Thursday, December 17, 2009

Generations (Toldot)

The meaning of the names
Esau was named "hairy"because he was hairy. Jacob was named "heel holder" because he was holding on to Esau's heel when he came out of the womb. I read in a Messianic commentary that Jacob doesn't mean 'deceiver'. When I think of it, when we discuss Jacob's story in a bible study without consulting the original meaning and by simply comparing the different translations, our opinions are usually based on the image of Jacob as a deceiver. All my Christian life I was taught that Jacob meant deceiver. Did 'holding on to a brother's heel' automatically mean 'deceiving'? If not, when did people add the meaning of 'deceiver' to Jacob's original meaning? I just wonder.

My husband and I named our children with hopes that their lives will be blessed, that their names will somehow be true in their lives - like 'Christ's light shining', which is the meaning of our daughter's name. Don't we choose our baby's names because we want them to be blessed and we are thinking more of their future rather than right now? We were thinking toward the babies' future when we named them. But! Now that I think of it, my name was given because of the time of the day I was born - in English, that would be 'dawn'. My aunt wanted me to be hopeful --- because more light comes at the dawn. Well, at least mine is not like Moses (sorry!) who was name "drawn out of water" because he was drawn out of water. Benjamin was at first named Ben-oni which means son of suffering because Rachel was suffering when he was born. She named him first then later Jacob changed his name to Benjamin. We usually don't choose the names for our babies because we were thirsty or we were in pain. But the Old Testament people seem to do that.

the image of Jacob

We tend to form a certain image of a person according to their nickname even before we get to know him/her. My image of Jacob has changed since I started reading this passage from the Jewish point of view, with the Hebrew dictionary, and both Jewish and Messianic commentaries. If I don't think of him as a deceiver from the very beginning, then I start to see things differently in the Bible. Esau sold his birth right, knowing what he was doing. The Bible says so, too. He despised it and sold it to Jacob.
In Genesis 25:27 we read that Jacob was a plain man (KJV), a kind man (NLT), a quiet man (NIV), etc... Compared to Esau, the verse makes us have an image of Jacob as a weak person. But behold the meaning of the original word! (from the Blue Letter Bible) 

1) perfect, complete

a) complete, perfect

1) one who lacks nothing in physical strength, beauty, etc

b) sound, wholesome

1) an ordinary, quiet sort of person

c) complete, morally innocent, having integrity

1) one who is morally and ethically pure

other notes

This could be just me, but doesn't it look like it is a family trend to favor one child over another? Both Abraham and Isaac (and Jacob, later) favored one son over the other. Abraham seems like he liked Ishmael a lot because he was reluctant to listen to Sarah, so God had to tell him to listen to her, and Isaac loved Esau more. Then later Jacob favored Joseph and it was obvious, and that caused a problem.

uncle Laban

I did not know that Abraham was from the Syrian family. Some other translations I saw said "the Aramean." Some people who use certain translations wouldn't know what I am talking about (I didn't know, either) because certain translations omitted that part (Syrian or Aramean).

a little bit of Hebrew lesson...

On the way to his uncle's house, at a place called Luz (it means 'almond tree'), God visited him in his dream. Jacob called the place Bethel. Beth means house and -el means, the house of God.

After the dream,
Jacob said that this place is like the gateway to heaven.
Later Jesus said that he is the gateway. I wonder if the Jewish people were reading Toldot during that week when Jesus said this. Now, that would have been a true life application from the Bible!

No comments: