Parashat Vayishlach

Parashat Vayishlach

Genesis 32:3 – 36:43

Hosea 11:7-12

Obadiah 1:1-21

Matthew 2:13-23


The major moments in this week’s Torah portion are as follows:

  • Jacob and his family left Paddan-Aram and said their cumbersome good-byes to Laban.
  • As Jacob approached his brother Esau, he grew afraid of what may happen and devised a plan to limit his casualties should there be conflict.
  • Jacob prayed for protection by “reminding” GOD of their covenant.
  • Acting on his fear, Jacob dispatched 5 flocks (in 3 groups) of farm animals to Esau in order to appease him.
  • That evening, after he send his wives and children to cross the Jabbok river, Jacob remained by himself at Peniel. That night he wrestled with GOD and won a new name “Israel” at the cost of a hip injury. 
  • The next day, Jacob and Esau met in good faith. Esau did not require any appeasement gift but Jacob insisted so that he accepted the flocks.
  • Jacob then entered into the Promised Land and settled at close to Shechem and purchased land to settle on. Israel build an altar and named it “El-Elohe-Israel”, El is the GOD of Israel.  This is one of three properties that Abraham, Jacob and much later King David bought from the previous inhabitants.  The ownership of all three these properties are disputed/contested in our day.
  • Prince Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite raped Dinah, Jacob and Leah’s daughter. Her brothers Simeon and Levi took revenge for her honour.
  • Jacob rededicated Beit-El and GOD named HIMself as El Shaddai (The GOD of Heaven or Almighty GOD.) and confirmed Jacob’s new name as Israel during the renewal of the Covenant.
  • Rachel died during the birth of Benjamin and was buried at Beit-Lechem.
  • Reuben slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, an act that cost him his right of the first-born.
  • Israel finally met-up with his father Isaac shortly before Isaac’s death. We are told whether Rebekah is still alive or not.  Isaac is buried by both his sons.
  • The Torah portion concludes with a summary of Esau’s descendants.



Pray like Jacob: (Genesis 32:8-13)


Jacob feared for the life of his wives and children and his own life.  Unscrupulous dealings in the past between him and his brother Esau lay foremost in his mind.  Jacob dwelled on past wrongs and it grew into a dragon that scared him to death.  Jacob was convinced that Esau will slaughter him.  Was this a realistic expectation or an irrational fear?


In truth, GOD blessed Esau and he was well off.  Esau longed for his brother.  Over time, he understood that the Promised Land and the Covenant belonged to Jacob (Gen 36:6-8) as demonstrated by his actions:  Esau ran to meet Jacob and hugged and kissed him, much like the father in the parable of the lost son. (Gen 33:4)  Both men were overcome by emotion and wept with joy at their reunification.


Jacob’s fear was irrational and without substance.  It was the fruit of his guilty conscience, because he never sought forgiveness from his brother.  So often we also over-think situations and elevate minor mishaps into major catrastophies in our minds.  We cause mental storms in teacups for ourselves.  This is the first lesson we can learn from the passage:  Be quick to forgive others but also forgive yourself for your past mistakes.


There is another lesson too:  In Gen 31:22-24 we read that a similar situation occurred between Jacob and Laban.  In this former case, GOD already “answered” Jacob’s prayer before he uttered it.  GOD told Laban in a dream that he must be careful what he says (and do) to Jacob.  Reminders of previous “testing” should encourage us that GOD will not bring us “so far” in order to forsake us.  As HE saved and provided in the past, so HE will do in the present and in the future.


While Jacob still feared the worst, he turned to GOD and prayed the Scriptures – not that GOD required the reminder, but Jacob did.  He prayed:


  • O GOD of my father Abraham, and GOD of my father Isaac, ADONAI, who said to me “Return to your land and to your relatives and I will do good to you”” (Gen 32:10)


Note that Jacob addressed his prayer to GOD the Father as we know HIM.  He used the Name “ADONAI” which is translated as “LORD”.  Stating the GOD of his fathers also made sure that he addressed his prayer to the “right” address.


Then Jacob reminded GOD why he was enroute to the Promised Land.  His calamity was because he listened to GOD’s calling.  In this we learn a lot – aren’t we often afraid to go along the path that GOD send us on?  It is human to suddenly doubt and become fearful.  It is righteous to take our fears to HIS Throne, just like Jacob did.  Jacob quoted GOD’s promises back to GOD’s ear.  De facto, “YOU brought me into this situation because you promised to do good to me.  Now what?”  “When will I see the good YOU promised?”  “Did YOU forget your promise?”  “Did YOU forget me?” “Help!”


In Jacob’s case, GOD answered his prayer even before he prayed, as Esau came to meet him with goodwill (as referred to above here.).  GOD has and will also answer your calls to HIM.  Trust HIM.


  • Jacob acknowledged that he was unworthy and that GOD blessed him in the past. (Gen 32:11)


In our prayers, we should follow his example and acknowledge the blessings we have received before.  Once again it is not so much to remind GOD, because HE remembers it very well, it serves to remind us, to restore our stumbling faith and trust that the same GOD who saved us in the past, did not do so and then forgot us, no!  HE WHO was true in the past, will be true in the present and will also be true in the future.  That is the meaning of HIS Holy Name YHWH.


Remember that not one of us is worthy.  We dwell in sin and all GOD’s mercies poured out on us are entirely undeserved.  Jacob set this as an example to us.


  • “Save me please!” (Gen 32:12)


Jacob didn’t beat around the bush.  He didn’t concoct an elaborate prayer expecting a standing ovation from his family.  He simply blurted out what was his fear.  “Please deliver me from my brother’s hand.”


This call for “Salvation” echoed through the crowd when Yeshua entered Jerusalem on “Palm Sunday” and the people shouted:  “Hoshia’Na!”, “Save us please!” (Matt 21:9).  Our GOD hears our cries and HE saves.  In fact, Yeshua’s name means “Salvation”.  HE is our Saviour.  In our day we can and must cry out to GOD to save us.  Yeshua came to die on the cross for our Salvation. (John 3:16-18)  HIS Salvation is not limited to “pie in the sky when I die”, but it is fully available to our daily fear and desperation too.  HIS arms are not too short to save you.


  • YOU promised me…” (Gen 32:13)


Jacob stands on GOD’s promises.  He prays “YOU YOURSELF said…”  As before, the reminder is much more intended to quell his own fear as GOD does not need any reminders.  HE does however want us to pray the Scriptures, just like Jacob did.  HE wants us to stand on HIS Word.  Our faith, our trust must be in HIS Word.


GOD loves you.  Yeshua died for your salvation.  With reference to your daily worries, GOD said that you are worth more than grass (Matt 6:25-31) and that you are worth more than sparrows (Luke 12:6-7) and that HE knows to give good gifts to HIS children (Matt 7:9-11).  You can stand on HIS promises.  “Remind” HIM in your prayers of these Scriptures.  And thank HIM for HIS promises.  HE is true.  HE will deliver you from what you fear.


After Jacob’s prayer, he stayed overnight.  His fears were brought before the Highest Court.  He did all he can.  And then he went to sleep, wrapped in faith that expelled his fear.  We too must trust HIM who is mighty to save, to deliver on HIS promises.  GOD is good, all the time.  All the time, GOD is good.  Amen.





The original Wrestling Maniac: (Genesis 32:25-33)


Jacob dreaded meeting Esau again.  Gripped by fear, he dispatched livestock and finally his family (in 2 groups) over the Jabbok River and he remained behind on his own for the night.  In his solitude, a “man” who really was an angel but more likely GOD, i.e. Yeshua aka Jesus Christ, came across him and wrestled with him until dawn.  Jacob wasn’t one to back down from a challenge and he would not quit.  At dawn, the “man” or angel or GOD struck him on the hip to dislocate it.  Even after the crippling blow, HE had to tell Jacob to let HIM go.  There must be a deeper meaning in the reason given:  “…for the dawn has broken”, but regrettably I did not yet discover what it was.  Any ideas?


Jacob was true to his character – he was a never-giving-upper, never-back-down type of guy.  Even before his birth, when Esau went into the birth canal first, he clung to Esau’s heel for all its worth.  This fight was no different.  Upon the request to let his Nemesis go, even after suffering a crippling injury, Jacob demanded a blessing.  He needed a “trophy” from the match!  Jacob was competitive to the bone.


The “man” or angel or GOD asked what Jacob’s name was.  Not that HE didn’t know, HE wanted to emphasise the “crookedness” in Jacob’s name and character.  HE then changed Jacob’s name to “Israel”.  The root of Israel is “straight”, so that the name change designated Jacob from being “crooked” to being “straight”.  “Israel” also contains the title of “Sar” with-in it.  “Sar” is a very insightful title.  “Sar” means “Prince”, but “Sar” also means “Servant”.  In this title “Sar” the concept of a “Manager-Servant” is locked-up.  It certainly points to Yeshua’s royal-servant hood as revealed in HIS first coming (e.g. washing the feet of HIS disciples, and Going to the cross).  It also causes us to contrast what GOD says a “Prince” or manager’s role should be, i.e. that of serving his subordinates.


The new name “Israel” appointed Jacob as GOD’s Princely-Servant.




The Power of Life and Death lies in the tongue:   (Genesis 32:32 & 35:16-20)


We all have heard people say that the power of life and death lies in the tongue.  Unwittingly, in saying this we testify to the Supernatural power concealed in the Hebrew language and in the Hebrew letters.  The facts are that GOD created everything by “speaking” it into existence.  HE spoke this in ancient Hebrew (aka Aramaic).  On this topic alone, one can fill many pages, but do Google and read the “Sefer Yitzirah”, the Book of Creation to learn about the mechanics of creation through the Hebrew letters – read it with a commentary because without commentary you will hardly make sense out of this ancient script.


Down to earth, we all have heard a slight-of-hand “magician” say the “magic” word:  “Abracadabra”.  Even this word is derived from Hebrew:  “a’Bara ki-Dav’ra” which means “With my words I create”.  (The letters “b” and “v” in Hebrew are very close.) Even children’s entertainment testifies to the power of the words we say.


The Hebrew word “Davar” on its own unlocks part of the mystery:  In the Hebrew language the same word is used to mean “to speak” and for physical “matter” (that consist of atoms and molecules), in other words the Hebrew language testifies that what you say is a matter of fact, a fact like a cow or a table.


Of course we do not have the knowledge to create on par with GOD Almighty through our words, but we do create atmosphere (in ourselves and in our listeners), we create emotions (hurt, anger, goodwill, pleasure) and we create or break confidence, self-assertiveness and more amongst our circle of family and friends.  These “creations” of us then show-up as life outcomes as we create our own future, at least in part, by what we say.  No wonder that GOD’s written Word teach us to control our tongues – read Proverbs 10:20 & 13:3 & 18:19 & 18:21 & 26:20, and Matthew 12:36-37 & 15:18 and Ephesians 4:29 and Colossians 3:8 & 4:6 and  1 Peter 3:9 as well as James(Jacob) 1:26 & 3:3-6 & 3:9-12.


When Laban confronted Jacob that somebody in Jacob’s company stole his ephods, Jacob angrily says whoever stole it, must die (Gen 32:32).  Jacob said this without knowing that his beloved Rachel was the one who stole the idols.  His words created reality in that, not long after it was uttered, we read about Rachel’s death in Genesis 35:16-20.  Jacob’s carefree words found their target.  As she probably was already pregnant with Benjamin at the time when Jacob pronounced her sentence (which hints why her lie about her monthly period went undetected, i.e. it was the time of her month), her death-sentence was delayed until she delivered her baby.


This incident may have contributed why Jacob later on, chose to be buried with Leah rather than Rachel.  I propose that he knew then that she was lingering idol-worshipper and he also knew that he killed her with his words.


The account of Rachel’s death is paralleled some 600 years later, in the tragic account of Jephthah’s daughter.


Wise King Solomon said it:  “The power of life and death (does indeed) lie in the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).


Rachel’s death also has a deeper, hidden meaning:


Rachel’s death was Jacob’s Trouble:  (Genesis 35:16-20 & Revelation 12:1-6)


Jacob’s beloved Rachel died in childbirth.  This was a troubled time for Jacob (renamed “Israel”).


700 or 800 years later the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 30:4-7) predicted a time of trouble for Jacob aka Israel, the nation named after their forefather.    Jeremiah said at that time of trouble, every man will be like a woman in labour.  They will be overcome with fear.  He spoke of a monumental day, but added that he (Jacob, Israel the nation) will be saved out of it.  Jeremiah goes on to say a King like David will bring Salvation in a very clear prophecy about the Messiah’s coming (birth).


The Jewish Sages acknowledged the Messianic context in the writings of “Chevlei Mashiach”.


Jeremiah’s words have duel application.  In the unstable time-span before Yeshua’s birth in Beit-Lechem Israel was conquered by the Babylonians who gave way to the Medes and Persians.  With the rise of Alexander the Great Israel was suppressed by the Greeks who were superseded by the Hasmonean Dynasty, who invited the Romans in.  The Romans refused to leave again and appointed the Herodean House to rule over the Chosen People.   It was a time of trouble for Jacob (Israel).  However, the Baby was born and the nation survived until their final refusal of their Salvation (Yeshua).


That brought about more trouble – The Romans destroyed the Temple and renamed both Jerusalem and the country of Israel in a satanic plot to destroy GOD’s Holy People.  Israel went into Diaspora… but in the end, true to Jeremiah’s word, GOD saved them out of the trouble and returned them to the Land in 1948.  In the words of Isaiah 66:7 the new baby of Jacob (Israel) was born in a day.


With Jacob’s (Israel) survival (return) to a troublesome neighbourhood the stage is set for the Davidic King who will bring heeling and ultimate restoration.  But not before the birth pains will increase as Yeshua said in Matthew 24 and 25.


HE added the following some 60 years later, through John’s Revelation 12:1-6 vision:  Once again the mother of Israel, like Rachel, is pregnant and overcome by birth pains.  The dragon stands ready to cause trouble for the mother and Messianic Child.  The tribulation caused by the dragon will be the worst in the history of the world but the Child will survive and return as the ultimate Conquering King.  In the end, the joy of the Messiah-Child will erase the memory of the trouble.  You can read all about it in the Gospel of John 16:21.


We live in a period where Jacob’s trouble for all believers in the ONE True GOD, are rapidly increasing again.  When we notice these elements of the coming tribulation, we should rejoice because we know that our Salvation is near.  We can experience inner-peace in-spite of it all through Emanuel, GOD with us, GOD in us.