February 4, 2014

The Covenant in the Names of Jacob's Children


I was having a hard time writing down what I had in my head, so I recorded myself, and then typed out the transcript you'll read in this post. I tried to edit it in such a way that the flow of what I was saying was conversational but still relatively fluid. I hope it worked.


 I'll post the chart when I can get the image to upload. It's slow right now, due to the weather, I think. Anyway, I'd love to hear your input!



What I want to do is talk about the sons born to Jacob and his wives. I had made a chart and done a small presentation on it for my home congregation, and they thought it was interesting, and we got some really good input on that.  So, I’ve been trying to write it down. But I find that I can describe what I want to talk about better, just by talking about it. I’m not sure how to write down what it is that I’ve got in my head, so, we’ll try this. 


The chapters that I will be talking about are Genesis 29 and 30, specifically chapter 30. It was the portion that we were doing that week, and it basically summarizes Jacob’s life when he goes into Laban’s house. At this point, His life has just been threatened by Esau, and he has 11 of his 12 sons, as well as a daughter, that are born to him during this timeframe. And, so we’re going to talk about the names of his sons and the daughter that were born to him.

 

I went through and wrote down what the names were, and what order they were born in, as well as the meaning of the name, and the meaning of the number. I also saw a cycle; of history and also the redemption of man through Messiah, in the names and their meanings, the way the groups of sons were positioned, and so forth.


Jacob’s name is, that was his flesh name, being a man that was the name he was given, but in Genesis 32 verse 27 and 28, He’s just wrestled with Yahweh and God gives him the name of Yisra’ĕl, he says, “because you has striven with Elohim and with men and have overcome”. And Yisra’el basically means “Overcomer with El”, or “Ruler with El”. So, that’s kind of the spiritual connotation that has been given to this name and is kind of the theme of the history of Israel- it’s showing how with El they have overcome.

 

The wives of Ya’aqob, or Israel, are Leah and Rachel; but Bilhah and Zilpah are also considered his wives. In Genesis chapter 30 it shows, in the places where Rachel and Leah give their servants to be Jacob’s partner, to give them children, it actually says, “…give her to you as a wife.” But the children that came of that would be named by Leah or Rachel- they would give them the name- but the children would be considered the sons of these other wives, of lesser importance or lesser rank, or whatever. A lot of people seem to just think of Rachel and Leah, and as a side note, they used their maidservants to bear children. But, we read later when it’s talking about Joseph, that these other two women are specifically talked about. It says in Genesis 37 verse 2 that he’s with the sons of these other two wives. So these people are important to the story. And I think it adds to the message.

 

Leah means “Weary.” Like, you’re burdened, or exerting fruitless effort; you’re working and don’t see any improvement of fruit of that effort, and you just get tired. She’s “weary in well doing.”

 

Rachel, her name means “Journey.” But it’s also is a Hebrew name for sheep; as in, the lead ewe, as in kind of meandering and leading the other sheep. She’s kind of got a goal that she’s going to, but she’s taking her time to get there.

 

Bilhah is the first wife given, by Rachel, it says in Genesis 30 verse 7. She is given to Jacob by Rachel, to bear a son, and her name means “Timid, or trembling.” In a Strong’s concordance, the definition given is uncertain whether it’s someone who is timid and trembling, or if it’s someone who causes timidity and trembling. Like, someone is terrifying, or they are terrified. It could be either way there.

 

Zilpah is the fourth woman, and she is given to Ya’aqob by Leah, in Genesis 30 verse 9. Her name means “Trickle,” as in the trickling of myrrh out of the tree, as a sweet fragrance. Myrrh is a resin that they harvest off of the tree once it has become a gum or hardened up. It’s used for embalming, it’s also used as a skincare product; it has certain properties, and it’s very fragrant. So, like when YHWH says that your offering was a sweet fragrance to me, or when the Psalmist is talking about bringing a sweet fragrance unto the lord, that’s kind of what it’s talking about, is that smell; which is also associated with the altar of incense, which is frankincense, but both of them have that same fragrant property there, and it’s a very similar harvesting process.

 

So Leah and Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpah, are representative of a journey, and how we come before the father. You know, we try to do it all ourselves, and are desperate for an answer, and then as we journey through this life we find that there’s a well of living water that we can come before, in fear and trembling, and bring a sweet fragrance before the Lord, and we can abide in him and rejoice in that, and it also cleanses us of our sins.

 

We can see the whole cycle of history, and we can see what people go through, when they go try to do things on their own, and like the cycle of Judges 2, they’ll turn away from YHWH, and they’ll go to other gods, and then come under oppression, they’ll cry out, YHWH will bring a deliverer, and they’ll turn back to YHWH. Then, of course, they, being human- just like all of us do, we turn away again after that period of awe is kind of over, and start the process all over again. We can see that both individually and as a group of people, as a nation or the whole world, you can just see it all over the place.

 

The names of the first four sons, the meaning of the names, show us a little bit of this cycle as well.  Reuben, Shimon- or Simeon, Levi, and Judah; these are the first four sons. They are Leah’s sons. She also has two sons and a daughter later. These first four sons represent the cycle of history in total, but also the history before the time of Yahshua’s ministry.

 

Reuben means “See, a son,” Shimon or Simeon means “Hearing” as in Sh’ma, so “Hear and obey.” Levi is “Joined” and Judah is “Celebrated.” He also gets the firstborn portion later on in Genesis 48. So in Genesis 48, Judah gets the firstborn portion because Reuben has forfeited his, and Shimon and Levi have shown themselves to not be the best people to provide for the family if something happens. Judah is the one that’s kind of given that mantle on Jacob’s deathbed.

 

So, these are the first four sons, and the numbers also have a numerical value, or some people would call it a gematria, they also have a representative meaning. Like, one is the number of God, or it also means “Independence” as kind of by yourself, alone, or without peer. Number two is divided or portioned out. Three means approval, or complete. Some people have called it the number of the godhead, being three in one. So one and three are kind of God’s numbers. Number four is the number of Messiah, it’s the number of God’s creative works.

 

It was on the fourth day of creation that Yahweh made the sun, moon, and stars. It also says that he has made them for signs and seasons, days and years. That word that’s for sign actually is the word “Oth”, and it is a word which refers to a covenant. It’s a symbol, a reminder of the covenant. It’s also the word used when talking about the rainbow, after Noah’s flood, that word used for the rainbow being a sign between god and man, is the same word used in reference to the Sabbath, it’s used for the circumcision, it’s used when speaking of the covenant of messiah, as well as other occasions.

 

But it’s just an awesome thought to think that these stars and the heavenly bodies are as Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork.” And in other places, he “stretched out the heavens with his hands”, and he’s just so wonderful and he put them in the sky for us to look at and to be reminded of him. But the sign of a covenant goes both ways, so if there’s a sign of a covenant between two people- or God and man- but if there’s a covenant between two people, then it’s a sign to both.

 

So this awesome universe that we were created in is a reminder to Yahweh of the covenant that he has made with us, as his creation, but also to man as the specific creation designed to be a reflection of him. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and made in the image of God himself, so we have this awesome blessing and responsibility of mirroring the creator to the rest of creation and each other. So when we look at the stars as a sign of the covenant, bringing this back around, that number four is also the number of Messiah which is the redemption of the covenant. Yahshua died for our sins so that we could be reunited in that covenant forever, just through our belief.

 

Over and over throughout Yahshua’s ministry he says “Your belief has saved you.” John 3:16 has kind of become cliché, but it summarizes the idea that Yahweh sent his only begotten son- he created us out of dirt- but the fact is that he actually sent his own son to dwell among us and gave his life to take the punishment of our wickedness that we should have gotten. And all we have to do is believe that he did, that he is who he says he is, and we can be reunited and restored back into that covenant that Yahweh has made with our forefathers. And we will never have an excuse to forget, because those stars are always up there. Day and night have never ceased, and the word of Yahweh stands forever.

 

So that’s the first four. The next two sons are the children of Bilhah. They are the fifth and sixth sons in the birth order. Their names are Dan and Naphtali. Dan means “Judged,” as in discerning or right-ruling. Naphtali means “My wrestling.”

 

Five is the number of grace, or redemption; again a reference to Messiah. The whole point of his coming is to redeem us and return us to that undeserved favor, which is actually what grace is, is an undeserved favor, which is just so awesome to think that Yahweh would condescend to think of us as important, that he would send his son to die, so that we can be reunited with him. He’s just that awesome.  

 

Number six is the number of man, and also represents the battle of spirit and flesh, which is again what the messiah came to do on this earth. We’re always battling between the desires of our spirit and flesh; and we don’t truly fight against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and spirits of darkness in high places. You can see in the gospel story how Messiah himself went through that battle of spirit and flesh and overcame, and went down to She’ol and now holds the keys of hell and death; and now those things no longer have any lasting power over us.

 

The next two children are Zilpah’s sons. So, we have Leah’s four. Then Rachel gives Bilhah, and she has two. Now Leah has given Zilpah to Jacob, who also has two, and she has sons 7 and 8.  So, the two “lesser wives” or concubines, both have two sons. We’ll talk about this a little later, but I think it’s important.

 

Zilpah’s sons are Gad and Asher. Gad means to “Attack,” and Asher means “Happy.” Seven, being Gad, is the number of spiritual perfection. During the creation week, on the seventh day, Yahweh said it was good; he was finished with creating, creation was perfect on the seventh day, and so he rested. He made an example for us to follow through all eternity. Eight is a representation of the new man, being that eight is the number of new beginnings. Eight would be the new beginning of the week, the renewal of that cycle. It’s also a picture of us after we make that choice to believe, without doubt, that Yahshua is the Messiah, that he is the son of God, who came down in the body of a man to restore us to that covenant.

 

 Leah again begins to bear children at this point. So we have Leah, Bilhah, Zilpah, and now Leah again. Leah has 4, Bilhah has 2, Zilpah has 2, and Leah has another 2 sons and a daughter. Dinah is the only daughter of Jacob. This set of children is numbers 9, 10, and 11 in the birth order.

 

Nine is Issachar, which means “He will bring a reward.” Ten is Zebulun, which means “Habitation.” Number 11 is Dinah, which is the feminine of Dan which means “Justice.” It’s almost like the action of Dan, the right-ruling which brings justice. The number 9 represents the movement of God. Ten is Judgment. Eleven is disorder or chaos; being ten plus one, ten is judgment and one is God or independent, which could also be the effect of a judgment, as in the resulting chaos or disorder immediately following in the process of that judgment.

 

The meanings of the names, “he will bring a reward,” “My habitation,” and “Justice,” is kind of representative of tribulations; particularly the end-time tribulations, the judgment and result of that judgment, when Yahshua comes down and destroys his enemies, comes to dwell with us on earth, and brings a reward to those who have endured.

 

So, we’ve got the first four sons, who illustrate the history before the time of Yahshua, but also the cycle of all history. Bilhah’s sons, the next two, illustrate the earthly ministry of the Messiah and the work of redemption. Zilpah’s sons, illustrate the new man, and the resurrection of Messiah, and his renewal. The next set of Leah’s children, as we just talked about, represents tribulation and the end result. We see the smaller cycle of history in the first four sons, which still seems like it is in a really huge scale, because it is referring to periods of anywhere from a few months to hundreds of years. But as we go through the remaining children, you can also see that it’s part of the larger cycle of the history of the world.

Now Rachel finally has her own sons. She has two sons physically, but also in Genesis 41 Jacob actually adopts Joseph’s first two sons as his own. What happens when you do that is these sons become legally and equally Jacob’s sons, but any children after that would still be considered Joseph’s own sons- which we know he had, because he had other generations in Chronicles as well as other places. So Rachel consequently has children 12, 13, 14, and 15 listed under her.

 

Twelve is Joseph. He’s the twelfth child born, but he’s the eleventh physical son born. His name means “Yahweh has added,” or Yahweh has given, he has blessed me, he has increased me. Thirteen is Benjamin. His name means “Son of Favor.” He is the last physical son born to Jacob. But then we also have Manasseh and Ephraim, who are his adopted sons. Manasseh means “Causing to forget sorrows.” He was born after Joseph had been in Egypt for quite some time, and he was a comfort to Joseph after the troubles that he had had up to that point. So, Manasseh is causing to forget sorrows in a good way.

 

Child number fifteen is Ephraim, which means “Double fruit.” He’s the second born son. At that point Joseph was doing very well and Yahweh had certainly increased him by double or more what he had started out with. I think that when Ephraim was born, Joseph was excited because he had been given a lot; he had really been blessed in his work, and now his family as well. At that point it’s almost like he was saying, Yahweh has increased me to the point that I have been comforted and have more that I could ever have hoped for- my cup overflows with the goodness of my Elohim.

 

The numerical meaning of twelve is a governmental structural perfection, being a portioned out judgment (10 + 2), a well-balanced ruling; it’s well structured, it’s portioned out, it’s not overwhelming to one person or small group of people to be responsible for everything. It’s perfect, the way it ought to be, and there’s an order to it.

 

The number thirteen represents rebellion, abandonment, or rejection. It can be rebellion as in “defying authority,” or it can be a good thing like repentance, or turning away from evil. It basically means reversing your former path of conduct or belief.

 

Number fourteen is a double portion of spiritual perfection, being 7 times 2. It also means strength because you have that double portion. Manasseh is the 14th child here, whose name means “Causing to forget sorrows;” so this is kind of a picture of Messiah coming once again for his millennial reign.

 

After all of the judgment and tribulation, all the sorrows and cares of the world, that precedes his kingdom, he comes in on his white horse; to destroy his enemies, yes- but then after that he comes to rule and reign with us, and dwell with us, and teach us Torah, to restore us to himself, for a thousand years before the final battle that is spoken of in Revelation. So we have that double portion; there’s the Spirit, but then we also have him-self dwelling among us. I don’t think at that time that people will remember the events and sorrows of the past, at least not in the same way.  It will be a joy to see what he’s brought us through, and to know that he’s here with us, we just won’t think about the past the same way.

 

Number fifteen is Ephraim. Fifteen represents, “The energy of divine acts of grace,” like when you can really literally feel YHWH moving in a situation. That powerful energy of undeserved favor from the Almighty, that emotion which is evoked just thinking that he is so awesome and gracious, and realizing that we don’t deserve his concern or love for us in any way.

 

Ephraim, which again means “Double fruit,” gets the spiritual double portion. He’s a representation of those who have been grafted in, as in Ezekiel 37 “the sticks of Judah and Ephraim will become one in my hand.” Judah having the physical blessing and responsibility, and Ephraim having the spiritual blessing and also some responsibility pertaining to that, are joined together as one people. At the end they are joined together by a divine act of grace, and the two houses of Israel are made whole again.

 

These last four sons are a representation of, like I said, the millennial reign, and also eternity with YHWH. Thirteen being rebellion or rejection represents the final battle between the forces of good and evil, that last stand of the devil before he is thrown into the lake of fire forever. Then there is the Judgment day, and after that eternity with Elohim. Forever is forever, and those who are in the book of life will live with him for all eternity. They’ll have that energy and grace, that double portion physically and spiritually, and it will be wonderful beyond compare. This is what Ephraim represents in this grouping.

 

The idea that as they are struggling between flesh and spirit, in that one family’s struggle to one up each other, a representation of the work of Messiah, and his struggle to overcome sin for us is seen; it’s just stunning.  You have the physical, the spiritual, us coming before the Father, the work of Messiah, the cycle of the history of the world from start to finish, Genesis to Revelation; all in Israel’s children and the way that their names are, and the order in which they’re born and numbered, as well as the struggle between these two or four wives, depending on how you want to look at that.

 

I don’t agree with polygamy, Genesis tells us that Yahweh created one man and one woman- actually he created on being, and then split it in half, but that’s a different story. The point is not that every family ought to do this and create havoc so they can be like Jacob; but the fact that these women were used in this picture makes their story part of a greater picture than just being Jacob’s wives, or the mothers of his sons, or what have you. As sad as their position was, Yahweh used them to give us a picture of his son.

 

Bilhah and Zilpah each have two sons. As we said at the beginning of this, two is something divided or portioned out. So, in these you have the redemption, resurrection, new man, and new beginnings, twice over. It shows the work of Messiah above and beyond being portioned out for all mankind. There is also a renewal and restoration for all those who choose to believe.

 

There are also three sets of four among the twelve physical sons. Leah’s first four, the handmaids’ four, Leah’s two, and Rachel’s two. Or you could say there are three sets of four among all the children, Leah’s first four, the handmaids’ four, Rachel’s four, as well as a set of three, by Leah. Either way, this demonstrates the complete work of Messiah, being 4 times 3.

 

If you didn’t have Bilhah and Zilpah in this story, you wouldn’t have the same picture. Without the other wives and their sons, this account wouldn’t be here. There would still be a tremendous story, but it’s just really beautiful that Yahweh used Rachel and Leah’s impatience to glorify his plan. It just goes to show, yet again, that what the enemy means for evil, Yahweh can always turn to good. Scripture says that all things work together for good for those who love Yahweh. And I think that this demonstrates that perfectly.  

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