Vayetze (And He Left)
Genesis 28:10–32:2; Hosea 12:13–14:10; John 4:1–26
“And Jacob went out from Beersheba.” (Genesis 28:10)
Last week, in Parasha Toldot, Isaac’s wife Rebecca had a difficult pregnancy as the twin boys jostled within her. When she inquired of the Lord, He told her that two nations were in her womb and the elder (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob).
This week, Parasha Vayetze (וַיֵּצֵא) describes Jacob’s travels to and his life in Harran, his mother’s homeland, to find a wife and to flee the murderous plot of his brother Esau.
Jacob Leaves His Comfort Zone
We may recall that Jacob was not a rough and tough adventurer like his brother, Esau. He had a quiet personality from birth, preferring to be at home rather than out in the woods hunting for game.
So, the call to leave his home for another land (like his grandfather Abraham, and his father Isaac) may have caused much anxiety—perhaps doubly so since he was running to save his life, at his mother’s insistence.
On the other hand, Jacob had just received an extraordinary blessing from his father Isaac of “heaven’s dew and earth’s richness, an abundance of grain and new wine” with a promise of nations serving and bowing down to him (Genesis 27:28–29).
So Jacob set out for Harran, much blessed. Even so, instead of his comfortable bed or a warm inn at the side of the road, he spent his first night sleeping on the cold, hard ground without any kind of physical shelter and only stones for a pillow.
Jacob Receives His Spiritual Inheritance
“And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.” (Genesis 28:12)
Any anxiety Jacob had that night must have fled his spirit when the Lord appeared to him in a dream. Standing at the top of a ladder that reached into the heavens, with angels going up and down it, God promised to give Jacob the same inheritance He gave Abraham and Isaac—the land upon which he lay:
“And, behold, the LORD [YHVH] stood beside him, and said: ‘I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. The land upon which you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed.” (Genesis 28:13)
It is clear through this Scripture that the Divine title deed to this land belongs to the seed of Jacob (Israel) and not the seed of his brother, Esau, who is the forefather of many of the Arabic people currently living in the Land.
It’s easy to see that some of these descendants of Esau still hate their “brother Jacob” and seek to kill his descendants—the Jewish People.
Jacob awoke from his dream filled with awe, delighting in the presence of the One True God; and for that reason, he called the place Bethel or Beit-El (House of God). In truth, though, any place can become a “house of God” when His holy Presence invades the space.
The ancient Jewish rabbis viewed this pivotal encounter with God as Jacob’s spiritual awakening. It is here that he entered the role of spiritual forefather, moving forward in the promises given to his grandfather, Abraham—not only to receive the land, but also to bear fruit and bring blessing to generation after generation of all peoples of the earth:
“Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.” (Genesis 28:14)
What perhaps began as a journey of obedience to His parents now became a journey with God Himself:
“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15)
While Abraham and Isaac had their own very personal encounters with God, until this time, it seems that Jacob had no such encounter. But as God reveals His power and presence, Jacob responds with clarity and a simple faith, saying:
“If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God.” (Genesis 28:20–21)
In accepting the Lordship of Adonai over his life, Jacob is not waiting for riches before he serves Him and he also makes this commitment to Him:
“This stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will give You a tenth.” (Genesis 28:22)
When we honor the Lord’s real presence in our lives and reinvest our resources back into His work through tithing and serving, we acknowledge that He is Lord over our lives, that He provides us protection, food, clothing, and shelter and that He alone is worthy of adoration and praise all the time, everywhere.
Jacob Encounters Living Water
“And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.” (Genesis 29:10)
By the time that Jacob arrives at his uncle Laban’s land, it seems that he had undergone a remarkable transformation. Earlier on, he had been described as a tent-dweller, in contrast to his rugged brother Esau who was an outdoorsman.
Traditionally in Judaism, Jacob is described as a scholar.
Yet, suddenly it seems that he actually possesses remarkable strength. He is able to single-handedly move the heavy stone off of a community well in order to water his uncle’s sheep.
Either he possessed this strength all along, or it developed as he journeyed in faith and obedience.
If the first is true, then he is a remarkable example of someone who led a balanced life, not neglecting the need to develop his external strength as he developed his internal strength.
If the second is true, then he is an example to all of us how we can be transformed in our walk with Adonai.
If we keep in mind that moving the stone single-handedly was a feat fit for Samson, there is room for both to be true.
Much is made of this meeting at the well in Judaism’s oral tradition, and there are several interpretations, each perhaps building on the other.
Among them, the well is thought to represent Zion, and the three flocks Babylon, Persia, and Greece, imperial powers that drew from the well the wealth of Israel and the Holy Temple.
In this interpretation, the rolling back of the stone represents the future messianic age when exile will end and God redeems His people.
The well is also interpreted as being the water of Torah, from which Jewish leadership draws in order to learn how to rule.
Water is a rich symbol in Jewish writing, and in Jeremiah 2:13, God calls Himself the “spring of living water.” Life flows from Him.
Along this vein of thinking, then, the water in the well can also be seen to represent Yeshua, who proclaimed, “Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:38)
It is only through Yeshua, the source of living water, that anyone can come to the Father to receive the gift of salvation.
“Yeshua said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
The rolling away of the stone perhaps also reminds us of the miraculous rolling away of another stone—the one that covered Yeshua’s burial place. When that stone was rolled away, the resurrection of Yeshua was revealed.
Prophetically, once Israel sees Yeshua as the Messiah who died, was buried, and rose again, then resurrection life will come to the entire world.
“For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15)
So many people are thirsting today for a real relationship with the Living God. This is why it is so important that we bring the Word of God from Jerusalem to the nations. (Isaiah 2:3)
“O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1)
Destiny and the Love of Jacob’s Life
In an encounter that is reminiscent of Abraham’s servant finding a bride for Isaac at a well, Jacob meets his bride-to-be at a well, perhaps the very same well.
It is a divine appointment. Jacob falls in love at first sight, understanding that she is his bashert, a Yiddish word meaning destiny or from God. In regard to marriage, bashert has evolved into the modern idea of a “soul mate” predestined by God.
He is so smitten by the beautiful Rachel, daughter of his uncle Laban, that he agrees to work seven years for her hand in marriage (although, he was tricked by Laban into working 14 years):
“And Jacob loved Rachel; and he said: ‘I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.’” (Genesis 29:18)
This work agreement shows Jacob’s great integrity as a man who is not relying on God to simply hand him every good thing on a silver platter, as his father’s blessing back home or God’s promises at Bethel might suggest. Nor did he go back to his father to ask for money.
For 20 years in Harran, Jacob worked hard, paying his own way. He protected and nurtured the flocks and herds of Laban as an honest servant, prospering both himself and Laban.
Laban, however, was not the model father-in-law, nor was he an honest, upright businessman. Not only did Laban trick Jacob into first marrying Rachel’s older sister, Leah, but Laban also tried to cheat Jacob out of his fair wages several times.
Laban’s name in Hebrew means “white.”
Names in Biblical times often revealed the character and destiny of the name bearer and, in this case, there may have been a connection to leprosy. Regardless, we must be wise and discern a person’s character, not being deceived by someone that appears to be clean or pure, since even the devil himself can appear as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
The Twelve Tribes Receive Their Names
Today, many Jewish children are named after one of their ancestors; however, in Biblical times, the name of a child could reflect the mother’s state of mind when giving birth or the hope for the child’s future.
Leah named nine of Jacob’s children and Rachel named four—these 13 children comprised one daughter and 12 sons. All 12 except for the Levites would receive portions of the Promised Land as the inheritance for each of their tribes, according to God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The Levites received God as their inheritance and the responsibility to serve Him in His Temple while being supported by the other tribes through tithes and offerings. (Deuteronomy 10:9; Numbers 18:24; Joshua 18:7)
The remaining tribes and land allotments were comprised of two of Joseph’s sons—Manesseh and Ephraim.
Leah called their first son Reuben (רְאוּבֵן), from a Hebrew word Re’eh (see) because God had seen her state of being unloved and had, therefore, blessed her with a son.
“And Leah conceived, and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said: ‘Because the LORD has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.’” (Genesis 29:32)
In one case, Jacob overruled a naming decision. When Rachel knew she was about to die giving birth to her second son, she called him Ben–Oni (son of my sorrow). Jacob changed his name to Ben-Yamin—Benjamin (son at my right hand) to better reflect his destiny.
Each of the children received names that reflected family hopes or circumstances (but you will have to read the Torah portion for this Shabbat to discover why they were given these names).
- Reuben—See, a son
- Levi—Joined; attached
- Judah—Yah be praised
- Naphtali—My wrestling
- Gad—Troop; invader; good fortune
- Issachar—Man of hire
- Dinah—Judged or Vindicated
- Joseph—Increaser or God will increase
- Benjamin—Son of my right hand
At the end of this Parasha, Jacob begins his journey home. In the next Parasha, Jacob prepares to encounter his rival brother Esau after 20 years of estrangement.
On the way, Jacob will also encounter a Divine messenger who will change his name from Yaacov (Jacob — referring to the heel of the foot) to Yisrael (Israel — one who struggles with God).
Today, the ancient rivalry between the brothers still seems to remain, but that is not the only struggle the Jewish People face. They also struggle with understanding the prophetic Scriptures and the issue of who Messiah really is.
Please pray for the eternal salvation of the Jewish People that all will come to a personal faith in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).