this week’s portion we jump immediately into the action of Jacob’s
exciting return to the Land of Canaan. Jacob has been gone from his
homeland for some 20 odd years and is finally making the trek back as a
wealthy and esteemed individual.|
But during his journey back, the very person that forced him to flee home will be the one to confront him on his return. It was time for Jacob to “face his fears.”
At the beginning of Chapter 32, right before this portion starts, we read “Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp.” And he called the name of that place Mahanaim.”
In Hebrew, the word Mahaneh (Pronounced Machaneh) means—Camp. However, anything in Hebrew that ends with aim—pronounced eye-eem— implies “double or two.” For example, “Oz-naim” means “Ears” because we have two ears. “Ein-aim” means “Eyes” because we have two eyes. “Yerushal-aim” means Jerusalem, because we know that Jerusalem is not only a physical place but there is also a heavenly Jerusalem.
So when we read in this passage “[Jacob] called…that place Mahanaim” it means he named the place “two camps.”
Jacob encountered angels on his way and knew they were with him for him to fulfill his journey. According to Rabbeinu Bahya concerning the wording “two camps” he writes, “…meaning the camp of Yaakov and the camp of the angels. The Torah compared… similar stature, to both camps. This teaches that the righteous are as important on earth as are the angels in the celestial spheres, the function of both being to carry out the will of their Creator.”
In other words, Jacob and his entourage were just as important in fulfilling God’s will in the world as the hosts of heaven. We both (angels and mankind) were created for the purpose of carrying out the will of God.
Man was specifically created to bring God’s will into this physical realm. This is why it is important to understand this concept before diving in to this portion. We were created to accomplish the will of God by bringing connection between the physical and spiritual aspects of this world.
think that the physical side of life is in itself evil. If this were so
however, then why did God create us in the flesh? The physical aspects
of existence can actually be elevated to some of the most spiritual
experiences and/or accomplishments of life.|
Our problem is that often times our physical carnal nature is what controls our life rather than the renewed spiritual mind of Messiah we all have received when we put our faith in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2) The physical side of life is not evil when our spirit man controls it, these “two camps” we have in life were meant to compliment one another and reflect each other. The spiritual and the physical are both good when they are in unity with each other. When the “older (physical nature) serves the younger (spiritual nature).” Which is a statement we learn directly from the story of Jacob and Esau.
While Jacob prepares to meet his brother Esau there is an amazing encounter he has with some person the Bible only refers to as “a man.” It reads, “Then Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” I’ve often wondered how this wrestling match even started? When is the last time you ever wrestled a complete stranger? My last time was around 13, Jacob was around 60 here. And how did it even start? Did Jacob say “I’m depressed” so the man replied “You know, the best thing to release tension and depression is a good wrestle?” Anyway…that was definitely a rabbit trail, a fun, hare-raising experience, but a rabbit trail never the less.
Back to the story…Many Christian scholars believe this wrestling-match experience Jacob had was a “Theophany—An Appearance of God” or a “Christophany—A Manifestation of the Messiah/Christ.” But in Jewish tradition this “man” that Jacob encountered is called the “angel of Esau” otherwise known as “satan—the adversary.”
How do Christian and Jewish scholars look at the same passage and draw seemingly total opposite conclusions? And how do we reconcile these ideas?
This is a hard debate to try and walk a tightrope on. But with God’s help I hope to resolve both these arguments and say at the end…they’re both right!
First, let’s “tackle” (Pun intended) the idea that this is a manifestation of God/Yeshua wrestling with Jacob. I guess because I grew up with the idea of Yeshua interacting with Creation as the revealed physical manifestation of “God in the flesh,” I see a lot of stories in the Bible with mysterious characters that show aspects of the divine. These mysterious characters I have always connected to Yeshua revealed in creation, as with this story.
I think there is something to the idea of wrestling with God that we as humans connect to. At least, I connect to this idea! I believe God loves when we wrestle with Him. It means that we are interested. It means we desire to understand Him. It means that we want to reunite and connect to Him, even if we can’t always fully lay everything at His feet in surrender in the moment.
I think God desires people to struggle and wrestle with Him, rather than people who could really care less whether they understood God and His word. And this is exactly what we see Jacob struggling with before this wrestling match. He’s struggling to take God at His word. He says, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant…Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother…For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well…’” Jacob is wrestling to understand the promises of God, because as he wrestles with this “man” throughout the night he can’t see any good outcome to what happens when his brother Esau arrives. This is the part I think we see Jacob wrestling with God in. He wants to “take God at His word” but doesn’t see how God could make his situation work out any better.
Yet, his struggle was not one of “flesh and blood” as we all know, but it was one “against the powers, worldly forces of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” These doubts that Jacob faced weren’t of God, and his wrestling through the night could be seen as the battle we all face daily to choose to believe God.
This “man” could’ve been satan himself coming to fight against Jacob, who as a representation of righteousness in the world, was the one through whom the Messiah would come to “crush the head of the serpent.”
Here is are several things that point to the idea that this was “the angel of Esau = satan.”
In verse 24 it says a “…man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” The word here for wrestled is the word “ye’avek” which at its root is the word “avek.”
“Avek” can also be translated as “to get dusty.” Suppose this is the angel of Esau, Esau is also known as Edom. Edom is the same word in Hebrew as the name Adam whose name can mean “ground, dirt, earth or dust.” Jacob was wrestling with a man of the dust.
In the Garden of Eden, God’s curse on the serpent = satan was this, “On your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.” This gives us one clue to who this character is…Rashi in his commentary tells us though, that he thinks this word for dust is actually an Aramaic word, as he writes, “I, however, am of opinion that is means ‘he fastened himself on,’ and that it is an Aramaic word, as (Sanhedrin 63b) ‘after they have joined (?????) it’” Instead, of it being the word for dust, Rashi says it was an Aramaic word for “he fastened himself on.” What else “fastens” itself on to things? Doesn’t this sound like a serpent?
So instead of just a man, or a man of the dust, it is also a man who fastened himself onto Jacob in the sense of a wrestling match. Why? Let’s go to the next verse in Genesis 3, where God continues speaking to the serpent. He says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
Jacob’s name comes from the root word, “heel.” What this verse is really saying is that this serpent would bruise Jacob. This is what we see happen in this story. Jacob limps for the rest of his life from this encounter. But why would this serpent/man/angel of Esau/satan/adversary come after Jacob?
Because Jacob is a representation of the coming Messiah, as Balaam prophesied, “A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel.”
When dawn finally breaks, Jacob is exhausted, yet this “man” could not overcome him. Jacob is still wrestling for all he is worth. He asks for a blessing. If this is satan, Jacob’s archenemy, why is he asking for a blessing?
For this, I would like to use some of the words by Xus Casal who writes of this encounter, “… once the angel’s mission was accomplished, the angel was seen as God’s manifestation…the morning was rising and the night leaving… As Samael (satan) was defeated, Metatron (Yeshua the Messiah) was manifested.”
This is a beautiful ending. The whole night Jacob wrestled with satan, with the angel of Esau, but when the dawn broke he (Jacob) was in the arms of the Messiah.
In Revelation 22, Yeshua says “I am…the bright and morning star.” He is the star that arrives in the morning. As we read in Psalm 46, “God shall help her just at the break of dawn.” The break of dawn is when the Messiah breaks forth to bring His light to the world. When Jacob realized who was with him, he named the place “Peniel,” for he had seen God face to face.
Here are the lessons we can take away from this. The physical is not bad. We must learn to take our physical nature and as Rav Shaul (Apostle Paul) writes, “discipline [our] bod[ies] and bring [them] into subjection.” We must subject our physical nature to God’s Spirit and when this order of unity is reconciled, we are free to walk as physical beings with renewed minds and hearts. No longer fighting between the physical and the spiritual aspects of life. Instead, when we submit to God’s Spirit our life becomes aligned and in harmony with creation as God intended in the Garden of Eden.
Lastly, we may
find ourselves fighting through the night with the enemy of our souls.
Hold on! When dawn breaks we will find ourselves in the arms of Messiah!
I’m am currently in the process of writing a song called “Shachar shel Mashiach—The dawn of Messiah.” One of the lines is “His (Messiah’s) quote from the Psalms is the choice, He’s coming ‘Today, if you hear his voice.’” |
May the dawn come soon, when we see Him “Paneem el Paneem—Face to Face” and “And (when) God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Because, “Weeping may endure for a night, But joy—And the Messiah— come in the morning!”
May it be so,
There is definitely more to this portion. Please check out The Caleb Waller Show again from this past week’s Torah Tuesday, Parsha Vayishlach. Especially listen to the last 15 minutes, where I talk about the actual meeting between Jacob and Esau and how this unification of brothers still has implications for today!