Parashah 7: Vayetze (He went out)

Parashah 7: Genesis 28:10-32:3

“Ya’akov went out from Be’er-Sheeva and traveled toward Haran” (Genesis 28:10).

Because the sun is setting, Jacob decides to stop and rest near Haran.  He places a stone under his head and lays down to sleep.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Stone or Abenאבן – alef, bet, noon

the strength of the house brings life

Within the word אבן there is the smaller Hebrew word, son –בן  – bet, noon

the son is strength of the house who brings life

While he sleeps, he dreams there is a staircase or sullum resting on the ground with its top reaching to heaven.  The angels of Elohim were going up and down on the sullum. Then suddenly, the Elohim of Abraham was standing next to him.

“I am Adonai, the God of Avraham your [grand] father and the God of Yitz’ak.  The land on which you are lying I will give to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the grains of dust on the earth. You will expand to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. By you and your descendants all the families of the earth will be blessed. Look, I am with you. I will guard you wherever you go, and I will bring you back into this land, because I won’t leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28:13-15).

When Jacob woke up he called the place the ‘gate of Heaven’ or ‘House of God,’ Beit-el.  This is the same place mentioned numerous times in Scripture as Mount Moriah, the very place where Abraham was going to offer Isaac as a burnt offering.  It could be that one of the stones from Abraham’s altar was used as a pillow for Jacob’s head.

Hebrew Word Pictures

House of God or Beit-el בית אל – bet, yod, tav, alef, lamed

sign of the hand, the house of the first shepherd

Beit-el’s former Hittite name was Luz which means ‘turning away from wisdom’ or ‘twisted person.’  The Hittites were a ‘twisted and perverse generation’ of people who possessed Mount Moriah until the events of Abraham and Isaac.  Luz is also the Hebrew word for ‘almond wood’ suggesting there may have been almond trees in the area.

Almonds are significant to the Tabernacle and the priesthood.  Aaron’s rod budded with almonds as proof Elohim appointed him as the high priest over Isra’el.  The menorah in the Temple was constructed with almond branches and buds.  In Judaism it is believed that the Tree of Life in Gan Eden may have been an almond tree symbolizing authority over eternal life.

Jacob takes the stone that was under his head and set it up as a standing stone to mark the place where El Shaddai had visited him.  Then, he made a vow. 

“God will be with me and will guard me on this road that I am traveling, giving me bread to eat and clothes to wear, so that I return to my father’s house in peace, then Yahweh will be my God, and this stone, which I have set up as a standing-stone will be God’s house; and of everything you give me, I will faithfully return one-tenth to you” (Genesis 28:20-22).

Again, the Hebrew word for stone is aven. If the letters are reversed, they become nev meaning ‘prophet’.  Thus, the stone that Jacob slept on and then stands up as a memorial at Bethel cries out as a voice of prophecy (Luke 19:40).

Jacob also poured oil on this stone.  This is the first instance of oil being poured for anointing.  Kings, prophets and priests were anointed with oil symbolic of their calling and a sign of the Spirit of Elohim being with them. Yeshua, our High Pries was also anointed with oil (Mark 14:3). 

Jacob promises to return ten percent of everything Elohim gives him for blessing his life.   This is the second time the tithe is mentioned and again it’s before Mount Sinai and the Torah.  Abraham gave the tithe to Melchizedek; Jacob gives it to Elohim.

“Then Yeshua said to him [Nathaniel], ‘Yes indeed!  I tell you that you will see heaven opened and the angels of God going up and coming down on the Son of Man” (John 1:51).

Rachel and Leah

“Continuing his journey, Ya’akov came to the land of the people of the east.  As he looked, he saw a well in a field; and there were three flocks of sheep lying there next to it; because they watered the sheep from that well. The stone on the well’s mouth was large, and only when all the flocks had gathered there would they roll the stone away from the opening of the well and water the sheep. Then they would put the stone back in its place on the well’s opening ….  He said, ‘Look, there’s still plenty of daylight left; and it isn’t time to bring the animals home; so water the sheep; then go, and put them out to pasture.’ They answered, ‘We can’t, not until all the flocks have been gathered together, and they roll the stone away from the opening of the well. That’s when we water the sheep’” (Genesis 29:1-8).

The account of Jacob continues with another stone.  This stone covers a well where local sheep are watered.  It is only rolled away when all of the flocks have been gathered together.  While Jacob waits for the flocks to gather, Rachel arrives with her father’s sheep.  Because she is his cousin, he removes the stone from the well and waters her sheep.  He then kisses her and weeps because he has finally met a relative.  He no longer has to wander seeking a home.

In Hebrew,  Rachel means ‘ewe’ or a female sheep.  Her name represents the people of Isra’el and their struggles in the world as God’s flock of sheep.  Jacob falls in love with Rachel, who is beautiful, and asks his Uncle Laban if he may marry her.

Rachel has an older unmarried sister, Leah.  In Scripture, it is written that her eyes are ’weak.’  In Hebrew, this word is rakkot meaning ‘weak or tender.’  The same word rak is used for the ‘tender calf’ that Abraham prepared for the three visitors. Rakkot could mean Leah was delicate or refined; not as a judgement, but praise for her gentleness. Rashi, a Jewish commentator from the Middle Ages, that suggests Leah’s eyes were weak from crying and that she cried so much her eyelashes fell out.  Her weakness was her emotional vulnerability and the tendency to be hurt.  She knew she was not the love of Jacob’s life and it caused her pain.  Whatever the meaning for her ‘weak’ eyes, her beauty is nothing compared to her sister’s.

When the wedding day of Jacob and Rachel arrives, Laban deceives Jacob and gives him Leah instead.  Though Jacob loves Rachel more because of her external beauty, it becomes Leah who births Judah from where comes the lineage of Messiah. Together along with their maidservants Zilpah and Bilha, Rachel and Leah birthed 12 sons for Jacob.  These sons became known as the 12 Tribes of Isra’el

Hebrew Word Pictures

Rachel (Ewe) רחל – resh, chet, lamed

the head shepherd in the inner room

Leah (Weary) – לאה – lamed, alef, hey

She gave birth to six sons and one daughter

behold the first strength

There were birthing competitions between these four women as Leah was very fertile while Rachel was barren.  When maidservants turned concubines began conceiving, jealousy arose.  Rachel trades one night with her husband for some mandrakes so that Leah could sleep with Jacob.  It was Rachel’s hope that the mandrakes would take away her infertility.  Instead, Leah becomes pregnant with Issachar, whose name means ‘for hire.’ 

The Hebrew word translated as mandrake is dudim meaning ‘love plant.’  It is a Mediterranean herb that includes some of the most poisonous plants such as nightshade, jimsonweed, tobacco and some of the most common vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, green pepper, and eggplants.  A mandrake plant consists of several large, wrinkled, dark green leaves that lie flat upon the ground forming a rosette. In the center of this rosette, a cluster of attractive purple flowers appears in the winter. The root of the mandrake may be several feet long and weigh several pounds. It has bizarre often human-like shapes and for this reason is highly regarded by the superstitious.  The root of a mandrake was used especially to promote conception.

Hebrew Word Pictures


(See, a son!) or Reuven – ראובן – resh, alef, vav, bet, noon

The firstborn of Jacob

the head is bound (by nails) to the house of life


(Hear) or Shim’onשמעון – shin, mem, ayin, vav, noon

The root is related to shema

destroy the chaos, see the binding of life


(Join) or Levi – לוי – lamed, vav, yod

shepherd bound (by nails) to the the finished work


(Praise) or Y’hudah  יהודה – yod, hey, vav, dalet, hey

Almost has the memorial name of God

behold the finished work bound (by nails) to the door, behold


(Hire) or Yissakharיששכר – yod, shin, shin, kaf, resh

the finished work doubly consumes the palm of the head


(Living Together) or Z’vulun – זבולן – zayin, bet, vav, lamed, noon

the weapon in the house bound (by nails) to the shepherd of life


(Wrestling) or Naftaliנפתלי – noon, peh, tav, lamed, yod

life from the mouth is the source covenant of the shepherd’s finished work


(Good Fortune) or Gadגד – gimel, dalet

raised up with pride at the door


(Happy) or Asherאשר – alef, shin, resh

the strength glorifies the head


(May He Add) or Yosef – יוסף –yod,vav, samech, peh

the finished work binds and supports the mouth


(Son of the Right Hand) or Benyaminבנימין – bet, noon, yod, mem, yod, noon

the house of life is a finished work, the chaos is finished, life

Jacob Sheep

In Genesis 31:1-13,  Jacob has a dream where El Shaddai shows him spotted and speckled rams that are bred with ewes.   After the dream,  Jacob sets up rods from different trees in order to encourage breeding in order to produce his own flock of sheep.

Rods, like scepters, signify authority as they were used by kings, priests, and even prophets.  Shepherds also use rods to guard and guide their sheep. The Hebrew word for ‘rods’ in this passage is maqqelah and signifies a “traveler’s staff” or “war club”  that is cut from a tree.  There are some who suggest that Jacob is using divining rods; however, it would seem that by following what he had been given in a dream, the rod is more symbolic of Jacob knowing that El Shaddai is in control.  The rod is a powerful reminder of Elohim’s blessing his life and that of his descendants. 

The rods Jacob made were from fresh-cut branches of almond, poplar and plane trees.  They were peeled and set upright in the watering troughs so that the sheep could see them when they came for a drink.  Since they bred when they were drinking, the animals mated in the sight of the rods and birthed streaked and speckled lambs.  He only use spotted rams for breeding and this resulted in a flock that soon consisted almost entirely of spotted offspring.

Eventually Jacob took his family and large flock of spotted sheep back to Canaan. As an old man in the days of Joseph,  he moved his family and flocks to Egypt and northern Africa.   From there they spread  to Europe, specifically Spain and eventually found their way to England and even to our little community as a distinct ‘unimproved’ breed of sheep.

Jacob Sheep, with impressive horns and unusual coloring are small and hardy, economical to feed and have few health problems. On pasture, stocking rates for Jacob’s Sheep are about six sheep per acre, compared to about five per acre for larger breeds. These small, fine-boned sheep have no lambing problems in contrast with the improved breeds that often need birthing assistance. The ewes are good mothers, and often have twins and occasional triplets.


Jacob loved a woman whose name meant ‘ewe, was the father of the Twelve Tribes of Isra’el, a special breed of ‘sheep’ for the Good Shepherd.  Just like his breed of sheep exists today, so do the children of Isra’el.

The Almond, Plane and Poplar Trees

The Almond tree is the first tree to sprout in the spring and the last to lose its leaves. In Hebrew, almond is the word luz and means ‘to turn aside.’   The Hebrew word shaquad, from which ‘almond’ is derived means ‘I watch.’

Jacob has ‘turned aside’ from being subservient to Laban.  He wants to make his own way and travel back to Canaan, the land of his grandfather.  He knows that El Shaddai is watching over his life and his ‘animal husbandry’ in order that the promises to Abraham and Isaac are fulfilled.  This was El Shaddai’s promise to him at Beit-el (Genesis 28:13-15).

“The word of Yahweh was addressed to me asking, ‘Jeremiah, what to you see?’  ‘I see a branch of the watchful tree,’ I answered.  Then Yahweh said, ‘Well seen! I too watch over My Word to see it fulfilled” (Jeremiah 1:11-12).

The Plane tree is also known as the Common Sycamore which  belongs to the same family as the fig tree.  The fruit of this tree was considered to be a ‘humble food.’   It comes from the Hebrew word arman which has its root in ‘bare or naked’ as its bark peels off each year.  This tree grows to great heights.

God takes a humble shepherd and makes him a very wealthy man.  He tells him to leave Laban and go back to the Promised Land.  His descendants will eventually possess the land on which he slept with his head on the ‘rock’ at Bethel (Genesis 28:13-15).

“I was no prophet, neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets.  I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was Yahweh who took me from herding the flock, and Yahweh who said, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Isra’el” (Amos 7:14-15).

The Poplar tree or Willow is a sign of joy and happiness.  It comes from the  Hebrew word libneh.  Lavan, like the name Laban, comes from this word and means ‘white.’  It is a fast growing tree and was found abundantly along the banks of the Jordan River.

It is the Spirit of Elohim that blesses the offspring of Jacob’s sheep as well as his descendants.  They will spread out to the east, west, north and south.  All nations will become blessed through him (and even his breed of sheep).  This, too, is part of the blessing Jacob received at Bethel (Genesis 28:13-15).

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit on your descendants, my blessing on your offspring. They will spring up among the grass like willows on the riverbanks” (Isaiah 44:3-4).

Jacob’s sheep become numerous.   His father-in-law becomes jealous and Jacob decides to leave with his family and flocks.  Rachel and Leah agree saying that their father considers them ‘foreigners,’ no longer members of his family.

Household Idols

“So Rachel stole the household idols that belonged to her father” (Genesis 31:19).

When I taught my children the Ten Commandments, I used the Hebrew Word Pictures associated with each commandment  The word picture for the second commandment regarding idols is a ‘house’ or the letter bet. 

The second commandment is about idols and making idols, having ‘other gods.’    The connection made was that idols, engraved images, were always found in the house.   Many people still have household idols, especially in religions like catholicism and buddhism where statues of Mary, angels, saints or Buddhas may be found.   

The Hebrew word for the ‘idols’ in this passage is teraphim and refers to ‘domestic idols.’   These domestic idols were often used to worship Elohim so Rachel may not have been intending to worship a false god as much as she was going to worship El Shaddai in an incorrect manner.  Though her intention may have been good,  idolatry in any form is not acceptable to Elohim in the days of Rachel until today.

Laban finds his household gods missing and pursues Jacob.  Jacob’s response to Laban’s accusations is quite serious.  First, he knew that El Shaddai was the source for the blessing for him and his family.  He would not worship El Shaddai with an idol, dishonoring the Elohim of his fathers.  Even without a written ten commandments, Jacob knew and understood that idol worship was wrong.  Second, Jacob always maintained his emotions when dealing with his father-in-law.  Though at times his behavior bordered deceit, he was a man who was not easily angered.  He did not appreciate being called a thief.

The unfortunate part of this account is that the idols were in the possession of his favored wife and she deceived not only her father, but also her husband.   She had put them in her camel’s saddle bag and sat on them.  Though her father searched her, he didn’t find them because she used the excuse she was in her time of niddah, her monthly cycle. 

It became time for Laban and Jacob to make a clean break.  They gathered stones and made a boundary that both agreed not to cross.  They entered into a covenant of a witness known as a mitzpah or ‘watchtower.’

“May Yahweh watch between me and you when we are apart from each other.  If you cause pain to my daughters, then even if no one is there with us, still God is witness between me and you” (Genesis 32:47-48). 

Laban swore by the god of Nachor, but Jacob swore by the El Shaddai, the God his father feared.  Jacob, not Laban made a sacrifice on the mountain and invited his kinsmen to eat with him–a fellowship offering.  Jacob goes on his way the next day and angels of Elohim meet him.  He sees them and names the place machanayim or ‘two camps.’   Here begins the journey between the natural, physical camp of Jacob and the spiritual camp of Isra’el.

Yeshua and His Sheep

These twelve Yeshua sent out with the following instructions: “Don’t go into the territory of the Goyim, and don’t enter any town in Shomron, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Isra’el. As you go, proclaim, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is near…” (Matthew 10:5-7).

“When Yeshua came ashore, he saw a huge crowd. Filled with compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, he began teaching them many things” (Mark 6:34).

“I am the gate; if someone enters through me, he will be safe and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only in order to steal, kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, life in its fullest measure. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”….“My sheep listen to my voice, I recognize them, they follow me,  and I give them eternal life. They will absolutely never be destroyed, and no one will snatch them from my hands (John 10:9-11; 27-28).

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own, and my own know me — just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father — and I lay down my life on behalf of the sheep.   Also I have other sheep which are not from this pen; I need to bring them, and they will hear my voice; and there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:14-16).

“After breakfast, Yeshua said to Shim‘on Kefa, “Shim‘on Bar-Yochanan, do you love me more than these?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I’m your friend.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Shim‘on Bar-Yochanan, do you love me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I’m your friend.” He said to him, “Shepherd my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Shim‘on Bar-Yochanan, are you my friend?” Shim‘on was hurt that he questioned him a third time: “Are you my friend?” So he replied, “Lord, you know everything! You know I’m your friend!” Yeshua said to him, “Feed my sheep!” (John 21:15-17)

Haftarah (Readings from the Prophets)

Hosea 12:2-12

Hosea 14:9

B’rit Chadashah (New Testament Readings)

John 1:43-51

Midrash Vayetzei: Sheep in the World

Discuss the three flocks of sheep in the world: the flock of Judah, the flock of Isra’el, and the flock of the nations.  Discuss what each flock needs and the stumbling stone that each encounters toward salvation (Psalm 23, 79:13, Isaiah 12:3).

©2013 Tentstake Ministries

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