christine's bible study

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa 40:8

genesis 32:3-36:43, vayishlach, “and he sent”

Read Genesis 32:3-36:43 at Bible Gateway.

And He said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed."

Genesis 32:28

Torah portion vayishlach contains these hebrew paragraph divisions (the teaching tools of scripture explain the teaching tools of hebrew paragraph divisions and chiastic structures):

Gen 32:3-33:17 {s} Jacob renamed Israel, “Upright of El”
Gen 33:18-20 {s} Jacob acquires property in Canaan + altar of Elohiym
Gen 34:1-31 {p} Defilement with Canaanites + killing/ plunder + rebuke
Gen 35:1-8 {p} Repentance and return to the house of God (Bethel)
Gen 35:9-22 {p} Renewal of the covenant
Gen 35:23-29 {p} The seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
Gen 36:1-19 {s} The seed of Esau
Gen 36:20-30 {s} The seed of Seir
Gen 36:31-43 {s} The kings of Edom

The single chiastic structure formed by vayishlach is posted here. As I was meditating on the overarching theme of vayishlach, I realized that in the strong theme from Gen 32:3-34:31, the life of Jacob was repeating events from the lives of Abraham and Isaac, i.e., his faith in the promise of God was tested, first by fear of Esau, an obstacle to overcome in his obedience to God in returning to the land, and then by the trouble with Shechem. For I believe he was as fearful of retribution from the inhabitants of the land after Simeon and Levi killed the men of Shechem, as he was of Esau:

Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies. And he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the other company which is left will escape.” Gen 32:6-8

Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and since I am few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and kill me. I shall be destroyed, my household and I.” Gen 34:30

I believe these are two matching pairs of the chiastic structure formed by the strong theme from Gen 32:3-34:31, although I do not have it yet completed. It is proving to be quite complex. However, if the strong theme from Gen 32:3-34:31 is that Jacob’s faith in the promise is tested, then the theme of the next two strong paragraphs from Gen 35:1-22 is also that events from the life of Jacob are repeating events from the lives of Abraham and Isaac, because for his fathers, whenever their faith in the promise was tested, God followed it by a renewal or reaffirmation of the covenant and promises. And this is what we find with Jacob also.

Which brings us to Gen 35:23 to the end of the parashiot: seeds. That the strong paragraph division occurs at the end of Gen 35:29, makes a distinction between the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob on the one hand, and the seed of Esau, who is Edom, on the other hand. You might say that the theme from Gen 35:23-36:43 is the two seeds, i.e., the seed of the people of God contrasted with the seed of the people of the world. We have seen Scripture highlight this contrast beginning with Cain and Abel, the very first seed.

Gen 32:3-34:31 {s+s+p} Jacob’s faith in the promise tested (Esau + Shechem)
Gen 35:1-22 {p+p} Repentance + renewal of the covenant
Gen 35:23-29 {p} The seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
Gen 36:1-43 {s+s+s} The seed of Esau, who is Edom

I.e., The life of Jacob repeats events from the lives of Abraham/ Isaac (faith tested + covenant reaffirmed) + the two seeds. Or, Jacob/ Israel is the heir to the covenant with God, not Esau, and not Edom (not the world or the seed of the world).

For further reading: The Principle of the Seed by Brad Scott

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