This week’s parasha is titled, Vayishlach, which means “And He Sent,” and covers Genesis 32:3 – 36:43.
In last week’s parasha, we heard about how Jacob was finally able to leave Laban after over 2 decades of service. As Jacob looks to the road ahead, in chapter 32, he sends out messengers to his brother Esau, and these messengers return with the news that Esau is heading to meet him, but with 400 men. This news is quite distressing to Jacob, who does not know Esau’s intent. Jacob makes a plan that includes providing 5 groups of animals, 550 in total, as tribute to Esau. This is in hopes of appeasing Esau since Jacob was the one who stole his blessing from their father, Isaac, as well as usurped Esau’s birthright. At the end of this chapter, Jacob is alone for the evening and wrestles with a man who, in reality, is either Adonai or Yeshua. Commentators are divided on the identity, but we can be sure that it is a divine manifestation. Towards daybreak, as the struggle continues, the man touches Jacob in the upper thigh area dislocating his hip. That had to be painful. I had bone-on-bone hip pain for 6 years so I can really relate to this. Just picture Jacob: He is alone at night, Esau is heading for him with 400 men and he could lose everything, even his life and now he has a permanent physical ailment. But he does not give up; and he does not rely on himself. He cries out to Adonai for a blessing. And in response, the blessing comes, in verse 28: “And He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”
In chapter 33, Jacob and Esau meet. Jacob’s fears prove to be unfounded and there is reconciliation between them. Esau had become quite wealthy in his own right, but Jacob insists that he accept his gifts and continually honors Esau by bowing before him, calling him “my lord,” and calling himself “your servant.” They part and Jacob ends up settling In Shechem.
In Chapter 34, we find that as Dinah, Jacob’s daughter by Leah, is out visiting the women of the land of Shechem and is seen by Shechem, the son of Hamor, the Hivite, and he is attracted to her. But he demonstrates that attraction by forcing himself upon her, and thus defiling her in the eyes of her family. Although Schehem wants to marry Dinah, the anger felt by Dinah’s brothers is not appeased. However, they deceitfully reply that Shehem and Dinah can marry as long as the men of the land are circumcised. Although we read that “the brothers” requested for Hamor, his son and the rest of the men to be circumcised, we find that on the third day after the circumcision is performed, and the men are still in pain, Simeon and Levi go through the town, kill all the males, take captive all the women and children and loot the entire city. Although Dinah’s honor is defended, Jacob is angry as this may cause others in the land to turn against them. For this act, Simeon and Levi will lose their birth order right, as will Reuben, to take charge of the family after Jacob’s death. See Genesis 49.
In chapter 35, Jacob moves to Bethel and Adonai appears to him again and blesses him with the following blessings: Jacob will no longer be called Jacob, but will be called Israel, a nation will come from Israel and that the land that Adonai gave the Abraham and Isaac will be given to him. This chapter also contains not only the death of Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel, during the birth of Benjamin, but also the death of his father, Isaac.
Most of chapter 36 is devoted to the descendants of Esau. It might seem trivial to take most of one chapter to cover the descendants of Esau, who is not even in the direct line of Yeshua; however, I think that there is an important lesson within this genealogy. When we review this lineage, we can see the terrible sin that was contained within. We read that Zibeon, the father of a son named Anah is also the brother of this same Anah. So, incest was more of a norm in Esau’s descendants. There was also crossbreeding of animals, such as a horse with a donkey, an illegitimate act (Leviticus 19:19). And finally, we see that Amalek, who attached the Israelis from behind as they were coming out of Egypt (1 Samuel 15) is also a part of this lineage. As we read in Malachi 1:2 -3 and again in Romans 9:13, we can better understand the words, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
So, what can we learn from this parasha:
First, we can learn how important it is to rely on God. Jacob had amassed wives, servants and wealth, but in the darkness, it was just Jacob and Adonai. And they wrestled. Just like us. In the end, it does not matter about fame, wealth or other possessions; it is us, individually and our relationship with Adonai, through our Messiah, Yeshua. The world is continually trying to wrestle us away from this bedrock relationship, us and Adonai/Yeshua every day. Don’t let it. Hold fast.
Secondly, life is a marathon, not a sprint. Jacob started out usurping Esau’s blessing and birthright and then he fled. But over time, through growth in his faith, with much prayer and calling and reaching out to Adonai, he became Israel and Adonai blessed his lineage and gave the land to him and his descendants.
And finally, we see what sin and going against God’s Word does as we saw in chapter 36, reminding us of the words, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Let us all hold fast to Messiah Yeshua, follow in the path that he has set before us through His Word and live according to His teachings.