Fishers of Men


The portion of the Torah that is called Vayechi (“and he lived”) means that Jacob lived. However, it is in this portion of the Torah, the last portion of Genesis, that Jacob dies. There are some very important issues in this reading.

Jacob blesses his sons, including Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Menashe. Joseph inherits a double portion of the land of Israel. Each of the brothers of Joseph except Levi – inherit one portion, Joseph, through his sons, inherits two of the largest parts of the land of Canaan!

Jacob reveals to his sons that Abraham and Isaac, where fishers of men, great evangelists who won hundreds of souls and converted them and their families to know and worship the one God who revealed Himself to Abraham in Haran and called him to leave the rich and fertile crescent and come to Canaan a land of little fertility and much desert.

Here is the verse:

“‘The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; Let my name be named upon them, And the name of my father’s Abraham and Isaac; And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.’” – Genesis 48:16 [NKJV]

The “multitude” is in the Hebrew text “yidgu”. The root of this word that is translated in English as “multitude” is “dag” (“fish”). The grammatical form of the word in Genesis is “and they fished” among the people of the land.

It is from this text that Yeshua said to His disciples:

“Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” – Matthew 4:19 [NKJV]

You might ask, when and how did Abraham and Isaac, “fish” and evangelized. The key text is:

“Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the (souls) people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So, they came to the land of Canaan.” – Genesis 12:5 [NKJV]

To “acquire souls” is to evangelize. This is true in ancient Hebrew and it is also true in modern Hebrew. Abraham had 318 men between the age of 20 and 50 who were mighty men of war and helped him in Genesis 14 to chase after the five kings of the north and to retrieve Lot and his family and the loot that those kings had taken.

On his way back from this military campaign Abraham stopped at Salem, (Jerusalem) and met with Melchizedek. Abraham was not alone with only his wife Sarah, and his nephew Lot, and his family.

He had a large camp with many people and those 318 men had families and children. These people followed Abraham because they too understood that there is but one God, who created the Heavens and the Earth. The same God who loves the world and who sacrificed His Son so that we can all know Him and leave the idols of this world behind, and follow Him, and do His will.

When you are an evangelist, a soul-winner, you must want those who follow you to keep following the same Lord that you follow. As Paul said to his disciples:

“And Paul said, ‘I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.’” – Acts 26:29 [NKJV]

“‘And if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do.’” – 1 Corinthians. 16:10 [NKJV]

“‘Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all.’” – Galatians 4:12 [NKJV]

This might seem strange to you, but the object of sharing the Gospel with people is that they follow you into the kingdom of God and make you their example and model. This is one reason that so many of the so-called “discipleship” programs in the world are not really successful long term.

A person who is giving his life now as well as his eternal life, has to trust you, you and not something abstract. He has to follow you and do as you do. When the person sees you following – He will follow. Every child follows his father and mother and often your child will display the same good and bad and ugly traits that he learned from you, his father, and you might be upset and angry that he is following you.

Stop being a bad example! Take hold of your son and yourself and change together. It is never too late. Or, I have seen the opposite occur, sons who have taken charge of their fathers and they have changed together. I know sons who took over from their fathers and led them to the Lord! Return dear brothers and sisters and become fishers of men!

Learn from the true fishermen what it takes to fish in a stormy sea or river.

One last note on this Torah reading! Jacob, and later also Joseph, asked that their body be taken and buried in the same place as Abraham in the land of Canaan, the Land that God gave to Abraham and to his seed as an everlasting possession! Don’t forget this important truth! Everlasting means eternal.

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.