in an effort to end the fight.  Jacob refused to let go until the man blessed him. The nameless man complied with, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob ("heel holder" of Esau) but Yisrael ("contender with God"), for as a prince (sar: שַׂר) you have contended (sarita: שָׂרִיתָ) /have power (from the root sarah: שָׂרָה) with God and with men and have prevailed" Genesis 32:28. 

I find it interesting to note that my Jewish debaters have always quoted Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent” as proof that Elohim would never be incarnate.  But Jacob was not the only patriarch to see this mysterious “man” who is called Elohim.   While YHVH cannot be seen by man (Yeshua stated that no-one has seen the Father except the Son), Elohim or “The Angel of the Lord” visits several times to encourage, test and direct mankind.  Some would strongly suggest that this Elohim/Angel of the Lord is indeed Yeshua.

But back to Jacob who had reached a place in his heart and character of humility.  How often have we struggled with our own inadequacies but have unknowingly been struggling with HaShem and His purpose.   As believers, we still struggle in our understanding of who HaShem is and how His ways can be challenging, very challenging.  So we struggle with HaShem and we struggle with man through our lifetime.  This can make us bitter or better.  It can shape and strengthen us or we can allow our hearts to harden and it will destroy us.

We really don’t like to accept hardships as part of His plan.  But even Yeshua was moulded by difficulties:
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered”  Hebrews 5:8.

Rav Shaul encountered the same lesson.  Shaul asked HaShem three times to remove the thorn in his side in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.”  Shaul’s struggle was part of HaShem’s purpose.

Of course, His answer was ““My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Vs12

Anyway, after the blessing, Jacob finally confronted his brother Esau.  Jacob did not attempt to trick his brother Esau this time, but rather chose to face and engage him by sending a succession of servants bearing gifts to Esau in a vain attempt to "appease" him.  

In Genesis 32:21, the Hebrew word translated "appease" (אֲכַפְּרָה akhaprah) comes from the verb khafar (כָפַר), from which the word "atonement" is derived (kippur: כִּפֻּר). Then Jacob went ahead of the entire family and bowed down seven times as he approached his twin brother. Wonderfully, Esau ran to Jacob, embraced him, and they wept together.  Some study into traditional customs reveal that the ruler of a house in the ancient middle-east (and also in some areas today) was never to be seen running, and required only the lowest servant to “run”. 

This also parallels the story of the prodigal son where the awaiting Father “ran” to meet his lost son, who was covered in pig filth and uncleanliness; yet instead of waiting for a lowly servant to run to the son or wait for an apology or even wait for the son to be clean from defilement and by default then being defiled Himself by touch, humbled himself and “ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” Luke 15:20.

Jacob then introduced his wives and children.
This was an answer to Jacob’s prayer in Genesis 32:11-12, “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” 

I’ll finish with this, when times are challenging it’s handy to remind ourselves that He is Good and that His “Word” does not return void. Isaiah 55:11.

Jon Eaton

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Vayetze (He went out)

Vayetze (He went out)
B’resheit / Genesis 28:10 – 32:3 (2)
           
            In the first parashah (28:10 – 22) of this week’s parshiot I would like to focus in on the final paragraph or thought of this portion.  Beginning at verse 20, and using Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) for the text, the following is recorded:
            “And Jacob voweth a vow saying, ‘Seeing God is with me, and
            hath kept me in this way which I am going, and hath given me                                                 bread to eat ,and a garment to put on—when I have turned back
            in peace unto the house of my father, and Jehovah hath become
            my God, then this stone which I have made a standing pillar, is a
            house of God, and all that Thou dost give to me—tithing I tithe to
            Thee.’”  (28:20 – 22)
            The conundrum I have every year when reading this portion is hearing the comments regarding Jacob’s requests of God to see if He will answer them, and if He does so, then he, Jacob, will serve HaShem, but only since HaShem has done Jacob’s bidding.  At least that is the way the lesson comes across as I hear it and read about it year after year.
            Most versions tend to begin Jacob’s quote in verse 20 with the word “if.”  However, in my vastly limited knowledge of Hebrew, I do not see any word that could be considered “if.”  Truth be told, I don’t see any word being translated as  “seeing” the YLT does.
            Upon further review, the Hebrew text does have אִם־יִהְיֶה אֱלֹהִים (im yiyeh elohim).  According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, entry #111 gives the potential meanings as “if, not, whether, when, since.  My thinking, and my point is why can this statement not be looked at in the same fashion as when Abraham told the two servants who remained behind as he and Isaac travelled on toward Mount Moriah, “…I and the youth go yonder and worship, and turn back unto you” (Gen. 22:5 YLT). 
            Another consideration, at least in my mind, is that Jacob did not initiate the conversation nor the issues mentioned in the revelation from HaShem.  The Almighty promised him these things in verses 13 – 16!  I take his statement to be saying that since or because HaShem is going to do these things I know I will be guarded, fed, clothed, return to my father’s house in peace (which I also believe he is stating that he will see his father again), and – or therefore the Almighty will be my God (from this time forward).
            Well, that’s how I see it.  I look forward to our discussion and any responses.

            Shalom.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lekh L’kha (Get yourself out) / B’resheit (Genesis) 12:1 – 17:27

Lekh L’kha (Get yourself out) / B’resheit (Genesis) 12:1 – 17:27

            This week’s reading contains a parashah, which is one of my favorites, the reading for Thursday.  Though short, a mere ten verses (14:21 – 15:6), there are two opportunities for Abram to have great gain.  Personally, I love the contrast between the two.
            The first opportunity for gain comes from the mouth of the King of S’dom.  He offered Abram all the booty that has been captured from his having slaughtered the 4 kings of the North, those who had previously received yearly tribute from the 5 kings of the South.  Why had he gone to battle?  It was not due to any love for the kings of the South, but he was responsible for his brother’s son Lot who had been taken captive along with his family.
            Abram refused the offer of reward, for he had merely done his duty.  Merely seems like a word of diminution, minimizing his accomplishment, but the meaning here is that he was simply doing that which he had been called to do.  I believe that in a sense, all he would have needed to hear was, “well done, good and faithful servant.”
            At some later date, Abram received a word (rhema in the Septuagint) from the Lord that He was Abram’s protector, and not only that, but he would be the receiver of a great reward.  Being a mere seventy-five years old without any children, Abram questioned as to what good would the reward be if he had no real heir(s) to pass it on to.  Again the word of the Lord (phone-a in the Septuagint) revealed that he would have a natural-born heir.  This was a reward that Abram apparently had been seeking.
            As a sign of the veracity of what he had been hearing, HaShem commanded Abram to go out and count the stars, for “So shall your descendants be” (NASB).  Now some would have us think that that was meant to indicate the number of Abram’s descendants.  However, on even the clearest night, the most stars that can be seen by the naked eye generally ranges up to around 9,000 (http://www.stargazing.net/david/constel/howmanystars.html).  Hmm, it seems to me that I have seen some censuses of the Hebrew people showing more than 67 times that number of men.  So what is meant by the statement that “So shall your descendants be”?
            Well, it is my opinion, though not shared by all, that the gospel message is “told” in the stars of the zodiac.  I’m not going to go into it here, but I do hold to some extent that beginning at Virgo and following the zodiac as it appears through the year’s completion at Leo the story is told.  We can follow from the virgin birth until that son becomes the lion of the tribe of Judah.  After all, does it not say in B’resheit 1:14 that the lights in the sky are “for signs and for seasons and for days and years…”?
            Though neither Abram nor anyone else is able to see the whole zodiac at one time, if he knew the story of the stars already, it would not be difficult for him to relate the story to HaShem as well as himself.  What a confidence builder in believing the Word of the Lord.  It would, in my opinion, be a stronger confirmation than Cyrus received when he found that his name had been recorded for a great deed many years prior.  Additionally, as an afterthought, I wonder if the young Yeshua knew the story told by the stars as well.  Hmmm.

             Shalom to all.