We are called to redeem the days, not to pass judgement on their use
This year the 25th of Kislev 5777 (First day of Chanukah) and the 25th of December (Christmas day) coincide. Jews and Christians throughout the world will be celebrating God’s light in different and contextually appropriate ways. We are worshiping together, as a symbolic prophetic practice representing our future unity in Messiah.
In Messiah Yeshua we are called to a ministry of reconciliation, a ministry of redemption. We are called to redeem the days, not to pass judgement on their use. The days are subject to the creator of days and regardless of how they have been misused by others they must now be used for the worship of God and His Messiah.
We were once imprisoned by the delusion that the Torah was a punitive law. We are now set free by the understanding that the Torah is a guide that points to Messiah Yeshua. It is for freedom He has set us free, so we stand firm in that freedom, and refuse to return to bondage.
Chag Chanukah sameach v’chag ha-molad sameach b’shem Mashiyach Yeshua l’k’vod HaShem!
Have a Chanukah holy day of joy and a Messiah is sent Holiday of Joy in the name of Yeshua, to the glory of God!
All our Jewish celebrations and festivals fall into one of two categories. Either they celebrate God’s provision for us or they commemorate His delivering us from our enemies. Christmas is the celebration of God’s greatest provision and the commemoration of the beginning of our eternal deliverance. Thus it qualifies as one of the most important Jewish celebrations of all time.
At this time of year the inevitable Messianic Gentile objections to Christmas rear their ugly heads. One of the beautiful ironies at work to refute this year’s tirade, is that at least one of the most common objections to the celebration of Christmas is made impotent by the date of the Jewish observance of Chanukah (Rededication), which begins on Christmas day, the 25th of December. This year the lunar Calendar of Israel coincides with the Gregorian calendar so that the 25th of Kislev and the 25th of December become the same day.
The primary reason that I continue to speak out against the demonizing of Christmas, is the demoralizing effect that anti-Christmas sentiment has had on the community of believers. I come across this message of bondage far too frequently among the wandering masses of Christianity, who, disillusioned with the shallow nature of their own faith, seek depth at the feet of pseudo-learned lay people, many of whom dine on a steady diet of conspiracy theory, YouTube Bible teaching and conjecture.
My hope is that this article will help to equip you for the practise of freedom in Messiah. A key aspect of the faith that has been sadly neglected by the parachurch swing back to bondage on the rebound from hyper-grace.
I am consistently told by certain Messianic extremists that I should not celebrate Christmas, worship on Sundays, use the name “Jesus,” etc. Though it must be said they are entirely misinformed regarding Christmas and the use of the name Jesus and fail to understand that all days belong to God; the more poignant issue is, that they are so busy telling others what they shouldn’t do, that they are unable to articulate the freedom, wonders and depth of faith found in a Messiah centred Messianic Jewish Tradition.
When we define ourselves by what we are not, we are repeating the error of our forebears both Jewish and Christian. Those we seek as converts to our way of thinking are instantly disillusioned, in our zeal we turn them away from the beauty and traditions we might otherwise have positively offered them. Often our fierce words of rebuke are based on poor historical knowledge, misinterpretation of Scripture, inaccuracies and myth; passed on by lazy teachers and blinded guides.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” Mattitiyahu/Matthew 23:14-16
This is not who we are, it is who we were, before we met Messiah, but now, in Him, we are to be a light to the nations. It is time to stem the flow of darkness that is issuing from our mouths. We are, “A royal priesthood, a Holy nation, a people belonging to G-d. That we might declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.” 1 Kefa/Peter 2:9
If we continually define ourselves by what we are not, we will inevitably forget who we are.
Refuting Common Objections to Christmas
First, let me make it clear that Jews do not object to Christians celebrating Christmas because for the most part Jews do not accept Jesus (Yeshua) as Messiah. Therefore, Christmas is simply the religious practice of the Gentile Western world.
So who are these people who are objecting to the celebration of Christmas? They are for the most part, disillusioned Christians, who, with great pride, claim to be Messianic. They are not Jews but they are Judaizers and because of their devote observance of human rules, consider themselves more righteous than the so called, “Apostate Church”. As a Jew I find this extremely offensive because they are not only misrepresenting the message of the Messiah but they are also pretending to observe Jewish practices and thus often appear to be representing the Jewish view. They do not represent the Jewish view, nor do they represent the Messianic Jewish view. They simply represent themselves and their own confused attempts to earn God.
A Response to Some of the Most Common Objections to Christmas
1. Christmas is Pagan.
In fact Christmas is the name of a Christian celebration of the birth of Christ. Christ comes from the Greek Khristos and means anointed one, it was intended by the Jewish New Testament writers to convey the Hebrew title Mashiyach, which is often translated Messiah, both titles represent the anointed one of God who would be born into time to deliver His people Israel. So I guess you could say the first part of the name Christmas is pretty much Jewish. Next comes the word mass: the English term mass comes from the Anglo-Saxon word maesse, which came from the Latin missa, which is a form of the verb mittere, which means "to send." In Hebrew we would use the term neshlach—to send. Therefore the meaning of Christmas is, “Christ is sent,” or Mishiyach neshlach—Messiah is sent. In truth, the two concepts of anointing and sending are rooted deeply in Judaism and help make Christmas—in my opinion—as much a Jewish Holiday as Purim and Chanukah. So, is Christmas Pagan? Well, the name certainly isn’t. I wish you a hearty, “Chag Sameach v Mishiyach neshlach Sameach!” and a, “Chag Ha-molad Sameach!”
2. Christians and Messianics shouldn’t celebrate Messiah’s birth because birthday celebration is pagan.
Really? Ancient Pagans celebrated weddings too, should I no longer celebrate weddings? I’m also told that I shouldn’t celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December because a number of pagan gods were born on or worshiped on the same date. Is there a day in the year when some other deity was not born or worshiped? I know for example that Amun Ra was worshiped morning and evening every day in Egypt long before Israel received its moadim—holy convocations/festivals. Does this mean that the commanded feasts of G-d are also pagan? Am I to assume then that there are no days that can be used for worshiping the one true G-d of Israel? What nonsense. The Creator of Days owns the days, they are all purposed for His use—December 25th included.
3. The feasts of the Torah were specifically commanded by G-d but Christmas wasn’t. Therefore Christians and Messianics shouldn’t celebrate Christmas.
It’s true, Christmas was not commanded by God: neither were Purim or Chanukah, and yet Yeshua venerated Chanukah and used it as a teaching platform—John 10:22-36. David was not commanded by God to dance half naked before the Ark of the Covenant—which carried the tablets of stone upon which G-d had engraved His word—as he brought it into Jerusalem with music and rejoicing. His wife Michal criticized him for His shameless celebrating and as a result the Scripture says that she remained barren until her death. If David danced semi naked in celebration before the written word of G-d as it entered Jerusalem, how much more should we celebrate with great joy the entry into our world of the living Word Yeshua our Messiah, born of a virgin, born to save us from sin. Though we know not the day, we celebrate Him gladly, lest we become like those who begrudge others their joy and seek to imprison people in the bondage of the past! The warning is clear, we must not become like Michal: perhaps she was physiologically unable to conceive after this event? On the other hand perhaps her husband simply no longer approached her to be sexually intimate with her? Or worse still—and most likely—she may have continued to harden her heart until she no longer wanted to be around David. This is the dangerous road we walk when we neglect grace and follow rules born of the foolish arguments of human beings. When we harden our hearts through jealousy and false religion we become isolated and alone. Like Michal we might find our spiritual womb barren, not because we can’t conceive but rather because we have refused our Husband, whose name is Freedom and in turn have failed to be inseminated by His grace. Don’t let the misconceived theories of the pseudo-learned mislead you.
4. Christmas trees are pagan.
Are they? It’s true that pagan cultures have venerated trees and worshipped tree deities but I ask, “Who came first? The tree or the pagan?” The tree of course. G-d commands us not to worship objects of creation, he doesn’t tell us not to use them as reminders of Him, in fact G-d Himself commands the manufacture of Cherubim for the arc of the covenant, and these were symbols of His protection, not to be worshipped but to give a visual understanding to His worshippers. Are trees good or evil? They are neither. If the use of a thing by pagans makes it sinful then we should also discontinue using oxygen—this might be a good idea for some.
5. The Messiah was born at Sukkot, not in winter.
No, there isn’t any conclusive way to determine the day or season of Messiah’s birth. We simply don’t have historical information that enables us to make an accurate assessment concerning the time of His birth. Those who presume to know are reliant on conjecture born from theological niceties and presumption. Am I saying Messiah was born on the 25th of December? Certainly not. Does it matter which day He was born on? Given the lack of Biblical evidence citing exact dates and times for His birth I would hazard a guess that G-d doesn't want us to know the date or season of His Son’s birth. He probably has a very good reason for this. Learn to embrace the mystery of G-d, you don’t need to know everything, knowledge puffs up but love builds up.
With regard to the “Sukkot birth” claim, the census recorded in Luke 2:1-4 was the first of two, taken between 1 C.E. and 7 C.E. (It’s the latter of the two that is referred to in Acts 5:37). While Quirinius was not physically governing in Syria until 6 C.E., he was responsible for the oversight of its operations and defence under Varus, during Herod’s reign.
It’s important to remember that for the people of Israel, a census was considered an affront to God. The taking of a census denoted a lack of trust in God’s provision. This census therefore, was something they were forced to participate in under an oppressive Roman occupation. (See Exodus 30:12; 2 Samuel 24).
Beit-lechem (Bethlehem) is approximately 8 kilometres from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) and approximately 136 kilometres from Natzeret (Nazareth) in the Galil (Galilee).
Given that a majority of governors over the province of Philistia (Israel) were keen to avoid further uprisings and the causes for them, it is unlikely that a census would have been called during an Aliyah (going up) festival of Israel (Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot). In addition, a Jew could not be both in his ancestral town and in Yerushalayim at the same time. While Beit-lechem was close to Yerushalayim, the majority of Israel’s outer communities were more than two days journey from Yerushalayim, where the Temple stood. This is just one of many reasons why a Sukkot birth for Messiah is extremely unlikely.
So we see that for many and varied illegitimate reasons, a number of modern Christians (Hebrew Roots movement) and Messianics (a term that is now so loosely applied that it is unable to identify any one group), have decided not to celebrate Christ-mas (Messiah is sent). This on its own would be of little consequence if they simply chose to celebrate His birth at another time, however in the aftermath of the establishment of this foolish pseudo-learned doctrinal decision, they have ceased celebrating the birth of our Messiah altogether. Like the Separatists of the late 19th century, they have become so convinced of their own separation from the Ecclesia [Community of faith] (Viewing themselves as the so called “called out” pure Church/Bride), that they have, in seeking purity through their own actions, become subject again to bondage; forgetting that in Messiah we are not keepers of the Torah but rather we are kept by the Living Torah, Ha-d’var Emet (The Word of Truth) Yeshua, Who, if not for His birth into time and space, could not have been crucified and resurrected, thus leaving us without hope. Therefore, let us celebrate His birth, which illuminates His purpose in being sent, that we might also hope in the future glory purchased for us through His death and resurrection.
This year (5777: 2016) our congregation will once again delight ourselves in remembering the birth of our Messiah Yeshua, each one practicing the Biblical remembrance of Christmas (Messiah is sent) utilizing the symbolism and positive traditions that affirm their own convictions regarding this celebration. We are reminded that every Shabbat we light the candles of Sh’mor (Observance) and Zakhor (Remembrance), therefore we observe the holy day, remembering that Yeshua was born for the purpose of our Salvation (Yeshua). We remember what God has done, what He is doing and what He has promised to do, in Messiah, The Hope of Glory.
As I’ve said before, we are fools to argue over the keeping of days while worshiping the One Who is beyond days. The One Who formed each day for His glory.
All our Jewish celebrations and festivals fall into one of two categories. Either they celebrate God’s provision for us or they commemorate His delivering us from our enemies. Christmas is the celebration of God’s greatest provision and the commemoration of the beginning of our eternal deliverance. Thus it qualifies as one of the most important Jewish celebrations of all time.
If it were possible to be dull in the Olam Haba (World to come), I’m inclined to believe that those who argue against the celebration of Christmas will be wandering around the new Jerusalem debating whether we should celebrate Messiah’s return. After all, it’s not commanded in the Torah. Wake up sleeper!
In combination with this article, please also consider the articles I’ve written on Luke chapters 1 and 2, and the previous articles I’ve written regarding Christmas:
Christmas: An Open Letter to the Haters
This Jew Boy will be Celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December
Isaiah 9: For unto us a Child is Born
Luke 1:1-38: Choosing Between Disbelief and Wonder
Luke 1:39-80: From Generation to Generation
Luke 2:1-24: G-d’s Plan is not World Peace, it is Peace for the World
Luke 2:25-52: Hearing About Grace and Favour
© 2016 Yaakov Brown
We are not obligated to give, nor are we free not to give. Like trust and action (faith and works) freedom and giving go hand in hand, they are intrinsically linked, a complex unity.
Many within the community of faith see the giving of a tenth of their income as an obligation. Or worse, are encouraged to give money they don’t have to fund building projects that have little eternal value. This is an unfortunate consequence of a theological view point that seeks to utilize the financial elements of Israel’s priesthood to generate income for extra-biblical projects, while ignoring the far greater obligations of Israel’s commonwealth and her Temple centric worship system. It seems ludicrous that a community which so fervently professes the faith of Avraham through Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) [that is the Church, Ecclesia of Messiah], should completely neglect the actions of Avraham in the matter of tithing/giving.
The first person to present a tenth to HaShem is Avram that is Avraham before he became Avraham. This tenth is of great figurative significance to us as Jews. It is not merely an obligation, it is a symbol of all that is complete in us. To separate our financial wealth from our spirituality is as alien a concept to the observant Jew as the idea of separating soul and spirit. We cannot separate the inseparable. We are not spirits in a material world, we are souls (Nefesh), physical, mental, spiritual, emotional: we are complex and unified beings. We are Souls living in God. It is Hashem in Whom we dwell, He Who has made us echad (one).
Therefore, if we are obligated to give a tenth we are also obligated to practise all of the instructions of the priesthood. However, if we are free to give, we have a High Priest Yeshua, Who, devoid of sin, is able to complete and perfect in us the fullness of all that His priesthood requires. Even ten by ten by ten l’olam va’ed (for worlds eternal).
Gen 14:18 And Melchi-tzedek (My King of righteousness) king of Shalem (Peace, wholeness) brought forth bread (Lechem) and wine (Yayin); and he is priest of El-Elyon (God the most high). Gen 14:19 And He blessed him (Avram), and said: “Blessed be Avram (Father of a people) of El-Elyon (God the most high), Maker of heaven and earth; Gen 14:20 and blessed be El-Elyon (God the most high), Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he (Avram) gave him (Melchi-tzedek) a tenth of all (Hebrews 7:4). –Genesis 14:18-20
The King of righteousness, Who is also the King of peace and the Great High Priest on behalf of all peoples brought bread and wine to the father of trust, which is faith. As High Priest of the Highest God, He spoke the blessing of God over the father of trust saying, “All blessing has come to you from God father of a nation: the God above all gods has delivered your enemies and their wealth into your hands.” After the King had spoken these words the father of a nation responded to the King of righteousness, the King of Peace and Wholeness, the Great High Priest, by giving to him a tenth of all that he possessed, both that which had always been his and that which he had plundered from the nations. This tenth symbolized everything that the father of a nation was, and everything that belonged to him. Ten is a symbol of wholeness and completion, of a promise fulfilled and sustained.
Therefore, Avraham (Then Avram) offered a symbol of all that he was and was to become, all that he possessed and was to possess. He offered this from the riches of his own household and from the households of the nations he had plundered. Therefore, it is a practice that can be entered into by both Israel and the nations. He offered the tenth freely to a Priest Who held position before the priesthood of Aaron, and Who was a type for the Messiah, Who is the Cohen Ha-gadol raba (Great High Priest). Therefore, this free-will tithe holds authority over the obligatory tithe of the temple service and the priesthood of Aaron.
Heb 7:1 For this Melchizedek was king of Salem, kohen of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, Heb 7:2 and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth of everything. First, by the translation of his name, he is “King of Righteousness”; and then also King of Salem, which is “King of Shalom.” Heb 7:3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life but made like Ben-Elohim, he remains a kohen for all time. Heb 7:4 Now see how great this man is! Even Abraham the patriarch gave him a tenth out of the plunder. Heb 7:5 Indeed, those sons of Levi who receive the priesthood have, according to Torah, a command to collect a tithe from the people—that is, from their kin, although they have come out of the loins of Abraham. Heb 7:6 But this one—who did not have their genealogy—has collected tithes from Abraham and has blessed him, the one holding the promises. Heb 7:7 Now it is beyond dispute that the lesser is blessed by the greater. Heb 7:8 In one case, dying men receive tithes; but in the other, one about whom it is testified that he lives on. Heb 7:9 Through Abraham even Levi, the one receiving tithes, has paid the tithe, so to speak— Heb 7:10 for he was still in his father’s loins when Melchizedek met him. Heb 7:11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for based on it the people had been given the Torah), what further need was there for a different kohen to arise—designated according to the order of Melchizedek, not according to the order of Aaron? Heb 7:12 For whenever the priesthood is altered, out of necessity an alteration of law also takes place. Heb 7:13 For the one about whom these things are said belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. Heb 7:14 For it is clear that our Lord has sprung forth from Judah—concerning this tribe, Moses said nothing about kohanim. Heb 7:15 And it is even more evident, if another kohen arises like Melchizedek— Heb 7:16 one made not by virtue of a Torah requirement of physical descent, but by virtue of the power of an indestructible life. Heb 7:17 For it is testified, “You are a kohen forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” Heb 7:18 For on the one hand, a former requirement is set aside because of its weakness and ineffectiveness— Heb 7:19 for Torah made nothing perfect. But on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. Heb 7:20 Moreover, it was not without a sworn oath. (Others indeed have become kohanim without a sworn oath, Heb 7:21 but He with an oath—sworn by the One who said to Him, “Adonai has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a kohen forever.’”) Heb 7:22 How much more then has Yeshua become the guarantee of a better covenant. Heb 7:23 Now on the one hand, many have become kohanim, who through death are prevented from continuing in office. Heb 7:24 But on the other hand, the One who does remain forever has a permanent priesthood. Heb 7:25 Therefore He is also able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, always living to make intercession for them. Heb 7:26 For such a Kohen Gadol was fitting for us: holy, guiltless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Heb 7:27 He has no need to offer up sacrifices day by day like those other kohanim g’dolim—first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people. For when He offered up Himself, He did this once for all. Heb 7:28 For the Torah appoints as kohanim g’dolim men who have weakness; but the word of the oath, which came after the Torah, appoints a Son—made perfect forever. –Hebrews 7 TLV
All the tithes and offerings of Israel are presented to God through the mediation of the priesthood of Aaron. Thus the Cohen Ha-gadol (High Priest) becomes the symbolic head of that priesthood. These tithes and offerings are intended to feed and clothe the priests of god and provide for the service of worship which is to be perpetuated generationally. Messiah did not cancel out the less effective priesthood of Aaron, rather He perfected it because He was before it. The Great High Priest Yeshua is now the mediator of the tithes and offerings of HaShem, only rather than making them an obligation He has turned them into an opportunity to respond to the freedom He has purchased on our behalf. This is why Melki-tzedek brings bread and wine to Avram. They’re symbols of both provision and redemption. Redemption through the sacrificial blood of Messiah’s death and provision through the life giving blood of His resurrection. Therefore, our tithing and giving are to be offered as a response to this freedom, in the same way that Avram offered his tenth in order to acknowledge the freedom and provision of God. The giving of our tenth, like Avram’s tenth, is a symbolic gesture which acknowledges that everything we are and all that we have belongs to God through Messiah Yeshua.
Mar 12:41 He (Yeshua) sat down opposite the treasury and began watching how the people were putting money into the offering box. Many rich people were putting in a lot. Mar 12:42 Then a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. Mar 12:43 Calling His disciples over, He said to them, “Amen, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those contributing to the box! Mar 12:44 For they all put in from their surplus; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything she had, her whole living.” –Mark 12:41-44 TLV
In this historical account, Yeshua observes a poor widow and illuminates her actions as being the actions of someone who has decided to offer all to God in the practice of worshipping Him.
Avram’s tenth was also a foreshadowing of the widow’s offering. He did not give it to cover a debt or as an obligatory tithe but as a symbolic gesture which said, “All that I have and am belong to you HaShem”.
This teaches us that the value of that which we give is measured by the intention of the heart of the giver. A believer may never tithe to an organized community of faith, instead, he may open his home to strangers, spending more than a tenth on providing for them and caring for their wellbeing. He may be in the practice of giving to fellow believers when they’re in need or lending his possessions to be used by others in the community. By doing this he shows that all that he has belongs to HaShem. Thus he gives to God in all circumstances, surpassing the requirement of the Torah.
The number ten is a symbol of all that we are and all that we have.
2Co 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.
When we look at tithing and giving as loosing, or sacrificing something we are missing the point. A wise farmer keeps aside a portion of the grain in order to seed the soil for the next season’s crop. He doesn’t consider this to be a loss or a sacrifice, rather he considers it a necessary part of the process of sowing and reaping. If he fails to plant enough seed he will also fail to reap a good crop. However, when he practices effective sowing he also reaps the benefit. The giving Rav Shaul is describing in 2 Corinthians is one or reciprocity. God owns all, therefore, He supplies us with all things and allows us to manage that supply. Additionally, rather than keeping the harvest for Himself and hoarding its benefits like a human land owner would do, God gives the fruit of the harvest back to the grower and leaves the grower to decide what he will offer as a token of his gratefulness to God.
Today, there are those who misuse the principal of sowing and reaping to illicit funds from people who have nothing more to give. They encourage believers to mortgage houses and take out loans in order to, “reap” a greater reward. In doing so they bring poverty to the community of believers while they build worthless icons in memory of their so called ministries. This is a grievous sin against the body of Messiah that should not be tolerated. God does not ask us to give from what we don’t have but from what we have.
The Scripture says, “My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches and glory” not, “I shall supply God’s needs according to my loans and lack of finances.” Those wolves among us, who steal from the poor in order to prosper themselves, may well have turned to the widow whom Yeshua spoke of and said, “If you’ve got a house you should mortgage it, two little coins will not reap the harvest God desires for your life, if you keep sowing so sparingly you’ll become even more accursed by God.” These liars, despicable leeches, false teachers, are condemned men.
2Co 9:7 Let each one give as he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion—for God loves a cheerful giver. 2Co 9:8 And God is able to make all grace overflow to you, so that by always having enough of everything, you may overflow in every good work. 2Co 9:9 As it is written, “He scattered widely, He gave to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” 2Co 9:10 Now the One who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
Rav Shaul (Paul) explains that it is the heart (Lev) intention (the intention of the core being, not the intention of the emotion) that determines the value of the gift. Remember, it already belongs to God. He is a debtor to no one. If we give grudgingly it is as if we hadn’t given at all. Of course, due to the nature of sowing and reaping, we will also fail to benefit from an abundant crop. This is not a punitive action on God’s part, rather it is the natural result of our own actions.
2Co 9:11 You will be enriched in everything for all generosity, which through us brings about thanksgiving to God. 2Co 9:12 For this service of giving is not only supplying the needs of the kedoshim, but is also overflowing with many thanksgivings to God.
When we give from an understanding of God’s goodness toward us we see God’s provision in all things and are grateful. This in turn inspires us to give to others from the overflow of our own spiritual and physical wealth. Rav Shaul calls this act a “service”, meaning an act of temple worship, a service of the priesthood of all believers. Thus in Messiah, the Great High Priest, we act as priests under His authority. The result is not only blessing and thanks giving among the holy ones (believers), but also an overflow to those around us. This overflow draws people to Messiah, Who reconciles them to God. Thus giving is one of the ways that the Gospel is perpetuated.
2Co 9:13 Because of the evidence of this service, they praise God for the obedience of your affirmation of the Good News of Messiah and for the generosity of your contribution to them and to everyone.
As a result of our giving other believers praise God and give Him the glory due His Name. Our giving affirms our certain hope in the Gospel of the Messiah.
2Co 9:14 And in their prayer for you, they long for you because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 2Co 9:15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! -2 Corinthians 9:6-15 TLV
Our giving is the fruit of the surpassing chesed (grace, mercy) of God which is upon us. It is an act of worship that gives voice to the eternal truth that God’s greatest gift, the gift of His Son, has produced a great harvest of souls. Thus, we praise Him and give thanks to Him.
© 2016 Yaakov Brown
We must take note that the blessing of the first born belongs to the child who holds the birth-right. The Torah has established here a clear precedent that identifies Yaakov as being the rightful heir and the one to whom the blessing of the first born rightfully belongs.
At the age of 140 years Avraham had arranged for the marriage of Isaac. The Torah now sums up the remaining 35 years and concludes Avraham’s journey with a clear reminder of the distinction that both God and Avraham have made between Isaac, the chosen child of Sarah’s womb and the children of Avraham’s concubines (Hagar & Keturah).
Because Ishmael no longer has a part in the ongoing story of Israel, the Torah simply lists his offspring and then continues on with the story of Isaac.
Some have suggested that because the Torah doesn’t recorded all of the extraneous events of the time, that it is therefore, not a history book. This is ludicrous, how many other histories have been recorded by peoples and empires, focusing only on the elements of history that applied to their own viewpoint and primary goals? The Torah, like those other histories, is telling the factual history of a single people. Unlike those secular histories, it is also conveying the spiritual history of all peoples.
Before beginning we should take pause and reflect on where we are. We are at the centre of the book of Genesis and are about to conclude Chaiyei Sarah by acknowledging the passing on of Avraham. Then we begin again with the generations of Israel (Yaakov). After all, this is the book of beginning.
What follows is full of increase, suffering, hope and redemption.
Gen 25:1 And increasing (v’yosef), Avraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah (Hebrew: Incense, as in a fragrant offering. Aramaic: Restrained).
This chapter begins with the Hebrew, “v’yosef” (and increase). It is of course no accident that this will become the name of Israel’s (Yaakov’s) son of redemption Joseph (Yosef: increase). It is unfortunate therefore, that so many English versions of the Bible omit the full meaning and render the text as, “And Abraham took another wife”.
Some of the sages suggest that Keturah is in fact Hagar by another name, however, this is unlikely given that with the exception of Sarah, we are told of two women in Avraham’s life, Hagar and Keturah: and the text tells us that he sent them away (Genesis 21:14; 25:6). Meaning that they were not the same woman but two separate women.
Some have been inclined to criticize Avraham for not taking another wife from his own people, however, Avraham knew that it would be through his son Isaac that God’s promise would be fulfilled, so it makes sense that he not seek to compromise Isaac’s chosen status by giving his seed to another woman of his own bloodline. The lesson learned from God’s plan for Isaac is not one of racial supremacy but of chosen intimacy.
“It is not because you are more numerous than all the peoples that Adonai set His love on you and chose you—for you are the least of all peoples.” –D’varim (Deuteronomy) 7:7 TLV
Gen 25:2 And she bore him Zimran (musician), and Yokshan (snare), and M’dan (Contention) and Mid’yan (Strife) and Yishbak (He leaves, releases), and Shuach (humble). Gen 25:3 And Yokshan (snarer) begot Sheva (Seven, oath), and D’dan (Low Country). And the sons of D’dan (Low Country) were Ashurim (steps), and L’tushiym (sharpened, hammered), and L’ummiym (peoples). Gen 25:4 And the sons of Mid’yan (Strife): Ephah (gloomy darkness), and Epher (Young animal) and Chanoch (dedicated, comforter), and Avida (My father knows), and Eldaah (God has known). All these were the children of Keturah (Incense).
Many of these children would later become peoples who persecuted Israel and sought her demise.
Gen 25:5 And Avraham gave all that he had to Yitzchak (Isaac). Gen 25:6 But to the sons of the concubines, that Avraham had, Avraham gave gifts; and he sent them away from Yitzchak (Isaac) his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.
The point of this account is not to show disrespect to the sons of Avraham’s concubines but simply to show the distinction God had made between them and his chosen, Isaac. Avraham provides for all his household but gives Isaac both the physical and spiritual inheritance according to the promises and gifts of HaShem which are upon Avraham and the coming nation of Israel which is to be born of his trust.
“In Isaac shall your seed be called” –Genesis 21:12
Gen 25:7 And these are the days of the years of Avraham's life which he lived, a hundred, sixty and fifteen years.
According to tradition, Avraham died in the year 2123 from creation (Seder Olam). The record of Avraham’s years, which follows a similar format to that of Sarah, is said to reflect a progression of righteousness that culminates in a child-like innocence in his latter days.
The number one hundred again represents the completed purposes of God for Avraham and his descendants multiplied (10 x10), reflecting an eternal promise of completion and perpetuity.
The number sixty is the sum of 30 and 30, making is representative of two fulfilled promises of God (10 x 3).
The Be’er Mayim Chaim makes a correlation between a sinless state and the number seventy (60 + 10 of 15). The number seventy is also a Hebrew number that represents the nations, which is fitting, given that Avraham is the father of many nations.
The number fifteen is the sum of seven and seven plus one, that is a double completion that has had eternity added to it.
Avraham was 100 when Isaac was born (Gen. 21:5), and Isaac 60 when Jacob and Esau are born (Gen. 25:26), therefore, having lived to 175, Avraham died when Jacob and Esau were 15 years of age respectively. Thus Avraham saw the promises of God made certain in Jacob’s birth.
Gen 25:8 And giving up his spirit (vayiga) Avraham died grey (in a good old age), old, satisfied, and full of years; and was received by his people.
The Hebrew, “vayeiaseph” can be read as “gathered, received etc.” I prefer, “received”. The Angel of Hashem gathers, the people of HaShem receive. The Yehudiym (Jewish people) have believed in Gan Eden (Paradise) from ancient times. This expression of God’s gathering Avraham to his people is one of the many reasons for this long held belief.
The concept of the afterlife is also alluded to in the book of Job 3:13-14 and Genesis 47:30.
Gen 25:9 And Yitzchak (Isaac: He laughs) and Yishmael (He hears God) his sons brought him into the cave of Machpelah (double), in the field of Ephron (fawn like) the son of Tzochar (red) the Hitti (Descendant of terror), which is before Mamre (Strength);
Gen 25:10 the field which Avraham purchased from the children of Chet (Terror); there was Avraham interred (Kubar, root: Kever grave), with Sarah his wife.
It seems that while Ishmael did not share in the inheritance of Isaac, he did none the less maintain, at least in their generation, an amicable relationship with his brother. One might also conclude that he had come to respect God’s choosing of Isaac. To see the brothers here in unity is heart-warming and inspires hope for the present generation of Jews and Arabs. It is worth noting that it is Ishmael alone, out of all the other children of Avraham, who attends the internment of his father’s body at Hebron. A similar reunion would later occur between Jacob and Esau at the death of Isaac (Genesis 35:29).
The Hebrew, “Kubar” translated here as, “buried” is better understood to mean, “Interred”. After all, the bodies were placed into the burial cave rather than buried beneath the ground. To this day the traditional method of Hebrew burial involves placing the body above ground in an encased mini stone or concrete tomb. For the Jew, burial is not the placing of a body beneath the ground. This is in part due to the belief in the resurrection of the dead at the final day, Yom Ha-Din.
The Hebrew word for grave, “Kever” and the Hebrew word for the place of the dead, “Sheol” convey very different things. The former is a physical location, usually above ground, the latter is a spiritual location, identified as being beneath. Contrary to popular and misleading liberal Christian theology, Sheol (place of the dead) and Kever (grave, above ground) are not synonymous. A simple understanding of the Hebrew language refutes such ludicrous nonsense. Make no mistake, there is a Gehinom (Hell) and a Gan Eden (Bosom of Avraham, Paradise).
Gen 25:11 And it came to pass after the death of Avraham, that God blessed Yitzchak his son; and Yitzchak dwelt by Beer-lachai-roi (Well of the Life giving Seer).
It is possible that Isaac and Ishmael spent time here together comforting each other over the loss of their father. This is the place where Isaac seems to find solace in God. He was coming from Beer-l’achai-roi when he met Rivkah following his mother’s passing, and now he is there again after his father’s passing. I believe this was a place of solemn worship of God for Isaac, a place where he was both physically and spiritually refreshed by the waters of The Living Seer (The Malakh of HaShem). A sacred location for restorative retreat.
Gen 25:12 Now these are the generations (Toledot) of Ishmael, Avraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's handmaid, bore to Avraham. Gen 25:13 And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael (Hears God), by their names, according to their generations: the first-born of Ishmael, Nevayot (Fruit bearing); and Keidar (Mourning), and Ad’b’eil (Disciplined by God), and Mivsam (sweet odour, balsam spice),
We note first that Ishmael is honoured by being linked to Avraham through Sarah, his mother being named as a handmaid of the matriarch. He is also circumcised into Avraham’s physical and spiritual heritage and is therefore received by Avraham’s people at his death.
Of the many sons born to Ishmael, the most noteworthy are Nevayot and Keidar, both of whom are mentioned in Isaiah 60:7, where these sons of Ishmael come up to the house of HaShem to worship together with Israel in the time when Hashem will dwell with all humanity forever. Their names are important, because we bear fruit (Nevayot) only after we mourn (Keidar) the role we have played in killing God’s Mashiyach because of our sinful actions.
“All Kedar’s flocks will be gathered to you.
Nebaioth’s rams will minister to you.
They will go up with favor on My altar,
and I will beautify My glorious House.” –Yishaiyahu (Isaiah) 60:7 TLV
Gen 25:14 and Mishma (A thing heard), and Dumah (Silence), and Massa (Burden);
Gen 25:15 Hadad (Mighty), and Teiyma (Desert), Yetur (encircled), Naphish (Take a breath, refresh), and Keid’mah (Go before, original);
The names of Ishmael’s children seem to allude to the journey of his brother’s soon to be born son Yaakov (Israel).
“A thing heard in silence, a burden upon the mighty, in the desert they will be encircled and refreshed by the Original One Who goes before them.”
Gen 25:16 these are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their villages, and by their encampments; twelve princes according to their nations. Gen 25:17 And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, a hundred and thirty and seven years;
It seems that Ishmael truly repented of his mocking behaviour toward Isaac. The fact that he was present at his father’s burial and this listing of years which indicates his connection to the righteous ones, Avraham and Sarah, can only mean that he died in right standing before Hashem. He is 100 (Tenfold completion), 30 (3 x 10) Unity of God multiplied in completion, and 7, the perfection of life and the present display of God’s glory. One can only conclude that no one who turns toward God will be left out in the darkness. Return then, each of you, and be redeemed.
And he gave up his spirit and died; and was received by his people. Gen 25:18 And they dwelt from Chavilah (circle) unto Shur (Wall) that is before Egypt, as one goes toward Ashurah (step): alongside all his brothers he did settle.
Ishmael, being a son of Avraham, like Jacob, also had twelve princes born to him. He was greatly blessed according to the Word of Hashem and he was received by his people both Ivri (Avraham) and Mitzrayim (Egyptians). He is a foreshadowing of a day when all who trust in HaShem through Yeshua will be received into the eternal people of HaShem.
The Torah Portion Toledot begins here. This is the centre of the Torah and the inception of Yaakov, Israel. Hence it is known as Toledot, Generations.
Gen 25:19 And these are the generations (Toledot) of Yitzchak (Isaac), Avraham's son: Avraham begot Yitzchak (Isaac). Gen 25:20 And Yitzchak (Isaac) was forty years old when he took Rivkah (Secure, tightly bound), the daughter of Bet’uel (House of God) the Aramean (exalted) of Padan-aram (Field of the exalted), the sister of Laban (White) the Aramean, to be his wife.
Isaac’s marriage to Rivkah at 40 years is another example of the reason for the symbolic use of the number. 40 indicates the completion of one thing and the beginning of another. Isaac is about to seed his son Jacob who will become Israel, the chosen people of HaShem.
Gen 25:21 And Yitzchak (Isaac) entreated HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) for his wife, because she was barren; and HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) let Himself be entreated of him, and Rivkah his wife conceived.
Rivkah’s bareness connects her to both Sarah before her and Rachel after her. The Matriarchs of Israel are each burdened with fruitless weakness in order to encourage them to turn to HaShem and receive their strength and fruitfulness from Him. Thus the strength and fruit of this fallen world are replaced by the eternal strength and fruitfulness of God.
This verse is one of the best examples in the Torah of how prayer works. Prayer is a conversation which God initiated before creation. A conversation which we only ever respond to. Prayer is a gift from God that allows us to traverse the line between the temporary and the eternal. When we call upon him it is not for His sake but for ours, after all, He need not be told our thoughts and desires, He knows all. Thus Isaac entreats, and God allows Himself to be entreated. He allows His creation to participate in that which He has already firmly decided. The reason for Rivkah’s barren state was so that Rivkah and Isaac might become fully reliant on God. Once again the child to be born has been chosen in God from before the creation of the world.
Isaac is sixty at the birth of Jacob and Esau, which means Rivkah was to wait twenty years to receive the answer to Yitzchak’s prayers for fertility.
Gen 25:22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said: 'If this has to happen, therefore, why to me?’ And she walked forth seeking HaShem (YHVH: Mercy).
The struggle within Rivkah shows the purpose of HaShem from before the birth of the children. Rivkah’s concern over what was happening with her unborn children is yet another opportunity for her to turn toward God and seek His guidance. This decision reveals Rivkah’s righteous character in the same way that Isaac’s pleading for her fertility revealed his. Both Isaac and Rivkah show that they understand their own weakness and their need for God’s help.
The sages suggest that Rivkah sought out Shem (Name), who, according to the sages, ran an academy of spiritual learning. However, I see this as a revisionist view of the events, after all, the introduction of academies of Jewish learning and Torah study comes at a much later date and there is no indication either explicit or implicit within the text to suggest that they existed prior to the birth of Israel.
It’s also possible that Rivkah enquired of God by seeking out Avraham (Who was still alive at this time), or through Melki-tzedek of Shalem. Regardless of how Rivkah went about her enquiry, the result is the same, she heard from God personally.
What seems most likely however, is that Rivkah, as the text says, walked with God. Thus, in seeking God through the physical act of walking alone (humanly speaking) and the spiritual act of agreeing with Him, Rivkah received the Word of God in intimate communication.
Jacob’s journey from womb to tomb is summed up by the prophet Hoshea (salvation):
“In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel,
and in his vigor he strove with God.
5 Yes, he wrestled with the angel and won;
he wept and sought his favor.
At Bethel he will find us,
and there He will speak with us.
6 Even Adonai Elohei-Tzva’ot--
Adonai is His memorial-Name.
7 So you should return to your God,
keep covenant loyalty and justice,
and wait for your God continually.” –Hosea 12:4-7 TLV
Gen 25:23 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) said to her: Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples shall be separated from your inner parts; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
It’s important to note that this was revealed only to Rivkah. This explains why Yitzchak seems so oblivious to God’s purpose in raising up Yaakov to be heir to the promises of Avraham. Rivkah keeps this revelation of God to herself and acts on it at the appropriate time. Understanding this helps us to avoid passing judgement on Rivkah’s actions regarding the deceiving of Isaac in order to gain the blessing for Yaakov.
HaShem makes it clear at the conception of these two nations that He has already purposed for the lesser to rule over the greater. This remains the purpose of God today for His chosen people ethnic Israel. It is through ethnic Israel that Messiah has come and it is for her that He will return to rule over the nations.
‘Yet before the sons were even born and had not done anything good or bad—so that God’s purpose and choice might stand not because of works but because of Him who calls— it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.”’ –Romans 9:11-12 TLV
“’Was Esau not Jacob’s brother?’
—it is the declaration of Adonai--
‘Yet I loved Jacob and Esau I hated.’” –Malachi 1:2-3 TLV
Love and hate are used here to distinguish between that which is chosen to illuminate the Gospel of God’s redemptive purpose and that which resists the calling of salvation.
Gen 25:24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.
The discovery of the twins is obviously a surprise to Isaac and the midwife, but as is the case with many of the female heroes of the Scriptures, Rivkah has already received inside information from HaShem.
Gen 25:25 And the first came forth red (admoni), covered in a hairy mantle; and they called his name Eisav (Hairy).
The sages suggest that the redness of Esau’s appearance was an indication of his future character. The Midrash understands the redness to represent bloodshed, inferring that the child will shed much blood in his life time. David, the king of Israel is also described as being red (ruddy), which the Rabbis interpret as signifying the fact that he would shed the blood of Israel’s enemies. Therefore, the redness alone denotes neither wicked blood shed nor righteous killing.
Rashi explains that the name Eisav means, “Completely developed or full grown”, hence the detail of the hairy mantle covering Esau’s body.
Gen 25:26 And after that came forth his brother, and his hand had hold on Eisav's heel; and he named him Yaakov (Jacob: follower, overcomer, grasps at the heel). And Yitzchak (Isaac) was sixty years old when she bore them.
It’s foolish to suggest, as many of our rabbis have, that Jacob was somehow conceived first and therefore, was the rightful firstborn. This contradicts the Torah itself which shows clearly through God’s word to Rivkah, that the greater (firstborn) Esau will serve the lesser (second born) Jacob.
“It is not because you are more numerous than all the peoples that Adonai set His love on you and chose you—for you are the least of all peoples.” –Deuteronomy 7:7 TLV
The point of this story is to once again show that right standing with God comes through election and response rather than through the strength of the natural order. Jacob is to carry on the spiritual mission of Avraham and Isaac, therefore, he must be named by God as heir and not chosen according to societal norms.
We note that while the text says, “they called his name Esau” it goes on to say, “He named him Jacob”. Who is the, “He” here? It is either Isaac or God Himself. Either way, the name issues from God.
The name Yaakov is a play on the Hebrew word, “ekev” meaning heel. Yaakov, for obvious reasons, is also understood figuratively to mean, “Follower, overcomer”, but literally means, “May he be at the heels”, that is, “One who closely follows”, and figuratively, “May God be his rear guard”.
What the name Yaakov does not mean however, is, “deceiver”: a meaning often given to the name by overzealous Christian pastors intent on defining Jacob by the events surrounding his acquiring of the blessing of the first born, something that was, by that time, rightfully belonged to him.
Gen 25:27 And the boys grew; and Eisav knew hunting, a man of the field; and Yaakov (grasps at the heal) was a morally innocent man, who dwelt in tents.
Much is presumed upon the text of this story by both rabbinical teachers and Christian scholars. Both the traditional Jewish commentary and the popular Christian English translations are misleading. The text itself tells us all we need to know concerning the two young men.
Esau it seems had a one track mind. He knew hunting. The Hebrew, “yodeah” denotes intimate knowledge, meaning that Esau was devoted to the practice. He seems to have been a practical man’s man. The proverbial delight of his father’s eye. There is no reason to add invented character flaws to Esau at this point. That becomes obvious in the pursuant verses.
Jacob on the other hand is a student, dwelling in tents, perhaps even learning how to care for the home. The Hebrew tells us that he is, “Tam” meaning, “Perfect, complete, wholesome, moral, innocent etc.” This sets Jacob apart, for there is no reference made of Esau’s moral character, either positive or negative. This also fly’s in the face of the accusations of so many Christian scholars, who claim that Jacob was a deceiver at heart. The Hebrew text firmly states otherwise.
Gen 25:28 Now Yitzchak (Isaac) loved Eisav, because he ate of his venison; and Rivkah loved Yaakov (follower).
It seems quite natural that Yitzchak, a man of the land, favours Esau. It appears that the way to Yitzchak’s heart (lev: core being) was through his stomach. Rivkah on the other hand, being sensitive, and a keeper of the tents of Yitzchak, favours Jacob, a good young man, concerned with morality and the keeping of the home. Neither parent is better than the other. Each loves according to the path God has set before them. At this point both the hunter and the student are acting according to the gifts God has given them. However, it is once again the mother that has spiritual insight (Gen. 21:9-13), the father appearing blind to the higher purpose of God (Gen. 27:1-45).
God’s favouring the younger son is already attested to in the story of Cain and Abel (Gen 4:4-5) and in a slightly different way with regard to Ishmael and Isaac (Gen. 21:12). It will also become a central aspect of the story of Joseph (Gen. 37:3). All this alludes to the outworking of God’s plan to use the foolish and weak things of the fallen world to shame those considered to be wise and strong.
Gen 25:29 And Yaakov (follower) simmered a stew; and Eisav (Hairy) came in from the field, and he was exhausted. Gen 25:30 And Eisav said to Yaakov: ‘Pour into me now, some of that very red stuff, for I am exhausted.' Therefore his name is called Edom (red).
First, we must understand that Esau, while exhausted, was in no real physical danger. His actions are that of a demanding and impudent man lacking in manners. Sforno suggests that onlookers gave Esau the name Edom (red) based on his foolish demand to have the red stew poured down his throat immediately.
Gen 25:31 And Yaakov said: 'Sell this day your birth right to me.'
Perhaps Rivkah had told Yaakov of the Lord’s purpose for him. Or, Yaakov, responding to his brother’s brash request, is simply jesting. From the perspective of God’s purpose, this is a clear statement of sale, made on a specific day, “Cayom”. In much the same way that the purchase of the cave at Machpelah was clearly stated, the possession of the birth-right of Isaac’s household is now recorded for posterity.
The birth-right is the status given to the first born and a double share of the estate (Deut. 21:17). It denotes authority over the household which is subject only to the male patriarch and only until his death, at which time it denotes complete authority over the household. With the birth-right comes the right of the blessing of the first born, which is to be given prior to the passing on of the patriarch. Additionally, in this case, it also carries the responsibility of carrying on the calling of God and the establishment of His chosen people in redemptive relationship to Him.
Gen 25:32 And Eisav said: 'Behold, I’m about to die; and what profit shall the birth right be for me?'
Esau may well have been exhausted and hungry, but not to the point of death. If he had been the Torah would have read, “Esau came in from the field, exhausted and near death”. Esau’s statement is hyperbole. We use the same colloquial metaphors today, “I’m dying of thirst” and, “My leg is killing me”. The fact that this rash language is employed by Esau when something as sacred and binding as his birth-right is at stake illuminates his true character and makes what follows seem even more despicable.
Alternatively, Rashi suggests that because at that time it was the eldest son’s role to perform sacrificial offerings before God, and because Esau knew that his sinful lifestyle might see him struck down in the presence of Hashem while performing these rites, he was looking for an opportunity to sell his birth right to Yaakov. Thus, “I’m about to die” would refer to his fear of being struck down by God because of his unholy lifestyle. However, given that Esau later became violently angry over the loss of the blessing of his father, it seems unlikely that Rashi’s assertion is correct.
Gen 25:33 And Yaakov said: 'Swear to me first'; and he swore to him; and he sold his birth right to Yaakov.
Not only did Esau offer the birth right as payment, he also took an oath confirming the sale. This is the testimony of two witnesses, which remains a requirement of the Torah to this day. Yaakov has become the rightful heir of Isaac’s physical possessions and Avraham’s spiritual calling.
There is no deception here. All is conducted out in the open before the camp of Isaac’s retinue. Jacob’s actions are not in the least sinful. He seems to be motivated by a deeper understanding of the sacred role that the birth-right will play in his life.
Gen 25:34 And Yaakov gave Eisav bread and lentil stew; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way. So Eisav despised his birth right.
The Torah waits to identify the stew until after the transaction has taken place in order to emphasize the incredible disregard that Esau had for the sacred nature of his birth-right. Esau has eaten and risen, satisfied with the food and with what he has done. Even after enjoying the meal he is said to have despised his birth-right. Meaning that he continued to despise it. In doing so Esau shows contempt not only for the physical wealth of his father’s house but also for the spiritual mission that the birth right carries.
The writer of the book of Hebrews leaves us in no doubt as to the character of Esau:
“Also see to it that there is no immoral or godless person—like Esau, who sold his birth-right for one meal.” –Hebrews 12:16
The writer of Hebrews agrees with the Targums, seeing Esau as the antithesis to those who trust God and look in hope toward the Olam Haba [World to Come] (Hebrews 11).
"And he despised his part in the world to come, and denied the resurrection of the dead;'' –Targum Yerushalayim
"On that day he committed five transgressions; he performed strange worship (committed idolatry), he shed innocent blood, he lay with a virgin betrothed, he denied the life of the world to come, and despised the birth-right;'' –Targum Yonatan
“For you know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected. He found no chance for repentance, though he begged for it with tears.” –Hebrews 12:17
It is important to remember this transaction as we read forward and encounter the deception employed to gain Isaac’s deathbed blessing. We must take note that the blessing of the first born belongs to the child who holds the birth-right. The Torah has established here a clear precedent that identifies Yaakov as being the rightful heir and the one to whom the blessing of the first born rightfully belongs.
© Yaakov Brown 2016
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.