V’yeitzei

V’yeitzei

He went out

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

“Jacob’s Maturing Faith”


by Mark Huey

Torah students should realize that after the first 11 chapters of Genesis record a wide swath of human history, from the Creation to the scrambling of the languages, the remaining chapters deal with the four generations, which consist of Abraham, his children, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren. From Genesis chs. 12-25, the focus is on God testing Abraham, the person chosen to be the father of faith. From Genesis chs. 25-28, the emphasis is on Abraham’s son Isaac and how he continued along the walk of faith that Abraham had established. When we now turn to the Torah portion V’yeitzei in our weekly readings, the life of Jacob is detailed, and is followed by specific actions taken by his twelve sons and daughter for the balance of the Book of Genesis. The first book of the Pentateuch is primarily concerned with the Lord God, and how He interacted with these individuals and their steadily enlarging family, as they learned to trust wholeheartedly in Him. This Deity is hence forever referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—precisely because their personal testimonies establish a foundation for their successors in the balance of the Holy Scriptures.

It is not only interesting—but also extremely important—for readers to study, analyze, and compare how these different individuals responded to the Almighty. Each generation is unique, and no two people and their experiences with God are identical. Abraham had at least a modicum of belief in the One True Creator, when his father Terah and their family left Ur. When Abraham received the direct call from the Holy One to go forth to another country (Genesis 12:1-3), Abraham responded without any recorded hesitancy. Abraham is so recognized as “the father of faith,” because his intimate relationship with God was not necessarily modeled by his father Terah. Abraham was uniquely chosen by God to establish a special relationship with one man and his family, which would set in motion a system of belief that has endured down through the millennia. It is from the early chapters of Genesis that the foundation of the Judeo-Christian faith system and worldview are derived.

Believers in the Messiah are reminded centuries later how the Torah is to serve as an example of things for instruction and admonition (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11). And, this is one of the primary reasons why one studies the recorded stories of the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Just like modern people today, these early heroes of our faith were human beings with foibles and carnal tendencies, which did not make them perfect in any way. Even though they each had varying degrees of personal interaction with the Holy One as recorded, there were still times when some of their decisions were “curious,” to say the least. Those who annually study through the Torah might identify with many of the specific challenges that the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of these four generations endured, because family dynamics and issues doubtlessly continue down through the generations to our own time. Perhaps in the course of reviewing these lives and understanding some of the problems they had to contend with, people today will learn from these examples and grow in their walks with the Lord. In so doing, may we all continue to receive the blessings promised to those who place their faith in the Holy One of Israel!

Jacob’s Journey

V’yeitzei begins with Jacob obeying his parents and heading east toward his uncle Laban’s community. Because Jacob’s demeanor was such that he had a tendency to hang out around the tents during his upbringing (cf. Genesis 25:27)—seemingly learning about the family traditions and seeking to please his parents—when his parents gave him some instructions to avoid marrying the local Canaanite women, but rather find a wife from the daughters of Laban, he did not hesitate or question their wisdom (Genesis 27:41-46). As Jacob obediently departed from Beersheba toward Paddan-aram, he had his first recorded, life-changing encounter with the Lord. Since no other people are mentioned on the journey, Jacob was likely traveling by himself, with many thoughts on his mind about Esau’s anger, and perhaps being separated from his parents.

After traveling some distance, Jacob stopped for the night and had a dream-vision that obviously impacted him for the rest of his life. It is in this dream that the God of his grandfather Abraham and father Isaac appeared to him, and He reaffirmed the blessings that Isaac had recently declared about Jacob receiving the blessings of Abraham (Genesis 28:3-4):

“Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran.  He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. 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 will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will 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. 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.’ Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.’ 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. He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz. 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 28:10-22).

While it is impossible to know just where Jacob’s faith was when this dream and word from the Lord came, Jacob was quite moved. Here, Jacob was venturing out alone on a journey to a foreign land seeking to connect with Rebekah’s brother Laban—and all of a sudden he had a vision of a ladder reaching from the Earth to Heaven, with many angels ascending and descending up and down. It surely must have been something to behold! While staring into the night and trying to discern what he was witnessing, all of a sudden the Lord appeared and repeated to him the blessings that he had undoubtedly heard about, which had been received by his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac. The Lord said how He would be with him and keep him and bring him back to the Promised Land.

Upon awakening from this dream, the reaction of Jacob was elated worship, knowing that he had been in the presence of God. To Jacob, something was very awesome about this particular place on Earth. He felt that this must be the House of God, and a literal gate to Heaven after watching angels ascend and descend. Upon arising in the morning, Jacob took some of the oil he was carrying, and anointed the stone that had been his pillow, naming the place Beit’El, Bethel or “house of God.” Like his grandfather and father before him, who had both built altars to the Lord to honor and worship Him, this is the first recorded time that Jacob not only directly encountered the Lord, but openly worshipped Him. Clearly, Jacob was now confident that the Lord God was with him, not only to protect him, but to eventually be with him until his return to Canaan.

Conditional Faith

If you consider what Jacob vowed to the Lord after receiving the comfort of knowing that He was going to be with him and protect him until He returned Jacob to the Promised Land—you read that Jacob’s faith had some if/then conditions attached to it:

“Jacob then made a vow, saying, ‘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, and if I return safe to my father’s house—the LORD shall be my God” (Genesis 28:20-21, NJPS).

Jacob was overwhelmed with the dream-vision he had witnessed the night before. The promises from God were irrevocable, but it appears that Jacob’s faith and willingness to serve God had some strings attached. Despite the Lord telling Jacob that He would be with him wherever he went, and would bring Jacob back to the Land of Canaan—Jacob made a vow to the Lord that if he were cared for, then Lord would be Jacob’s God, and Jacob would give a tenth of his wealth to the Lord (Genesis 28:22). At the beginning of Jacob’s journey here, there appears to be a nominal faith that he possessed in the Holy One. One wonders why Jacob had a lack of faith. Was it because he was a third generation follower of the Holy One, who had not yet personally seen Him perform His word? Did Jacob need some trials in life, perhaps having lived a sort of “sheltered” existence in the shadow of his grandfather and parents? Was Jacob just used to getting his way, as he had secured the birthright and blessing of Isaac, without trusting in the Lord, but cleverly deceiving Esau and Isaac?

While there is little doubt that Jacob was substantially moved by his encounter with the Lord at Bethel, his reaction to the dream-vision was clearly different than the relative mute responses of Abraham and Isaac, when they had similar interactions with Him. By placing conditions on his willingness to make God his provider, it appears that Jacob still had some trust in his own ability to make things happen, according to his human will. Consequently, as Jacob’s journey continued, the Lord would use conflicting situations with Laban, to teach Jacob how to more fully trust in Him.

Jacob’s Growing Family

When Jacob arrived at his destination in Paddan-aram, in a scene reminiscent of Eliezar’s trek to secure a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24), Jacob found himself at a well where herds of sheep were waiting to be watered. Providentially, one of the groups watering their sheep just happened to be the relatives of Laban, specifically Laban’s daughter Rachel. Jacob had to be elated. After his experience with God at Bethel, he had to sense that the Lord was directing his steps. In a chivalrous move, Jacob moved the rock to attain access to the well and water the sheep of Rachel’s herd. In what seems like a bold gesture, Jacob kissed Rachel while tearfully declaring to her that he was her father’s kinsman. The news of the Jacob’s arrival was received by Laban with great expectations, as he recalled that Eliezar years earlier had brought many gifts to give to his family (Genesis 29:1-20). As we will soon discover, Jacob has met his match when it comes to a person operating in his own strength, rather than trusting in the Lord.

Please remember how Jacob had two primary motivations for traveling eastward. First, Jacob was fleeing from the presence of Esau, who had made some threatening remarks that Rebekah considered potentially harmful to him. Secondly, once a safe distance between Jacob and Esau was established, the next motivation was to secure a suitable wife to continue the faithful line of Abraham and Isaac. Upon encountering Rachel, it seems that Jacob’s concerns over Esau were mitigated, as the opportunity to have a wife that his parents would approve of became paramount. The only problem that Jacob did not foresee was the cleverness of Laban, and how he was going to alter Jacob’s plans to marry Rachel. We see how Laban misled Jacob on his wedding night, by substituting the elder Leah instead of the younger Rachel for his wife:

“So when Laban heard the news of Jacob his sister’s son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Then he related to Laban all these things. Laban said to him, ‘Surely you are my bone and my flesh.’ And he stayed with him a month. Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?’ Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face. Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’ Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than to give her to another man; stay with me.’ So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife, for my time is completed, that I may go in to her.’ Laban gathered all the men of the place and made a feast. Now in the evening he took his daughter Leah, and brought her to him; and Jacob went in to her. Laban also gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?’ But Laban said, ‘It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years.’ Jacob did so and completed her week, and he gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife. Laban also gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid. So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years” (Genesis 29:13-30).

The wedding bargain that Jacob and Laban established for marriage to his daughter was Jacob serving Laban for seven years. The first seven years apparently went by quickly as Jacob anticipated his marriage to Rachel. However, when the wedding night switch of Leah for Rachel took place, the clever Laban negotiated another seven years for his second daughter. Jacob had been tricked by Laban, and had perhaps met his match in terms of deceptive practices. During those fourteen years Jacob had to deal with his father-in-law who continually altered the agreements for wages that they had made. Clearly, the Lord was trying to get the attention of Jacob, as he must have pondered all of these circumstances. What had begun years earlier with an encounter with God, followed by venturing into Laban’s community to find his wife, was surely the Lord’s hand upon him. But the trials of dealing with Laban and the ongoing struggles, as Jacob began to have children, had to try him terribly. Certainly, the Lord was preparing Jacob for the promises He had made to him. But as always, the timing is always up to Him.

Without going into all the details about the births of Jacob’s children, what most concerned him was the lack of a child with the beloved Rachel. For years, as Leah and the handmaidens had children, Rachel was barren. But finally, Rachel conceived and had a child she named Joseph. Jacob now made a request to Laban that he take his family back to the land from where he came. But, there was a conflict between Jacob and Laban, because Laban clearly understood that he was benefitting from the Lord’s blessings that were being bestowed upon Jacob:

“Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. So she conceived and bore a son and said, ‘God has taken away my reproach.’ She named him Joseph, saying, ‘May the LORD give me another son.’ Now it came about when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my own country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me depart; for you yourself know my service which I have rendered you.’ But Laban said to him, ‘If now it pleases you, stay with me; I have divined that the LORD has blessed me on your account’” (Genesis 30:22-27).

Jacob finally wanted to return back to the Land of Canaan with his growing family. The Lord had prospered him mightily with wives, children, and the ability to add substantially to the family business of sheep herding. In fact, the overabundance of sheep was creating a logistical problem with too many sheep for the grazing land to support. Laban was in a bit of a dilemma. While he was enjoying the relative prosperity that Jacob was bringing to his own wealth, there was some animosity building between Jacob and Laban. And so, Jacob received not only another word from the Lord, but we see how Jacob was certainly aware that the blessings upon him were from the Lord:

“Now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, ‘Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what belonged to our father he has made all this wealth.’ Jacob saw the attitude of Laban, and behold, it was not friendly toward him as formerly. Then the LORD said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.’ So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to his flock in the field, and said to them, ‘I see your father’s attitude, that it is not friendly toward me as formerly, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I have served your father with all my strength. Yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times; however, God did not allow him to hurt me. If he spoke thus, “The speckled shall be your wages,” then all the flock brought forth speckled; and if he spoke thus, “The striped shall be your wages,” then all the flock brought forth striped. Thus God has taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me” (Genesis 31:1-9).

With the word from the Lord that he was to return to the land of his fathers, Jacob explained what had been transpiring and gave the Lord total credit for prospering him with the flock’s growth. Obviously, Jacob’s faith had been maturing through all the trials of dealing with his father-in-law, and the challenges of having a large family. Yet, God was given the credit for explaining how to maximize his herd of goats to the detriment of Laban’s herds, while reminding Jacob that He is the God of Bethel:

“Thus God has taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me. And it came about at the time when the flock were mating that I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the male goats which were mating were striped, speckled, and mottled. Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Lift up now your eyes and see that all the male goats which are mating are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, where you made a vow to Me; now arise, leave this land, and return to the land of your birth.’” Rachel and Leah said to him, ‘Do we still have any portion or inheritance in our father’s house? Are we not reckoned by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and has also entirely consumed our purchase price. Surely all the wealth which God has taken away from our father belongs to us and our children; now then, do whatever God has said to you” (Genesis 31:9-13).

After having this discussion with Rachel and Leah, Jacob decided it was time to leave the environs of Laban and take his wives, children, livestock, and property back to the Land of Canaan. The major challenge was doing this without the knowledge and consent of Laban. But having lived and worked with Laban for twenty years, Jacob knew that he was going to have to surreptitiously leave in order to avoid the anticipated conflict with Laban. One curious thing that we find in V’yeitzei concerns Laban’s family idols that were stolen by Rachel. The beloved Rachel was still harboring an affection for idol worship, and was not totally committed to the Lord—who her husband Jacob was trusting even more with his destiny. We also find that the Lord continued to intervene for Jacob, by appearing in a dream to Laban to warn him not to impede the departure of Jacob and his entourage:

“Then Jacob arose and put his children and his wives upon camels; and he drove away all his livestock and all his property which he had gathered, his acquired livestock which he had gathered in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac. When Laban had gone to shear his flock, then Rachel stole the household idols that were her father’s. And Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him that he was fleeing. So he fled with all that he had; and he arose and crossed the Euphrates River, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead. When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, then he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him a distance of seven days’ journey, and he overtook him in the hill country of Gilead. God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream of the night and said to him, ‘Be careful that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad.’ Laban caught up with Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen camped in the hill country of Gilead. Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘What have you done by deceiving me and carrying away my daughters like captives of the sword? Why did you flee secretly and deceive me, and did not tell me so that I might have sent you away with joy and with songs, with timbrel and with lyre; and did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters? Now you have done foolishly. It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, “Be careful not to speak either good or bad to Jacob.” Now you have indeed gone away because you longed greatly for your father’s house; but why did you steal my gods?’ Then Jacob replied to Laban, ‘Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force. The one with whom you find your gods shall not live; in the presence of our kinsmen point out what is yours among my belongings and take it for yourself.’ For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them. So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two maids, but he did not find them. Then he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s tent. Now Rachel had taken the household idols and put them in the camel’s saddle, and she sat on them. And Laban felt through all the tent but did not find them. She said to her father, ‘Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is upon me.’ So he searched but did not find the household idols. Then Jacob became angry and contended with Laban; and Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is my transgression? What is my sin that you have hotly pursued me? Though you have felt through all my goods, what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsmen and your kinsmen, that they may decide between us two’” (Genesis 31:17-37).

Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the family idols, or he would never have made the statement that would have condemned to death anyone found with the Laban’s idols. But, since the idols were never discovered, Jacob and Laban finally came to an agreement about any separation of property. Jacob had honorably taken only that which he has earned after twenty years of laboring for Laban. Jacob reiterated the history of their relationship, and once again gave credit to the God of Abraham and Isaac as not only his Provider, but also his Protector. In an effort to maintain peace between the two growing families, the two made an agreement that was exemplified by a heap of stones gathered to mark the spot where the covenant was ratified. Interestingly, even Laban conceded that the God of Abraham, and the God of his father Nahor, was to ultimately judge between the two parties:

“‘These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten the rams of your flocks. That which was torn of beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it myself. You required it of my hand whether stolen by day or stolen by night. Thus I was: by day the heat consumed me and the frost by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. These twenty years I have been in your house; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flock, and you changed my wages ten times. If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, so He rendered judgment last night.’ Then Laban replied to Jacob, ‘The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne? So now come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.’ Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. Jacob said to his kinsmen, ‘Gather stones.’ So they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap. Now Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. Laban said, ‘This heap is a witness between you and me this day.’ Therefore it was named Galeed, and Mizpah, for he said, ‘May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from the other. If you mistreat my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us, see, God is witness between you and me.’ Laban said to Jacob, ‘Behold this heap and behold the pillar which I have set between you and me. This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass by this heap to you for harm, and you will not pass by this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.’ So Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac. Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his kinsmen to the meal; and they ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain. Early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place. Now as Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him. Jacob said when he saw them, ‘This is God’s camp.’ So he named that place Mahanaim. (Genesis 31:38-32:2).

After twenty years of living and working together, Jacob and Laban finally came to peace with one another. Clearly over that time, it seems that Jacob’s faith in the Holy One grew considerably. Not only had he encountered the Lord as he commenced his journey, but he had witnessed the Lord providentially guide him to the family which would eventually provide him with the means to have his own children. Even though Laban created a number of challenges as he cleverly manipulated marriages, changed the wages and eventually made the separation difficult—it is obvious that as their immediate association came to a close, the influence of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and now even more so, Jacob, was becoming ever-present. By the time of building a heap of stones to be a witness between the competing groups, reference to God became much more commonplace. Both Jacob and Laban recognized that God was ultimately in charge of the circumstances.

Also important is how the blessing of Laban upon his daughters and grandchildren was completed, and Laban was resigned to the reality that Jacob was taking his growing family back to Canaan. As our parashah concludes, the angels of God met Jacob—and more than ever, Jacob proclaimed that this was “God’s camp.”

Obviously, the maturation of Jacob after twenty years away from Isaac and Rebekah is evident. Jacob was seeing God’s hand upon all that he was doing, recognizing that God had been present in all that he had done.

Thinking back to his experience with God at Bethel, Jacob had to be reminded that God was indeed keeping His word to be with him and keep him in his travels (Genesis 28:13-15). Jacob was also remembering that God said He would bring Jacob back to the land of his fathers, and now that the separation with Laban was complete, the next step was to get back to the Land of Canaan. After all, Jacob was the inheritor of the blessings bestowed upon Abraham and Isaac, and he was aware that his descendants would be like the dust of the Earth and bless all peoples on Earth.

Now on the verge of taking his family back to Canaan, there was only one thing that might have concerned Jacob. This, of course, was the possible threat of his brother Esau. As Jacob sat around the camp at Mahaniam, contemplating all that had occurred in the previous twenty years and the dramatic departure of Laban after securing his blessing, he might have looked at the heap of stones and realized that he was not going back to Paddan-aram, but instead venturing back west to the land where he was raised. Thankfully, his trust and faith in the Almighty God of Abraham and Isaac was maturing. But was he ready to deal with a vengeful brother who years earlier threatened his death? Was he going to trust in the Lord, or would he fall back on some of his clever ways to avoid the inevitable confrontation?

The promises were sure and Jacob had witnessed the Lord fulfill His promises. Now Jacob was ready to fulfill his vow to the Lord and make Him his God. This is a common lesson of life, to many who study the Torah and the lives of the Patriarchs, for they were mortal beings with various strengths and weaknesses, just like those of us living today. They always had the choice to rely upon their own strength or cleverness, or trust and have faith in the Lord.

Perhaps in your meditation on this subject you might consider some significant choices as you go about your daily routine. Do you trust in your own abilities, or are you placing your faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Have you gotten to the point in your own walk that the tests and trials of life have shown you to trust in the Lord?

A maturing faith makes trust in the Lord the best choice. May we all reach the point where our trust in the Lord overcomes our trust in anything else…

Toldot

Toldot

History

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

“Generational Faith”


by Mark Huey

By the time Torah students arrive at the sixth parashah of Genesis, Toldot, it should be obvious the Holy One is determined to communicate the efficacy and blessing of knowing and following Him, and walking in His ways by faith, as modeled by Abraham. However, because the human tendency inherited in Adam (Romans 5:12) is to be independent of God, it has been the challenge of every generation to hopefully pass on, to each succeeding generation, a trust and belief in the One True God. With this goal in mind, one can understand why the Almighty chose Abraham to be ultimately regarded as the father of faith. In our prior reading it has already been noted that Abraham would exemplify faith in God, and then instruct his progeny to follow after Him as well:

“For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him” (Genesis 18:19).

As the Toldot portion commences, the emphasis has turned from describing the lives of Abraham and Sarah, to the succeeding generation which consists of Isaac and Rebekah, the couple chosen to continue the faith relationship with the Almighty Creator God:

“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).

Recall from Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18) last week, that after the death of Sarah, Abraham was very concerned about finding a suitable wife for the beloved Isaac. In order to assure that the faith he had in the Lord God was not jeopardized by allowing Isaac to marry one of the local, pagan Canaanite women, Abraham had commissioned Eliezar to journey to upper Mesopotamia to find a wife from his close relatives (Genesis 24). And so, Isaac was united in marriage to Rebekah, the daughter of Abraham’s nephew Bethuel, son of Nahor (Genesis 22:23). The critical marital and spiritual relationship between Isaac and Rebekah was established, so that the faith of Abraham would be transferred to the next generation. God’s promise to Abraham, regarding Isaac receiving His blessings, is confirmed in Toldot, when the Lord appeared to Isaac, who had to move to Gerar to contend with a regional famine:

“The LORD appeared to him [Isaac] and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws’” (Genesis 26:2-5).

We see here how God not only chose Abraham because He knew that Abraham would instruct the members of his household to obey and follow Him, (Genesis 18:19), but that Abraham himself followed the instruction given to him by God (Genesis 26:5). The example of a faith demonstrated by actions pleasing to the Holy One is why Abraham is known throughout Scripture as the father of faith (Romans 4:12). The key for any succeeding generation, since the time of Abraham, has been to pass on an example of faithful obedience to one’s children and grandchildren.

From the onset of our parashah this week, one is reminded of the critical principle for parents to help guide their children in the selection of spouses. Abraham had a great responsibility to pass on his faithful relationship with the Holy One to his son Isaac, who had already witnessed and participated in the act of worship at Mount Moriah, and had seen Abraham’s God provide a sacrificial ram (Genesis 22). Now that his mother Sarah was gone, Abraham wanted to be certain that Isaac would follow in his walk of faith with the Almighty One. By securing Rebekah as a wife from his relatives, who had some knowledge of the same God as he, Abraham was minimizing potential conflicts in beliefs that might arise as Isaac and Rebekah began to start their own family. This practice of choosing a wife with similar beliefs should be noted, because later on in this reading, one finds Isaac and Rebekah following the same pattern for Jacob.

Before addressing their similar decision, it is interesting to note that the ongoing influence of Abraham did not end when Isaac and Rebekah married. Abraham continued to live on, until he gave the bulk of his possessions to the beloved Isaac (Genesis 25:7). The larger family likely lived in close proximity, perhaps in the same encampment as was the custom in that era. For the start of Isaac and Rebekah’s marital union, Abraham was an influence on them, able to dispense the wisdom and knowledge he had received during his life pursuing God to his family.

Rebekah’s Pregnancy

For the first season of their marriage, Isaac and Rebekah did not have any children. The aging Abraham was likely aware of his lack of grandchildren, and could have wondered why Rebekah remained barren. Such a wait for children would have reminded Abraham of the excruciating delay for Sarah’s pregnancy with Isaac. But without going through, once again, all the trials that tested and honed Abraham’s faith—Isaac’s walk of faith was different, as is the case with every generation. Instead of having a miraculous birth at a time beyond normal child bearing ages like Abraham and Sarah had, we are simply told how Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, and she conceived. When it is recorded that Isaac prayed to the Lord and she conceived, such good news would have encouraged everyone around them:

“Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. 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. The LORD said to her, Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.’ When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 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 25:21-26).

In this part of Toldot, one finds that both Isaac and Rebekah had a maturing faith relationship with the Lord, as modeled by Abraham who preceded them. Both followed in the faithful footsteps of Abraham, as the Lord was sought for requests after twenty years of barrenness. First, Isaac prayed to the Lord regarding Rebekah, and she conceived—but the pregnancy was complicated. So, Rebekah inquired of the Lord about the struggle in her womb, and the Lord answered with much more than a reason for the discomfort. Specifically, Rebekah was told that she had twins who would eventually become two nations, and that in time, one nation would become stronger than the other. Most significantly, Rebekah was told how the older would serve the younger:

“Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).

This must have been a somewhat confusing answer from the Lord to Rebekah, because ancient customs gave birthright privileges to the firstborn son. Rebekah had to be perplexed about the statement that the “older shall serve the younger,” because this was contrary to tradition. But, our Eternal God is not at all confined by any sort of human traditions, as demonstrated in the treatment of Ishmael and Isaac. Despite the fact that Ishmael was technically the firstborn son of Abraham with the handmaiden Hagar, the Lord had specifically told Abraham that Isaac was the son of promise and not Ishmael (Genesis 17:18-21). After Isaac was born, Abraham obeyed the Lord when he sent Ishmael away (Genesis 21:11-14).

Rebekah had certainly heard about the trials of Abraham and the blessings that were to be inherited by Isaac, from her different interactions with her husband, and likely also her father-in-law. To understand what the Lord had revealed to her about her twins, and most specifically the word that the “older shall serve the younger”, she must have thought that God was going to eventually bestow the blessings of Abraham upon the second born son, like He had done with Isaac. We discover that from her later actions, it appears that this specific word from the Lord about the struggling twins in her womb, profoundly influenced some of Rebekah’s future decisions. The text does not indicate whether Rebekah shared the response she received from the Lord with Isaac, or anyone else, although it could be reasonable to conclude that she did. After all, hearing a verbal response from the Lord was special and rare. The excitement of sharing such a word with others, would be tough to avoid.

The Birth of Esau and Jacob

Regardless of what was or was not shared by Rebekah with her relatives, a prophetic glimpse, of what was eventually to come between the two brothers, is found when the younger son Jacob exited the womb while holding the heel of his brother Esau. This caused his parents to name him Jacob or Ya’akov, meaning either “heel holder” or “supplanter”[1]:

“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).

This is an early peek at what was to take place later in the lives of Esau and Jacob, as the word to Rebekah was beginning to manifest itself through their birth delivery and naming process. In due time, it became evident over the formative years that these two youngsters were obviously different in their approaches to life. The older and stronger Esau was noted for his hunting skills, as he became a man of the field, regularly contributing to the bounty of game for the communal meals. On the other hand, the younger Jacob was considered a peaceful man, who spent most of his time in and around the tents rather than venturing out after game:

When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents” (Genesis 25:27).

After learning that Esau devoted his time to hunting and Jacob preferred spending time around the tents, there is a specific statement inserted in the text that indicates the affection preferences that Isaac and Rebekah had toward their two maturing sons:

“Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Genesis 25:28).

From this statement, coupled with what we see later when Isaac continued to have a voracious appetite for well-cooked game (Genesis 27:3-4), it is noted that Isaac loved Esau because “he had a taste for game.” Apparently, Isaac’s affinity to satisfy his palate was a lifelong part of his personality, but this does not diminish the faith that Isaac had in the Holy One. After all, Isaac had seen God provide a ram when Abraham was about to sacrifice him, and there is every indication that Isaac followed in the ways of the Lord as established by his father.

When Isaac’s love for Esau is contrasted with Rebekah’s love for Jacob, one wonders why this was the case, with such specific preferences given. Perhaps Isaac “loved” Esau because he was a strong and skillful hunter, able to provide game from the field. Was Isaac proud of Esau’s abilities? On the other hand, perhaps Rebekah was more inclined toward the seemingly weaker Jacob, because he tended to hang around the tents, engaging in conversations with others? In addition to watching her sons mature, Rebekah had to be influenced by the direct communication she had received during her pregnancy. There is little doubt that she was witnessing the fact that one would be stronger, but most critically the emphatic word that “the older shall serve the younger.” From the unique birth and naming of the twins, Rebekah was harboring in her heart what she had heard the Lord say about the destiny of these two sons. Eventually we will find that Rebekah was bound and determined to make sure that the younger son would receive the blessings of Abraham.

The Birthright

Did Esau and Jacob have an opportunity to get to know their grandfather Abraham, for at least part of their lives? Our Torah portion is silent on this matter, but it does seem possible that they interacted with their grandfather at least a few times. It is certainly not difficult to imagine that while Esau was out perfecting his hunting skills, his younger brother Jacob was sitting around the tents engaging in conversations with those in the household. Even if Abraham was deceased by this time, Jacob would have surely been able to interact with various servants and laborers who had been impressed by his grandfather. This would all have given Jacob the impression that his grandfather Abraham was a man blessed by the Creator, who was then able to bless his father Isaac (cf. Genesis 25:5-6).

One of the defining moments of this parashah is seen when Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, for a bowl of lentil soup. A reader can conclude that while Esau devoted his time to mastering his hunting skills in order to please his father Isaac’s taste for game, Jacob spent his time in the tents with his mother Rebekah. As this transpired, to what extent was the word she received, “the older shall serve the younger,” steadily taking shape? Which of the two sons was more involved in the affairs of the family?

Having listened to the call and blessings that were bestowed upon Abraham, and then inherited by Isaac rather than going to the firstborn Ishmael, might have struck a chord with Rebekah. After all, she was a godly woman married to a faithful man, and she was definitely concerned about the generational blessings. Perhaps her noted love for Jacob (Genesis 25:28b) continued to blossom, because early on in his life, she was the first to recognize that the blessings of Abraham and Isaac would be bestowed upon the more spiritual leaning Jacob, and not the fleshly Esau. It is conceivable that because of all his time spent in tents, Jacob had some kind of inclination for the blessings of God that had been bestowed upon Abraham and then Isaac. This would naturally lead to a desire for the birthright blessing of the firstborn as he matured into a young man.

While the timing of the encounter for the trade for the birthright is not noted, Jacob had to have been primed by his understanding of the importance of the birthright, to take advantage of Esau when an opportunity presented itself—or this trade would never have even been contemplated by Jacob, and certainly never consummated:

“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.’ 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).

What is recorded here is a back and forth negotiation between Esau and Jacob, for the birthright privileges. Obviously, Esau was a man more inclined to the carnal nature, as the interchange ended with a resounding statement that Esau despised his birthright. Esau had not spent the time he should have in the tents, being better informed about the blessings that were bestowed upon his family by the Almighty One. But Jacob was certainly aware of the blessings, and it is obvious by his actions that he desired to be the birthright heir to the blessings. Hence, when Esau was famished from his hunting expedition, Jacob cleverly took advantage of his hungered state to offer a bowl of lentil soup for his birthright. Esau overreacted by stating that he was going to die, totally disregarding his birthright, by trading it in for some “red stuff.” Jacob was clever to get Esau to verbally swear his birthright over to him, as payment for the soup. Clearly, Jacob valued the birthright, and from God’s perspective, it appears that the transaction was considered valid, because years later, even Esau admitted the validity of the trade (Genesis 27:36).

While we are not specifically told at exactly what age the birthright was transferred to Jacob, it was before a famine that forced Isaac and Rebekah to move their family, entourage, and livestock to Gerar. What we are specifically told is that Esau despised his birthright, and did not regard the birthright of the firstborn as something of great value to him. Esau was confident that his father Isaac loved him because Isaac had an appetite for the tasty game that he hunted. This preview into the personality of Isaac, reveals that for his lifetime, he certainly had an inclination to satisfy his palate. When he thought that his final days had arrived, he called Esau to hunt one final meal for him:

“Now it came about, when Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see, that he called his older son Esau and said to him, ‘My son.’ And he said to him, ‘Here I am.’ Isaac said, ‘Behold now, I am old and I do not know the day of my death. Now then, please take your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me; and 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 27:1-4).

What would happen, as a result of Esau going out to hunt game for his aging father—would have significant reverberating effects throughout history. Jacob, at the insistence of his mother, would make his move to formally receive the family birthright.

The Blessing of Isaac

The disappointment of Esau’s marriages to two Hittite women (Genesis 27:34-35) must have impacted Isaac and Rebekah, because they had to be reminded of the great lengths that Abraham had taken to bring them together. Isaac did not know that he would continue to live after the encounter which is witnessed (Genesis 35:28), but as this transpired and he steadily became blind, Isaac did want to get his affairs in order by blessing his firstborn son Esau.

When reviewing the scene of Genesis 27, we can wonder whether or not Isaac was thinking clearly. Extending his blessings to Esau, would include passing along the blessings that Isaac had received from Abraham—yet Isaac and Rebekah were already concerned about the choices Esau had made with his two wives from the Hittites. This would have surely presented challenges, in terms of passing along the faith of Abraham to their descendants. Isaac certainly recognized that Esau was far more interested in hunting for game. How serious would Esau be in managing the affairs of the house, as his brother Jacob did associate himself in tents?

As Rebekah was listening to Isaac’s request, she realized that if there was ever a time to intervene, this was the time. Rebekah was aware of the great lengths that Abraham had taken after the death of Sarah to make sure that his beloved Isaac found a suitable wife, from some relatives with whom they shared something in common. She had to have remembered that she had sufficient faith in the Lord to leave the comfortable confines of her family, and venture forth to Canaan to become the wife of Isaac. Additionally, she had heard the voice of the Lord speak to her when she inquired about the difficulty of her pregnancy. By this time in her life, with Isaac having watched Esau and Jacob grow up, she knew that Esau was definitely the stronger of the two sons. But most assuredly, she recalled that ultimately, according to the word of the Lord, the “older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). Without any apparent hesitation, she chose to boldly redirect the blessings of Isaac from Esau to Jacob, the son she believed whom the Lord God intended to bless with the extended blessings of Abraham:

“Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game to bring home, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, ‘Behold, I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, saying, “Bring me some game and prepare a savory dish for me, that I may eat, and bless you in the presence of the LORD before my death.” Now therefore, my son, listen to me as I command you. Go now to the flock and bring me two choice young goats from there, that I may prepare them as a savory dish for your father, such as he loves. Then you shall bring it to your father, that he may eat, so that he may bless you before his death.’ Jacob answered his mother Rebekah, ‘Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man and I am a smooth man. Perhaps my father will feel me, then I will be as a deceiver in his sight, and I will bring upon myself a curse and not a blessing.’ But his mother said to him, ‘Your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.’ So he went and got them, and brought them to his mother; and his mother made savory food such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And she put the skins of the young goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. She also gave the savory food and the bread, which she had made, to her son Jacob. Then he came to his father and said, ‘My father.’ And he said, ‘Here I am. Who are you, my son?’ Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your firstborn; I have done as you told me. Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me’” (Genesis 27:5-19).

While Rebekah might have known from the Divine word she received when the twins were in her womb, and known that the birthright had been secured by Jacob years later—there was still considerable deception involved in getting the aged and near blind Isaac, to bestow his blessings on whom Isaac thought was his oldest son Esau. But for whatever reasons, Rebekah justified her desire to have Isaac bless Jacob. Rebekah was so sure of her plan, that she was willing to receive any of Isaac’s curses if the scheme were discovered by her husband and turned into a rebuke. Was Rebekah’s faith in the Lord and what He had spoken to her years earlier being tested? Not only was she manipulating the interaction with Isaac and Jacob, but she was also placing Jacob in a position where he could be cursed rather than be blessed. Additionally, this scheme required Jacob to deceive his father Isaac multiple times, by first declaring that he was Esau, then by stating that God had accelerated the capture of the game for the meal and finally, when asked a second time whether he was indeed Esau, we see that Jacob lied again:

“Isaac said to his son, ‘How is it that you have it so quickly, my son?’ And he said, ‘Because the LORD your God caused it to happen to me.’ Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Please come close, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.’ So Jacob came close to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, ‘The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.’ He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. And he said, ‘Are you really my son Esau?’ And he said, ‘I am.’ So he said, ‘Bring it to me, and I will eat of my son’s game, that I may bless you.’ And he brought it to him, and he ate; he also brought him wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, ‘Please come close and kiss me, my son.’ 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; now may God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and an abundance of grain and new wine; may peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you; be master of your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you’” (Genesis 27:20-29).

The level of deception to receive the blessing of Isaac was risky, because Jacob could have been issued a curse rather than a blessing. Isaac did know that he was a recipient of the blessings of Abraham (Genesis 26:3-5), but it was his own responsibility to make sure that the blessings given to him were passed on to the appropriate son. It appears that Isaac desired to pass on the blessings to his firstborn Esau, something that the Lord did not want to happen. And we know how Rebekah had received a word from the Lord that the older would serve the younger, and based on her observations of her twin sons, she was bound and determined to make sure that Jacob received the blessing of Isaac and not Esau.

The episode of Isaac blessing Jacob is always a difficult episode for us to contemplate, because we always wonder why Rebekah and Jacob had to resort to deception to get Isaac to bless Jacob. One might logically ask, “Where is the faith in Rebekah and Jacob to trust God, rather than manipulate Isaac?” Obviously, the Lord could have had the blessings come to Jacob in a different way, such as Esau dying and Jacob having to be blessed as the only surviving son—but it is instead seen how Isaac blessing Jacob is treated as legitimate. And surely, if God did not want Jacob to receive the blessings, He certainly could have had Isaac discover the deception, or later have had Isaac annul the blessings he issued when finding out that he had blessed Jacob instead of Esau. But since neither of these occurred, one has to conclude that this is the way the Lord ordained the transfer of the blessings.

Isaac bestowed a blessing on Jacob, which in essence affirmed the prophecy that “the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23), when saying, “May peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you; be master of your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you” (Genesis 27:29). Following this, Jacob departed and Esau entered the tent with the meal he had prepared from the game he had hunted. Isaac quickly discovered that he had been deceived by Jacob, and the news that he had blessed Jacob and not Esau shook him to the core of his being. In addition to this, we also see how Esau was quite perturbed that the blessing of the firstborn was now upon Jacob, as he emoted with bitter weeping. Esau truly wanted the blessing of Isaac, but since Isaac had already spoken the blessing over Jacob, it became irrevocable, and Isaac was unwilling to alter the blessing. Esau begged for a blessing, and so Isaac did bless him, but with the acknowledgment that the older would serve the younger:

“Now it came about, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had hardly gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. Then he also made savory food, and brought it to his father; and he said to his father, ‘Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.’ Isaac his father said to him, ‘Who are you?’ And he said, ‘I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.’ Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, ‘Who was he then that hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate of all of it before you came, and blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.’ When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, ‘Bless me, even me also, O my father!’ And he said, ‘Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing.’ Then he said, ‘Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted 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 replied 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?’ 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. 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. By your sword you shall live, 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 27:30-40).

After reading these passages, one might wonder why Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau had to go through what must have been a traumatic ordeal as these blessings were being relayed. For myself, all I can say is that we each must recall how God knows the beginning from the end. He is sovereign and knows the heart intentions of people. God knew from before the birth of Esau and Jacob, that Esau was going to be a man of the flesh, and that Jacob was going to be much more compliant regarding His ways. It was going to take a while, and some unseemly deceptions were required to orchestrate the blessings of Isaac upon Jacob, but this was all a part of God’s plan. Confirmation is seen when Esau uttered threats that upon the death of Isaac, he was going to kill his brother Jacob (Genesis 27:41). This prompted Rebekah to suggest that Jacob go east to her brother Laban’s, to her original home (Genesis 27:42-46).

The marriage of Esau to two Hittite women greatly displeased Rebekah (Genesis 27:46). From her own life experience, she knew how critical it was to be wed to someone of common background. So the general pattern established by Abraham when he sent Eliezar to find a wife for Isaac from his relatives, began to repeat itself. Jacob compliantly obeyed the request of his father Isaac and mother Rebekah, and traveled back eastward, so that he would not be tempted to marry a wife from the local pagans. Once again, maintaining the generational faith of Abraham was most important to Rebekah, and now Isaac—as he understood that God had ordained Jacob to receive the blessings of Abraham. By sending Jacob to where Rebekah’s brother Laban resided, Isaac and Rebekah were taking every measure they knew to insure that the faith of Abraham would be preserved for future generations:

“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. 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.’ Then Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Paddan-aram to Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau. Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take to himself a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he charged him, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan,’ and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and had gone to Paddan-aram. So Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan displeased his father Isaac; and Esau went to Ishmael, and married, besides the wives that he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth” (Genesis 28:1-9).

As a final act of disrespect and defiance, Esau, knowing that it displeased his father Isaac and mother Rebekah, instead secured a wife from Ishmael.

Generational Faith

So what have we learned from Toldot? God is very concerned that faith in Him is transferred to future generations, even if the transference of such faith does not follow traditional norms and customs regarding birthrights. We have seen how a specific word from the Lord, given during a troubled pregnancy, can impact an entire family. Rebekah did demonstrate a faith in the Lord, and the belief that she heard from the Lord about her twin sons, prompted her to make decisions as she watched the children mature into older men. She was most concerned about the heritage of faith she had witnessed in Abraham, and in her husband Isaac, which was to be continued by the next generation. As a result, she took questionable actions to help Jacob secure the firstborn blessing from Isaac, regardless of the potential consequences. Then after the blessing of Isaac was transferred to Jacob, both Isaac and Rebekah agreed that Jacob was to find a suitable wife from their relatives. From all of this we can conclude that it is imperative that each generation take actions to assure that the faith of Abraham be instilled in their successors (Genesis 15:6; cf. Romans 4).

How do we intend to pass the promises of God onto our successors today, as Messianic Believers? We might look at some of the actions seen in Toldot with some skepticism, noting at them and wondering why God did not punish those who were fleshly-minded, or deceivers. This is where we have to remember that the Lord enacts His plan for His Creation using flawed, normal people. In many ways, the Patriarchs and Matriarchs had more flaws than some of us living in the Twenty-First Century. And at the same time, these same Biblical characters have fewer flaws than we do. The key with any generation that seeks after the Holy One is that we are to learn from those who have preceded us—so that we can each aim steadily closer to perfection and excellence. For those of us who recognize that the culmination of the Abrahamic promise has been manifested in the Messiah Yeshua, our ability to learn via the power of the Holy Spirit, should be greater than Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Too frequently, though, those who have preceded us are shown to have more faith, in spite of some of their errors and misjudgments.


NOTES

[1] Cf. BDB, 784; J. Barton Payne, “ya‘ăqōb,” in R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 2:692.

Chayei Sarah

Chayei Sarah

Sarah’s Life

Genesis 23:1-25:18
1 Kings 1:1-31

“Abraham’s Distinctive Faith”


by Mark Huey

The recorded testimonies of the life of Abraham and Sarah come to a close in this week’s parashah, Chayei Sarah. Our reading begins with a description of the death and burial of the Matriarch Sarah, and closes later with the death and burial of the Patriarch Abraham. In the balance of our Torah portion, the actions of the faithful servant Eliezar are detailed, as he was commissioned by Abraham to find a suitable wife for his beloved son Isaac, from his relatives in Haran after Sarah passed away.

Isaac finding an appropriate wife is a major theme of our reading, yet it is given to us surrounded by descriptions of the life examples of Sarah and Abraham. So, before turning to the search for a wife for Isaac, it is important that we understand how Abraham and Sarah both had a unique faith in the Almighty God of Creation. They each knew that the Holy One had chosen them for a special mission in life. They were each bound and determined to perpetuate their relationship with God through their descendants. For modern-day followers of this same Almighty God, adhering to their examples of faith is crucial, for continuing the acknowledgment that this loving Heavenly Father is the only One any human being can turn to for direction, guidance, provision, and indeed salvation. The Prophet Isaiah declared how those seeking the Lord are to look to the example of Abraham and Sarah:

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain; when he was but one I called him, then I blessed him and multiplied him” (Isaiah 51:1-2).

We each must recall that the struggles, tests, and trials of Abraham and Sarah were designed by God to make them the preeminent examples of what it truly means for any person having lived since to walk by faith. God’s intimate personal interaction, with this revered couple, assured them that they were indeed called by Him for a very unique mission. Throughout their lives as they sojourned in hostile territories, they inevitably turned to the Lord God for direction and provision. And obviously, in the trials any of us face, so must we turn to the same Lord God.

One way to avoid a great deal of difficulty in life, which Margaret and I have taken from Chayei Sarah, and have tried to pass down to our own children, is the theme of avoiding becoming unequally yoked with others. The Lord desired this couple, Abraham and Sarah, to avoid entanglements with their contemporaries who worshipped other gods. They knew from the challenges they endured with Egypt’s Pharaoh, the king of Sodom, Abimelech, and the sons of Heth, that their belief in Him might be compromised if they succumbed to the ungodly religious influences and lifestyles they represented. Most importantly, they did not want their child Isaac to be susceptible to the pressures and wicked ways of a pagan Canaanite society, so it was essential that he marry someone with a wider degree of commonality, than from among the local population where they had relocated.

Purchasing a Proper Burial Site

Abraham and his entourage had settled in the Hebron area at the time of Sarah’s death. Our Torah portion goes into some detail regarding how Abraham did not want to be beholden to his neighbors. Rather than accepting, as a free gift, a proper burial site for his departed wife, Sarah, there was an elaborate back and forth negotiation between Abraham and Ephron. This culminated with Abraham purchasing the cave at Machpelah:

“Then Abraham rose from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, ‘I am a stranger and a sojourner among you; give me a burial site among you that I may bury my dead out of my sight.’ The sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying to him, ‘Hear us, my lord, you are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our graves; none of us will refuse you his grave for burying your dead.’ So Abraham rose and bowed to the people of the land, the sons of Heth. And he spoke with them, saying, ‘If it is your wish for me to bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, and approach Ephron the son of Zohar for me, that he may give me the cave of Machpelah which he owns, which is at the end of his field; for the full price let him give it to me in your presence for a burial site.’ Now Ephron was sitting among the sons of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the sons of Heth; even of all who went in at the gate of his city, saying, ‘No, my lord, hear me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. In the presence of the sons of my people I give it to you; bury your dead.’ And Abraham bowed before the people of the land. He spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, ‘If you will only please listen to me; I will give the price of the field, accept it from me that I may bury my dead there.’ Then Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, ‘My lord, listen to me; a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between me and you? So bury your dead.’ Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, commercial standard. So Ephron’s field, which was in Machpelah, which faced Mamre, the field and cave which was in it, and all the trees which were in the field, that were within all the confines of its border, were deeded over to Abraham for a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city. After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field at Machpelah facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. So the field and the cave that is in it, were deeded over to Abraham for a burial site by the sons of Heth” (Genesis 23:3-20).

Here recorded in Holy Scripture is a real estate contract, with the terms outlined and consummated, with a transfer of a fair payment of four hundred shekels of silver. This transaction perpetually validated Abraham’s purchase of the cave, and also exemplified the principle that people of faith should avoid the possibility of being beholden to those who might use what could be considered a kind of “generous gift” against them. This was a philosophy that Abraham had adhered to earlier, when confronted by the king of Sodom upon returning with Lot (Genesis 14:21-24), as well as the agreement made with Abimelech when they resolved the water problems for their livestock around Beersheba (Genesis 21:22-34).

Securing a Suitable Wife

With Sarah properly laid to rest at the age of one hundred and twenty-seven, the challenge of finding a suitable wife for the forty year old Isaac (Genesis 25:20) confronted Abraham. Living in the Hebron region among the Canaanites was difficult, because the Canaanites did not serve the Living God whom Abraham and Sarah revered and honored. However, Abraham had learned earlier when he lived in Beersheba, that his brother Nahor, who had remained in the upper Mesopotamian region, had some children with his wife Milcah:

“So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba. Now it came about after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, ‘Behold, Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor’” (Genesis 22:19-24).

The aged Abraham turned to his faithful servant, Eliezer of Damascus, who had most likely been with Abraham and Sarah since they had left Haran with some other servants, sixty-two years earlier (Genesis 12:5, 15:2). From the account that follows, it is apparent that Eliezer exhibited faith in the same God that Abraham worshipped. Abraham entrusted Eliezer with the charge to return to the upper Mesopotamia region, to find a wife for Isaac, from his relatives located there:

“Now Abraham was old, advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in every way. Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, ‘Please place your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but you will go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac’” (Genesis 24:1-4).

Despite having served Abraham and Sarah for a very long time, and having marveled over the blessings God had bestowed upon them, Eliezer was still concerned about this critical mission to find a wife for Isaac. While participating in the intimate Ancient Near Eastern ritual of making a covenant by placing a hand under the thigh, Eliezer received an admonition from Abraham, as Abraham reiterated the promises God had made to him regarding his son Isaac and their descendants. Abraham’s faith never waivered, because he inherently knew that God was with him and that Eliezer would succeed in his mission. Encouraged by Abraham’s faith, Eliezer swore that he would venture forth to find a wife for Isaac:

“The servant said to him, ‘Suppose the woman is not willing to follow me to this land; should I take your son back to the land from where you came?’ Then Abraham said to him, ‘Beware that you do not take my son back there! The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and who swore to me, saying, “To your descendants I will give this land,” He will send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this my oath; only do not take my son back there.’ So the servant placed his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter. Then the servant took ten camels from the camels of his master, and set out with a variety of good things of his master’s in his hand; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor” (Genesis 24:5-10).

From this point forward in the narrative, the description of Eliezer’s mission unfolds. But, it is interesting to note that during the early stages of Eliezer’s search, he often deferentially referred to the Lord as Abraham’s God, despite the fact that it is apparent that Eliezer obviously had a belief in the same God as his master Abraham:

“He said, ‘O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water; now may it be that the girl to whom I say, “Please let down your jar so that I may drink,” and who answers, “Drink, and I will water your camels also”—may she be the one whom You have appointed for Your servant Isaac; and by this I will know that You have shown lovingkindness to my master” (Genesis 24:12-14).

Throughout the excursion, Eliezer displayed total dependence and faith upon the Lord to help him fulfill his mission. When he arrived at the spring used by the residents around Nahor, he implored the Lord to grant him success for the sake of his master Abraham. As a number of young girls arrived at the spring, Eliezer asked the Lord to have the girl destined to be Isaac’s wife respond favorably to his request for water. Providentially, the girl who responded was Nahor’s granddaughter Rebekah, who was closely related to his master Abraham:

“Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor, came out with her jar on her shoulder. The girl was very beautiful, a virgin, and no man had had relations with her; and she went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. Then the servant ran to meet her, and said, ‘Please let me drink a little water from your jar.’ She said, ‘Drink, my lord’; and she quickly lowered her jar to her hand, and gave him a drink. Now when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, ‘I will draw also for your camels until they have finished drinking.’ So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, and ran back to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels. Meanwhile, the man was gazing at her in silence, to know whether the LORD had made his journey successful or not. When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half-shekel and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels in gold, and said, ‘Whose daughter are you? Please tell me, is there room for us to lodge in your father’s house?’ She said to him, ‘I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.’ Again she said to him, ‘We have plenty of both straw and feed, and room to lodge in.’ Then the man bowed low and worshiped the LORD. He said, ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His lovingkindness and His truth toward my master; as for me, the LORD has guided me in the way to the house of my master’s brothers’” (Genesis 24:15-27).

Note that during this encounter around the spring, Eliezer silently observed the actions of Rebekah, and subsequently bestowed upon her some gold jewelry as he waited to find out some details about her family. Upon learning that she was the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milcah and Nahor, he was elated because from the many years he had served Abraham and Sarah, he obviously knew that these were their relatives (Genesis 22:20-24). With such knowledge, Eliezer bowed low and worshipped the Lord. His mission to find a wife suitable for Isaac was off to a good start. However, he did not want to kidnap the young maiden, but instead, desired for her to willingly return with him to become the wife of Isaac.

Rebekah’s Relatives

When Abraham’s servant encountered Rebekah’s family, her cunning brother Laban is introduced. Laban had taken note of the gold jewelry given to his sister (Genesis 24:30), and so he went to the spring to ask Eliezer to come to their communal household to stay, and have his fellow travelers and camels watered and fed (Genesis 24:31). Despite the hospitality rendered by Rebekah’s relatives, Eliezer was on a mission for his master Abraham. Before he ate, Eliezer relayed the commission of Abraham, along with the progress that had been made at the spring with Rebekah to Laban and their father Bethuel (Genesis 24:34-48). After repeating the testimony, both Laban and Bethuel acknowledged that the matter was from the Lord, and that He had spoken, having indicated that this family worshipped the same God as Abraham and Eliezer. When Eliezer received this affirmation, coupled with the statement that Rebekah was to be the wife of Abraham’s son, he bestowed gifts upon both Laban and her mother:

“‘So now if you are going to deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, let me know, that I may turn to the right hand or the left.’ Then Laban and Bethuel replied, ‘The matter comes from the LORD; so we cannot speak to you bad or good. Here is Rebekah before you, take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has spoken.’ When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the ground before the LORD. The servant brought out articles of silver and articles of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother” (Genesis 24:49-53).

At this point, Eliezer relaxed and spent the night, but his mission was not yet complete. He had the permission of Rebekah’s family, but there was an attempt to delay their return to Canaan. In the morning, Eliezer requested to leave with Rebekah, but her brother and mother asked that she stay for ten days before departing. Faithful Eliezer was relentless. He wanted to return immediately with the prospective wife for Isaac, so to comply with his wishes, her relatives asked if she wanted to go. The response was a resounding yes, so she was released with her nurse and a wonderful blessing for her and her future descendants:

“Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night. When they arose in the morning, he said, ‘Send me away to my master.’ But her brother and her mother said, ‘Let the girl stay with us a few days, say ten; afterward she may go.’ He said to them, ‘Do not delay me, since the LORD has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master.’ And they said, ‘We will call the girl and consult her wishes.’ Then they called Rebekah and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ And she said, ‘I will go.’ Thus they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse with Abraham’s servant and his men. They blessed Rebekah and said to her, ‘May you, our sister, become thousands of ten thousands, and may your descendants possess the gate of those who hate them.’ Then Rebekah arose with her maids, and they mounted the camels and followed the man. So the servant took Rebekah and departed” (Genesis 24:54-61).

Rebekah Marries Isaac

Upon returning to the region where Abraham and Isaac were encamped, the mission to find a wife for Isaac came to a beautiful conclusion. Abraham’s desire to find a wife who knew and worshipped the same God he served, was completed. Our Torah portion conveys the union of Isaac and Rebekah, in terms that indicate their suitable match:

“Now Isaac had come from going to Beer-lahai-roi; for he was living in the Negev.  Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming. Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel. She said to the servant, ‘Who is that man walking in the field to meet us?’ And the servant said, ‘He is my master.’ Then she took her veil and covered herself. The servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (Genesis 24:62-67).

At one hundred and thirty-seven years of age, Abraham established a principle for his descendants, regarding how followers of the Creator God should approach entanglements with those who do not know or worship Him. Abraham was unwilling to be beholden to the residents of Heth, when it came to finding a gravesite for his beloved Sarah. But even more critical, he was making sure that any life partner for his beloved Isaac was from a family who knew the same God. Abraham, and even Sarah, knew the unique call that was upon Isaac, and that through him, all of the blessings promised to Abraham would be manifested. In order to assure a continuance of those blessings, Abraham was compelled to find a wife who was suitable for Isaac. By choosing faithful Eliezer as his trusted agent to accomplish his intention, Abraham confidently knew that God would honor His promises to Isaac.

Abraham’s Final Days

According to the balance of Chayei Sarah, Abraham lived for thirty eight more years after Isaac was married to Rebekah. It is during this period of his life that he fathered six more sons with Keturah, so that the promise that he would be a father of a multitude of nations could continue to be fulfilled (Genesis 17:4-5). The principle to preserve those following the distinctive faith, which Abraham had in the Lord, was evident, even as his death approached. It must be remembered that Abraham knew that the son of promise was his beloved son Isaac, whom he had with Sarah. Abraham also understood that the blessings he had received were to be passed along to Isaac and his descendants. Prior to dying, he gave the great bulk of his possessions to Isaac, after he had bestowed some gifts upon his other six sons, and sent them to the land of the east to avoid even greater sibling rivalry that was already evident between Isaac and Ishmael, his son by Hagar:

“Now Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore to him Zimran and Jokshan and Medan and Midian and Ishbak and Shuah. Jokshan became the father of Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim and Letushim and Leummim. The sons of Midian were Ephah and Epher and Hanoch and Abida and Eldaah. All these were the sons of Keturah. 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. These are all the years of Abraham’s life that he lived, one hundred and seventy-five years. 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 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. It came about after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi” (Genesis 25:1-11).

Paradoxically, when Abraham died and was buried in the cave of Machpelah, the proceedings were attended by both Isaac and Ishmael, after their half-brothers had been sent away. The animosity between these two sons had not abated because of Ishmael’s unique birth, and the Lord’s promises to Abraham regarding Ishmael’s future descendants (Genesis 17:18-20). Distinctions were to exist between the descendants of Isaac and Rebekah, and Ishmael’s descendants, because Ishmael took a wife from Egypt with her beliefs in other gods (Genesis 21:20-21).

Despite the blessing of many children, Ishmael did not receive the blessing of marrying a wife who had belief in the God of Abraham and Sarah, whom Isaac received when Rebekah became his wife. There has been a millennia-old conflict that has ensued between followers of the God of Abraham and Isaac, and those who have claimed the line of Ishmael as being the line of blessing. Such people seem to have inherited the rebellious traits of Ishmael, which have been passed down for generations:

“The angel of the LORD said to her further, ‘Behold, you are with child, and you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction. He will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; and he will live to the east of all his brothers” (Genesis 16:11-12).

Abraham’s Distinctive Faith

When we consider the life example of Abraham and his wife Sarah, it is clear to me that the two of them had a rather distinct faith in the Holy One. Having left the pagan culture of Ur, and having ventured by faith into the Land of Canaan, they understood how critical it was to keep their focus on the Lord God who had chosen them for their special mission to be a blessing to humanity. Through the trials and tests of life, they learned to trust in the Almighty, but also knew that the lures of the world and the temptation to be entangled with others serving different, false gods, were to be avoided. The principle of being equally yoked to others of like mind—especially as it concerns life partners—is discernable in the decisions they made, and is most noted in the search for Isaac’s wife. Years later in the Book of Deuteronomy, the principle, to not be unequally yoked, is graphically defined by using the example of not yoking an ox with a donkey when it comes to plowing soil:

“You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together” (Deuteronomy 22:10).

This theme of avoiding entanglements, with those who do not know the Lord, is more specifically addressed by the Apostle Paul, who warned the Corinthians about the perils of being bound together with unbelievers:

“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Messiah with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE [Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 32:38; Ezekiel 37:27]. Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,’ says the Lord. ‘AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN [Isaiah 52:11; Ezekiel 20:34, 41]; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

While reflecting upon some of the decisions made by Abraham as he was approaching the end of his life, as noted in this week’s Torah reading, perhaps it would be beneficial for you to contemplate where you are in your own walk of faith. Are you mindful of the distinct faith that you have in the Creator God, through the redeeming blood of the Messiah Yeshua? Are you diligently striving to avoid being bound with unbelievers in your daily affairs? Are you praying for godly spouses for your children and grandchildren? Are you working to pass on your faith to your children and sharing it with others, who, like Eliezer, might be a part of your immediate surroundings in the family, neighborhood, or at work?

There is much to be thankful for as we all consider just where we are in our walk of faith. Perhaps now the words of Isaiah 51:1-2 mean so much more as we consider the lives of Abraham and Sarah? May we, by faith, pursue righteousness as we seek the Lord—and avoid being bound with those who do not believe—just like the distinctive faith of Abraham.