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(Gen 25:19 - 28:9)

B'resheet/Genesis 26:14   And he had riches of the flock and riches of cattle and a great household of servants; and the Philistines envied him.


The 'he' in this verse is Yitz'khak and the text is the last of three verses narrating the great blessing that HaShem had given him in the land of the Philistines: "Yitz'khak sowed in that land and reaped a hundredfold the same year. The L-RD blessed him, and the man grew richer and richer until he was very wealthy: he acquired flocks and herds, and a large household, so that the Philistines envied him" (B'resheet 26:12-14, JPS). The text indulges in a favourite Hebrew technique, word-play. The word translated "riches" - - comes from the root , "to get, acquire, purchase, possess", while the verb "and they envied" - - is a Pi'el prefix 3mp form with a vav-conversive from the root , to be jealous of, to envy. Although the Qal voice of the verb is never used - so that the meaning, just like the emotion it describes, is always intense - the basic roots sound identical forming a strong aural connection between Yitz'khak's riches and the envy of the Philistines.

Why were the Philistines jealous of Yitz'khak? He and his servants had simply done the work - ploughing, sowing, digging wells for irrigation, reaping and threshing - that anyone would need to do to produce a harvest from the land. Who Is ...

Nechama Leibowitz: (1905-1997 CE), born in Riga, graduate of the University of Berlin, made aliyah in 1931; professor at Tel Aviv University; taught Torah for over 50 years
Nechama Leibowitz sees this and the following passage where Yitz'khak is asked to move away from the Philistine area as simply the first Jewish expulsion in a long line of Jewish expulsions through history, often for little or no reason, based on ignorant jealousy. The Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno, working from the agricultural point of view, comments that while Yitz'khak had ploughed little and reaped much, the Philistines' jealousy was "because in their fields the opposite was true: they planted much and produced little". But is mere agricultural yield enough to explain what is going on here?

Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi explains that the phrase means "much work"; not so much a lot of work, but lots of different kinds of work. His implication is that Yitz'khak has a great household of different servants and workers, as many perhaps as a small city state or kingdom. Sa'adiah Gaon, Ibn Ezra and Who Is ...

Ramban: Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman of Gerona or Nachmanides (1194-1270 CE), Spanish rabbi, author and physician; defended Judaism in the Christian debates in Barcelona before making aliyah
Nachmanides propose the meaning "male and female slaves and servants", while Rashbam and Radak have "field and vineyard workers". Either way, that sounds like a large establishment. The Who Is ...

Ba'al HaTurim: Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher (1269-1343 CE), born in Cologne, Germany; lived for 40 years in and around Toledo, Spain; died en route to Israel; his commentary to the Chumash is based upon an abridgement of the Ramban, including Rashi, Rashbam and Ibn Ezra; it includes many references to gematria and textual novelties
Baal HaTurim points to a masoretic note in the margin to say that this word is only used in one other place in the Hebrew Scriptures. There, the two word phrase is augmented to , "very many servants" because Job was "the greatest of all the people of the east" (Job 1:3, ESV).

Returning to the verbs, Rabbi Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch suggests that the root has the idea of "justifying one's property or demanding something as belonging to oneself". Here, Hirsch comments, this is not that "they envied him on account of his riches, at a time when his riches were a blessing for them all, but they felt themselves injured by the position and respect that he received through his riches", which they considered to be theirs by right. The Ramban then completes this picture: "This is why Abimelech (the Philistine king) says to Yitz'khak, 'Go away from us, for you have become far too big for us' (v. 16, JPS; the king said to him, 'I too, who am king, do not have in my home such flocks and domestics as you, and it is a disgrace to us that your household is greater than that of the king.'"

We can see, then, that the Philistines envied Yitz'khak; they had an intense jealousy for him. but was it really the wealth that he acquired - either in flocks, herds or retinue - or was is something else? In the first of the three verses, the text innocuously reports that "The L-RD blessed him" (v. 12b)). This should be no surprise for G-d had promised Avraham, "Go forth from your native land and from your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you" (12:1-2, JPS). This particular episode is simply an example of that blessing. To have Yitz'khak in their midst, at a time of famine, must have been a blessing to the Philistines, the other inhabitants of that district - that too is part of G-d's call: "You shall be a blessing ... and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you" (vv. 2-3, JPS). As Yitz'khak was blessed, he blessed others around him - a sort of economic run-off - and that blessing was available for all those with whom he traded, to all those offered hospitality or charity, to all those who got to hear about the One True G-d.

Rav Sha'ul picks up on the theme of jealousy in his letter to the community in Rome. He writes, "Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them" (Romans 11:13-14, ESV0. One of Sha'ul's objectives was to make the Jewish people jealous by sharing salvation with the Gentiles. Jews would see the Gentiles in their midst1 finding salvation, healing, blessing and peace that they themselves did not have; they would become jealous and would want to have those things too - and the Jewish people would come to faith in Messiah. This was all a part of G-d's great plan for salvation, for overcoming the stubbornness of His ancient chosen people - that has often preserved them - but often stopped them from entering into the blessings that G-d has for them: "So I ask, did [the Jewish people] stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous" (11:11, ESV). G-d planned from the beginning that the Gentiles should be alive to faith in Messiah so that the Jews should be made jealous.

How, then, do believers in Messiah - Jew and Gentile - make the Jewish people jealous? Isn't it almost entirely the other way round, both historically and even in the present day? The church has consistently persecuted the Jewish people, teaching that the Jews were under G-d's judgement for killing the Christ. From the earliest days of the Church Fathers there has been an anti-Jewish sentiment within the church, leading to Replacement Theology - where the church is seen as taking the place of the Jewish people as G-d's chosen people, while the Jews are rejected and cast off - and anti-semitism. The Inquisition, the Crusades and the Russian pogroms (under the czars and the communist regimes) have constantly reinforced the hatred that the church has for the Jews unless they become Christians. Anti-semitism remains alive and well, not just in Europe but across many churches and people in the USA, Australia and far-flung parts of the world. Thinly disguised as anti-Zionism, it rears its ugly head in campus riots and vandalism, graffiti and attacks on Jewish homes, families and individuals.

Believers have a lot of work to do to recoup that loss, to show the love of G-d to His Jewish people and undo some of the harm of past and present centuries. The presentation of the Good News, that invitation to acknowledge the kingdom of G-d in this age and enter the service and protection of the King, to find healing and forgiveness in Messiah Yeshua, must still be offered to Jewish people, but in more creative ways that relate to the Jewish life and identity of Yeshua Himself, the continuity of G-d's covenant relationship with His ancient people and G-d's passion for Jews to enter fullness of relationship with Him in His Son as Jews. A measure of humility and repentance will also be needed, expressing genuine regret for the deeds of the past and commitment to righting those ancient wrongs as far as is possible. Then the Jewish heart will melt in the fire of G-d's own love and the ancient people of G-d will finally come home. Rav Sha'ul again: "For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?" (v. 15, ESV)

1. - We know that for at least the first hundred years of church history, the communities of believers were usually to be found in the synagogues, alongside the non-Yeshua-believing Jews. These communities were made up of Jews who did believe in Yeshua as Messiah and many Gentiles, often previously G-d-fearers. They remained within the synagogues partly because the early church was correctly recognised as a Jewish movement and partly because of the religious privilege and freedom that the Jewish communities enjoyed as an ancient religion.

Further Study: Ezekiel 39:25-29; Hosea 2:19-20; Acts 3:25-26; Nehemiah 4:15-21

Application: What can you do today, in word or deed, to ease the passage of G-d's ancient people back into relationship with Him? Seek G-d's heart for this critical mission and allow yourself to be melted with His love.

18Nov12 10:05 Janet: We were reading this portion yesterday and reflected on how current the jealousy factor is today, especially in terms of the embattled people of Israel and Gaza, but on a wider scale too as everthing of Hashem's standards and moral code is challenged by religious and secular bodies. God's favour is either debased or coveted. Either way friction results as a challenge to Father's Shalom. So yes we continue to pray and seek for God&039;s "one new man" in Yeshua.'

© Jonathan Allen, 2012



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