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B'resheet/Genesis 27:28 And may G-d give you from the dew of the heavens and from the fatness of the earth ...
The word , with a preceding conjunction 'and' and preposition 'from', is the construct form of , which according to Davidson is to be translated "fatness" or "rich production". In turn, it is the plural of , a noun with the meanings "fatness, oil, ointment" and, when used specifically of the land, "fertility"; it is often used for olive oil. All these words are based on the root verb , which means to be or become fat. Although the phrase "the fatness of the earth" may sound a little strange to a modern ear, it nevertheless conveys a picture of fullness, bounty, plentiful harvest, productive crops, a heavy yield.Targum Onkelos paraphrases the word 'fatness' to 'goodness' as another word that would speak more literally to its hearers, and many commentators have picked up on the scale of Isaac's blessing to Jacob. The Baal HaTurim, for example, notices that there are ten words in this verse (although seven are quoted in our text above) and ten components to the whole blessing:
|1. the dew of the heavens||2. the fatness of the earth|
|3. abundant grain||4. and wine|
|5. peoples will serve you||6. regimes will bow to you|
|7. to be a lord to your kinsmen||8. your mother's sons will bow to you|
|9. those who curse you are cursed||10. those who bless you are blessed|
Radak points out that Isaac does not include rain in his blessing, for excessive rain can cause damage, while dew is always a blessing. Chizkuni comments that while rain is seasonal in Israel, dew falls all year long; and the Sforno adds that everyone likes dew and it never impedes a person's going and coming. The Sforno goes on to comment that G-d will give His blessing, as the Creator of the world, when Jacob appreciates G-d's goodness; he seems to be saying that the giving of the blessing is in some way conditional upon the recipient being aware of and relating to the giver; when Jacob acknowledges G-d, then he will be in a position to receive the blessing and to enable G-d to give it.
Noticing that this blessing follows Isaac's observation that Jacob - dressed in Esau's clothes - smells "like a field the L-rd has blessed" (v. 27), the Sages commented, "May He give again and again; may He give you blessings and give you the means for holding them; may He give you yours and your father's; may He give you yours and your brother's" (Bresheet Rabbah 66:3). Rashi explains that since G-d had already given the fragrance of the field, these additional blessings were just that: additional, and were to be repeated again and again.
Rashi andSforno both make an additional point, however, that goes beyond the specific meaning of the words, to ask why the blessing is given. Rashi compares the blessing given to Jacob with that later given to Esau and suggests that while Esau's blessing is unconditional: "of the fatness of the earth shall be your dwelling" (v. 39), the blessing for Jacob is constrained by whether he deserves it. Rashi derives this from the use of rather than as the name for the Almighty at the start of the blessing. , translated "G-d" rather than "the L-rd" is considered to be the name of G-d's attribute of justice, so that the blessing would only be given to Jacob according to his entitlement by law, on the basis of the way he was using it. Sforno provides the purpose for the blessings: "to be able to support others as we find, 'And you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow' (D'varim 28:12)"; the blessing, the wealth, the provision, was to enable Israel to support its own poor and needy and to be a blessing to the surrounding nations and peoples of the world. To the extent that the descendants of Jacob fulfill that purpose, Rashi claims, and prove themselves worthy of the blessing, will it be given to them. This is echoed in the words of Solomon's prayer concerning the people of Israel when the Temple was dedicated: "Render to each according all his ways, whose hearts You know ... that they may fear You all the days that they live in the Land which You have given to our fathers" (1 Kings 8:39-40, NASB).
The same principles of purpose apply to us as believers; the purpose of our blessing is to support the family and household of faith and to overflow that blessing to the nations. Yeshua told the talmidim, "Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return" (Luke 6:38, NASB). As we share the blessing with others, so it will be returned to us in proportion. Believers are included in this expression of G-d's economy as Rav Sha'ul explains: "So then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers. On the contrary, you are fellow citizens with G-d's people and members of G-d's family" (Ephesians 2:19, CJB). Jew and Gentile alike share in the blessing and the distribution of the blessing. Sha'ul has the immediate physical family in view when he writes, "Anyone who does not provide for his own people, especially for his family, has disowned the faith and worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8, CJB), but the focus is more general when he says, "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are part of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10, NASB). While needy believers take precedence, the blessing is also to be made available to those who are not believers. As we have received - one blessing after another - so may we give so that G-d's heart of compassion should be seen in the world.
Further Study: D'varim 33:13-16; Zechariah 8:12-13; James 2:13
Application: Have you considered the many blessings that you have received from G-d? How could you respond and pass on that blessing to others this week? Remember that blessings need not always be financial, but ask G-d how you can play your part in His kingdom economy.
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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