Messianic Education Trust
(Gen 32:4 - 36:42)

B'resheet/Genesis 32:14   And he took from what came into his hand, a present for his brother Esav

The 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
Ramban points out that Scripture is here saying that Ya'akov prepared a gift for Esav form what he had around him. The following verses describe this in detail: sheep, goats, camels, cows and donkeys; all of definite and significant worth, but not items such as silver and gold. Where, Ramban asks, in the desert, was Ya'akov to get such material from? All his wealth, considerable though it was, was represented by his livestock, his household, his herdsmen and his drovers. Moreover, Ya'akov presented his gift to his brother in terms that his brother would relate to and understand easily. Esav too had flocks and herds and he understood the value of milking ewes and their young, of correctly matched cows and bulls; this was a carefully thought-out strategy to play to Esav's character. Esav was a man of the fields, a hunter and herdsman by nature, rather than Ya'akov who had had to learn the skills as a matter of survival while working for his uncle, Lavan.

What do we bring as gifts to G-d? Everything that we have is already His and comes from Him. Micah the prophet struggled with the same question: "With what shall I come to the L-rd and bow before the G-d on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the L-rd take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil?" (Micah 6:6-7, NASB) Is great expense and arrangement of huge, costly offerings what G-d desires of us ? No, essentially like Ya'akov, we are to offer what we already have, what is immediately to hand; the word of prophecy continues: "Human being, you have already been told what is good, what Adonai demands of you - no more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity with your G-d" (v8, CJB). Our lives and conduct are to be our offering to G-d, that which pleases Him.

The synoptic gospels bring us a picture of Yeshua being confronted with the same question by a group of scribes and P'rushim who were out to catch Him saying something for which they might have Him arrested by the Romans (Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:19-26). "Is it legal for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" (Luke 20:22, NASB). Yeshua responded by asking to see a coin and asking whose face or inscription it bore, before saying, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to G-d the things that are G-d's" (Luke 20:25, NASB). Yeshua was relating to Caesar (and his officials) in the way that he would relate to and understand: paying taxes with physical signs of earthly wealth, even bearing the emperor's own insignia. While Yeshua is not saying that tithes and offerings in the Kingdom of G-d should not be given in the legal currency of one or another country, or be given exclusively in some other form, He is saying that the quality of the gift should be appropriate to the recipient and, like Ya'akov's gift to Esav, from what we have around us: ourselves and our lives.

Further Study: Luke 21:1-4; Psalm 51:15-17

Application: Are you so involved in the mechanical computation of your income and tithe, sending money here and there to match the level of giving that you think G-d requires of you, that you have lost sight of the gift that G-d really desires - yourself?

© Jonathan Allen, 2004

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