Parashat Vayishlach (And He Sent)
Beresheet (Genesis) 32:3 (4 in the Hebrew Bible) – 36:43
Haftarah: Obadiah 1:1–21
As I wrote in my commentary last year, I was puzzled by the extreme differences between the beautiful story of reconciliation between Jacob and Esau in our Parasha and the judgment that we find on Esau (Edom) in our Haftarah. The reason for it in my opinion is partially found the end of the Parasha portion where we read:
Now this is the genealogy of Esau (that is, Edom).
What does this tell us? Well, the word "genealogy" indicates passing down through generations. I personally believe that the story of Jacob's deception of Esau was passed down to Esau’s descendants and that, as a result, we find a root of unforgiveness, pride, jealousy, struggle of acceptance and bitterness that may have passed on. In other words, a generational hatred of Jacob, and by extension, of the children of Israel, was possibly passed down through generations of Edomites.
Many people wonder about the reason for the current Israeli-Arab conflict. I personally believe that the spirit of the conflict goes all the way to the story of Jacob and Esau. I also believe that the same spirit that comes out of the root of unforgiveness, pride, jealousy, struggle of acceptance and bitterness that affected the generations that came from Esau’s genealogy, is the spirit that affects many among the nations today and, therefore, causes them to turn against Israel. Tragically that same spirit also affects those who claim to be followers of the one and only true God.
God’s judgment came on the descendants of Esau (Edom) as we read in our Haftarah:
Because of violence to your brother Jacob, shame will cover you, and you will be eliminated forever.
They were eliminated forever not only because of their violence against Jacob (Israel), but also because they stood aside when Israel suffered and did nothing to help (Obadiah 1:11–12).
Verses 15–16 of Obadaiah also indicate that, in the same way, God’s judgment will come to the nations:
For the day of the LORD is near for all the nations. Just as you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head. For just as you drank on My holy mountain, all the nations will drink continually. They will drink to the last drop, and become as if they had never existed.
What is this drinking to which the prophet Obadiah refers? I believe it could be one of two possibilities, which are actually related. The first is the "cup of reeling" of which the prophet Zechariah speaks:
Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of reeling to all the surrounding peoples when they besiege Jerusalem as well as Judah.
Just like the judgment that came to the Edomites for thinking they could eliminate the people of Israel, so will it be for the nations.
The other possibility could be the cup of God's wrath that will be poured out on the nations. The prophet Jeremiah speaks of this cup as well:
For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to me: “Take this cup of the wine of wrath from My hand and give it to all the nations to whom I send you, to drink from it. Then they will drink and loudly vomit and act insanely because of the sword that I am going to send among them.
Circling back to our Haftarah, Obadiah gives hope for those left in Jerusalem, and I believe, who are followers of Messiah Yeshua:
"But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape, and it will be holy. And the house of Jacob will inherit their inheritance. Then the house of Jacob will be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame; but the house of Esau will be like stubble. And they will set them on fire and consume them, so that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau,” For the LORD has spoken. Then those of the Negev will inherit the mountain of Esau, and those of the Shephelah the Philistine plain; also, they will inherit the territory of Ephraim and the territory of Samaria, and Benjamin the territory of Gilead.And the exiles of this army of the sons of Israel, who are among the Canaanites as far as Zarephath, and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad,will inherit the cities of the Negev.”
Dear reader, God always keeps a remnant for Himself! There will be a remnant of those who are followers of the Messiah, which should give us great hope. However, for the house of Esau, as we can see once again, there is no hope and they will be consumed in the LORD’s fire.
I would like to end with the last verse in the book of Obadiah:
The deliverers will ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, and the kingdom will be the LORD’s.
While it is translated as those who are the “deliverers” who will ascend to Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, I also believe that it can be understood to be those who have been saved that will ascend to Mount Zion, and the Kingdom will be the LORD’s.
This brings to mind some powerful verses in the Book of Revelation:
Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah; and He will reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give You thanks, Lord God, the Almighty, the One who is and who was, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.” And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder, and an earthquake, and a great hailstorm.
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