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Vayetzei -  Jacob's Dream of Messiah
Albert Houthuesen detail, 1966

Jacob's Dream of Messiah

Further thoughts on Parashat Vayetzei

by John J. Parsons
www.hebrew4christians.com

In our Torah portion this week (parashat Vayetzei), it is written that Jacob "came to a certain place and stayed there that night" (Gen. 28:11). The Hebrew text, however, indicates that Jacob did not just happen upon a random place, but rather that "he came to the place" -- vayifga bamakom (וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם). The sages therefore wondered why the Torah states bamakom, "the place," rather than b'makom, "a place"?  Moreover, the verb translated "he came" is yifga (from paga': פָּגַע), which means to encounter or to meet, suggesting that Jacob's stop was a divine appointment.

The Hebrew word makom ("place") comes from the verb kum (קוּם), meaning "to arise," and in Jewish tradition, ha-makom became a Name for God.  The early sages therefore interpreted the verse to mean that Jacob actually had his dream while in Jerusalem rather than in Bethel... Indeed, the Talmud identifies "the place" Jacob encountered as Mount Moriah - the location of the Akedah - based on the language used in Genesis 22:4: "On the third day, Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place (הַמָּקוֹם) in the distance" (Sanhedrin 95b, Chulin 91b).  If that is the case (i.e., if Jacob had been miraculously transported south from the mountains of Bet El to what would later be called Jerusalem), then Jacob's dream of the ladder would have functioned as a revelation of the coming glory of the resurrected Messiah - the Promised Seed whom Isaac foreshadowed and through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed. It was Yeshua, the Angel of the LORD, who came to "descend" (as the Son of Man) and to "rise" (as the resurrected LORD) to be our mediator before God (see John 1:47-51). Perhaps the Talmud makes the claim that Jacob's vision occurred in Jerusalem because Bethel later became the site for one of two idolatrous shrines (i.e., the golden calves at Bethel and Dan) established by King Jeroboam of the Northern Kingdom which he set up to discourage worship at Solomon's Temple in the City of Jerusalem (see 1 Kings 12:28-29).

At any rate, the Hebrew word for "intercessor" (i.e., mafgia: מַפְגִּיעַ) comes from the same verb (paga') mentioned in our verse. Yeshua is our Intercessor who makes "contact" with God on our behalf. Through His sacrifice for our redemption upon the cross (i.e., his greater Akedah), Yeshua created a meeting place (paga') between God and man.  Therefore we see the later use of paga' in Isaiah 53:6, "...the Lord laid on him (i.e., hifgia bo: הִפְגִּיעַ בּוֹ) the iniquity of us all," indicating that our sins "fell" on Yeshua as He made intercession for us (i.e., yafgia: יַפְגִּיעַ) for us (Isa. 53:12). Because of Yeshua, God touches us and we are able to touch God... And today, our resurrected LORD "ever lives to make intercession (paga') for us" (Heb. 7:25). He is still touched by our need and sinful condition (Heb. 4:15).
 

כֻּלָּנוּ כַּצּאן תָּעִינוּ אִישׁ לְדַרְכּוֹ פָּנִינוּ
וַיהוָה הִפְגִּיעַ בּוֹ אֵת עֲוֹן כֻּלָּנוּ

kul·la·nu  katz·on  ta·i·nu,  ish  le·dar·ko  pa·ni·nu
vadonai  hif·gi·a  bo,  et  a·von  kul·la·nu
 

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned each to his own way;
but the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."
(Isa. 53:6)
 

Paga' is also a term for warfare or violent meetings, and this alludes to the collision between the powers of hell and the powers of heaven in the outworking of God's plan of redemption: "... he (i.e., the Savior/Messiah) will crush your head (ראשׁ), and you (i.e., the serpent/Satan) will crush his heel (עָקֵב)."  This was the original prophecy of redemption, an encounter with evil that would provide atonement and retribution (see the "Gospel in the Garden").  Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein, the mashgiach of Ponevezh, points out that the entire future of the Jewish people hinged on the vision given to Jacob - and in Jacob's response to it.  Had he been prevented to return (i.e., through Laban's schemes to keep him in Charan), the Jewish people would have become enslaved and assimilated into the people of Aram, and ultimately the Messiah Himself would not have been born. Laban, then, embodied the desire of Satan to thwart the coming of the Promised Seed, and therefore he may be compared to Pharaoh, who likewise tried to enslave Israel in Egypt...

As I mentioned in my additional commentary on parashat Balak, Laban's worship of the serpent (nachash) led him to become one of the first enemies of the Jewish people (see "The Curses of Laban"). He tried to make Jacob a slave from the beginning, later claiming that all his descendants and possessions belonged to him (Gen. 31:43). After Jacob escaped from his clutches, Laban had a son named Beor (בְּעוֹר) who became the father of the wicked prophet Balaam (בִּלְעָם). In other words, the "cursing prophet" Balaam was none other than the grandson of diabolical Laban. Here is a diagram to help you see the relationships:


 

In Jewish tradition, Laban (the patriarch of Balaam) is regarded as even more wicked than the Pharaoh who enslaved the Jews in Egypt.  This enmity is enshrined during the Passover Seder when we recall Laban's treachery as the one who "sought to destroy our father, Jacob." Spiritually understood, Laban's hatred of Jacob (i.e., Israel) was intended to eradicate the Jewish nation at the very beginning. Had Laban succeeded, Israel would have been assimilated and disappeared from history, and more radically, God's plan for the redemption of humanity through the Promised Seed would have been overturned....

Thankfully, Jacob was enabled by God's grace to overcome Laban and to return to the Promised Land, and even more thankfully, the Messiah was able to crush the rule of Satan through His atoning sacrifice and resurrection at Moriah. Yeshua, our ascended LORD, is ha-makom - the place where we encounter the Living God....

 



Addendum:

The authority and reign of Satan has been gloriously vanquished by Yeshua our Savior, blessed be He, though there is coming a time of judgment for all who dwell upon the earth. The time immediately preceding the appearance of the Messiah will be a time of testing in which the world will undergo various forms of tribulation, called chevlei Mashiach (חֶבְלֵי הַמָּשִׁיחַ) - the "birth pangs of the Messiah" (Sanhedrin 98a; Ketubot, Bereshit Rabbah 42:4, Matt. 24:8). Some say the birth pangs are to last for 70 years, with the last 7 years being the most intense period of tribulation -- called the "Time of Jacob's Trouble" / עֵת־צָרָה הִיא לְיַעֲקב (Jer. 30:7). The climax of the "Great Tribulation" (צָרָה גְדוֹלָה) is called the great "Day of the LORD" (יוֹם־יהוה הַגָּדוֹל) which represents God's wrath poured out upon a rebellious world system. On this fateful day, the LORD will terribly shake the entire earth (Isa. 2:19) and worldwide catastrophes will occur. "For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Rev. 6:17). The prophet Malachi likewise says: "'Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,' says the LORD Almighty. 'Not a root or a branch will be left to them'" (Mal. 4:1). Only after the nations of the world have been judged will the Messianic kingdom (מַלְכוּת הָאֱלהִים) be established upon the earth. Yeshua will return to Jerusalem to establish His glorious kingdom (as foretold by the prophets) and then "all Israel will be saved."  The Jewish people will finally understand that Mashiach ben Yosef (the Suffering Servant) and Mashiach ben David (the anointed King of Israel) are one and the same... The 1,000 year reign of King Messiah will then commence (Rev. 20:4).

Presently our responsibility is to come to "the place" (ha-makom) where God's work of redemption was completed - that is, to the Cross of Yeshua.  There we turn to God in repentance (teshuvah) and consign our sins to the judgment borne for us through Yeshua's sacrifice as our kapporah (atonement). By faith we understand that the resurrected Savior is forever ha-makom, "the place" where God meets with us, and we learn to abide in His gracious Presence by means of the Holy Spirit. We cease striving to justify ourselves (i.e., by virtue of works), but instead receive God's love and Spirit into our hearts.  This means that we will study the Scriptures (truth), obey the Torah of Yeshua and His emissaries, and share the good message of God's redemption with a lost and dying world...

We are fast approaching, however, the prophesied "End of Days" (acharit hayamim), when the LORD will return to earth to "settle accounts" with its inhabitants (including those who profess to obey Him).  We do not have much more time, chaverim.  We must encourage people to call upon the LORD for salvation before it is too late...
 

כִּי־כֵן אהֵב אֱלהִים אֶת־הָעוֹלָם
עַד־אֲשֶׁר נָתַן בַּעֲדוֹ אֶת־בְּנוֹ אֶת־יְחִידוֹ
וְכָל־הַמַּאֲמִין בּוֹ לא־יאבַד
כִּי בוֹ יִמְצָא חַיֵּי עוֹלָם׃

ki-khen  o·hev  E·lo·him  et-ha·o·lam,
ad-a·sher  na·tan  ba·a·do  et-be·no  et-ye·chi·do,
ve·khol-ha·ma·a·min  bo,  lo-yo·vad
ki  vo  yim·tza  cha·yei  o·lam
 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son,
so that whoever trusts in Him should not be destroyed, but have eternal life"
(John 3:16)

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