Posts Tagged ‘12 sons of Jacob’

Parashah 7: Vayetze (He went out)

Genesis 28:10-32:2

“Ya’akov went out from Be’er-Sheva 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 lies down to sleep. While he sleeps, he dreams of a staircase or sullum resting on the ground with its top reaching to heaven. The angels of Elohim are going up and down on the sullum. Suddenly, the Elohim of Abraham is 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).

Hebrew Word Pictures
Stone or Aben – אבן – alef, bet, nun
– first strength house of life

Within the word אבן there is the smaller Hebrew word, son

–בן – bet, nun
– house of life

Yeshua tells his disciples that he is the sullum on which the angels ascend and descend. He is the place where the heavenly realm meets the earthly. He is the intercessor for prayers requests that ascend to the Father and the responses descend. The Son of Man is the place where heaven is opened and El Shaddai reveals His salvation, Yeshua.

“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).

Jacob wakes up and names the place Beit-el –– the ‘Gate of Heaven’ or “House of Elohim.” This is the same place mentioned numerous times in Scripture as Mount Moriah, the place where Abraham went to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. It could even be that Jacob used one of the stones from Abraham’s altar as a pillow for his head.

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 time of Abraham and Isaac. Luz is also the Hebrew word for ‘almond’ suggesting there may have been almond trees in the area.

Hebrew Word Pictures
House of God or Beit-el – בית אל – bet, yod, tav, alef, lamed
– house finished work, covenant of the first strength urges forward

Jacob takes the stone that was under his head and sets it up as a ‘standing stone’ to mark the place where Elohim visited him. Again, the Hebrew word for stone is aven. If the letters are reversed, they become neva meaning ‘prophet.’ The stone that Jacob slept on and stood up as a memorial to the ‘House of God’ cries out like the voice of a prophet!

“But he answered them, ‘I tell you that if they keep quiet, the stones will shout!’” (Luke 19:40)

Jacob pours oil on the stone.  This is the first instance of oil being poured out for anointing. Kings, prophets, and priests were anointed with oil symbolizing the prophetic calling and a ‘sign’ that the Ruach Elohim was with them. Yeshua, the ‘Rock of our Salvation’ and High Priest was also anointed with oil.

“While he was in Beit-Anyah in the home of Shim‘on (a man who had had tzara‘at), and as he was eating, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfume, pure oil of nard, very costly. She broke the jar and poured the perfume over Yeshua’s head” (Mark 14:3).

“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 Adonai 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).

Jacob promises to return ten percent of everything Elohim gives him for blessing his life. This is the second time the tithe is mentioned before Mount Sinai and the Torah.  Abraham gave the first tithe to Malki-Tzedek; Jacob gives the second to Elohim.

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 Elohim’s flock of sheep. Jacob, the shepherd, falls in love with Rachel, who is beautiful, and desires to marry her.

Rachel has an older unmarried sister, Leah. In Scripture, it is written that her eyes were ’weak.’ In Hebrew, this word is rakkot meaning ‘tender.’ The same word rak is used for the ‘tender calf’ that Abraham prepared for the three visitors. Rakkot can mean Leah was delicate or refined; not as a judgment, but praise for her gentle spirit. Rashi, a Jewish rabbinical commentator, suggests Leah’s eyes were weak from crying, and that she cried so much her eyelashes fell out. He suggests her weakness may have come from an 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 of ‘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 because of her external beauty, it is Leah who births Judah, the lineage of Messiah. Along with their maidservants Zilpah and Bilhah, Rachel and Leah birth 12 sons for Jacob.

Hebrew Word Pictures
Rachel (Ewe) – רחל – resh, chet, lamed
She birthed two sons
– highest authority protects and urges forward

Leah (Weary) – לאה – lamed, alef, hey
She birthed six sons and one daughter
– urging forward the first strength, revealed

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

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

Hebrew Word Pictures
Reuven (See, A Son) – ראובן – resh, alef, vav, bet, nun
The firstborn of Jacob
– highest authority, first strength binding to the family of life

Shim’on (Hear) – שמעון – shin, mem, ayin, vav, nun
– consume the chaos, understand the binding of life

Levi (Join) – לוי – lamed, vav, yod
– urging forward the binding finished work

Y’hudah (Praise) – יהודה – yod, hey, vav, dalet, hey
– finished work revealed, the binding pathway revealed

Dan (He Judged) – דן – dalet, nun
– pathway of life

Yissakhar (Hire) – יששכר – yod, shin, shin, kaf, resh
– finished work consumes, consumes what is behind the highest authority

Z’vulun (Living Together) – זבולן – zayin, bet, vav, lamed, nun
– divide the house, binding urging forward to life

Naftali (Wrestling) – נפתלי – nun, peh, tav, lamed, yod
– life source of the covenant urging forward the finished work

Gad (Good Fortune) – גד – gimel, dalet
– lift up the pathway

Asher (Happy) – אשר – alef, shin, resh
– first strength consumes the highest authority

Yosef (May He Add) – יוסף –yod, vav, samech, peh
– finished work binding supports the words

Benyamin (Son of the Right Hand) – בנימין – bet, nun, yod, mem, yod, nun
– family of life, finished work, mighty finished work of life

Jacob’s Sheep

In Genesis 31:1-13, Jacob has a dream in which Elohim shows him spotted and speckled rams that are bred with ewes.   After the dream, Jacob sets up rods from different trees 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 used 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. Some suggest that Jacob is using divining rods; however, since it appears he is imitating what he had dreamed, the rods are more prophetic of Jacob knowing that Elohim is in control of a greater plan.

Jacob makes his rods from fresh-cut branches of almond, poplar, and plane trees. They are peeled and set upright in the watering troughs so 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 the ewes birthed streaked and speckled lambs. Jacob used only spotted rams for breeding and this resulted in a flock consisting almost entirely of spotted offspring.

Eventually Jacob took his large flock of spotted sheep back to Canaan. As an old man in the days of Joseph, he moved his flocks to Egypt in northern Africa. From there the breed spread to Europe, specifically Spain, and eventually found its way to England, and even to our little midwestern 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 Sheep are about six sheep per acre compared to about five per acre for larger breeds. These small, fine-boned sheep have no problems lambing in contrast with the improved breeds that often need birthing assistance. The ewes are good mothers and often have twins and occasional triplets.

Jacob, a shepherd, loved a woman whose name meant ‘ewe,’ was the father of the 12 Tribes of Isra’el, a special breed of ‘sheep’ for the Good Shepherd.  Just as Jacob’s breed of sheep continue to exist 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 Elohim is watching over his life and his animal husbandry so that the promises to Abraham and Isaac are fulfilled. This was Elohim’s promise to him at Beit-el (Genesis 28:13-15).

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

The Plane tree is 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’ because its bark peels off each year.  This tree grows to great heights.

Elohim takes a humble shepherd and makes him a very wealthy man.  He tells him to go back to the Promised Land where his descendants will “grow to great numbers” until they possess the land on which he slept with his head on a rock, and where heaven touched the earth at Beit-el (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 Adonai who took me from herding the flock, and Adonai who said, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Isra’el” (Amos 7:14-15).

The Poplar or Willow tree is a symbol of joy and blessing.  It comes from the  Hebrew word libneh. Laban comes from libneh and means ‘white’. This is a fast growing tree and was found abundantly along the banks of the Jordan River.

The Ruach Elohim will bless 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 be blessed through him (and even his breed of sheep). This is also part of the blessing Jacob received from Elohim at Beit-el (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 and 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 letter pictures associated with each commandment The letter picture for the second commandment is a ‘house’ or the letter bet.


The second commandment is about idols, making idols, and having ‘other gods.’ The connection made is that idols were generally found in the home. Many people still have household idols, especially catholics and buddhists, with statues of Mary, angels, dead saints or buddhas set on tables or small altars.

The Hebrew word for ‘idols’ in this passage is teraphim and refers to ‘domestic idols.’ 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 Him in an incorrect manner.  Though her intention may have been right, idolatry in any form is not acceptable to Elohim –– from the days of the patriarchs until now.

Laban finds his household gods missing and pursues Jacob. Jacob’s response to his accusations is quite serious: he vows that whoever has the idols will die. He knows that Elohim is the source of the blessing for him and his family. He would not worship Elohim with an idol dishonoring the Elohim of his fathers. Even without a written ten commandments, Jacob knows and understands that idol worship is wrong.

The unfortunate part of this account is that the idols were in the possession of his wife, and she deceived not only her father, but also her husband. She puts them in her camel’s saddle bag and sits on them. Though her father searches her tent, he doesn’t find them because she uses the excuse that she is in her time of niddah, her monthly cycle. In time, she dies giving birth to Benjamin.
It becomes time for Laban and Jacob to make a clean break. They gather stones and make a boundary that both agree not to cross. They enter into a covenant of witness known as a mitzpah or ‘watchtower.’

“May Adonai 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 31:49-50). 

Laban swears by the god of Nachor, but Jacob swears by Elohim, the God his father feared.  Jacob makes a sacrifice on the mountain and invites his family to eat with him –– a fellowship meal. Jacob leaves 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” (John 10:9-11).

“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).

“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 27-28).

“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)

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