וישלח – Vayishlach
Genesis 32.4 — Genesis 36.43
Genesis 32.10: “I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness which you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies.” In several places in scripture someone is mentioned as having a staff (makel, mateh, shevet). Because it was a personal item, it also came to signify a person’s authority (see, for example, Numbers 17.17-25). There was a tradition that connected these, even claiming that it was the same staff, passed on from one significant figure to another. In this verse we have the first appearance in the Tanach of a personal rod that a person would use to help him walk. A rabbinic tradition said that this staff of Jacob passed on to Moses and Aaron for the various events involved with the exodus from Egypt.
It is highly significant, then, that several important messianic prophecies also involve a staff or a rod. The first of these is Genesis 49.10, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (see discussion there). It also appears in Psalms 2.9 (“You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”) and Psalms 110.1-2 (“The Lord says to my lord: ‘sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.’ The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your foes!”).
This picture is summarized nicely in a passage from Yalkut Shimoni, Psalms, par. 469:
“The Lord shall send the rod of your strength.” Whose rod is this? This is the rod of Jacob, as it says, “I crossed over this Jordan with my staff” (Genesis 32.10). And this is the rod that was in the hand of Judah: “your staff that is in your hand” (Genesis 38.18); and the same rod that was in the hand of Moses: “Moses took the rod of God in his hand” (Exodus 4.20); and the same rod was in the hand of Aaron: “And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh” (Exodus 7.10); and the same rod was in the hand of David, as it says, “Then he took his staff in his hand” (1 Samuel 17.40); and this is the rod that was in the hand of each and every king, until it was concealed when the Temple was destroyed, and it will eventually be delivered to the hand of King Messiah, and with it he will subdue the peoples of the world. [BSI/rp/ts]
Genesis 32.29-31: According to Targum Onkelos, Jacob saw the Angel of the Lord: “And Jacob asked Him, and said, ‘show me now your name!’ And he said, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: because ‘I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face, and my soul has been saved!’”
Genesis 32.30: “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’” The Messiah is the messenger of the covenant and the messenger of the face of God. He is that of God which human beings can see without dying.
Genesis 32.29-30: The account of Jacob’s wrestling with the angel helps us to understand how the Sages viewed the character of the Messiah. Targum Onqelos states that actually Jacob saw the “Angel of the LORD.” But who is this “Angel of the LORD” and who is “Penuel”? Isaiah 63.9 says: “In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence [Heb. ‘countenance’] saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”
The Rabbis say that this “angel of his presence” means the “Angel of the Covenant and the Prince of the Countenance.” Rabbi David Qimhi says of Mal 3.1, the Lord who will “suddenly come to his temple,” that “this Lord is the Messiah-King, and he is the Lord of the Covenant.” This being so, we can conclude that Jacob had a messianic experience, in that he beheld the face of the Messiah. [RS]
Genesis 33.14: “Let my lord pass on before his servant, and I will lead on slowly, according to the pace of the cattle which are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”
Jacob says he will meet Esau in Seir, but scripture never records that Jacob kept his word. Rabbinic tradition said the fulfillment would happen in the days of the Messiah.
“’Until I come to my lord in Seir.’ He told him of a longer journey, although he intended to go only as far as Succoth. He said [to himself], ‘If he intends to harm me, he will wait until I come to him,’ but he did not go [to Seir]. So when will he go? In the days of the Messiah, as it is said (Obadiah 1.21): ‘And saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Esau.’”
Genesis 35.21: “And spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.” Targum Jonathan has “And Jacob journeyed and extended his tabernacle beyond the tower of Edar, the place from which afterward King Messiah shall be revealed in the end of days.”
Haftarah: Obadiah 1:1-21