Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #8: Vayishlach ( He sent) B’resheit ( Genesis) 32:4-36:43
Haftarah : Ovadyah (Obadiah) 1-21 (S)
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 7:1-12
Continuing with the theme of the vast differences in the spiritual characteristics between Ya’akov (Jacob) and Esav (Esau), we find further evidence in the reunion of these two brothers. Recall that Esav had said to himself that he would kill Jacob, yet these words were reported to Rivkah and she subsequently warned Jacob and told him to flee to Haran (Gen. 27:41-44). Jacob remembered his brother’s previous hatred for him and made every attempt to reconcile with him (Gen. 32;4-33:16).
Jacob’s attempt at establishing peace with “the enemy” is consistent with the proper approach of ones’ enemies, whether an individual or nation. It is always best to settle differences peacefully if possible as G-d’s Torah teaches (Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:8). Next, he prepares lavish gifts in separate droves. This strategy is somewhat synonymous with “economy of force” which is one of the tenets of war. In other words, Jacob did not put all of his “eggs in one basket.” Most importantly however, was Jacob’s humility to submit to Esav, calling himself “your servant” throughout the narrative, and his heartfelt prayer to G-d for deliverance from the hand of Esav (Gen. 32:12). Again, Jacob is reiterating G-d’s instructions to return to his native land and that G-d would deal bountifully with him and a second reiteration adding “ Yet, you have said, ‘I will deal bountifully with you and make your offspring as the sands of the sea, which are too numerous to count” (Gen. 32:13). Jacob used this technique of essentially reinforcing G-d’s words to him in the previous parashah in Gen. 28:20 where he made a vow to tithe based on G-d’s plan revealed to him in Gen. 28:13-15. This reinforcement of G-d’s promises and reassurances to us is not an uncommon practice among those who need to be reassured when spiritual storm clouds loom over our heads. This technique of recalling G-d’s promises from time to time can provide great peace and strength as we prepare for whatever type of “battle” situation lies ahead.
Moving to the encounter between Jacob and Esav in Gen. 33:4, we find a phrase that is not in the Septuagint. In the Masoretic text which is the traditional rabbinic version codified in the late first millennium CE, dots appear over the phrase, possibly to indicate its doubtful status in the manuscript tradition. There are two interesting midrashim concerning this issue; neither can be validated but I will share them just the same. The first interprets the dots to mean that Esav actually wholeheartedly kissed Jacob out of compassion, which would have been very uncharacteristic based on his personality. Another midrash proposes that Esav intended to bite his brother on the neck (nashakh) rather than kissing (nasak) him, but G-d hardened Jacob’s neck, thwarting Esav’s intent ( Gen. Rab. 78.9).
Next, we move to the presenting of gifts. The term Esav uses when Jacob first offers the gifts is that “ I have plenty already (Gen. 33:9). Yet, Jacob uses a different term when speaking about G-d dealing kindly with him: “ G-d has dealt kindly with me and I have enough” ( Gen. 33:11). There is a subtle but important difference between having plenty and having enough. Plenty means enough and potentially more. Enough indicates sufficient amount; no need for more. Esav’s use of “plenty” to describe his possessions and wealth supports his selfish or insatiable appetite for physical possessions compared to Jacob’s use of “enough” to indicate G-d has met all of his needs without need for more. Indeed, Esav finally accepted Jacob’s gifts when he could have been persistent in refusing them; especially when he was in the position of the one being honored by his younger brother.
Another example of Esav’s self-centered attitude is found in the next passage ( Gen. 33:12; “ Esav said, ‘ Let’s break camp and get going. I’ll go first.” This statement speaks volumes about Esav’s selfishness. There is no regard for his men’s welfare. In contrast, Jacob expresses concern for the children and the young animals who could not stand being pushed to travel. This is the heart of a servant; always considering the welfare of others first. Jacob went on to Sukkot where he built a house and built shelters for his cattle, thus the name of the place called Sukkot (shelters). Esav returned to Se’ir which is the name for a mountainous region stretching between the Dead Sea and the Gulf od Aqaba in the northwestern region of Edom and southeast of the Kingdom of Judah. Interestingly, the word Se’ir translates as hairy, goat, demon, tempest.
Now I want to explore the only daughter of Jacob and Leah who is essentially ignored other than in the account of her wandering out of the camp and getting raped. Granted, she went out of the protection of her father’s house and was going to visit the local girls, but we should not be so quick to judge her. She grew up in a family where she witnessed the conflict between two sisters married to the same man. We don’t know how this conflict and knowing her mother was unloved while Rachel was the favored wife affected her.
It seems that no one paid much attention to Dinah until she left her family’s camp. She was not given notice until she wandered out and weas raped by Shechem who the son of the leader of the city. Although Shechem loved and wanted to marry Dinah, her brothers only saw that she had been violated and their family insulted by an individual from a foreign nation. There is no record of any fatherly advice from Jacob. Rather, his sons took matters into their own hands. Yet, Dinah does not seem to have been consoled or comforted. We do not know how Dinah felt, but scripture does not record anything further about her life.
There are probably many people who can identify with Dinah, who may have felt used, forgotten, and unnoticed. But we must never forget that although those around us, society, and the world may ignore or forget us. G-d never forgets. In reality, G-d values us as a special treasure; a separate and holy people who he expects to set the example for the rest of the world on how to behave toward fellow humans and G-d. We should never assign a value to ourselves based on societal norms or values promoted through the media. These norms and values are fickle and unrealistic, reflecting only human expectations and desires. G-d’s values (laws, commands, instructions) never change. If we love Him and strive to keep His commands, we cannot be taken from His hand(John 10:28).
Haftarah: Ovadyah (Obadiah) 1-21
The punishment of Edom, the descendants of Esau is mentioned this week. Ovadyah (Obadiah), himself an Edomian converted to Judaism, describes the punishment destined for the nation Edom. This fact that Ovadyah is a convert from Edom illustrates that any person can come to Yahshua from any nation. Ovadyah found a special place in G-d’s plan as his name indicates (servant of G-d). His prophesies occurred at around 900 BCE. The Edomites did not come to Judea’s assistance when she was being destroyed by the Babylonians, and even joined in like a pack of wild dogs. Many years later the Edomites (the Roman Empire) destroyed the Second Temple and killed or enslaved their Jewish cousins without any mercy or remorse.
Though the Roman Empire was one of the mightiest in world history, Obadiah forewarns that G-d will bring down those who attempt to place themselves among the stars and fly high as the eagle. “And the house of Jacob shall be fire and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau shall become stubble, and they shall ignite them and consume them, and the house of Esau shall have no survivors, for the L-rd has spoken.”
After describing the division of Esau’s lands amongst the returning Judean exiles, this passage concludes with this beautiful familiar passage: “And saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, and the L-rd shall have the kingdom.” Ken yehi ratzon! (May it be so soon/speedily).
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 7:1-12
In the beginning verses of this passage, we read of the impending Tribulation. However, there is a blessed hope for those who are true believers and those sealed to serve G-d through this time (NOT the Church!) In the typical symbolic language of G-d’s Torah according to Matthew Henry, the blowing of the four winds together signals a dreadful and general destruction of the Tribulation. But the destruction is delayed. Seals are used to mark those of the 12 Tribes listed in this passage. Note that Levi is now a tribe. Why? Because true believers from the loins of Avraham belong to a higher priesthood (1 Pet. 2), of Melchizedek, who was an antitype of Yahshua. Those who are saved when they stand before Yahshua will be administering His Millennial Kingdom. The Levites will be supervising the sacrifices in the 3rd Temple. Dan is no longer listed. Although Ruben was the first born, we see that Judah is listed first. The tribe of Joseph and M’nasheh are half-tribes from the Son of Joseph. Now they are split into two separate tribes. We do not know if the seals are visible to those marked, if they can be seen by other believers, or if they are only visible to HaSatan and his followers. Whatever the case, G-d will protect them from harm as they carry out their mission of witnessing to Jews who have not accepted Yahshua as the Messiah. Note: this is NOT a conversion to Christianity. Rather, it is the acceptance of the second requirement of the seven-fold witness stipulated by Yahshua for those who want to be considered true believers. The witnesses will tell those who are alive on the earth at this time about the Kingdom of G-d that is about to come and of Yahshua’s return as Messiah ben David. Judah will understand this terminology as their eyes will certainly be opened by G-d to see these truths. The sealed ones will also tell of the wrath of G-d that is about to fall on those who oppose Yahshua’s coming and choose to reject His Word. A profession of faith is clearly not going to cut it. Action speaks louder than words. When their mission has been fulfilled by G-d’s plan, the end shall come as prophesied in Matt. 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom [not of faith] shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then the end shall come.” True believers will be teaching in direct opposition to the forces of the harlot World Church that has within it the replacement theology that G-d has rejected the Jews and is therefore no longer any earthly provision for a Jewish kingdom. Many who follow the harlot will be expecting an all-inclusive Messiah, not a Jewish one. The Messiah who many already have and will accept is the counterfeit Messiah (Antimessiah). The world can either accept the truth that the 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel preach or they will continue to choose deceptive teachings and beliefs consistent with secular humanism and false religion labeled by Yahshua as apostate (Rev. 17-18). Those who reject the message of those sealed by G-d will believe that HaSatan is G-d and that the Babylonian Kingdom he rules fulfills the promise of a kingdom of G-d. They will take the mark of the beast and by doing so will receive the same fate as the beast, his false prophet and Satan at the judgment. They will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Those Jews from Judah (tribes of Benjamin, Judah, and Levites) who repent and accept Yahshua during the Tribulation will be martyred (Rev 13:15). However, they will understand this does not compare to eternity with YHVH/Yahshua in the New Jerusalem. However, let us not assume an elitist attitude. The grafted branches are in the same Olive Tree as the natural branches when all is said and done (Ezekiel 37). A study of Romans chapters 9-11 makes it clear that all people who fulfill the requirements of the seven-fold witness in the book of Revelation as the definition of a true believer according to Yahshua, whether Jew or Gentile, make up the bride of Yahshua spoken of throughout the Bible and in Revelation specifically. Israel in this context consists of these true believers, again, NOT the Church! After all, according Hebrews 12:22-24 describes the promise of a new covenant (not for Christians) that was made with the house of Israel and Judah, not to Gentiles (Jer.31:31-33). The new covenant spoken of in these verses in no way implies a new system that advocates abrogation of G-d’s laws, regulations, or statutes. Yahshua came to interpret his Father’s laws in a way that man can understand; not only in His teachings, but by His life.
There is no difference between G-d/Yahshua in the Old Testament or His definition of a true believer. He is One and remains “asher haya v’hoveh v’yavo (Who was, and Who is, and Who is to come).” May it be in our lifetimes.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart