Messianic Winter Holiday Helper

The Winter holiday season is frequently a conflicted time of year for many people in today’s Messianic movement. On the one hand, most Messianic Believers do not celebrate the holiday of Christmas on December 25, due to some of its pre-Christian origins and questionable traditions. On the other hand, the birth of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is a Biblical event which we all must acknowledge in some way. Furthermore, during this same Winter season, the Jewish community commemorates the Festival of Dedication or Chanukah. What is a Messianic Believer to do?

The Messianic Winter Holiday Helper is a valuable compilation of resources designed to assist you, your family, and your Messianic fellowship for this season. We have included a selection of articles summarizing the holiday of Christmas, and how Messianic Believers need to have a proper attitude toward our Christian brothers and sisters. We have included a variety of teachings on Chanukah, common traditions associated with it, and how this can be a blessed time of spiritually rededicating ourselves to God and to each other. Information on the time period of the Maccabees in Second Century B.C.E. Judea, the wars that they fought, and the long term impact they left on subsequent generations, has been provided. A few FAQs on the Winter holidays are offered, as are some delicious recipes, and liturgy you can recite for your Chanukah celebration.

Do not let the Winter holiday season be a difficult time for you any more. The Messianic Winter Holiday Helper can assist you greatly in making this a very special time for you and your family!

220 pages




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Messianic Kosher Helper

When the subject of kosher, kashrut, or the dietary instructions of the Torah or the Law of Moses come up in various contemporary Messianic settings, there can be a tendency for some strong emotions to arise. The broad Messianic spectrum represents a diversity of views on “kosher”—ranging from the dietary laws being abolished and only to be observed as a part of Jewish culture, to people advocating a strict adherence to many Orthodox Jewish rulings and practices, to a kosher style diet where people mainly avoid pork and shellfish. At times, there has been an over-amount of attention given to the minutiae of keeping kosher, and not enough time given to some of the significant Biblical passages which either inform us about kosher or have been traditionally interpreted to say that kosher has been abolished for the post-resurrection era. And more than anything else, maintaining an appropriate, Messiah-centric attitude toward all of this, is most imperative. There have been far too many extremes represented regarding the issue of the dietary laws, at times, and not enough reasoned discussion. Too many people have issued accusations against others, and not enough have tried to inquire of both the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, what is perhaps important about this issue. Human beings have to all eat, after all!

The Messianic Kosher Helper includes a wide breadth of material, addressing a wide array of topics associated with the Torah’s dietary laws. This publication has been divided up into two main parts: The Significance of Kosher and A Theology of Eating and Kosher. You will be able to detect a progression of sorts, in our family’s own approach to the subject matter, as some things are addressed first more generally and then more specifically. In our experience, we ourselves have certainly had to move from a more elementary view of the issue of kosher, to a more developed view, and we recognize how the Messianic community needs to do the same.

It is important to remember how Leviticus 11:44 says, “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (cf. 1 Peter 1:16)—a concept which is directly connected to clean and unclean meats. But, if following this is not enjoined with a better appreciation and understanding of a steadfast mandate for all of us to have clean minds and hearts, imbued with the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, demonstrating the love of Yeshua to all—then outward holiness will not have been joined with the more critical inward holiness. If, however, we learn how to separate external things which are clean and unclean—then perhaps we can also learn, with God’s help, how to separate clean and unclean thoughts, ideas, and attitudes, being mature men and women in Him, and empowered on many different levels for service to His Kingdom!

This is a massive collection of material, well needed for every Messianic home and congregational library!

674 pages




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Messianic Sabbath Helper

The instruction to remember the Sabbath is the Fourth of the Ten Commandments: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:8-10a). The seventh-day Sabbath or Shabbat is widely associated with God’s creation of the world (Genesis 2:2-3) and the Exodus of Ancient Israel from Egypt (Deuteronomy 15:15). The Sabbath is one of the Torah’s moedim or appointed times (Leviticus 23:3). Desecration of the Sabbath actually brought judgment to Ancient Israel (Jeremiah 17:19-27), but blessings are offered to those who value and honor Shabbat (Isaiah 56:1-8), with a universal observance for the entire world anticipated in the Messianic Age (Isaiah 66:23).

Today’s Messianic movement is different from evangelical Christianity, in that while it affirms the Messiahship of Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth, it continues to observe the seventh-day Sabbath along with Judaism, in fidelity to the Torah or Law of Moses, and in conjunction with the example of the First Century Believers. Certainly, holding services on the seventh-day (commonly called Saturday), can be viewed as appropriate for a faith community identifying with the Jewish Synagogue, but it also raises many questions. Inquiries abound pertaining to the ongoing validity of the Sabbath in the post-resurrection era. Was not the Sabbath transferred to Sunday, in honor of the Messiah’s being raised from the dead? Was the Sabbath actually abolished by the Messiah? Inquiries abound pertaining to the observance of the Sabbath. Should not the Sabbath be kept according to the Scriptures only? Should not mainstream Jewish tradition and custom play some role in honoring the Sabbath? What does it mean to not “work” on Shabbat?

The Messianic Sabbath Helper includes a wide breadth of material, addressing a wide array of topics associated with Shabbat. This publication has been divided up into two main parts: The Significance of Shabbat and A Theology of Shabbat. You will be able to detect a progression of sorts, in our family’s own approach to the subject matter, as some things are addressed first more generally and then more specifically. In our experience, we ourselves have certainly had to move from a more elementary view of the issue of the seventh-day Sabbath, to a more developed view, and we recognize how the Messianic community needs to do the same.

This is a massive collection of material, well needed for every Messianic home and congregational library!

670 pages




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Hebraic Roots: An Introductory Study

Hebraic Roots: An Introductory Study has been written as a primer for the emerging number of people who are being drawn into a more comprehensive grasp of the ancient roots of our Biblical faith. As a family that has been active in the Messianic movement since 1995, we came to the unanimous conclusion that a book about many of the areas for growth would be beneficial for the many thousands who are being prompted into a fuller and richer pursuit of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–and who truly want to live the way that Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), our Jewish Savior, lived. 

Have you heard about the Messianic movement? Have you heard about the significance of the Torah for a Believer’s walk of faith? Have you been in the Messianic movement for some time? Do you even know why you are in it? Do you need a foundational introduction to the Hebraic Roots of our faith and who Yeshua truly is in His Biblical and historical Hebraic context? Do you want to know more about what God is doing in this hour? If you have ever asked any of these questions, then this workbook will help get you started!

This volume examines a number of areas for study and discussion, and will prompt questions for personal reflection or group exchanges in twelve easy lessons. Each chapter has study questions that will enable you to think and examine the Scriptures like never before. If you are unfamiliar with the Messianic movement, some of its basic beliefs and lifestyle practices, and the great potential it offers God’s people today–then Hebraic Roots is the book for you!

142 pages




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Hebraic_Roots_An_Introductory_Study_excerpts

December 2016 OIM News


OIM Update

December 2016

Now that the American electoral season has come to a conclusion, many (but not all) in the evangelical and Messianic community of faith have experienced a collective sigh of relief. Personally, as I indicated in last month’s article, our prayerful pleas and heartfelt supplications have shifted from seeking mercy for our national direction, to protecting those who have been elected to lead our nation. There is substantial encouragement from statements made by parties involved with the incoming administration, that the U.S. Executive Branch will have a strong relationship with the leadership of the State of Israel. This probability in and of itself brings great joy to our hearts, because we know from Biblical and historical evidence, that the Almighty favors individuals and nations which bless Abram/Abraham and his chosen descendants:

“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed’” (Genesis 12:1-3).

I have personally talked to people who have heard directly from reliable sources, and read some articles, indicating that the incoming President-elect is very favorable to relocating the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While this potential move would validate the Jewish State and its right to exist in the Promised Land, it would in and of itself be extremely controversial among the powers which continually war against the children of Israel (Psalm 83). But thankfully, controversy is not something the new administration is unaccustomed to, but rather extremely adept at handling. As followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who believe in the accomplished work of the Messiah Yeshua at Golgotha (Calvary), we need to redouble our prayers, with occasional Hallelujah pauses, as we literally witness prophecy unfold right before our eyes!

This month of December 2016 arrives at a very unique season for the growth and development of the Messianic community of faith. As anyone involved with Messianic things is astutely aware, December brings challenges to people, as they involve the holiday of Christmas on December 25, and the commemoration of the Feast of Dedication or Chanukah. Our ministry does have a book available, entitled the Messianic Winter Holiday Helper, which has been compiled to provide teaching, as well as sound advice, on how to handle some of the inevitable conversations which will arise during this time of year. We encourage you to get a copy for your personal use, or to give as a gift to help others.

Since relocating back to North Texas four years ago, we have seen our family and our ministry steadily welcomed not just into a local Messianic Jewish congregation, but this past November, John was a featured speaker as the MJAA Heartland regional conference. While we are entirely supportive and promoting of an inclusive and welcoming Messianic community, as Jew and non-Jew are brought together as “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15), there has been a noticeable gap building between Outreach Israel Ministries and Messianic Apologetics—and the mainly non-Jewish Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement. While we will interact with all sorts of individual people, who label themselves by many different things, there have been developments in the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement in the past few years which we are very disturbed by.

The Lord is definitely doing something very important in this hour, as non-Jewish Believers are embracing their faith heritage in Israel’s Scriptures in a very profound and significant way. Our own family’s involvement in the Messianic movement since 1995 is a testimony to this. As it is very clearly foretold in Micah 4:1-3 and Isaiah 2:2-4, the nations will come to Zion in the Last Days to be taught God’s Torah. And, per the thrust of the Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:25-27 New Covenant, this is to be a work of the Holy Spirit for all of His people. But, the welcomed participation of the nations within the Commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:11-13) or Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), is hardly supposed to take place to the exclusion of the salvation of the Jewish people. We are finding that more and more people in the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement, are not too concerned with the issues of Jewish outreach, Jewish evangelism, and Israel solidarity. They are keen to embrace their Hebrew Roots in the Torah and Tanach, but not too interested in embracing their Jewish Roots in the Second Temple religion of Yeshua and His Apostles.

This month’s lead article, by J.K. McKee, notes how many non-Jewish Believers who have entered into the “broad Messianic movement,” are not going to be remembering the Feast of Dedication or Chanukah this month. These are people who have largely left the confines of their previous Christian church, and they even regard themselves as being grafted-in to Israel’s olive tree via their faith in Israel’s Messiah (Romans 11:16-17), but they have a very difficult time with understanding Judaism and the Jewish people. They may understand the Apostles’ question of Acts 1:6, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”, but only in part. While recognizing that there is more going on in the Messianic movement than just declaring the good news of Yeshua to Jewish people who need salvation, the article “A Restoration of Israel—Without the Jews?” is critical of some of the things presently being witnessed in the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement. With many non-Jews claiming to have embraced their faith heritage in Israel’s Kingdom, it is amazing to see how many of them are not too concerned with issues of Jewish outreach. Dismissing Chanukah as a vain human tradition, among many possible examples, is not going to aid the first and primary mission of the Messianic movement: to see the Messiah’s Jewish brethren come to redemption.

Finally, it is the time when many of you are considering where to invest in God’s work through others with a variety of year-end giving opportunities. Consider the specific work and calling of Outreach Israel Ministries and Messianic Apologetics. Our family is uniquely positioned to not only address the theological and spiritual issues which face many of today’s Messianic people, but we are also working for resolution to some of the things which have divided or confused too many of us for too long. We are making able usage of all of the tools at our disposal, as we anticipate the Messianic restoration of all things!

“May the LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Thank you in advance for your partnership with us and your generous support of our endeavors!

Chag Samaech!

Mark Huey


A Restoration of Israel–Without the Jews?

by J.K. McKee
editor@messianicapologetics.net

This month of December 2016, the Jewish and Messianic Jewish communities will be commemorating Chanukah or the Festival of Dedication. Chanukah is a very warm time for Jewish and Messianic Jewish families, mainly as they reflect back on different family memories, special times of fellowship, gift giving, and of course eating many specialty foods. In many Messianic congregations the world over, there will be dedicated times of reading from the Books of Maccabees, focusing on the ancient history of the Seleucid invasion of the Land of Israel, the resistance that opposed Hellenism and upheld God’s Torah, and which assured not just a Jewish victory over evil but the very survival of the Jewish people. For those of us in Biblical Studies, the Maccabean crisis of the Second Century B.C.E. significantly impacted the Second Temple Jewish world of Yeshua of Nazareth, and in particular the attitudes of many within the Jewish community to their Greek and Roman neighbors. Many of the conflicts in the First Century ekklēsia that took place, as Greeks and Romans began receiving the Messiah of Israel into their lives—and whether these people had to be circumcised as Jewish proselytes in order to truly be reckoned as God’s own—can trace their way back to the effects of what we review during the season of Chanukah.

Ten to eleven years ago (2005-2006), in my family’s Messianic quest, we fully embraced the remembrance of Chanukah. Up until this point, we had moved beyond Christmas on December 25, but were unsure of the Festival of Dedication. We certainly had no problem with joining in to various congregational activities which took place on Shabbat, in order to remember Chanukah, which mainly included various readings from 1&2 Maccabees and lighting the chanukiah. The significance of the Maccabean crisis really began to come into focus for us, as I started writing Messianic commentaries on various books of the New Testament, and found myself referencing not just the Maccabean revolt—but its psychological impact on later Jewish generations. Without the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Greeks, there would be no Jewish people into which the Messiah of Israel would be born. Chanukah should be remembered by today’s Messianic community, no different than how Americans celebrate the Fourth of July.

Today, if you are a part of a Messianic Jewish congregation, some significant remembrance of Chanukah is going to take place, likely including various teachings which compare the Maccabees’ cleansing of the Temple to how we as Yeshua’s followers need to be cleansed by Him. If you are part of some informal Messianic home group or Torah study, you may also have some kind of Chanukah remembrance. But, if you are part of the widely independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement—something mainly, if not exclusively, composed of non-Jews—then you will see variances in approach to Chanukah. Many people who identify as being a part of the Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement, think that the Festival of Dedication is something spiritually edifying and worthwhile for God’s people to remember (cf. Philippians 4:8). Many others, however, would consider Chanukah to be a hollow Jewish custom that the Messiah’s followers should not be observing, and they think that when the Festival of Dedication is mentioned in John 10:22-23 that Yeshua was not commemorating it along with the rest of the Jewish community, but stood off to the side in disapproval.

As a Messianic Bible teacher, and not only as someone who has been a part of this movement since 1995—but who actively uses social media—I interact with people all across the spectrum, who identify with any number of different labels. While I am not always successful, I do try my best to be a consensus builder, being a firm believer that what the Messiah of Israel has accomplished for us, in being sacrificed for our sins, is the most important thing. If you are going to divide with someone, make sure that it is over something directly related to the Messiah’s work. In my over twenty-one years of being involved in Messianic things, I have certainly witnessed my share of controversies, and I am astutely aware of the competing spiritual forces which can manifest across our faith community.

What we call “the Messianic movement” today is something that has its origins deeply rooted within Protestant evangelistic outreaches to the Jewish community, first in Europe and Britain, and later in North America, starting in the early Nineteenth Century. The Hebrew Christian movement, of the late Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, was an association of Jewish Believers in Jesus, usually as a sub-sector of Protestantism, where various aspects of Torah could be observed as a part of Jewish culture, in parallel to conventional Protestant observances. The Messianic Jewish movement, which really entered onto the scene in the 1960s and 1970s, emphasized Jewish outreach and evangelism via congregations established on a synagogue model, and where various aspects of Torah—such as keeping Shabbat, the appointed times, or a kosher diet—were no longer just aspects of Jewish culture to be remembered, but were aspects of Jewish obedience to God via the expectations of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). The primary mission of the Messianic movement has always had a basis in Jewish outreach, Jewish evangelism, and Israel solidarity. And this is the way it should be, as is declared so affluently in Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the Good News, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who trusts—to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (TLV).

Within the 1980s and 1990s, as the Messianic Jewish outreach widened, and new Messianic Jewish congregations and synagogues began being established—it is safe to say that something did take place, which was widely not anticipated by some of the early Messianic Jewish leaders. During this time, many evangelical Christians were being directed by the Lord to Messianic congregations, for a variety of reasons. The primary reason that non-Jewish Believers are drawn to Messianic congregations, is to remember the significance of Yeshua the Messiah in the appointed times. My own family was among those steadily drawn into their Jewish Roots throughout the 1908s, via studying “Jesus in the feasts.” Concurrent with this, many non-Jewish Believers drawn into Messianic congregations get quickly acclimated to the weekly study of the Torah portion, and in reconnecting with the Tanach or Old Testament in a very tangible way not witnessed in contemporary evangelicalism.

Today in 2016, if you asked many individual Messianic people, they would have to agree that there is a dual mission being achieved within the Messianic movement. First and foremost, the Messianic movement is here to see Jewish people come to saving faith in Israel’s Messiah, in fulfillment of prophecy (cf. Romans 11:12, 26-27), and plugged-in to assemblies where Jewish Believers can remain in fidelity to their Jewish heritage—not finding themselves assimilated away into a Gentile Christianity, which might see that their grandchildren and great-grandchildren have no comprehension or knowledge of their Jewish ancestry. Secondly, the Messianic movement has witnessed many non-Jewish Believers take a tangible hold of their Hebraic Roots in the Tanach and Jewish Roots in Second Temple Judaism and the Synagogue, in fulfillment of the nations coming to Zion in the end-times to be taught God’s Torah (Micah 4:1-3; Isaiah 2:2-4), recognizing that God is with His Jewish people (Zechariah 8:23).

All of us, as God’s children, should be willing and eager to learn from each other—particularly as there are many godly and edifying virtues from both Judaism and Protestantism, which can definitely be employed as we contemplate the final stages of history before the return of the Messiah. While Jewish and non-Jewish Believers are not exactly the same, and there are natural differences among God’s people—namely that only Jewish Believers can expect to be given a tribal inheritance in the Promised Land, and that the Torah and Tanach composes not just their spiritual but also ethnic and cultural heritage—we have far more in common than not. If we focus on what we have in common, first, then our differences can be used to enrich and aid us in encountering the challenges of life—not encourage suspicion, division, and rivalry.

This December is a season when I get to join with my fellow Jewish brothers and sisters in Messiah Yeshua, and I get to celebrate with them in the triumph of their ancestors over the forces of Antiochus Epiphanes. I consider my commemoration of Chanukah to be no different than when we remember the birth of the State of Israel in 1948, or the retaking of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967. Chanukah is a celebration of victory. And, in no uncertain terms, do I hide the fact that I think that everyone in the Messianic movement—if they are genuinely committed to the original mission of Jewish outreach, evangelism, and Israel solidarity—should remember the eight days of the Festival of Dedication as well. The Maccabees’ resistance against pagan assimilation, as important as it was for past Jewish history, has much to teach each of us about the future end-times. For, just as Antiochus Epiphanes had demanded that people worship his image, so the coming antimessiah/antichrist will demand that people worship him, and reject the God of Israel and His ways (cf. Revelation 13:4-7).

Four years ago (2012), our family returned to the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, where we got our original start in the Messianic movement back in 1995-1996. We not only reconnected with our old Messianic Jewish friends, and made some new Messianic Jewish friends, becoming part of a vibrant Messianic Jewish congregation—but we have even been welcomed into positions of leadership and teaching. The biggest “controversy” I have witnessed regarding Chanukah is over who is going to set up, and take down, the decorations in the sanctuary. While improvements can always be made regarding what lessons there are to learn from the Maccabean revolt, I am thankful to report that there are no controversies whatsoever about whether or not we even need to learn from the Maccabean revolt.

Things get much more interesting, however, in my ministry service through Outreach Israel and Messianic Apologetics—because most of what we do actively involves online social media. In open forums, you encounter people from all sorts of religious persuasions, in particular as it involves the many, who in some form or another, associate themselves with the label “Messianic.” To be sure, the significant number of people with whom I interact are Jewish and non-Jewish Believers, who want unity and stability within the Messianic movement, and who want us all to get along, learning from one another. At the same time, when one moves into the more independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots persuasions, things can get very, very interesting. While I think many of us can understand—especially after the election cycle of 2016—much of the frustration that people have with “the establishment,” some people are so anti-establishment that they are of the mindset that neither Christianity nor Judaism have ever made any significant, positive contribution, of any kind, to human civilization.

The kind of person who has become particularly odious to me, over the past few years, is the non-Jewish “Believer” who claims to be a part of the polity of Israel, but wants little or nothing to do with the Jewish people or with mainline Jewish traditions and customs. Almost all of the non-Jewish Believers I interact with are of the conviction that, along with their fellow Jewish Believers, they are a part of the polity of Israel. They believe that they are a part of what Ephesians 2:11-13 calls the “Commonwealth of Israel,” the Galatians 6:16 “Israel of God,” the Romans 11:16-17 phenomenon of being wild olive branches “grafted-in” to Israel’s olive tree (cf. Jeremiah 11:16-17; Hosea 14:1-7), participants in Israel’s Kingdom restoration along with their fellow Jewish Believers, witnessing David’s Tabernacle being restored (Acts 15:15-18; Amos 9:11-12)—a part of an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel, with a restored Twelve Tribes at its center, and its dominion welcoming in the righteous from the nations. Many of these people know the horrors resultant of Christian anti-Semitism and replacement theology, and so if they are claiming to be “fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise” (Ephesians 3:6), this better be joined with the thrust of Romans 12:10 in mind: “love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor” (NRSV).

Certainly, if someone like me has a Biblical responsibility to outdo my fellow brothers and sisters in showing honor to them, then what it means is that I have to show an appropriate amount of respect to the spiritual and theological heritage that I have in the Jewish Synagogue. That is, if I really do regard myself as a part of the Commonwealth of Israel. There are things that I have to legitimately learn and appreciate from the Jewish experience with God. My writings to date bear witness to the fact that I have been spiritually and intellectually enriched by not just many of the Jewish writings of the Second Temple period and immediately thereafter, but I have learned immense things from the Jewish struggle the past two centuries, particularly as they involve the rise of Zionism, the Holocaust, and the creation of the State of Israel. I am learning new things all the time from the Jewish experience in history, that everybody needs to especially learn and integrate into their psyche, as we get closer and closer to the Messiah’s return.

As it involves living out a lifestyle of Torah obedience unto God, my writings to date also bear adequate witness that I am very philo-traditional when it comes to mainline Jewish traditions and customs. While I am hardly what one would consider to be “Orthodox,” I do not haphazardly dismiss some of the major traditions and customs practiced in Conservative and Reform Jewish settings. I do not eschew, for example, men wearing a yarmulke or kippah in worship services. I do not have any problem with the Hebrew liturgy at my Messianic congregation’s Shabbat service. I adhere to the longstanding convention since Second Temple times of not speaking the Divine Name YHWH/YHVH in public arenas. Whenever I encounter a Jewish tradition or custom that I do not understand, I expel some effort of investigating it first, before commenting on it, much less dismissing it. For certain, I will encounter Jewish perspectives or practices that I consider non-Biblical and in error—just as I have encountered Protestant perspectives or practices that are non-Biblical and in error. At the same time, the wide majority of Jewish perspectives and conventions I find to be genuinely edifying. Certainly for this December, remembering Chanukah or the Festival of Dedication would be an edifying Jewish practice.

Unfortunately, not everyone with whom I interact throughout the week, shares my commitment to fairness and equity. While I do believe, as someone from an evangelical Protestant background, that there are edifying virtues and perspectives from which today’s Messianic movement can benefit that originate from my Reformed and Wesleyan heritage—the fact is that as a non-Jewish Believer in Israel’s Messiah, I have cast my lot with the Jewish people and the restoration of Israel’s Kingdom. I do not just look to the return of the Messiah and His eventual reign from Jerusalem, but I pay attention to what is happening in modern Israel, and I oppose anti-Semitism when I encounter it. I cannot be arrogant or haughty in regard to the widespread Jewish dismissal of Yeshua, but I have to instead act as a vessel of grace and mercy, and be facilitating a widespread Jewish acceptance of Yeshua (Romans 11:30-31). I have to be very conscientious of the Apostle Paul’s warning, “for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either” (Romans 11:21).

What do you do with a non-Jewish Believer, who legitimately partakes of his or her spiritual heritage in the Scriptures of Israel, considering himself or herself a part of Israel’s Commonwealth or polity, and is looking for the return of the Messiah to Jerusalem—but then wants little or nothing to do with mainline Jewish traditions or customs? Perhaps more education in Second Temple Judaism and Jewish history would be in order. But what about those non-Jewish people who want to claim that they are a part of the community of Israel via their faith in Israel’s Messiah—but then take no interest in the original Messianic mission of Jewish outreach, evangelism, and Israel solidarity? Be aware that these people have made commitments to a live a life of Torah obedience, in emulation of Yeshua and His early followers. They keep Shabbat, the appointed times, and eat a kosher style of diet, among other things. They may even read the weekly Torah portions. No one is saying that being a part of the Messianic movement is only a one-way street for them, as though they are only here to provide various forms of support for Jewish ministry; such people should have their spiritual needs met and questions answered, just as Jewish Believers have their own spiritual needs and unique questions. Yet, while it is to be properly acknowledged and recognized that God has sovereignly drawn many non-Jewish Believers into the Messianic movement, we have a serious problem on our hands if a number of them want little or nothing to do with their fellow Messianic Jewish Believers.

While the Messianic movement is broad and diverse, and there are certainly instances of various Messianic Jewish congregations being unwelcome toward non-Jewish Believers—today in 2016 many Messianic Jewish congregations welcome non-Jewish Believers, provided they are respectful and understanding of various Jewish sensibilities. I have Messianic Jewish friends who have no problem with my family living a life of Torah obedience in emulation of Yeshua the Messiah. Part of it, they understand, is being involved with the Messianic community. Another part of it, they understand, involves the prophecies of the nations coming to Zion to be taught God’s Instruction (Micah 4:1-3; Isaiah 2:2-4). They just want to make sure that we are doing this as a part of the Messianic Jewish experience, and not off on our own. How are we helping see the Romans 11:25-26 trajectory of salvation history come to pass—“until the fullness of the nations has come in; and in this way all Israel will be saved” (PME)? Certainly, if such a mission is to be achieved, it will involve expelling the proper efforts to understand Judaism, accept Messianic Jewish Believers as one’s fellow brothers and sisters, and help declare the Messiah to Jewish people who do not know Him!

How much concern does the widely non-Jewish, Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement really have for the Messianic Jewish movement which preceded it? While I do not want to be found broad-brushing any group of religious people, in the past several years—especially since our family relocated back to North Texas—legitimate concerns as they involve the original mission of the Messianic movement are not too important for Hebrew Roots aficionados. Recently this past Summer, a video documentary called The Way started circulating around social media, and by this time at the end of 2016, it has probably had hundreds of thousands of views. I have seen The Way several times, as its producers visited a number of Hebrew Roots related conferences, independent home fellowships, and interviewed a wide number of popular teachers, as well as individual people. As I have watched The Way: A Documentary, I have tried to practice a method I learned a long time ago as a political science undergraduate: separate data from noise.

There are many non-Jewish Believers whom the Lord is sincerely stirring to look into parts of the Bible which have remained closed to them. Many are partaking of the Sabbath and appointed times. Many are studying the Torah. Many have a genuine desire to want to live like their Savior, and they are willing to make the sacrifice to do it—which at times can include being spurned by their family, ostracized from their friends, and accused of being cultic from their former pastors and Sunday school teachers. Many non-Jewish Believers, who have been directed by the Holy Spirit to be Torah pursuant in their obedience to our Heavenly Father, have experienced some of the same rejection as Jewish Believers who have been ostracized from their families, considered crazy, and maybe even regarded as dead, for placing their trust in Yeshua of Nazareth. I am blessed to say that in my own family’s experience of being a part of Messianic things, we have come together with our Jewish brothers and sisters in Yeshua, and in getting to know one another—and join in common cause—we have been able to have a reciprocal recognition of the sacrifices we have made to walk this path.

Among the many individuals and couples interviewed in The Way: A Documentary, the common thread was that the Lord was moving on people to dig into the Bible like never before. Many of them were indeed cut off from their faith origins in the Old Testament. Many of them had a sincere desire to want to live like Yeshua. Even though many of these people were rough around the edges, particularly in the newness of their experiences, you could tell that these people were ready and willing—not unlike some of the people who in the early days of the Protestant Reformation, first encountered a Bible. One can tell from The Way: A Documentary, that the numbers of non-Jewish Believers awakening to their faith heritage in Israel’s Scriptures, cannot be ignored or dismissed.

But the producers of The Way: A Documentary made one, very critical mistake. They may have traveled across the United States, to Canada, to Costa Rica, and to the United Kingdom. (I was not expecting them to travel to Israel.) They interviewed many Hebrew Roots teachers, and individuals, couples, and families. They may have attended various Hebrew Roots conferences. But not only did the producers of The Way: A Documentary not bother to attend a single Shabbat service at a local Messianic Jewish congregation, and interview the rabbi—they did not even mention the existence of the Messianic Jewish movement. Even though no religious movement is without its challenges and growing pains and errors at times: there would be no move of non-Jewish Believers embracing their faith heritage in Israel, without first a modern Messianic Jewish movement with origins going back to at least the same time as the emergence of Zionism.

What does some of this say? Was this just an oversight of the producers of The Way: A Documentary? Or, is it reflective of the fact that many non-Jewish Believers who have embraced their Hebrew Roots in the Tanach Scriptures, are not too interested in embracing their Jewish Roots in the Second Temple religion of Yeshua the Messiah and His Jewish Apostles? Even more so, are there non-Jewish Believers—believing themselves to be a part of the Commonwealth of Israel, grafted into the olive tree by faith in Israel’s Messiah—who think that Judaism and the Jewish experience have nothing to teach them about their relationship with the God of Israel, or even just the human experience of encountering and overcoming trials on Earth?

That there is more going on in the Messianic movement than just Jewish evangelism is clear enough. But, to forget and/or dismiss the original vision of Messianic Jewish outreach to Jewish people who need Yeshua the Messiah is a grave sin. The agony of Paul over the salvation of his countrymen needs to be heard: “I could wish myself actually under God’s curse and separated from the Messiah, if it would help my brothers, my own flesh and blood” (Romans 9:3, CJB).

It might take a little more work, but one can be a part of a Messianic movement with a dual mission of Jewish outreach and evangelism and in equipping the non-Jewish Believers God has sovereignly drawn in to be a part of the restoration He is performing. Yet as obvious as it may be to some: you cannot have an authentic restoration of Israel’s Kingdom without the Jews. I am afraid that many presently run the severe risk of being cut off (Romans 11:21).

V’yeishev

V’yeishev

He continued living

“Conflict and Faith”

Genesis 37:1-40:23
Amos 2:6-3:8


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

In much of the Holy Scriptures, we witness how God often uses conflict to accomplish His will. Just witness how there is a contrast between elements such as light and darkness, good and evil, the Heavens and the Earth, and the flesh versus the Spirit—with them frequently being at odds.[1] As the Creator of time, space, and matter—God’s purposes for Planet Earth are subject to the immutable laws of the natural and spiritual realms and dimensions He fashioned. Every created thing has a purpose and a reason for existence, regardless of our mortal ability or inability to fully comprehend the minute or grandiose details of His grand design. This reality came into focus when I meditated upon the sibling rivalry among the sons of Jacob/Israel, which is detailed for us in this week’s Torah portion.

Conflict between people is one of the primary results of human beings inheriting a fallen sin nature in Adam (cf. Romans 5:12ff), and every Bible reader should be innately aware of the first fratricide in how Cain murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:1-15). For some reason, I could not help but reflect upon a passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes, which seemed to permeate my thoughts, as I contemplated the various conflicts and acts of oppression described in V’yeishev:

“Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them. So I congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living. But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun. I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:1-4).

I had a difficult time considering the perspective of Qohelet, who concludes that it is actually better for a person to have never existed, than for those who have seen all of the evil activity and oppression that is performed under the sun. Is life really this futile? The challenge, for those of us seeking to know God, is recognizing how the ills of this world are largely things that fallen people have brought on themselves—and that we all require Him for salvation and guidance. The words of Ecclesiastes are often presented from the perspective of what a life without God would be: not something that we would probably want to have.[2]

The main focus of V’yeishev this week is the early life experiences of Joseph. Within our parashah, we clearly see how the Eternal God allows the natural inclinations of humankind to accomplish His purposes for His chosen ones. Joseph had a unique problem, as he was the favored son of his father Jacob, and this obviously fomented great jealousy and hatred in the hearts of his brothers:

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms” (Genesis 37:3-4).

This human emotion, which is common to all people, eventually resulted in Joseph being sold to the Ishmaelite traders from Midian, who in turn took Joseph to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar, captain of the Pharaoh’s bodyguard (Genesis 37:18-36). It is very true that after being given a revelation by the Holy One, that Joseph’s lack of maturity in zealously expressing his dreams to his brothers, could very well have precipitated and enhanced their rage to dispose of him (Genesis 37:5-11)—a lesson to all in that we must be very careful and tactful when we think the Lord has communicated something special to us, and we think we can then go out and share it. But in spite of this, Joseph did nothing so abominable so as to merit his other brothers’ hatred, and with it a dastardly plot to murder him. If anything, I would suggest that Jacob’s preference toward Joseph, as being the firstborn child of his beloved Rachel, caused more of the problems than anything else. For Joseph’s brothers, their thoughts must have been that if he were removed from the scene, they would be able to garner more of their father’s love and attention.

We know from previous readings over the past few weeks how Jacob, or Israel, was himself a somewhat “conflicted” individual. Although Jacob knew he had inherited the blessings of his grandfather Abraham and father Isaac—and even had some rather unique first hand encounters with the Lord—he still retained various human frailties. The emotions of love and adoration, exemplified in fondness, were difficult for him to hide. By displaying preferential treatment toward Joseph, we can only conclude that the hand of God was able to let the cruel actions of the brothers and various others to accomplish His will. These dealings ultimately positioned Joseph into a place to save the entire family of Jacob/Israel in the future years:

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).

The Torah relates that despite the potential negative impact of sibling betrayal and being sold into slavery, Joseph’s masters visibly recognized the blessing of his God upon their servant and prisoner. Joseph was blessed as a slave who served in Potiphar’s stead, and even after being falsely accused of trying to rape Potiphar’s wife and being imprisoned,[3] Joseph found favor in the Egyptian prison:

“The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and how the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge” (Genesis 39:2-4).

“But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it. The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper” (Genesis 39:21-23).

In spite of his various trials, Joseph maintained a relatively positive attitude about the life circumstances he encountered. Was it faith and confidence expressed in his childhood dreams, or was it his faith in the God of his fathers, that sustained him during these tumultuous times? Perhaps it was a combination of these things, but nevertheless, Joseph knew that he had a special relationship with the Almighty, as he certainly recognized the blessings of favor among his superiors. When Joseph had the opportunity to interpret some dreams while in prison,[4] he appropriately gave the glory to his God—as the only One who can give a mortal being the true comprehension and interpretation of dreams:

“Then they said to him, ‘We have had a dream and there is no one to interpret it.’ Then Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell it to me, please’” (Genesis 40:8).

From this statement you might conclude that Joseph had a personal relationship with the Holy One that allowed him to speak so directly and confidently: “Are not solutions from God?” (Alter). The intimacy that Joseph undeniably had to have, with the Heavenly Father, is surely something that each of us needs to heed! We are not going to be sold into slavery, and are probably not going to be falsely accused and thrown into prison. But we all need and require incredible patience, faith, and maturity in our lives—and these things can only come by us being sensitive to the will of God.

If there is one thing that we should all learn to appreciate about the various episodes related to us in this Torah portion, it is the fact that God uses our common fallen nature to achieve His goals for His Creation. We might not always understand the complex relationship of how our free will choices and His sovereignty work together. At times in our lives, we may think that we have complete control over our destiny, but later in retrospect recognize that events transpired by the Father’s doing after all. As limited beings, we have to each recognize how God is providentially in control of the ultimate outcome. While human conflict is one of the ways that His purposes are realized—and none of us inherently like conflict—events that do not seem to go our way are to drive us to Him, so that He might mold and fashion our faith and character.

God knows the beginning from the end, and as the Creator of time, He is not limited by anything to fulfill His purposes. It is for this main reason why I encourage Messiah followers to study the Torah. Within Moses’ Teaching, we can review the foundational stories and accounts of what God’s plan for His Creation truly is. We witness how bad circumstances later turn out to be good, and how evil intentions can ultimately be shifted around into a key stage toward a nation’s very survival.

What main lesson can you learn from reviewing V’yeishev? Do you identify more with Joseph, Jacob/Israel, or Joseph’s envious brothers? How much faith do you have in the Holy One that terrible events or various tragedies are necessary in order for you to truly seek Him and rely upon Him? How might our Torah portion for this week allow you to more fully understand the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8:28?

“[W]e know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Regardless of what happens in your life, allow events and circumstances to draw you ever closer to Him!


NOTES

[1] For a useful handle on this, and a discussion of why physical matter is ultimately not inherently evil, consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website “Dualism.”

[2] Consult the author’s thoughts on Ecclesiastes in the chapter “Sukkot Reflections on Ecclesiastes,” appearing in the Messianic Fall Holiday Helper by Messianic Apologetics. Also consider the entry for the Book of Ecclesiastes in A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee.

[3] Genesis 39:11-18.

[4] Cf. Genesis 40:1-23.

V’yishlach

V’yishlach

He sent

“Jacob’s Maturation (Part 2)”

Genesis 32:3-36:43
Hosea 11:7-12:12 (A)
Obadiah 1:1-21 (S)


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

When considering last week’s Torah reading, V’yeitzei (Genesis 28:10-32:2), the continuing account of this week’s reading, V’yishlach, naturally came to mind. Within V’yeitzei, we encountered the life of Jacob for approximately twenty years, and noting the itinerary, Jacob goes from Bethel to Mahanaim. For the next period of Jacob’s life that is covered in V’yishlach (Genesis 32:3-36:43), we witness the return trip beginning at Mahanaim and ending at Bethel. During this significant move, we see how Jacob had largely gone from being from a young, inexperienced, brash, and fleshy man—to a mature elder, who in spite of his humanity, had become tempered and seasoned in his walk with God. In many respects, most of us can identify with the process of Jacob’s maturation, as he moved toward being more spiritually inclined. Let us see what additional maturation and seasoning takes place during this critical chapter of his life.

As Jacob began his return back to the Land of Canaan, the narrative informs us that he expected some kind of violent confrontation with his estranged brother Esau (Genesis 32:3-23). Jacob had just endured his final parting from his father-in-law, Laban (Genesis 31). Later Jacob found himself the presence of angels, who have come to prepare him on the next leg of his journey (Genesis 32:1-2). He noted the angelic host, but named the place Machanayim, meaning “two camps” (BDB),[1] which seems rather odd if Jacob was surely serving the God of his grandfather Abraham and of his father Isaac—as all of those present together should be considered the camp of God. There seemed to have been something going through Jacob’s mind with the two-camp separation from Laban, followed by the camp distinction of his family and the host of angels. Such a division continued when Jacob prepared himself to encounter Esau, and he made the point of dividing his family and possessions into two camps:

“Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies [l’shnei machanot]; for he said, ‘If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape’” (Genesis 32:7-8).

Jacob had surely obeyed the request of the Lord to begin a return home to the Promised Land (Genesis 31:3), but in dividing out his family, and in sending messengers ahead to Esau with various gifts (Genesis 32:3-5), you do not get the impression that Jacob completely trusted in God. There was still an internal struggle that ensued between the mortal Jacob, and the Jacob who needed to place his life completely in God’s hands. Just read Jacob’s honest prayer before the Lord, as he confessed his various limitations:

“Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, “Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,” I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. For You said, “I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered”’” (Genesis 32:9-12).

It is recorded here that Jacob thought that he was innately unworthy or too small to be favored of God.[2] In more modern-day vernacular, we might think that Jacob was coming to the end of himself, realizing God’s ultimate sovereignty over his affairs. Having sensed the tension rising, as Jacob attempted to placate his brother Esau with various gifts, he had no choice but to turn toward the Holy One for protection and deliverance. Jacob had not seen Esau for quite some time, and admittedly thought that his anger toward him has not subsided.

If you have ever heard or read someone’s prayers, which implore for God’s intervening help, you detect the person has at least had to begin believing that only God and His power—rather than human strength and ability—can really provide what is needed. Here, Jacob goes back in his memory to remind the Lord about the promises from years before. Jacob pulled out all the stops. He realized that His needs were beyond his own ability. But still, his plan was to separate his family into two different camps, in order to prevent the possibility of loss of all to a revengeful Esau.

Jacob’s Wrestling Match

Even though he had just cried out to God, Jacob implemented his plan. He sent the livestock on ahead to appease his brother Esau (Genesis 32:13-21). Being left with the family, he began to follow the herds and came to the Jabbok River crossing. He sent his wives, concubines, and children across the river ford and stayed back to spend a night alone contemplating what was soon going to happen (Genesis 32:22-23). This was the infamous night that Jacob probably came to the “end of himself,” realizing that he must trust in the God of Abraham and Isaac. This was the significant moment when he stayed up all night wrestling with a supernatural being, and Jacob had his name changed to Israel:

“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. And when he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’ But he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him and said, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.’ Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh” (Genesis 32:24-31).

Many conclusions have been drawn throughout history from this incident when Jacob was finally at a point in his life, being ready to turn all of his inclinations of self-sufficiency over to God. It should not be surprising that many readers have concluded, or at least suggested, that the “Man” (NKJV) who wrestled with him, was actually a pre-incarnate Yeshua.[3] The main event, though, is that Jacob wrestled all through the night with this supernatural being, until he received a desperately sought blessing: “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26). All that had to happen to Jacob, was a distinct “touch” to Jacob’s hip to dislocate it, creating a life-long limp.

When the requested blessing finally came, it came in the form of Jacob being renamed Yisrael, for the distinct reason, “you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28, TNIV). In the thought of J.H. Hertz, “The name is clearly a title of victory; probably ‘a champion of God’. The children of the Patriarch are Israelites, Champions of God, Contenders for the Divine, conquering by strength from Above.”[4] Those who follow after Jacob—now Israel—are to be those who conquer in God’s power, led by Him, and who actively accomplish His purposes, clearly something with future missional intentions (cf. Philippians 3:14). To remember what had transpired during the monumental evening, Jacob named the site of his encounter Penu’El or “face of God” (BDB),[5] because “I have seen God face to face and I came out alive” (Genesis 32:31, Alter).

Oddly enough, the plan to send the livestock ahead and split up the camp, proceeded as conceived. Eventually, we find that Esau’s heart had already been softened toward his brother Jacob:

“But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him[6], and they wept” (Genesis 33:3-4).

Jacob, now renamed Israel, humbled himself before his brother Esau, and bowed seven times. A weeping brother, who appeared to be delighted when the reunion occurred, was quite gracious toward him. They kissed and the past basically seemed to be behind them.

Previously in Genesis 27:16, we see how Jacob had ably deceived his father Isaac, by his mother “put[ting] the skins of the young goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck.” Further, as a part of Isaac’s “blessing” of Esau after Jacob had stolen the birthright, he was told, “And your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless, that you will break his yoke from your neck” (Genesis 27:40). Richard Elliot Friedman ably points out how here in Genesis 33:4 that reconciliation occurs “as Esau runs and embraces Jacob and ‘fell on his neck.’”[7] Referencing Genesis 27:26, and how while deceiving Isaac, Jacob was asked, “Please come close and kiss me, my son,” Nahum Sarna concludes,

“Esau’s undoubtedly sincere kiss—he seems genuinely moved by Jacob’s extravagant gesture—signals the conclusion of the chain of events precipitated by that other kiss, Jacob’s deceitful kiss, recounted in 27:27,[8] which played a crucial role in the original blessing.”[9]

While Jacob wanting to give gifts to Esau did come as a result of some faithlessness, they were able to communicate to Esau that Jacob was generous and that he ultimately loved his brother. The sovereign God enabled some degree of peace to be established between the two brothers, and Esau was introduced to members of Jacob’s family (Genesis 33:5-8). Enough time had obviously transpired for Esau to forget much of the past, as he told Jacob, “I have plenty, my brother; let what you have be your own” (Genesis 33:9). While Jacob no longer had to worry about Esau desiring to murder him, and some degree of rapprochement was achieved, it was understandable that Jacob would still be rather cautious in his dealings with him.

But what does this mean in regard to Jacob’s dealings with God? Although Jacob may have had a cathartic moment with the Holy One at Peniel, he did still evidence a slight lack of faith in wanting to make sure that Esau was happy (Genesis 33:10-11). While the trials and tribulations in Jacob’s life had been used to tenderize him and make him more sensitive to the will of the Almighty, completely turning oneself over to Him did not happen instantaneously. Jacob did not immediately return home after this scene.

Return to Bethel

Jacob had been instructed by the Lord shuv al-eretz avotekha, “Return to the land of your fathers” (Genesis 31:3). Simply coming across the Jordan River and settling in the Shechem area, did not comply with God’s request for him to return. In spite of this, Jacob was far closer to where he needed to be then where he had been, and we do see that Jacob was now far more compliant with the patterns established by his ancestors for correctly worshipping and serving God:

“And Jacob journeyed to Succoth; and built for himself a house, and made booths for his livestock, therefore the place is named Succoth. Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city. And he bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. Then he erected there an altar, and called it El-Elohe-Israel” (Genesis 33:17-20).

After settling for a season in Succoth, Jacob moved across the Jordan River and up the valley to the land around Shechem. There he purchased a piece of land and settled. Jacob/Israel erected an altar (mizbeiach), naming it El Elohei Yisrael, meaning God, the God of Israel. Jacob not only named the altar, but gave it the designation of his new name, Israel, that he had received after his all-night wrestling experience. The spiritual maturation process was slowly taking hold, as Ya’akov was identifying himself more as Yisrael.

But if we follow the account, we find that Jacob probably should have continued down the mountain highway, back into the land of his fathers, further south around Hebron and Beersheba. It is not until after calamities befall Jacob and his children in the land around Shechem via the incident with Dinah (Genesis 34), that the Holy One spoke to him once again, and commanded him to move south:

“Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel, and live there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.’ So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves, and change your garments; and let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and has been with me wherever I have gone. So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had, and the rings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem’” (Genesis 35:1-4).

Here we see some clues that Jacob was not quite ready for the trip south until after the incidents in Shechem had already occurred. Apparently, he still was allowing the household idols that Rachel and others had absconded from Laban (Genesis 31:30, 32) to continue to be in his midst. Jacob had not cleaned house. He certainly was moving in the right direction on the road to return, and was growing spiritually by worshipping the Lord at the altar in Shechem. But as we can see from the problems that erupted in the Shechem area, there were still some residual problems associated with him not entirely depending upon God. He had stopped in Shechem and began to intermingle with the Shechemites. There is no recorded directive from God for Jacob to settle in the Shechem area. This could have been a potentially devastating situation as the problems associated with Dinah erupted.

Jacob’s sons, led by Simeon and Levi, took advantage of the men of Shechem after they had all agreed to join in with Jacob by performing circumcision rites that would allow them to identify with Abraham (Genesis 34:22, 24-25). The carnage was unreal, as they were caught totally unaware while experience great pain after the operation, being unable to really defend themselves. The murder of the Shechemites by his sons, made Jacob and his family odious in the sight of those in the region:

“Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have brought trouble on me, by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I shall be destroyed, I and my household’” (Genesis 34:30).

Something needed to be done, and this occurred when the Holy One spoke to Jacob and told him to move to Bethel, where he should build an altar and settle:

“Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel, and live there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau’” (Genesis 35:1).

After all the years Jacob had been gone, his life was coming full circle. He was away in order to start his family. Now he had spent a season in Shechem, after finally coming back into the land west of the Jordan. Shechem turned out to be a disaster for him and his family, and now he was commanded by God to return to Bethel. Interestingly, the Holy One protected him on his final trek south to the place where he saw the angels ascending and descending on the ladder:

“As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. And he built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him, when he fled from his brother…Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. And God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.’ Thus He called him Israel. God also said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come forth from you. And the land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I will give it to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you. Then God went up from him in the place where He had spoken with him. And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He had spoken with him, a pillar of stone, and he poured out a libation on it; he also poured oil on it. So Jacob named the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel’” (Genesis 35:5-7, 9-15).

This is an interesting passage that continues to show us that Jacob/Israel was maturing in his role as the inheritor of the blessings that were first bestowed upon Abraham and Isaac. Here as he returned to Bethel, God confirmed that his name is Israel, further describing many of the elements of His promises regarding posterity and the Land. As this encounter with God concluded and He departed, Jacob set up a pillar of stone, poured a libation on it, and anointed it with oil. This is a similar procedure that occurred many years before as he was departing the Land (Genesis 28:18). Is it possible that on his spiritual journey, Jacob was slowly learning more of the techniques to properly worship the God of Abraham and Isaac (cf. Exodus 29:38-40)?

Certainly, we are observing Jacob come back home—but more significantly Jacob transition from being a fleshly young man to now a maturing father and emerging leader. But as all who have been on a spiritual journey to maturity can attest, the trials of life continue, to further develop and refine godly character traits within us.

Just after this time at Bethel, Jacob continued on with his family down the road toward Hebron:

“Then they journeyed from Bethel; and when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and she suffered severe labor. And it came about when she was in severe labor that the midwife said to her, ‘Do not fear, for now you have another son.’ And it came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). And Jacob set up a pillar over her grave; that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day. Then Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder” (Genesis 35:16-21).

Jacob was forced to endure the loss of his beloved Rachel on the road to Hebron, which no doubt had to serve as another critical step in his maturation process. Interestingly, “Jacob” put up a pillar to commemorate the place where Rachel was buried (Genesis 35:20), followed by “Israel” pitching his tent by the tower of Eder (Genesis 35:21). The text seems to be bouncing back and forth between naming him “Jacob,” and then followed by “Israel.” Is this a subtle way that the text communicates how Jacob/Israel might have still been struggling with ways of the flesh, versus ways of faith?[10]

We read a little further and discover that it is while Jacob’s family was living near the tower of Eder, that Reuben had sexual relations with his father’s concubine (Genesis 35:22). “Israel” is the one who finds out about it. We know from further on that this act had serious consequences for Reuben, who in fact, lost his birthright privileges (Genesis 49:3-4).

Finally, Jacob made it back to the tents of his father Isaac near Hebron. It is here that his journey, for this part of his life, came to a close. He returned soon enough for Isaac to die, and for Esau and Jacob together to bury him:

“And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre of Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned. Now the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years. And Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, an old man of ripe age; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him” (Genesis 35:27-29).

As our Torah portion ends, we find that Jacob/Israel was finally settled in the area that had been promised to him and his descendants. His father Isaac had passed away. His brother Esau had moved away. And now Jacob took up his promised position as the leader of the family that would ultimately get much larger and eventually emerge into the nation of Israel.

Our Maturation

Having just read through V’yeitzei and V’yishlach in the past two weeks, we can definitely witness how Jacob had to mature, being seasoned by the various encounters and experiences he lived through. In many respects, he had modeled for those who will come after him, a life that began with a focus on self and self-interest—and steadily shifted toward a life focused on God and His will. Jacob epitomized the struggle that we have all had at one point or another.

It is encouraging to read that Jacob was ultimately known as a man of faith. Even after all of his conniving and struggles that he had to endure through, when the author of Hebrews lists great figures of faith, Jacob is listed among them:

“By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21).[11]

The Patriarch Jacob/Israel is remembered by future generations for his faith to bless his sons and grandsons after him. May we all finish this life and have a testimony of such faith, being known as those who to our dying day were witnessed as worshipping the Holy One. Then and perhaps only then, we will surely be able to pass on a testimony of significant spiritual transformation to our progeny!


NOTES

[1] BDB, 334.

[2] The Hebrew verb qaton is actually used in Genesis 32:10, appearing in the Qal stem (simple action, active voice), meaning “be small, insignificant” (BDB, 881).

[3] Cf. John Calvin: Genesis, trans. and ed. John King (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), pp 200-201; D. Stuart Briscoe, The Preacher’s Commentary: Genesis, Vol 1 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1987), pp 260-261.

[4] J.H. Hertz, ed., Pentateuch & Haftorahs (London: Soncino Press, 1960), 124.

Defined as either “Ēl persisteth, persevereth” (BDB, 976) or “El fights” (HALOT, 1:442).

[5] BDB, 819.

[6] Heb. v’yipol ‘al-tzava’rav v’yishaqeihu v’yiv’khu.

Editor’s note: Be cautious and rather critical of teachings circulating in the Messianic community, which give too much significance to the notational dots over the verb v’yishaqeihu, “and kissed,” in Genesis 33:4. Generally speaking, it is attested in textual studies, how such dots,

“[M]ay have originated in the pre-Masoretic period to indicate letters of words that were considered questionable but left in the text. Similar points are used in this manner in the Dead Sea manuscripts and in early Samaritan manuscripts. It is striking that many of the letters and words thus marked are lacking in the Septuagint and Syriac translations of the Bible, and also from the Samaritan Pentateuch” (Page H. Kelley, Daniel S. Mynatt, and Timothy G. Crawford, eds., The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998], 153).

In the scope of Rabbinic interpretation of Genesis 33:4, it is thought that the “dots over each letter of this word, [serve as] an exegetical device that calls attention to hidden allusions. The Sages disagree regarding the significance of the dots in this verse. Some hold that Esau’s kisses were sincere; but R’Shimon bar Yochai says that, although it is an immutable rule that Esau hates Jacob, at that moment his mercy was aroused and he kissed Jacob with all his heart (Rashi)” (Scherman, Chumash, 177; cf. Sarna, in Etz Hayim, 203 making reference to Genesis Rabbah 78:9). Esau’s kissing Jacob might have been sincere, or might not have been sincere.

It is quite possible that the dots over v’yishaqeihu carry an important meaning for readers of the Masoretic Hebrew text, inscribed by its editors and copyists. These would serve to point out something significant, no different than how today within English we might mark something with an asterisk *, an at sign @, or a pound/number sign #. There is no evidence, though, that the dots over v’yishaqeihu were ever of Mosaic origin, and they would instead date much closer to the First Century B.C.E.-C.E.

[7] Richard Elliot Friedman, Commentary on the Torah (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 114.

[8] “So he came close and kissed him; and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him and said, ‘See, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed’” (Genesis 27:27).

[9] Sarna, in Etz Hayim, 203.

[10] Editor’s note: While advocates of the JEDP documentary hypothesis would no doubt propose that usages of “Jacob” and “Israel” in such close proximity to one another in Genesis 35:20-21, point to different sources being employed in the composition of the Pentateuch, we have good cause to reject this. Immediately prior in the text, the narrative details much of the reason and destiny associated with Jacob being renamed Israel (Genesis 35:9-12). Rather than vs. 20 and 21 coming from two different “sources,” a conclusion that Jacob has yet to fully transition in his character, over to being Israel, is entirely reasonable.

For further consideration, consult the relevant sections of A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee.

[11] Editor’s note: The author of Hebrews here relies on the Greek Septuagint in his view of Jacob “leaning on the top of his staff.” The Hebrew Masoretic Text of Genesis 47:31 reads with rosh ha’mittah or “head of the bed,” whereas the Greek LXX has epi to akron tēs hrabdou autou, “on the top of his staff.” These differences may come from the fact that the vowel markings for the Hebrew MT are Medieval in origin, and without them the Hebrew word for “staff,” matteh, is spelled with exactly the same consonants, mem, tet, and heh, as mittah or “bed.” The LXX follows the point of view that Jacob was leaning on his staff as he blessed his sons.

In the scope of meaning, this is a rather small point, but some in the Messianic community have used it to discount the reliability of Hebrews. For further discussion, consult the entry for the Epistle to the Hebrews in A Survey of the Apostolic Scriptures for the Practical Messianic, and the commentary Hebrews for the Practical Messianic, by J.K. McKee.

V’yeitzei

V’yeitzei

He went out

“Jacob’s Maturation (Part 1)”

Genesis 28:10-32:2
Hosea 12:12-14:10 (A); 11:7-12:12 (S)


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

As you prepare to read through this week’s Torah portion, V’yeitzei, you may conclude, as I have, that both this parashah and next week’s parashah (V’yishlach: Genesis 32:3-36:43) together, are a two-part rendition of the main substance of the life of the Patriarch Jacob. The Torah specifically dedicates about nine chapters to describing the main experiences of the life of Jacob—largely trials and tribulations—as he developed from a young man in laboring to start a family, to being a more tempered and seasoned elder who would finally reunite with his brother Esau to bury their father Isaac.

V’yeitzei covers approximately twenty years in the life of Jacob as he departs for Haran,[1] and then after laboring for his father-in-law Laban,[2] begins his return back to Canaan.[3] In V’yishlach next week, we encounter the intensity when Esau and Jacob are brought back together,[4] and we see some of the challenges Jacob’s family has living in the Shechem area,[5] before they ultimately turn south back to Hebron.[6]

During this first score of years detailed in V’yeitzei, Jacob marries Leah[7] and Rachel,[8] takes on Zilpah[9] and Bilhah[10] as concubines, and he fathers eleven sons[11] and one daughter.[12] It is during this two-decade period of Jacob’s life when he experiences some rather dramatic encounters with the Creator God, which begin to solidify his relationship with Him. Here for all to read, are some chronicled events that give one a sense of Jacob’s real humanity and mortal limitations.

On the Road of Escape

Jacob is one of the unique characters in the Scriptures who exemplifies the common dichotomy present in each person, the struggle that too often—and most unfortunately—ensues between a natural inclination toward the flesh and a desired inclination toward the Divine (cf. Romans 7:14-25). On various levels, I would submit that the life of Jacob is something that all of us can identify with, as we each have had times in our lives when putting ourselves in the complete will and care of God has been most difficult. Jacob, after all, had to leave the relative comfort and security of his home, under the threat of retribution from his brother Esau, and was in desperate need of assurance that what he did and where he was to go were for a bigger purpose. The immediate need for Jacob to actually escape from Esau’s vengeance, certainly factored in to his decision to obey his parents’ direction to head eastward to find a wife from their relatives in Paddan-aram:

“So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said to him, ‘You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and from there take to yourself a wife from the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. And may God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. May He also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you; that you may possess the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham’” (Genesis 28:1-4).

But what about the promises bestowed upon Jacob as the heir of God’s previous promises made to his grandfather Abraham and father Isaac (cf. Genesis 27:27-29)? Now with Jacob as the recipient of the birthright and the blessing, would God be able to fulfill these promises if he relocated outside of Canaan? Certainly, the thought might have arisen that perhaps some things would be altered as a result of the ongoing problems with Esau. We later see that in contrast to Abraham, who simply moved when God told him to, how young Jacob did not have his grandfather’s faith.

From the very beginning of his moving eastward on the road to Haran, Jacob had an encounter with the Lord, as the angelic host appeared on a ladder just after his departure from Beersheba, at Bethel or Luz:[13]

“And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, ‘I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And 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 28:13-15).

Jacob surely had a very inspiring encounter with the Almighty and His angels! In this scene it is recorded how God will be faithful to the promises He gave to Abraham and Isaac before him, including: the inheritance of the Promised Land, a vast multitude of descendants, and that future blessings to the nations will come through Jacob. God’s final declaration is: Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28:15, NJPS). In categorical terms, God affirmed to Jacob that everything was under His control, and that He would not only be with him during his trip eastward—but that He would safely return him back to Canaan to complete all of the promises which have been made. Apparently, Jacob was convinced that he has heard from the Most High, because his actions reflected convictions that were laced with awe and reverence:

“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 Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on its top. And he called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz” (Genesis 28:16-19).

Jacob’s action, especially in renaming the location Beit-El or “house of God” (BDB),[14] speaks for itself. But, it is also followed by a rather significant vow he took:

“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the LORD will be my God. This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You’” (Genesis 28:20-22).

Here, as Jacob moved forward on his journey eastward, he had an intimate encounter with the Creator. He saw a ladder appear, and a portal opens up into Heaven with supernatural beings going up and down. Jacob recognized this spot as being “the house of God,” a place where His presence had appeared. Yet, where you would expect his grandfather Abraham to have simply praised the Almighty or have expressed great thanks for witnessing this, Jacob instead made an “if/then” vow with God: “If God remains with me, if He protects me on this journey that I am making, and gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear…” (Genesis 28:20, NJPS), v’hayah ADONAI li l’Elohim or “then the LORD will be my God” (Genesis 28:21).

Jacob’s Audacity!

When I read in the narrative how Jacob said, “…then the LORD will be my God” (Genesis 28:21), in light of the surrounding events regarding his encounter with the Almighty and Heavenly host, a number of thoughts came to my mind:

  • How could Jacob make this statement to the Lord?
  • Did Jacob not understand who he was truly addressing?
  • Did Jacob not believe in God’s promises that were already made regarding his welfare?
  • Can you actually imagine making a conditional bargain with the Creator?

Certainly by the words that Jacob uttered, he knew that he had been in the bone fide presence of God. But to then move from a contrite state of encountering His holiness and magnificence, to putting conditional demands on Him, appears to be quite audacious and presumptuous. When people know that they have just encountered the sheer glory and awesomeness of God, they should naturally have the faith to realize that He is all powerful! Is it possible that the conditional statement “…then the LORD will be my God,” is a major clue regarding the relative spiritual immaturity of young Jacob?

Perhaps this is a vivid indication that Jacob was used to striking deals or controlling various situations—and could even have been used to getting his own way. After all, he had been the favored child of Rebekah, and he traded a bowl of lentil soup to his brother Esau for the privileges of the firstborn (Genesis 25:27-34). Before departing for Padan-haram, Jacob had deceived his father, and essentially stole the blessing which Isaac would have otherwise given to his brother Esau (Genesis 27:1-29). One really wonders, in lieu of his past experiences, whether Jacob’s vow in Genesis 28:20-22 was really made with any serious thought, contemplation, or consideration for the consequences of his commitment.

Later within the Torah, specific instruction is codified about the significance of making vows (Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21). In His Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua the Messiah has to emphasize how by the First Century C.E. making oaths and vows had been severely abused (Matthew 5:33-37). But here in V’yeitzei, with little progress made on his journey east—after hearing a reiteration of Divine promises made to his grandfather Abraham and father Isaac—Jacob decided to strike a “bargain” with the Lord. If the Lord “performed” for Jacob by providing him with food, clothing, and protection, then Jacob would make Him his God. This sounds like a very carnal practice for someone to be doing. We can only speculate as to the specific reasons why this was Jacob’s reaction to the great theophany he witnessed.

What we do not need to speculate about is that Jacob had quite a few things to still learn about his Creator. Jacob lacked the faith of his grandfather Abraham, because limited human beings take a significant risk when they put conditions on an Eternal God. Rather than live forth His purpose for their lives via His direction, those who operate in faithlessness tend to think that they can manipulate God into following their own will. Unless quickly remedied and fixed, this can result in one having to experience some serious consequences—certainly in terms of Earthly refinement and seasoning if the Lord is going to use you for something beyond yourself.

In reading V’yeitzei, it is not difficult to detect that Jacob had a great deal to learn and still must mature. During the next twenty years, as he would labor under the watchful eye of Laban and begin his family, his fleshly and mortal inclinations would be challenged through a variety of distinct experiences, as he was doubtlessly forced to understand more about the God of Abraham and Isaac. Jacob would have to learn—largely “the hard way”—that it is the Sovereign One who alone was ultimately in control of his life and destiny. It will only be at the right point in time, though, when God would remind him that it is time to return to Canaan (Genesis 31:3).

Many of us in life today fail to place ourselves entirely in the hands of God, or will go through times when we doubt that He is there. Jacob never denied God, but he was certainly faithless at times. God was never faithless, because otherwise He would not be God. If you can at all identify with some of the early experiences of Jacob as he left his home, then I would encourage you to take some comfort in a few of the final words of the Apostle Paul, as he was exhorting his friend Timothy who would have to continue in the work of ministry after he passed on:

“It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:11-13).

Just as we have learned in our Torah portion this week, once you have been in the presence of God—do not try to bargain with Him! Respect your Creator, and cry out to Him that you may never forget His faithfulness toward you.


NOTES

[1] Genesis 28:10-22.

[2] Genesis 29:1-30:43.

[3] Genesis 31:1-32:2.

[4] Genesis 32:2-33:17.

[5] Genesis 34:1-35:22.

[6] Genesis 35:23-29.

[7] Genesis 29:21-27.

[8] Genesis 29:28.

[9] Genesis 29:24.

[10] Genesis 29:29.

[11] Genesis 30:1-24.

[12] Genesis 30:21.

[13] Genesis 28:19.

[14] BDB, 110.

November 2016 OIM News


OIM Update

November 2016

The last few months have been devoted to prayer, confession, and supplication unlike anytime in my life. For the first time since becoming a Believer, I truly considered the tragic possibility that the country where I reside was going to democratically choose socialism over the free enterprise capitalistic model that was envisioned by the formation of a constitutional republic based on Judeo-Christian principles back in 1787. For weeks on end, particularly as the Election Day approached, every morning as I entered into conscientiousness, I found myself crying out for mercy, mercy, and more mercy from our Heavenly Father. For lack of a better example, I frequently recalled the prayers recorded by the Prophet Daniel, as he recognized the timeline laid out by Jeremiah’s prophecies (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10) and interceded for his fellow Jews in Babylonian exile:

“So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, ‘Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land. Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You. Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; nor have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets. Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem’” (Daniel 9:3-12).

Needless to say, I certainly do not believe it was my individual prayers which generated the electoral results—but instead the cumulative effect of the millions of other grieving saints, who likewise cried out to our Creator God with unceasing prayers. In so doing, many were led to confess their sin and the sin of their fathers, and plead and implore the Holy One for mercy and compassion (Leviticus 26:42). Thankfully by His grace, the Almighty One gazed down from His Heavenly throne and recognized that there were indeed, many more than the negotiated ten righteous souls of Sodom (Genesis 18:16-33) residing in the United States, who could continue to fulfill God’s work to take the gospel of truth to the nations of the world.

Nevertheless, from my extremely limited perspective of being dangled over the potential abyss of living in a society substantially turned over to the evil inclinations of humanity—such was a frightening and I hope life altering experience for all those who claim to be a part of the Body of Messiah. Consequently in my moments of intercession, I was led to consider many of the Biblical and historical facts which led us to this critical juncture. I have tried to capture these things in this month’s lead article, “A Cultural Crossroad.” Hopefully, as we move forward and have been given a “line extension” in time to advance God’s Kingdom on Earth, the Messianic movement will continue to mature and flourish in anticipation of the Messiah’s return.

Finally, significant progress continues to be made with Messianic Apologetics expanding its outreach via social media. During the past year, J.K. McKee has made efforts to be quite active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. We appreciate your efforts of partnering with us via our ongoing Technology Fund, as we make upgrades to our computer equipment and abilities. The transfer of information from the old Messianic Apologetics website to the new WordPress based site will be completed by the end of the year. We are also pleased to announce that audio teachings are now available via a new Messianic Apologetics channel on both iTunes and Podomatic, which you can download via your iPhone or Android.

Until the Messianic restoration of all things…

Mark Huey


A Cultural Crossroads

by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

For those of us living in the United States, the past few months in anticipation of a national election and a new governmental leadership, have been extremely stressful. The free will choice of the American population, given the reported flaws of the final two candidates, created conflict peppered with angst, as well meaning people sought peace in their constitutional right to cast a vote. Personally, for the first time since the turbulent 1960s, I discerned the possibility that a dramatic cultural shift was about to take place. But unlike the naïve God-less teenager—who fifty years ago relied upon whatever the world system or “power of air” (Ephesians 2:2) was broadcasting into the airwaves to influence public opinion—my current perception was different. Instead, after almost forty years of pursuing the Messiah Yeshua with the indwelling Holy Spirit teaching and comforting my soul (John 14:16, 26; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7), I had been blessed with eyes to see and ears to hear the manifestation of spiritual warfare that the Spirit of God was revealing as Election Day approached. In my opinion, the continuation of the American culture, based on Judeo-Christian principles, was palpably threatened. Hence, I believe we were at a critical cultural crossroad—and my heartfelt concern for the future of our country, as the principal world power established to defend the relatively nascent State of Israel, was unlike any apprehension I had ever experienced before. As a result of the sleep-depriving anxiety—like millions of other Believers witnessing the same state of affairs—my primary reaction was to fervently pray for God’s mercy. As I searched the Scriptures and reflected on world history for how God intervened in other crucial times, the following verses came to mind occasionally—as my pleading, beseeching, and supplicating intercession grew:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua” (Philippians 4:6-7).

In addition to interceding intensely for the direction of our country, the annual trek through the Torah cycle providentially had the Book of Deuteronomy being studied during the waning months of the recent campaign season, along with the commemoration of the Fall high holidays. In many regards, the five books of the Torah of Moses can be considered to function as the written “constitution” of Ancient Israel. Deuteronomy or Devarim as the final book, incorporates Moses’ concluding summary and recapitulation of the statutes, laws, and regulations.

This year, when reading and studying through those summary passages—given the political electoral decisions being made in early November, and the real potential for what many were calling a “constitutional crisis” with certain results—the parallels between what was envisioned by the framers of the U.S. Constitution came to mind often. After all, when the founding documents, including the Constitution of the United States, were being drafted and adopted, a significant number of the framers and authors of those documents were influenced by Christian ethics and moral principles, with many being genuine followers of the Messiah. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit was evident in many of the hearts of those used to draft the provisions incorporated in the Constitution of the United States of America.

As a result, the generally agreed upon understanding about the fallen nature of humanity, was addressed by establishing a scheme of government which would incorporate balancing mechanisms to keep any one person from gaining too much power. For most assuredly, from previous experience and knowledge about world history, just about everyone in that era understood the universal principle later encapsulated in Lord Acton’s precise definition about power: “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Hence, provisions were made in the U.S. Constitution that included what are known as “checks and balances” to prevent any one branch of government, or any one individual, from abusing the power that they were to receive.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of the Fall campaign was the much discussed realization that genuine corruption within the government of the United States had simply become a given among the ruling class. Light was finally being cast on the misdealing hidden in the darkness. Television commentators railed, articles and books were written, and movies and documentaries were produced—which all delved into many of the challenges that beset the candidates of the two primary parties vying for political power. One of the most ballyhooed claims dealt with what was being called absolute self-dealing and corruption by one of the candidates. The evidence of using power and position to enrich oneself was overwhelming, as the ability to prosecute the case was frozen by the judicial system. Nevertheless, the intensity of the campaign was in full bloom this past September.

As the 229th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution took place on September 17th, the Torah portion Shoftim was being considered. In Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9, I discovered one critical area that the framers of the U.S. Constitution did not include when they were drafting the articles for American governance. After all, the founding fathers of the late Eighteenth Century were essentially successful farmers, traders, professionals, businessmen, bankers, doctors, lawyers, or land owners—who did not necessarily envision the problem that money would or could create in the electoral processes of the early Twenty-First Century. For the most part, those involved in governmental activities considered it temporary service to the nation which had been created, and not a permanent status for life. Nonetheless, they did foresee the need to include a provision for impeachment that addressed the problem of bribery in the following oblique way found in Article 2, Section 4 Impeachment:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High crimes and Misdemeanors.

In other words, “bribery” was something that the framers of our Constitution knew the human heart was capable of falling into—along with treason, high crimes, and misdemeanors. Of course even today, the ability to prosecute someone for any of these misdeeds requires considerable legal arguments, to determine exactly what rises to the level of removal from office.

But as I pondered Shoftim portion, I wondered why there was not more consideration for how officials, magistrates, and judges can be so readily influenced by the bribes of others. Perhaps the founders could have been more explicit when it comes to the corruption that can result from monetary bribes, as noted in this passage that reminds us about how bribes pervert justice:

“You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 16:18-20).

The difference, found in the Torah, was that the judges and officers would be appointed by the various tribal leaders of Ancient Israel, rather than elected democratically as found in the American Constitution. But the universal principle found in the words that “a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous,” must be considered. This takes one right back to the fallen nature of humanity. Without getting into all of the details which have led settled law to the “Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission” Supreme Court decision, suffice it to say that the ability for money (or wealth/mammon) to corrupt humans goes right back in the annals of time. In fact, in His Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua addressed the choice that every person, regardless of whether they seek to be a ruler, judge, or public servant, must contend with in life. It all comes down to who or what every person is going to serve, which according to Yeshua is one of two masters:

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24).

Here in very succinct terms, Yeshua explains the great dilemma presented to every person who has ever lived—but most especially issues a challenge to those who would claim to follow Him. Consider the stark reality that if a person in a governmental position does not claim a relationship with the Risen Savior, which gives knowledgeable access to the Creator God—then their allegiance is either to self, or a plethora of other gods, with the misperceived security derived from the acquisition of wealth as a motivational force. But without judging another person’s heart on where he or she stands before the Almighty, observing the actions of a person versus what one says, should give a perceptive person a good idea about just who or what another individual is serving. This wise warning was mentioned by Yeshua, just after speaking about the choice of masters, with the reminder that His followers need to be self-critical in order to avoid hypocrisy:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).

So with those words taken to heart, our prayers should be consistent for all who seek to rule over us in governmental positions. We are not to judge their motivations, but ask the Holy One to give them wisdom, discernment, and merciful hearts when it comes to making decisions that impact those under their authority.

This is why another passage in Shoftim made so much sense regarding what the Lord expected the kings of Israel to do when they were in power. Here, the Torah was very explicit on how Moses instructed the eventual kings of Israel to maintain their humility once they were elevated to rule:

“When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’ He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself. Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).

Of course, these instructions were for the kings of Israel who were beholden to the Torah of Moses. In the case of the American president, the U.S. Constitution is the law of the land. But if you take a brief look at this passage, you will note a few values that could be applied to any person who has been elevated to power over others, even in a constitutional republic based on democratic principles. In fact, some of these principles were discretely incorporated into the text of the Constitution, and others adhered to by many of the Presidents who have presided over the United States of America. These include:

  1. Choose a countryman or someone (born American, no foreign born leaders)
  2. Never return to Egypt or its ways (do not return to European monarchial systems)
  3. Do not take additional wives, and avoid interlocking treaties (ancient entanglement with treaties)
  4. Take money or increase wealth (avoid bribery)
  5. Write the Torah with the priests (understand the Constitution)
  6. Read Torah and its statutes daily (appreciate validity of established laws)
  7. Learn to fear the Lord (grave responsibility)
  8. Maintain humility (daily prayer seeking guidance from above)

As you can see, the influence of the Holy Bible had a profound impact on the formation of the American culture and the writing of the U.S. Constitution. I highly recommend you take the time to read an article by Stephen McDowell, entitled, “Noah Webster, God’s Law, and the United States Constitution: The Influence of the Bible on the Development of American Constitutionalism” (accessible online at: http://providencefoundation.com/?page_id=1948), and you can review the unique trail through the many historical documents, ultimately influenced by the Scriptures, distilled into the U.S. Constitution.

When reading through many of these documents, you will find just how close the American culture came to a critical crossroad which would have had incredibly traumatic consequences for the world we live in today. One quoted paraphrase that really caught my attention, was attributed to some post-presidency letters written by Thomas Jefferson regarding the ability for the young nation to prosper and thrive. In those correspondences Jefferson warned of the detrimental effects of a centralized government, combined with the corruption inherent in political circles. Upon reading these comments and references to them by various editorial writers, the state of affairs surrounding the recent election cycle generated serious concern for the direction our country was going to take. Attempting to weave in various prophetic statements found in the Holy Scriptures, just added to the parlor games being debated by God-fearing people from all spiritual persuasions. Needless to say, because I was more familiar with the Holy Scriptures, I focused my energies on prayer, appealing to God for mercy, and His compassion to a people and a nation that I believe still has a unique calling to stand with the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Thankfully, by the grace of God, the result which occurred during this election cycle has given many hope for the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. Around our home, we have praised the Lord for what we have called a “line extension,” before the End of the Age trauma commences. Quite frankly, I have no good reason for understanding why the Holy One of Israel had so much grace toward His people, other than the cries for mercy! There is no doubt in my mind that there were untold millions of Believers who followed this Scripture to the letter:

“[A]nd 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, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Surely, millions of God-fearing Americans humbled themselves, and sought the face of the Almighty in fervent prayer. Many confessed their sin and turned from their wicked ways. As a result, the Holy One heard the pleas and cries from Heaven, forgave the sin, and is now in the process of healing our land, the United States of America.

The American cultural crossroad was upon us. We stopped, paused, considered the alternatives, and by the grace of God, chose to return to a path which adheres to Christian principles much more so than the other choice. Now it is time to pray for unity and healing between those who are diametrically opposed in the worldview that was chosen. And while we are at it, continue to pray for the protection of those in governmental leadership—so that the American culture, based on Judeo-Christian principles, will continue to stand with the State of Israel for the foreseeable future.

Let me close with some of the most poignant words regarding how the Creator God sovereignly places various governmental authorities over people, in order to ultimately accomplish His will for humanity. Here in his writing to the Romans, the Apostle Paul summarized how Believers as citizens of a society should conduct their lives. These are words that I have no doubt were certainly being considered when the U.S. Constitution was agreed upon:

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet’ [Exodus 20:13-15, 17; Deuteronomy 5:17-19], and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ [Leviticus 19:18]. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Do this, knowing the time that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:1-14).

When you reflect on Paul’s words, in light of the cultural crossroad just reached and the path chosen—all who believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because of faith in the accomplished work of the Messiah Yeshua should say without reservation: “Hallelujah!” We have seen prayers answered, and accordingly, need to take the reprieve as an opportunity to “put on the Lord Messiah Yeshua, and stop making provision for the flesh—for its cravings” (Romans 13:14, TLV)—so that we might instead further advance God’s Kingdom on Earth, until the Messianic restoration of all things…

Toldot

Toldot

History

“Generational Choices”

Genesis 25:19-28:9
Malachi 1:1-2:7


by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

Over the past few weeks, Torah readers have witnessed several parashot focusing on the life of Abraham and his progeny. This week the saga continues, as some of the trials of Isaac are detailed. Interestingly, the title of “History” or “Generations” (Toldot) can give one pause to consider many of the realities, and perhaps uncertainties, of family growth. While we can notice how the descendants of Abraham began to multiply, we should take greater notice of how Abraham had passed on the knowledge of his relationship with the God of Creation and His promises to his progeny.

In Toldot, we clearly see how the Almighty was establishing His chosen people among the nations of the world through His choice of Isaac, and later Jacob. It is instructional for us to learn that, as modeled, how all of us make generational choices is critical for furthering the truths we have inherited through God’s blessings originally promised to Abraham millennia ago.

Last week, if you will recall, our Torah portion Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18) actually concluded with a brief description of Abraham’s death and his burial, by what the text specifies as “his sons”:

“And these are all the years of Abraham’s life that he lived, one hundred and seventy-five years. And Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people. Then his sons Isaac and Ishmael [Yitzchaq v’Yishma’eil banyv] buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamre, the field which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth; there Abraham was buried with Sarah his wife” (Genesis 25:7-10).

This is an interesting depiction of Abraham’s internment, because if you will recall, following the death of Sarah, Abraham married Keturah and had six additional sons:

“Now Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. And she bore to him Zimran and Jokshan and Medan and Midian and Ishbak and Shuah…Now Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac; but to the sons of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts while he was still living, and sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the east” (Genesis 25:1-2, 5-6).

Here we see the names of six additional sons, yet Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac, and only gave gifts to his other sons (Genesis 25:6). This was a critical decision Abraham made as he was approaching his death. Abraham knew that God had promised the inheritance of the Land of Canaan to his son by his wife Sarah (Genesis 17:19, 21). Abraham also remembered that God had made some promises to Ishmael, in order for him to be fruitful and be a great nation (Genesis 17:19-21).

There are no recorded promises made to the other six sons, so when Abraham’s death approached, he gave them some gifts and sent them eastward. By the time Abraham died, Ishmael had probably already fathered many of the twelve sons that were expected (cf. Genesis 25:16-18). When you couple these grandsons with the six sons from Keturah, was Abraham at all concerned about a potential threat to Isaac and his children? Keep in mind that although Abraham was told by God that he would be fruitful (Genesis 22:17), the example of his lack of judgment in fathering Ishmael via Hagar is one that is not looked at that favorably throughout the Scriptures (cf. Galatians 4:25).

Even though Ishmael was present at the burial of Abraham, the fact that Abraham continued to favor Isaac, and gave all that he had to him (cf. Genesis 25:5), indicates that Abraham lived his final years in close proximity to Isaac and Rebekah, so that the inheritance of livestock and goods could be completed. Even though Abraham had a second family, as it were, with Keturah, preference was definitely made toward Isaac, the son of promise. I would submit that the most important thing in Abraham’s mind was to impart to Isaac and his children the special relationship that he enjoyed with the God of Creation.

The Next Generation

One of the main features of our parashah this week is how Isaac and Rebekah had to wait twenty years, before she became pregnant with the twins Esau and Jacob. Isaac was forty when he married Rebekah:

“Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham became the father of Isaac; and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife” (Genesis 25:19-20).

A few verses later we see that Isaac was sixty years old when the twins were born:

“And afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them” (Genesis 25:26).

Having been married for twenty years, Isaac and Rebekah lived together childless. They also got to experience the stigma and disappointment of being childless, which in the Ancient Near East would often be viewed as something less than a misfortune. Even in more modern times, while some married couples may choose to wait a number of years before starting a family, they normally do not expect to have to wait two decades!

In many ways, Isaac and Rebekah having to wait was a repeat of some of the pain endured by Abraham and Sarah, as they waited a seemingly interminable amount of time before the birth of Isaac (cf. Genesis 18:11-12). Perhaps when the whole family got together, Abraham may have comforted Isaac and Rebekah with stories of how he and Sarah had to wait for Isaac to be conceived. If this took place, could they have been cautioned not to make the mistake of forcing God’s timing, as was the case with the pregnancy of Hagar that produced Ishmael (cf. Genesis 16:3)?

The Scriptures do not give us any great detail about what transpired during the two decades Isaac and Rebekah waited for their own children, but we do know that in God’s time, Isaac’s entreaties for a pregnancy were answered as Rebekah became pregnant with twins (Genesis 25:21). But, even after a twenty-year wait for children, Rebekah’s pregnancy appeared to have complications. From the very womb, the twins inside of her are said to have been struggling for dominance. Rebekah’s pleas to God were answered when He spoke to her about the situation:

“But the children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If it is so, why then am I this way?’ So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples shall be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger’” (Genesis 25:22-23).

In what appear to be some very intriguing words, Rebekah wanted to know why “the children clashed together[1] within her” (Alter). She received an answer to her plea from God, and many Bible readers—especially those who follow current events in the Middle East with the Israeli-Arab conflict—feel that Genesis 25:22-23 definitely informs them about this. Perhaps a bit more significant for the narrative here, Rebekah would have been relieved to receive an answer from the Holy One that the conflict she felt during her pregnancy was by His design, and not because of anything that she did. Similarly, if you have ever heard the voice of the Creator respond to one of your urgent pleas, then you are likely able to recall His response whenever you need guidance and encouragement.

In a moment of great stress, the Lord told Rebekah that within her womb were two peoples who were already struggling with one another. Can you imagine what she thought when she delivered her two boys, and the first one came out ruddy and hairy, with his younger brother actually grabbing the firstborn child’s heel?

“Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them” (Genesis 25:25-26).

Certainly as a follower of Abraham and Isaac’s God, she had probably heard about the curses that were first uttered to the serpent, Eve, and Adam in the Garden of Eden. Recall what God’s first promise of the Messiah to come actually was:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Genesis 3:15).

What was God communicating to His followers when He said that the seed of the woman would “bruise him on the heel”? In the scene of Esau and Jacob’s birth, the younger son being born held on to the heel of his older brother. Having just experienced the pain of childbirth, one can only imagine what Rebekah might have thinking. We may never know for certain what went through Rebekah’s mind, but we do know from the rest of the Biblical narrative that the line of Jacob eventually gave rise to the Messiah (Matthew 1:2ff; Luke 1:33). And as the Apostle Paul attests, women are to take special note of how they are to “be saved through the child-bearing[2]” (1 Timothy 2:15, YLT), Yeshua, a direct reference back to Genesis 3:15.[3]

Further on in Toldot, the twins are described in contrasting tones:

“When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game; but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Genesis 25:27-28).

We see an interesting picture here of the distinctions between these two children of Isaac and Rebekah, and how their parents treated them. Esau was “a skillful hunter, a man of the open country” (NIV). On the other hand, “Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents” (RSV). It appears that Esau was the “stronger” of the two, or at least was more outgoing as a warrior/gatherer, while Jacob spent time in tents attending to various household chores.

As Esau and Jacob grew up together, Rebekah certainly witnessed the obvious differences between her two sons. The older son was a man after the flesh (cf. Hebrews 12:16), and the younger was inclined to remain at home. Within a period of time, a challenging dichotomy developed in the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. It is stated that Isaac loved Esau, because he had “a taste for wild game” (Genesis 25:28, NIV). On the other hand, it is stated that Rebekah loved Jacob.

Rebekah had been given a very strong word from the Lord during her pregnancy that “the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23, RSV). She knew that Jacob was definitely more inclined to household responsibilities. She was living in the reality that Isaac, the firstborn son of Abraham and Sarah, was to receive the promises of God. She could definitely have thought that the promises to Abraham and Isaac were ultimately going to be bestowed upon Jacob, the younger of the twins. After all, she had imbedded in her memory: Was not the older to serve the younger?

Birthright Transfer

Continuing in the narrative of our Torah portion, we encounter more, which specifically informs us about the character of Esau and Jacob. A very unique event occurred, confirming how Esau was largely a mortal man after the flesh, with little concern for spiritual matters. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a meal. Even if Jacob’s intentions were not entirely honorable in this scene, Esau’s actions in agreeing to the transaction were neither wise nor responsible, either:

“And when Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; and Esau said to Jacob, ‘Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.’ Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’ And Esau said, ‘Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?’ And Jacob said, ‘First swear to me’; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright’” (Genesis 25:29-34).

Some Jewish Rabbis think that this event took place at the time of Abraham’s burial,[4] but there is no direct Biblical evidence that indicates this as the specific time when Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew. What should grab our attention a little more is why Esau agreed to sell his birthright for a meal. What does it mean when “Esau came in from the field and he was famished” because he says “I am about to die” (Genesis 25:29, 32)? Is this just because Esau was out hunting too much? Or had Esau gone out and committed some ungodly deeds, stirring up some problems for himself? Jacob was obviously at home conducting his affairs, and for some reason or another might had an inclination that if Esau were given the birthright, he might have either misused or squandered it.

In securing Esau’s birthright of the firstborn for a meal, Jacob was treating Esau in a manner consistent with a second meaning derived from his given name Ya’akov,[5] which can mean “supplanter” (Genesis 27:36). Here at this propitious moment, Jacob sold his brother a bowl of soup, knowing that Esau would give him his birthright:

Apparently, this transaction is considered by God to be valid, because Esau verbally swore to Jacob that the birthright was to be his (Genesis 25:33). How powerful can spoken words be, which reveal what is truly in one’s heart (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45)? Is it possible that Rebekah had revealed to her son Jacob, that as the younger his older brother would serve him? Or is it possible that while Jacob conducted his affairs in the family tents, that he decided he wanted to inherit the birthright blessings? He certainly knew the (irresponsible) inclinations of his twin brother Esau. Did Jacob have a plan of eventually taking the birthright from Esau? We do not know for sure. When Jacob offered a meal to his brother, Esau notably did not refuse, having readily (and stupidly) accepted the proposal for the exchange.

In the First Century, the author of Hebrews admonishes his audience why Esau could accept the exchange without any immediate reservations. Esau is specifically considered to be an ungodly and immoral man, who was quite foolish and who made a rash decision:

“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears” (Hebrews 12:16-17).

This view of Esau being a base man of the flesh is seen earlier in the works of the Jewish philosopher Philo. He describes Esau as an evil man, versus Jacob who was wise and who concerned himself with virtue:

“Now that the wicked man is destitute of a city and destitute of a home, Moses testifies in speaking of that hairy man who was also a man of varied wickedness, Esau, when he says, ‘But Esau was skillful in hunting, and a rude man.’ [Genesis 25:27.] For it is not natural for vice which is inclined to be subservient to the passions to inhabit the city of virtue, inasmuch as it is devoted to the pursuit of rudeness and ignorance, with great folly. But Jacob, who is full of wisdom, is both a citizen and one who dwells in a house, that is to say, in virtue. Accordingly Moses says of him, ‘But Jacob is a man without guile, dwelling in a house’” (Allegorical Interpretation 3.2).[6]

Although Jacob was by no means imperfect, it is ultimately Esau who is to be considered to be an immoral or godless person (cf. Genesis 28:6-10). Because Esau did not have a spiritual inclination toward his Creator, he despised his birthright (Genesis 25:34). Esau was willing to sell it to satisfy some momentary hunger or cravings. The ArtScroll Chumash perhaps validly notes, “For what did he give up his precious birthright?—for a pot of beans!”[7]

The Blessing of Isaac

A number of years later, with Esau and Jacob a bit older, Esau now had an interest in securing the blessings of his father Isaac. But as the narrative details, he had already been inclined to intermarry with some of the local women, and was a practicing polygamist:[8]

“And when Esau was forty years old he married Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite; and they brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah” (Genesis 26:34-35).

The marriages of Esau to Judith and Basemath were grievous for Isaac and Rebekah to witness: “they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah” (RSV). Probably realizing how Abraham’s servant had to be sent back to his home country to select a wife for Isaac (cf. Genesis 24:1-7), the two parents understood how important it was for their sons to at least try to marry someone who had a similar background. They knew that they had inherited the blessings via the marriage of Abraham to Sarah, and in their hearts they wanted the same blessings for their sons. But Esau had married local women, who were undoubtedly involved in the worship of other gods and other unacceptable practices. Yet, with this in mind, it is interesting that as Isaac was growing old, he was still inclined to give Esau a chance to receive his blessings (Genesis 27:1-4). Even if Esau had displeased his parents in his marriage choices, he still remained their son and they still loved him.

As Isaac’s eyes began to fail him, he thought he was going to die, and so in a last minute appeal to his son Esau, he made the request of one final savory meal: “prepare a savory dish for me such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, so that my soul may bless you before I die” (Genesis 27:4). Isaac does tell Esau that before he died, he wanted to bless him. Of course, as the record indicates, Rebekah overheard this request and she went into high gear to circumvent the bestowing of Isaac’s blessing on Esau (Genesis 27:5-14). She probably remembered the clear words from God “that the older will serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23), and so now in a very premeditated way, Rebekah decided that she would intervene to see that Jacob receives the blessings of Isaac instead.

Without going into great detail, we should all know that the deception was successful and that Isaac blessed Jacob as he would a firstborn son (Genesis 27:15-29). In essence, the successful trade of the birthright status years earlier, had now come full circle as the firstborn blessings, usually designated for the one actually born first, was bestowed upon Jacob rather than Esau. Right after Jacob had stolen his brother’s blessing, Esau returned to prepare the meal his father actually wanted, so that he might receive the firstborn blessing (Genesis 25:30-31). Instead, he found out that he was too late (Genesis 25:32-34), and he cried out for restitution with a gut-wrenching plea:

“Then he [Esau] said, ‘Is he not rightly named Jacob [Ya’akov], for he has supplanted [aqav] me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.’ And he said, ‘Have you not reserved a blessing for me?’ But Isaac answered and said to Esau, ‘Behold, I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him. Now as for you then, what can I do, my son?’ And Esau said to his father, ‘Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.’ So Esau lifted his voice and wept” (Genesis 27:36-38).

Esau was crushed. He finally realized that he had not only lost his birthright to Jacob, but now the grand blessing of his father Isaac had also been taken away from him. His weeping was an indication of great human sorrow. In his mercy and love toward his son, Isaac did bestow a word upon Esau—but only after he realized that the blessing of Abraham, which he had inherited, was already passed on verbally to his son Jacob. Isaac was not about to change what had already been stated over Jacob and his descendants, and so he can only tell Isaac this:

“Then Isaac his father answered and said to him, ‘Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling, and away from the dew of heaven from above. And by your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless, that you shall break his yoke from your neck.’ So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob’” (Genesis 27:39-41).

(I do not know about you, but I do not honestly know if I would have really wanted something like this pronounced over me…)

Generational Blessing

Realizing that it was Esau’s intention to murder Isaac (Genesis 27:42-45), Rebekah again decided that she knew best, recognizing how the best thing for Jacob was for him to relocate out of the region. She knew how she could get Isaac to agree to this. Rebekah implored her husband Isaac, blaming her frustration on Esau’s wives from the daughters of Heth, to send Jacob back to the old country to secure a wife from among her relatives:

“And Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I am tired of living because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of Heth, like these, from the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?’ So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said to him, ‘You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and from there take to yourself a wife from the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. And may God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. May He also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you; that you may possess the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham’” (Genesis 27:46-28:4).

We see here from Isaac how the blessing of Abraham was bestowed upon Jacob: “may El Shaddai bless you, make you fruitful and make you numerous, and may you be a congregation of peoples[9]” (Genesis 28:3, ATS). Isaac himself did not know when he would again see Jacob, so he passed on this final blessing before Jacob left. Of course, no one at the time realized that Isaac would live to a ripe old age of 180, and that his two sons would have to reunite to bury him (Genesis 35:28-29).

Considering the Generational Choices

What have we learned, as we are reading about the early generations of the family chosen by God to be a major example of faithfulness toward Him?

First, we witness that the Lord challenges each generation with trials that are designed to test our faith. Whether it is waiting upon God’s blessing for opening the womb, or being sent into hostile territory to deal with the ravages of famine (Genesis 26:1ff), the ability to trust in God for His plan and provision is imperative. As we have seen in recent weeks, both Abraham and Sarah—and now Isaac and Rebekah—have dealt with these challenges in different and yet similar ways.

Next, we can see that each generation has some critical choices to make in order to help insure that the blessings of the Holy One are passed down to succeeding generations. We are modeled the concept of encouraging our children to marry spouses from people with the same faith and relatively familiar backgrounds, so they can have the best chance of marital success. Abraham did this for Isaac in retrieving Rebekah to be his wife (Genesis 24). In a like manner, Jacob was sent to Rebekah’s family to secure a wife (Genesis 27:46-28:2). By following this pattern, each successive generation made choices for their children that increased the probability that their descendants perpetuated the truths regarding the God of Abraham and His promises.

For those of us living today, it is our responsibility to heed the successes and failures of those who have preceded us, notably the examples of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Sarah and Rebekah. Just like these spiritual forbearers, we should be ever conscious of the need to make good generational choices, as we are given responsibility for those who come after us. We should be positively influencing the future choices of our offspring. Among the many things this involves, is there anyone better equipped to advise and encourage the next generation about marital choices than the parents who raised them? Of course, in order to assist in this process, the one Torah commandment that deals specifically with the direct relationship between children and parents, should be inculcated into each successive generation:

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you” (Exodus 20:12; cf. Deuteronomy 5:16).

May we all take an active interest in the lives of our children, and also other young people in the community of faith who look to us as mentors. Let us do so by not only giving them upstanding marital advice and council, but most especially exemplifying what it means to have a dynamic relationship with the God of Israel through His Son, Yeshua the Messiah. In so doing, it will not only be the faithfulness of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs that they are guided by, but most importantly the faithfulness of the One who died for our sins and has provided us full reconciliation with the Father![10]


NOTES

[1] Heb. ratzatz.

[2] Grk. dia tēs teknogonias.

[3] For further reading, consult the article “The Message of the Pastoral Epistles” and the commentary The Pastoral Epistles for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee.

[4] Cf. Scherman, Chumash, 127.

[5] Cf. J. Barton Payne, “aqav,” in R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 2:691-692.

[6] Philo Judaeus: The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged, trans. C.D. Yonge (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), 50.

[7] Scherman, Chumash, 128.

[8] For a review of this subject in the Bible, consult the article “Is Polygamy for Today?” by J.K. McKee.

[9] Heb. qehal amim.

[10] Consult the article “The Faithfulness of Yeshua the Messiah” by J.K. McKee.