Abraham, Rebecca, Isaac, Esau, Jacob, Rachael, Leah – you know the story…or do you? Reading the Old Testament in Hebrew adds detail and depth to the stories you’ve heard many times. But how many of us know Hebrew? My friend Dr. Frank Leeds III is a Hebrew scholar and enjoys pulling out Old Testament details that are super interesting and often overlooked or lost in the translation. The following is an example based on the story of Abraham’s aged parenthood and the repercussions of Jacob’s theft of his father’s blessing. And don’t miss Dr. Leeds’ surprising conclusion about Jesus.
As a long time student of Torah, I love to read the Rabbis. People often ask me if I am Jewish, and a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer doesn’t seem appropriate. I am a Christian, but my roots of understanding are certainly Jewish. I think everyone knows that Jesus was Jewish, but I think most people consider this an ethnic statement. All I know is that Jesus was thoroughly Jewish. He read the Torah and it seems to me that most of what he said is from the Torah. He quoted it all the time. He makes the long journey from the Galilee to the Temple in Jerusalem. He makes the sacrifices. He does it all. I would even argue that he keeps the Sabbath even though he seemingly goes out of his way to heal on that day. [more about this at the end]
With the above in mind, I want to tell you a story.
God Calls the Elderly
There was a man named Abram. In as much as he was a direct descendant of Seth, the son of Noah, he came from a well-known family. He was rather well off and his family would have had all the social graces that came from their position in society. But Abram was very different from the rest. His passion in life was his pursuit of ‘justice’. By that I mean ‘equal justice for all’. His family however were very shrewd and conniving people. They were not the type that would break into your home and steal your money but they would do everything possible to ‘out-smart’ you to make sure your assets became theirs.
One would think that as a descendant of Noah, they would be God fearing. Rather, they worshipped the God of heaven along with all their idol gods. It is within this context that Abram heard a voice. The God of Heaven and Earth said to Abram that He would make him a father of many nations. And that he and his descendants would be a people created to bless the world.
Being elderly, the question becomes, how can that be seeing he and his wife were too old to have children? The answer is simply: Trust God who gave you the promise. Eventually, these two old senior citizens had a son and they named him Isaac.
Finding a Trainable Wife for Isaac
As Isaac becomes older, his very elderly father becomes concerned about finding a wife for Isaac. The people in their area are Canaanites. They do not have the sophistication of Abram’s [now Abraham] background. Likewise, they would be more likely to break into your house to rob you than to ‘con’ you out of your money like Abraham old family would. Neither choice is ideal.
So, what to do? Given the options, Abraham chooses to have a wife for his son taken from his own family rather than the Canaanites. This is underscored with the condition that Isaac is never to live with his new wife [who ever that may be] and her family. Rather, the wife will have to be brought back to live with Abraham and Isaac. That way, Abraham will have a better chance of seeing that she is properly trained in the mission from the God of Heaven and Earth.
To accomplish this task, Abraham authorizes his servant Eliezer to go to Abraham’s old family and to select and negotiate a deal to acquire a wife for Isaac who must be brought back to Isaac and not the other way around. Eliezer is a rather smart man and is very well equipped to handle what he is about to encounter.
Arriving at their home, and having been given something to eat, it is not Bethuel, the father of the house, but his son, Laban, that tells Eliezer to “speak”. As a side note, this is very unusual and rude for the son to speak before the father. Here is what Eliezer said::
My master bound me by an oath: ‘Do not take a wife for my son from among the daughters of the Canaanites in whose land I live, unless you first go to my father’s house, to my family, select a wife for my son from among them….when I arrived today, I said: ‘O God, God of my master Abraham! If You will, crown this mission that I am undertaking with success. Here I am, standing by the spring of water. Let it be that the maiden who comes out to draw water and to whom I will say, “Please give me a little water to drink from your pitcher,’ and who will answer, “Not only may you drink, but I will also draw water for your men and camels,’ will be the wife destined by God for my master’s son.’
I had not yet finished speaking to myself, silently in my heart, and there was Rebecca coming out, with her pitcher on her shoulder. She went down to the well and drew water. I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’ I bowed my head and prostrated myself to God. And I blessed God, God of my master Abraham, who led me on a true path to take the daughter of my master’s brother as a wife for his son.
Now, if you want to act in kindness and truth towards my master, tell me. If not, say so, and I will turn to the right and return to my master’s home.
Rebecca’s brother and mother then suggest that the girl should stay with them for another year so she can have time to get the proper jewelry for a wedding. Eliezer assures them that his master had already given everything he owns to his son and she will have no need for any additional jewels or anything else. Her new husband is a very rich man. So, Rebecca leaves with the servant and returns to marry Isaac.
Jacob Pays for His Deceit
As our story continues, the marriage of Rebecca and Isaac produce twins: Esau and Jacob. This is a story unto itself but succinctly they are two very different people. Esau, the older, is a hunter and a favorite of his father. Jacob is more of a mamma’s boy and her favorite. If trickery is a family trait, Rebecca has passed it to Jacob. He cons his brother into selling his birthright and with the help of his mother, he cons his father into blessing him rather than his older brother.
Jacob flees for his life in fear that his older brother will kill him. Where to go? He races off to his mother’s brother, Laban. On the one hand, it is a new situation but on the other hand we are right back to where we started. Jacob is more than aware that he has a cunning mother and that Laban is someone he will have to be very careful with. Laban will try to outsmart him, manipulate him, and get the upper hand. But desperate people do desperate things and he is running for his life. His prayer is that God would protect him on his journey and be able to return to his father’s house untainted by the sin of Laban’s evil influences.
When he arrives, he meets a group of shepherds gathered at the well. In talking with them about whether they know of Laban, they acknowledged that they did and then pointed out Rachel who was a shepherdess coming their way. She was a shepherdess because Laban had no sons. Jacob approaches her, kisses her, and then weeps. He introduces himself as both her father’s relative as well as Rebecca’s son and that he had come to marry her.
When Laban heard that Jacob had arrived, he ran to meet him. It was not because he had any love for Jacob but because it brought back memories of when Isaacs’s servant arrived loaded with riches. Jacob arrived empty handed. With Laban having two daughters and Rebecca having two sons, they were destined for each other. The older one Esau for Leah and the younger one Jacob for Rachel. Having no money, Jacob proposed to Laban that he would work seven years for Rachel in order to marry her. Laban agreed. Then the agreement was changed by Laban. Jacob ended up marrying Rachel’s twin sister Leah and then had to agree to work another seven years for Rachel.
So, after marrying Leah and then Rachael, these twin sisters have cost Jacob fourteen years of labor. He now has several children and is financially broke. It is probably safe for him to return to his own home by now hoping that his brother who was going to kill him had cooled off a little. But he cannot return home broke with a large family to support. A deal is worked out with Laban to work more years over a complicated and ever-changing contract. A few sheep and goats are now Jacob’s and the larger number belong to Laban. With a well thought out scheme by Jacob, and six more years and contract feuds, Jacob has been blessed with many animals and plenty of money. Laban has proven himself to be what my Jewish friends would say in Yiddish, a ‘shister’. He was even worse than his reputation.
Jacob had had enough and while his father-in-law was away, he packed up his wives, servants, children, his animals and belonging and takes off for his parents’ home. When Laban finds out, he is in hot pursuit to recapture his family and he is one mad guy. He eventually catches up with them and a big argument breaks out. Jacob and Laban are opposite personalities and represent two different faiths. Laban is all about Laban and what is best for him. He has his idols and his manipulative faith in gods. Remember at the time, the world had a congestion of gods. Jacob has one…the God of Abraham and Isaac – God of heaven and earth.
Covenants, Oaths and Sacrifices
At this time in the story, we arrive at Genesis 31 where the verbal battle is going on and there are some details that I believe one could read 100 times over and miss what is happening. Laban proposes that they make a covenant. This is a custom throughout the middle east. ‘Cutting a covenant’ would be our present day ‘signing a contract’. It called for the sacrifice of an animal, the spilling of blood, and the dedication of the sacrifice to God.
Jacob is more than aware that the verbal Torah says that he should ‘have no other God before Me…sayest the Lord of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’. Jacob doesn’t argue with Laban about his many gods, but begins to pile stones in a heap as a ‘witness’ between the two of them that Jacob would not cross over this point to return to Laban to do him harm. Likewise, Laban would not cross this heap of stones to do Jacob harm.
He also says in verse 53 “May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor [grandfather of Abraham] and the Gods of their father, judge between us. [Note: my bible says God, the Hebrew says gods, knowing they had gods].
So, Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac and then he offered a sacrifice. Here is the point of this whole story and it centers right here. When the wicked Laban wanted to do a covenant which required a sacrifice, Jacob ignored him and created a stone ‘witness’ rather than a sacrifice offered by Laban.
A sacrifice to the God of Heaven and Earth will only be acceptable if offered by a believing Jew (which Laban wasn’t). It must be this way to comply with all of the dietary laws of the Torah. The sacrifice must be totally KOSHER. [Rabbi Likutei Sichot, vol. 35. page 185]
Jesus as Kosher Sacrifice
Some time had passed after reading Rabbi Sichot’s ruling when I awoke in the middle of the night and said to myself, ‘if that be true, then it was a requirement that the sacrifice of Jesus, to meet the requirements of the Torah, had to be initiated by the Jews, which it was. Whether the Jerusalem Jews of Jesus’ time realized it or not, they were instrumental in making the death of Jesus a KOSHER SACRIFICE acceptable to God in their own faith.
Jesus Observed the Sabbath Even in Death
In the middle east, sun-up and sun-down was determined with a board that had two strings along it. One was black and the other was white. When it became too dark to tell which was which, it was sun-down. In the morning, when one could see the difference, it was sunup.
Now to the issue of Jesus keeping the Torah requirements of the sabbath. He many times healed on the sabbath. But take a fresh look at the Passion Week.
When did he say, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit”? It was Friday, before sun-down, which was the beginning of the Sabbath.
When was the resurrection? It was Sunday, early morning as the sun was coming up. The day after the Sabbath.
I would argue that Jesus, the devout Jew, observed the Sabbath even unto death. Or do you think his timing was a coincidence?
If you found this post interesting, Dr. Leeds provides even greater fascination at:
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