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eTeacherBiblical Official Newsletter
Issue #124 - 03/13
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Eli Dahan

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The angels in Jacob's life

It has been three years since I started to publish blogs for eTeacher, who have given me the opportunity not just to be a Biblical Hebrew teacher online, but also a writer. The reason that I mention this is because the very first blog that I wrote was about the angels and their creation according to Jewish tradition. Today, we are going to speak about angels at a very critical point in the Hebrew Bible - the angels in Jacob's life.

Jacob, as you may remember, was the brother who used some tricky moves and his mother's help to take (some might say steal) the birthright and the blessing. One could argue about the nature of his questionable character in the days when was living in the land of Canaan. A possible noun to describe him could be fraud-רַמַּאי or a thief- גַּנָּב.  From that point, he left his family to look for a bride (or an excuse to flee from Esau's wrath) and didn’t return to the Promised Land for over 20 years. On his way to Laban and after he left him, the angels of God accompanied him and helped to shape his character, step by step.

We have previously discussed the first meeting Jacob had with the angels in a Webinar and you can hear the recording of it here. One thing that is important to note is about Jacob in Genesis 28 is that he hadn’t yet left the land and perhaps for that reason he comes across quite rudely when he says he didn’t know who or what God is, despite the fact that his father blessed him by mentioning God’s name at the beginning of the chapter. Another noteworthy point is the conditions God sets at the end of this chapter. The first meeting with the angels is one that young Jacob would have probably rather forgotten.

20 years later, after the one who cheated was cheated by Laban, whose name has the same letters of vile person-נָבָל- Jacob is a different man. He's not a single man, he's the father of 11 and the husband of four wives. When he entered the Promised Land he met angels:

 "וְיַעֲקֹב הָלַךְ לְדַרְכּוֹ; וַיִּפְגְּעוּ-בוֹ מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹהִיםוַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב כַּאֲשֶׁר רָאָם מַחֲנֵה אֱלֹהִים זֶה; וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם-הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא מַחֲנָיִם"

"Now as Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him. Jacob said when he saw them, “This is God’s camp.” So he named that place Mahanaim."(Genesis 32:2-3)

This time when he saw the Angels of God, he didn’t  dare say that he doesn't know or understand who they are. As readers, we don’t really know what happened to him when he saw them; we don't know whether or not his family saw them either. However, we can assume that by naming a place the Camp of God (and his angels) that Jacob gave the angels and God the honor they were entitled to.

 

The next meeting Jacob had with God was alone. The Hebrew is so beautiful in that passage, showing the connection between the Hebrew letters and the place, the action and the character, as written:

"Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.  He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had. Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak." (Genesis 32:23-25)

"וַיָּקָם בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא וַיִּקַּח אֶת-שְׁתֵּי נָשָׁיו וְאֶת-שְׁתֵּי שִׁפְחֹתָיו וְאֶת-אַחַד עָשָׂר יְלָדָיו; וַיַּעֲבֹר אֵת מַעֲבַר יַבֹּק.  וַיִּקָּחֵם וַיַּעֲבִרֵם אֶת-הַנָּחַל; וַיַּעֲבֵר אֶת-אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ.  וַיִּוָּתֵר יַעֲקֹב לְבַדּוֹ; וַיֵּאָבֵק אִישׁ עִמּוֹ עַד עֲלוֹת הַשָּׁחַר". 

The man that Jacob wrestled with was an angel, since we can see that Jacob was hurt after this battle at night. This battle is the one that changed Jacob completely. At the end of it, he wasn't Jacob the cheater - he was Israel, the one who was straight with God, the one who fought against his angel and won, the one would be the ruler. The last angel left a mark on Jacob's leg. In reality though, the the mark wasn't just on his leg, it was also on his soul. After that night, God was Jacob’s God and Jacob truly respected God and his angels!

Many thanks to my students in the Webinar whose questions created this and other newsletters! Have a blessed week, Eli

 
Main phrases of the post + transcription + translation

 

English

Transliteration

Hebrew

Jacob

Ya'ăqōv

יַעֲקֹב

His wives

nāšāv

נָשָׁיו

Camp

machănê

מַחֲנֵה

Angels of

Mal'ăchê

מַלְאֲכֵי

The Daybreak

haššāchar

הַשָּׁחַר

And He wrestled

Vayy'āvēq

וַיֵּאָבֵק

In the night

Ballaylāh

בַּלַּיְלָה

 
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