This Sabbath the reading of the Torah is called “Toldot” (“history” or “genealogy”). There is also evidence that in the synagogues in the land of Israel they also read from the prophets.
It is interesting in Luke that Yeshua was reading from the scroll of Isaiah, chapter 61; the first verses. This portion of the reading from the prophets is read in conjunction with the reading from Leviticus on the Jubilee year.
If we had the schedule of reading in the synagogues of the Pharisees in the First Century we might be able to discover about what time of the year Yeshua was born, because reading from the prophets (the Haftarah) was normally given to honor someone maybe on his birthday. The interesting thing in this reading from Isaiah 61 is that the writer writes this text from Isaiah 61 in first person singular.
This is why it was legitimate for Yeshua to state that this text is a reference to Himself. This angered the people of Nazareth. Nazareth might have been a sectarian village in the time of Yeshua, and they acted in a radical sectarian way when they wanted to kill Yeshua for claiming that the prophet Isaiah was talking about was Him in person.
My point is that reading of the Torah and the prophets in public in the synagogues around Israel, and Asia Minor and Greece (Berea), was already a well-established custom and practice both in the land of Israel and among the Diaspora Jews…
Today in churches there is very little reading in God’s word, the main part of the service is given to the salesman (the pastor) and not to the product. The word of God from Genesis to Revelation is the product that we ought to supply to our brothers and sisters, and this is what happens in every Jewish synagogue. The main part of the service is the reading from the Torah and from the prophets and that is normally what the teaching (sermon) is about, an exegesis of the texts that were read in public in the Hebrew language.
We are fortunate that we live after the discovery and publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran, next to the Dead Sea north of Sodom. In the treasures of the Dead Sea Scrolls there was a full copy written on leather of the book of Isaiah, the same type scroll as the one that Yeshua would have been reading from in the synagogue in Nazareth.
The Torah portion of Toldot is found in Genesis 25:19-28:9, and from the prophets the reading is from Malachi 1:1-2:7, and from the New Testament we read from Matthew 10:21-28. The main and most important part of our Torah portion Toldot is story of Isaac, Abraham and Sarah’s son, who was married at the age of 40. Not being married until the age of 40 was very unusual in the ancient world, but the reason for Isaac’s situation was also the reason why Sarah insisted to cast out Ishmael and Hagar his mother away from their midst.
Ishmael tried to destroy Isaac’s manhood, and I wrote about this last week with proof from God’s word. Now Isaac is 40 years old and Rebecca is very young, about 20 years younger than Isaac, and this alone gives me a good explanation of Rebecca’s behavior and dominion over Isaac, especially as the boys, Esau and Jacob, were entering their adulthood. Isaac would have been well over 70 years old when the competition between Esau and Jacob was at the highest level.
I realize that the purchase of Esau’s inheritance in an exchange for bowl of soup might look bad to some self-righteously inclined brothers or sisters, but I have been around the world a few times and have seen and learned from some of the most famous pastors and elders that business is business and Jesus is Jesus!
Jacob was a good modern businessman and he had a product. His product was in demand, and it was unique in the marketplace. There was a client that was willing to pay the price of the red, red soup that Jacob was cooking, and there was an opportunity to exercise free market, by supply and demand rules, and a good business deal was carried out to the satisfaction of both sides: the seller and the buyer.
Rebecca, the wife of Isaac and the mother of both boys, Esau and Jacob, was the broker and the middle “man” between both of her sons. The question always comes up in my mind, why did Rebecca worry about Jacob more than about Esau? The rabbinical Jewish answer to this question is simple: Rebecca was a prophetess, and the intention of Esau’s heart to kill his brother Jacob was revealed to Rebecca, and for this reason she, as the mother of both boys, was more worried about the physically more timid and weaker boy, Jacob.
She knew that Esau, the outdoorsman and hunter, could take good care of himself in this physical world. She might have worried about this Jacob who is sitting in his tent, contemplating philosophical ideas and calculating more opportunities to do more business deals with his older brother Esau, or maybe with some Canaanite or Hittite merchants.
This is also the reason why Rebecca is sending Jacob to her brother Laban in Mesopotamia: in order to protect him from his brother Esau’s plan to kill him after Isaac’s death. It is interesting to me that Esau honored his father Isaac, and didn’t want to cause grief and sorrow to his father by killing his brother Jacob. This consideration of Esau is not only noble, but also very interesting in my own friendship and understanding of my Arab brothers and sisters in the faith.
I have had the good fortune to teach and educate and reach several Arab families both from the Jerusalem area and from Ramle-Lod area. I can’t say enough of the amount of gratitude that I have to the Lord for this opportunity and privilege to disciple and nourish brothers and sisters who are Palestinian Arabs. Almost all the Arabs that I had the privilege and opportunity to evangelize, train, and disciple are as precious and as important to me, and I believe to the Lord, as any other human being on the face of this Earth.
The good news of this story is that the Lord Himself brokered the justice and the fairness and the future of the two brothers and their families. Jacob had twelve sons and Esau had also twelve sons. Jacob grew with wealth and power and so did Esau grow in wealth and power.
God Himself made sure that both brothers were a great success and had successful lives, and the blessings of Isaac were fulfilled for both Jacob and Esau. One gained and the other didn’t lose anything.
I would include also Ishmael and his descendants, that were also blessed every time that tents of Ishmael welcomed the children of Israel in their tents. There are no Arabs that have better, richer lives, and are more educated and are more professional and more upwardly mobile than the Palestinian Arabs.
When the sons of Esau and the sons of Ishmael make peace and join the sons of Jacob, and understand that we are all from the seed of Abraham — peace and prosperity will envelop the Middle East and all the inhabitants of this space between the Jordan River in the East, and the Mediterranean Sea in the West.
The reading from the prophets this Shabbat is from the prophet Malachi 1:1-2:7. This reading from Malachi is a difficult reading because it has all sides condemned for abuse. Even the priests and the Levites, who should be the paragon of holiness and charity, are corrupt and dishonoring the very name of the Lord.
In the end, the great equalizer of God’s love and justice, blessings and judgment, equally spread between the children of Abraham and the neighboring nations, will be the victory of the Lord, and peace between fathers and sons. And Elijah the prophet, who is one of the stranger prophets in the Bible, will come and make peace between fathers and sons.
The strange thing is that we know nothing about Elijah’s family, his birth place, his father’s name, or anything much about Elijah’s origin, or even his tribe. We do know that the prophet that killed 450 prophets of Baal in the Kishon River will in the end be the great peacemaker between fathers and sons, and I also hope between brothers and brothers peace will reign! The Prince of Peace will be on His throne forever!
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.