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B'resheet/Genesis 29:26 It is not done thus in our place: to give the younger before the firstborn.
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It is with these calm and dismissive words that Laban, the dishonest uncle, brushes aside Ya'akov's outraged words at finding that he had been tricked and married to Leah rather than Rachel, the girl he loved and just earned by seven years hard work. Notice that the text ends with the word , from the root , to bear early fruit or to be the firstborn, in this case feminine singular, the firstborn girl. Friedman comments, "Not the younger before the 'older' (as many translations mistakenly have it) but the younger before the firstborn". Translating this word as 'older' hides the significance of 'firstborn' and so conceals the humour and irony in the story.
Having reached the end of his seven year agreement, Ya'akov asks for his wife, goes to the wedding feast expecting to find Rachel under the veil and in the morning: , Look at her: Leah! (v. 25). Full of righteous indignation, Ya'akov storms off to Laban and demands to know why he has been deceived. Laban's words stun Ya'akov into silence - Ya'akov is not recorded making any reply at all. Not only has he been tricked into marrying the older sister rather than his beloved Rachel, but the excuse for the deceit is the very opposite of what he did to his elder brother Esav before leaving home. Ya'akov stole the blessing of the firstborn by pretending to be Esav, thus disregarding the normal customs of primogeniture; he is forced to accept Leah and work another seven years for Rachel on the grounds of primogeniture, which Laban enforces although Ya'akov broke. The text even has Laban using the plural - , our place, to bring peer and society pressure to bear on Ya'akov to accept the situation. If he doesn't accede, Laban implies, then he'll be fighting the whole community in Haran!
The ancient rabbis saw this as divine justice, dealing the same card back to Ya'akov that he had just discarded in his own family situation. "All that night he kept calling her 'Rachel' and she kept answering him, 'Yes?' But the next morning, behold, it was Leah (v. 25). He said to her, 'Liar and daughter of a liar!' She answered: 'Can there be a schoolmaster without any pupils? Was it not just this way that your father called out to you "Esau" and you answered him? So when you called me I likewise answered you'" (B'resheet Rabbah 70:19).
The Torah is very explicit about the need to use honest measures, proper weights, in all our dealings: "You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. A full and fair weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the L-RD your G-d is giving you. For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the L-RD your G-d" (D'varim 25:14-16, ESV). The prophets are also equally insistent that G-d Himself will use a fair measure in dispensing justice, whether to the nations of the world such as Babylon - "These two things shall come to you in a moment, in one day; the loss of children and widowhood shall come upon you in full measure, in spite of your many sorceries and the great power of your enchantments" (Isaiah 47:9, ESV) - or to His people Israel: "Fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the L-RD, for I am with you. I will make a full end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished" (Jeremiah 46:28, ESV).
Yeshua also spoke about the use of measures. In Luke's rendition of the Sermon on the Mount, He says, "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:37-38, ESV)1. Both in relation to judging and condemning, forgiving and giving, the measure that we use for others will be used for applying those same actions to ourselves, if not more so! In the L-rd's Prayer, the forgiveness we seek from G-d is linked to that which we extend to others: "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12, ESV.
We see then that the principle of measure for measure is an important biblical standard. Just as someone who was wounded or disabled in ancient Israel could seek only the same equivalent judgement against the perpetrator2, so G-d exacts the same penalty for sin from all those who commit sin and the same penalty for transgression from all those who transgress. Equally, the same forgiveness, the same standing in Messiah, the same grace and love, is available to all who accept G-d's offer of new life in Messiah Yeshua: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua" (Galatians 3:28, NASB). This does not, of course, remove the distinctions of gender, status, race and calling, but places everyone on the same footing before G-d: "And if you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (v. 29, NASB). Whether Jew, Gentile, Man, Woman - we are all co-heirs with Messiah Yeshua by faith in Him.
However, there is another measure that G-d is also concerned about. That is the measure of His Son in us. Rav Sha'ul tells us that it is G-d's plan to make us all take on the character of Yeshua: "those whom He knew ... He also determined in advance would be conformed to the pattern of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:29, CJB). Sha'ul explains that one day, "He will change the bodies we have in this humble state and make them like His glorious body, using the power which enables Him to bring everything under His control" (Philippians 3:21, CJB). But before we get to that state, either in heaven because our physical bodies die before Yeshua returns, or because we are changed - "in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Corinthians 15:52) - when He returns, we are still called to rise to G-d's measure for believers. The famous verse listing the five-fold ministries in the Body of Messiah - "And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers" (Ephesians 4:11, ESV) - goes on to explain why these gifts and offices exist: "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ" (v. 12, ESV). The gifts are not so that prophets can prophesy, teachers teach and shepherds shepherd, but so that all G-d's saints may be fully equipped and built up to serve and be active in ministry. There is no exception here, no part-time jobs in the kingdom; all the saints are to be built up and they are all to participate in the work of the kingdom: ministering to G-d and to each other.
We still haven't yet reached the measure that G-d is concerned about. That comes in the next verse: "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of G-d, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah" (v. 13). Now we're starting to see the picture G-d is looking for. He wants unity of faith and knowledge, so that everyone knows Yeshua properly and is rock-solid about the foundations of the faith: repentance and forgiveness, the crucifixion and the resurrection, freedom from sin and bondage, victory over temptation, standing firm when we have done everything else, proclaiming the goodness and grace of G-d. That's just the basics. On top of that, G-d is looking for maturity, for saved men and women, rightly dividing the word of G-d, loving each other as Yeshua loved us, our hands on the plough without looking back, pursuing justice and mercy and reflecting the image of Messiah Yeshua in everything we do or say. But that's still not enough to fill up the measure; G-d is calling us to reach the same fullness as Yeshua Himself. He is calling us to do it - and let Him do it in us. Rav Sha'ul again: "the One who began a good work among you will keep it growing until it is completed on the Day of the Messiah Yeshua" (Philippians 1:6, CJB). He has started a work that He intends to finish and He is calling you to participate with Him in making that happen.
1. - It occurs in Matthew's Sermon on the Mount section as well, but in a shorter form, Matthew 7:2
2. - The ancient rabbis saw no point in blinding a second man simply in revenge, so that both would be unable to earn an income and be dependent on the charity of others. They therefore interpreted the verse "eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" (Shemot 21:24) to be referring to a financial penalty, so that the offender was obliged to pay the value of an eye, a tooth, a hand or a foot, in terms of pain, recovery, dignity, loss of income and on-going disablement.
Further Study: Psalm 138:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; Ephesians 1:16-23
Have you heard G-d calling you to stop settling for mediocrity and to move
on to achieve the fullness of Messiah that he wants to work in you? Then
quit stalling and get on with it today!
© Jonathan Allen, 2012
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© Jonathan Allen, 2012
Your turn - what do you think of the ideas in this drash ?Like most print and online magazines, we reserve the right to edit or publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.