weekly Torah studies

"Ha’Azinu" (Listen), Deuteronomy 32:1–52; Hosea 14:2-10–51; John 20:26 – 21:25.

Shalom All,   Welcome this week’s Torah / bible study section.  “Give ear [Ha’Azinu], Oh heavens, and I will speak …”  (Deuteronomy 32:1).  Last week’s section, “Vayelech” concluded with Moses foreseeing that Israel would turn away from their covenant with God, causing Him to hide His face from them.  Still, Moses promised that the words of Yahweh God’s instructions (Torah) would not be “forgotten out of the mouths of their descendants” (Deuteronomy 31:21).  Moses gathered the people together to listen to a shir (song) called Ha’Azinu (Listen).  That song would always be a reminder of the consequences of turning from YHWH. 

This week’s study section, which is called Ha’Azinu, consists primarily of the 70 line song that Moses sang to the people of Israel on the last day of his life.  At the end, God commands Moses to go up to the top of Mount Nebo to catch a glimpse of the Promised Land before being “gathered unto His people” Deut 32:50.  He was not gathered onto those ending up in hell; but “his people” who are those of God.   God says many will be cut off or blot out from His people.  Many Israelites who sinned were cut off and many gentiles who were obedient as Cornelius in Acts 10:2 was “gathered unto” .  See the study “Cut off Blot Out” to see the criteria of being “gathered unto”.  Remember because of Moses and Aaron’s disobedience they lost the promise made to them of entering the land.  Despite all Moses’ good “works” and frustration in leading stiffnecked Israel.  Let that be a lesson to us of today, that stress of life nor actions of others does not count as an excuse for us.  We are to be longsuffering and endure to the end!  “Yet you shall see the land before you, though you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving to the children of Israel” (Deut 32:52). 

Moses is allowed to see the land, but not enter in.  It is a devastating disappointment and, yet, he ends his public life with a song he taught the survivors of the 40 year trek.   

THE SONG OF THE LAMB.

What is the nature of this song?  It begins by describing God’s loving kindness and faithfulness toward Israel, and it ends with a promise of vengeance, redemption and atonement for God’s land and people.

Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people” (Deuteronomy 32:43). 

It is not only the people of Israel who will rejoice with this final redemption.  The Gentiles (persons of other nations who obey) will rejoice together with God’s people as they will become part of His people.  God’s salvation is for all people, of every tongue, tribe, race and ethnic background.  All people, Jews and Gentiles can rejoice together in unity at the goodness of God the creator of all.  A portion of this song has severe words of rebuke against Israel for infidelity and unfaithfulness to God.  Not only would God “hide His face” from His people; but He would also render judgment.

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Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) Leviticus 16:1–34; 18:1–30; Numbers 29:7–11; Isaiah 57:14–58:14; Book of Jonah; Micah 7:18–20.

Shalom All,  Welcome to this week's study on what may well be the most important appointed time of God; Yom Kippur.

“Lev 23:27  Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. Lev 23:28  And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. Lev 23:29  For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. Lev 23:30  And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Lev 23:31  Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. Lev 23:32  It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.  

Ten days ago, we celebrated the festival of Rosh Hashanah (New Year), which is also called Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets).  This began the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe), a 10-day period of repentance and seeking forgiveness.  It is traditionally believed that God’s judgment is pronounced yearly on Rosh Hashanah, and that this judgment is sealed on Yom Kippur יוֹם כִּפּוּר (or Yom HaKippurim) The Day of Atonement.  During this period, we can influence that judgment through sincere repentance. Yom Kippur, the climax of these Ten Days of Repentance, is so important that it is traditionally considered the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.  Why is this day so holy?  Because only on this one day in the entire year the Jewish High Priest (the Kohen HaGadol) was allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies (Kadosh HaKadoshim) to make atonement for the sins of the nation of Israel. 

Although there is no Temple today, this annual “clean up” day is still an important spiritual discipline. The apostles teach that believers constitute a collective Temple of the Holy Spirit. The concentrated day of fasting, confession, repentance and petition for forgiveness is like an annual spiritual clean-up. This does not mean that we do not regularly confess our sins and repent. Nor does it mean that our sins are not forgiven by the blood of Messiah. It simply means that, once a year, it is a good idea to take inventory, straighten things up and scrub down the soul. That's what the Day of Atonement is all about.

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Moadim L'Simcha (Appointed Times for Joy), Exodus 33:12–34:26; Ezekiel 38:18–39:16; Revelation 21:1–22:21

Shabbat Shalom at this Moadim L'Simcha (Appointed Times for Joy),  Yesterday, 5 Oct 2017, began the week long festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), so I thought to include somethings about it rather than the regular weekly Torah / Bible study.  Sukkot represents the sheltering presence of God.  

“Behold, I make a covenant: before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Yahweh: for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you”  (Exodus 34:10).   

What is Sukkot?.

Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, is a week-long feast during which predominantly the Jewish community builds temporary shelters (sukkot means “booths” in Hebrew) to remind each generation that our forefathers lived as nomads, wandering in the desert for forty years (Lev. 23:42-43). The Bible also refers to this holiday as the Feast of Ingathering, which celebrates the final reaping of the crops at the end of the harvest (Ex. 23:16). Throughout the holiday it is customary to wave the Lulav and Etrog, or the four species (date palm, myrtle, willow, citron), representing thankfulness and joy for the present harvest, along with hope for winter rains to ensure an abundant harvest the following spring (Lev 23:40). The waving of the Lulav and Etrog also represents God’s pervasive presence. 

Anticipation for the Messiah.

Anticipation for the arrival of the Messiah reaches its height during Sukkot. The prophet Zechariah speaks of a time when God will fight and defend His people when the nations gather against Israel (Zech. 14:1-9). After God establishes peace, all the nations will then travel to Jerusalem to worship God during Sukkot (Zech. 14:16). God promises to withhold rain from those countries that do not honour Him in Jerusalem (14:17-19). Sukkot thus looks forward to the day when God will establish His Kingdom and all nations will join together to worship Him. 

Sukkot in the New Testament.

Sukkot also looks forward to the day when God will dwell in the midst of His people. When John introduced Yahshua as the Messiah, he said, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The word “dwelt” can also be translated “took up temporary residence.”

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“Bereisheet” [In the Beginning] Genesis 1:1–6:8; Isaiah 42:5–43:10; John 1:1–18.

Shalom All,   Welcome to this week’s Torah / Bible study “In the beginning [Bereisheet] God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth.”  (Genesis 1:1).  

Is it not wonderful to have a fresh start?  To have an opportunity to begin again and put previous failures right? This is the precious gift we are given each year at the completion of the fall feasts which includes the annual holy day of the Day of Atonement.  At this time the Jewish people also begin their annual reading of the instructions given to mankind by Yahweh God, through Moses.  The instructions given the synonym   of T.O.R.A.H (TORAH).  In an attempt to constantly be learning and maintaining them in their minds, heart and actions.  Added to these are specific readings of the prophets and, by the Messiah believing Jews and others, a section of the New Testament.  The first two being the Law and the Prophets constantly referred to by the Messiah (Yahshua) and the apostles. 

The instructions given by God are contained in the first five books of the Old Testament as these relate to words from God Himself.  They are divided into 52 weekly Torah sections (portions) called Parasha.  Each of which adopt their names from the first unique Hebrew word that appears in the reading, instead of being given a name or title from a theme in the text.  For regular readers, you may note me using either the words, portion, section or Parasha.  Both this first Parasha in the yearly cycle of Torah readings and the first book of the Bible take their name from the first unique word in the text “Bereisheet”, which means in the beginning.  In English, the book of Bereisheet is called Genesis. 

Sometimes the bible account leaves some questions in readers’ minds.  I have added extracts from other accounts not added to the common bible.  These being from the Apocrypha and Josephus’ writings. As this week’s Genesis account should be known to most readers, I have filled the content with an extract from Josephus on Genesis chapters 4 at the end of this week’s scriptures as an example of what is to come in the future. 

A Good Creation. 

Parasha Bereisheet opens with a dramatic, awe-inspiring narrative of the creation of our world.  In as few as 31 verses and 469 words, Genesis describes how God takes confusion and emptiness (tohu v’vohu תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ) and creates a perfect, delicate balance of order and beauty. Forming an environment with all the necessities for human life; spiritual and physical. Spiritual because He also set up appointed times translated as “seasons” in Gen 1:14.  These are not summer, winter, rain or other seasons!  “The earth was unformed and void [tohu v’vohu], darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the water” (Genesis 1:2).

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Noach (Noah / Rest). Genesis 6:9–11:32; Isaiah 54:1–55:5; 1 Peter 3:8–22. “This is the account of Noah and his family.”

Welcome to this week’s Torah / bible study.  In last week’s  section we restarted the yearly Torah reading cycle of the Word of God from the very beginning with the study by the same name: Bereisheet (In the Beginning).  This week, we continue our study in the first book of Moses with the Biblical character of Noah, the only righteous man “of his generation”.  “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.”  (Genesis 6:9). 

In this section we should also note the existence of many things that are commonly taught to have originated with Moses and the creation of Israel.  i.e. The year and a new beginning  Gen 8:13  And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry. Exo 12:2  This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. 

So as we go through the 52 weeks of bible study this year let us see if indeed God is Act 10:34  Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: Act 10:35  But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.  Some people tend to divide the bible into 3 parts; before Moses, after Moses or Israel and the New Testament with Yahshua.  Or even three groups of people; before Israel the Jews, Israel the Jews and New Testament gentiles.  Then some say in each section God had different requirements for salvation or what He accepted and what He did not i.e. laws.  Your salvation depends on you finding out what is biblically true and what is not.  Empty your cup and let us fill it up solely with Word of God. 

Fixing A Sinful And Broken World.

Why does God punish sin? Why does He care what we choose to do? Why should our personal choices be judged?  If rats go uncontrolled they overrun the environment, spread disease and cause damage.  If murderers go without control and punishment society is at risk of being controlled by bullies. Weaker persons get murdered and there is not much peace and happiness in society.  If sin goes without control similar happens to society.  That is many times God says to “put sin away” from the society by putting away the sinner.

Human evil grieves God's heart.  He observes the earth and its inhabitants like a Father who observes the behaviour of His children. He is like a king taking note of how events unfold in his kingdom.  When a father sees his children involved in self-destructive behaviours, it grieves him. When a king sees his subjects living in open rebellion against him, it angers him. As God observed humanity in the days of Noah, He was saddened to see the rampant wickedness of His creations.

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LECH LECHA (GO FORTH!) Genesis 12:1–17:27; Isaiah 40:27–41:16; Matthew 1:1–17

Shalom All,  Welcome to this week’s Torah / Bible study Portion of God’s instructions.  “Yahweh said to Abram, ‘Go forth [lech lecha] from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you ... and I will bless you.’”  (Genesis 12:1–2).  

In last week’s reading, Noach (Noah), concluded with a genealogy of Shem, Noah’s son.  That genealogy ended with Terah, father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.  Terah took his son Abram and Abram’s wife Sarai, as well as Lot, son of Haran, who had died, out of Ur of the Chaldeans and headed toward the Land of Canaan.  Instead of reaching their destination, however, they settled at Haran where Terah lived out the rest of his days.  In this week’s portion, at God’s command, Abram carries on with his father’s unfinished mission, to reach the Land of Canaan, the name given to the Promised Land at that time.  Gen 12:10  And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.  To get Abram to go to Egypt, God caused a famine in the land in which he was.  Similarly to get Jacob / Israel to go to Egypt God did similar.  Gen 47:13  And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and all the land of Canaan fainted by reason of the famine. 

This week we start with Abraham, the sole righteous man God chose to be the father of the righteous children.

Mat 1:1  The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  Mat 1:17  So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations. 

Why does God have a love for Abraham and calls Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?  God said to Abraham “Go ye forth,” and Abraham went forth.  He said, “Sacrifice for me,” and he sacrificed.  He said to Isaac, “Stay,” and Isaac stayed.  He said to Jacob, “Go back,” and he went back.  Whatever He told them to do, they did.  In short Gen 26:5  Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. Deu 4:37  And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt;    See also Heb 11:16. God’s love is not limited to Israel only.  When Moses gave directives on how to get God’s love he was not only speaking to mixed multitude Israel but Deu 29:14  Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; Deu 29:15  But with him that stands here with us this day before Yahweh our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day:  Deu 30:16  In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.

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Vayera (And He Appeared) Genesis 18:1–22:24; 2 Kings 4:1–37; Luke 2:1–38.

Shalom All,  Welcome to this week’s Torah / bible study reading. Its named because Abraham receives in Hebron's plains of Mamre three mysterious guests.  “Yahweh appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.”  (Genesis 18:1). 

In last week’s section “Lech Lecha”, God sealed His Covenant with Abram, which promised the Land to his descendants as an eternal heritage.  Abraham, in obedience to the call of God, left the land of his fathers and journeyed to the Promised Land.  This week’s section contains more angelic activity than any of the other.  Angels appear to 99 year old Abraham as men, bringing messages to him and Sarah of a future child next year despite her 89+ year age.  They also save Lot from a hostile mob, lead Hagar to water for her son, and comfort her with the promise of Ishmael becoming a great nation.  It was only three days after he and his male household were circumcised in obedience to God as a sign of the covenant when he saw three strangers (Genesis 17:11). Household included 318 male servants in addition to him and Ishmael.  

Circumcision: The Brit Milah (covenant of circumcision) is Judaism’s oldest ritual.  It is the only mitzvah (instruction) that was carried out communally by the Israelites before entering the Promised Land.  In fact, God commanded Joshua to take flint knives in order to circumcise their sons because this covenant had not been exercised during the desert wanderings.  “Then Joshua circumcised their sons whom He raised up in their place; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way.  So it was, when they had finished circumcising all the people, that they stayed in their places in the camp till they were healed.  Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’”  (Joshua 5:7–9). 

While anyone can be circumcised simply for health reasons, when a Jewish person fulfills this instruction in order to be in covenant with God, it elevates the circumcision as an act of holiness.  The Brit Milah represents Hebrew believers bond with YHWH.  For this reason, it is considered by some people as something uniquely Jewish; circumcision started with Abraham and is the sign of the covenant between God, Abraham and his descendants forever.  In ancient times, Gentiles were, therefore, referred to as “the uncircumcised ones.”  For instance, when David referred to the giant Goliath, he called him an ”uncircumcised Philistine.”

“For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”  (1 Samuel 17:26) and the New Testament also refers to them as uncircumcised Act 11:3  Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them (see also Rom 4:12).  This is what led to the dispute in Acts 15:1 that unless the uncircumcised be circumcised they cannot enter the covenant and blessings of God.  However, Paul addresses this in Rom 4:11  And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

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"Chayei Sarah" (Life of Sarah). Genesis 23:1–25:18; 1 Kings 1:1–31; 1Pet 3:1-7.

Shalom All,   Welcome to this week’s Torah / Bible study section  “And the life of Sarah [Chayei Sarah] was a hundred and seven and twenty years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.”  (Genesis 23:1). 

Although the title of this week’s section, Chayei Sarah (חַיֵּי שָׂרָה), means Life of Sarah, it initially focuses on her death.  This corresponds with the Judaic thought that it is the awareness of death that gives more meaning to life.  In week 4, year 3, I mentioned when YHVH changed Abram’s and Sarai’s name, He added the English equivalent “H” of His name to their former name. 

Sarah is the only woman in the Bible to have a study section of the Torah named after her.  All the other Biblical characters of study sections are named after are men:  Balak, Pinchas, Korach, Noach and Yitro.  This underscores how important the matriarch Sarah is to our faith.  Sarah dies in Kiryat Arba, and her funeral is the first to be recorded in the Torah/Bible.  She is buried in the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Ma'arat HaMachpelah), the second holiest place of the Jews after the Temple Mount.  This burial place, in which the fathers and mothers of the Jewish faith are buried, is located in Hebron.  In “Chayei Sarah”, Abraham purchases this land for the full asking price.   In 2015 the Palestinians have asked the United Nations to rule both the Temple Mount wall and burial places of Abraham are Palestinian lands.   At that time the UN ruled on the former; but not the latter. 

Sarah’s Obedience Is Rewarded:  Last week’s study section (Vayera) ended with Abraham’s ultimate test, the binding and near sacrifice of his beloved son, Isaac (Yitzchak); but God provided an adult male ram for the sacrifice instead.  Remember it was Isaac’s idea and conversation with Ishmael that brought about this trial which was hid from his mother Sarah (book of Jasher).  In the New (second) Testament, we read of Sarah’s radical obedience to her husband as an example of faith and courage that women of God are encouraged to emulate:  “For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.  They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord.  You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”  (1 Peter 3:5–6).

Sarah demonstrated this radical obedience to her husband, first by leaving everything behind, including her home and family, to follow Abraham to a new land.  She did not know where they were going and had to live inside a tent in the desert like a stranger.  In order to protect her husband, she even agreed twice to enter a foreign king’s harems where she could have potentially been greatly harmed and defiled.  Still, even in this, she obeyed her husband.  God rewarded Sarah’s obedience and did indeed rescue her from Pharaoh's and King Abimilech’s harems.  Clearly it was God who did not allow the King of Gerar to touch Sarah:  “And God said to him in a dream, ‘Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart.  For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.’”  (Genesis 20:6).

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"Toldot" (Generations), Genesis 25:19–28:9; Malachi 1:1–2:7; Romans 9:6-29. “And these are the generations [toldot] of Yitzchak [Isaac],

Shalom All,  Welcome to this week’s Torah / bible reading Portion.   

In our last Torah / Bible portion), the son of Sarah and Abraham, Yitzchak (Isaac), carried on the legacy of his parents’ faith and obedience to Yahweh.  After his mother died, Abraham sent his servant to bring home a wife for Yitzchak from among Abraham’s kinsmen.  At the well where the women of the town would soon appear, the servant prayed for God’s help in locating the perfect woman/wife for Yitzchak.  Just then, Rivkah (Rebekah) arrived at the well to provide water for him and his camels.  Yitzchak was 40 when he took/married her (Gen 24:67  And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved). 

In this section we see similarities between Isaac and his wife Rebekah and that of Abraham his father and his wife Sarah.  The famine, promise and calling their wife their sister.   

Gen 26:1  And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar. Gen 26:2  And Yahweh appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: Gen 26:3  Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; Gen 26:4  And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Gen 26:5  Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. Gen 26:6  And Isaac dwelt in Gerar: Gen 26:7  And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon. 

Prayer Brings Blessings: “Isaac prayed to Yahweh on behalf of his wife, because she was childless.  Yahweh answered his prayer [atar], and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.”  (Genesis 25:21).  In this week’s portion, we discover that Rivkah is barren.  She is one of seven women in the Torah who have difficulty conceiving; but finally come to bear children by the grace of God, in this case, in answer to her husband’s prayer.  This was not necessarily a one time prayer and it was granted.  Just because we pray once and do not receive an answer does not mean we should not continue praying!  God wants us to bring our requests to Him in the unity of faith.  Remember, Abraham was over 90 years old without child and Sarah laughed when angels told her she would conceive.  Had they or she stopped praying?  Maybe, when you think God has forgotten or is not coming through, He does the impossible so you know it is of Him.  Never give up on Yahweh, you will lose the bet. 

The Hebrew expression used in Genesis 25:21 for prayer (atar עָתַר), which can also mean to dig, is related to the Hebrew word for pitchfork (eter).

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“VAYISHLACH” (And He Sent) Genesis 32:4 (3)–36:43; Hosea 11:7–12 (11); Obadiah 1:1–21; Ephesians 4:1–32.

Shalom All,  Welcome to this week’s Torah / Bible study section.  “And Jacob sent [vayishlach וַיִּשְׁלַח] messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.”  (Genesis 32:4[3]). 

In last week’s study, Jacob left his unjust father-in-law, Laban, while he was off shearing his sheep.  Fearing that Laban would keep his daughters, Leah and Rachel, Jacob stole away with all he had: his sons, his wives, and all of his livestock, heading for the mountains of Gilead.  This group are the forerunners of those who entered Egypt and came out as the nation of Israel.  Note they consist of the household of Jacob, Gentile servants and wives included.  So from the outset God’s “my people” was and remain a composition of Jew and Gentile who live by His commandments.  No colour nor nation of birth differentiation; but a “mixed multitude” of obedient believers as would be in the promised new heaven and earth. 

After 22 years in Haran (a place in Mesopotamia), it was likely difficult for Jacob to free himself from Laban’s wicked manipulation and control, but he did succeed.  We can imagine that he was anticipating with great joy his return to his ancestral homeland of Canaan; however, in order to do so, he had to first pass through Edom, the territory of Esau, his estranged brother [Gen 36:1  Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom. Gen 36:2  Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite;  Gen 36:43 … these be the dukes of Edom, according to their habitations in the land of their possession: he is Esau the father of the Edomites]. 

Jacob’s Family Becomes a Nation. 

“Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, ‘We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”  So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed”  (Genesis 32:6–7). 

The time had come for Jacob to confront his past.  More than two decades had passed since Jacob had posed as his brother Esau and received the first-born blessing from their father.  The last time Jacob had seen Esau, he was filled with murderous rage, vowing to kill him; therefore, it is no wonder that Jacob felt anxiety at the prospect of seeing his brother again, especially upon learning that Esau was headed his way with 400 menHad Esau held a grudge against Jacob all these years?  Or had time eased the pain of betrayal and brought forgiveness?  Could the generous gifts of livestock sent ahead to Esau somehow appease his anger?  Jacob was about to find out.  Jacob was a man of strategy: he divided his family and the people with him, along with his flock, herds and camels, into two camps.  That way, if Esau attacked one camp, the other would survive (Genesis 32:8). 

The Bible does not simply call these camps family.  This is the first time that the Torah refers to those who are with Jacob as a nation (ha’am הָעָם).  “Jacob divided the people [ha’am, הָעָם] who were with him into two groups.”  (Genesis 32:7)  This is why (rightly or wrongly as some may argue) the Jewish people, even today, are called the house of Jacob.

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