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MATTHEW 13:44


CHAPTER VI

    Esau, thinking that his father, Isaac, could not live much longer, made plans to kill his brother, Jacob, at the time of his father's funeral. (Genesis 27:41). But Rebecca was told of Esau's plan, and sending immediately for her younger son, said to him:

"Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban, my brother, to Haran; and tarry with him a few days, until thy brother's fury turn away; until thy brother's anger turn away from thee and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then will I send and fetch thee from thence. Why should I be deprived also of you both in one day? And Rebecca said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?" (Genesis 27:42-46)

    Rebecca saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: she wished Jacob to avoid the same mistake that her son Esau had made in marrying the daughters of Heth, the native Negroid women of the locality; and at the same time she wanted to remove Jacob from danger. She must have promptly convinced her husband also, for Isaac recognized the wisdom of his wife's plan and

" . . . called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan-Aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother. And the Almighty El bless thee and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; and give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which Elohim gave unto Abraham." (Genesis 28 :1-4)

    Having been thus doubly instructed, Jacob set upon his journey from Beer-Sheba to Haran.

"And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place and put them for his pillows and laid down in that place to sleep." (Genesis 28:11)

    In these days of box springs, airfoam rubber mattresses, and down pillows, a good many of us may have been puzzled by the statement that Jacob used stones for his pillows. But this is merely lack of information on our part. In some places in the world today, this practice still prevails. In warm countries where nomadic peoples sleep outdoors, it is not unusual for them to gather small piles of smooth flat stones to place under the head.

    As Jacob slept, he had a vivid dream in which a ladder was set up on the earth and the top of it reached to heaven. Angels were ascending and descending. And above it, Yahweh stood and said:

"I am Yahweh, the Elohim of Abraham thy father and the Elohim of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth and thou shalt spread abroad to the West, and to the East, and to the North, and to the South: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And behold I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of."
(Genesis 28:13-15)

Jacob awoke and was frightened, and said,

"Surely Yahweh is in this place and I knew it not —  How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the House of Elohim and this is the gate of heaven." (Genesis 28:17)

    Here Jacob is given direct confirmation from Yahweh that he is to inherit the promises made to Abraham. The vision of angels ascending and descending the ladder between Yahweh and Jacob indicates a direct channel of communication and blessing. The same language is used by the Messiah in John 1:51. Not only had Jacob experienced a startling vision, but it seems that a very strange thing had occurred: the stones which he had placed for his pillows had become, while he slept, a single stone. Interpreting this as a very important and significant phenomenon, Jacob took the olive oil which he carried as part of his rations (for the same reason we employ butter or "oleo" today) and used it to anoint the rock. And he called the place "Beth-El" (House or Place of El).

    This awe-inspiring stone, or rock, holds a very important position in Scripture. It is mentioned time and time again, though the casual reader of the Scriptures is almost certain to miss the deep significance of its symbolism. "Stone" in Hebrew is Eben or Aben. Its first letter aleph, is pronounced either as "e" or as "a", and here results in a play on words. For Ab, in Hebrew, is "Father"; Ben is "son"; and Aben (stone) is "Father-Son". It is the same word used by the prophet to foretell the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on the Earth,

"Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation, a Stone, a tried Stone . . . " (Isaiah 28:16)

    Old and New Testaments are in perfect harmony in using the symbolism of the Stone or Rock to represent the Creator and His Son, as may be observed, for example, in the second chapter of I Peter. Again in the 10th Chapter of I Corinthians we read,

". . . they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was the Messiah". (I Cor. 10:4)

This was the Rock of which Yahweh spoke symbolically to Moses when He said,

"Speak ye unto the Rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the Rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink ." ( Numbers 20 :8)

But Moses smote the Rock twice and failed to show the proper attitude of reverence. And although water gushed forth, Moses was punished (Numbers 20:12 and 27:14) for failure to sanctify Him. Various other Hebrew words in addition to Aben are used metaphorically to represent Yahweh as a "Mighty Fortress", a "Stone", or a "Rock". For instance,

"He is the Rock (Tsur), His work is perfect." (Deut. 32:4)

"Thou art my Rock (Cela) and my Fortress." (Ps. 71:3)

    But let us return to Jacob and the words which were still ringing in his ears, "I am Yahweh, the Elohim of Abraham, and the Elohim of Isaac; the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed." Do you wonder why there is strife in Palestine today? Esau's descendants (Arabs) insist upon remaining there, while both the Jewish and non-Jewish descendants of Jacob insist on evicting them in order to repossess this deeded property which Elohim has conveyed to them forever.

    Some have contended that the descendants of Jacob have forfeited the land by disobedience. But such a contention overlooks the unconditional nature of the deed given by Yahweh. Elohim did say, however (Levit. 26), that He would punish Jacob's descendants for their disobedience seven "times" or, by the traditional method of interpretation, 7 x 360 = 2520 years, scattering them abroad. This period is now past, having begun with the exile of the Jews in 606 B.C. and ended in 1918 with the arrival of the British General Allenby's army in Jerusalem. This event, coupled with the Balfour Declaration encouraging the return of the Jews to their Homeland, marked the end of their exile. From 606 B.C. to 1918 A.D. was exactly 2520 years. In order to compute this, it is necessary to add 4 years to compensate for the period by which the Gregorian calendar is in error. Thus, 2520—606 (B.C.) = 1914 + 4 or 1918 (A.D.). Since 1918, the movement toward the restoration of the Jews has been greatly accelerated and while it may appear slow to us. this is because of our limited perspective. Actually, considering that the exile lasted over twenty-five centuries, the progress since 1918 is truly awe-inspiring. Yahweh is not fickle and He cannot lie. The deed to the land is still in force, and soon the Jews will be in full possession, as foretold by the prophet, Obadiah.

    Not only did Yahweh promise Jacob this land, but He promised also to multiply his seed to a great multitude, "as the dust of the earth". They were to spread east, west, north, and south, and through them Elohim would bless all the families of the earth. In recognition of Yahweh's interest in him, Jacob not only anointed the stone with oil, but promised that on his return from the prosperous journey which he anticipated, the place marked by this stone was to become "Yahweh's House", and to the House Jacob dedicated the tithe of all his income. Paying of the tithe, or "tenth' was an old, established custom. It will be recalled for instance that Jacob's grandfather, many years before, paid his tithe to Melchizedek after the Battle of the Kings (Genesis 14:20).

    Having thus recognized his relationship with Yahweh's work, Jacob continued on his journey, heading eastward to the land of his uncle, Laban. As he drew near to a well, he met his cousin, Rachel, who had brought her father's flock for water. Jacob introduced himself and Rachel hurried home to tell her father that he had a visitor. Laban then came to greet and welcome his nephew.

    Laban soon found that Jacob was a good worker and suggested that he remain and work for him: and he asked what wages Jacob would require. Jacob replied:

"I will serve thee seven years for Rachel, thy younger daughter" Laban considered this an excellent bargain and he said: "It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man; abide with me." So Jacob worked seven years for Rachel. "And they seemed unto him but a few days for the love he had for her." (Genesis 29:19-20).

But when the seven years were ended and Jacob demanded his reward he was forced to learn the meaning of deception. For as he had once deceived his father by pretending to be Esau; so now Jacob was deceived by Laban who substituted his older, less attractive, daughter in place of Rachel whom Jacob loved. Jacob did not discover until after the marriage that it was Leah whom he had wed. To Jacob's remonstrances Laban replied with the excuse, "It must not be so done in our country to give the younger before the first born." Laban then went on to suggest that Jacob could have Rachel also by working another seven years and Jacob did so. (Genesis 29:26-28).

    During the second seven years Jacob became the father of eleven sons and one daughter, Dinah. When his contract expired he decided to leave his employer and said,

"Give me my wives and children for whom I have served thee and let me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee."

    But Laban was anxious to extend their working arrangement which had caused his herds and flocks to increase many fold under Jacob's skillful care. And he said, "I have learned by experience that Elohim has blessed me for thy sake." (Genesis 30:27) Jacob's wage demands were simple: He agreed to continue his employment in exchange for the spotted, striped, and odd-colored goats from Laban's flocks. This seemed a modest request.

    When Jacob had arrived 14 years before, Laban had a small flock which his daughter, Rachel, was able to tend. Now Laban's flocks had increased to huge proportions, requiring the attention of his own sons, and numerous servants, besides Jacob and his eleven sons.

    But the new agreement worked to the advantage of Jacob who had been cheated and deceived by his uncle on ten occasions. (Genesis 31:7 and 41). Jacob was an expert in animal husbandry and may have been well aware of what would happen. In any event, Yahweh, who judges righteously saw the injustice practiced on Jacob and paid him the back wages he deserved, and more besides. It is extremely doubtful that Jacob's use of the striped rods of green poplar, hazel, and chestnut had anything to do with making the cattle ring-streaked and spotted. Rather, it was that the cry of those who have toiled without pay reaches the ears of Yahweh Sabaoth. (James 5:4)

    When Laban's sons observed that Jacobs flock had increased and their father's had decreased, they began to complain. Laban himself showed displeasure at the turn of affairs.

"And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and behold it was not toward him as before.'' (Genesis 31:2)

    Jacob had not agreed to remain for any specific period of time, and when the relationship with his in-laws became strained, he began to think about leaving. In answer to Jacob's prayers Yahweh said to him,

"Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee" (Genesis 31:3)

    After Jacob consulted his wives, his mind was fully made up. They agreed that their father had not dealt fairly with him, and they encouraged him to carry out Yahweh's instructions.

Jacob and his family waited until Laban was away on a sheep-shearing trip.

"Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels; and he carried away all his cattle, and all his goods which he had gotten, the cattle of his getting, which he had gotten in Padan-Aram, for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan." (Genesis 31:17-18)

    But the news reached Laban and he followed in pursuit of his son-in-law. For seven days he followed before overtaking him at Mt. Gilead. But the night before Laban caught up with Jacob

"Elohim came to Laban the Syrian in a dream and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad." (Genesis 31:24)

    Consequently, Laban's language was milder and more subdued than he originally had intended. They both rehearsed their grievances and Laban proposed an agreement:

"Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee." (Genesis 31:44)

    And they made a heap of stones and took an oath upon it not to pass over this boundary "for harm". Laban said, "This heap (Galeed) is a witness between thee and me this day. Therefore was the name of it called 'Galeed'; and 'Mizpah' (watchtower)- for he said, Yahweh watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another." (Genesis 31:48-49)

These two men were such sly, crafty, and deceitful characters that they dared not trust each other and therefore felt the need of calling upon the Almighty to keep watch for them at the "watch-tower" to see that one would not cheat the other. They were virtually saying to one another, "May Yahweh keep your hands out of my pockets when my back is turned". What a hypocritical ending of a contest to get the better of each other!

    This is the famous "Mizpah Benediction" used at the close of many church services today. And what a different connotation is now placed upon it!

 

CHAPTER VII


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