Friday, December 9, 2016

A Stairway to Heaven | Parashat Vayetze | By His EVERY Word

Parashat Vayetze פָּרָשָׁה וַיֵּצֵא 

"And he went out"

“Then Jacob departed from Be'ersheva and went toward Haran.” (Genesis 28:10)

Torah Portion: Genesis 28:10-32:3
Haftarah: Hosea 12:12-14:9
B’rit Chadash/New Covenant: John 1:19-51

Shabbat | 10 December 2016  | 10 Kislev 5777

On the Road to Ur

We left Jacob last week setting out on his journey to the land of his ancestors—to Paddan Aram, in ancient Mesopotamia—to find a wife of his relatives in Haran. 

Although he went with a blessing from his father, Isaac, Jacob was also fleeing the wrath of his brother Esau, for posing as him in order to receive his blessing as the firstborn son. 

Adonai had ordained Jacob to receive this blessing, yet when it looked like Isaac would bless Esau instead, Rebekah and Jacob took matters into their own hands to help God—a familiar story! 

On the road to Ur, the birthplace of Abraham, Jacob will experience wondrous things, above all the presence and promise of Adonai. Yet, this glorious patriarch, by whose name God is known even to this day ("the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob"), will have to bear some stiff consequences for his deceptive act in obtaining his father’s blessing. 

You will find woven in this Parashah the birth of eleven of the Tribes of Israel.
Join us now at the Father’s table as we keep the rhythm of Israel for more than two millennia, anticipating fresh manna from our God and King. As followers of Messiah we have added a corresponding New Covenant portion reflecting the fulfillment and crown of the Torah.

The traditional blessing pronounced before reading the Torah is as follows:
Bar’khoo et Adonai ham’vo’rakh

(Congregation responds)

Ba’rookh Adonai ham’vo’rakh lay’o’lahm vah-ed

Bless Adonai, who is to be blessed.

(Congregation responds)
Blessed is Adonai, who is to be blessed, forever and ever.)
Ba’rookh ah’ta Adonai,
El’o’hay’noo me’lekh ha'olam,
a’sher ba’khar ba’noo mee’kol hah’ah’meem v'nah’tahn lah’noo et torah’tow.
Ba’rookh ah’ta Adonai, no’tayn ha’torah.

Blessed are you Lord, our God, King of the Universe who chose us from all the peoples and gave to us His Torah. Blessed are You, Lord, giver of the Torah!

Genesis 28  A Stairway to Heaven

vv. 10-15 “Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 

"And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, ‘I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’”

v. 11 “He came” (Hebrew, pä·gah' פָּגַע) The Hebrew word paga is not accurately translated as “came.” Paga means “to meet, light upon, to encounter, to entreat.” It is possible that Jacob entreated the LORD in that place before going to sleep considering what occurred during the night.

“to a certain place” (Hebrew, mä·kōm מָקוֹם) Traditionally this is believed to be Mount Moriah—not just “a place” along the way, but “a certain, very specific place” of importance.
The narrative describing Jacob’s dream is among the most beautiful and ethereal scenes in Biblical literature. It reminds us of the unseen world that surrounds us, lifting our gaze heavenward, where our spirits and imaginations soar. Chief Rabbi JH Hertz, in his 1936 Pentateuch and Haftarahs commentary notes: "Its message to Jacob is its message to all men in all agesthat the earth is full of the glory of God, that He is not far off in His heavenly abode and heedless of what men do on earth. Every spot on earth may be for man 'the gate of heaven.'"
v. 12 The Hebrew word for dream, khä·lam' חָלַם, can mean either an ordinary or prophetic dream. 
It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word, sül·läm' סֻלָּם, meaning ladder, used in this passage, is found nowhere else in the Bible.

“...the angels of God were ascending and descending...”

As Adonai is deliberate in His Word, it is important to note that our text records the angels first ascending, indicating that they were with Jacob, unseen, all along. Only now his eyes are opened to perceive them. He is not really traveling alone!

At the top of the ladder, which reached to heaven (in Hebrew, shä·mah'·yim שָׁמַיִם) was Adonai the LORD, YHVH יהוה
He pronounced the glorious promise and blessing upon Jacob—a promised heritage of descendants, land, His abiding presence and protection, and that he and his descendants will be a blessing to all the families of the earth.
vv. 16-19
“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.’ He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’ Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz.”

v. 16  “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 
A profound statement. We have already seen several examples in these few initial parshiot of men and women who have experienced the presence of God, reverting to the arm of the flesh when faced with fearful circumstances. 
It is recorded for us as an exhortation. We are no different—one day we boast of the goodness of the Lord, and the next day we have lost all trust that He can or will meet us in our circumstances!
v. 17 “He was afraid...” The Hebrew word yä·rā' יָרֵא is more accurately translated: to stand in awe of, be awed, to fear in reverence, honor, respect.

v. 19 “He called the name of that place Bethel...” 
Bethel is a popular name for churches and synagogues alike. It is derived from the Hebrew Bayt-'El בֵּית־אֵל, which means literally, House of God.

In Genesis 12:7-8, we read an account of Adonai appearing to Abraham at Bethel as well.

vv. 20-21
“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take ... and I return to my father's house in safety, then the LORD will be my God.’”

Hebrew commentaries note that although to us this sounds like Jacob is making a quid pro quo deal with God, it is to be understood as the language of a vow or an oath—restating and accepting what Adonai has already promised.
The word in this verse translated “if” (in Hebrew אִם ēm), can also be rendered “surely, doubtless, verily, and since.” It is not always used as a conditional particle.
Genesis 29  Jacob Reaps What He Sowed
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7

vv. 1-15 “Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the sons of the east. ...Jacob said to them, ‘My brothers, where are you from?’ And they said, ‘We are from Haran.’ He said to them, ‘Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?’ And they said, ‘We know him.’ And he said to them, ‘Is it well with him?’ And they said, ‘It is well, and here is Rachel his daughter coming with the sheep.’ ...When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted his voice and wept.”

Somewhat reminiscent of the meeting of his mother, Rebekah and Abraham’s servant, this first encounter took place at the well close to the Laban’s house—in fact, it could have been the same well. Jacob is overcome with emotion at being led right to the well of his relatives!

Jacob tells Rachel that he is Rebekah’s son, and she runs to tell her father, Laban, who runs to embrace Jacob, kisses him and brings him to his house.

v. 14 Laban displays great fondness for Jacob, declaring, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh...”  Jacob then lodged with his family for a month, apparently serving alongside the hired men that worked for his uncle Laban. 

v. 15 After Jacob had labored for Laban for a month, Laban said, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” 

vv. 16-25  Deceived!

“Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. And Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face. Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’” vv. 16-18

v. 17 “And Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful”
It increases the drama of the story to render the text in this manner, however, the Hebrew word, rak רך, translated as “weak” is more often translated: tender, tenderhearted, refined, soft, or timid. The Targum notes it carries a sense of beauty. 
A better rendering may be, “And Leah’s eyes were tender.”
This is not a comparison of an unattractive woman and a beautiful woman. Leah was perhaps tender and refined, while Rachel’s unique beauty captured Jacob’s eyes. Unlike his mother, Rebekah, whose beauty we were told was that of “the woman of noble character,” Jacob clearly fell for Rachel’s exterior qualities. Inwardly, we will find out that Rachel is an idolator. 
It is through Leah, not Rachel, that the promised Divine Seed, the Messiah of Israel will trace His human heritage.
v. 20 “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.”

These few words poetically express Jacob’s magnificent love for Rachel.

vv. 21-25 
When Jacob’s seven years of service were complete, he bid Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time is completed, that I may go in to her,” and Laban prepared the wedding feast. In the evening, he sent his daughter Leah, heavily veiled, to the dark tent, “and Jacob went in to her...” “So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?’” 

Jacob had been deceived by an impostor—Leah posing as Rachel. Leah had stolen Rachel’s blessing and Jacob’s blessing. Leah is now his wife—Jacob is now bound to her!
It is not in the text, but one has to wonder if Jacob had a moment of clarity, remembering how he had come to his blind father as an impostor, posing as his brother to obtain the blessing of the firstborn. For surely this is the law of sowing and reaping.
Adonai is just. His ways are righteous. In Galatians 6:7, Paul tells us, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” We may not see immediate recourse for sowing good or bad seed, but know that seed that is sown will bear in due season. There is no neutral position it seems—we are either sowing to the flesh (corruption) or sowing to the Spirit (eternal life). Know, too, that although the Lord is gracious to forgive, in this life we reap consequences for our sin. 

Consider King David, beloved of Adonai—although he repented of his sin against Uriah and Bathsheba, and was forgiven, he still reaped grievous consequences:
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.’ Then he said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die’.”  II Samuel 12:11-15
This principal is not limited to punitive consequences, however. We are also promised to reap a bountiful harvest if we sow bountifully. Therefore, let us not lose heart in doing good, “for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” Galatians 6:9

vs. 26-30  Jacob Receives His Bride ... and Seven More Years

Laban’s initial familial affection for Jacob seems to have given way to greed and avarice. He feigns an excuse for substituting Leah for Rachel at the last minute (after allowing Jacob to work for seven years for Rachel), bringing up the custom of marrying off the eldest daughter first.

v. 27 Laban then reveals his hand: “Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years. 

Jacob will be given Rachel after the week of wedding celebration, and Laban will receive another seven years of free labor!

vv. 28-30 “Jacob did so and completed her week, and he gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife. ...So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years.” 

vs. 31-35  The Birth of Jacob’s Children

“Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” v. 31

Some versions say “Leah was hated.” Unloved is probably not the best translation either, according to Hebrew commentaries. The Hebrew word sane' שנא does mean hate, but is also used idiomatically, 

such as in Malachi 1:3: “I have hated Esau,” meaning “less loved,” or “less favored.”
The tenderness of Adonai to “see” Leah’s less-favored status must be noted here—although it is not the first time He has “seen” the sorrowful state of one of his children and been moved to compassion. Too often the phrase is used, “The God of the Old Testament is the God of judgment, but the God of the New Testament is the God of grace.” As we read through "His-story" week by week, we will find this to be grossly inaccurate!

Jacob did not have an aversion to Leah—they had many children together. Through Leah Jacob fathered six of the Twelve Tribes of Israel!
Leah felt her “less-favored” status keenly, as any woman would. I have read commentaries that blamed her for taking part in her father’s plot to defraud Jacob, however, women in the ancient world were little more than slaves. Leah would have had little to say concerning whom she was to marry.

v. 32 Leah named her first son Reuben
“Because the LORD has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.”
reh·ü·vān' "behold a son"  רְאוּבֵן

v. 33 Leah’s second son was named Simeon
“Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.”
shim·ōn'"heard" שִׁמְעוֹן

v. 34 When Levi was born, Leah hoped, 
“Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”
lā·vē' —"joined to" לֵוִי

v. 35 Leah’s fourth son was named Judah, for Leah proclaimed, 
“This time I will praise the LORD.”
yeh·hü·dä' —"praised" יְהוּדָה

Why would Leah praise YHVH “this time?” Surely she could not have known the messianic promise this child carried…yet his name did carry the Name of the LORD, יְהֹוָה YHVH. Very interesting!
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, 
Until Shiloh comes, 
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” 
Genesis 49:10

“Then she stopped bearing.” v. 35

Genesis 30  Jacob’s Wives, Children, Sheep and Goats

vv. 1-15

“Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or else I die.’  Then Jacob's anger burned against Rachel, and he said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’ She said, ‘Here is my maid Bilhah, go in to her that she may bear on my knees, that through her I too may have children.’” vs. 1-3

v. 1 “or else I die.” Rachel is desperate. She may have Jacob’s love, but as mentioned in previous commentaries, in the ancient world, a woman builds her home, and secures her place through producing children. Rachel’s sister, Leah, has borne four sons to Jacob at this point. Jacob and Rachel are no longer newlyweds. She likely fears her childlessness will eventually lead to loss of status, and perhaps loss of affection.  

Although their marriage began with a beautiful declaration of transcendent love, it now has to weather the realities of life. It is highly unusual that a wife would so castigate her husband in the matter of barrenness. And we see Jacob responding with anger—not with the flowery and romantic language of years past when he had to suffer being defrauded and work an additional seven years for her hand in marriage. 

v. 2 “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?”
Jacob is incredulous. He knows that Adonai is sovereign—Adonai is the source of life, and Adonai alone is in charge. Is he beginning to realize that Rachel doesn’t share the same relationship with Adonai?

Rachel Resorts to Sarah’s “Practical” Solution to Her Barren State  

v. 3 “...that she may bear on my knees, that through her I too may have children.”This is a figurative expression derived from traditions upon the birth of surrogate children. The child is immediately placed on the adoptive mother’s “knees” or lap, who would then take over the care and nurture of the baby as her own.

v. 6 “Then Rachel said, ‘God has vindicated me, and has indeed heard my voice and has given me a son.’ Therefore she named him Dan.

dän—"a judge" דָּן
The name Dan דן in Hebrew means a judge.” It’s very close to the word, diyn דין which is rendered vindicated,” but more accurately means to judge, contend, plead.

Although Rachel is more loved than Leah, her barrenness has caused great jealousy which is revealed in the naming of Rachel’s second son, Naphtali, by her maid Bilhah:

naf·tä·lē'—"wrestling" נַפְתָּלִי
vv. 7-8 “Rachel's maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. So Rachel said, ‘With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and I have indeed prevailed.’ And she named him Naphtali.”

The Game is On!

gäd—"fortune" גָּד
v. 11 It seems a contest has now begun between the sisters. Not to be outdone, Leah gives her maid Zilpah to Jacob, who also bears him a son. Leah names him Gad (which in Hebrew means fortune), declaring, “How fortunate!” 

ä·shār'—“pronounce happy, call blessed” אָשֵׁר
vv. 12-13 As this was such a success, Zilpah is enlisted to bring forth another son.  Upon his birth Leah said, “‘Happy am I! For women will call me happy.’ So she named him Asher.”  In Hebrew, Asher means “pronounce happy” or “call blessed.” 

v. 14 During the wheat harvest Reuben found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. These exotic fruits, also called “love-apples,” are still considered in the far east to have special properties to help a woman conceive.

Please give me some of your son's mandrakes.”
When Rachel found out about the mandrakes, she entreated Leah to give her some of Reuben’s mandrakes to help her conceive. The text says Rachel said, “Please,” but the Hebrew word used here is actually more of an imperative.

v. 15 In Leah’s response, she reveals her wounded heart as the unfavored wife:
“Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son's mandrakes also?” 

Rachel simply must have those mandrakes! She actually offers to trade a night with Jacob in order to obtain them! “Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son's mandrakes.” 

yis·sä·kär' —"there is recompense" יִשָּׂשׂכָר

vv. 17-18 It seems sad that Leah had to accept Rachel’s trade. She met Jacob when he was coming in from the field and told him, “‘You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.’ So he lay with her that night.”
But the text tells us that, “God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.” The Hebrew word translated “gave heed” is “shama,” which is a very rich word, carrying broad concepts of truly hearing, listening to, regarding with care, and acting upon the need, express desire, voice, or command. Adonai obviously regarded Leah with care and thus gave her another son.
Leah named her fifth son Issachar, saying, “God has given me my wages because I gave my maid to my husband.”

zev·ü·lün'—"exalted" זְבוּלוּן
vv. 19-20 Apparently even without the trade of mandrakes, Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. In hopefulness she named him Zebulun, saying: “God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.”

v. 21 Leah then gave Jacob a daughter and named her Dinah, meaning “judgment,” very similar to the Hebrew name, Dan.

vv. 22-24 “Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. So she conceived and bore a son and said, ‘God has taken away my reproach.’ She named him Joseph, saying, ‘May the LORD give me another son.’” 

yō·sef'—YHVH has added" יוֹסֵף
God has finally opened Rachel’s womb, removing her “reproach”—the great shame of being barren in the ancient world. She names her son Joseph, in Hebrew, Yosef  יוסף, which means “YHVH has added.”

vs. 25-43 Separating the Sheep and Goats

With the birth of Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son, his fourteen years of servitude has been completed. Jacob appeals to Laban to acknowledge the service he’s rendered and to send him forth, or set him free, to return to his own country with his wives and children.
v. 27 Laban, however, doesn’t want Jacob to leave. He explains, “I have divined that the LORD has blessed me on your account.” 
The fact that Laban has been blessed through Jacob is a direct fulfillment of Adonai’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (cf. Genesis 12:3)
Laban realizes that he has prospered because of Jacob. The word Laban uses, divined, is interesting. The Hebrew word, nachash  נחש, literally means to practice divination.

vv. 29-30 Laban attempts to bargain with Joseph, enticing him with an offer to finally pay him for his labor. This must have seemed laughable as expressed by Jacob: “You yourself know how I have served you and how your cattle have fared with me. For you had little before I came and it has increased to a multitude, and the LORD has blessed you... But now, when shall I provide for my own household also?” 

vv. 31-43 After two decades of labor, Jacob realizes that in Laban’s eyes he owns nothing. Jacob makes an appealing offer to Laban—an offer slanted in Laban’s favor in order to buy freedom for himself, his wives, children, and livestock.

Jacob offers to tend his flock again for a period if Laban will allow him to raise his own sheep and goats from those that displayed unique characteristics—a small number of the flock. Laban agrees and Jacob sends the speckled, spotted, and black sheep; and the striped, spotted and speckled goats with his sons to be pastured three days’ journey (approximately sixty miles) away from Laban’s pasture.

Jacob then begins a curious ritual of placing tree branches in the watering troughs with stripes peeled into the bark before the the flocks. It is unclear whether he believed this would cause them to produce speckled and striped offspring or whether it was symbolic. He also employed his knowledge of animal husbandry, encouraging the stronger to mate and produce hardier offspring.

Genesis 31  Jacob’s Exile Comes to and End

vs. 1-18  Adonai says, “Go Home”
“Now Jacob heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, ‘Jacob has taken away all that was our father's, and from what belonged to our father he has made all this wealth.’ Jacob saw the attitude of Laban, and behold, it was not friendly toward him as formerly. Then the LORD said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.’” vs. 1-3

vv. 1-3 Jacob has now served Laban for twenty years, (v. 38) bringing great prosperity to his relative’s estate. He finally has flocks of his own which are flourishing. However, this is creating jealousy and resentment among Laban’s sons, as well as with Laban.

Adonai sees. He visits Jacob, letting him know his exile is ended—it’s time to return home, and assures him once again, “I will be with you.”

vv. 4-7 Jacob explains to Rachel and Leah that their father’s attitude is no longer friendly to him, although he has served him with all his might. He tells them that Laban has cheated him and changed his wages “ten times,” an idiom meaning many times over. 

vv. 11-13 Rachel and Leah are told of Jacob’s amazing visitation by the Angel of God, telling him that all that Laban has done has been seen by God, and that it is now time to return to the land of his birth. 

vv. 14-18 Jacob’s wives agree to go, but first express their own grievance against their father, Laban. They both resented being sold in marriage, and recognize how Laban has taken advantage of their husband. “Rachel and Leah said to him, ‘Do we still have any portion or inheritance in our father's house? Are we not reckoned by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and has also entirely consumed our purchase price.’” 
“Then Jacob arose and put his children and his wives upon camels; and he drove away all his livestock and all his property which he had gathered, his acquired livestock which he had gathered in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac.” 
vv. 19-55  Pursued by Laban

Rachel steals the family gods
“When Laban had gone to shear his flock, then Rachel stole the household idols that were her father's.” v. 19

Unbeknownst to Jacob, Rachel stole what her father calls “his gods,” in Hebrew, teraphiym תרפיםwhich are carved figures or idols, used in household shrines and for worship.

vv. 20-23 While Laban is gone shearing his flock—an event that generally lasts several days—Jacob flees across the Euphrates, toward the hill country of Gilead. Laban finds out about Jacob’s flight three days after he left and immediately pursues him with his kinsmen, overtaking him in the hills of Gilead.

v. 24 Laban is angry. But Adonai visits him in a dream, warning him, “Be careful that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad.” Hebrew commentaries explain this is to be understood idiomatically. Laban is not to harm Jacob in any way, nor is he to entice or threaten him to return.

v. 29 When Laban caught up to Jacob, he accused him of deception in fleeing secretly, and  of taking his daughters captive, even though Jacob had worked for them for fourteen years according to Laban's terms. Laban then admits to Jacob that he could harm him but, the God of your father spoke to me last night...” 

v. 30 Laban then acknowledges that Jacob’s motive was that he longed to return to his father’s home, and then turns around and accuses him of stealing his gods! 

vv. 31-32 Responding to Laban, Jacob admits that he fled in secret as he simply did not trust him to allow him to leave with his wives. Then, because he doesn’t know Rachel took Laban’s “gods,” and doesn’t believe any among his family would have done such a thing, Jacob makes a grandiose statement: “The one with whom you find your gods shall not live...point out what is yours among my belongings and take it for yourself”

vv. 33-35 Laban searched and searched, but did not find his gods. The one place he could not search was Rachel’s saddle bag, where they were secreted. Although children were to rise when their elders entered their presence as a sign of respect, Rachel claimed that she could not rise as, “the manner of women” was upon her, so the idols remained hidden. 

vv. 36-37 Jacob finally loses patience with Laban and asks, “What is my transgression? What is my sin that you have hotly pursued me? Though you have felt through all my goods, what have you found of all your household goods?” 
vv. 38-42 He then recounts his twenty years of faithful servitude, how blessed his flocks had been because of his care, how he watched over them and protected them day and night, in the heat of summer and cold of winter, often going without sleep—and suffering Laban’s defrauding him of his wages several times. 
Jacob told Laban: If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, so He rendered judgment last night.” 
v. 43 Laban validates exactly what Jacob suspected—after working seven years for Leah, and seven years for Rachel, and an additional six years for his flocks, Laban still considers nothing to belong to Jacob: “The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do...” 

A Covenant is Made Between Jacob and Laban
v. 44 Laban realizes there is nothing he can do—Jacob is no longer under his control. What’s more, he has a powerful God protecting him. 
Idolators are fearful superstitious people. Perhaps this is why Laban moves to appease Jacob and suggests making a covenant of peace: “So now come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.” 
v. 46 Jacob sets up a stone as a pillar, much like he did at Bethel to memorialize the place Adonai spoke to him. (Genesis 28:18) He then bids his kinsmen to gather stones and make a heap, where he and Laban will share a fellowship meal.

vv. 36-37 “Now Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. 

Jegar-sahadutha יְגַר  שָׂהֲדוּתָא is Aramaic for “witness heap,

” and Galeed גִּלְעָד is “witness heap ” in Hebrew.
“Laban said, ‘This heap is a witness between you and me this day ... and Mizpah (“watchtower”),’ for he said, ‘May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from the other. ...God is witness between you and me.’ Laban said to Jacob, ‘Behold this heap and behold the pillar which I have set between you and me. This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass by this heap to you for harm, and you will not pass by this heap and this pillar to me, for harm.’” vv. 48-52
Laban’s fear of reprisal from Jacob now that he is no longer in bondage is obvious. Also evident is his faith in inanimate objects—amulets and idols. To Jacob, the stones are merely a memorial or symbols, but to Laban they represent protection.
“The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us." So Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac.” v. 53
Laban, being a descendant of Nahor, calls upon the deity worshipped by his family as well as upon the God worshipped by Jacob’s family to witness the covenant; but Jacob, who refuses to acknowledge the ‘God of Nahor,’ swears only by the ‘fear of his father Isaac.’
vv. 54-55 Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain and then shared a meal with his kinsmen. In the morning Laban departed for his home after kissing and blessing his children. 
Genesis 32   Jacob in God’s Camp

“Now as Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him. Jacob said when he saw them, ‘This is God's camp.’ So he named that place Mahanaim. vv. 1-2

v. 2 Again Adonai is gracious to reveal to Jacob that he is not traveling alone, but with a heavenly army. Jacob memorialized this special place where mortal men and celestial beings encamped together with the Hebrew name Machanayim מחנים, which means “two camps.”

v. 3 “Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.”

Jacob was now approaching the wild, heathen land where his brother Esau lived. He sent word as a precaution. Did Esau’s hatred still burn against him? Had he grown powerful over these past decades? Did Esau have violent men ready to attack caravans at his command? Join us next week to see!

To be continued...

Haftarah Vayetze
Hosea 12:12-14:9

Our Haftarah reading this week is Hosea 12:12-14:9. This second of our Old Testament passages was written by a prophet who was told by God to marry an adulteress woman. This marital relationship is used by Adonai to illustrate to the children of Israel His love for them. As Hosea’s wife committed adultery and was accepted back into the marriage by Hosea, so too as Israel was committing spiritual adultery, God would accept them back into the covenant relationship He had with them.

Hosea was called by God to preach to the Northern kingdom, sometimes called Ephraim. (12:12-14) This was not a reference solely to the tribe of Ephraim—though it was one of the ten tribes that made up the Northern kingdom—as much as it was a reference to the collective size of the ten tribes that made up the Northern kingdom. Of them Ephraim was the largest.

Our link to this week’s Torah section is the beginning verse in our chosen Haftarah passage, 12:12. “Now Jacob fled to the land of Aram, and Israel (Jacob) worked for a wife, and for  a wife he kept sheep...” 

You’ll recall that Jacob was away from his family for a total of twenty years before he made his return to establish his position as proper head of the forming nation of Israel. Jacob had been in a sense exiled for those years. This quite possibly was because of his sin in deceiving his father so  he could receive the blessing of the first born, which he was not. So enraged was his older brother, Esau, who should have had the blessing of his father by historical precedent, that Jacob had to flee to save his life. 
An important distinction needs to be drawn here. We have pointed out in the Haftarah portion of I Kings 1:1-31 that by the sovereignty of God’s will and because of His foreknowledge, the affairs of man are set, or predetermined. But man, nonetheless, still has a responsibility to play his role in carrying out God’s plan. Nathan and Bathsheba did this by informing King David of Solomon’s perilous position in regards to his succession as King. In this there was no deception or sin, only a straightforward presentation of the facts. Jacob’s actions, however, were decidedly different.
Jacob’s position as a father of the Hebrew nation was also established in the sovereign plan of God. (Rom. 9:10-13) Rebecca, Jacob’s mother, knew it, (Gen.25:21-23) and based on his actions, Jacob undoubtedly did as well. It was going to come to pass. What is different here though, is that while Nathan and Bathsheba did NOT sin in the course of informing David, Jacob, on the other hand, deceived his father to gain what ultimately would have been his anyway. In short, it is never right to do wrong to accomplish God’s will. Thus, Jacob had to flee because of his sin. This is in a sense a picture of what would happen to the nation of Israel in the future. They would sin, would be exiled for that sin, and ultimately returned to a relationship with God. 
In closing out his writing, Hosea has illustrated God’s love through redemption. Hosea had a wife who committed adultery while married to him. He accepted her back into that marriage. Hosea also points out Israel’s spiritual adultery and God’s ultimate re-acceptance of her.

Hosea points out that Ephraim, Israel, or the Northern Kingdom, is well off materially. In 13:6 he says, ”As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore they forgot me.” How like some believers today. When we have little we are quick to turn to our Provider. 

But when our cupboards are full and the bank accounts are healthy we are so easily turned away from the God of heaven who saved us ... and that by the god of this world who would ruin us.

Additionally, Ephraim turned to idolatrous practices. “When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling. He exalted himself in Israel, but through Baal he did wrong and died. And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves molten images, idols skillfully made from their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen. They say of them, ‘Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!’” 13:1-2

While it would rarely be said of a believer that they worship some material object as a god, how many of us have some activity, person, or hobby that takes precedence over service to our Maker and Savior?

Hosea pleads with this adulteress people to turn away from their ways and return to their God before judgement comes. “Return O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously that we may present the fruit of our lips...’” 14:1-2

I wonder if today Hosea’s audience was the church of Jesus Christ, how many of us might he say the same thing to? 

These people did not heed Hosea’s warning. They were so caught up in their adulteress practices of forsaking God’s way and living in their own world, that judgement did befall them. Destruction of their land and deportation were their lot. For the believer today who has perhaps wandered off in his own spiritual adultery, what awaits him? I think chastisement, (Heb. 12:5-11) and perhaps if not repentant even physical death. (l Jn. 5:16, l Cor. 11:29-30). This is certainly no end to come to.
But there is a good end to this, for both Israel and the believer today. Because of God’s faithfulness to that which He has covenanted with the nation of Israel, whether they repent or not He will ultimately restore them. “I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in justice, and in lovingkindness and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness.” Hosea 2:19-20
And for the present day believer who lives in some sort of spiritual adultery remember, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. For him there is only repentance or chastisement. So why not get right with your God? 
Never forget that just as He loved His bride, Israel, then; So He loves His church, you, today. Whether then by chastisement, death, or repentance His love for you, the believer in Christ, will always restore and sustain. Rom. 8:34-37,Phil.1:6

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; 
Whoever is discerning, let him know them.
For the ways of the Lord are right,
And the righteous will walk in them,
But transgressors will stumble in them.

Hosea 14:9

B’rit Chadashah Vayetze
John 1:19-51

Our B’rit Chadashah passage for this week is John 1:19-51. Though rich with spiritual truth this passage was chosen because of what is said in the last verse. Remember, Jacob had a vision  just after leaving his family, and prior to taking up residence with Laban. (Gen. 28:10-22) In it he saw a ladder reaching from earth into heaven with angels ascending and descending. And he saw God in heaven and was promised a land that spread to the four points of the compass, descendants as numerous as the dust of the earth, and blessings for all the families of the earth through his offspring.

In John 1 where we pick up the narrative Jesus is seen identifying His disciples. To one of them, Nathanael, He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (1:51) This particular verse has no direct link to our Genesis account, only some similarities. But the verse is striking.

Jesus introduces His collected (though not yet complete) group to one aspect of His coming to earth in bodily form. He says, “Truly, truly...” This is a transliteration of an Aramaic word meaning “Amen.” It means “to confirm” and is used by the Lord here to indicate absolute certainty. Ever think of what your really saying when you close your prayers with an, “Amen?” It means that whatever you said you said it with absolute certainty in your heart. God is going to take you seriously. Are YOU really serious about what you are saying to Him?

The next part of the verse is a bit tricky. Jesus goes on, “...I say to you, you shall see...” Here He just addresses Nathanael because the first “you” means just one person and that is who He is talking to. The second “you” is a reference to two or more people. So the essence of what is being said is, Of a certainty, I tell you, Nathanael, that all of you (or the rest of the collected group so far) shall see... So that which comes next is for the entire group. And what is it that comes next?

The heavens are to be opened and angels will ascend and descend on the Son of Man. Leon Morris in his, The Gospel According to John, pg. 170, says, “That the expression points to some vision of the divine is clear enough, but beyond that it is not easy to go. The ascent and descent of the angels seems to be a reference to the vision of Jacob. But there is no mention of the Patriarch’s dream of the heavens being opened while conversely there is no mention of the ladder Jacob saw. However in both passages there is the thought of communication between heaven and earth... In this passage the place of the ladder is taken by the Son of man. Jesus Himself is the link between heaven and earth...The expression then is a figurative way of saying Jesus will reveal heavenly things to men, a thought which is developed throughout this Gospel.”

Nathanael has just had an amazing amount of revelation given to him. He has just identified the One he is speaking to as the, “Son of God” and the “King of Israel” (1:49). Think of it! He has just met the one person all of Israel has been studying about and looking for, for hundreds of years. Nathanael has known of this coming Deity since he was old enough to start studying the Tenakah or Old Testament. And he has met Him in person. Not only that, but this “Son of God”, this “King of Israel” is going to reveal heavenly truths to Nathanael personally, and the other disciples as well. This is better than any formal education and it is taught by the author of the Book.

Ever wonder what it was like to study under Jesus’ tutelage? Cleopas and his traveling companion on the road to Emmaus give us a hint. In Luke 24 that story is told. Verse 27 tells us, “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” The description these two men give of that encounter would make any student of the Word envious. “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” v. 32
But wait. Do we not have His Word in our hands? Is not the completed revelation of God at our finger tips? This is communication between heaven and earth, as Morris put it. Is it not? Why then do we not cherish it as we should? How is it we can leave it sit upon the shelf, only to be opened occasionally?
I wonder if we did not ignore our privilege in studying the Word of God, did not treat so lightly our opportunity to learn of that communication between heaven and earth...Yes, I truly wonder, if our hearts would (not) burn within us.

In Messiah's Love,
By His EVERY Word Ministries