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By now we realize that names are significant for a variety of reasons. The prophetic characteristic of a name is one reason that is demonstrated beautifully in the opening verses of this week’s portion.

“Now Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her home, along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, ‘I have been a sojourner in a foreign land’), and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, ‘The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh’).” Exodus 18:2-4

If you recall Exodus 2, Gershom is the only son mentioned yet two chapters’ later Scripture mentions Moses’ “sons.” (Ex. 4:20) Referring back to the verse in this week’s portion the intention for delaying the revelation of Eliezer’s name appears clear. At the time, the children of Israel only understood the oppression and the aberrancy of dwelling in a foreign land. Now, they are no longer enslaved and the source of deliverance is reiterated through the mention of Eliezer.

On a more practical note, I marveled at the simple conversation between Jethro and Moses and plan to use it as an example of the proper conversational sequence.

“Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the L-RD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the L-RD had delivered them.” Exodus 18:8

The sequence is as follows: Speak of the blessings and the mighty acts of G-d, then mention the challenges you have faced, and finally share how G-d has enabled you to overcome those challenges. Begin and end with praising L-RD. The same sequence is practiced when we eat. We bless G-d before and after. It is certainly no coincidence that both activities involve our mouth. If you have had the opportunity to read the ruminations of the Chofetz Chaim and/or the book of Proverbs you will begin to grasp the vacillating tendency of our mouth and the devastating punishments for misuse. Moses and Jethro’s conversation was important and it sets a high standard for our daily communication. The habitual practice of blessing G-d in each new conversation greatly reduces the opportunity to sin with our mouths.

In conclusion, this portion contains many manifestations of G-d’s awesome power. Not the least of which was the “sound of the trumpet” that “the people saw and trembled.” (Ex.20:18) That must have been frightening. There is also an amazing example of grace within one of the demonstrations of power.

“The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where G-d was.” Exodus 20:21

The word for darkness here is ha’araphel. Not only is this the first usage of this word for darkness but there is a couple other verses that mention the same darkness surrounding G-d. (1 Ki. 8:12, Ps. 97:2) 1 John 1:5 says that “G-d is light” and the previous verses describe the darkness as being around Him. Therefore it was a merciful act of a loving G-d to conceal Himself in a thick darkness so that the people were not immediately killed or blinded. The scene that unfolded in front of the people was magnificent, but it was just enough a human could endure to sear the vivid sight on the minds of every witness. For this reason G-d mercifully allowed Himself to be enshrouded by the cloud so that all would know that He is G-d and there is none other. His mercy with the children of Israel at Sinai reflects His mercy with those He has eternally chosen. Every single one of us deserve His wrath and destruction (Eph. 2:3) but by His unfathomable mercy He came, a little lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7), clothed in human form, and saved us. (Mt. 1:20-21) The final act of redemption will be even more glorious than the act at Mount Sinai and just as we have not forgotten the exodus we will never forget His eternal salvation. (Ps. 40:16)

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Here we see an amazing fulfillment of prophecy. Through Moses, G-d leads the children of Israel out of Egypt and they take with them Joseph’s bones just as Joseph requests in Genesis 50:25. The interesting part is the language used. We know that Joseph’s body was not simply laid in a cave and left to naturally decay. His body was embalmed and placed in a coffin. (Gen. 50:26) So why would Joseph use the word bones instead of body? Bones, of course, is simply another word to describe a dead person but it is also a reminder that a body without the spirit is a heap of bones.

“Thus says the L-rd G-D to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”  Ezekiel 37:5

Despite the process of embalming, mummifying, or any other postmortem preservation the body is nothing but bones without the breath of life. You may ask, “Then what was the point of taking the bones? They were useless.” Indeed, they were useless but Joseph was taught that we are commanded to bury the dead (Deut. 21:23) and that the burial site is significant. (Gen. 23:4, 49:31, 50:13) Joseph desired to be taken out of Egypt and to receive a permanent and biblical burial. By the grace of HaShem Joseph’s request was fulfilled.

“As for the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Shechem, in the piece of land that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money. It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph.” Joshua 24:32

“By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.” Hebrews 11:22

I believe an addition lesson encapsulated in the text is the significance of a reputation. Our bodies do not last, but our reputation endures. Joseph had a reputation for being a man of G-d and a son of Israel. Being buried in a pagan land amongst a pagan people, whom G-d judged, would have diminished this reputation. Have we wisely prepared for the future? Have we evaluated our associations? We too, should conduct ourselves accordingly and ensure that our reputation glorifies G-d even after our death. Our lives are not our own.

This week we see a most brutal (yet deserving) exacting of punishment. HaShem not only preserves Israel but utterly destroys the Egyptian army. All of them.

“The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.” Exodus 14:9

Examples of Pharaoh’s selfishness and arrogance are littered throughout the book of Exodus. In this portion, Pharaoh launches his whole army against Israel, but Pharaoh himself is not mentioned when they pursue into the sea.

“The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.” Exodus 14:23

I do not believe that Pharaoh drown with the rest of the Egyptians. I believe Pharaoh’s cowardice spared him but he was forced to watch as his entire army, his protection, was decimated. He was the only one left standing which meant he was the only one to blame. HaShem punished Pharaoh according to his filthy sin of pride. By giving Pharaoh his desire (his life) He took from him what he needed. (security, safety) For those of us who read the Proverbs this should come as no surprise.

 “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

In conclusion, this year I was struck by a wonderful verse in this week’s portion that paints a picture of a beautiful place and also symbolized Israel.

“Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.” Exodus 15:27

Elim must have been a beautiful oasis in the midst of the wilderness! Plenty of fresh water, shade, and the sweet smell of palm trees surrounded the entire encampment. In addition, this verse symbolizes the ideal Israel. The twelve springs of water feed one large body of water just as twelve tribes of Israel encompasses G-d’s chosen people.  One nation, following one G-d. (Ez. 37:22) Also, the seventy palm trees are a canopy that cover those beneath just like seventy righteous men (Num.11:16) who protect and represent the people. G-d’s design is to have a united nation, serving Him, within the structure described in the Bible. May it be so soon and in our days.

Come quickly L-rd Yeshua!

Let’s follow the age of Joseph since Scripture reveals many timing markers.

17 years old – Genesis 37:2

30 years old – Genesis 41:46

+7 years – (Feast) Genesis 41:47

+2 years – (Famine) Genesis 45:6

Here we can add together the timing markers and discover that Joseph is 56 years old. We also learn that Jacob is 130 years old  – Genesis 47:9 – (Therefore Jacob was about 74 when Joseph was born.)

Add 17 years – Genesis 47:28

Joseph is 73 years old and Jacob is 147 years old. At this age Jacob passes away and Joseph lives 37 more years until he is 110.

My intention is not to extrapolate a hidden truth or deep insight from the ages of Joseph and Jacob. I just wanted to record the ages we are given and fill in the rest. The revelation of many character-specific timing markers is infrequent so the ages of Jacob and Joseph must be of great importance. Is there anything in these timing markers that you found intriguing? The only thing that stood out to me is that Joseph, who we understand to be a messianic figure, becomes viceroy over all of Egypt at age 30, which is the same age Yeshua began his ministry. (Lk. 3:23)

In my opinion, the most perplexing passage thus far in the Torah has been the record of Jacob’s blessings and how they relate to the “days to come.” (Gn. 49:1) It is clear that the blessings are poetic and prophetic; however, they are complex.  Benjamin’s blessing, for example, appears unfitting. Joseph treats him better than all of his other brothers and yet he receives a blessing about being a ravenous wolf. (This could be why Joseph gave him 5 times as much food at the banquet but most scholars disagree with this speculation.) It would seem that Benjamin’s blessing is meant for the future and is not a current description.

The blessing for Dan has a unique verse at the end:

“I wait for your salvation, O L-rd.” Genesis 49:18

This verse sounds similar to:

 “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the G-d of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” Psalms 25:5

“But as for me, I will look to the L-rd; I will wait for the G-d of my salvation; my G-d will hear me.” Micah 7:7

The placement of the verse is fascinating because it is in the midst of the blessings but it does not seem to be part of the blessing. Also, it is strategically placed in the seventh blessing. We should all know that the number seven is significant. (Think about Shabbat! G-d literally rested on the seventh day!) In this placement we see the verse is between the blessing for Dan and Gad. Where else do we read about the positioning of the tribes? Numbers chapter 2 records the positions of the tribal encampment. In Numbers we see that Dan is encamped to the North and Gad is encamped to the South. The tribe of Judah is encamped to the East, between Dan and Gad! Issachar and Zebulun are also encamped with Judah and of course the encampments to the west would be between North and South but I thought this was interesting nonetheless.

The sages say that when Rachael forfeited a night with Jacob for mandrakes she lost the right to be buried with him. Regardless of the reason, it amazing that Jacob ends up being buried with Leah! For it was through Leah that Messiah, the Lion of Judah, was born! This means that everyone in the cave at Machpelah is an ancestor of Messiah.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the L-RD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

In conclusion, ponder this amazing demonstration of G-d’s faithfulness, grace, and love:

“And Israel said to Joseph, ‘I never expected to see your face; and behold, G-d has let me see your offspring also.’” Genesis 48:11

We may be angry, frustrated, or discontent with our current situation. We may even question His promises, but the verse above is proof that what seems impossible to us is possible for Him. What we feel like we deserve may be significantly less then what G-d wants to give. If you obey, He will bless. That is His promise. (Deut. 30:16) G-d blessed Israel with more than he could have thought or asked (Eph. 3:20) and the same is possible for us if we walk in obedience and faith. (Deut. 11:13-15)

Even as early as the book of Genesis we see the concept of a remnant. There are at least 3 different words in the Tanach for “remnant” but most of them are derived from the same root word which is שְׁאָר. In this week’s parasha we are going to explore the word for remnant used in Genesis 45:7. The word is  שְׁאֵרִית:

“And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant (שְׁאֵרִית) on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.” Genesis 45:7

It is easy to see that the word for remnant in Genesis 45:7 contains the root word. When words in Hebrew share a common root, they share a common idea. The whole Tanach is intricately woven together through the Hebrew language. Let’s continue to explore. Another use of the word שְׁאֵרִית is found in Jeremiah:

“Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.” Jeremiah 23:3

Now let’s look at the Apostolic Scriptures for the same root.

“And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant (ὑπόλειμμα hypoleimma) of them will be saved,’” Romans 9:27

The Greek word ὑπόλειμμα hypoleimma is only used once in all of Scripture. Here, is Paul is quoting from Isaiah 10:22:

“For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant (שְׁאָר)of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness.”

All of these verses are knit together by the root word for remnant. Genesis 45:7 not only describes the miraculous salvation of the tribes through Joseph but also foreshadows a future deliverance. Unfortunately, the truth is not and will not be popular. More people will have the fear of men and not the fear of G-d. In the end, only a remnant will be saved. Just as Joseph delivered the remnant of his family from the crippling famine so too will Yeshua deliver the remnant of His flock from destruction.

“He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will deliver us again.” 2 Corinthians 1:10

Throughout these last few portions Benjamin has played a significant role. This week’s portion is no exception. In chapter 46 verse there a list of each tribe and their sons with a head count totaling seventy.  Benjamin, the youngest, had ten sons, which was the most out of all of his brothers. It is also a minion, or an assembly of ten men! If he pleased, Benjamin could have established his own community with just his family. They would not have had to deal with all those cousins and they would have been able to travel faster having fewer people. Despite the benefits, Benjamin stays with his family, travels with them, and settles with them in the land of Goshen. Without remaining joined to what would later be the nation of Israel Benjamin and his family would have perished due to the famine. Once again we see salvation is inextricably linked to Israel. Even though we have little communities and families we must remain united with Israel as a whole both in the physical sense and the spiritual sense.

“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.” Romans 11:17-18

Due, in part, to Benjamin’s faithfulness the total number of Jacob’s household that went to Egypt was seventy. In Exodus we learn of the seventy elders of Israel and also in Numbers it says:

“Then the L-RD said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.” Numbers 11:16

It was no accident that the exact number of Jacob’s family that came into Egypt was also the same number designated for the amount of elders to lead Israel. Jacob’s family was the representative of Israel. Though they lived in Egypt they dwelled together and remained chaste to G-d’s instructions. The same was true for the elders. They were faithful, they dwelled together, and they represented the nation. One little discrepancy I have not been able to explain is this verse in Acts:

“And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all.” Acts 7:14

From where did the number seventy-five come? Was this a misquote or a deliberate clue? I would enjoy hearing your thoughts in the comment section.

Lesson One: Dreams can be very significant.

Lesson Two: G-d can use whomever He pleases to reveal His plan. (ex. Balam, Pharaoh)

Lesson Three: We should always present ourselves modestly and with decency to our superiors. The Torah seemingly goes out of its way to mention that Joseph “shaved and changed his clothes” before going before Pharaoh. If Joseph prepared himself to stand in front of a pagan ruler, then how much more should we present ourselves well in the presence of a righteous authority? In short, G-d cares about our appearance.

The portion closes with a significant insight. If we acknowledge the similarities between Joseph and Messiah then something interesting emerges in verse 17 of Chapter 44:

“But he said, ‘Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the man in whose hand the cup was found shall be my servant. But as for you, go up in peace to your father.’”

This verse comes after the offer for all of the brothers to become Joseph’s slaves. Joseph’s answer is both prophetic and Messianic. He righteously and adamantly rejects the idea of all of the brothers becoming servants as it is written,

“You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.” Leviticus 25:46

Only the brother with whom the cup was found will be his servant. By specifically placing the cup in Benjamin’s sack Joseph chose him to be his servant. Is this not the biblical means by which we receive salvation? Messiah chooses us and bestows the precious gift of salvation. Similarly Benjamin did not ask for the cup nor was he pleased upon his discovery of it because it meant the beginning of laborious service. Isn’t that our attitude sometimes toward our position as His servants? We allow the intimidation of obedience to quell the praise that should be on our lips. I pray this portion serves as a vivid reminder to die to our flesh and praise the Might One of Israel for His wondrous gift of salvation. Though our walk may be difficult at times His salvation comes with a promise. Just as Benjamin, whom Joseph had called, previously underwent a name change so too do we receive a new identity in Him.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

“to put off your old self,which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of G-d in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24

Shabbat Shalom

Have you heard the many parallels between the story of Joseph and Messiah? I particularly enjoy reading these portions about Joseph for that very reason! It is clear from the text that Joseph’s life was different. He was set apart. He was a remnant. His brother’s jealousy and hatred was fueled by their father’s exceeding love for Joseph. In addition, tension mounted after Joseph had two dreams revealing his eventual authority. Now, his brothers “hate him even more.” (Gn. 37:3) Jacob has an interesting response.

“Are we to come – I and your mother and your brothers – to bow down to you to the ground?” Genesis 37:10

By this time Rachael, Joseph’s mother, had passed away. Is Jacob referring to Leah? Bilhah? Or is he considering that Joseph’s dream will be fulfilled in Messianic Days when the dead will be raised? Was Jacob’s remark meant to be spiteful? One thing we do know is that Jacob guarded Joseph’s words. In the Hebrew of this passage it reads:

*וַיְקַנְאוּ־בֹו אֶחָיו וְאָבִיו *שָׁמַר אֶת־הַדָּבָֽר

shamar et-hadavar

Shamar – to guard

Davar – word

Jacob knew his son well. He knows that Joseph is highly favored and that he would not intentionally dishonor his parents.  Even though Jacob rebukes Joseph he “kept the matter in mind.” Well what happens later? Does the dream come to pass?

“And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.” Genesis 42:6

“And he said, ‘Swear to me’: and he swore to him. Then Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed.” Genesis 47:31

This still leaves out Rachael, but perhaps the dream’s interpretation was meant differently. One possibility was that Joseph’s dream was a foreshadowing of his entire family’s dependence on him in the future. Through G-d’s wisdom Joseph stored up enough food in preparation for the famine and Scripture records the following:

“And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their dependents.” Genesis 47:12

Also, the “11 stars” which represent his brothers remind me of the promise of Abraham’s descendants. The provision from G-d through Joseph sustained the lineage of Jacob! Joseph’s obedience to G-d literally saves the entire house of Israel. Hopefully this sheds more light on the interpretation of Joseph’s dream.

Why is it that when Judah hears about his daughter-in-law Tamar’s immorality that he tells them to burn her? The only two places in the Torah that I could find where we are commanded to burn someone are as follows:

“If a man takes a woman and her mother also, it is depravity; he and they shall be burned with fire, that there may be no depravity among you.” Leviticus 20:14

“And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by whoring, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire.” Leviticus 21:9

I rule the first one out because chapter 38 describes G-d’s destruction of the immoral brothers. If Judah’s wife was Tamar’s mother than I think Judah should have been killed as well, just like his sons. By the way, when the L-rd puts someone to death, there is no speculation. Everyone knows the cause of death. Here, I am leaning toward the parallels of the second verse about the “daughter of a priest.” Would it be amazing if Tamar was the daughter of a priest? We see clearly that Tamar’s son Perez is a part of Yeshua’s genealogy and that would mean priestly blood would have been in the lineage of Yeshua. Yes, you are right! Even if this was so it wouldn’t be of the line of Levi. What other priesthood is there? Melchizedek. In Hebrews 7 it is clear that Yeshua isn’t associated with the earthly priesthood through Aaron:

14For it is evident that our L-rd was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.”

I am not suggesting Tamar’s father was literally a descendant of Melchizedek. The Bible doesn’t mention anything about Melchizedek having children. So what does it all mean? Judah declared the same punishment for Tamar as merits the wayward daughter of a priest as later revealed in the Torah. Perhaps this was all a foreshadowing to Yeshua being “a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” (Ps. 110:4) Mere speculation but very mysterious nonetheless.

On the subject of Tamar and her son Perez, there is a wonderful parallel to Yeshua! Perez’s name means breech and Zerah’s name means rising. Perez, not Zerah continues the line to David and the eventually to Yeshua.

 “..and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,..” Matthew 1:3

In the story, Zerah tries to come out of the womb first, striving fervently to achieve firstborn status, but Perez ultimately breeches and is born first, just as Yeshua is firstborn. (Lk. 2:7) This reminded me of the occurrences prophesied for the eventual war between Messiah and the anti-messiah.

24His power shall be great— but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. 25By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand.” Daniel 8:24-25

Though he “rises” up against G-d’s firstborn, he will be broken. And we will be able to recognize him because he will bear the scarlet thread of sin. Lawlessness is proof of his identity and his deceitful intentions. Be not deceived and hold fast to the Word of G-d. (Pr. 4:4) Repent (Mt. 3:2) and put your faith in Messiah Yeshua who alone is eternal life. (1 Jn. 5:11)

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the L-RD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” Jeremiah 33:14

It would seem that in the first few verses of this portion Esau’s intent was to attack Jacob. The angels sent from Jacob return and relay the message,

“We came to your brother, to Esau; moreover, he is heading toward you, and four hundred men are with him.” Genesis 32:7

This would be “very frightening” for several reasons in my opinion. The first reason is traveling with four hundred men without any mention of family demonstrates an intention to fight. The second reason is Jacob was dwelling with all of his children and wives. The last reason is that besides his sons he only had servants with which to defend himself and his family. In the midst of his distress Jacob does something we should all do in times of calamity; pray. It is G-d’s faithfulness and answer to prayer that saves Jacob from the hand of Esau.

“Rescue me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear lest he come and strike me down, mother and children.” Genesis 32:12

G-d’s answer to the prayer of Jacob is very similar to G-d’s answer to the prayer of David:

“He rescued me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.” Psalm 18:17

Jacob was facing a strong enemy (Gen. 25:27), and Esau did hate him (Gen. 27:41), and Esau far outnumbered Jacob. Yet G-d saved him, just as He saved David. Prayer is an essential element in our relationship with G-d and this week’s portion reveals a fundamental truth. Our prayer should always include G-d’s word.

“And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in Your rules.” Pslam 119:43

But He answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of G-d.’” Matthew 4:4

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” Matthew 6:7

In Genesis 32:9-12, Jacob specifically prays the promises made to him and his fathers. His prayer is personal, his prayer is humble, and his prayer is glorifying to G-d. In addition, our verbal prayer is a personal reminder of G-d’s faithfulness. When we continuously declare the Word of the L-rd then we are continually hearing the Word of the L-rd. We are at war will fleshly distractions and frequent prayer is our best defense. We should live by the Word. We should desire to have His desires. If we truly want “the L-rd’s will to be done” then we should be praying in accordance with His will revealed to us in the Bible.

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16

Jacob’s prayer request was to be delivered from his brother Esau, and G-d answered his prayer. G-d answered the prayer of the children of Israel in Egypt and saved them. In the same way, G-d will eternally save whom He has chosen. If we humbly pray, repent, and seek after G-d then by the blood of Yeshua we will be saved and our sins will be forgiven. Hallelujah!

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

One of the most surprising parts of this week’s parasha is that through all the traveling, confusion, deceit, and bickering, G-d is still with Jacob and He still speaks to him. This may not seem amazing to you but while reading I kept hoping that Jacob would eventually take David’s advice from Psalm 34:14 and: “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” It wasn’t that Jacob participated in a lot of the sin but it seemed to take a long time before he realized he should “turn away” from Laban and move on. Nevertheless G-d was with him, blessed him, granted him favor, and spoke to him. It is truly a miracle that throughout the trials and tribulations Jacob faced that G-d brought forth the 12 tribes of Israel! The whole story is orchestrated by G-d.

“When the L-RD saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.”  Genesis 29:31

 “And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘This time I will praise the L-RD.’ Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing.’”  Genesis 29:35

 “And G-d listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.”  Genesis 30:17

 “Then G-d remembered Rachel, and G-d listened to her and opened her womb.”  Genesis 30:22

This should come as no surprise considering G-d’s promise not to leave Jacob.

“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.” Genesis 28:15

 He is faithful. He is merciful. He is the Master of the universe. If ever you have been challenged by someone subscribing to dispensational theology regarding the lack of grace in the Torah it is quite clear the challenger has not read the Torah. This portion alone is a beautiful example of G-d’s grace toward Jacob and his family. Jacob is privileged to have several encounters with G-d and be involved in the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. G-d promises the land of Israel to Abraham and an abundance of offspring in Genesis 22:16-18, then He reiterates that promise to Isaac in Genesis 26:2-5, and now we have the same promise mentioned also to Jacob in Genesis 28:14-15. This promise is from G-d and it is continually spoken by G-d. How gracious is He to remind us of His promises!

The promise to Abraham is reiterated to Jacob in his dream about the ladder that reached heavenward. This fascinating passage is teeming with messianic foreshadows.  To begin, scripture tells us:

 “Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep.” Genesis 28:11

 We know the “place” is called Bethel which means house of G-d. Also we know from scripture that Messiah Yeshua is likened unto a stone several times.

 “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Psalm 118:22

 “So this is what the Sovereign L-RD says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.’” Isaiah 28:16

 “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom G-d raised from the dead—by Him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:8-12

 “Come, let us sing for joy to the L-RD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.” Psalm 95:1

Jacob essentially finds rest in the “stone” from the House of G-d just like we who are heavy-laden seek our comfort and strength from Messiah. (Matt. 11:28) As for the dream he sees a ladder extending from the earth to the heavens and angels are ascending and descending. Messiah Yeshua also ascended and descended.

“And he said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of G-d ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’” John 1:51

32Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of G-d is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ 34They said to Him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ 35Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.’” John 6:32-35

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” John 6:38

Then G-d spoke to Jacob in the dream and reiterated the promise given to Abraham, tells him He will bring him back to the land, tells him that the families of the earth will be blessed by him, and finally promises to be with him. Messiah serves an important role throughout all of the things mentioned to Jacob, especially the ingathering of the exiles and the establishment of His kingdom in Jerusalem. After Jacob awoke he rightfully acknowledges that he is present in the house of G-d, but he also declares the place is the “gate of heaven.” What an interesting description! My understanding of a gate is an entrance to a fortified location. Who is the only way to eternal life? Who guards the way?

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” John 14:6

Another intriguing parallel is that Jacob pours oil on the stone after he is cognizant of the holy place on which he has been standing. So too, will Messiah Yeshua be publically proclaimed as G-d’s anointed Son and as King.

26 ‘The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the L-rd and against His Anointed’—27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” Acts 4:26-28

It would appear that Jacob saw the gate of heaven and the house of G-d. It is important to focus on Jacob’s reaction following such an awe-inspiring occurrence. (1) He demonstrated fear of G-d, (2) made a vow of dedication and service, (3) and he “went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east.”(Gen. 29:1) Shouldn’t being born again lead to the previous actions? Should we not, for the first time, fear the King of the universe and vow to be His servant? Of course if we fear Him, then we must keep His commandments (Ecc. 12:13) and we would seek to dwell with the body of Messiah. We would no longer fellowship with the world but we would separate ourselves from the world and fellowship with the congregation of Messiah. As you read this week’s portion, I encourage you today to focus on our Messiah. Glorify Him and give thanks to the G-d of our salvation. “Oh give thanks to the L-RD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!” (Ps. 106:1)

The narrative continues and we read about the generations of Abraham. Isn’t it interesting how the portion begins with,

“And these are the offspring of Isaac son of Abraham – Abraham begot Isaac.” Genesis 25:19

But then 2 verses later it says,

“Isaac entreated HaShem opposite his wife, because she was barren.” Genesis 25:21

This should come as no surprise to us who believe the promise to Abraham just as he believed. We should not even have to continue reading to know that Isaac and Rebecca bear children.  Though we would miss out on beautiful demonstrations of G-d’s faithfulness and power if we did not continue. I believe that is why it was important to state that Rebecca was barren. It is another wonderful proof that nothing is impossible for G-d!

In looking at the Hebrew we find a word in Genesis 25:22 that has not been used thus far.

“The children struggled [ וַיִּתְרֹֽצֲצוּ ] together within her…”

Not only is this the first usage of the word but it is the only time this word is used as “struggle.” The most common translation of the word is “oppress.” The literal meaning of the word [ וַיִּתְרֹֽצֲצוּ ] fits perfectly with G-d’s answer to Rebecca’s question.

“And HaShem said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.’” Genesis 25:23

Anytime you have a stronger and older person being ruled by a younger person there will be a struggle. It is easy to be swayed by physical traits. The world would acknowledge the bigger, stronger, and older as the ruler, but G-d establishes the younger as the ruler. (King David is another great example) Regardless of the oppression Esau and his descendents place on Jacob and his descendents G-d will not break His promise. We reflect on this biblical truth today as we witness Israel being preserved and protected amidst the Arab oppression. The descendents of Esau will continue to make war against Israel, but there will be a day (may it be soon and in our days) when Messiah Yeshua comes and physically manifests His kingship.  On that day all the earth will see that Messiah Yeshua, a descendent of Jacob, rules over the nations. Hallelujah!

Also contained in this portion is a perplexing question. When Esau returned from hunting and served delicacies to his father Isaac after Jacob had just received the blessing scripture says,

“Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, ‘Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.’” Genesis 27:33

This verse contains the first use of two words for “tremble” [ וַיֶּחֱרַד ] and [ חֲרָדָה ], which is understood throughout scripture as afraid or fearful. The perplexing question is, of what or of who was Isaac afraid? Was he afraid that Esau was going to harm Jacob? Was he afraid because he thought he somehow disobeyed G-d? In this passage it seems like Isaac did not need any assistance in knowing that Jacob had taken the blessing. Who else could it have been? I believe Isaac was afraid because he knew he had blessed the wrong person. He may have been worried about the effect his blessing would have upon the promise of descendents. Nevertheless, G-d used this whole situation to fulfill the promise given to Rebecca about which son would rule the other. Another explanation is offered in the book, Midrash Tanhuma-Yelammedenu: an English translation of Genesis and Exodus from the printed version of Tanhuma-Yelammedenu with an introduction, notes, and indexes by Samuel A. Berman:

“Scripture states elsewhere in allusion to this verse: The fear of man bringeth a snare; but whoso putteth his trust in the L-rd shall be set up on high (Prov. 29:25). Because of the fear that Jacob brought upon Isaac, it would have been fitting for him to have cursed him. Who compelled him to bless Jacob? Whoso putteth his trust in the L-rd shall be set up on high. R. Levi said in the name of R. Hama the son of Hanina: Isaac was terrified twice, once when he was bound upon the altar, and again when Esau entered. There is no way of knowing which event frightened him more, but since the word exceedingly is mentioned in this verse, you may presume that this was the more terrifying experience. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel: Because of the evil inclination, you do not pursue My ways in this world, but in the future I will place within you a new heart;  And I will put a new spirit within you; you I will remove the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh (Ezek. 11:19).”

Further reading on the topic reveals,

“The trembling, the anxiety of Yitzchak, has troubled commentators since Chazal. The midrash, feeling the dread implied in the word ‘charada gedola,’ says this refers to a feeling of gehinom; he felt the opening of hell, of death, before him.”1

In this case, it is not about the answer, it is about the search. The cause of Isaac’s trembling is debated, even among the commentators, yet it is still helpful to inquire and discuss.  The Torah is our guidebook for living and it is our responsibility to read, study, and obey.

Shalom

1http://www.vbm-torah.org/parsha/06toldot.htm
PARASHAT TOLDOT by Rav Ezra Bick; (c) Yeshivat Har Etzion1997

The first interesting point in this week’s parasha is the puzzling name for the parasha chosen by the Sages. Chayei Sarah translates to “Life of Sarah” but the first part of the portion is about Sarah’s death and burial. The intention here, if I understand it correctly, is to demonstrate the legacy of Sarah. Even though she has passed away we see the influence of her life on Isaac as he takes Rebecca as a bride, Abraham as he sends away the “concubine-children” [Gen. 25:6] from Isaac just like Ishmael, and Ishmael himself as he comes back to fulfill the mitzvah of burying his father.

“By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitudes – innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Hebrews 11:11-13

In parasha Chayei Sarah we see the progressive fulfillment of the promises given to Abraham and Sarah. These promises continue even to this day. Though their lives ended HaShem’s promises are amaranthine. We can learn from how Abraham and Sarah lived out their faith. Yes, Sarah lived to see her promised son Isaac born but she did not live to see kings of peoples rise from her. [Gen. 17:16] Abraham lived to see G-d do as He promised to Sodom and Gomorrah but he did not live to see his offspring become increased like the stars in the heavens. [Gen. 22:17] Nevertheless they feared G-d and obeyed His every word. Even so, we may not live to see the second coming of Yeshua but we should, by faith, live as though it were today. If you knew Yeshua was coming back today, how would that change your walk?

Other interesting concepts in this week’s parasha are the similarities between Abraham and his brother Nahor’s family despite the physical distance. In regard to hospitality both entreat their guests to stay, wash their feet, and provide food. We know this of Abraham from last week’s parasha and we know this of Nahor’s son and grandson here:

“He said, ‘Come, O blessed of HaShem! Why should you stand outside when I have cleared the house and place for the camels?’ 32 So the man entered the house, and unmuzzled the camels. He gave straw and feed for the camels, and water to bathe his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. 33 Food was set before him, but he said, ‘I will not eat until I have spoken my piece.’” Genesis 24:31-33

It appears that hospitality was a defining characteristic in Abraham’s family. Was Terah the person who inculcated generous hospitality? It would seem so since we read accounts of Abraham’s hospitality [Terah’s son], Lot’s hospitality [Terah’s grandson], and Laban’s hospitality [Terah’s great grandson]. Here we have a beautiful example of generational faithfulness specifically relating to hospitality.

Here is another similarity between Abraham and Nahor’s family in regard to blessing:

[Laban and his Mother to Rebecca] “They blessed Rebecca and said to her, ‘Our sister, may you come to be thousands of myriads, and may your offspring inherit the gate of its foes.’” Genesis 24:60

[G-d to Abraham] “that I shall surely bless you and greatly increase your offspring like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore and your offspring shall inherit the gate of its enemy.” Genesis 22:17

Did Abraham’s family know the blessing G-d gave him after the binding of Isaac? Either way the blessing given to Rebecca was prophetic. My intention for highlighting similarities between both families is to emphasize the importance of the biblical selection process for a spouse.

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14

Abraham knew the importance of Isaac finding a virtuous woman which is why he forced his servant to take such a strong oath.

“And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh,” Genesis 24:2

Interestingly enough the word here for thigh is יְרֵכִֽי which can also be understood as loins or related to the word for descendants as it is in this verse:

“All the descendants of Jacob [ יֶֽרֶךְ־יַעֲקֹב ] were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt.” Exodus 1:5

It was as if Abraham was swearing an oath on his descendants! In other words, Abraham declared that the fulfillment of the oath [finding a wife for Isaac from his country and his family] was directly related to the fulfillment of G-d’s promise of innumerable descendants! Both were dependent on G-d. Abraham’s servant realized this which is why he relied solely on G-d for the success of the quest. Finding a righteous wife was an essential ingredient for generational faithfulness and the servant used a revealing test. Would this beautiful young woman willingly demonstrate righteousness and love beyond what is requested? Rebecca completed the challenge and agreed to be Isaac’s wife.

Too often marriages are formed based on emotion. Marriage is too important to rely on ourselves. This passage in Genesis is just one of the many places where G-d reveals His process for selecting a spouse. Notice the important traits of Rebecca: Generous, loving, obedient, pure, beautiful, AND she demonstrated these characteristics before she knew someone was even interested in her! When these traits are faked or they manifest themselves during the “in love” euphoria it is easy to fall prey to the call of the siren. Brothers and sisters, I implore you to heed the wise words from the Song of Solomon and “..not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” [Song of Solomon 2:7] We have been promised that our inclusion of G-d and stringent selection criterion will evoke blessing.

Shalom.

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