Jacob knew he was walking into great danger as he returned to the land of Canaan.
The eighth reading from the book of Genesis is named Vayishlach (וישלח), which means “and he sent.” The title comes from the first verse of the reading, which says, “Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom” (Genesis 32:3 [verse 4 in Jewish-published Bibles]). Jacob prepares to meet Esau as he returns to the promised land, but first he has a mysterious encounter with an angel in the darkness, who changes his name to Israel. The portion follows Jacob’s adventures in the land of Canaan, including the loss of his beloved wife, Rachel.
Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. (Genesis 32:3)
After some twenty years of labor, Jacob was finally free from Laban’s mistreatment. Only God’s direct intervention saved him from Laban’s ire. As this Torah portion begins, the confrontation with Laban is over, and Jacob leaves his father-in-law behind in peace.
But something was still bothering Jacob. One angry relative was now behind him, but Esau was still ahead of him. He knew that Esau wanted him dead. Jacob must have felt like he had escaped the frying pan only to fall into the fire.
To escape Esau, Jacob had fled to the homeland of his mother, Rebekah. She had told him, “Stay … until your brother’s anger against you subsides and he forgets what you did to him. Then I will send and get you from there” (Genesis 27:44-45). Rebekah’s message never came. Esau’s anger never cooled. Jacob knew he was walking into great danger as he returned to the land of Canaan.
Hoping that his brother’s heart had softened, Jacob sent messengers ahead to announce his homecoming to Esau. The messengers returned with bad news. “We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him” (Genesis 32:6). Quite a welcoming party! Jacob’s heart sank. He felt certain Esau was coming with armed men to slaughter him.
This is what dealing with our past mistakes is like. Through the course of life, our sins and bad decisions leave broken relationships and emotional messes behind us. Ordinarily, we do exactly as Jacob did. We run from the problems and hope they will go away. We hope the passage of time will heal the hurts we have caused. Perhaps forgetfulness and distance will absolve us. It rarely works that way. Inevitably, the wheel of life brings us back around to confront our past. Sometimes the problems have not diminished at all. Instead, time and neglect has only aggravated them. When Jacob left Canaan, he had only Esau to worry about. Now, upon returning, he faces Esau and four hundred armed men.
The solution is to deal with our mistakes when we make them. When we do wrong to someone, we should immediately do everything in our power to make amends. When we make a mistake, we should acknowledge it, correct it, and do our best to fix it. Yeshua taught that you should “make friends quickly with your opponent” (Matthew 5:25) lest the situation escalate.
There is one opponent, however, that we can never mollify. The adversary, that old serpent haSatan, has a case against each of us. His job is to record our sins and transgressions and bring charges against us in God’s court of law. He does not take bribes, and he never forgets. No matter how long ago it happened, he remembers. He has a claim against us that we can never escape. Just as Jacob eventually had to face Esau, we will eventually have to answer to his charges. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We all face judgment. (Click to Source)
Hosea 11:7-12:12 (A)
Obadiah 1:1-21 (S)
“A Wrestling Faith”
by Mark Huey
This week, our Torah portion Vayishlach continues the saga of Jacob’s life, as he learned to depend upon and have faith in the God of Abraham and Isaac. If you will recall from last week, the final separation from his father-in-law Laban concluded with a dramatic covenant that essentially placed a demarcation point at Mahanaim, which inclined Jacob to maintain his family’s march west toward the Land of Canaan, promised to him and his fathers (Genesis 31:51-32:2).
With the problems behind him resolved, there were problems in front of Jacob still looming. Jacob was still confronted with a tenuous reunion with his brother Esau, who twenty years earlier had threatened to kill him. Despite all of the blessings of a family, servants, and a bounty of livestock—Jacob had to be utterly petrified about what might take place. Assuming that his brother Esau was still holding a grudge against him, this week’s parashahopens with Jacob concocting a plan to thwart any evil intentions that Esau might have brought upon his family. Even though during the time he spent in Paddan-aram, Jacob’s faith had been surely maturing—as he witnessed the Lord honor His word and promises—we can see that Jacob was still depending upon his own strength and cleverness to avoid what he must have contemplated would be a difficult reception from Esau. In order to prevent a potentially life-threatening encounter, Jacob first sent messengers to Esau to determine the level of Esau’s animosity toward him. Upon the report that Esau was approaching with four hundred, Jacob devised a plan to avoid any anticipated confrontation with Esau by dividing his entourage into two camps, with his immediate family in one and the servants in the other. But then in an indication that Jacob was beginning to trust more fully in the God of his fathers, he turned to God in supplication, having sought the Lord’s protection from his brother:
“Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He also commanded them saying, ‘Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: “Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.’”’ The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, ‘We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.’ Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies; for he said, ‘If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.’ Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, “Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’ I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.”’ So he spent the night there. Then he selected from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, ‘Pass on before me, and put a space between droves.’ He commanded the one in front, saying, ‘When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, saying, “To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and to whom do these animals in front of you belong?” then you shall say, “These belong to your servant Jacob; it is a present sent to my lord Esau. And behold, he also is behind us”’” (Genesis 32:3-18).
In Jacob’s somewhat confessional prayer to God, he not only recognized God’s promises to him, but also his unworthiness to receive the blessings that have already been bestowed. Jacob’s genuine fear of Esau was so great that he had already made the decision to separate into two camps, but he was still reminding God of His promises to prosper him and make his descendants as many as the sand of the sea. The struggle to live by faith in the Holy One, or depend upon one’s own mortal strength, was waging mightily in Jacob. This is a great lesson for any Torah student to study and contemplate. After all, how many times during the course of life do people who profess faith in the Almighty find themselves in similar predicaments? While these times of depending upon the Lord do not necessarily have to be life threatening, most can identify with tests and trials that truly challenge our faith and trust in God. In the development of Jacob’s faith, one can definitely see it growing—but lifelong patterns to resort to cleverness or inherent strengths as humans are difficult to overcome. As Jacob would soon discover, it is at times like these, when the Lord showed up to help him get through the trial.
Jacob Renamed Israel
In V’yishlach, we see that Jacob was in quite a dilemma. He knew that his brother Esau was approaching with four hundred men, not knowing exactly what their intentions were. He had sent ahead servants and livestock to appease Esau, but there was no indication that Esau was satisfied with the overtures. The entourage had been strategically separated into two camps, so Jacob arose in the night and took his family across the river Jabbok, in order to await the arrival of Esau and his company. It was here in the dark of the night, that Jacob encountered a unique supernatural being. Not only did this figure have the ability to simply touch Jacob on his hip and dislocate it, but he also took the opportunity to rename Jacob:
“Then he commanded also the second and the third, and all those who followed the droves, saying, ‘After this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; and you shall say, “Behold, your servant Jacob also is behind us.”’ For he said, ‘I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.’ So the present passed on before him, while he himself spent that night in the camp. Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had. Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’ But he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him and said, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.’ Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip” (Genesis 32:19-32).
During this struggle that ensued, Jacob likely was having to mentally wrestle with the thoughts of his future, and what would soon happen regarding his imminent encounter with Esau. What transpired in the night as Jacob struggled with the supernatural being, was that he showed himself to be a fighter—and for this reason he was renamed Israel or Yisrael, meaning “he contends with God” (TWOT). Jacob was given the name Israel “because you have struggled with God and with human beings and have overcome”(Genesis 32:28, TNIV). This must have had some great significance to Jacob.
Jacob’s wrestling match during the night—when he was renamed Israel—was most definitely a defining moment in his life, as some serious future events were preparing to occur. Twenty years earlier on his departure from Canaan on the way to Paddan-aram, Jacob had a dream-vision of angels ascending and descending upon a ladder (Genesis 28:10-22). Now on the precipice of returning to the Promised Land, Jacob had an even more dramatic supernatural experience. Perhaps finally, after years of striving with God and with human beings, Jacob was ready to rely fully on God—with the assurance that God was in control of all of the circumstances he was facing?
Reunion with Esau
From the wrestling match at Jabbok with the supernatural being, Jacob was resigned to be at peace with his God. So, he simply went forth confidently with his plan to show proper respect to Esau, and he instructed his family to do the same:
“Then Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. He put the maids and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. He lifted his eyes and saw the women and the children, and said, ‘Who are these with you?’ So he said, ‘The children whom God has graciously given your servant.’ Then the maids came near with their children, and they bowed down. Leah likewise came near with her children, and they bowed down; and afterward Joseph came near with Rachel, and they bowed down. And he said, ‘What do you mean by all this company which I have met?’ And he said, ‘To find favor in the sight of my lord.’ But Esau said, ‘I have plenty, my brother; let what you have be your own.’ Jacob said, ‘No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then take my present from my hand, for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably. Please take my gift which has been brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have plenty.’ Thus he urged him and he took it. Then Esau said, ‘Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.’ But he said to him, ‘My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. Please let my lord pass on before his servant, and I will proceed at my leisure, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord at Seir.’ Esau said, ‘Please let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.’ But he said, ‘What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.’ So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built for himself a house and made booths for his livestock; therefore the place is named Succoth. Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city. He bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel” (Genesis 33:1-20).
By the time our Torah reading describes the meeting of Jacob with Esau, it is not explicitly clear what had changed the disposition of Esau toward his brother Jacob. Was it possibly the statements of the messengers bearing the gifts of livestock that softened Esau’s heart toward his brother? Was it finally greeting his brother, as they convened and took note of all of the wives and children that were an immediate part of Jacob’s entourage? Or, could it possibly have been the twenty-year interval where Esau had been blessed by a bevy of children himself (cf. Genesis 36)? Perhaps God had answered Jacob’s prayers for peace with his brother Esau?
Needless to say, Jacob was greeted a bit generously, and with what appeared to be a willingness for the two to learn how to live together in the same region. Esau seemed a bit overwhelmed by all of the news about his brother Jacob, and stated that he was already blessed and not in need of the bevy of livestock offered to Esau by Jacob. But after Jacob insisted, Esau accepted the gifts, and even offered to have the two families live together in the region around Seir.
Seir was south of where they were meeting, and east of the Jordan River. This was not the principal land promised to Abraham and Isaac, and so the newly renamed Israel insisted that his brother go on ahead, and he would follow in due time. But rather than heading south to follow Esau, Jacob instead headed west across the Jordan and toward Shechem, to retrace some of the same path he had taken twenty years earlier. In fact, as the text indicates, when Jacob and his family arrived back in the Shechem area, he actually purchased a piece of land from the Shechemites in order to settle down. He erected an altar there, naming the place El Elohe Israel.
The transformation of Jacob, into a man of faith, seems to have been completed. Not only has Jacob navigated a potentially disastrous confrontation with Esau, but now he was free to move back into the Land of Promise without fear of retribution. In an action that clearly indicated a sincere desire to fulfill his promise to the God of his fathers, Jacob actually erected an altar to worship God and names the place, “God, God of Israel.” Jacob was not only confident that God was with him as he overcame the fear of encountering Esau, but he was so moved by his return, that in a move to publically declare who he was serving—he built and dedicated an altar to his God. Jacob seemed to have transformed considerably in his trust and faith in the Almighty. But as is true with all who seek to serve God, the trials of life remain…
Israel’s Troubles in Shechem
While parents are not directly responsible for the actions of their children, they can be indirectly held accountable, whether they want to be or not. In the case of Jacob/Israel, he faced a significant trial as his children got involved with the Hivite population in the area where Jacob had initially decided to settle. Jacob’s daughter Dinah got sexually entrapped with Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, with some unintended consequences. The possibility of Israel’s family being absorbed into the local population was a problem that this incident and the subsequent actions brought to light:
“Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land. When Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force. He was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, ‘Get me this young girl for a wife.’ Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob kept silent until they came in. Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done. But Hamor spoke with them, saying, ‘The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. Intermarry with us; give your daughters to us and take our daughters for yourselves. Thus you shall live with us, and the land shall be open before you; live and trade in it and acquire property in it.’ Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, ‘If I find favor in your sight, then I will give whatever you say to me. Ask me ever so much bridal payment and gift, and I will give according as you say to me; but give me the girl in marriage.’ But Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with deceit, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. They said to them, ‘We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. Only on this condition will we consent to you: if you will become like us, in that every male of you be circumcised, then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you and become one people. But if you will not listen to us to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and go” (Genesis 34:1-17).
A number of thoughts come to mind as one reads the account of the tragedies that would take place in and around the Shechem area. Jacob did not want his company intermingling with Esau’s company down south in the Seir area. Yet, with ten sons, a daughter, and attendant servants—how was Jacob/Israel going to avoid being absorbed by the more abundant indigenous population, even if he was wealthy based on the size of his livestock herds? So to make some distinctions, Jacob purchased some land and erected an altar to declare his allegiance to the God of Abraham and Isaac.
But the Hivites worshipped other gods, which was going to be a significant problem, especially if any intermarrying did take place. When Dinah got involved with Shechem, the relationship caused a challenge not only for Jacob—who remained silent without taking any immediate action—but also his sons, Simeon and Levi, who became very involved when they heard about the violation of their sister Dinah. In fact, the lack of response from Jacob is concerning, despite the fact that his presence when confronted by Hamor and Shechem is noted. But instead of responding to their pleas for Dinah’s hand in marriage, Jacob said nothing as Simeon and Levi interjected their concern over a marriage to an uncircumcised person. After all, a part of Israel’s walk of faith included circumcision of infant boys (Genesis 17:11-25). Apparently, after Abraham and Isaac were circumcised, the practice was continued with Esau and Jacob. Then the practice must have continued with the sons of Jacob, as they used this rite as the stated reason to stop the marriage of Dinah with Shechem. But there was a hidden motivation of vengeance to convince the Hivites to circumcise their men:
“Now their words seemed reasonable to Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son. The young man did not delay to do the thing, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. Now he was more respected than all the household of his father. So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, ‘These men are friendly with us; therefore let them live in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters in marriage, and give our daughters to them. Only on this condition will the men consent to us to live with us, to become one people: that every male among us be circumcised as they are circumcised. Will not their livestock and their property and all their animals be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will live with us.’ All who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and to his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city. Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went forth. Jacob’s sons came upon the slain and looted the city, because they had defiled their sister. They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field; and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that was in the houses. Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household.’ But they said, ‘Should he treat our sister as a harlot?’” (Genesis 34:18-31).
Simeon and Levi had decided that they were going to avenge the humiliating treatment of their sister, and prevent the potential merger of the families. After three days, when the pain of the circumcision was great, the young men struck not only Hamor and his son Shechem, but massacred all of the men of Shechem! When their brothers discovered the action, they did not hesitate to plunder the city and ravage the inhabitants. What an horrific display of revenge by these young sons of Jacob.
Jacob’s silence is almost deafening. There is no recorded statement in the Biblical record that Jacob tried to stop the actions of his sons. It was only after the massacre had taken place that Jacob finally spoke to Simeon and Levi, with some serious concern about the ramifications of their vengeful acts. Jacob was mindful that the neighboring Canaanites and Perizzites would take great offense over the murder of their regional neighbors, and take up arms against the greatly outnumbered group of servants that were a part of Jacob’s entourage. Naturally, Jacob was extremely concerned about the survival of his family, and reprimanded Simeon and Levi accordingly. It was not until years later when Jacob/Israel bestowed blessings on his children, that we discover that there were definite negative consequences for this act of vengeance:
“Simeon and Levi are brothers; their swords are implements of violence. Let my soul not enter into their council; let not my glory be united with their assembly; because in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they lamed oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel” (Genesis 49:5-7).
As you think through this tragedy and the consequences of settling near Shechem, is it possible that Jacob stopped in his return to Canaan a little prematurely, without going further south to relocate near the area around Hebron?
The Relocation Continues
Following the tragic events that took place in Shechem, God spoke to Jacob with instructions about his relocation. If you can picture the next move further south of Shechem that they were about to take, you find that Jacob and his entourage were once again on the ridgeline highway, leading south of Shechem through Bethel, where Jacob had his earlier encounter with God during his sojourn east some twenty years prior. God was bringing Jacob “full circle,” to the place where he had anointed a rock with oil (Genesis 28:16-19). It was here that some additional work was needed, in order to eliminate all association with other gods and idol worship:
“Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.’ So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments; and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.’ So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem. As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. He built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother. Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the oak; it was named Allon-bacuth. Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; you shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.’ Thus He called him Israel. God also said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come forth from you. The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I will give it to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you.’Then God went up from him in the place where He had spoken with him. Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He had spoken with him, a pillar of stone, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. So Jacob named the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel” (Genesis 35:1-15).
God’s work with Jacob was not yet finished, because some of the people moving with him were still worshipping foreign gods, as indicated by all the items used for false worship. God spoke to Jacob, reminding him of his earlier commitment at Bethel, and told him to rid his entourage of any idolatrous items. After burying the amulets, Jacob returned to the place where he anointed the stone, and this time erected an altar to worship the Holy One, once again recognizing it as Bethel. Then to reaffirm the earlier encounter at Jabbok, when he was renamed Israel—the Lord not only restated the name, but also reminded Jacob about the blessings of Abraham and Isaac that Jacob/Israel had received. By this time in the life of Jacob/Israel, one would think that he was getting the message from God very loud and clear. But the vagaries of life continued, as the sojourn continued south toward the Hebron area. God is never finished with testing His chosen vessels until they die.
Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel was pregnant during the journey south, and she went into Jacob around Ephrath (Genesis 35:16-17). During the birth of her second son, she died and was buried (Genesis 35:18-20). The loss of Rachel must have saddened Jacob greatly, but rather than allowing Rachel’s dying name of Ben-oni (son of my sorrow) to remain, Jacob instead named his youngest son Benjamin (son of my right hand). The patriarch erected a memorial pillar at her burial site, and then settled in the area near the tower of Eder (Genesis 35:21). But Jacob/Israel’s troubles with rebellious children continued. In an act of disrespect toward his father, Jacob’s eldest son Reuben has sexual relations with Bilhah (Genesis 35:22). This ultimately resulted in Reuben forfeiting his birthright privileges, as noted in Jacob’s blessings uttered at his deathbed years later:
“Reuben, you are my firstborn; My might and the beginning of my strength, Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch’” (Genesis 49:3-4).
A Wrestling Faith
While our parashah actually concludes with an extensive listing of the descendants of Esau (Genesis 36), the extended journey of Jacob comes to a close with him finally arriving in the Hebron area to bury his aged father Isaac:
“Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre of Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned. Now the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years. Isaac breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, an old man of ripe age; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him” (Genesis 35:27-29).
It is difficult to specifically determine any additional moves that Jacob/Israel made during the remaining days of his sojourn in Canaan, but it is interesting to note that when his father Isaac died, there must have been at least a semblance of peaceful interactions with his brother Esau—or they probably would not have been able to come together for the burial of their father.
It is reasonable to conclude that Jacob struggled with the God of his fathers for most of his life. Even though there were considerable moments of revelation and experience—both direct and indirect with the Holy One—Jacob had to constantly contend with the challenges of life that are an example to all who study his life. God had obviously chosen him from the womb to receive the blessings of Abraham and Isaac, but just like every person born, his life journey was unique. Despite growing up in a family dedicated to the Holy One, Jacob had to personally learn how to trust in the Lord himself. Is this not the case for everyone who seeks the Lord?
As you think back and contemplate the sojournings of Jacob, perhaps you can identify with some of his trials. Maybe you grew up in a home where a relationship with God was modeled to you by your parents or relatives. As a result, you may struggle with your own personal relationship, because your interactions with God may not be as profound as those relayed to you by others. On the other hand, you might be the first one in your family to truly seek God, and have an assurance that He is truly the One who brings you salvation from your sin. Whatever your personal history includes, having some kind of struggles with God along the road of life, are just a part of everyone’s personal journey.
Whether your faith is tested with sibling rivalries, with rebellious children, when others treat you unfairly, when loved ones die, or by any number of life circumstances that come your way—know that God is always there to confide in and lean upon. In fact, the image of wrestling with God or clinging to Him is appropriate, given the desire of God-seekers to hold onto Him through the trials of life. Even the revered Moses used this imagery when he exhorted the Israelites in the desert to not only fear the Lord, but serve Him and cling to Him:
“You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen” (Deuteronomy 10:20-21).
Surely, if you have sought the Lord and received assurance of your salvation because of belief in the atoning work of the blood of Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus), then you have seen or experienced the work of God in your life. Perhaps you have even spent some time wrestling with God as He has tested your faith!
Despite the struggles of life that test our faith, may we all learn to cling to the Holy One as ultimately exemplified by Jacob who wrestled with his faith throughout his life. For our God is indeed the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and by their individual examples—we can learn to cling to the Holy One who promises eternal life through belief in His Son Yeshua, our Redeemer and the Rock of our salvation! (Click to Source)
 J. Barton Payne, “Yisrael, sarah,” in TWOT, 2:883.