Studies in Torah

Genesis 32:3-36:43: God has sent us, but are we going?

There is quite a bit of salacious material here, but today we will be focusing on Genesis 32–33. One thing I wanted to make note of is that there are lots of daughters listed in Eysau’s line. This might be because we will see later that the descendants of Ishmael and Eysau intermarried a lot.

What is in a name?

The Jacob addresses God as “the God of Abraham, the God of Yitzkhak” for the first time here as he is preparing to return home and confront his brother Eysau. Jacob was reminding God of his promises to Abraham and Issac. This is a memorial name, and later Jacob’s name itself was included in the memorial name. Some place much attention on the correct way to say YHWH, but YHWH’s זכר zakhar (memorial name) “from generation to generation” actually is:

יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֵיכֶם אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אֱלֹהֵי יִצְחָק וֵאלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב

YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Yitzkhak, and the God of Ya’akov (Ex. 3:15)

But there are others who also address God this way, including:

Yosef

When Yosef was about to die, that his bones would return with Israel to the Land (Gen. 50:24).

Moshe

At the burning bush (Ex. 3:15–16; 4:5; 6:3), the same One Who promised to make Yisrael a great nation still intended to do so, even when the nation was enslaved inside of another nation (Mitzraim).

And this continuation toward the fulfillment of that promise would come through a defrocked adopted prince of Mitzraim who had spent the past four decades as a shepherd in Midian.

Moshe also used the memorial name before entering the Land with the second generation (Deut. 6:10; 9:5; 29:13; 30:20).

The Sages taught that one shouldn’t rely on a miracle to save one from danger, else one is also in danger of violating the commandment “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test (Deut. 6:16).

This is not that we are never to seek God’s help or deliverance. Yeshua said God knows what we want before we ask, and we should ask without ceasing. The latter part of Deut. 6:16 says, “as you tested Him at Meribah and Massah.” That points back to the incident during the Exodus during a camping at Rephidim, later named Massah (“test”) and Meribah (“quarrel”) (Ex. 17:1–7). That “test” was demanding God answer, “Is God with us or not?” (Ex. 17:7). Yeshua even rebuked haSatan and tell him not to put God to the test.

Moshe had to wait 40 or 80 years to see some of these promises come to pass. God will bring things to completion, not at our speed but at His own.

Rather, our attitude should be that of Yob (Job), Solomon and Daniel’s friends:

“ ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.’ ” (Job 1:21)

“As he had come naked from his mother’s womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand.” (Eccl. 5:15)

“ ‘If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”” (Dan. 3:17–18)

We hear about believers in North Korea, China or the Middle East where terrible things are happening for the sake of Christ. Some of them have been delivered miraculously, some have not. How do we (and they) respond? God’s way is the best way, even if I don’t survive. Even if the righteous die, the righteous way is still the better way.

Yeshua

Yeshua used the Memorial Name of God when He confronted by Sadducees, who didn’t believe in resurrection (Matt 22:32; Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37). He called them out because they didn’t really know the Scriptures. The punchline of his rebuke of the Sadduccees is: “He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Luke 20:38).

Those who live in God really live, even if they are dead. Their legacy endures. Though dead, their legacy would endure ― God didn’t forget them ― and God would bring them back from the dead. When God makes promises, He keeps them.

Lesson: We have a desire to be noticed. In a lifestyle without God, many try to seek attention by getting noticed by others, getting “likes,” retweets or shares on social media, getting “15 minutes of fame.” There are people who are doing horrific things to get noticed. Almost all attempts at fame or infamy at any level are quickly forgotten. Rather, God promises to complete the “good work” started in us. If we die, the Creator will remember us and promises to recreate us. God started a good work in Abraham, Issac and Jacob and He will complete that work and he will complete that work in us, too.

Yeshua also brings up the memorial name when answering what seems to be an an innocent question. Yeshua was asked whether only a few would be saved, replied that merely being a part of Yisrael matters for salvation (Luke 13:22–30). Rather, Abraham, Yitskhak, Ya’akov and the prophets would get in, but YINOs (Yisraelis in Name Only) wouldn’t.

Paul

Apostle Paul riffs on this theme quite a bit when he says “all Israel would be saved” with the addition of believers from the nations (Rom. 11:26), yet just being a Jew or an Yisraelite outwardly wasn’t good enough for entry into God’s kingdom (2:28–29). The question is the law really written on your heart. We don’t inherit the Kingdom of God by genealogy or osmosis. Yeshua called those who do “God stuff” ― miracles, prophecy, exorcism ― without continual trust in God “lawless” (Matt. 7:21–23). Doing “God stuff” without God is lawlessness. God can work through people even if He is not in them.

Peter

Apostle Peter mentions God’s memorial name at Shavuot (Pentecost) when he said YHWH had heaped honor on Yeshua, but Yisrael collectively through its shepherds rejected and betrayed the Mashiakh, while the reviled pagan Pilate had decided to free Him (Acts 3:13). Peter tells us that the same promises given to Abraham, Yitskhak, Ya’akov were heaped onto Yeshua yet His people attacked and killed him. Even Pilate had enough sense to know the charges were lies, even though he had no knowledge or Torah.

“The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him.” (Acts 3:13 NASB)

Stephan

The deacon/martyr Stephan also recalled His memorial name during his kangaroo trial. He goes through and relates the history of the people and recalling quite a bit of midrash on it as well.

“‘I AM THE GOD OF YOUR FATHERS, THE GOD OF ABRAHAM AND ISAAC AND JACOB.’ Moses shook with fear and would not venture to look.” (Acts 7:32 NASB)

And all of them referenced Abraham, Yitskhak and Ya’akov when reminding those hearing about God’s promises through those three. He likened the rejection of Moshe, sent by YHWH Zakhar, to the rejection of Yeshua, also sent by YHWH. Just as Yisrael “disowned” Moshe ― “who made you ruler and judge?” (Acts 7:35; quoting Ex. 2:14) ― by not recognizing Who sent Him, so too Yisrael disowned Yeshua, not recognizing Who sent Him.

Stephan was relating an early point in Moshe’s life, when he was taking “salvation” into his own hands. God wouldn’t install him as “ruler and judge” for 40 years. In contrast, Yeshua came first to save from condemnation then will come again to rule and judge.

God does not judge by appearances. Yeshua said “righteous judgment doesn’t do that either (John 7:24), unless we want God to use our standard of judgment against us (Matt. 7:1–5; Luke 6:37–38). Those who believe that the Church has replaced Israel don’t understand the Memorial Name of God. There are quite a few things that happened in the history of Israel that would not be expected.

“ ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. 16 ‘You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD.” (Lev. 19:15–16)

That’s one of the problems with gossip and slander. When you make a decision with little to no knowledge, you can really create a mess. It goes against the way God judges and the way He wants us to judge. Our blindness to our own condition leads us to make wrong judgments about other people. How do we judge righteously? Isaiah tells us how Messiah will judge and He is to be our example.

“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3 And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear; 4 But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. 5 Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, And faithfulness the belt about His waist.” (Isa. 11:1–5)

Judging by appearances is wanton and capricious and is not of the Spirit.

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:1–5)

One lesson we can learn is “Vengeance is Mine, says the LORD.” In other words, we should be very careful in handing out judgment on other people. Are we disgusted with someone’s hypocrisy? Is God disgusted with our hypocrisy? Are we enraged with someone’s thoughtlessness? Is God angry with our carelessness? Feel like giving someone “a wakeup call”? What “wakeup call” does God see we need?

Many see “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” as a barbaric anachronism thankfully “nailed to the cross” with “turn the other cheek.” However, the Leviticus 19 points toward the intent of the reflexive (i.e., boomerang) nature of the Torah: judgment must be pure, without malice and full of hope.

We need to approach the situation with humility. We need to search ourselves before we seek to “solve” someone else’s problem.

Ya’akov restling with Eysau and God

The other part of the parashah I want to approach is the question of Who wrestled with Ya’akov? (Gen. 32:22–32)

With all that Ya’akov had accumulated in his 20 years apart from Eysau. This account has troubled a number of Jewish and Christian interpreters because a plain reading suggests:

  1. Ya’akov wrestled with God directly. The man gave Ya’akov a new name, which was something a greater person did for a subordinate, such as Abram to Abraham and the previous names of overcomers to unique names on the Day of the LORD (Rev. 2:17; 3:12).
  2. The man dislocated Ya’acob’s hip with one strike. The word wrestle is translated from אָבַק ’avaq (H79), which means “to stir up dust,” i.e., to struggle. Eysau was called Edom, which means red but comes from the Hebrew word אדמה adamah, or dirt. Ya’akov really did have to wrestle with his “old man,” that which was tied to the things of Earth, of the that which can blow away like dust in the wind. In a sense, he was wrestling with Eysau.

In Greek the word translated struggle is πάλη  palē (G3823). That is the Greek word to translate the word wrestle in Gen. 32:25 LXX is ἐπάλαιεν epalaien, from παλαίω palaiō.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB)

We need wrestle with God, Who wants us to prevail, before we wrestle against those who don’t want us to prevail.

Interestingly, the lesson of overcoming in Revelation 2–3 seems to point back to Ya’akov’s overcoming the struggle he was in.

“ ‘He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.” (Rev. 3:12)

“ ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the [assemblies]. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’ ” (Rev. 2:17)

This passage where God will give us a name that only we know. What is that name? Each one of us has something personal to overcome when we overcome the old person we used to be. That is part of our legacy. God’s legacy is the promise and our legacy is being over-comers. It isn’t just Ya’akov who received a new name, we all will.

When Ya’akov asked the man’s name, the Angel said, “Why do you ask my name?” This seems to imply, “You know Who I am.” That’s why Ya’akov called the place פְּנִיאֵל Peniel, often defined as “face of God.”

“I have seen God yet lived.” (Gen. 32:30)

Ya’akov was turning toward God.

God’s reputation always proceeds Him, which makes the exact pronunciation of His name less important. You can’t attach His reputation to the Golden Calf because it hasn’t done anything. The Ba’als didn’t do anything that the God of Abraham, Yitzak and Ya’akov has done.

It’s a good thing that our reputation will not proceed us. God will wipe that away with a new name.

Ya’akov was desperate for this blessing 20 years ago but he wondered if he would keep that blessing after meeting Eysau again. He had received the first-born birthright from Eysau voluntarily and the Abrahamic legacy birthright involuntarily from Yitskhak, though God had prophesied Ya’akov was to get it. He had to wrestle with that.

Ya’akov gets confirmation from God that he still carries the blessing from Abraham and Yitskhak, i.e., God would preserve the blessing even with the meeting even with the looming meeting with Eysau.

When Eysau hugs Ya’akov, he receives the confirmation that reconciliation is possible and God really gave the blessing to Ya’akov.

The past 20 years has changed Eysau for the better. The Midrash Rabbah asserts that Ya’akov wrestled Eysau’s guardian angel. Ya’akov was able to see the face of God in Eysau. To come full circle a bit, if we can’t see the face of God in our “enemy” we need to tread very careful and check ourselves.

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy. 


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