Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Parashah Lekh Lekha לֶךְ-לְךָ ("Go forth, yourself!") by Jon Eaton

Parashah Lekh Lekha  לֶךְ-לְךָ  ("Go forth, yourself!")

Genesis 12:1-17:27

by Jon Eaton

The parashah begins with a direct order to Abram, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house to a land I will show you.”  Genesis 12:1
Rabbi Isaac suggested that Abram questioned whether it was conceivable that the world could exist without a Guide to look after it.  At that moment, HaShem told Abram that He is the Guide, the Sovereign of the Universe and then immediately the LORD said to Abram, ‘Get out of your country…etc.’ (Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashanah 16b).
But it is not even 4 verses later that we read how Abram took Lot with him on the journey – which is not just FAMILY but also a representative of his father’s house.  “So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him.” Genesis 12:4.  
This decision to take Lot (even after being warned) caused a lot of heartache in the following chapters.  Sometimes the LORD allows us to hold onto our past, full knowing the trouble it will cause us.  But thankfully He always has a plan and eventually we let go of the things that hold us back and move into His promises.   This mindset would also trip him later when he attempts to bring about the promises of the LORD via his own methods – with Hagar the Egyptian maid.  When you think how the descendants of Abraham went into Egypt, they were in some way returning to the land of Hagar.

The Gemara taught that the two thousand years of the Torah began when Abram and Sarai had ‘gotten souls in Haran’ when he was 52 years old in Genesis 12:5 (Babylonian Talmud Avodah Zarah 9a).  Just an interesting note despite the belief that the 2000 years of Torah began at Mount Sinai. 

In Genesis 14:18 we read about the mysterious Melki-Tzedek (מַלְכִּי-צֶדֶק).

Some Christians believe that Malki-Tzedek was a pre-incarnate manifestation of Yeshua, but if we read Hebrews 7:15 closely, the writer states that He is “the similitude" (Gk: homoiotēs - ὁμοιότης) of Malki-Tzedek, not that He is Malki-Tzedek.  Also the writer states that Malki-Tzedek is said to have been "made like/render similar" (aphomoioō - ἀφομοιόω) to the Son of the Almighty in verse 3 but again it does not specifically say He is the same person.

In Hebrew 7:11 the writer states that Yeshua came after "the order (taxis - τάξιν) of Malki-Tzedek" or as we read in Psalm 110:4 עַל־דִּבְרָתִי / al-divrati, "according to the word or manner" of Malki-Tzedek.  This mention by King David in Psalm 110:4 is strongly prophetic in that Abram was met by the Priest of the Most High, and how he gave him the bread and wine which are the same emblems Yeshua gave to His disciples before his death (1 Cor 11:23-26).

And now for some interesting midrash about Melki-Tzedek that gives some insight into the historical Hebrew perspective and context upon which the writer of Hebrews in the Brit Chadashah would have drawn upon (note that I did not immediately ascribe the book of Hebrews to Shaul).

Midrash identified the Malki-Tzedek of Genesis 14:18 as Noah’s son Shem (Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32b. Genesis Rabbah 56:10.)  This disagrees with Hebrews 7:3 which states the Malki-Tzedek was  “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life”.

Tradition states that Malki-Tzedek acted as a priest and handed down Adam’s robes to Abraham (Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32b/Genesis Rabbah 56:10/Numbers Rabbah 4:8).   No mention of HOW he received the Adam’s robes to pass on to Abraham unless Malki-Tzedek was there in the garden at the beginning.   Hmmmmmm.

Rabbi Isaac the Babylonian said that Malki-Tzedek was born circumcised and that Malki-Tzedek instructed Abraham in the Torah (Genesis Rabbah 43:6).  

Midrash teaches that Malki-Tzedek called Jerusalem “Salem.”  (Genesis Rabbah 56:10) which agrees with Hebrews 7:2.

Rabbi Eleazar said that Malki-Tzedek’s school was one of three places where the Holy Spirit manifested itself  ( Babylonian Talmud Makkot 23b) though I couldn’t find a direct link to this being the triune nature of Hashem.

Rabbi Judah said (on behalf of Rabbi Nehorai) that Malki-Tzedek’s blessing yielded prosperity for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis Rabbah 43:8).

Ephraim Miksha'ah the disciple of Rabbi Meir said (on behalf of Rabbi Meir) that Tamar (daughter in law of Judah) descended from Malki-Tzedek (Genesis Rabbah 85:10).

In Genesis 14:19-20 it reads that Malki-Tzedek blessed Abram BEFORE he blessed HaShem, “And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of El Elyon, Possessor of heaven and earth;  And blessed be El Elyon, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”  According to midrash Abram questioned Malki-Tzedek about whether the blessing of a servant should be given before the blessing of the master and straightaway as a response, HaShem gave the priesthood to Abram.  This is how an explanation is 'weakly' given concerning  Psalm 110:1 which says, “The LORD (יְהוָה) said to my LORD (לַאדֹנִי), Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool,” which is then followed up in Psalm 110:4 when King David mentions Malki-Tzedek  (Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32b).    So are they suggesting the Abraham is sitting at the right hand of the Almighty?

But moving on;  now comes one of the greatest verses in scripture when Abram was given a vision from the Word of the LORD (devar-Adonai  דְבַר-יְהוָֹה ), "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be.  And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness" (Gen. 15:5-6).  

Let me repeat that, “he counted it to him for righteousness”.

It was many years AFTER this affirmation of righteousness that the command was given to circumcise himself and his offspring throughout the generations as a sign of the covenant (certainly not the righteousness) made between the LORD and Abraham.  

Some Christians are surprised to learn that the idea of "justification by faith" (a new covenant theology) is not unfamiliar to Jewish theology.  Neither Martin Luther or any of the other "Reformers" were the first to discover this ground breaking ideology.  For example, the Talmud (Makkot 23b-24a) says, "Moses gave Israel 613 commandments, David reduced them to eleven (Psalm 15), Isaiah to six (Isaiah 33:15-16), Micah to three (Micah 6:8), Isaiah reduced them again to two (Isaiah 56:1); but it was Habakkuk who gave the one essential commandment:  וְצַדִּיק בֶּאֱמוּנָתוֹ יִחְיֶה v'tzaddik be'emunato yich'yeh, literally, "the righteous, by his faithfulness - shall live" (Habakkuk 2:4).  In the Brit Chadashah, Shaul had also condensed the various commandments of the Torah to this same principle of faith (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38).

As we read further, the LORD confirms His promise to Abram with the "Covenant Between the Parts" and then in Genesis 15:13 He describes the 400 year exile of Israel in Egypt, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.”  Thankfully, the LORD also swore to give to his descendants the Promised Land, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim,  the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites” which is massively larger than what is being proposed today in peace talks with the Palestinians.  Maybe President Perez should read more scripture.

Ten years passed, and Abram and Sarai still had no child.  In a moment of frustration and possible social humiliation, Sarai convinced Abram to sleep with her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar, in order to fulfil the promise.   Abram “heeded the voice of Sarai” (Genesis 16:2) which parallels Genesis 3:17 when Adam  “heeded the voice” of his wife also.  Two of history’s greatest mistakes caused by listening to the wife?   (yes, that was tongue in cheek).   Abram was 86 years old when his Ishmael was born. 

Finally when Abram was 99 years old (and after a failed attempt at bringing the promise to life via carnal methods), the LORD appeared to him again to reaffirm His covenant promise to make him the father of a multitude of nations.    The LORD symbolized His commitment by renaming Abram ("exalted father") to Abraham ("father of multitudes") - adding the letter Hey to his name.  You can just imagine, Abraham explaining to all his friends and family that they should no longer call him ‘exalted father’ but must now refer to him as the ‘father of multitudes’.  And maybe they would have looked around at his complete lack of ‘multitudes’ and questioned this new name.  But his name change was a daily reminder of the faith he had in HaShem.  A daily reminder of the promise.  Do we remind ourselves daily of His promises for us?   The LORD also changed Sarai's name ("princess") to Sarah ("noblewoman"), and again promised that a son would be born to them.    Abraham laughed at how a man who was so old might father a child with a woman who was also way beyond birthing age.  At this, the LORD said the child shall be named Yitzchak יִצְחָק ("he laughs") and would be Abraham's promised heir to establish His covenant.

 The Parashah concludes with Abraham obeying the LORD’s command to circumcise everyone in his household including himself, slaves (mixed multitude) and his offspring and to continue this procedure throughout the generations as a sign of the covenant made between the LORD and Abraham.

The promised nation had begun.

By Jon Eaton               

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