Last week, in Toldot, after falling into Rebekah’s snare, Jacob was forced to flee for his life from his brother, Esau. Before sending him away, Isaac granted the blessing intended for Jacob all along.
Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women. Arise, go to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father, and take as your wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!” (Gen. 28:1-4)
According to the timetable constructed by the sages, Jacob was 63 years old when he left for Haran and 84 years old when he married Rachel, after working for her seven years. Because Jacob arrived in Haran penniless, they surmise he was robbed along the way, possibly by Esau or his offspring. They reason it is inconceivable Isaac would have sent Jacob without wealth and gifts, as did Abraham when he sent his servant to find Isaac’s wife. The sages further speculate that after Jacob was relieved of his wealth, he fled to the house of Eber for some years to lick his wounds, try to make sense of all that had befallen him, and seek wisdom.
A Ladder that Leads to Life
As Jacob was leaving for Haran, he stopped for the night at a certain place and dreamed of a ladder to Heaven on which angels were descending and ascending. This was Jacob’s personal initiation to the Kingdom of Heaven.
And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached 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 Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring 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.” (Gen 28:11-16)
God chose to reveal Himself to Jacob as “the ladder.” Yeshua later revealed Himself as that very ladder to Nathaniel:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51)
As we read the above promises to Jacob, we must remember that they are not exclusively for Jacob or his direct descendants. They are for all Israel, the House of Jacob.
The angel Gabriel told Mary that her son would “reign over the House of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:33)
It is time that we see ourselves as part of Jacob’s house. Jacob was renamed Israel, as we will soon see. Israel is the overcomer. Israel is the one walking in covenant by keeping Yahweh’s commandments. Israel is the Bride.
“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land.” (Gen 28:15)
The Jewish people have been scattered to the ends of the earth due to exile, persecution, pogroms, and other forms of anti-Semitism. Yet God has blessed them exceedingly in every field of endeavor. The Holocaust and the subsequent birth of the modern state of Israel are partial fulfillment of God’s promise to be with Jacob and bring him back to the land.
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” And 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.” So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. (Gen 28:16-19)
“Bethel “means “house of God.” “Luz,” according to Hitchcock Bible Names Dictionary means “almond” and “separation” and provides evidence of both God’s approval of Jacob and his purpose for him. Subsequent to the rebellion of Korah, Aaron’s almond rod budded overnight with fragrant blossoms and almonds, thereby demonstrating that God had chosen him and set him and his sons apart for the priesthood. (Num 17:8) And it was here in Bethel that Jacob, likewise, was set apart, separated, for the service of God.
Unlike Abraham and Isaac, Jacob had no flocks from which to offer a sacrifice to commemorate this spectacular event. The best he could do was to offer a cruse of oil and a promise. Contrary to commentary which supposes that Jacob is trying to strike a deal with God, I believe his prayer demonstrates his utter poverty of hope. Sent by his father to take a wife, yet he is now destitute. In Hebrew thought, to take a wife means to build a house. By this time, Jacob is somewhere between 63 and 77 years of age, and I believe Jacob realizes that his only hope of success is in God’s faithfulness to the Covenant. Note that he does not ask for wealth. He simply asks that God supply his basic needs and bring him back to his father having accomplished the mission for which he was sent. And in return for this grace, Jacob promises to build God’s house:
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” (Gen 28:20-22)
The author of the Expositors Bible comments that Jacob set up a monument and attached a vow to it by faith, so that when he returned to that spot the stone would remind him of his utter dependence on God at that moment, of the precarious situation he was in when God appeared to him, and of all the help God had afterwards given him.
“Then Jacob lifted up his feet and came to the land of the people of the east” (Gen 29:1 Young’s Literal Translation)
Matthew Henry points out this marginal reading of the verse, noting that the Hebrew words imply that, inspired by his encounter with God, he went cheerfully on his journey, with great expectations of God’s loving kindness.
As Jacob approached Haran, he came to a well. We are again reminded of the servant who was sent on Abraham’s behalf to fetch a bride for Isaac. It was most likely the same well. Both ultimately had to deal with Laban, Rebekah’s brother and father of Leah and Rachel. But, while Abraham’s servant arrived with ten camels loaded with gifts and immediately was approached by a beautiful maiden who ran to give him a drink, and then ran to water his camels, Jacob arrived with absolutely nothing, only to face a huge stone over the well’s mouth.
As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep lying beside it, for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well’s mouth was large, and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place over the mouth of the well. (Gen 29: 2-3)
Jacob encountered the “stumbling stone” (Isaiah 8:14) and “the stone that the builders rejected.” (Psalm 118:22) The “three flocks” here picture the three great monotheistic religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All have, in one form or another, rejected Yeshua. Judaism, for the most part, is blinded to His first coming; Christianity does not recognize Him as the one who gave the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai; and Islam sees Him as the prophet that will in the end embrace their Mahdi, the twelfth imam, who will rid the world of Christians and Jews forever.
Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud. (Gen 29:10-11)
Jacob had heard the story, no doubt, over and over, of how Abraham’s servant was miraculously led to Rebekah. So, in particular after his own recent encounter with the LORD, Jacob’s expectations were full blown that he would likewise meet his bride at this well. When the beautiful young shepherdess appeared, he knew with a certainty that she belonged to him. With the same energy and enthusiasm that Rebekah had demonstrated in watering Abraham’s ten camels, Jacob heaved the stone and watered Laban’s sheep.
And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son, and she ran and told her father. As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he ran to meet him and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things. (Gen 29:12-13)
Presumably, Jacob confessed to Laban all that had transpired and the reason he was destitute. Due to Jacob being his sister’s son, he made him welcome.
Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” And he stayed with him a month. (Gen 29:14)
Apparently Jacob quickly demonstrated superior knowledge in caring for Laban’s flocks, for Laban issued an invitation for him to remain.
Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” (Gen 29: 15-18)
Laban agreed and Jacob served seven years, though they seemed but a few days because of the love he had for her. When the seven years were up, Jacob reminded Laban of the agreement:
Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” (Gen 29:21)
Laban prepared a great feast and invited all the people of the land. But, in the evening, he took Leah and gave her to Jacob, along with Zilpah. The sages suggest that this was one reason Jacob was fooled. Zilpah and Bilhah, they say, were sisters; and Zilpah the younger had been attending Rachel. Thus, when Jacob saw Zilpah coming from the tent, he was confident his beloved Rachel was inside; but, “in the morning, behold, it was Leah!” (Gen 29:25)
Jacob confronted Laban:
“What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.” (Gen 29: 25-26)
Whether or not Laban knew the details of why Jacob had to flee the Promised Land, Jacob learned that “your sin will find you out.” (Num 32:23) Just as he had pretended to be his brother, Esau, and deceived his father, so did Leah pretend to be Rachel to deceive him. Laban’s words decreed the consequences of Rebekah’s snare. And so, Jacob, who loved only one woman, ended up with two wives and a house very much divided.
The Generational Dilemma – Barrenness
Jacob served another seven years for Rachel and he deeply loved the beautiful shepherdess; but Rachel, like Sarah and Rebekah before her, was barren. Leah, on the other hand, the one with weak or tender eyes, conceived immediately and gave birth to four sons in quick succession. Reuben “behold, a son”; Simeon “heard”; Levi “joined”; and Judah “praise.”
Rachel was envious and said, “Give me children, or I shall die!” (Gen 30:1) Jacob, angry with her, retorted, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” (Gen 30:2) Then, conceding to the culture as had Abraham and Sarah, Rachel offered her maidservant Bilhah as a surrogate. Bilhah gave birth to Dan, meaning “judge,” followed by Naphtali, “wrestling,” both named by Rachel. Leah, not to be outdone, seeing she had ceased bearing, offered Zilpah to Jacob and Zilpah soon bore Gad, “good fortune,” and Asher, “happy,” as Leah named them.
Next in the reading is found a story that the sages have struggled to comprehend. Reuben found some mandrakes and brought them to Leah. The frustrated Rachel asked Leah for them and even bargained that Jacob could sleep in Leah’s tent that night in exchange for the mandrakes. But, if Rachel thought the “love apples” as they are sometimes called, were an effective remedy for barrenness or offered any magical powers, as some have proposed, she was sorely disappointed. As if to confirm this, the Torah tells us that the whole scheme backfired. “And God listened to Leah” (Gen 30:17) and it was Leah’s womb that was opened! Issachar, whose name means “reward,” came forth, followed by Zebulun, “well endowed” and, finally, Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah, “justice.”
But, at last, God remembered the frustrated Rachel and heard her prayers and she gave birth to her firstborn son, Joseph, which means “may God add another.”
We who have been brought up in the Church well understand that Joseph is a ‘type’ (representation) of Messiah. But, I should stop here to interject that the Jewish people through the ages have actually looked for two Messiahs. They see all sorts of allusions to a messiah in the story of Joseph and are prepared for a “Messiah ben Joseph” (Messiah, Son of Joseph) who will provide atonement for the sins of the Jewish people. In addition, they discuss the idea that the torture and persecution of Jewish sages, as well as the deaths of six million Jewish souls in World War II, could be the fulfillment of this “suffering servant.” Blinded for our sakes (Romans 11:25), their eyes are not open to see that “God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only-begotton Son…” (John 3:16)
In the mindset of Judaism, a second Messiah will come as a mighty conqueror and establish God’s kingdom on earth. This “Son of David” or Messiah ben David will not only dash his enemies into pieces with a “rod of iron” (Psalm 2:9), He will gather all twelve tribes of Israel, as well as the stranger who dwells with them, to the Promised Land in fulfillment of the Torah, the Psalms, and the Prophets. (Deut 30:3-4, Psalm 106:47, Isa 11:12, Isa 43:5-8, Isa 60:4, Jer 23:3, Jer 31:10, Jer 32:37, Eze 11:17, Eze 20:34-41, Eze 34:11-16, Eze 36:24, Eze 37:21, Micah 2:12, Micah 4:6, Zeph 3:19-20, Zec 10:8-10. This is certainly not an exhaustive list. Note also that this idea of being gathered from the nations is expounded in Mat 24:31, Mark 13:27, John 11:52, Eph 1:10.)
Did you catch that?
In Jewish eschatology, Messiah does not return to take his people to Heaven; rather, He returns to take them to Israel!
When this idea was first introduced to me, it sent me scurrying to read my Bible with new eyes. A thorough search revealed numerous verses like those listed above which say that God will “gather” His people and take them to Israel. A passage from Ezekiel’s vision of the “dry bones” makes it plain that this will occur at the resurrection of the righteous.
Therefore prophesy, and say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.” (Eze 37:12-13)
In addition to gathering His people from the four corners of the earth, Messiah ben David will teach Torah from Mount Zion (Isaiah 2:3, Micah 4:2); He will re-build the Temple (Eze 37:26-28); and He will establish world peace (Isaiah 11:6, Zech 14:9).
For the most part, the Jewish faithful have not been able to grasp the possibility that one Messiah will, in fact, fulfill both roles with two “comings.” Part of the responsibility lies with the Church, which, in general, presents a false Messiah who replaced the Sabbath and other Holy Days with holidays long ago dedicated to pagan deities and died so that His followers can eat pork and shellfish.
Back to our Torah portion.
God Prospers Jacob
After the birth of Joseph, Jacob longed to return to his father. (Gen 30:25) Though Jacob sojourned in Babylon, he could not be satisfied until he returned to the Promised Land. Laban, however, knowing full well that his prosperity was directly attributable to Jacob, pressured his son-in-law to stay, and invited him to name his price.
Jacob argued that though Laban’s flocks had greatly prospered under his watchful eye, he was little more than an indentured servant. The years were catching up with him; he wanted to provide an inheritance for his own family. Jacob proposed that he would continue to shepherd Laban’s flocks if Laban would give him a chance to develop a flock of his own. He proposed the speckled, spotted, and dark sheep, obviously the minority, as his compensation.
“So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come to look into my wages with you.” (Gen 30:33)
Such markings would not only constitute a convenient way to denote each animal’s rightful owner, but, would practically prevent either party from accusing the other of wrong-doing.
Let us stop and consider these speckled, spotted, and dark sheep. The words mean “marked,” “variegated”, and “brown or black,” respectively. Therefore, this remnant pictures the Jewish people, marked by Satan because they hold dear the precious scrolls that contain the Word of God, and therefore, the promise of his defeat and destruction. They are “variegated” because they, along with the other tribes, were scattered over the entire world and now are sprouting up worldwide, presenting a colorful tapestry of believers, not unlike Joseph’s coat, from every tribe and tongue. The brown or black ones, to me, represent the demonic depictions of the Jewish people throughout history as Christ-killers, cheats, and liars. The Scripture goes on to say that from these came forth the “ringstraked” (Gen 30:39) which means “striped.” This brings images to mind of the Holocaust, when Jewish prisoners were issued striped pajamas for uniforms.
Laban readily agreed to the plan and that day he removed the speckled, spotted, and dark sheep of his flock a distance of three days away from Jacob. From this we can infer that the flocks left in Jacob’s care were completely white.
We have not yet addressed the meaning of Laban’s name, which, on the surface, means “white.” But, looking into the root word, one can easily see this is not the white of purity. Rather, “Laban” refers to bricks being dried by the sun. In plain language, Laban, then, is the whitening that results from water being removed. If Torah is “living water,” then congregations from which it has been removed are Laban’s flocks. These “Torahless” congregations are thus “lawless” and “practice lawlessness” of which Yeshua warned, “Depart from me you who practice lawlessness [KJV: iniquity].” (Mat 7:23)
How was Jacob to build a flock from sheep that are so dry they are like bricks? The Holy Spirit of God showed Jacob how to peel back the bark of trees to reveal Laban’s “true colors” to sheep who are willing to look beneath the surface. In Scripture, trees represent people. (Isaiah 55:12, Eze 17:24)
Jacob took shoots of almond trees, which, as we have already seen, is “luz,” which means “almond” and “separation,” and was the tree of which Aaron’s rod was made that budded and blossomed and brought forth much fruit. It was “Luz” that Jacob renamed “Bethel” or “house of God.” In contrast to these life-producing almond branches, the Ruach HaKodesh also showed Jacob to take shoots of chestnut trees – the root word of which means to be cunning and crafty – as well as poplar trees which exude a “milky-white” gum, and strip the bark to reveal the interior. The root of the word translated as “poplar” is identical to the root of Laban’s name—bricks devoid of any life-giving moisture. The “gum” that this tree produces, to me, represents the seduction of traditions of men that make the word of God of no effect. To the stronger sheep Jacob showed these branches, but to the feebler ones he did not—and the stronger ones conceived faith to be set apart.
He put his own droves apart and did not put them with Laban’s flock. (Gen 30:40)
Jacob’s flock was therefore destined to be set apart [Heb: קָדוֹשׁ Kadosh]; this is the meaning of “holiness.”
“The man increased greatly and had large flocks, female servants and male servants, and camels and donkeys. (Gen 30:43)
Jacob would later relate to his wives,
“In the breeding season of the flock I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream that the goats that mated with the flock were striped, spotted, and mottled. Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ And he said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that mate with the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.'” (Gen 31:10-13)
Jacob saw that the sons of Laban were envious and heard them accusing him of taking their father’s wealth. Moreover, he heard God’s voice and was reminded of the covenant. He conveyed to Leah and Rachel (shall we say the Two Tents of Jacob?) the need to return to Eretz Israel. Note that the sisters were united in their response.
“Is there any portion or inheritance left to us in our father’s house? Are we not regarded by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and he has indeed devoured our money. All the wealth that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children. Now then, whatever God has said to you, do.” (Gen 31:14-16)
Note they have stopped saying, “I,” “me,” and “mine,” and are now saying, “Us,” “we,” and “ours.” This unity pictures the “one new man,” Jew and Gentile, of which Paul teaches, coming forth. (Eph 2:15)
The Two Kingdoms
Perhaps this is a good place to introduce the subject of another division of Jacob’s family and a reuniting that is yet to come. But, first, a little review might be profitable.
Israel clamored for a king until God appointed Saul through the prophet Samuel. Saul ruled over all twelve tribes. Not long after Saul became king, he failed to obey God’s command to destroy Agag the king of Amalek, a descendant of Esau. As a result, God told Samuel that David would become king. But, David had to wait years, perhaps as many as 15, before he came to the throne at age 30. Meanwhile, Saul became jealous of David and hunted him like an animal. Even though David had more than one chance to kill Saul, David refused to touch “the LORD’s anointed.” (1Sam 24:6, etc.) In the end, Saul died a dishonorable death at the hands of the Philistines because he consorted with a witch instead of entreating God. After Saul’s death, the leaders of the tribe of Judah made David king over them and he ruled from Hebron. Seven years later, the rest of Israel asked David to be their sovereign as well. Thus the kingdom was reunited under David.
Solomon, David’ son, also ruled a united kingdom. However, due to Solomon’s idolatry with foreign wives, God pledged to take the kingdom from him. This occurred after Solomon’s death, when his son Rehoboam came to the throne. The men of Israel appeared before Rehoboam to seek relief from the high taxes they had been forced to pay under Solomon. Rehoboam refused to listen to them, so ten tribes withdrew from his jurisdiction. Rehoboam intended to force the rebels into submission; but a prophet was sent by God to tell him, “Do not fight! Go home! This thing is from me!” (1 Kings 12:24)
From this time forward, Scripture speaks of two kingdoms:
♦ God placed the other ten tribes – the Northern Kingdom, also called the House of Israel or Ephraim – into the hands of Jeroboam, a man whom Solomon had noticed and promoted to CEO of the kingdom’s largest construction division. God essentially promised Jeroboam the desires of his heart, on condition that he must observe the ways of God, as did King David.
“I will take you, and you shall reign over all that your soul desires, and you shall be king over Israel. And if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.” (1 Kings 11:37)
This is an astounding promise! But, Jeroboam completely blew his chance. Instead of digging into the ways of God and learning how to walk with Him, Jeroboam set up two golden calves and told the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom, also known as Ephraim (the tribe of Jeroboam’s origin and the most influential of the tribes), that they no longer had to go up to Jerusalem to keep the Feasts of the LORD, as God commanded Moses. (Exo 23:14,17) Instead, he told them, they could go to Dan or Bethel, where it was more convenient.
Jeroboam also established temples in “high places” and offered sacrifices himself, although that was the role of the High Priest. He established his own feast days and made priests of the untrained (1 Kings 12:26-33) Jeroboam’s evil influence was so far-reaching that none of his eighteen successors are said to be righteous. Ultimately, God allowed the king of Assyria to carry off the ten tribes into captivity, where they effectively disappeared and were scattered over the entire earth.
Moreover, Jeroboam’s ways were so pervasive that even the House of Judah was infected, and in the end, was said to be more evil than the House of Israel. (Eze 16:51) God sent Judah into captivity in Babylon for 70 years, after which a remnant returned in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. But many more remained in Babylon and others were scattered throughout the earth. This was in fulfillment of the LORD’s promise to punish the Bride if she committed idolatry.
And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. (Deut 4:27)
“And the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known. (Deut 28:64)
But, the good news is that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) Once Yeshua ascended to Heaven, the disciples and apostles went to the “lost sheep of the House of Israel,” as He instructed (Mat 10:6, Mat 15:24), to proclaim that the price for the Bride’s rebellion had been paid and that Israel was welcomed to return to the Temple.
It was God’s plan all along that as the ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:19), i.e. “the fishers of men,” went about in their search for the “lost sheep,” they would cast the net also to the “whosoevers” among the gentiles who would forsake the traditions of men to dwell in the “secret place of the Most High God” and walk with the Jewish people, as “one new man.”
But, Satan is utterly terrified of such unity. He recognizes that unity of the Jacob’s family is a precursor to his demise. So, he began to use Esau to infiltrate the sanctuary and to cause Christians to hate their brother Judah, as we saw in last week’s lesson. Thus, the Two Houses of Israel remain apart to this day.
So Jacob arose and set his sons and his wives on camels. He drove away all his livestock, all his property that he had gained, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac. Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father’s household gods. And Jacob tricked Laban the Aramean, by not telling him that he intended to flee. He fled with all that he had and arose and crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead. (Gen 31:17-21)
It seems to me that Rachel represents the House of Israel, which, as we have said, had a long history of worshiping idols, while Leah represents the House of Judah, the wife that the world has so hated.
When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him for seven days and followed close after him into the hill country of Gilead. But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” And Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen pitched tents in the hill country of Gilead. And Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done, that you have tricked me and driven away my daughters like captives of the sword? Why did you flee secretly and trick me, and did not tell me, so that I might have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre? And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell? Now you have done foolishly. It is in my power to do you harm. But the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ And now you have gone away because you longed greatly for your father’s house.” (Gen 31: 22-30)
We Long For our Father’s House
It has now been nearly 2000 years since Yeshua was crucified and resurrected. Therefore, in light of the Scripture which says, “a day with the LORD is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day” (2 Pet 3:8), we have nearly reached the “third day.” The time has arrived when the Holy Spirit is whispering to Jacob’s flock that it is time to return to Eretz Israel. Wherever they reside, Jacob’s children cannot rest in Babylon. Like Jacob, they “long greatly for their father’s house” and the eyes of Jacob’s children are always on their homeland. The Aramean (alluding to the anti-Christ or his precursors) will give chase and try to intervene; but will be restrained by the Ruach HaKodesh, just like both Pharaoh and Abimelech were restrained from keeping Sarah and Rebekah.
Another Exodus is soon to occur that will dwarf the first so much so that it will all but be forgotten.
“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers. “Behold, I am sending for many fishers, declares the LORD, and they shall catch them. And afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks.” (Jer 14:15-16)
Although amidst stinging persecution, Jacob’s flock will return safely to Eretz Israel and will join their brothers to defeat Amalek, or whatever name the anti-Christ spirit is then hiding under.
Being helpless to do anything except let them go, Laban the-expert-white-washer proposed a covenant.
“The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day for these my daughters or for their children whom they have borne? Come now, let us make a covenant, you and I. And let it be a witness between you and me.” (Gen 31:43-44)
Laban’s words are the words of the Aramean who will one day rise up and say that the whole world is his. But, for this day, Jacob, seeing the Holy Spirit had mercifully restrained his enemy, readily agreed to a peace treaty and set up a stone for a witness. Jacob’s family likewise added their stones to the heap, signaling their desire for peace.
Laban alone established the terms: Jacob would not mistreat his wives or take others as wives and he would not seek retribution from Laban. Laban swore by the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor. We recall that Nahor’s family exhibited knowledge of the One True God when Abraham’s servant arrived in Haran to find a wife for Isaac. However, it is interesting that here Jacob swore only in the name of the God of Isaac (Gen 31:53) and then offered a sacrifice to Him.
Early the next morning, Laban arose and kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned home. (Gen 31:55) So, perhaps it will be that when we hear the call to go home to Eretz Israel, though they refuse to go with us, perhaps those of Laban’s congregation will bless us.
Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God’s camp!” So he called the name of that place Mahanaim. (Gen 32:1-2)
Mahanaim means “two camps.” We will discuss this more in next week’s lesson.
To close I would like to present a rather profound thought from the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, edited to update the language. I have inserted a few of my own ideas in brackets.
Before we leave behind Jacob’s vision [of the ladder], perhaps we should look at one instance of fulfillment in order to better understand the grace with which God works in our lives. Jacob’s experience in Haran was not nearly as wonderful and happy as he hoped. Although he did, at once, find a woman he dearly loved, he had to purchase her with seven years’ toil, which ultimately became fourteen years. He did not begrudge this, first, because it was customary; but also because his love was deep, and [because he was determined to fulfill his obligations to his father to find a wife]. However, the bitterest disappointment awaited him. With the burning humiliation of one who has been cheated in such a cruel way, he finds himself married to Leah. He protests, but he cannot insist on his protest, nor divorce Leah; for, in point of fact, he is conscious that he is only being paid what he deserves and has reaped what he has sown. In the veiled bride brought to him on false pretenses he sees the justice of his own disguise when, with the [counterfeit] hands of Esau, he went in and received his father’s blessing. He is muzzled by the remembrance of his own deed.
But, in submitting to this chastisement, and recognizing in it not only the cunningness of his uncle, but the stroke of God, that which at first seemed a cruel curse became a [tremendous] blessing. It was Leah much more than Rachel that built up the house of Israel. To the hated wife was born six of the tribes [and the only daughter], and among these was the tribe of Judah. Thus Jacob learned the fruitfulness of God’s retribution—that to be humbled by God is really to be built up, and to be punished by Him is the richest blessing. Through such an experience are many persons led…when God thrusts into our arms something quite different from our [desires and] expectations—something that not only disappoints, but that at first repels and reminds us of a past that we had tried to forget… Do we look back with resentment on some such experience? Are we disheartened to miss what we believe is the [true] purpose of our labor [or our life]? We can look upon Jacob with new hope and see that the disappointment may be more fruitful than the hope fulfilled.
And, thus, like Jacob, no matter our past, or what the future may appear, we can “lift up our feet” and with full faith and high expectations, continue happily on our journey. We are truly the most blessed people who have ever lived on this planet!
Until next week, shalom!