The Importance of Genealogies


The Torah reading this Shabbat is from Genesis 25:19 – 28:9. The name of this portion is Toldot – this Hebrew word is very important and it is translated into other languages in different ways: Toldot means history, genealogy, birthing…

These are but a few of the different meanings and uses of this word. The reading from the prophets (the Haftarah) is from Malachi 1:1 – 2:7, and from the New Testament the reading is from Paul’s letter to the Romans chapter 9:1-31. It is unusual that we read a whole chapter from the New Testament, but this is a very important chapter and it is connected with our Torah portion.

The reading from the Torah starts with the following words:

“This is the genealogy of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian. Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived.” – Genesis 25:19-21 [NKJV]

It is a very strange genealogy! We have a few strange genealogies in the Bible and even in the New Testament. However, this one is strange because it so very short.

We know from earlier chapters of the book of Genesis that Abraham had a father, and we know his father’s name and the names of Abraham’s grandfather and great grandfather. In fact, in Genesis chapter 11 we have Abraham’s genealogy from the time of Noah’s son Shem, eleven generations back.

Why does our chapter start with Isaac’s genealogy and only give us two generations? This is an interesting question. There are several possible answers to this question:

  1. Abraham’s genealogy for several generations was pagan, idol worshipers. The text here dealing with Isaac and Rebecca is concentrating on the “now” and not on the past and the word Toldot that is translated as “genealogy” is the same root as “birth” and the first thing that we hear in Isaac’s story after the death of his mother and father is that Rebecca his wife is not able to have children and Isaac is pleading with God for his wife, because she was barren. So, the whole blood line of Abraham and God’s promises to Abraham are now in danger and the word “Toldot” – “genealogy” reminds us of, and is associated with the word “birth,” in the Hebrew Language.  Hebrew is a multilayered language and actually a very limited language and therefore words have many possible meanings. This makes the Hebrew Text of the Bible more difficult to understand and more interesting.
  2. A second reason why Abraham’s full genealogy is not presented here could be that it was already given in chapter 11 of Genesis.
  3. The third reason why a more extensive genealogy of Isaac is not given here, is to accentuate the fact that all of God’s promises to Abraham are now hanging by a thread. A thread that puts all of God’s plan of redemption of mankind in danger. The first round of humanity was a total failure, and it ended with Noah’s flood, where the Lord pushed the reset button and only eight people were saved, and this too didn’t eliminate the propensity for sin or the existence of rebellious and unfaithful human hearts. Now the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us, that is, all of humanity, that with Isaac, God is pushing the reset button again, and it is not natural and not by the force of nature that this new family, the family of Isaac, is going to continue and survive and produce the seed promised to Abraham that will become a blessing and salvation for all the nations (all humanity) of the Earth.

In my opinion, that is why this portion of the Torah starts with the word “Toldot” – genealogy. There is one more strange use of the word “Toldot” – genealogy in the book of Genesis and also quoted in the New Testament in Matthew 1:1.

The very opening verse of the book that we call the “New Testament.” The source of this quotation in the New Testament is from Genesis 5:1:

“This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.” – Genesis 5:1 [NKJV]

But Adam didn’t have a genealogy. Adam didn’t have a father and a mother. Adam was created from clay by the hand of the Almighty God and the spirit of life was breathed into his nostrils by the Father of Life, Himself.

Why do you think that the Holy Spirit through the pen of Matthew, starts the Gospel with these words: “This is the book of the genealogy of Adam.”

The reason is very simple and important. Matthew is about to tell us the fantastic story that a young woman named Myriam has conceived and given life to a boy without the interaction of a male partner, a man.

This story is so fantastic and strange and difficult to understand that Matthew want’s to remind us that the Almighty God, creator of Heaven and Earth, can breathe life into a clay statue and make it alive without the intervention of a male. Here is the fantastic use of the word “Toldot”.

Now on to Genesis 25, God opens the womb of Rebecca and she has twins, Esau and Jacob! This is not a natural birth. It is a miracle birth like the birth of Isaac, and like the birth of Yeshua.

The birth of these twins came with a prophetic message, a massage that now thousands of years later is still being fulfilled and the end is known, but it is not yet in sight.

“And the Lord said to her: ‘Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.’” – Genesis 25:23 [NKJV]

This prophecy is a rolling forward prophecy. It is still being played out on the stage of history and through the very flesh and blood of the Jewish people who are returning home after two thousand years of diaspora.
This return home to the land of Israel is not just the work of a few Zionists at the end of the 19th century. It is also the fulfillment of dozens of prophetic promises from the Torah, and through the New Testament. The one that I like specifically is short and it is promise whose fulfillment we at Netivyah have been praying for and working for.

“But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, And there shall be holiness; The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. The house of Jacob shall be a fire, And the house of Joseph a flame; But the house of Esau shall be stubble; They shall kindle them and devour them, And no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau, For the Lord has spoken. The South shall possess the mountains of Esau, And the Lowland shall possess Philistia. They shall possess the fields of Ephraim And the fields of Samaria. Benjamin shall possess Gilead. And the captives of this host of the children of Israel Shall possess the land of the Canaanites As far as Zarephath. The captives of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad Shall possess the cities of the South.Then saviors shall come to Mount Zion To judge the mountains of Esau, And the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” – Obadiah 1:17-21 [NKJV]

This word of God will be fulfilled to the letter. We are living in the Land of Israel at the time of the fulfillment of God’s prophetic promises. We are returning home and the seed of Esau and Ishmael, the Arabs, are falling apart with the murder and the destruction of millions of their own citizens, and a failing economic situation.

We need the prayers and the support and the help of all of our Christian brothers in the Word, who claim to believe the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation. We, the disciples of Yeshua, living in the Land of Israel, and in the State of Israel, and in the Jewish communities around the world, need you, our dear brothers because the God who loved the world so much that He sent His only beloved Son, Yeshua, to the world to save you and us, is keeping His promises to Israel and you need to be with God and with Israel because these are the last scenes on the stage of History as we have known it from its dawn.

There will be a New Heaven and a New Earth! We just don’t know when and how! Noah built the Ark on dry grown on an Earth that never had seen rain before the flood. He had no knowledge or clue of how this wooden box covered with pitch would save him and his family and humanity. He was obedient and faithful and did the work and built the Ark.

I am sure that his wife, gave him a good talking every evening during dinner! He heard God and did what God commanded and led him to do! Let us take an example from Abraham, Noah, Moses, Joshua, David, and those prophets who stood and suffered persecution but never stopped believing in the words that God gave them to deliver on the streets of Jerusalem, Samaria, and in the hills of the Galilee.

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