Messianic Education Trust
    Vayishlach  
(Gen 32:4 - 36:42)

B'resheet/Genesis 35:12   And the land I gave to Abraham and to Yitzkhak, I will give to you; and to your descendants after you


Nahum Sarna, in the JPS Torah commentary suggests comparing this text with B'resheet 17:8, where the promise of the Land was given to Avraham. There the text reads: "And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession" (NASB). Abraham repeats the promise to his servant whom he is sending to find a wife for Yitz'khak, "The L-rd ... spoke to me, and who swore to me, saying, 'To you descendants I will give this land'" (B'resheet 24:7, NASB) and The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem repeats it to Yitz'khak: "to you and your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Avraham" (B'resheet 26:3, NASB). Now that Ya'akov has returned to the Land with his family, ready to take up residence there and by that residence to actualise his inheritance of the promise, HaShem confirms both the promise and His readiness to fulfill it. For Ya'akov, who has been on a long journey - in many ways - to arrive at this point in time and space, this is a pivotal moment. He has just returned from Padan Aram; he has gone - at HaShem's instruction - to the place of his momentous vision before he left the Land twenty years ago; he has built there an altar to HaShem; he has tied himself and his household to the Land by burying his mother's nurse under a nearby oak tree; he has arrived! Then, once he is committed - lock, stock and barrel - HaShem appears to him and confirms the promise of the Land for him and for his descendants after him, just as He had done for Avraham and Yitz'khak. The rightness of Ya'akov's actions in returning and coming home to Canaan is sealed by the word of HaShem.

The Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno comments, "And to your offspring after you I will give the land: In the end of days I will give your offspring the entire earth, not only Eretz Yisrael, as it says, 'You will spread powerfully westward, eastward, northward and southward' (B'resheet 28:14); and as it is said, 'and break down all the sons of Seth' (B'Midbar 24:17)". Here Sforno is picking up on the repetition of the word at the end of the verse; it is not redundant, he suggests, but the first instance in the verse applies to the Land, while the second should be taken to mean the whole earth. The quote from 28:14 are the words that HaShem speaks to Ya'akov concerning his descendants (of which at the time he had none, nor wives) at Bethel when he was leaving the Land to go to Padan Aram. Sforno is perhaps thinking of the way in which the book of D'varim speaks of Israel being the chief among the nations, or Zechariah's prophetic visions of the time when all the nations will come up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. This is not a vision of military conquest, but as Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch points out, the natural result of the whole world coming to recognise the G-d of Israel as the One True G-d and coming into the one united kingdom of G-d. Hirsch quotes from Psalm 37 (vv. 11, 22, 29) the phrases:

- the humble will inherit the earth,
- those blessed by Him [Adonai] will inherit the earth,
- the righteous shall inherit the earth

to source his comment that "to those that truly follow in your footsteps, the whole world will fall as their spiritual heritage".

The Who Is ...

Ramban: Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman of Gerona or Nachmanides (1194-1270 CE), Spanish rabbi, author and physician; defended Judaism in the Christian debates in Barcelona before making aliyah
Ramban is interested in the way the promises have been repeated. He says, "This alludes to an oath, for the Land was given to them with an oath so that sin should not cause annulment of the gift." He points out that later on the Torah says, "the land of which I swore to Avraham, to Yitz'khah and to Ya'akov" (Shemot 33:1) and suggests while there is no explicit giving of an oath recorded, "that the repetition of the prophecy constitutes an oath". His concern is to stress that the giving of the Land is not conditional upon Israel's behaviour because G-d has sworn to do it. That does not, of course, mean that every generation will live securely in the land regardless of their behaviour, for we know that Israel has spent significant periods of time either in the Land under oppression from their neighbours - in the time of the Judges and to some extent today - or exiled from the Land altogether - Babylon and the dispersion after the destruction of the 2nd Temple. No, it is simply that the promise that the descendants of Ya'akov will inherit the Land is a promise that G-d has given and G-d will fulfill, for individuals, for groups of Israelites and - ultimately - for the whole nation, in His time. Israel's good or bad behaviour cannot void that promise or release G-d from His own obligation.

At the start of the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua echoes some of the phrases from Psalm 37: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5, ESV). The word 'meek' can also be translated 'humble' to align exactly with Psalm 37:11, but it clearly also aligns with verse 22. He also mentions possession of the Kingdom of heaven in two of the other beatitudes (vv. 3 and 10). Here too, the promise is given on an unconditional basis - it is a statement of G-d's fixed purposes and intent: the meek will inherit the earth, whether anyone else minds or not; G-d has said so! Those who truly follow the ways of G-d will exhibit those character traits and will qualify to inherit those blessings that naturally follow from our relationship with G-d. It depends only on G-d.

The writer to the Hebrews picks up this issue when he writes, "Therefore, when G-d wanted to demonstrate still more convincingly the unchangeable character of His intentions to those who were to receive what He had promised, he added an oath to the promise; so that through two unchangeable things, in neither of which G-d could lie, we, who have fled to take a firm hold on the hope set before us, would be strongly encouraged" (Hebrews 6:17-18, CJB). The writer is referring to the promise that G-d gave to Avraham: that He would bless him and give him many descendants; this has happened - indeed, the very existence of the Jewish people has been cited as a proof for the existence of G-d! More than that, the spiritual descendants of Avraham are found in very corner of the globe, even some places where the Jewish people are not to be found.

When G-d says that He is going to do something, we can and must be sure that He is going to do it. When He does it is more open, since G-d's timing and ours do not always align in the way that we would like. Sometimes He doesn't follow the line of action that we expected either and He surprises us while remaining consistent with Himself and His words. Be that as it may, whether the timing or the event is not what we thought, with hindsight we can always see that G-d's way was the best and the outcome is better than we could have planned or imagined. As Rav Sha'ul, who by the sounds of it had some experience in this area, wrote: "Now to Him who by His power working in us is able to do far beyond anything we can ask or imagine, to Him be glory in the Messianic Community and in the Messiah Yeshua from generation to generation forever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21, CJB).

Further Study: Micah 7:20; Revelation 21:6-7

Application: Now is the time to remember that whatever happens, and stuff certainly does happen, G-d's promises are absolutely certain and can be trusted in the face of any challenge. If you are finding it tough holding on against the tide, take a moment to thank G-d for His faithfulness and then push on regardless because His word is for ever!

© Jonathan Allen, 2008

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