Parashat Toldot (Offspring)
Beresheet (Genesis) 25:19–28:9
Haftarah Malachi 1:1–2:7
Something I think we tend to miss in the Scriptures is the thread of love that runs from God to generation after generation. We see this demonstrated in His relationship with the nation of Israel; despite our unfaithfulness to Him, He keeps His promises because of His love, which also extends to the nations. His ultimate act of love was the giving of His Son, Yeshua, on our behalf to reconcile us to Him for eternity.
Our Parasha this week opens with God reaffirming His choice through whom He would continue the promise of blessing made to Abraham. As we can see in the Scripture, God foretold Rebecca that one of her sons would rule over the other:
Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered Isaac; and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him, and his wife Rebekah conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people will be stronger than the other; and the older will serve the younger.”
When her days leading to the delivery were at an end, behold, there were twins in her womb. Now the first came out red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so he was named Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.
The Scripture portion continues to tell the well-known story of Jacob tricking Esau into giving the birthright to him, and the ensuing strife that resulted. In fact, Isaac's words of blessing actually reaffirm what God spoke to Rebecca:
Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and an abundance of grain and new wine; May peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you; be master of your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you.
Let's keep this in mind as we look at the Haftara portion, which once again affirms that God chose Jacob to continue the promise of blessing:
The pronouncement of the word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi: “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was Esau not Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated (שָׂנֵ֑אתִי) Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and given his inheritance to the jackals of the wilderness.”
Malachi 1:1–3 (emphasis mine)
As I wrote in previous commentaries, most Bible translations translate the Hebrew word “שָׂנֵאתִי” (saneti) as "I hated". However, in a deeper search of that word, I found that it can also mean "to change" or "not to choose". This sheds light on what can be a difficult scripture verse for many people. Instead of hating Esau, it is entirely possible that God simply changed the right of the first-born and did not choose Esau to fulfill this role, but instead chose Jacob to receive the inheritance, both literally and figuratively.
So what does this have to do with God's love? The verses from Malachi 1:1–3 remind us that God chose Jacob, who became "Israel", because of His love for him, and the people that he would father. While this may be difficult for us to grasp, it is a love based on everlasting grace and faithfulness.
Yet, the people of Israel did not remain faithful to God despite His love and grace to them. We see this in the verses that follow:
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the LORD of armies — "you, the priests who despise My name! But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?”
Israel failed to honor and respect God. Even the priests, the ones who were charged with spiritually guiding the people of Israel in God's ways, failed to show honor to God. God strongly rebukes the people, including the priests, in Malachi 1:7–2:3. Yet, even in this rebuke, we see that God graciously provides a way for the people to turn from their evil ways:
“Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, so that My covenant may continue with Levi,” says the LORD of armies. “My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and was in awe of My name. True instruction was in his mouth and injustice was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and justice, and he turned many back from wrongdoing. For the lips of a priest should maintain knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of armies.”
It is amazing to see God’s incredible plan unfold in the Scriptures. Out of His love, He chose Jacob to carry the promised line, despite the fact that He knew Israel would rebel against Him. Yet, because of His endless love and grace, He gave them a Levi — a Priest — a leader of life and peace, who will do the Father's will, who will walk with Him in peace and justice, and who will return many back from their wrongdoing; those words clearly point to Yeshua our Messiah!
I would like to close with words of exhortation for all of us. In 2 Cor 6:1–2 we read:
And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain—for He says, “At a favorable time I listened to you, and on a day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is “a favorable time,” behold, now is “a day of salvation”
God's love is precious. Because of His love, we receive His amazing grace. Let’s not take that love or grace in vain; let’s learn from the mistakes of those who came before us, and not turn our backs to God. Rather, let's follow in the footsteps of "Levi", our High Priest (Hebrews 8), Messiah Yeshua, as we walk in the ways of the LORD, not because we have to, but because His endless love and grace compels us to.
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