A covenant with a Syrian
By Youval Yanay
Israel has made a covenant with Syria. Well, not exactly today’s Syria, but it was Jacob (Israel) who made a covenant with Laban, who could be the ancient father of Syria. God blesses Jacob as he works for Laban the Syrian, Jacob becomes rich and has children from his two wives, Leah and Rachel.
One morning, Jacob notices that Laban’s attitude towards him has changed. “And Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favorable toward him as before.” Genesis 31:2 NKJV
He decides to flee with his wives, sons, and property. On the third day, Laban is told that Jacob has fled. Laban pursues Jacob and catches up with him. Laban is angry and offended. “Why did you flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and not tell me…(v.27)” Jacob and Laban argue and argue, and in the end decide to make a covenant. “Now therefore, come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me (v.44).”
They gather stones and make a heap. They arrange this heap of stones in the form of a table and sit down to eat on the heap. This meal, on top of the heap of stones, was the proof, the evidence, the witness of the covenant. A covenant meal. What did they eat? There were no refrigerators there in the desert. The flock of sheep was always a source of fresh food. Even today, it is common among the Bedouin tribes in the desert to slaughter lamb. It is quite possible that they, too, slaughtered a lamb for their covenant meal. Imagine this picture that is described here in the text: Laban, the father of the Syrian nation, sitting in front of Jacob, Israel, and eating a covenant meal together. A meal that proclaims and testifies to a covenant they made between them.
When looking carefully at the text, we find some symbols worth considering.
Altar of stones — this heap of stones, on which Jacob (Israel) and Laban the Syrian sit to eat their meal of the covenant, reminds us of an altar. An altar made of stones that are not cut by iron (Deuteronomy 27:6). The collection of these stones, which together make up the altar, also reminds us of the Church, the Church comprised of living stones (1 Peter 2:5). The Church is to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.
The covenant meal — When we read this story and imagine how they sat down and ate together, it’s impossible not to think about our covenant meal today. We gather to remember our covenant with God, the New Covenant made possible through the blood of the Lamb. From this covenant, all believers in Jesus who eat together the meal as our Lord commanded us, (John 6:54), we also have a mutual covenant between us.
One New Man reality — in this covenant meal between Jacob, who is Israel, and Laban the Syrian, we also receive a future picture of what was to become in Jesus – a Church made up of both Israel and the nations. The wall of hostility fell in the blood of Jesus, and here we are together as one new man, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
So what happens today? It is sad to see the animosity raging between Israel and Syria. It seems the covenant between Jacob and Laban the Syrian has been forgotten. But, a covenant made in the name of the God of Israel cannot be annulled, it cannot be broken.
Let’s believe together for the people of Israel and also for the Syrian people, descendants of Laban the Syrian. We believe and pray that the Syrians will also open their hearts to God, opening their hearts to Yeshua the Messiah, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. We pray that one day this covenant, made between two ancestors, will be restored. That the true and eternal peace that comes from Yeshua will also connect the descendants of the ancestors of Israel and Laban the Syrian. Only in Him, in our Lord, will there be peace.