Watch Parasha Vayishelach 2023: Faith Through Trials!
B’reisheet (Genesis) 32:3-36:43, Hoshea (Hoseah) 11-2, Obadiah 1, Yochanan (John) 1-2
Shalom and welcome to this week’s “Parasha Vayishelach”. I am your host, Ulices Rodriguez. And if you have ever wondered how the Patriarchs handled themselves in times of great distress and trials, look no further than here. It is in this parasha where we will break down and examine how the men and women of Scripture handled themselves through their trials and how their experiences are no different than ours today in certain aspects.
King Sholmo said in Qohelet 1:9, “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun”.
Qohelet (Ecclesiastes) 1:9
9 “That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.”
As we will come to see, the way we handle trials, temptations, and distress have always been the same throughout history. The trials and temptations that we face today are the same type of trials and temptations that our forefathers were faced with. The way Ya’akov responded in his trials is the same way many of us respond in our own trials in many aspects. The way that Shimon and Levy responded to their sister’s humiliation is the same way that many of us respond when a loved one is harmed.
Timotheus Bet (2 Timothy) 3:16
16 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
If we keep this in mind while we are reading through the stories lined out in B’reisheet and numerous other parts of Scripture, we can better understand and relate to the Patriarchs in Scripture. We can better understand and relate to Elohim according to our proper place in Scripture. Because Scripture is a composition of multiple stories over a period of several thousand years about one greater overall story about mankind and their failure to be faithful to Elohim. Yet in spite of this, Yahweh Elohim has always been faithful, and He has always been true to His creation.
Stories of Shimon and Levy avenging their sister is not the first nor the last time something like this will happen in mankind’s history here on earth. Stories about Ya’akov and Esau are common and have happened to numerous people around the globe. What I like to say is that when we read Scripture, if we cannot self-identify as the one who can betray the Son of Man with the kiss, then we are not at the correct place within our mind and our heart to even begin to understand the great love that Elohim has for us. We only fool ourselves with our proud and arrogant heart.
So please join me as we study Yahweh’s word and as we learn about our own nature from the examples of the men and women in Scripture.
As we begin in our Torah portion this week starting off in B’reisheet chapter 32, we will read and discuss Ya’akov and Esau’s interaction and how it is that Ya’akov demonstrated great faith in Yahweh. We know from the previous chapters that the messenger of Elohim whom we know is Yeshua told Ya’akov in a dream to leave Lavan’s home and to go back to the land of his family.
We also know the entire reason why Ya’akov went to the land Haran was because Ya’akov cheated Esau out of the blessing from Yitzak as well as wagering the birthright blessing away from Esau.
Understandably, this would make Esau upset with his younger brother. In fact, he was so upset that he vowed to kill Ya’akov after Yitzak would die. However, is this hate and anger towards Ya’akov a righteous thing or something that Esau is lashing out against his brother because of his own failings?
Scripture says that Esau despised his birthright when he traded his birthright blessing for a bowl of soup. How many of us have found ourselves in the same shoes as Esau where we hate our brother or sister who has been blessed more than we have been blessed with because we despise the work of the Kingdom? We have come up short and have not given our best effort towards Yahweh.
In all actuality, that is what Esau did. He was the eldest of the twins and (naturally speaking), he was supposed to step up and lead the family after Yitzak’s passing. Yet, Esau so easily and quickly traded that responsibility to please the desires of his flesh in the same way that Re’uben abdicated his birthright blessing because he had relations with his father’s servant to wife Bilhah. Re’uben knew what the right thing to do was, yet he chose to please his flesh.
How many of us today in the body of Messiah claim to love Yeshua and to be His disciples, yet we have abdicated or despised His kingdom work in favor of living our life, in the flesh, in the world?
Scripture is clear that there will be many who call in the name of Yeshua and He will say to them, “Depart from Me for I never knew you.”
Mattityahu (Matthew) 7:23
23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”
There are many out there (in the body of Messiah) who secretly hate their brother and sisters in the faith. Simply because they are not blessed the same. And because they fail to acknowledge their own shortcomings and they seek to lash out and fight with their brother or sister. If we are one of those members who has hate in our heart the same way that Esau or Cain did, then we are way off base.
One reason is that we cannot hate our brother and claim to have the love of Elohim. Those two just cannot coexist. Secondly, Esau has no one to blame but himself in many aspects. Instead of seeking Yahweh in His will, instead of living a life sold out for Him, Esau chose to live a life for himself and then was upset when he did not receive his blessings that really only belonged to those who truly love Yahweh.
Many brothers and sisters live the same way today. They want the blessings that come down from heaven but do not want to have the commitment, love, and dedication to Elohim to receive them. Many men and women behave as Esau did where they want to be friends with the world. Then when they want something from Elohim and when he does not answer their prayers because they pray incorrectly, they get upset with Elohim.
What sense does this make? They want to be a part of the world and claim to love Yahweh, but again this is just not possible because fellowship or friendship with the world makes you an enemy of Elohim.
Ya’akov (James) 4:4
4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with Elohim? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of Elohim.
We can see the stark difference between men like Esau and Ya’akov, especially in the way that Ya’akov prays to Yahweh about him returning back to the land of his family to meet up with his brother Esau.
Scripture says that Ya’akov was greatly afraid and distressed to meet his brother Esau. In his prayer to Yahweh, Ya’akov says:
B’reisheet (Genesis) 32:9-12
9 “Then Jacob said, “O Elohim of my father Abraham and Elohim of my father Isaac, Yahweh who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’:
10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies.
11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children.
12 For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude’.”
It is in this prayer where Ya’akov is humble. Ya’akov understood that he did not deserve all that he was blessed with. He understood that he has not always behaved in an honorable fashion. He also understands that he is no match for his brother Esau. Esau was a warrior and a skilled hunter. He was a man who was passionate and took charge. He was likely brash, cocky, and arrogant, whereas Ya’akov was meek and humble. He preferred the quiet life and naturally, to compete against his brother, he has to use clever deception. But in this prayer, Ya’akov understands that the only way to overcome adversity is not by his own strength but through Yahweh. “For when we are weak, he is strong.”
This sort of strength and faith in Elohim is demonstrated with Ya’akov wrestling with Yeshua. When Yeshua noticed that he did not prevail against Ya’akov, He put Ya’akov’s hip out of joint. Even after all this, Ya’akov refused to let go until he was blessed by Yeshua. Because he wrestled and prevailed, his name was changed to Israel which means Elohim contended or Elohim strives. Because Ya’akov struggled with Elohim and with men and has prevailed. How many of us wrestle with Elohim and with our flesh in this manner?
The way I interpret the story of Ya’akov wrestling with Elohim is that of one who wrestles with Elohim against his own flesh. A similar principle I think pertains to this story as found in the Brit Chadasha when Yeshua says that “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me”.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 16:24
24 “Then Yeshua said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
Ya’akov had to first deny himself in his prayer to Yahweh, acknowledge his own shortcomings, and present himself as a humble servant. He took up his cross by wrestling with Elohim even after his hip was blown out of socket in order to overcome his own fear of confronting his brother. Ya’akov chose to follow Yeshua when he said, “I will not let go unless you bless me!”.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 32:26
26 “And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.”
But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”
Are we willing to wrestle with Elohim against our own flesh to have the same level of dedication that Ya’akov had? It is Elohim who gives us strength. And so in a very practical sense, when we literally wrestle with Elohim just as Ya’akov did, we are strengthened by that wrestling match. Which then gives us the strength to overcome our own flesh and the trials in our lives.
It was not a fun or comfortable match for Ya’akov as his hip was blown out of socket. Yet, he chose to continue to wrestle. He chose to persevere. Just like it is not fun or comfortable to go to war against our flesh with Elohim. Yet, if we persevered through the war and even though our flesh may be injured, the blessing is well worth the pain it took to get it. That is really the difference between the unrighteous and righteous men and women of Scripture. Are you willing to go through the pain to be one of Yeshua’s disciples?
As we move on to the story of Dinah and her brother Shimon and Levy in that whole ordeal, it is very important to understand certain specifics.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 34:1-2
1 “Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Ya’akov, went out to see the daughters of the land.
2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her.”
When we first read this, we might initially think to ourselves rape. This was certainly my first thought for a while, but something just did not seem right. Now when I read this in conjunction with verse 3 that says, “His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Ya’akov, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman”.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 34:3
His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman.”
I now think of two young people who had attraction to each other and ended up having relations when they should not have. The question we should ask ourselves is, how would a daughter of Ya’akov find herself in a situation like this?
In verse 1 when we read that Dinah “went out to see the daughters of the land”. This could mean a number of things. Personally, I think that Dinah was curious to see how it is that the women of the world lived their lives in contrast to how the women of the faith lived their lives. As she wandered about, she met Shechem who was a prince. And by nature (because of his stature or place amongst the people of the land) this probably made him an attractive person. One thing led to another and the two probably hit it off and found themselves doing things that unmarried people should not be doing.
This leads us to the second verse where it speaks about how Dinah was violated. However, the Hebrew word used here is Strong’s Hebrews 6031 which is Anah which means to be defiled. Which I think is a better translation than violated. And it provides a better understanding of the overall story and even a better understanding of why Shimon and Levy did what they did.
A primitive root: to depress literally or figuratively. transitively or intransitively (in various applications) (sing is by mistake for H6030): – abase self, afflict (-ion, self), answer [by mistake for H6030], chasten self, deal hardly with, defile, exercise, force, gentleness, humble (self), hurt, ravish, sing [by mistake for H6030), speak [by mistake for H6030), submit self, weaken, X in any wise.
[Strong’s Concordance H6031]
It seems that Dinah was curious of what life was like beyond the borders of her tribe and family and wanted to experience what life was like outside of that. Even if it is an innocent curiosity and not flat-out rebellion, there are still real dangers in this, as we can see. In my opinion, she had a real curiosity, and it was from a place of ignorance and innocence. Yet, one thing led to another, and she ended up defiled. Because she was having relations with the man who is not only not a part of the faith, but the two were unmarried. This is exactly how the enemy gets us today.
It is one thing if there is flat out rebellion and refusal to submit to Yahweh’s authority. And then it is an entirely different thing if we choose to step outside of Yahweh’s covering in a genuine and innocent curiosity. That is just as dangerous because that is also where the enemy can place stumbling blocks in front of us that would lead and cause us to fall into sin. The safest place to be is inside of Yahweh’s will. The safest place to be is under Yahweh’s covering.
In Kepha’s letter where he says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”.
Kepha Aleph (1 Peter) 5:8
8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
I think this verse applies perfectly to this situation. Scripture does not say this, but I am sure Dinah did not set out with the intention to become defiled by sleeping with a man before marriage; let alone with the man who is not a part of the faith. We can see that if we are not sober and vigilant, the Devil comes in like a lion seeking to devour and to destroy, which is what he did in this particular case with Dinah.
The situation only continues to spiral further out of control. Because after this, Shechem falls in love with Dinah. He goes to his father Hamor to go and ask Ya’akov for Dinah’s hand in marriage.
You have to imagine the situation here and what this must look and feel like for Ya’akov. I am sure Ya’akov is not pleased, but I think he handles himself well. For the men and women of the world, sex before marriage is a common and acceptable practice, but for those of us who are part of the body of Mashiach, this sort of sin should not be found among us. This is part of what it looks like to live set-apart. I am sure that all this is running through Ya’akov mind. Yet Scripture says that “he held his peace until his sons came in from the field”.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 34:5
5 “And Ya’akov heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter. Now his sons were with his livestock in the field; so Ya’akov held his peace until they came.”
Ya’akov seems like a man who is well calculated and reserved. Not being quick to speak in anger or out of emotion, but eager to listen and seek Yahweh’s perfect resolution to a messy situation. Whereas Ya’akov’s sons came in from the field grieved and very angry, over what has happened to their sister.
7 “And the sons of Ya’akov came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved and very angry, because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Ya’akov’s daughter, a thing which ought not to be done.”
Understandably so. But let us not forget that this is not rape. They were two consenting adults who engaged in an act that was less than desirable and honorable given the circumstances. So it is understandable that Dinah’s brothers would be upset and angry.
However, I do not think it is wise on their part to be upset to this degree. The sort of anger that Dinah’s brothers have implies that they are placing all the blame on Shechem and not on Dinah as well. This is not healthy for anyone because now they are just pointing the finger instead of seeking a peaceful and wholesome resolution for all. In this case when Yeshua says, “How can you say to your brother, brother let me remove the speck that is in your eye when you yourself did not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”
Luqa (Luke) 6:42
42 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”
This verse applies perfectly to this situation because Hamor tried to reason with Dinah’s brothers by saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him as a wife.”
B’reisheet (Genesis) 34:8
8 “But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him as a wife.”
With this statement, you can see that Hamor is trying to do the right thing and seek a marriage to restore Dinah’s defilement as best as they can or as best as they know how to do. But Dinah’s brothers are not having any of it.
How many of us in the body of Mashiach behave this exact way when a member of our family or a close friend is just as guilty as the other party in whatever sinful act they were a part of? Yet we turn a blind eye because we are closer in relationship to them and not the other person. Just as bad, how many of us turn a blind eye to our own sin while still trying to highlight the sin of others?
As I said earlier, the situation continues to get worse and muddier. Because eventually, Dinah’s brothers acquiesce to Hamor’s proposal, but are deceitful. The intention is that after Hamor, Shechem, and the rest of the men of the city are circumcised, they plan to go and kill all the males while they are in pain and cannot defend themselves. This is exactly what has happened, which complicates the situation even more.
Scripture says that Shechem did not hesitate to circumcise himself because he delighted in Ya’akov’s daughter and that Shechem was more honorable than all the household of his father. Implying that Hamor and the men in the city were not honorable people but at least Shechem was trying to do the honorable thing.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 34:19
19 “So the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he delighted in Jacob’s daughter. He was more honorable than all the household of his father.”
Maybe Dinah also delighted in Shechem as well. I do not really know for sure. Scripture does not say, but we can see how the men of Hamor were not honorable men because of their reason for circumcising themselves. They were doing it not to be in right relationship with Elohim by joining themselves to Ya’akov and his tribe, but to steal everything they had and claim it for themselves.
In one sense they had it coming when Shimon and Levy plundered and killed all the men of the city including Hamor and Shechem. However, Ya’akov was upset with this action because at the end of the day, did anyone in the whole ordeal stop to ask what Yahweh wanted to do? Did anyone stop and ask what is Yahweh’s will in this matter? Scripture does not say that anyone did not do this, but it also does not say that they did do this.
I think this whole chapter is a lesson in how when we seek to do things our own way, we can make a huge mess of our lives. Dinah just wanted to see what life was like outside of her family and tribe, but she got burned playing with the fire. This is very much like believers today who either purposely, innocently, or ignorantly flirt with sin and end up getting burned by the metaphorical fires of sin. From there, it just unleashes a whole chain of events that could have been prevented had we not even flirted with sin to begin with. Dinah’s choice to go see the women of the land led to her being picked up by Shechem.
Maybe Shechem was a wordsmith and led Dinah to do something that she otherwise would not have normally done under the ideal circumstances which in turn led to Dinah’s brothers becoming upset. They chose to handle it in their own way instead of seeking Yahweh’s resolution in the matter. This is exactly why Yahweh says, “Vengeance belongs to Him and He will repay”.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 32:35
35 “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them.”
This is also why Shaul writes in Romim, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says Yahweh.”
Romim (Romans) 12:19
19 “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says Yahweh.”
We do not know this for sure, but had Shimon and Levy not killed Hamor, Shechem and the men of the city could have all genuinely converted over to the faith. And thus a peaceful and better resolution would have been met instead of one of violence, greed, anger, and hatred.
As we continue on, we see that Ya’akov feared that his son’s actions would lead to their demise, and understandably so. Ya’akov feared that his son’s violent actions would cause the men among the Canaanites and the Perizzites, to gather themselves together and rise up against Ya’akov and his family and slaughter them. There is some truth to that way of thinking because Yeshua told Kepha when he was being arrested, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take up the sword will perish by the sword”.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 26:52
52 “But Yeshua said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
Just as easily as Shimon and Levy took up arms against Hamor and the men of his city, the Canaanites and the Perizzites could have done the same to Ya’akov and his family. But praise Yahweh for His divine protection. We read in chapter 35 when they were instructed to leave by Elohim that, “As they journeyed, the terror of Elohim was upon the cities that were all around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Ya’akov“.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 35:5
5 “And they journeyed, and the terror of Elohim was upon the cities that were all around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Ya’akov.”
Again, praise Yah for His divine protection that even when we slip up and make mistakes, He is still faithful. Even when we make a mess of our lives and it seems that there is no way out, He provides a way. Even when we have been fooled and lied to by the enemy and cannot seem to find our way around in the dark, He is the shining Light that leads us out of the darkness to Him who is the truth.
We can see that idolatry was something that was popular among our forefathers even early on because Ya’akov had to instruct his household to get rid of all the foreign elohim among them. And to purify themselves and change their garments.
How many of us do this today? There may not be a physical statue that we idolize. But it may be a certain person, place, or thing, or even a certain status in life, or a feeling. In my opinion, foreign elohim are just physical representations of that. With some idols being the representations of fertility, and others being the representations for beauty, the sun, justice, motherhood, war, happiness, peace, and countless other things. The point is, when we pray specifically about those things or when we focus too much on those kinds of things in our prayers, then it just comes between us and Yahweh. That is how we end up with idols in our lives.
For example, someone may desire peace and happiness so much that they pray continuously for peace and happiness, but is their form of peace and happiness the same as Yahweh’s?
One must ask themselves, am I praying that Yahweh’s will be done or am I praying that my own will be done? Some might idolize their spouses and desire that their spouse is conformed to the certain image they have for them in their head. We know that no human can be perfect and so our peace and joy should not be found in our spouse, but in the one who gave them to us.
There are many good things to desire. But if we desire the gift or the blessing more than the one who gave the gift or the blessing, then we have created an idol in our life. In the eyes of Yahweh Elohim, idolatry is spiritual adultery and Yahweh absolutely hates idolatry. He is the one who gives life and takes life away. He is the one who blesses and curses. He is the Aleph and the Tav. Everything that has come to be is through Him. If we seek to give credit to anything other than Him, then it is understandable that He would be upset with us.
So I ask everyone, do you have idols in your life that need to be crushed? Are you going through trials and temptations in your life, and you do not know how to overcome them? Focus on Elohim. Focus on Yeshua. You can do all things through Mashiach who strengthens you.