Jacob is on his way back to the land of his father and he hears that Esau is coming to meet him, with 400 men! Jacob assumes that Esau is still peeved about the firstborn rights thing, so he creates three groups of animals, each group separated from the other, to be a gift to Esau in the hope that it will appease his anger.
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Jacob comes to the Jabbok River, which is by Shechem in the Jordan Rift Valley, and everyone crosses over while Jacob remains as the last one to cross, making sure everyone is safely on the other side. As night comes, he wrestles with a man until the morning, when the man (who we learn is an angel) strikes Jacob in the hip, partially disabling him. Jacob holds on and the man asks to be released, but Jacob won’t release him until he blesses Jacob. The angel gives him a new name, Israel (one who wrestled with God.)
With Esau coming, Jacob sends his gifts and splits his camp into two, leading off with the handmaidens of his wives with their children, then Leah with her children, and in the rear, Rachel and Joseph.
Esau comes and they reconcile, with Esau going back to his land (Edom) and Jacob staying behind, settling in Shechem on a plot of land he buys from Hamor, the king of Shechem.
Later, after Jacob is settled, Shechem, the son of Hamor sees Jacob’s daughter Dinah alone and rapes her. Afterward, he falls in love with her and asks his father to get her to be his wife. Jacob and all the family, especially Levi and Shimon (who are her brothers by Leah) are disgusted by this vile act, but they agree to allow Dinah to become Shechem’s wife under one condition: all the men in the city must be circumcised. Hamor convinces the men to undergo this painful and debilitating operation (they didn’t have packages of frozen peas to act as a cold compress) because then all the possessions of Jacob will be theirs. The men undergo the operation and on the third day, the most painful when they can’t even walk, Levi and Shimon attack the village and slaughter all the men, taking all their goods as booty.
Jacob is afraid the surrounding tribes will attack him for this evil act, and God tells him to go to Beth-El. On the way, Benjamin is born to Rachel, who dies in childbirth and is buried outside Bethlehem.
This parashah ends with the death of Isaac and the lineage of Esau.
So far in this book of the Torah, we know that Abraham purchased land in Hebron and that Jacob purchased land in Shechem (where, eventually, Joseph will be buried.) Did you know that these two places which are legally owned by the descendants of the Patriarchs (i.e., the Jewish people) are forbidden to Jews?
When I was in Israel in 2016, our guide told us that Jews going to the Cave of the Patriarchs was a dangerous trip, as it was surrounded by Arab towns and they have attacked Jews trying to visit the cave. As for Shechem, it is still under Arab control and here is the warning sign that is on the fence surrounding the territory:
If Jews want to visit the burial place of Joseph, they may be killed and there will be no legal action taken against the killers!
These aren’t the only places where Jews/Israeli’s are being kept from the land they legally own. The West Bank, which is really the section of Israel called Shomron (also known as Samaria) has historically been possessed by the Jewish people. Yet, the Jews that are now settled there and have built homes and cities are under attack by the Palestinian people, claiming that the land is their land and the Israeli’s are invaders!
For the record, there are no such people as the “Palestinian people”- this is a term that Yasser Arafat created and is propaganda. Before Israel was created in 1948, the North Syrian shepherds would often cross the boundary with their flocks and, after denuding the territory, return to their own country. That is the full extent of their “claim” to be inhabitants. The only “real” Palestinian people, if we want to get technical, were the Jewish people living there after the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in 73 AD and renamed Judea to Philistia (after the Philistines, the ancient enemy of the Jews.)
There was never any Arab interest in any part of the land that the Israeli’s have settled in until AFTER they were there and making the land economically feasible. There has never been a permanent Arab settlement in that part of the world. It wasn’t until after Israel was declared to be a separate state that the surrounding Arab nations made claims of ownership.
God promised that land to the descendants of Abraham, and he confirmed that promise to Isaac and Jacob. When God says something once, you can be pretty sure it will be. When he says it twice, there can be no doubt at all that it will happen that way. But if God says something three times, then you can bet your life on it! In fact, God repeats the promise to give the land to the descendants of Abraham to Moses, as well, and gives Joshua the boundary lines of each tribe and orders him to take the land from those who were already there (Joshua 15-20.)
The only way to be certain of the ownership of all the land which God promised to give to the children of Israel is to start with the belief that God exists, that he created everything in the universe, and that everything on, in, around, under, and above the earth belongs to God. When we accept that as truth, then ownership of the land cannot be contested. God gave that land to the descendants of Abraham through Isaac: this is an important point- God did not promise this land to the descendants of Ishmael but to the descendants of Isaac and Jacob. God told Moses that the all the land from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River belongs to the Children of Israel (Exodus 23:31.)
The British promised Israel almost all the land that God said we should have in their Balfour Declaration (1917) but by the time Israel actually got the land, the size was only a fraction of what had been promised to them. Yet, God has strengthened his people and they have expanded, taking back much of their ancient boundaries.
One day God will make sure that his promise is completely fulfilled, and when that day comes only those who have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah and have stood by Israel will be able to see God’s promise come to fruition.
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I wish you all Shabbat shalom, and until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch Ha Shem!