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

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