Vayetse [and he departed] 2015

Torah Portion: Genesis 28:10 through Genesis 32:3
Haftarah: Hosea 12:13 through Hosea 14:10
New Testament: Mat 21:42, Mat 27:57 through Mat 28:6, Luke 1:33, John 1:45-51

Vayetze-Header-960x250Last 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.  As Jacob arrived destitute in Haran, the sages surmise he was robbed along the way, possibly by Esau or his offspring.  It is inconceivable, the sages reason, that Isaac would have sent Jacob without wealth and gifts as did Abraham when he commissioned his servant to find a wife for Isaac. The sages further speculate that after Jacob was separated from his wealth he spent some years trying to make sense of all that had befallen him and seeking wisdom for the future.

A Ladder that Leads to Life

On his way to Haran, Jacob stopped for the night and dreamed of a ladder.

jacobs-ladder-Jacob’s Ladder Via Latina Catecombs 4th Century
Jacob’s Ladder, Via Latina Catecombs, 4th Century

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)

As part of Jacob’s personal initiation to the Kingdom of Heaven, God revealed Himself as “the ladder.” Yeshua would later reveal Himself in the same way 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)

We should remember that the promises to Jacob 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 household. Jacob was renamed Israel,  the overcomer. Stop now and read the promises in the Book of Revelation that Yeshua makes to the one who overcomes. Israel is the one who walks in covenant by keeping Yahweh’s commandments. Israel is the “holy nation,” the “royal priesthood.” Israel is the Bride, the light of the world.

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.  God has blessed them exceedingly in every field of endeavor and kept a remnant alive.  The birth of the modern state of Israel subsequent to the Holocaust is a 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 God’s approval of Jacob as well as His purpose for him. We see God’s stamp of approval on Aaron, subsequent to the rebellion of Korah, when Aaron’s rod budded overnight with fragrant blossoms and almonds. (Num 17:8) At Bethel, Jacob, likewise, was established, 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.  Jacob, now somewhere between 63 and 77 years of age, realizes that his only hope of success is in God’s faithfulness to the covenant with his father.  He does not ask for wealth.  He simply asks that God supply food and clothing 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:

XIVThen 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 editor of the Expositors Bible views Jacob’s monument as a reminder of his  dearth of hope when God appeared to him, and, therefore, a reminder of all the help God would afterwards give 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. The Hebrew implies that, inspired and encouraged by his encounter with God, Jacob now goes cheerfully onward, with great expectations of future manifestations of God’s loving kindness.

True Love

Approaching Haran, Jacob came to a well, most likely the same well where Abraham’s servant found Rebekah. 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, 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)

Symbolically, 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.

Jacob and Rachel at the wellNow 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 repeatedly, of how Abraham’s servant was miraculously led to Rebekah.  In light of his own recent encounter with the LORD, Jacob’s expectations were full blown when he came to the well.  When the beautiful young shepherdess appeared, he had no doubt 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 away 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.  To Laban’s credit, he made his nephew welcome.

Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” And he stayed with him a month. (Gen 29:14)

jacob served seven yearsApparently Jacob’s superior knowledge in caring for sheep made up for the lack of camels laden with gifts.

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)

The seven years 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. No doubt the wine flowed freely, aiding Laban in his plan to deceive Jacob. During the party, he took Leah and Zilpah to Jacob’s tent.  The sages suggest that Zilpah had been Rachel’s attendant and that when Jacob spied Zilpah coming and going from the tent, he was confident his beloved Rachel was inside; but, “in the morning, behold, it was Leah!”  (Gen 29:25)

jacob-and-labans-two-daughtersJacob 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 fled from Canaan, Jacob was about to learn that “your sin will find you out.” (Num 32:23) Just as Jacob had pretended to be Esau, so did Leah pretend to be Rachel. Such was the consequence of Rebekah’s snare. And so, Jacob, who had divided Isaac’s family, ended up with a house very much divided.

The Generational Dilemma – Barrenness

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.”

The envious Rachel said, “Give me children, or I shall die!” (Gen 30:1)

Jacob retorted, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” (Gen 30:2)

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.

Mandrakes

12-tribes-or-sons-of-jacob1We come now to a story that the sages have struggled to comprehend.  Reuben found some mandrakes and brought them to Leah.  Rachel apparently believed the fruit could assist her in becoming pregnant. She offered that Jacob could sleep in Leah’s tent that night in exchange for the mandrakes.   But, the “love apples” as they are sometimes called, were a disappointment and the  whole scheme backfired. “And God listened to Leah” (Gen 30:17). While Rachel depended on extraneous means, Leah depended on prayer and was rewarded with a second string of births. Issachar, whose name means “reward,” was followed by Zebulun, “well endowed” and, finally, Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah, “justice,” made her appearance.

But, at last, God remembered the frustrated Rachel and she gave birth to Joseph, which means “may God add another.”

Two Messiahs?

two messiahsWe 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 allusions to a messiah in the story of Joseph and are thus prepared for a “Messiah ben Joseph” (Messiah, Son of Joseph) who will provide atonement for the sins of the Jewish people.  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 attest to the Jewish faithful fulfilling the role of this “suffering servant.” Blinded for our sakes (Romans 11:25), for the most part their eyes have not been open to see that “God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only-begotton Son…” (John 3:16)

In the Orthodox paradigm, 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!

valleyofdrybones-620x3101When 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, supposedly, 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)   Jacob 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.

Though Laban’s flocks had greatly prospered under his watchful eye, Jacob was little more than an indentured servant.  The years were quickly passing; he speckled sheepwanted 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 his own flock. He proposed Laban give him 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, practically speaking, would 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, to me, this remnant pictures the Jewish people, marked by Satan because they hold dear the precious Torah scrolls that contain the  promise of his defeat and destruction.  They are “variegated” because they, along with the other Ten Tribes, were scattered, mixed among the nations, and now are sprouting up worldwide, a colorful tapestry of believers, not unlike Joseph’s coat. The brown or black ones, to me, represent the demonic depictions of the Jewish people throughout history as Christ-killers, cheats, and liars.  Thetransverse_stripes_large 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 immediately 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, which is spelled the same, one can easily see this is not the white of purity.  Rather, “Laban” refers to bricks being dried and bleached 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 parched. These “Torahless” congregations are “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 parched sheep?  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)

Blossoming almond trees in Israel
Blossoming almond trees in Israel

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 were set apart.

He put his own droves apart and did not put them with Laban’s flock. (Gen 30:40)

Jacob’s flock is purposed 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)

The sons of Laban envied Jacob and accused him of taking their father’s wealth. God appeared to him in a dream and told him to go home. He told his wives,

jacob and sheep under tree“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)

The sisters, interestingly, 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)

one new manNote they have stopped saying, “I,” “me,” and “mine,” and are now saying, “Us,” “we,” and “ours.”  This unity pictures the Two Houses of Israel becoming one and together going back into the land at the end of days.

The Two Kingdoms

A reuniting is yet to occur; but, first, let us review a bit.

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 King David statue Maggiorewould become king.

David had to wait perhaps as many as 15 years before he came to the throne at age 30.  Meanwhile, Saul became jealous of David and hunted him like an animal. Yet, even though David had more than one chance to kill Saul, David refused to touch “the LORD’s anointed.” (1Sam 24:6)   In the end, Saul died a dishonorable death at the hands of the Philistines. Afterwards, the leaders of the tribe of Judah made David king over them and he ruled from Hebron.  Seven years later, the remaining tribes asked David to be their sovereign as well and he reigned from Jerusalem over the reunited kingdom. This foreshadows what Messiah will do upon His return.

Solomon, David’s son, also ruled a united kingdom.  However, due to Solomon’s idolatry with foreign wives, God swore to take the kingdom from him.  This actually 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 seceded from the kingdom. Rehoboam intended to force the rebels into submission; but a prophet sent by God told him, “Do not fight your brothers! Go home! This thing is from Me!” (1 Kings 12:24)

From this time in history forward, Scripture speaks of two kingdoms:

Divided KingdomThe House of David is the Southern Kingdom, and is primarily called Judah or the House of Judah.  It was comprised of tribes Judah and Benjamin.

♦ God placed the other ten tribes – the Northern Kingdom,the House of Israel – into the hands of Jeroboam, a man who had attracted Solomon’s attention and had been 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)

Jeroboam's calf worship New World EncyclopediaJeroboam completely squandered this tremendous opportunity. 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 birth), that they no longer had to go up to Jerusalem to keep the Feasts of the LORD, as God had 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 God commanded this role only for Aaron and his sons.  Jeroboam established his own feast days and made priests of those  untrained in Torah observance (1 Kings 12:26-33), picturing the Church at large today.  Jeroboam’s influence was so far-reaching that nothing good is reported in Scripture of his eighteen successors. Ultimately, God allowed the king of Assyria to carry off the ten tribes into captivity.

captivity routesMoreover, 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 time a remnant returned in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.  But the majority 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 kingdom.

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” 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, knowing full well that the unity of the Jacob’s family is a precursor to his demise.  To prevent this, 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.

Heading Home
Jacob flees from Haran
Jacob flees from Haran with his family, flocks and servants

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 jacob-labanBWGilead. 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 find no 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 scatteredup 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 amid stinging persecution, a remnant 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.

Laban’s Covenant

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 claim the whole world as his own.  But, on this particular day, the enemy was restrained and Jacob agreed to a peace treaty. He set up a stone for a witness to the agreement and his family added their stones to the heap, signaling their intent to maintain peace.  Interestingly, Jacob swore 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 at mahanaimJacob 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. Words in brackets are mine.

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. 

A loving father disciplines his children, that they may grow to be healthy, whole, productive people
My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Psalm 3:11-12)

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, full of 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!

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