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B'resheet/Genesis 48:10 And the eyes of Israel were heavy from age, he was not able to see
At first reading, the natural meaning of the words in the text seems a sufficient explanation: Ya'akov was certainly a lot older than any of us are today; he had undeniably been through many of the life experiences which are now listed by doctors as major causes of stress (moving, bereavement, ill-health of family members, employment difficulties, etc.); old age and the rigours of life had taken its toll - his eyesight had deteriorated to the extent that he was nearly blind. On the other hand, two of the words used in the text might lead to a different conclusion. While the word usually means 'heavy' and is often used to describe the weight of G-d's glory - the heaviness of His presence - it can also mean 'dull', rather like someone's behaviour when sedated. Similarly, the verb , used here in its Hiphil stem, can have the meaning of being caused not to do something, or not being permitted. There is a sense, therefore, that there was more than a natural sight deficiency here - that Ya'akov was being blocked from seeing something, either physically or spiritually.
When the prophet Isaiah was commissioned during his vision of Adonai in the Temple, he was told, "Make the heart of this people fact, stop up their ears and shut their eyes. Otherwise, seeing with their eyes, and hearing with their ears, then understanding with their hearts, they might repent and be healed!" (Isaiah 6:10, CJB) This is an astonishing thing: Isaiah is being told that his ministry is to be the exact opposite of what he might have been expecting - instead of many people coming back to the L-rd, his words will cause their hearts to harden and their eyes and ears to be shut to the message of G-d. Whilst hearing, they shall not hear; whilst seeing, they shall not see. The following verses show how strange this seems to Isaiah as he asks Adonai how long this is to be for and the L-rd replies that it will be until His purposes are fulfilled.
Rav Sha'ul explains that there is a time and a season for all things (cf. Kohelet 3:1-8) when he writes, himself quoting from Isaiah: "For [G-d] says, 'At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you'; behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2, quoting Isaiah 49:8, NASB). There is clearly a time when G-d speaks to us and encourages us to respond to His invitation. Similarly, there is a time when it is much harder for us to turn to G-d or to be aware of Him; we are, in a sense, hardened. So Yeshua, speaking not only to the disciples, but also to us, says, "He who has ears, let him hear" (Matthew 11:15, NASB).
Further Study: 1 Kings 19:9-18; Isaiah 55:6-7
Application: Are you really seeking and hearing from G-d at this time? Has the world made your ears dull and heavy? Now is the season to seek the L-rd and His face, to spend time with Him and clear out the wax so that you can hear Him clearly.
© Jonathan Allen, 2004
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