VAYETZE | WEEK 7
By Paul Wilbur
Gen 28:10 – 32:3
Vayetze, (Hebrew for “and he left,”) is the seventh weekly Torah portion in the annual cycle of Torah readings. It includes the verses in the book of Genesis 28:10 through Genesis 32:3 and tells the story of Jacob’s travels to, life in, and his return from Haran.
Our story begins in Beersheva,in the northern Negev of modern day Israel. Beersheva means, ‘Well of seven’ or ‘Well of the Oath.’ Abraham dug a well here, but the men of Abimelech took it one day by force. After Abraham complained to Abimelech, they made a covenant of friendship; and Abraham set aside seven ewe lambs as an offering to his partner in remembrance of their oath, hence the name.
This is also the place where Jacob stole his brother Esau’s birthright for a bowl of red stew. Now when Esau recognized that the time for mourning his father Isaac’s death was near, he said out loud that, when those days were finished, he would kill his brother Jacob for deceiving him out of his birthright. His mother Rebekah was so alarmed to hear this that she sent Jacob away to the city of Paddan Aram to find a wife that was not from the Canaanite people.
The city of Paddan Aram lies far to the north along the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia and means ‘the field of Aram.’ It can also mean ‘road’ or ‘caravan route,’ and may be a variation of the word Haran, which is the city designated to which Jacob flees in Gen. 28:10.
Now Haran (‘Parched’ or ‘Roadway’) was the city in which Abraham’s family settled after leaving Ur of the Chaldees. Abraham and his family stayed there for some time until the Lord directed him to leave for Canaan, his inheritance. So Jacob would have some family members living there from which he could find a suitable wife. Ancient Haran, located in southern Turkey near the headwaters of the Euphrates River, was a center for ancient moon worship.
Now with this brief history of Jacob and the cities mentioned in these chapters, let’s move on to the event that would change Jacob’s life forever as he journeyed ‘home’ to Haran to find a wife.
One evening as the sun was setting, Jacob stopped for the night in a place called Luz. Taking one of the stones from that place, he put it under his head and went to sleep. “He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and He said: ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth…All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Gen.28:12-15)
Wow, wow, wow! Wouldn’t you love to have a dream like that?! So how does Jacob respond? At first he does well; he was afraid and says, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” (Gen.28:17) Early the next morning, Jacob took the stone he had rested upon and piled it up, anointed it with oil, and gave that place a new name -Bethel, meaning ‘House of God.’ After all his initial excitement, however, he makes an oath to God saying, “IF God will be with me, and feed me, and clothe me, and bring me back safely to my father’s house…THEN the Lord will be my God, and I will give Him a tenth of all He gives me!”
This oath gives me a reason to shake my head and wonder if Jacob will ever be free of his name and attitude that seems to get him in so much hot water! Here Jacob has a night vision, or dream, that confirms the word of God to him that was spoken to his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac, and yet he won’t be satisfied to call him Lord unless God performs in a manner that satisfies his needs at the moment.
So what do we glean from Jacob’s encounter with the Living God and his response to it? In all fairness, we have the privilege of the testimony of thousands of years of God’s faithfulness to watch over His word to perform it; Jacob had two generations and a dream. We understand that God speaks to his prophets in dreams and visions, and Jacob didn’t even know what a prophet was! We know that God is not a man that He should lie, or the son of man that He should change His mind; that He is our Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Redeemer, Savior, Provider, King, Faithful, Keeper and Maker of Covenant…and this could go on for quite some time!
In just a few pages more, Jacob will have a face to face encounter with the One who spoke to him in a dream. Not only will Jacob have an attitude adjustment, but he will also receive a new name, forgiveness from the past, hope for the future; and, because of that meeting, he will fulfill the purpose for which God placed him on the earth in the first place.
Remember, not one word from the Lord falls to the ground unfulfilled, but He watches over every one of them, AND He performs them, so that His name will be honored and feared by men, and come to a saving knowledge of the One who lives forever and ever! When He speaks, believe Him; and, like Abraham, it will be credited to you as righteousness.
Bethel (ancient Luz) in the region of Samaria, halfway between Jerusalem and Sychar (Mt. Ebal) where Yeshua speaks with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well. This city served the ancient Hebrews as an early point of communication with God and of entry into Canaan, the Holy Land. As the religious, cultural, and political life of the Israelites increasingly focus on Jerusalem, Bethel fades in significance. However, when the northern kingdom of Israel seceded, Bethel became one of two major centers of idol worship in the north. This corruption sealed its fate in the biblical story. By the time of Yeshua’s birth, Bethel has completely faded away as a place of importance and is not mentioned anywhere in the New Testament.
About the Author
For over 40 years, Paul has been leading worship before crowds of thousands in the Middle East, singing to packed soccer stadiums throughout Latin America, and bringing his anointed Messianic message directly to the people of Israel. His partnership with Integrity Music has resulted in projects such as “Up To Zion,” “Shalom Jerusalem,” and “Your Great Name.” With award-winning sales in the millions of a Latin Dove Award for best live praise worship album of the year, there is no end in sight for this growing team. Paul truly believes that the Lord inhabits the praises of His people, and in that presence there is fullness and joy.
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