Thursday, December 4, 2014
“VaYishlach- and he sent”
“VaYishlach- and he sent”
Genesis 32:4- 36:43
First reading: Gen 32:4- 13 “Jacob meets Esau”
Last week’s portion we saw how Jacob’s blessings would come with the price of leaving his home and escaping his brother’s wrath in wanting to kill him. Jacob started the birth of a nation with all the children that he received with his two wives and their maidservants that came at the price of his uncle Laban’s deceitful ways. But after leaving that situation and reaching upon a certain place, Jacob receives a dream from God in which he sees angels going up and down a ladder. God renews the covenant of Abraham with Jacob at this time. And in turn Jacob makes a vow to dedicate himself totally to God, if God would watch over him and return him safely to his father’s house. Jacob demonstrates a willingness to walk by faith in God’s care, but as we will see, more struggles will continue to be with him in this next portion.
Now in this portion according to Jewish teachings, thirty-four years have passed from the time that Jacob fled his land. Jacob sent (Vayishlach – and he sent) messengers ahead of him to meet Esau. The word for messengers is the Strong’s Hebrew H-4397 “Mal’ak” and it could also be a translation for the word angel, even Rashi claims that these were real angels that Jacob had sent, in order to impress and terrify Esau. We do see that Esau seems upset and is advancing towards Jacob with an army of 400 men to maybe carry out his anger towards him. This report from the messengers/angels is what makes Jacob frightened and decides to come up with a strategy.
It is a three fold plan that Jacob sets up. The three –pronged strategy that he uses for his encounter with his estranged brother are: Battle, Prayer & Tribute. In the “Battle” strategy or military preparations, he divides his company into two camps; in the words of the late Jewish statesman Isaac Abrabanel “Jacob divided his people in such a manner that each camp had some of his men, maidservants, and cattle, but he kept his wives and children together. His strategy was to station the family camp in the rear, so that the other one would be a buffer between them and Esau”
I will skip to the third component of Jacob’s strategy which is “Tribute”, only to return to the second one which is “Prayer” that in my view is the most important one. Now these possessions that Jacob is so willing to release have been earned by him at a great toil and labor and yet he is willing to surrender them to his brother. This shows that Jacob doesn’t consider the material possessions to be of value or of much importance, but rather considers the value of life to be most important of the two. We see this principal in the Jewish people of respecting and defending life over material things even today in this present time. The tribute portion is to show Jacob’s good will and subservices towards his brother by offering him lavish gifts in hope of assuaging Esau’s wrath.
Prayer is the second component of Jacobs’s strategy, for he knows that without God’s help, all of man’s plans and exertions are in vain. We see a great example in Jacob, which he turns to the God of his ancestors in prayer and supplication. Jacob takes hold of the promises of the words of the Almighty and we also see a true sense of humility by saying that he considers himself to be unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness that he has received from God. This biblical principal of God honoring us if we honor him first is later confirmed in the passage of 1 Samuel 2:30b “Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained” Truly God’s desire is for us, who are his children, is to fully walk by faith and obedience. And by us being in prayer in our daily life’s interactions, it demonstrates that we are no longer dependent on our own actions, but are totally dependent on Him.
May we continue to be used from God, Amen!