Genesis 28:10–32:2: Messiah seeks ‘the lost sheep of Israel’

The Torah reading ויצא Vayetze (“and he went out,” Genesis 28:10–32:2) is another example of how all the Scriptures testify of the Mashiakh (Messiah). The account of Ya’akob’s (Jacob) using striped sticks to encourage breeding among livestock and separating livestock sounds like archaic superstition, but it actually is a Messianic prophecy about how Yeshua (Jesus) would draw to Himself the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matt. 10:6; 15:24) and make them stronger than what appeared to be the preferred flock.

Ya’akov left Beersheva (“Well of the Oath”) and went to Bethel (“House of God”). Ya’akov was not the first member of his family to visit Bethel. Abraham had been there many years before and set up a significant altar to God. This is where Abraham called on God’s name. Ya’akov comes to Bethel and finds Abraham’s altar but he also sees a ladder with angels going “up and down” or “down and up” depending on your point of view. He saw God at the top of this ladder and the angels are ministers of God on earth. Not all angels have wings, apparently.

This vision is strongly connected to Abraham’s altar. Ya’akov sees the point of Abraham’s altar. It was a gateway, a telephone line to Heaven. The angels take our prayers, offerings, etc. to God and they bring God’s blessings and instruction to us.

“When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8 NASB)

When Ya’akov encountered God in Bethel, Ya’akov was fleeing from death because of his deceit. Ya’akov didn’t know if God was pleased with him or angry with him. Ya’akov fled with nothing except a staff, one change of clothes and some food. Ya’akov was evicted from the land God promised to Abraham and Yitzkhak (Isaac).

This is the first time God speaks with Ya’akov. The message God gave Ya’akov was that He would be with Ya’akov. God was not angry with Ya’akov over how his deceit of Esau and Yitzkhak.

At Bethel, God makes His own “deal” with Ya’akov. He reassures Ya’akov and promises to take care of him in his time of exile. It is at this point that God becomes Ya’akov’s God for real.

“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.'” (Genesis 28:13–17 NASB)

This promise was not just for Ya’akov but for his children. Ya’akov promised a tithe to God and Ya’akov keeps this promise 20 years later.

How could Bethel be God’s house when God placed His name at Jerusalem later? The altar was God’s place. Anywhere a believer in God prays in community is a place where we feel attachment and at-one-ment with God. There’s nothing wrong with that. The temple is not the end goal but the sense of community with our fellow believers and communion with God is the end goal.

Ya’akov has a profound connection with his grandfather’s piety, which starts at Bethel. He carries this with him the rest of his life.

Ya’akov then leaves Bethel and goes to Haran to find his mother’s family. When Ya’akov arrives there, he finds a large well, but the well was not open, but covered with a large rock that would take several men to move. He didn’t have superhuman strength. Ya’akov comes from a family of warriors (Abraham) and well diggers (Yitzkhak), he was not a petite man by any stretch. His natural strength combine with a natural masculine drive to impress a pretty girl made it easy for him to move that rock away.

Ya’akov instantly wanted Rakhel (Rachel) as his wife. Ya’akov quickly told Laban that he wanted Rakhel as his wife. In this culture, women were allowed to have some input regarding who they marry and when. So when the seven years came to fruition, and Leah wasn’t already married to someone else, Leah could have refused to go along with her father’s deception but she went along with it willingly.

Laban, like most middle eastern patriarchs of this time, probably had more than one wife as well as concubines. Rakhel and Leah were most likely the children of Laban and his first wife. The maids of Rakhel and Leah, who are named Zilpah and Bilhah, are also daughters of Laban but their mother was either a second wife or a concubine. It was common in that time for the children of secondary wives or concubines to be given as servants to the children of the first wife. This is why the Torah later instructs the children of Israel to never marry sisters.

This sets up a race for Leah and Rakhel to try to have as many children as quickly as possible while they were living in Haran:

  • Leah = 6 children
  • Zilpah = 2 children
  • Rakhel = 1 child
  • Bilhah = 2 children

Ya’akov made a deal with Laban not only regarding Rakhel but also regarding his wages. He worked for Laban for 14 years for his two wives but six years to make an income to raise and support his family.

“So he said, ‘What shall I give you?’ And Ya’akov said, ‘You shall not give me anything. If you will do this one thing for me, I will again pasture and keep your flock: let me pass through your entire flock today, removing from there every speckled and spotted sheep and every black one among the lambs and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and such shall be my wages. So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come concerning my wages. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, will be considered stolen.’ Laban said, ‘Good, let it be according to your word.’ So he removed on that day the striped and spotted male goats and all the speckled and spotted female goats, every one with white in it, and all the black ones among the sheep, and gave them into the care of his sons.” (Genesis 30:31–35 NASB)

Ya’akov’s deal looks very good to Laban. Ya’akov is asking Laban for the least valuable sheep and allowing Laban to keep the far more valuable white sheep. Laban’s name means “white” so Ya’akov’s offer also played to Laban’s personal vanity.

The wool of white sheep is far more valuable than the wool of speckled and black sheep and goats. White wool is far more valuable on the open market than black wool or speckled colored wool. On the surface, it looks like Ya’akov is not a very good negotiator.

Ya’akov gathers the unwanted for himself, which is a messianic symbol. When Ya’akov put out the poplar branches to stimulate his sheep to reproduce, that is how that community grew and Ya’akov grew wealthy because of it.

In Ya’akov’s vision, all of Laban’s male goats and sheep were speckled or black. On the outside, they looked white but in their DNA, they had the genes for speckles and dark wool. Ya’akov saw more value in the sheep and goats themselves than in their wool.

When Yeshua came, leaders of Israel were in charge of the “white, pure sheep,” and they discarded those who were “speckled,” or looked imperfect on the outside. The “white sheep” that much of the leadership gathered looked good on the outside, but they were filthy on the inside.

Messiah gathered the unwanted to Himself, cleaned them up on the inside. “The lost sheep of Israel” matured and became stronger.

There is also a similarity between God’s rebuke to Baalam to only speak what God tells him to say and God’s judgement on Laban, telling him not to speak evil or good on Ya’akov. God is not ignorant of what comes out of our mouths. Whether we speak blessing or cursing on someone, God knows it.

We know that Laban didn’t fully and completely worship God because he had household gods, which Rakhel later stole. Yet, Laban later learns that no matter what he (or his sons) conspired to do to Ya’akov, Ya’akov prospered.

Laban also learns that it was God Himself who thwarted the evil he (and his sons) planned against Ya’akov.

Here’s a recurring pattern in Scripture: When there’s three days and someone who should be dead and lives or someone who should live yet dies, it is a Messianic reference. Ya’akov’s family’s settling a three-day distance from Laban family and then his family’s three-day head start when fleeing from Laban are both Messianic hints.

When Ya’akov left, Laban wanted to chase Ya’akov down and take back his daughters, grandchildren and all Ya’akov’s flocks and leave him for dead but God didn’t allow that.

Leaders of Israel had the same designs on Yeshua the Messiah. Ya’akov outsmarted Esau and Laban, just as Messiah outsmarted HaSatan.

This is another example of how Yeshua said that all the Scriptures testify of Him.

Summary: Tammy

Banner Photo: Jacob favored the sheep that no one else wanted and God blessed him. Jacob’s desire to gather the unwanted sheep to himself is a foretaste of Messiah and His gathering of the Lost Sheep to Himself. Photo by Streuli Silvan/ under Creative Commons License. 

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