The fear of God means an end to fear.
We begin this chapter with Yaakov still fearful of the possibility of attack from the surrounding peoples as a result of the actions of Shimon and Levi.
35:1 And Elohim (God the Judge) said to Ya’akov (Follows after the heel), “Arise, go up to Beit-El (House of God, the Judge), and settle there; and make there a Mizbe’ach (altar of blood sacrifice) to El (God, Judge) Who appeared to you when you were fleeing from the face of Esav (Hairy) achicha (your brother).”
Approximately 22 years earlier Yaakov had vowed that the place he had dreamed of while in Beiyt El would be none other than the House of God. At that time he had set up a pillar of remembrance commemorating his meeting with God. Yaakov’s intention was to return to his father’s house and although he had settled for a short time outside the city of Shechem, he is now being reminded by God of the vow he had made following his encounter with God at Beiyt El.
“And Ya’akov vowed a neder (vow), saying, If Elohim will be with me, and will be shmaraniy (Guardian) over me in this derech (way, journey) that I go, and will give me lechem to eat, and beged (clothes) to put on, So that I return to beiyt avi (House of my father) in shalom; then shall Hashem be for me Elohim (my God). And this even (stone), which I have set for a matzevah (pillar), shall be Beiyt Elohim (House of God): and of all that You shall give me I will surely give the aser (tenth) to You.” –Genesis 28:20-22
We note that even though Yaakov is heading south, he is none the less going up (geographically speaking), making Aliyah. This is an allusion to approaching the Mountain of the Lord.
It is Elohim Who meets with Yaakov here. God instructs Yaakov to go up to Beiyt El and to build a sacrificial altar (mizbeach). Elohim speaks in the third person saying, “Make an altar to El Who appeared to you”. This indicates one of two things, either Elohim denotes the Malakh HaShem (Messenger of God/Yeshua) Who is speaking of the unity of God, thus El; or, the speaker Elohim is the unified God-head speaking of El (Yeshua). It is interesting to note that Gur Aryeh, referencing Exodus 34:6, says that in the present text the Name of God El conveys a boundless degree of mercy. Thus Elohim (Judge) and El (Mercy). In any case, the text conveys a sense of the complex unity of God, Who manifests to humanity in a number of ways.
God reminds Yaakov that his first encounter at Beiyt El took place in the days when he was fleeing Esav. It seems that God is helping Yaakov to reconnect with his calling, and to make a sober assessment of his present situation. He is no longer fleeing Esav, he is returning in freedom and is experiencing the fullness of God’s provision and protection for him. Yaakov has been in danger of returning to fear and uncertainty, being concerned about the possible repercussions of his sons’ actions against Shechem. Perhaps God is saying, “Remember that I was with you then, and I am with you now.”
2 Then Ya’akov said unto his Beito (Household) and to all that were with him, “Put away the elohei hanekhar (gods foreign) that are among you, vhitaharu (and be pure), and change your simloteiychem (garments); 3 And let us arise, v’na’aleh (and go up) to Beit-El; and I will build there a Mizbe’ach (altar of blood sacrifice) unto El (God, Judge) Who answered me in b’yom tzaroti (in the day of my trouble/distress), and was with me in the derech (way) in which I went.
Yaakov’s instructions to his household can be associated with the preparations of Israel as she approached Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:14), the Torah’s instructions regarding preparation for ritual service (Num. 19:7-8), and with a repentant and renewed commitment to the One true God (Joshua 24:14). What is clear is that Yaakov is taking the Holiness of God very seriously.
We last heard of household or foreign gods in the account of Rachel’s stealing of her father’s household gods. It is no coincidence that this recollection is inspired by the present text. The curse associated with the stealing of the idols comes to bear soon after these events. This instruction of Yaakov may well have been an opportunity for Rachel to come clean regarding the hidden gods of her father, however, given her premature death, it is possible that she was not among those who gave up their idols to Yaakov for burial. As far as we know she had never told Yaakov of the household idols. She had probably taken them believing (according to ancient tribal cultural standards) that the possession of them entitled her to her father’s holdings at the time of his death. We should also remember that “an undeserved curse cannot land” (Proverbs 26:2), and that Rachel qualifies as deserving of the curse pronounced unwittingly by Yaakov.
The instruction to change garments may well have to do with uncleanness associated to touching the dead (of Shechem) and possibly in regard to the clothing having touched idolatrous loot taken from Shechem.
4 And they gave to Ya’akov kol elohei hanekhar (all gods foreign) which were b’yadam (in their hands), and all their nezamiym (rings) which were in their ozneihem (ears); and Ya’akov buried them under the elah (terebinth) which was at Shechem (back).
The foreign deities are self-explanatory, however, for the modern reader the allusion to rings is difficult. These rings of the ear are associated with slavery (Exodus 12:6) or, as in this case, subservience. These rings indicate subservience to foreign gods and may well have been most prolific among the captives of Shechem who had now joined Yaakov’s retinue.
Some have asked why these idols and earrings were not melted down for use. The reality is that most often, when items are made from melted jewellery, idolatry soon follows (Golden Calf [Exodus 32], Gideon’s Ephod [Judges 8:25-27] etc.).
Why were these items buried rather than simply destroyed and thrown away? The act of burying them has all the symbolism of death and shows these gods to be dead, incapable of anything. Therefore, they’re buried, not gods (Psalm 135:15-17).
5 And they journeyed; and the chittat Elohim (terror of God, Judge) was upon the cities that were around them, and they did not pursue after the Bnei Ya’akov (children of Jacob). 6 So Ya’akov came to Luzah (Almond tree), which is in Eretz Kena’an (Land of lowland) that is, Beit-El (House of God, Judge) he and kol ha’am (all the people) that were with him.
While one could make the presumption that the terror was due to the slaughter that had taken place at Shechem, this would be a mistaken conclusion. Yaakov was clearly concerned that the surrounding peoples outnumbered his household and that the actions of his sons’ at Shechem would only exacerbate their situation. Additionally the text states that the terror is of God. This means that it was a supernatural terror which had been imparted by God in order to protect Yaakov according to His promises (Genesis 28:10-15), made in the very place that Yaakov was now commanded to approach.
7 And he built there a Mizbe’ach (altar of blood sacrifice), and called l’makom (the place) El Beit-El (God, Judge of the House of God, Judge); because there Ha-Elohim (The God, Judge) appeared to him, when he fled from the face of achiv (his brother).
The doubling of words indicates affirmation and firm resolve. Here the doubling of the Name El upon the place of Beiyt El establishes it as a sacred land mark for proclaiming the God of gods and His intrinsic link to Yaakov/Yisrael. God the Judge will Judge, God Who is merciful will show boundless mercy. All this is stated in reference to Ha-Elohim (The God), and is a constant reminder to Israel of the present help of God in times of trouble.
8 But Devorah (Bee) meineket Rivkah (nursemaid of Rebecca: captivating) died, and she was buried under an alon (oak) below Beit-El (House of God, Judge); and was called sh’mo (by the name) Alon Bachut (Oak of weeping).
The Midrash says that this account, which deals with the death of Devorah the maid servant, none the less infers the death of Rivkah (Rebecca).
The Torah does not mention Rivkah’s death explicitly. This is explained by the Sages in various ways, none of which are convincing propositions. Suffice to say, for whatever reason Rivkah’s death is not recorded, though she is venerated and appreciated as a godly Matriarch of the Jewish people.
9 And Elohim appeared unto Ya’akov again, when he returned from Padan Aram (field of exaltation), and made a bracha (blessing) upon him.
God appears to Yaakov again in the sense that this is the second time God has come to Yaakov since his return to the Holy Land.
Rashi suggests that Elohim blessed Yaakov following news of Rivkah’s death.
10 And Elohim said to him, Shimcha (your name) is Ya’akov (Follows after the heel); no longer will shimcha (your name) be called Ya’akov (your name), but Yisra-el (Overcome in God) shall be shimecha (your name); and He called sh’mo (his name) Yisra-el.
The name Yaakov is not done away with, to the contrary, HaShem says, “Your name is Yaakov”. The second statement, “No longer will your name be called Yaakov” refers to the combined people of Yisrael. Thus we don’t call the tribes of Israel Yaakov. Alternatively, in mundane matters his name is Yaakov, however, with regard to the sacred purposes of God, he will be called Yisrael.
Unlike Avraham, whose name is changed and his former name no longer used, Scripture testifies to the ongoing use of the name Yaakov. Where Avraham represents Trust, being the Father of Trust (Faith), Yaakov represents the struggling seeker and Yisrael the overcomer. The Gospel message of sin and redemption is perpetually represented in the life of Yaakov, who, in God, becomes Yisrael.
11 And Elohim (God, Judge) said to him, “I am El Shaddai (God Almighty, all sufficient protector); be fruitful and multiply; a Goy (nation) and a Kehal Goyim (community of nations) shall be from you, and Melechim (kings) shall come out of your loins;
The Name El (unlimited mercy) is joined here with the title Shaddai which comes from the root dai, meaning sufficient, enough. Thus God is sufficient, enough. The fear of God means an end to fear.
12 And Ha-aretz (The Land) which I gave Avraham (Father of many peoples) and Yitzchak (He laughs), to you I will give it, and to your zera (seed) after you will I give Ha-aretz (The Land).
This affirmation of the covenant promise for the Land of Yisrael reiterates the covenant made with Avraham, one that was reliant on God alone. It is then placed upon Yitzchak, Yaakov and Yaakov’s descendants. Thus the covenant blessing for the Land is not reliant on the actions of the children of Israel but upon the God of Israel.
13 And Elohim ascended from him b’makom (in the place) where He talked with him.
This verse infers that Elohim was present in some manifest form. Perhaps even humanoid. Possibly as a Malakh (Angelic messenger), even Yeshua (God with us).
This phrasing also denotes the role of Yaakov as the one from whom the ladder of Genesis 28 will come forth. In other words, “Yeshua (Salvation) comes from the Jews”.
14 And Ya’akov set up a matzevah (pillar, monument) in b’makom (in the place) where He talked with him, even a matzevat even (pillar of stone); and he poured a nesech (drink offering) upon it, and he poured shamen (oil) upon it. 15 And Ya’akov called the shem (name) of ha-makom (the place) where Elohim spoke with him, Beit- El (House of God, Judge).
This is now the second pillar Yaakov has set up at Beiyt El. Why does he set up a second pillar? Most likely it is to commemorate his second encounter, however, it’s possible that the former pillar had been removed by the inhabitants of the land.
Yaakov pours out two offerings, first a drink offering, possibly water, and second an offering of oil. Both symbols are associated with the worship of HaShem. The former being a means of cleansing and the latter a symbol of the Holy Spirit and fuel for the light of the Menorah which represents the present glory of Hashem manifest in the Holy place.
This is now the third time Yaakov has named Beiyt El (Gen. 28:18-19; 35:7). Thus the completion and establishment of this sacred place and the past, present and future redemption it represents.
16 And they journeyed from Beit-El; and there was still a space of ha’aretz (the land) to get to Ephratah (Place of fruitfulness); and Rachel (Ewe) travailed, and she had hard labour. 17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the meyaledet (midwife) said to her, “Fear not; you shall have this ben (son) also. 18 And it came to pass, as her nefesh (core being) was in departing, (for she died) that she called sh’mo (his name) Ben-Oni (Son of Affliction); but aviv (his father) called him Binyamin (Son of my right).
The birth of Benyamin completes the tribes of Israel in the land that they will inherit. His two names, “Son of my affliction” and “Son of my right (strength)” once again reveal the Gospel journey from affliction to strength. His names are a prophetic statement concerning the captivity and freedom of Yisrael. He is the suffering of her captivity and the strength of her freedom.
Rachel is not cursing her son by naming him this way. She is simply making an observation from the position of her experience. Nor is Yaakov usurping the name Rachel has given their son, to the contrary, he is adding to it, illuminating it. Rambam observes that Yaakov simply gave the homonym Oni its alternate translation, strength.
19 And Rachel died, and was buried on the derech (way) to Ephratah (Place of fruitfulness), which is Beit-Lechem (House of bread). 20 And Ya’akov set up a matzevah (pillar) upon her kever (grave, tomb); that is matzevet kevurat (Pillar of the grave) of Rachel to this day.
1 Samuel 10:2 says that the tomb of Rachel is in the territory of Benyamin. Jeremiah 31:15 records a prophecy of Rachel weeping in Ramah, a Benjaminite city (Joshua 18:21-28). However, Beit-Lechem would become a significant town in the time of David and is therefore used here as a reference point. We note that a pillar or large stone placed over the grave may be the origin of the Jewish practice of placing stones on top of graves in remembrance of a loved one. The placing of stones atop modern Jewish graves also reminds the modern Jew that Biblical Jewish tradition saw Jews interred above ground, covered by rocks or in tombs. Biblically speaking Jews were not buried beneath the ground. This also makes clear the distinction between Kever (an above ground grave) and the spiritual holding place Sheol (a below ground spiritual location, not a grave).
21 And Yisra-el journeyed, and pitched his ohel (tent) beyond Migdal-Eder (tower of the flock). 22 And it came to pass, when Yisra-el dwelt in that land, that Reuven (behold a son) went and lay with Bilhah (troubled) pilegesh aviv (paramour of his father) and Yisra-el heard it. Now the Bnei Ya’akov (Children of Jacob) were Sheneym Asar (Twelve); 23 The Bnei Leah (Children of Leah): Reuven (Behold a son) bechor (firstborn of) Ya’akov, and Shimon (heard), and Levi (joined to), and Yehudah (Praise), and Yissakhar (exalted wages), and Zevulun (honoured, exalted); 24 The Bnei Rachel (Children of Rachel): Yosef (HaShem has added), and Binyamin (Son of my right/strength); 25 And the Bnei Bilhah (Children of Bilhah) shifchat Rachel (maid servant of Rachel): Dan (Judge) and Naphtali (wrestling); 26 And the Bnei Zilpah (Children of Zilpah) shifchat Leah (maid servant of Leah): Gad (army), and Asher (happy); these are the Bnei Ya’akov (Children of Jacob), which were born to him in Padan Aram (Field of exaltation).
Reuven’s act of betrayal is not only an act of abominable sexual sin, it is also a statement of Rebellion (2 Sam. 16:20-22; 1 Kings 2:13-25), not only against his father but also against Yisrael. As a result of his sin Reuven loses the privileges of the firstborn (Gen. 49:4). His birth-right is later transferred to Joseph (1 Chronicles 5:1).
Although Yisrael hears of what Reuven has done he does not react. The sages suggest that after Rachel’s death Yaakov had set up home in the tent of Bilhah. As a result, Reuven, seeking to defend his mother Leah’s honour, defiled Bilhah. Regardless of Reuven’s reasons, his sin was grievous and the consequences far reaching.
The text of verse 21 uses the name Yisrael rather than Yaakov. This conveys the idea that Reuven has sinned, not only against his father Yisrael but also against the now completed tribes of Yisrael.
27 And Ya’akov came unto Yitzchak Aviv (his father) at Mamre (strength), unto Kiriat Ha-arba (City of Four), which is Chevron (company, friends), where Avraham and Yitzchak sojourned. 28 And the days of Yitzchak were me’at shanah u’shemonim shanah (180 years). 29 And Yitzchak gave up his spirit, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being zaken (old) and full of yamim (days); and his banim (sons) Esav and Ya’akov interred him.
Yaakov has come in full circle. He had left his father in fear for his life and has returned to the land under the weight of grief. He has heard of the death of Rivkah his mother (she is not present with Yitzchak upon his return) and recently watched his beloved wife Rachel die in child birth (based on rabbinical tradition she was probably between 35 and 45 years of age).
Yitzchak will live another twenty one years in Chevron before he passes away full of days (a Hebrew idiom reserved for the righteous).
Yitzchak is “gathered to his people”. A phrase that denotes the afterlife and the latter teaching regarding the Bosom of Avraham. From ancient days Jews have understood sheol as a holding place for those who have passed from this world. A place divided into two sections, the righteous held in the Bosom of Avraham and the wicked in Gehinnom.
Twenty one years after Yaakov arrives back at Chevron, Esav journeys north-west to help Yaakov inter their father.
Rashi notes that in recording Yitzchak’s death here the Torah doesn’t follow chronological order because Joseph was sold into slavery twelve years before the death of Yitzchak.
© Yaakov Brown 2017
Yaakov’s oath binds Yaakov to freedom from Laban’s wickedness, while leaving Laban a prisoner to the curse he has brought upon himself.
31:1 Now Yaakov (Follower after the heel) heard the words Laban’s (White) sons were saying, “Yaakov has taken everything that belongs to our father, and from what belongs to our father he has made all these riches.”
Radak concludes that Laban’s sons were saying these things to everyone, including Laban and that is the reason for the subsequent change in Laban’s countenance.
The complaint of Laban’s sons is similar to the equally untrue claims of Esau (Gen. 27:36).
2 Then Yaakov saw Laban’s face, and he noticed that his expression wasn’t the same as it was just a day or two before. 3 Then HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) said to Yaakov, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
Verse 3 recalls the words of HaShem to Yaakov in Gen. 28:15 when he first set out for Charan. HaShem has been with Yaakov protecting his going out and guarding his return. This brings to mind the prayer we pray as we leave and return to our homes, touching the Mezuzah and bringing the promises of the Torah to our lips:
“HaShem (Mercy) will guard your going out and your coming in, now and forever.” –Tehilim (Psalms) 121:8
4 So Yaakov sent and called for Rachel (Ewe) and Leah (Weary) to come to the field, to his flock.
By having his wives meet him in the field he was ensuring that they would be out of earshot of the community and in particular, Laban and his sons.
5 He said to them, “I can see by your father’s face that his expression isn’t the same as it was just a day or two ago. But the Elohim (God: Judge) of my father has been with me.
HaShem (Mercy) had spoken to Yaakov, however, Yaakov now acknowledges HaShem in His role as Elohiym (Judge) when he explains his Divine protection while in Laban’s community.
6 Now you yourselves know that I’ve served your father with all my strength. 7 Yet your father has deceived me and has changed my wages ten times—but Elohim (God: Judge) hasn’t allowed him to harm me.
The number ten conveys the great duplicity and wickedness of Laban. Ten symbolizes fullness and completion, in this case it is the fullness and completion of Laban’s sinful actions toward Yaakov the patriarch of Israel. Again, in the face of this injustice, Yaakov calls on Elohiym, the Judge.
8 If he would say, ‘the spotted ones will be your wages,’ then the flocks would give birth to spotted ones. Or if he would say, ‘the striped ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks would give birth to striped ones. 9 So Elohiym (God, Judge) has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.
It is a judgement passed by the Judge (Elohiym) that has decided the case against Laban and in favour of Yaakov, thus Yaakov has received the flocks that were owed him.
10 Now it happened when the flocks were in heat that I lifted up my eyes and saw, in a dream, behold, the males going up to the flocks were striped, spotted and speckled. 11 Then Malakh Ha-Elohiym (the angel of God) said to me in the dream, ‘Yaakov,’ and I said, ‘Hineni.’ (Here I am, ready, willing, obedient) 12 He said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see that all the males going up to the flocks are striped, spotted and speckled. For I have seen everything Laban has done to you. 13 I am the Elohiym (God: Judge) of Beit-El (The House of God) where you anointed a memorial stone, where you made a vow to Me. Get up now and leave this land, and return to the land of your relatives.’”
It appears from the recounting of this dream that Yaakov dreamed it while watching the flocks mating at a time prior to his offering the solution of ownership of the speckled, streaked and spotted animals as a wage in the previous chapter. At the end of this account Yaakov is commanded by God to return to the land of his birth. Thus, because Yaakov has said Hineini (Here I am, ready, willing and obedient), it seems likely that he approached Laban with his request to leave (Chpt. 30) soon after having the dream encounter with The Messenger of God, Malakh Ha-Elohiym.
One of the most prominent elements of this dream interaction is the emphasis God places on the fact that it is as a result of the harm He has witnessed Laban doing to Yaakov that He (God) will increase the streaked, speckled and spotted members of the herds. This should be understood to teach that Yaakov’s efforts have not brought this about, rather it is God Who has both given the dream and fulfilled it.
14 Then Rachel answered along with Leah and they said to him, “Is there still a portion and inheritance for us in our father’s house? 15 Aren’t we considered foreigners to him? For he has sold us and has also completely used up our bridal price. 16 Surely all the riches that Elohiym (God: Judge) has taken away from our father is for us and for our children. So now, everything Elohiym (God: Judge) God said to you, do it!”
Rachel and Leah make two charges against their father. First, he has treated them as foreign slaves to be sold like cattle and second, he has used up the bride-price that Yaakov has paid for the privilege of marrying his daughters. The bride-price belonged to the bride and was to act as her security. Laban had kept the just wages of Yaakov’s work from him and had therefore stolen the bride-price that should have been passed on to his daughters when they were ready to move into fields and lands of their own. The selfish Laban had been using his daughters as a means for making himself rich.
17 Then Yaakov got up and put his children and wives on camels. 18 He drove away all his livestock and all his possessions that he had acquired—the livestock in his possession that he acquired in Paddan-aram (Field of Exaltation)—to go to his father Yitzchak’s (He laughs), to the land of Ke’naan (Lowland).
The text is careful to call all these people and possession’s Yaakov’s. They are legally and rightfully his. By leaving Yaakov is obedient to God’s instruction to t’shuva (return). Yaakov had shown discernment and wisdom in seeking the council of his wives and had received confirmation from God through their words of affirmation.
19 But while Laban went to shear his flocks, Rachel yig’nov took away the teraphiym (household idols, idols of healing) that belonged to her father, 20 while Yaakov yig’nov took away ha-lev (the heart, mind, will, inner man, core being) from Laban the Aramean (Exalted ones) by not telling him that he was fleeing.
The doubling of the yig’nov taking away, emphasizes the removal of all that Laban has wrongly kept as his possessions. Rachel’s motivation for taking the household idols is not clear. However, it’s possible that she is both seeking to benefit from their value and has some belief in the power associated with these idols. The Hebrew teraphiym (Plural) is born of the root raphah (heal) which infers that there was some connection to the belief that these particular idols were used as a means of receiving occult healing power. If this is part of Rachel’s belief system at this point in her faith journey, it is no different than the syncretism found in the faith journeys of many modern Messiah followers.
The literal reading of the Hebrew, “Yaakov yig’nov took away ha-lev (the heart, mind, will, inner man, core being) from Laban the Aramean (Exalted ones) by not telling him that he was fleeing.” Proves difficult for many modern English readers and is rarely translated literally into English. However, its literal meaning is important. To say that Yaakov took away Laban’s Lev (Core being) is to say that he had taken all cultural respect, title, wealth, position and familial authority from Laban. By going without Laban’s approval Yaakov was showing his contempt for Laban’s authority and position in the community of Charan.
21 He himself fled with everything that belonged to him, and he got up and crossed the River, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead (Spring of Witness).
Again the text is careful to make clear that Yaakov is fleeing (from an enemy) with everything that belongs to him. These are Yaakov’s legal belongings, they are not Laban’s.
22 When Laban was told on the third day after Yaakov had fled,
The third day denotes unity of purpose and a process of death and resurrection. Yaakov had been dead in the sense that he had been held captive to Laban’s whim, he was now free, resurrected, he had escaped and was beginning anew.
23 he took his relatives with him and pursued him a seven days’ journey.
Laban takes his relatives as an army of intimidation and pursues Yaakov with evil intent. His journey lasts seven days, the number seven representing the fullness of Laban’s sin and his continued resistance to the God of Yaakov.
Then he overtook him in the hill country of Gilead (Spring/mound of witness). 24 But Elohiym God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Watch yourself—lest you say anything to Yaakov, good or bad.”
The fact that Laban overtook Yaakov indicates his intention to prevent Yaakov from returning to the Land of Israel. It is Elohiym (God the Judge) Who meets with Laban and not HaShem (YHVH: Mercy). God is fierce for His servant Yaakov. God does not ask Laban, He warns him.
25 So Laban caught up to Yaakov. (Yaakov had pitched his tent in the hill country, so Laban and his brothers pitched their tents in the hill country of Gilead as well). 26 Then Laban said to Yaakov, “What have you done, that you’ve v’tig’nov taken away my ha-lev (the heart, mind, will, inner man, core being) and have driven my daughters away like captives of the sword?
Laban acknowledges that his standing, authority and means of prosperity have been taken from him. However, his claim that Yaakov has driven his daughters away as captives is ludicrous. His daughters went willingly and he knows it.
27 Why did you secretly flee, and steal away from me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and with songs, with tambourines and with lyres?
Laban knows why Yaakov went away secretly, Laban had no intention of ever letting Yaakov go free because he believed that Yaakov was the reason for his prosperity.
28 And you didn’t even let me kiss my grandsons and daughters! “Now, you’ve behaved foolishly. 29 It is in the power of my hand to do evil with you, but yesterday Ha-Elohiym (the God: Judge) of your fathers spoke to me, saying, ‘Watch yourself—lest you say anything to Yaakov, good or bad.’ 30 So now, when you up and left because you really missed your father’s house, why did you steal my elohaiy (gods)?”
Laban settles on the only legitimate reason for him to be angry with Yaakov’s retinue, the stolen teraphiym.
31 In response, Yaakov said to Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I thought, ‘Suppose you snatch your daughters away from me.’ 32 Anyone with whom you find your elohaiy (gods) shall not y’ch’yeh remain live. In front of our relatives, identify whatever is yours that is with me, and take it back.” (But Yaakov did not know that Rachel had stolen them.)
The scripture reminds us that it is an undeserved curse that cannot land or rest upon a person (Proverbs 26:2), however, in this instance Rachel is guilty of the actions identified by the curse and is thus under the curse of Yaakov. This is why the Torah makes it clear that Yaakov was unaware of Rachel’s actions. If he had been aware he would not have spoken such a dreadful curse.
The midrash Genesis Rabah 74:4 suggests that the curse spoken here by Yaakov is the reason for Rachel’s premature death (Gen. 35:16-20).
33 So Laban went into Yaakov’s tent, and Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two maids, but he found nothing. Then he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s tent. 34 (Now Rachel had taken the terafiym (idols, household gods) and put them in the camel’s saddlebag and sat on them.) So Laban felt around the entire tent but did not find them. 35 She said to her father, “Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for I am having the way of women.” So he searched but did not find the terafiym (idols, household gods) idols.
Whatever Rachel’s reasons for taking the teraphiym, the symbolism here is vivid. Rachel, unclean through menstruation (whether by deception or not) is sitting on the elohaiy (gods), the teraphiym (idols, demons) of Laban’s household. According to the Torah anything a menstruating woman sits on becomes unclean (Lev. 15:22). Thus both the idols of Laban’s household and the household they rule over have been menstruated on. Laban’s household has been covered in a curse of barrenness and desecration.
While teraphiym could be life sized (1 Sam. 19:13), these were obviously smaller idols due to the fact that Rachel was able to fit them into her camel’s saddle bags.
36 Then Yaakov got angry and argued with Laban. Yaakov answered and said to Laban, “What’s my crime? What’s my sin that you’ve hotly pursued me? 37 For you’ve groped through all my things. What did you find? Any of your household possessions? Put them here, in front of my relatives and yours—so they can decide between the two of us.
Here Yaakov calls on the testimony of Laban’s relatives as witness to Laban’s mistreatment of Yaakov.
38 These past twenty years I’ve been with you, your ewes and female goats have never miscarried, and I’ve never eaten the rams of your flock.
20 years is twice the term of completion and emphasizes the fact that Yaakov has gone far beyond expected societal norms in respect to his commitments.
39 I didn’t bring you animals torn by wild beasts. I myself would bear the loss. You would require it from my hand, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40 I was consumed by heat during the day, consumed by frost during the night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. 41 This is how it’s been for me twenty years in your house. I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flocks—and you changed my wages ten times!
Yaakov states the charge of Laban’s complete duplicity and wickedness before witnesses (Laban’s relatives).
42 Had I not had the Elohiym (God: Judge) of my father, the God Elohiym (God: Judge) of Abraham, and the pachad (fear, terror, dread) of Yitzchak (He laughs), you would have sent me away empty-handed now. But seeing my misery and the toil of my hands and last night Elohiym (The Judge) passed Judgement (Yochach).”
Yaakov calls on God as Elohiym (Judge), “The Judge of my father, the Judge of Avraham”. He then uses an unusual title for God, one that also conveys the fear of God that goes before His servants. The text reads, “The fear of Yitzchak”. This fear has a twofold meaning. It reveal’s Yitzchak’s healthy fear and awe of God and at the same time reveals the dread and fear that came upon Yitzchak’s enemies. People like Avimelekh. In effect, Yaakov is calling on the entire story of the Patriarchs in order to bring the weight of the Patriarch’s God given protection upon Laban.
43 In response Laban said to Yaakov, “The daughters are my daughters, and the grandsons are my grandsons, and the flocks are my flocks. Everything you see is mine. But what can I do for these, my daughters, today, or for their sons to whom they’ve given birth? 44 So now, come, let’s make a b’riyt (covenant, cutting) you and I, and let it be l’ad (a witness) between you and me.”
When a woman is released into marriage she and her husband become one. Laban ignores this fact when he claims his daughters as property. He is outright lying when he claims that the flocks are his. If he seeks peace it is only because he is afraid (not in awe) of the God of Yaakov.
45 So Yaakov took a aven (stone) and set it up as a pillar, 46 and Yaakov said to his relatives, “Gather avaniym stones.” So they took the avaniym stones and made a pile. Then they ate there beside the spring.
At the beginning of this portion of scripture Yaakov recounted his dream concerning the God of Beit-El. Yaakov had set up a stone of remembrance at Beit–El, thus he remembers God’s protection here at Gal-ed. The stone becomes a witness to God’s justice. It is a symbol not an idol.
The stones gathered by all present were a separate pile meant to indicate their agreement to making a covenant.
47 Laban called it Yegar-sahadota (Witness heap) and Yaakov called it Gal-ed (spring of witness). 48 And Laban said, “This ha-gal (pile, spring) is a witness between me and you today.” That is why its name is Gal-ed, 49 or Mizpah (watchtower), for he said, “Let HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) keep watch between you and me when we are out of one another’s sight.
Laban calls on HaShem because he knows that he is in need of a merciful ruling from Elohiym, the Judge.
50 If you mistreat my daughters, and if you take wives besides my daughters, though no one is with us, look! Elohiym ed (God: Judge is the witness) between you and me.” 51 Laban said further to Yaakov, “Behold, ha-gal (the pile, spring) and this matzeivah (pillar) which I’ve set up between you and me: 52 this ha-gal (the pile, spring) serves as a eid witness, that I won’t pass by this matzeivah (pillar) to go to you, and that you won’t pass by this ha-gal (the pile, spring) and this matzeivah (pillar) to go to me—with evil intent. 53 May ha-Elohiym (the God: Judge) of Avraham and the elohaiy (gods) of Nachor (snorting), the elohaiy gods of their father, y’shp’tu judge between us.”
We note that Laban makes his covenant without blood. The very nature of B’riyt requires the shedding of blood. Also, Laban attempts to place Ha-Elohiym (The God) of Avraham among a pantheon of deities, the gods of Nachor and the gods of their father, false gods. Thus Laban’s oath is worthless. It has been made without blood and by using a syncretized pantheon.
Yaakov also made an oath by the pachad (fear, terror, dread) of his father Yitzchak (He laughs). 54 Then Yaakov zevach (slaughtered, offered a sacrifice) on the mountain and he invited his relatives to eat lechem (bread) on the mountain. So they ate lechem (bread) and spent the night on the mountain.
Yaakov distinguishes himself from Laban and honours God by acknowledging HaShem’s unique position above all other powers. This is why Yaakov swears his oath, “by the fear of Yitzchak” that is, the fear and awe of HaShem and by the fear and dread that HaShem brings against His servant’s enemies. Yaakov makes his oath through blood shed (B’riyt) and has all present eat together in order to recognize this covenant as binding, unlike the oath of Laban which was made without the shedding of blood. Thus Yaakov’s oath binds Yaakov to freedom from Laban’s wickedness, while leaving Laban a prisoner to the curse he has brought upon himself.
© Yaakov Brown 2017
It’s as if Hashem were saying, “I don’t need your fancy voodoo sticks Yaakov, but play in the mud if you must, I’ll prosper you anyway for My Own Name’s sake and for the sake of the redemption of your household.”
This chapter continues the record of the sons of Yaakov, seeing his eleventh son born, and then it turns to the account of Yaakov seeking to leave Laban as a response to a day dream he will reveal to his wives in the following chapter. Subsequently Yaakov amasses herds by the hand of HaShem, prior to returning to the land of his birth.
Many have debated the actions of Yaakov with regard to the streaked, spotted and speckled goats and lambs, and it is true that there are a number of factors to consider regarding both Yaakov’s use of the branches of various trees in the present chapter and the dream which he explains to his wives in the following chapter (31:10-13).
Regardless of the conclusions reached over the two accounts, the chapter begins and ends with God’s provision. It remains that in spite of humanity’s propensity for wives tales, folklore, superstition and witchcraft, it is God Who provides according to His will, and often in spite of ours.
Gen 30:1 And when Rachel (Ewe) saw that she bore Yaakov (Follows after the heel) no children, Rachel envied her sister; and she said unto Yaakov: 'Provide me with children, or else I’ll die.'
It is quite possible that up to this point Rachel and Leah had gotten along just fine. Keeping in mind that Rachel must have known about and may well have been complicit in the deception that saw her sister marry Yaakov. The text now marks the reason for the change in relationship between the two sisters, “When Rachel saw that she bore Yaakov no children, Rachel envied her sister”.
Rachel’s plea is a mournful indication of the grief and worthlessness felt by barren women in a society that placed great importance upon offspring and in particular male offspring. There was a significant stigma attached to barren women at the time and superstitious beliefs surrounding sin and fate often exacerbated a barren woman’s position of shame in the community.
However, as is still the case today, the provision of children was the husband’s responsibility. The Ketuva (Marriage covenant agreement) was written and given to the bride by the groom. This contract promises to provide for her every need, including housing, food, clothing, security and seed for the producing of offspring. A husband was in fact obligated to provide for his wife’s procreative needs. As much as there may be shame attached to the barren woman, there is even greater shame attached to the husband who is unable to provide his wife with children according to the Ketuva agreement he has given her.
Gen 30:2 And hot with anger, nostrils flaring, Yaakov turned to Rachel and said; 'Am I in God's place, Who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?'
Yaakov seeks to distinguish himself from Rachel. His response alludes to the fact that it is Rachel who has a barren womb, after all, his seed has produced children in Leah’s womb. His anger may be due to his having become tired of the constant pleading of Rachel, or it may be due to his own frustration over her predicament and his knowledge that he is obligated by the Ketuva to provide her with offspring. We should also remember that she is the wife whom he loves and his angry response is in some sense a cry of frustration aimed at God, “Am I in the place of God?”
The Targum of Yonatan and the commentary of Onkelos both paraphrase Yaakov’s response:
“Why do you seek them (children) from me? Shouldn’t you be seeking them (children) of the Lord?”
The same Hebrew phrase, “Elohiym anochi” (Am I God?) appears in Genesis 50:19 where Rachel’s firstborn Yoseph uses it in recognition of the Authority of God over death and judgement. Therefore, Yaakov’s use of the phrase acknowledges that it is God alone Who gives life, and Yoseph’s use of the phrase denotes God’s ultimate authority over the taking of life. Thus, as the prophet Yob says, “HaShem gives and HaShem takes away, Blessed is the name of HaShem”(Job 1:21).
It is also worth noting that the phrase is used in both the present text and the later in response to sibling rivalry. The conclusion is that it is God alone Who brings true reconciliation.
Additionally, the emphasis on the fact that God alone provides for life and death alludes to Yaakov’s deluded actions later in the text when he attempts to help God out with the provision of speckled, streaked and spotted animals by placing sticks in front of the animals, thinking that this practice was causing them to birth the desired offspring.
Gen 30:3 And she said: 'Hinei, Behold my maid Bilhah (troubled), go in unto her; that she may bear upon my knees, and I also may be built up through her.'
Rachel’s suggestion is probably born of both common practice and in recollection of what she knows of Sarah and Hagar (Genesis 16:2).
By offering her maid servant to Yaakov, Rachel was binding her husband to yet another marriage relationship and the obligations that go with it. The phrase, “bear upon my knees” is a Hebrew idiom meaning, “a child to be counted as my own” and is used in Genesis 50:23 to mean the same thing (See also Isaiah 66:12). Thus culturally speaking the sons born to the maidservants of Yaakov’s wives’ will be counted as the offspring of Rachel and Leah.
We should not treat lightly the great sacrifice Rachel is making by offering her maidservant to Yaakov. Nor should we forget Bilhah and her feelings as she gives herself to be subject to both Yaakov and Rachel. If not for the servants Bilhah and Zilpah, Israel would be incomplete.
Gen 30:4 And she gave him (Yaakov) Bilhah her handmaid as a wife (l’ishah); and Yaakov went in unto her.
We note that Bilhah is given the status of a, “Ishah” wife in the Biblical text. This means that Yaakov has now entered into yet another marital obligation and must give Bilhah all the privileges of a wife, thus exalting her status from indentured servant to wife of a Patriarch. Whilst this may seem misogynistic to the modern reader, it is in fact a costly and honourable undertaking, given the historical cultural context of this account.
Gen 30:5 And Bilhah conceived, and bore Yaakov a son. Gen 30:6 And Rachel said: 'Dadani, judged me, has Elohiym God (Judge), and has also heard (shama) my voice, and has given me a son.' Therefore she called his name Dan (A judge).
As in almost every case in Scripture, the name corresponds to the events surrounding the birth. Rachel sees herself vindicated by the birth of Dan. She reasons that it is because God has judged her righteous that He has given her a son through Bilhah. Thus she names her son, “A judge” after The Judge.
Gen 30:7 And Bilhah Rachel's handmaid conceived again, and bore Yaakov a second son. Gen 30:8 And Rachel said: 'Naftuleiy wrestling Elohiym (God, judge), I have wrestled with achoti my sister, also prevailing.' And she v’tikra proclaimed (called out) his name Naftali (My wrestler).
Verse 8 is often translated, “And Rachel said: 'With mighty wrestling have I wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed.' And she called his name Naphtali.”
This translation is at best presumptuous and at worst misleading. The Hebrew text literally says, “Naftuleiy Elohiym” I wrestled God. In fact, the full statement is reminiscent of the transformative naming of Yaakov when he becomes Israel (Gen. 32:24-30). Here Rachel says, “I have wrestled with God and with my sister and have overcome”, and in the Genesis 32 account, the Malakah Ha-Adonai (Messenger of The YHVH) says, “Your name will no longer be Yaakov, but Yisrael, because you have struggled/wrestled with God and with man and have overcome."
In fact, the naming of Naphtali is a prophetic foreshadowing of the coming events.
Gen 30:9 When Leah (weary) saw that she had ceased bearing, she took Zilpah (A trickling of myrrh) her handmaid, and gave her to Yaakov as a wife. Gen 30:10 And Zilpah Leah's handmaid bore Yaakov a son. Gen 30:11 And Leah said: 'Gad, a cutting fortune/circumstance has come!' And she called his name Gad (cutting/invading fortune/circumstance).
As in the case of Bilhah, Zilpah is given the status of a wife and Yaakov is once more bound to elevate her status and provide for her needs. The child born seems to be named for Leah’s heartbreak rather than her “good fortune” as some translations suggest. The Hebrew denotes a cutting circumstance, and would seem to contradict the more common English reading.
Gen 30:12 And Zilpah Leah's handmaid bore Yaakov a second son. Gen 30:13 And Leah said: 'I’m Happy (B’ashri)! for the daughters have advanced me (Ishruni) and proclaim me happy.' And she called his name Asher (Walk/advance in Happiness).
Asher is named by combining the Hebrew words, “ashri” and, “Ishruni” to mean, “Advance in Happiness”.
The following section, which covers the remainder of this chapter verses 14-43, begins with the superstitious use of an aphrodisiac and continues with trickery, human effort, mistrust and ultimately ends in Yaakov being prospered according to God’s will and in spite of his own deluded actions.
Yaakov shows the full spectrum of human behaviour, at one extreme, trusting God unequivocally and at the other, practicing idolatrous superstition in an attempt to help God out. Yaakov has yet to meet HaShem face to face (Gen. 32), and thus, he is still seeking after HaShem with all the frailty of his humanity. This should be of great comfort to each of us as we try to understand our own frailty and somewhat bipolar spiritual practices. The good news is that God blesses and provides for His children based on His righteousness alone.
Gen 30:14 And Reuven (See a son) went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah: 'Give me, I beg you, some of your son's mandrakes.'
The Hebrew, “Dudaim” is translated various ways, but in the end the meaning remains the same. Whatever dudaim are, they are considered an aphrodisiac (Song of songs 7:14) by the women and are therefore bargained with due to the perceived benefit they offer. There is no reason to believe that these plants facilitated fertility, nor is there any reason to presume that either Rachel or Leah were above superstitious belief. In fact, later, as Yaakov and his wives seek to escape Laban, Rachel is found in possession of Laban’s household idols. It turns out that syncretism is not a second century Christian invention after all.
Gen 30:15 And she said to her: 'Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? and would you take away my son's mandrakes also?' And Rachel said: 'Therefore he (Yaakov) shall lie with you tonight in exchange for your son's mandrakes.'
The text infers either that Leah had been denied the marital bed for a time, or that she was seeking to get an extra opportunity to cohabitate with Yaakov by purchasing Rachel’s night from her.
Gen 30:16 And Yaakov came from the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said: 'You must come in unto me; for I have secured your hire with my son's mandrakes.' And he lay with her that night. Gen 30:17 And Elohiym God heard Leah, and she conceived, and bore Yaakov a fifth son. Gen 30:18 And Leah said: 'God has given me my s’chari wages, because I gave my handmaid to my husband. And she called his name Yisashchar (Lifting up/exalted wages).
We note that it is Leah who has decided that her actions in giving her servant to her husband have caused her to give birth by way of reward from God. However, the text says simply that God heard her and as a result she gave birth. Once again the text makes it clear that God acts in mercy, not based on what His beloved do but rather because of His love for them.
Gen 30:19 And Leah conceived again, and bore a sixth son to Yaakov. Gen 30:20 And Leah said: 'Z’vadani endowing me, God Elohiym has given me a sign, a good gift; now exalting me (yiz’b’leiniy) my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.' And she called his name Zevulun (Exalted, endowed).
Leah’s proclamation is not just in response to the birth of Zevulun but also in recognition of the fact that she has now birthed six of Yaakov’s sons. Thus she has birthed Yaakov the sum of the children of his other three wives combined. Zevulun (endowed) is a memoriam of the great endowment of the six sons and is prophetic of the perpetual endowment of Israel up until this day and beyond into the Olam Haba.
Gen 30:21 And afterwards she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah (Judgement, justice).
Dinah’s honour will become the subject of great consternation in chapter 34. Thus, a demand for judgement and justice.
Gen 30:22 And Elohiym God remembered Rachel, and Elohiym God heard her, and opened her womb. Gen 30:23 And she conceived, and bore a son, and said: 'Elohiym God has taken away my shame.'
As discussed in the past, God doesn’t forget and therefore does not need to remember in the modern sense. Here God is memorializing (zachar) rather than remembering. He has chosen Rachel to bear the son who will deliver Israel from famine and set in motion events that will lead Israel into the Promised Land. Thus God speaks into time the conception of Yoseph. The birth of this boy truly acts to take away any shame Rachel may have endured.
Based on the Hebrew, “zachar” commemoration, the Talmud concludes that Rachel conceived Yoseph on Rosh Ha-Shanah (Yom Teruah), the secular New Year (b. Rosh. Hash. 11a). This is also said to be the date when both Sarah and Channah (Hannah) conceived. As a result all three women are featured in the Rosh Ha-Shanah liturgy.
Gen 30:24 And she called his name Yoseph (HaShem YHVH: Mercy added), saying: ‘HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) add to me another son.'
This is both an observation and an invocation. “HaShem add to me another son”. It is an observation because God has added a son to Rachel, of her own womb, in addition to the sons born to her of Bilhah. It is an invocation because she is calling on Hashem (Mercy) to add yet another son (Benyamin), so that she might have two sons of her own womb.
It is important that the birth of Yoseph is recorded prior to Yaakov’s accumulation of herds and his subsequent prosperity, because the name Yoseph means, “HaShem will add”. Nothing Yaakov does in the following verses purchases his prosperity. HaShem alone provides for him.
Gen 30:25 And it came to pass, when Rachel had birthed Yoseph, that Yaakov said to Laban (White): 'Send me away, that I may go to my own place of standing, and to my land.
The verb shalach translated, “Send me away” is a term used repeatedly to describe the request for freedom, issued at the going forth of the Hebrew slaves of Egypt. Yaakov began as a relative to Laban but is now being treated like an indentured servant, a slave. As an indentured servant he has the right to be freed after seven years of service according to the Torah (Deut. 15:12-15). Thus, having served two seven year periods, he has both a moral and legal right to freedom. However, the wives and children of an indentured servant remain the property of the master (Exod. 21:2-4; Gen. 31:43). The counter point to this is that Laban agreed beforehand to give his daughters in payment for Yaakov’s work, thus selling his daughters to Yaakov. We should also note that if Yaakov’s work for Laban is a bride price for Laban’s daughters, then Laban is obligated to give this price to his daughters as their security according to the marriage traditions of the ancient East. Therefore, both Yaakov’s wives and his offspring are legally his because the agreement predates the servitude and any benefit generated from Yaakov’s fourteen years of service belongs not to Laban but to Leah and Rachel.
It is here that we should note Yaakov’s dream, as he explains it retrospectively in Genesis 31:10-13.
“Gen 31:10 And it came to pass that when the flocks were mating, that I lifted up my eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the he- goats which leaped upon the flock were streaked, speckled, and spotted. Gen 31:11 And Malakh ha-Elohiym the angel of God said to me in the dream: ‘Yaakov;’ and I said: ‘Hineini Here I am, ready and obediant.’ Gen 31:12 And He said: ‘Lift up now your eyes, and see, all the he-goats which leap upon the flock are streaked, speckled, and spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. Gen 31:13 I am the God of Beiyt-el, where you anointed a pillar, where you vowed a vow to Me. Now arise, get you out from this land, and return to the land of your birth.'
The reason I’ve placed this text here is because it appears from the recounting of this dream that Yaakov dreamed it while watching the flocks mating at a time prior to his offering the solution of ownership of the speckled, streaked and spotted animals as a wage. At the end of this account Yaakov is commanded by God to return to the land of his birth. Thus, because Yaakov has said Hineini (Here I am, ready and obedient), it seems likely that he approached Laban with his request to leave soon after having the dream encounter with The Messenger of God, Malakh Ha-Elohiym.
The fact that we have just read of the birth of Israel’s greatest dreamer Yoseph is profound. Yaakov’s experience of relating to God has been, to this point, entirely through dream encounters. Now his beloved wife Rachel gives birth to the dreamer who will deliver Israel and act as a type for the coming Messiah. Wallah (wow)!
One of the most prominent elements of this dream interaction is the emphasis God places on the fact that it is as a result of the harm He has witnessed Laban doing to Yaakov that He (God) will increase the streaked, speckled and spotted members of the herds. This should be understood to teach that Yaakov’s efforts will not bring this about, rather it is God Who both gives the dream and fulfils it.
Gen 30:26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service and the way I have served you.'
Yaakov is appealing to Laban’s conscience, or lack thereof. He knows that Laban cannot find fault in the service Yaakov has faithfully given him.
Gen 30:27 And Laban said unto him: 'If now I have found favour in your eyes - I have observed the signs (nichash’tiy), practiced divination, and have concluded that HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has blessed me for your sake.'
Here we see that God acts as ruler over lesser deities and erroneous spiritual practices. HaShem has allowed Laban to see His blessing and favour over Yaakov in spite of Laban’s witchcraft and idolatry (Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:10). HaShem has not done this for Laban’s sake but for Yaakov’s sake, in order that He might prosper him.
The Hebrew nichash’ty (my divination) shares its root with nachash (snake/serpent), a figurative representation of Ha-Satan (Satan). Thus these events find a link to the entry of sin and death.
Gen 30:28 And he said: 'Specify to me your wage, and I will give it.' Gen 30:29 And he said unto him: 'You know how I have served you, and how your herds have fared with me. Gen 30:30 For you had very little before I came, and your possessions have increased abundantly; and HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has blessed you wherever my feet have stepped. And now how long will it be before I can provide for my own house also?' Gen 30:31 And he said: 'What shall I give you?' And Yaakov said: 'You shall not give me anything extra; providing you will do this thing for me, I will again feed your flock and keep it. Gen 30:32 I will pass through all your flock today, removing every speckled and spotted one, and every dark one among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages. Gen 30:33 So shall my righteousness witness against me from now on, when you shall come to look over my wage that is before you: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and dark among the sheep, if found with me, shall be considered stolen.'
It seems that based on the dream he has received, Yaakov is setting the scene for what he believes will be the means through which God will prosper him by divinely effecting the breeding of streaked, speckled and spotted herds. This is a wonderful act of trust and faithfulness on Yaakov’s part. It shows that he has listened to God and believes in God’s provision. It also stands in contrast to his subsequent actions in relation to invoking superstition in an attempt to aid the fulfilment of the dream.
Gen 30:34 And Laban said: 'Hein Now, may it be according to your word.' Gen 30:35 And he removed that day the he-goats that were streaked and spotted, and all the she-goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white in it, and all the dark ones among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons.
Laban agrees to Yaakov’s terms, but before Yaakov can do what he had agreed to (30:32), Laban steals away the streaked, speckled and spotted animals that were meant to be Yaakov’s wages and instead, gives them to his sons. Perhaps the meaning of Laban’s name is not simply, “White” but, “White washed wall”.
Gen 30:36 And he set three days' journey between himself and Yaakov. And Yaakov fed the rest of Laban's flocks.
To further prevent the possibility of more streaked, speckled and spotted animals being born to the flocks under Yaakov’s care, Laban moves these animals three days distance away so that they will not mate with the animals of standard appearance.
Gen 30:37 And Yaakov took him rods of fresh poplar (White poplar, exuding white gum), and of the almond (a nut tree) and of the plane-tree (bark shedding tree); and peeled white streaks in them, making the white appear which was in the rods.
Here it seems that Yaakov’s tenacity begins to turn into pride. He may believe that HaShem will do as He has said He would in the dream (and rightly so), however, by using inanimate physical objects in order to aid the desired outcome Yaakov is not acting out of trust but out of self-determination. If the Scripture enforces one theme above all others (The existence and supremacy of God acknowledged), it teaches that humanity is unable to prosper or redeem itself.
The practical reason for Yaakov’s actions may be to expose the black haired goats and sheep to the white sap, thus marking their hair with streaks, speckles and spots. This does not however translate to the birth of streaked, speckled and spotted offspring, a genetic anomaly which is entirely reliant on God’s creation and not subject to human manipulation in this historical cultural context (Genetic modification was non-existent at this time in human history).
My dear Mizrachi brother Aharon, a member of our community who has lived in Iraq all his life up until recently, says that the majority of sheep and goats in Iraq are now speckled, streaked and spotted. That it is in fact the standard dark haired sheep and goats that are now the minority and that streaked, speckled and spotted goats and sheep are considered by modern Iraqi farmers to be a blessing from God. It seems that the blessing upon Yaakov has reached far beyond its origins.
Gen 30:38 And he set the rods which he had peeled over against the flocks in the gutters in the watering-troughs where the flocks came to drink; and they conceived when they came to drink. Gen 30:39 And the flocks conceived at the sight of the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted.
In spite of Yaakov’s acknowledgement of God’s hand for the provision of streaked, speckled and spotted animals in Genesis 31:10-13, here Yaakov is acting on the folk superstition that a vivid sight during pregnancy or at conception will affect the embryo (Radak on Gen. 30:39:3; Rashbam on Gen. 30:40:1). This superstition has proved to be unfounded (D. M. Blair, A doctor looks at the Bible IVF 1959). This is affirmed by subsequent verses where he places the animals of Laban’s flock toward his streaked, speckled and spotted animals in order to invoke results based on the aforementioned superstitious belief.
The genetic anomalies present within a species to produce variations in appearance are not altered by visual stimulants. Therefore, we can only understand Yaakov’s actions here in one of two ways. Either he displayed the rods from the trees as a symbol of trust in the provision of God. That is, a visual prayer of sorts (unlikely, given that trees and stones are used by way of memorial in his culture and are set up once in memoriam rather than as a continuing means of producing a physical reward. Also, he was not commanded by God to employee any means in order to facilitate the miracle of the herds). Or he had adopted some of the idolatrous ways of his father in law and was bowing to common superstition, believing that he was somehow effecting the conception and subsequent progeny of the flock.
Regardless of Yaakov’s motivation, God provided spotted, streaked and speckled livestock for Yaakov according to the blessing He had pronounced over him. God’s ability to bless is neither limited nor prospered by our actions. What He promises He does, He cannot lie.
Gen 30:40 And Yaakov separated the lambs and young goats - he also set the faces of the flocks toward the streaked and all the dark in the flock of Laban - and put his own droves apart, separating them from Laban's flock.
The reference to the flocks of Laban facing the speckled and spotted flocks of Yaakov seems to emphasise the fact that Yaakov held to an ill-founded belief that the birthing process was somehow being effected by visual stimulation. On the up side, God provides the desired result and the reality is that not only did Yaakov receive offspring from his own herd, he was now to receive offspring from Laban’s herd, thus making the standard sheep and goats the minority. Laban’s herd was merely maintaining its number while Yaakov’s herd grew exponentially.
The more we see Yaakov relying on his own understanding of how he is being prospered, the more it appears that he is approaching his prosperity in a carnal way rather than trusting entirely in God’s provision. After all, trust says that, “God is able to provide regardless of my ability”, whereas doubt says, “I need to do something in order for God’s provision to come about”. This is in fact the greatest hurdle believers’ face, the idea that we can’t redeem ourselves is counterintuitive to us. Our fallen nature (Yetzer ha-ra) detests this idea. Death (Yetzer ha-ra: Yetzer ha-mot) seeks to become God and dies, whereas Life (Yetzer ha-tov: Yetzer ha-chayim) seeks God and lives.
Gen 30:41 And it came to pass, whenever the stronger of the flock conceived, that Yaakov laid the rods before the eyes of the flock in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods; Gen 30:42 but when the flock were feeble, he kept them from the rods; so the feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Yaakov’s. Gen 30:43 And the man (Yaakov) meod, meod increased exceedingly, and had large flocks, and maid-servants and men-servants, and camels and asses.
The repetition of this practice only affirms that it is based on superstition and continues to give weight to the probability that Yaakov believes it is he himself that is manipulating the birthing process via occult means. The fact that the stronger animals bear before the rods while the weaker do not is not proof of the effectiveness of Yaakov’s efforts, to the contrary, it only affirms that God is gracious. It’s as if Hashem were saying, “I don’t need your fancy voodoo sticks Yaakov, but play in the mud if you must, I’ll prosper you anyway for My Own Name’s sake and for the sake of the redemption of your household.”
What is clear from the text is that Yaakov’s herds grew from the seed of strong animals and as a result he was able to trade his herds for servants and livestock, and due to God’s miraculous provision Yaakov became exceedingly great, meod meod: in spite of his own efforts and not because of them.
What God promises He provides because He cannot lie, He is absolutely trustworthy, His fidelity is unchanging.
© Yaakov Brown 2017
Here the intimate, holy, personal Name of God is seen in relationship to His people in a profound and literal way.
The events of this chapter follow on the heels of Yaakov’s wonderful prophetic dream at Beiyt El. Yaakov appears to arrive in Charan devoid of material wealth, which in itself is a testimony to his tenacity, character and belief in HaShem. Many focus on the ironic trickery of Laban and see these events as Yaakov getting his just deserts, however, as I have previously noted, Yaakov was the one who was dealt with unjustly regarding the birth-right and the blessing of the first-born: so too here, he is dealt with unjustly by Laban, an idolatrous and wicked man who, in a genuine case of irony, unwittingly helps to further the plan of HaShem for Yaakov’s life.
In the account of the blessing, Yitzchak is fooled for his own good and the good of his future offspring. So too, in the account of Yaakov’s marriages to Leah and Rachel, Yaakov is fooled for his own good and the good of the future tribes of Israel. Knowing this, we’re able to properly discern the present circumstances as being due to God’s planning and not as some sort of punitive punishment serving the superstitious notion that Yaakov is reaping what he’s sown. Interpretation of this kind only serves to impugn God’s character and place undue blame on Yaakov.
The familiar setting of a life-giving well acts as a symbol of God’s continued provision. We have seen this wonderful symbol of hidden water revealed in the lives of Avraham and Yitzchak, and have understood its connection to covenant, blessing and prosperity. Now we see these living waters participating again in the marital union of the Patriarchal and Matriarchal line (Gen 24). The correlation between the well and the courting practices of the Patriarchs’ is significant in Hebrew thought and culture. It was at a well that Eli-etzer (My God’s servant) met Yitzchak’s (He laughs) bride Rivkah (Captivating), and later in Israel’s history Moshe (drawn out) meets his bride Zipporah (Bird, early departure) at a well (Be’er: spring, well. From the root Ba’ar: to make plain, distinct, to make clear, to declare, letters on a tablet).
To the Hebrew, the well is considered a symbol of wisdom because the waters of a well are hidden beneath the earth and must be sought out. Wisdom in turn is linked to women and their role as home builders (Proverbs 14:1). Wisdom, as personified in the proverbs (1-9) of Shlomo (Peace), is linked to the Creation of the world and the voice/living Word of Hashem. Thus the well has great significance, physically, figuratively, metaphorically and spiritually. It is a place of clarity, union, provision, blessing, covenant, intimacy, and Divine revelation. Its living waters (Mayim chayim) are a consistent reminder of the merciful provision of God in arid places.
Gen 29:1 Then lifting his feet, Yaakov (follows at the heel) walked forth, and came to the land of the children of the east.
The lifting of Yaakov’s feet denotes lightness and freedom of purpose as he moves forward on his journey toward intimacy with HaShem. Like the Patriarchs who came before him he goes in agreement with HaShem’s purpose and comes to the land of his mother’s family with nothing more than that which has necessitated his travel.
Gen 29:2 And he looked, and v’hinei (suddenly) behold a well in the field, and, v’hinei (suddenly) behold, three flocks of sheep were lying there by it. - For out of that well they watered the flocks. And the great stone (v’ha-even g’dolah) was upon the well's mouth.
Both the presence of the three flocks and the well itself are a testimony to HaShem’s hand upon Yaakov’s journey. Yaakov has come to a place where the very sight of Hashem’s provision will renew his strength. This is because he has trusted in Hashem (Isaiah 40:31).
The great stone over the mouth of the well prevented water from being stolen and acted as a safeguard against children falling into the well. The Torah emphasises the size of the stone in order to prepare the reader for the miraculous strength that will be exhibited by Yaakov in rolling it away.
Gen 29:3 And gathered there were all the flocks; and they rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone back upon the well's mouth in its place.
This can be understood in two ways. Either this is a commentary on the customary practice of the shepherds and herdsmen, or it has taken place as Yaakov approached.
Gen 29:4 And Yaakov said to them: 'My brothers (achiym), where are you from?' And they said: 'We’re from Charan (Scorched mountain).' Gen 29:5 And he said to them: ‘Do you know Laban (white) the son of Nachor (snorting)?' And they replied: 'We know him.' Gen 29:6 And he said to them: 'Is it well with him?' And they said: 'It is well; and, behold, Rachel (Ewe) his daughter is coming with the sheep (Ha-tzon).'
The cultural etiquette of the Middle East requires Yaakov to call these men brothers (achiym), however, they are not literally his blood relatives. Additionally, it is right that he asks after his uncle’s wellbeing. He is also wanting to receive accurate directions for finding his uncle’s dwellings.
It is noteworthy that the Hebrew, “Ha-tzon” is used here to describe the sheep that Rachel is tending. This Hebrew word can refer to small herded animals in general, as well as to sheep specifically, but does not refer to standard sized cattle. Rachel’s name, which means “Ewe”, is connected to her role as a shepherdess, both physically and spiritually. She is soon to become the shepherdess of the tribes of Israel.
Gen 29:7 And he said: 'Listen, it’s mid-day, it’s not yet time to gather the livestock (Ha-mik’neh) together; so water the sheep (Ha-tzon), and go and feed them.' Gen 29:8 And they said: 'We cannot, until all the herds are gathered together, and they roll the stone from the well's mouth; then we’ll water the sheep.'
Yaakov, seeing that Rachel, Laban’s daughter was approaching, wanted to endear himself to her and to Laban by facilitating the watering of her flock. His request also takes into account that if Rachel is made to wait until the evening when the large cattle are coming in to water, her flock will become secondary to the watering of the herds of the others and she may lose some of her animals due to dehydration. Not to mention the imposition it would be to her.
The herdsmen and shepherds of the region show their lack of honour and their selfish intent by refusing to move the great stone. They know that the stone can only be moved by several men (29:8) and therefore, they’re smug in their firm position, refusing to help water Rachel’s flock. The phrase, “we can’t” should be understood to mean, “we won’t”. It’s possible that Rachel is disliked by the shepherds and herdsmen of the region because of her father’s reputation.
Gen 29:9 While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep; for she was a shepherdess.
The fact that Rachel came alone may indicate that Laban has limited resources, both in people and herds. In fact, Laban did not become prosperous until after he had met Yaakov (30:30). Leah, being weak in the eyes, that is, with an eye condition that would have made the task of shepherding impossible for her, was not able to shepherd her father’s sheep. Therefore, Rachel was given the task.
Gen 29:10 And it came to pass, when Yaakov saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, that Yaakov went near, and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother.
The repetition of the unnecessary phrase, “Laban, his mother’s brother” connects all of Yaakov’s actions to the righteousness of his mother Rivkah, so as to make clear to the reader that Yaakov is not honouring his wicked uncle through his actions. In other words, the righteousness of Rivkah is being offerred onto Rachel and Leah and not upon Laban.
The fact that Yaakov was able to move the great stone away from the mouth of the well denotes miraculous, God given strength. He has travelled far, has not yet received water himself and has shifted a stone that usually takes several men to move. This action shows Yaakov’s righteous character, his care for women, his holy tenacity and his unrelenting pursuit of all that God has promised him. He is rightly named Yaakov (Follower/Grasper after the heel), for he continues to reach beyond his own grasp in order to take hold of the things that can only be grasped in HaShem.
When we compare the well (Be’er) meetings of Eli-etzer and Moshe (Moses) to that of Yaakov, we see some beautiful examples of the unique roles that individuals play in service to God (Gen 24, Exodus 2). Eli-etzer (My God’s servant) was a man of prayer, who through integrity, commitment and piety received a miraculous answer from Hashem during his well encounter with Rivkah, and returned to present his master’s son with his captivating bride. Eli-etzer lived his name, serving his God through right action. Moshe (Moses: drawn out), becomes a champion to Zipporah (bird) and her sisters, drawing them out from an abusive situation and thus gains a home, having previously lost everything as a former son to Pharaoh and a prince in Egypt. Finally Yaakov (Grasps after the heel), employees his tenacious spirit to reach beyond his own limitations in the strength of God and roll away the stone that had prevented Rachel from getting life giving water for her flock. Thus Yaakov follows after the heel of the Life Giving Water, The Healer, The Shepherd of Israel, the Malakh (angel, messenger) of HaShem, Yeshua, The Water of living Himself, God with us.
Gen 29:11 And Yaakov kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept. Gen 29:12 And Yaakov told Rachel that he was her father's brother (Blood, kindred), and that he was Rivkah's (Captivating) son; and she ran and told her father.
Yaakov kissed Rachel as a relative, and not in a romantic way, because to do so prior to making a betrothal contract would have shamed Rachel. This is another reason why the phrase, “Laban, my mother’s brother” was employed by the writer of the text three times in the previous verse. He is kissing Rachel here as a cousin.
We can only conjecture as to why Yaakov wept. Perhaps he wept out of relief, having finally made it to his destination and due to coming into contact with a member of his mother’s family. He may also have wept at his lack of means and his inability to offer anything of value for a bride. After all, the purpose of his journey was to find a bride among the daughters of his mother’s brother Laban.
He lifted up his voice and proclaimed before all present that he was Rachel’s cousin and the son of her aunt Rivkah, whom she is sure to have heard stories about. Rachel may well have been familiar with the story of her aunt Rivkah’s betrothal through the servant Eli-etzer and for this reason her excitement builds at the possibility of her own betrothal. Thus she runs to fetch her father Laban.
Gen 29:13 And it came to pass, when Laban heard news of Yaakov his sister's son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house (Beiyto).
Laban’s character gives cause for speculation as to his motives for running to meet Yaakov. The Sages teach that Laban ran to Yaakov because he was confident that Yaakov must be laden with wealth and gifts. He thought, “If Eli-etzer, a mere servant had come with 10 richly laden camels (24:10), then Yitzchak’s heir must be bringing great wealth with him (Rashi). Both the Midrash and Rashi suggest that Laban, seeing Yaakov had no wealth, hugged him in order to feel his garments for jewels and valuables he might be keeping on his person. Whatever the truth may be, the Scripture details Laban’s actions and his idolatry, from which we can infer a his motivations.
And he told Laban all that had happened. Gen 29:14 And Laban said to him: 'Surely you’re my bone and my flesh.' And he (Yaakov) stayed with him (Laban) for a month.
We note that once Yaakov has explained his present situation to Laban, Laban’s response is one of obligation, “You can stay because your my blood”. Yaakov is no longer someone from whom Laban can glean material wealth.
Gen 29:15 And Laban said unto Yaakov: 'Just because you’re my brother (Blood, kindred), should you serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?'
From this we determine that Yaakov worked for his keep the entire time he was with Laban. It was no free ride. Laban offers wages, perhaps because he has prospered while Yaakov has been with him, and because he wants to benefit further from having Yaakov in his community. After all, where Yaakov is there is blessing because of the promises of God.
Gen 29:16 Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah (weary/impatient), and the name of the younger was Rachel (Ewe).
The text refers to the daughters of Laban in terms of birth order, to make sense of Yaakov’s request in verse 18.
Gen 29:17 And Leah's eyes were weak (tender, delicate); but Rachel was of beautiful form and fair to look upon.
Leah is said to have a condition of the eyes and the Hebrew denotes weakness, meaning that this condition was debilitating. It may also infer that she was homely looking, making the comparison to Rachel’s form and beauty all the more poignant.
As He has done so many times in the past, HaShem will lift up the weak for His glory. By the end of this chapter Leah will have become the mother of a third of Yaakov’s sons, and the Matriarch to the Priesthood (Levi), and the Davidic and Messianic Kingships (Y’hudah) of Israel.
Gen 29:18 And Yaakov loved Rachel; and he said: 'I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.'
Yaakov’s love for Rachel is identified pursuant to the description of her looks. However, he had already noted her service as a shepherdess and there is no reason to believe that his love for her was mere physical attraction. To offer seven years of service for Rachel’s hand is extravagant and shows both his passion and commitment to loving her. He makes clear that he is offering this service for the hand of the younger daughter.
Gen 29:19 And Laban said: 'It is better that I give her to you, than that I should give her to another man; stay with me.'
Laban says nothing of his intention to marry Leah off first. Either he is hoping Leah will be wed within the next seven years or he has always planned to trick Yaakov. The seven years is spiritually symbolic of completion and prosperity and shows Yaakov to be a man of character, who, although he knows that HaShem has blessed him and promised him a great inheritance, makes no demands for special treatment.
Gen 29:20 And Yaakov served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed to him but a few days, because of his love for her.
This is more than infatuation or mere physical attraction. Yaakov, according to betrothal custom, did not cohabitate with Rachel for the period of the seven years. It is clear that he genuinely loved Rachel.
Gen 29:21 And Yaakov said unto Laban: 'Give me my wife, so that I may go in unto her, for my days are fulfilled.'
This is one of the few graphic sexual statements in the Torah. The phrase, “Go in unto her” could be translated in modern terms as, “Go into her”. While this might seem vulgar, it is an important qualifying statement concerning Rachel’s virginity and Yaakov’s righteous actions toward her over the seven year betrothal period. The traditional betrothal period was set at up to one year, thus Yaakov had waited seven times the traditional period for his bride.
Rashi notes that Yaakov was 84 years old at this point in the narrative and is concerned about producing progeny in fulfilment of the blessing of HaShem.
Gen 29:22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.
Drunkenness and debauchery were common practice at the feasts of idolaters. Thus it seems that Yaakov may well have over indulged in alcohol, making him an easy target for the deception that follows. One could say that like Yitzchak before him, he had become blind. It would be no surprise if we were to learn that Laban had encouraged him to drink excessively during the wedding feast celebrations.
Gen 29:23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. Gen 29:24 And Laban gave Zilpah (A trickling like myrrh) his maid servant to his daughter Leah for a maid servant.
Laban’s disregard for his daughters’ feelings aside, it is hard to imagine that Rachel was not complicit in this. Marriage was essential to an ancient woman’s survival and Rachel, seeing that her sister was unlikely to attract a husband, may well have acted to include her in the arrangement that Laban had made with Yaakov, with the end goal of getting both herself and her sister out of the idolatrous household of Laban in pursuit of a better future.
Rashi notes, in reference to Megillah 13b, that Zilpah was the younger of the two maid servants and thus helped to solidify the illusion that Yaakov was receiving Rachel into his tent on his wedding night.
Gen 29:25 And it came to pass in the morning that, hinei (suddenly) behold, there was Leah;
The Hebrew, “hinei” denotes a sudden revelation, a surprising discovery. Thus it seems that Yaakov must have been extremely intoxicated in order to have been fooled the night before. Add to this the deep darkness that falls over communities at night in places where city light doesn’t cause the skies to become luminous and the moon is in its later phases, and it seems more than possible for a deception like this to succeed.
and he (Yaakov) said to Laban: 'What is this you have done to me? Didn’t I serve with you for Rachel? Why have you tricked me?' Gen 29:26 And Laban said: 'It’s not our custom in this place, to give the younger daughter in marriage before the first-born. Gen 29:27 Fulfil the wedding week of this one, and we will give you the other also for another seven years’ service.' Gen 29:28 And Yaakov did so, and fulfilled her wedding week; and he gave him Rachel his daughter for a wife. Gen 29:29 And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah (troubled) his maid servant to be her maid servant. Gen 29:30 And he (Yaakov) went in also unto Rachel, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served with him another seven years.
It may or may not have been the custom of Laban’s community to give the eldest daughter in marriage before the younger. Regardless, Laban has acted deceptively. To Yaakov’s credit, he agrees to honour his marriage commitment to Leah and to work an additional seven years in order to secure his marriage to Rachel. The later Torah instruction forbidding a man to marry both a woman and her sister while both are living, may well be the result of an oral tradition passed down from Yaakov as a warning against the pitfalls of such an arrangement (Leviticus 18:18).
The wedding week (Judges 14:17) was an obligatory week for the purpose of consummating the marriage and celebrating with wider family and community.
Gen 29:31 And HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) saw that Leah was hated (s’nuah), and he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.
The term, “s’nuah” hated, is better understood as, “unloved” (v.30) in this context. It is used as the counterpoint to love, rather than to convey malice.
HaShem shows mercy to Leah, knowing that at least for a time, Rachel will be enjoying her newlywed status and the genuine affection of her husband while Leah is neglected. It is however part of the husband’s obligation to provide seed for procreation. Therefore, Leah was not neglected in the marriage bed.
Gen 29:32 And Leah conceived, and bore a son, and she called his name Reuven (See a son); for she said: 'Because HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.'
Children were greatly desired in this ancient culture where a man’s name, culture, religion and identity lived on through his male descendants. Leah determined that having given birth, she would find favour and love because of her husband’s desire for progeny. Leah, although the less loved of the two wives of Yaakov, is none the less privileged with giving birth to Israel’s firstborn. In fact, as previously mentioned, she will become the Matriarch of the Priesthood (Levi) and the Davidic and Messianic Kingships of Israel (Y’hudah).
Gen 29:33 And she conceived again, and bore a son; and said: 'Because HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has heard that I am hated, He has therefore given me this son also.' And she called his name Shim’eon (heard).
The naming of both Reuven and Shimeon emphasise the fact that God hears in mercy and acts to deliver His children from suffering: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. These names also reflect the naming of Ishmael.
Gen 29:34 And she conceived again, and bore a son; and said: 'Now this time my husband will be joined unto me, because I have birthed him three sons.' Therefore, his name was called Leivi (joined to).
It is clear from Leah’s progression of statements regarding the births, that Yaakov has still not changed his view of her or his manner toward her. Thus, at the birth of Levi, the third son (A significant number), she hopes that not only will Yaakov love her for her children’s sake but will also spend more time with her and develop a stronger bond with her through the children they share. Of course, Levi and the priesthood born of him are to be joined to God
Gen 29:35 And she conceived again, and bore a son; and she said: 'This time I will praise HaShem (YHVH: Mercy).' Therefore she called his name Y’hudah (praise); and she left off bearing.
In the case of the first three sons, Leah has given glory to God and has then focused on how the birth of the boys might benefit her in relationship to her husband Yaakov. This time however, at the birth of Y’hudah, something changes. Here she simply says, “This time I will praise Hashem.” No mention of how the birth of Y’hudah might benefit her, only praise for Hashem. Through great turmoil of heart and emotional suffering, Leah has come to a place of trust. She now recognises that her identity is not in Yaakov but in HaShem. Therefore, she names her son Y’hudah (Praise).
The name Y’hudah has greater significance than any of the names given to the other 11 sons of Yaakov. Over 360 times, the Tanakh both directly and indirectly relates the Name of God to the Jewish people. This account gives birth to a revelation of the intimate connection between God and the Y’hudiym (Jews). Here the intimate, holy, personal Name of God is seen in relationship to His people in a profound and literal way. The Hebrew name Y’HVDaH (Y’hudah) meaning praise, has the Name of the One Who is to be praised imbedded within it, YHV(D)H. Simply by removing the character Dalet “D”, the Holy Name is revealed. Thus it is in Y’hudah that the light of the nations dwells and out of Y’hudah will come the light of God with Us, the Messiah and King, Yeshua. Therefore, the light that Y’hudah will bring to the nations is entirely reliant on YHVH. The removed character Dalet, meaning, “Door” teaches us that YHVDH (Y’hudah) will become a door through which the nations will meet HaShem (YHVH). All this is born in the womb of an unloved woman.
“Amen, amen truly I tell you P’rushiym, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the door, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep. The doorkeeper opens the door for Him, and the sheep listen to His voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”Yeshua (Jesus) used this figure of speech, but the P’rushiym did not understand what He was telling them. Therefore Yeshua said again, “Amen, amen, truly I tell you, I am the door for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –Yochanan/John 10:1-10
This is why Yeshua says, “Salvation (Yeshua: the door/gate) is of the Y’hudiym (Jews: YHVDH)” [Yochanan/John 4:22].
© 2017 Yaakov Brown
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,