Next Shabbat I have the pleasure of teaching the Portion at the fellowship we are currently attending, so this morning I was reading ahead and pondering anew Vayishlach. While there are several terrific pieces I plan to study as I prepare, verse 35:1 reminded me of a post I put on here about two weeks ago, “Ya’acov saw Elohim (God) face to face…” It is a passage that affirms Ya’acov’s very personal encounter with the Living One.
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֔ב ק֛וּם עֲלֵ֥ה בֵֽית־אֵ֖ל וְשֶׁב־שָׁ֑ם וַעֲשֵׂה־שָׁ֣ם מִזְבֵּ֔חַ לָאֵל֙ הַנִּרְאֶ֣ה אֵלֶ֔יךָ בְּבָרְחֲךָ֔ מִפְּנֵ֖י עֵשָׂ֥ו אָחִֽיךָ׃
As we did before, here is the Schottenstein Interlinear Chumash‘s rendering,
35:1 God said > to – Jacob >> Arise > -go up > [to] Beth-el > and dwell > there >> and make > there > an altar > to the God > Who appeared > to you > when you fled > from > Esau > your brother. (Capitalized ‘Who’ is their emphasis)
The Schottenstein note on this verse is as follows:
1. לָאֵל֙ הַנִּרְאֶ֣ה אֵלֶ֔יךָ – To the God Who appeared to you. When Jacob fled from Esau’s death threat, God had appeared to him at Beth-el and promised to protect him (28:10-15). Now, he would thank God for having done so, just as one who is saved from disaster blesses God for performing a miracle on his behalf (Sforno).
The Name of God [ אֵל֙ ] indicates a boundless degree of mercy, surpassing even that indicated by the Tetragrammaton (Gur Aryeh, Exodus 34:6).
Underlining, above, is mine. And, just as we saw in another previous post concerning Yehovah’s appearance to Abraham, there is no explanation, no tap-dancing or avoidance of the simple stark reality: God, in a very real way, appeared to Ya’acov!
Now, the astute student will ask the question, “when did God appear to Ya’acov?” Good question which might seem to squash this idea of a physical manifestation, so let’s take a look.
We know that Yehovah has appeared previously in a very physical way to both Avraham and to Ya’acov from previously linked studies, however, this passage is not referring to one of those. Rather, because in this Genesis 35:1-7 passage we see Ya’acov fulfilling a vow, we need to identify the time, place and circumstances of the vow. Genesis 28:10-17 has the recounting of the original encounter. Here, first from the NASB, then a coupe thoughts…
10 Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 He [a]came to [b]a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it [c]under his head, and lay down in that place. 12 He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And behold, the Lord stood [d]above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your [e]descendants. 14 Your [f]descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will [g]spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your [h]descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have [i]promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
Clearly, from the text. Ya’acov has a dream and in the dream Yehovah makes some specific promises and reminders of previous covenant promises. As Rabbi Shapira, in the previous post, demonstrates, the ladder is Yeshua. The NASB rendering for the place of Yehovah in this dream or event is not very clear. The translators use the very safe phrase “The Lord stood above it…” The Hebrew offers a broader selection of options from which the Schottenstein renders the same phrase “And then Hashem was standing over him…”
The picture painted does not seem to be Yehovah standing at the top of the ladder if we understand the ‘him’ to be Ya’acov. Rather, it sounds as if Yehovah is physically standing directly over Ya’acov making this covenant promise as Ya’acov dreams seeing the angels ascending and descending.
Another possible, though tougher, idea is that the ‘him’ is Yeshua, the ladder and thus Yehovah is standing beside Yeshua…. Hmmm…
Never-the-less, what we do see in this account is Ya’acov having an encounter with the living God and seeing Him in such a way that when he meets Him later for a wrestling match, Ya’acov knows exactly who he is tussling with! Fascinating.
What we do know is that when Ya’acov awakes, he acknowledges the presence of God ‘in this place,’ not ‘in my dream.’ Interesting!
MUCH more in this passage, but I find the nature of the encounter, one of several Ya’acov had with God, to be fascinating.