Vayetze (And He Went Out)
Genesis 28:10–32:3; Hosea 11:7–14:9; John 1:19–51
“Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran.” (Genesis 28:10)
Last week, in Parasha Toldot, Rebekah and Isaac had twin sons, Jacob whom Rebekah favored, and Esau, whom Isaac favored.
This week’s Torah Portion begins with Jacob leaving Be’er Sheva (Beersheba) and fleeing to Haran, the land of his mother’s family.
Along the way, he stops for a night’s sleep, using a stone for a pillow. In a dream, he sees a ladder reaching from earth to heaven with the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
The angels are first mentioned in this passage as ascending the ladder, which may indicate that they have been accompanying Jacob on his journey all along.
When we walk in the fear of the Lord, we can expect angels to protect us from evil.
We may not see them, but by faith we can be confident that even if we are without human friends on the journey, we have unseen angelic beings with us to protect and help us along the way.
But Jacob’s dream doesn’t end with angels; God Himself appears to Jacob and identifies Himself as the Lord, God of Abraham and Isaac—Jacob’s father and grandfather—since it was to these two that God made the original promise.
Now, by divine promise, the covenantal inheritance is passed on to Jacob:
“I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.” (Genesis 28:13)
Those of us who are descendants of Jacob can claim this Land as our inheritance, not by our own will, but by divine decree.
Beit El (Bethel): The House of God
“He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God [Beit Elohim]; this is the gate of heaven.’” (Genesis 28:17)
When Jacob awakes from his dream, he marks the spot by erecting the stone on which his head was resting. He calls the place Beit-El (Bethel), which means the House of God (Genesis 28:19).
We usually think of the House of God as a place of worship inside a building, but here we see that God is not contained within or limited to physical structures.
Any place can be made sacred by the Presence of God.
When Moses stood before the burning bush, God instructed him to take off his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. The word for holy is kadosh, which means set apart for a special purpose.
Any place or space that is set apart by God and His holy presence can become a ‘Beit-El’ in our lives.
The Tithe: The Holy Portion
“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey… 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 28:20–22)
Jacob made a vow to devote a tenth to God’s service. This is the first time a vow is mentioned in the Bible, and it’s interesting that this vow to give the tithe is in response to God’s provision.
Every good and perfect gift comes from above. Everything we have comes from God. He is our true source of provision – not man, not our skills or our intelligence, not our job or our investments.
It’s God who provides all of our needs according to His riches in Messiah Yeshua (Philippians 4:19).
The only thing He asks for (with a promise of a multiplied return) is the first 10 percent of the prosperity He blesses us with.
Giving the tithe protects us from the tendency of the flesh toward greed. It also says that we acknowledge God as our true source and give back what is kadosh (holy) – the set apart portion of our finances – which He has given us in the first place.
But why a 10th of our income? Why not 2 percent or 15 percent?
Numbers are important in Judaism, and we can look to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah for a clue.
When Abraham interceded for the salvation of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, it came down to the number 10. God said that for the sake of 10, He would hold back the destroyer.
It works the same way in our finances. For the sake of a tenth of our finances, God promises to hold back the destroyer from our material goods.
“‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it.’” (Malachi 3:10)
Those who do make the commitment to tithe, and who follow through on their vow faithfully, will find that God is also faithful to rebuke the devourer for our sakes and to bless and prosper us in return.
“Honor the Lord with your possession, and with the first fruits of all your increase, so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9–10)
Love at First Sight
“Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, ‘I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.’” (Genesis 29:18)
In Genesis 29, Jacob meets Rachel, and it’s love at first sight. As soon as Jacob sees Rachel, he kisses her, and lifts up his voice and weeps, telling her he is a relative of her father.
Jacob agrees to work for his uncle Laban seven years in return for Rachel’s hand in marriage, but it seems like only a few days, because of his great love for her.
However, the plot thickens when Laban tricks Jacob into marrying his firstborn daughter, Leah, instead of Rachel.
Thus, until today, we have a Jewish custom that continues called ‘bedeken kalah,’ which means the checking of the bride.
Before each Jewish wedding ceremony, the men bring in the bridegroom to lift the veil of his intended bride so he can check that she is the right bride and that no one has pulled a ‘Laban’ on him.
Sowing and Reaping
“What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” (Genesis 29:25)
While we can cast Jacob in the role of the poor, duped victim, we can also recognize that a spiritual law is in action. Jacob, whose very name can mean ‘a deceiver,’ duped Isaac, his father, into thinking he was Esau so he could receive the blessing of the firstborn.
And in a similar way, Laban dupes Jacob by substituting Leah for Rachel during the marriage ceremony.
It seems that Jacob was reaping what he sowed. He deceived and was deceived.
Our actions are like seeds that we sow. As surely as apples grow from apple seeds, we reap whatever we sow—whether for good or for evil.
Whatever we do to others, we reap a harvest of that action. It comes back on us, whether for good or for evil. It’s a law—the law of sowing and reaping.
Yeshua (Jesus) confirmed this law when He said that as we give, so shall it be given unto us.
“Give and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” (Luke 6:38)
We are all familiar with this principle. In the common vernacular we say, “What goes around, comes around.”
If we give out lies, trickery and deception, it will come back to us one way or another; however, if we give out love, kindness and mercy, we will also receive these treasures in return.
Israel and the Law of Sowing and Reaping
“The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.” (Obadiah 1:15)
The Bible reveals that the law of sowing and reaping also applies to the way the nations treat Israel. In the first chapter of Obadiah, God says that what the nations do to Israel will be returned upon their heads.
Here in Israel, we know, as we send our children off to school, that we might once again come under missile attack.
The last couple of weeks have been particularly terrible. Terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched a relentless barrage of missiles against Israel. The Lord’s hand was upon us, and only a handful were killed. Nevertheless, many were injured and many more traumatized.
It is seldom reported in the world’s news, but missiles are a constant reality in the south not far from Beer Sheva where Jacob had his dream.
Scripture makes it plain, however, that those who stand against the Jewish People’s right to the Land of Israel are positioning themselves against the Almighty God!
For those of us who live here in the Holy Land, the Scriptures about God’s protection are truly comforting.
“The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7)
We are confident that God is for us in our struggle to remain in this Land that He gave to us.
“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
“He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6–7)
There’s another issue that comes into play in the story of Jacob’s life—the reality of generational curses.
Throughout the generations of the Patriarchs, there seems to be a problem with deception.
We don’t know how far back the sin of deception goes, but we do know that Abraham asked Sarah to present herself as his sister, rather than his wife, in order to save his skin.
In the next generation, we see the same kind of deception: Abraham’s son, Isaac, presents his wife, Rebekah, as his sister also.
Isaac’s son Jacob used deceit to manipulate for his own purposes. In obedience to his mother, Jacob presented himself as his twin brother, Esau, to his visually impaired father in order to receive the blessing of the firstborn son. (Genesis 27:28–29)
Just as Isaac and Jacob inherited the blessing from their father, Abraham, they also seemed to inherit some of his sinful tendencies.
Still, although the Word of God says that the sins of the fathers will be passed down to the third or fourth generation, it also says that His mercy extends to the thousandth generation to those who love Him and keep His commandment (Exodus 34:7).
Where’s Our Hope?
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.” (Deuteronomy 7:9)
What hope is there for us if our family tree is less than perfect?
What if our ancestors have not loved God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength? What if they had glaring sin in their lives, and we now see the same tendencies in our own selves or our children?
What hope do we have if we know that we have, willfully or in ignorance, planted some bad seed that will surely produce a harvest of unrighteousness and undesirable consequences in our lives?
Our hope is in Yeshua (Jesus) and the work He completed by His death and resurrection!
When Yeshua was crucified, he wore a crown of thorns upon his own head. Those thorns were the product of the curse resulting from man’s sinful rebellion against God.
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.” (Genesis 3:17–18)
But thanks be to God that He who knew no sin became a curse for us, so that the curses could be broken in our lives and in the generations to come (2 Corinthians 5:21).
We can be thankful that when He wore that crown of thorns (in Hebrew kotzim) upon His brow and hung on that tree (cross), He broke the power of these generational curses.
“Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” (Galatians 3:13)
Yehudah Means Praise the Lord!
In the Matriarchs of our faith, we can also see generational curses at work, as well as God’s supernatural intervention on their behalf.
Both Rachel and Sarah were barren, and they needed God’s supernatural intervention to conceive.
And just like Sarah, Rachel complicated the situation by giving her handmaid to her husband for the purpose of producing a child, since in the Middle Eastern culture of that time, barrenness brought terrible grief and shame to a woman.
Rachel demanded that Jacob give her children, even though the problem was obviously not with Jacob, as Leah was extremely fertile.
Isn’t that just like us, to want to blame someone else for our own problems?
God saw that Leah was not loved by her husband so he seemed to compensate her with many children.
Pathetically, she thought with each child born that perhaps her husband would love her this time (Genesis 29:32).
Finally, with the birth of her last son, she got beyond her pain and named him Yehudah (Judah, meaning God is to be praised / thanked) saying, “This time will I praise the Lord.” (Genesis 29:35)
Leah finally learned something we all need to come to terms with – that in the end, what is most important is our relationship with the Lord, and we should direct our attention to Him and come to Him with grateful hearts full of praise and thanksgiving!