Parashah 8: Vayishlach (He sent)

Genesis 32:4 to 36:43

Ya’akov Confronts Esau

So, now Ya’akov returned to Cana’an, the land of his birth, with all his wives, his children and the wealth he had amassed, through Adonai’s generosity.  On his way, at a place he called Machanayim, Ya’akov was met by angels from Adonai.  These were there, it seems, to protect him and all those with him.  In many translations of the Hebrew Scripture, we read of Ya’akov sending messengers to his brother Esau, however, in the Hebrew Scriptures, we read the word malachim, angels.  Thus, it seems Ya’akov retained the favour of Adonai Elohim, who sent angels to do his bidding.  However, as we read in verse 7 of Chapter 32, the angels returned, telling Ya’akov, “We went to your brother ‘Esav, and he is coming to meet you; with him are four hundred men.” When faced with the prospect of seeing his brother, Esau, again, Ya’akov became fearful and once more relied on his own strength, rather than on God’s, even though he knew the Almighty’s messengers were there with him.  As we read in Genesis 32, He divided the people, flocks, cattle and camels with him into two camps, saying, “If ‘Esav comes to the one camp and attacks it, at least the camp that is left will escape.“ (Genesis 32:8,9)  Then, as if an after-thought, he sought God’s protection, Please! Rescue me from my brother ‘Esav! I’m afraid of him, afraid he’ll come and attack me, without regard for mothers or children. (Genesis 32:12)  At this point, Ya’akov reminded Adonai Tzivaot of His promise to . . . certainly do you good and make your descendants as numerous as the grains of sand by the sea, which are so many they can’t be counted. (Genesis 32: 13)  That evening, after he sent the first camp of his servants and flocks, perhaps to take the brunt of Esau’s anger, before he arrived, Ya’akov wrestled with a man, whom some theologians perceive was Adonai Yeshua, the Lord Jesus; however, most translations, including the Hebrew Scriptures, use the word man.  Through his wrestling, Ya’akov was stamped as God’s possession.  Adonai put His mark on Ya’akov, by dislocating his hip, which was never repaired.  The man walked for the rest of his natural life with a limp. 

Ya’akov wrestled with a man, whom some theologians perceive was Adonai Yeshua, the Lord Jesus

Was this perhaps Ya’akov’s ‘thorn’ or reminder that he was totally dependent upon Adonai Elohim Tzivaot, Lord God of Hosts, for everything?  Before letting the ‘man’ go, Ya’akov demanded he be blessed.

In doing so, the man changed Ya’akov’s name to Yisra’el, meaning triumphant with God or ‘who prevails with God’.[i]  Yisra’el called this place P’nei El or the face of God, because, as he said, I have seen God face to face, yet my life is spared. (Genesis 32:31)

Well, as it turned out, Ya’akov/Yisra’el had nothing to fear from Esau; when the two brothers met, Esav ran to meet him, hugged him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him; and they wept. (Genesis 33:4)  All was forgiven. 

Dinah’s Shame – Ya’akov’s Shame

However, that was not the end of Ya’akov’s troubles.  After he settled near the city of Shekhem, his daughter, Dinah, ran into trouble with the men of the city.  She was taken and raped by Shekhem, the son of Hamor, the Hivi, who ruled this part of Cana’an.  Such an action brought shame upon the house of Ya’akov; Hamor attempted to negotiate a truce between them, offering his son as husband for Dinah and extending a business opportunity for Ya’akov and his sons, as we read in Genesis 34, My son Sh’khem’s heart is set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife; and intermarry with us: give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. You will live with us, and the land will be available to you — you’ll live, do business and acquire possessions here. (Genesis 34:8-10)  This was a problem for Ya’akov, however, because to enter into this relationship with Hamor would have invited idolatry into Ya’akov’s house.  He retired to think about the offer but some of his sons had other plans.

They appeared to agree to Hamor’s offer and required he and all the males in his family become circumcised, in order for the two families to mingle.  At this time, it was unseemly that the circumcised and the uncircumcised should form alliances of this kind.  However, on the third day following the sons of Hamor’s circumcision, when their pain was the greatest, Shimon and Levi, two of Ya’akov’s sons with their male servants, stole into the city and murdered every son and male servant they found, took their flocks, their women and their children as slaves and looted their homes.  And, yes, they also rescued Dinah from the house of Shekhem.


Shimon and Levi murdered all the males of Shekhem, following the rape of their sister, Dinah.

When Ya’akov discovered what they had done, he was livid.  He confronted Shimon and Levi with, “You have caused me trouble by making me stink in the opinion of the local inhabitants, the Kena‘ani and the P’rizi.”

Since I don’t have many people, they’ll align themselves together against me and attack me; and I will be destroyed, I and my household. (Genesis 34:30)

At this point, Adonai Elohim told Ya’akov to move his family and all their flocks to Beit El, the house of God.  Before doing so, Ya’akov told his family and their servants to destroy all the idols and jewellery they had obtained from the Shekhemites and purify themselves before they began their journey.  Adonai Tzivaot protected them along the way While they were traveling, a terror from God fell upon the cities around them, so that none of them pursued the sons of Ya‘akov. (Genesis 35:5)  You may remember, it was at Beit El, Ya’akov built an altar to Adonai, when he was fleeing from his brother Esau those many years ago, and where he had the vision of angels ascending and descending upon a ladder to and from Heaven.

When he arrived at Beit El, Adonai Elohim once more spoke to Ya’akov, reaffirming his name change to Yisra’el and reaffirming the covenant He made with his father Yitzchak, Isaac, and his grandfather, Avraham.  It would be appropriate to reiterate that Covenant here, as we read it in Genesis 35, I am El Shaddai. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation, indeed a group of nations, will come from you; kings will be descended from you. Moreover, the land which I gave to Avraham and Yitz’chak I will give to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you. (Genesis 35:11-13)  At Beit El, Adonai told Ya’akov to travel further to Efrat, located between Bethlehem and Hebron, about 12 kilometers south of Jerusalem.  On the way, Rachel gave birth to Binyamin, Benjamin, and, in the process, died.  Ya’akov buried her in Efrat.  If you travel to Bethlehem, you will see still today what many believe is the grave of Rachel.

Ya’akov finished his journey at Mamre, where Yitzchak, his father, lived and he settled.  Shortly after arriving, Yitzchak died; Ya’akov and Esau buried him in the caves of Machpelah, where Avraham and Sarah were laid to rest.  Esau then left Ya’akov and the brothers never met again.

As we read further into Genesis 36, we are given the genealogy of Esau, the founder of Edom and the father of the Edomites.  Edom, in Hebrew, means ‘red stuff’ and refers to the red stew Ya’akov made, which Esau demanded.  Eventually, Esau acquired the nickname Edom.  The Edomites were ruled by 36 kings, from the time of Esau until they were absorbed into the Arab nations surrounding Israel.  Their most prominent stronghold was Petra, in modern day Jordan.  If you have watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, then you have seen the temple of the Edomites or Idumea, as they were also known, at Petra.  Nothing was heard of them following the Jewish revolts of the 2nd Century.  I find it most interesting Adonai Elohim, the Lord God, would devote an entire chapter of Scripture to Esau’s people, since they eventually disappeared as a people.  However, it is important to mention a few interesting facts.  First, Esau acted generously to Ya’akov, even though his brother ‘stole’ his birthright.  When their flocks of sheep and goats grew too large for the land to sustain, Esau volunteered to move, leaving Ya’akov and his family with the more bountiful vegetation.  The second reason for Esau’s genealogy mentioned in Genesis 36, is the promise Adonai Elohim made to Avraham, in Genesis 17, I will make nations of you; kings will descend from you. (Genesis 17:6)  The emergence of the Edomite dynasty fulfills that prophecy, as Esau was the grandson of Avraham. There is a third reason for giving Esau so much space in Torah – the birth of Amalek.  As you may know, the Amalekites played a prominent role in the History of Ancient Israel.  They pestered the Israelites, as they wandered forty years through the wilderness, ‘picking off’ the stragglers at the edge of the camp.  We read of this in Deuteronomy 25, Remember what ‘Amalek did to you on the road as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you by the road, attacked those in the rear, those who were exhausted and straggling behind when you were tired and weary. He did not fear God.   Therefore, when Adonai your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies in the land Adonai your God is giving you as your inheritance to possess, you are to blot out all memory of ‘Amalek from under heaven. Don’t forget! (Deuteronomy 25:17,18)

Amalek was a descendent of Esau and gave rise to the Amalekites

This was the imperative which guided King Saul, when he went to war against Amalekites; unfortunately, he did not follow this and, as a result of not fulfilling this demand and others, Saul lost his throne and crown, as we read in 1 Samuel 15, “Sha’ul and the people spared Agag (the King of Amalek), along with the best of the sheep and cattle, and even the second best, also the lambs, and everything that was good — they weren’t inclined to destroy these things. But everything that was worthless or weak they completely destroyed . . . Adonai has rejected you as king over Isra’el.” (1 Samuel 15:9,26)

By heartformessiah

Dr. Michael Wodlinger is a Messianic Jew, living in Quebec, Canada. He has been a university professor and a rabbi of a Messianic Fellowship.

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