This weeks Torah Portion, ‘Vayechi’, is named for the first Hebrew word of Genesis 47:28 – וַיְחִ֤י יַעֲקֹב֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם <- (‘Vayechi Ya’cov b’eretz mizraim). The AV translates it exactly as written, “And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt…” The first Hebrew word in the above phrase is וַיְחִ֤י(vah-yi-chi). The root of וַיְחִ֤י is חיה and means ‘live’! Often it is used in the plural, חַיִּים֙ – chaim, like in Genesis 2:9 speaking of the ‘tree of life’. However, it is always translated into English in the singular ‘life’. Chaimis a frequently used Hebrew word. Perhaps you have heard the phrase l’chaim meaning, ‘to life’. Chaim is also a popular male name in Israel. Israel’s first president was Chaim Weizemann.
The Etymological Origin of the Word ‘Israel’
According to Webster, etymology is, “the tracing of a word back as far as possible in its own language.” The first occurrence of the word ‘Israel’ (yisrael) – יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל in the Hebrew Bible is found in this week’s Torah portion in Genesis 32:28. In this passage, the angel of the LORD confronts the patriarch Jacob at Peniel and changes his name: “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” What does ‘Israel’ ( יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל <-) mean? First, note that the last two letters, אל, (El), is one of the names for God and occurs 6,581 times in the Hebrew T’nakh. [The longer form of this word is אלוהים (Elohim) and occurs 2,602 times in the T’nakh.] (more…)
The first line of text in this week’s Torah portion:
This Hebrew text of this week’s Torah portion, Genesis 12:1-17:27, begins with the phrase ( לֶךְ־לְךָ֛) Lech-Lecha. The word, לֶךְ (Lech) is from the Hebrew root ( הלכ) and means to walk or to go. Thus the Hebrew phrase lech-lecha literally means, “You go!” In the KJV, it is translated as, “Get thee out”.
Genesis 12:1-3 is known to Bible scholars as the Abrahamic Covenant because here God first made His covenant with Abram:
“Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (more…)
Think of a modern day princess and how she is would be trained and taught. A lavish lifestyle, special privileges, tutors, etc. But, remember that God’s ways are different from man’s ways (Isaiah 55:8). So how does God determine who will be one of “the mothers” of the Jewish people? Genesis 24, part of this week’s Torah portion, records the story of Abraham sending his servant Eliezer back to Mesopotamia, (Abraham’s ancient home), to search for a wife for Isaac. Eliezer’s test for the right girl seems unusual at first, but later we realize it is perfect and very appropriate. (more…)
Genesis chapter 10 is the famous “Table of Nations”. Dr. William Albright, the “father” of Biblical archaeology and longtime Director of the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem in the 1920s and 1930s, said of this passage, “It stands absolutely alone in ancient literature, without a remote parallel, even among the Greeks … The Table of Nations remains an astonishingly accurate document.” This amazing ‘Table of Nations’ is where Babel (Hebrew: בָּבֶל – bah-vel) is first mentioned as being built by Nimrod grandson of Ham: “And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. … And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.” (Genesis 10:8, 10) The name ‘Nimrod’ (Hebrew: נִמְרֹד ) carries the meaning of ‘rebellion’ or ‘to rebel’ and since Nimrod built the kingdom of Babel, we know these seeds of rebellion were in its founder. This rebellion against God culminated in the actual ‘tower of Babel’ spoken of in Genesis 11. (more…)
We all know the cliche, “Put your best foot forward” – meaning to do your best, and be your best and strongest and fastest and smartest, etc. the first time you meet someone. When God inspired the Holy Scriptures, He certainly did this very thing with the first verse of the Hebrew Scriptures! Dr. Henry Morris, founder of the Institute of Creation Research (ICR) wrote in his excellent book, “The Genesis Record“: “The first verse of the Bible is the foundational verse of the Bible.” He goes on to say, “It is the foundation of all foundations and is the most important verse in the Bible. Since it is the opening statement of the world’s most often printed book, these are surely the most widely read words ever written. Most people at least start to read the Bible and, therefore, most people have read at least these opening words in the Bible, even if they never got any farther.” [The Genesis Record, p. 37] (more…)