Isaac and Jacob
Jacob the Father of the Tribes
Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah. Isaac prayed to God on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. God answered his prayer, and God said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out they named Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:20-34)
Q : What do you think of Esau selling his birthright?
Esau preferred the immediate satisfaction rather than the lasting one.
Passing on the Promise of Blessing
Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Philistines in Gerar. God appeared to Isaac and said, "Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. So Isaac stayed in Gerar. That night God appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.” Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of God. There he pitched his tent.
When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. Go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. And bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.” Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare food for your father, just the way he likes it, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.” Jacob answered, " I would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.” His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say.” So he went and brought them to his mother, and she prepared food, just the way his father liked it. (Genesis 26:1 - 27:14)
Q : Did Esau deserve the blessing due to him as the elder son? Give reasons.
Every person is responsible to use properly the blessing which God gives him. Otherwise he will lose it and it will be given to others.
Who Gets the Blessing?
Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. He went to his father and said, “My father.” His father Isaac touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognize him. Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.” Jacob brought it to him and he ate, and Jacob kissed his father. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, “ May God give you of heaven’s dew and of earth’s richness an abundance of grain. Be lord over your brothers. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.” After Isaac finished blessing him and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?” “I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.” Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!” When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry. (Genesis 27:15-34)
Q : Does Jacob's desire for the blessing justify the way he took it?
The end doesn't justify the means, and there is a consequence for every behaviour. So Jacob spent the rest of his life paying the price for his behaviour.
Hatred & Fear
Esau said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!” Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?” Isaac answered Esau, “You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother." Esau held a grudge against Jacob and said to himself, " I will kill my brother Jacob.” Rebekah said to Jacob, “ Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran. Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides, and he forgets what you did to him. Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood God, and he said: “I am God, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring." When Jacob awoke from his sleep he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven. And this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house."(Genesis 27:34 - 28:22)
Determination & Suffering
Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples. There he saw Rachel, daughter of Laban, his mother’s brother. As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he hurried to meet him, and brought him to his home. Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel. So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “Why have you deceived me?” Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work. And Jacob did so. And then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. When God saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb (and gave her 6 boys), but Rachel was barren. Some time later Leah gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah. Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” She named him Joseph, and said, “May God add to me another son.” (Genesis 29:1 - 30:24)
Q : What do you think of Laban's way of marrying his two daughters to Jacob? Does it still happen these days?
Laban didn't think except in terms of his people's traditions, denying his daughters' and Jacob's desires. In the same way everyone sins when he submits blindly to his traditions.
After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been. So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were. Then Rachel and Leah replied, “Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us." Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan. But Laban overtook him, and said to Jacob, "Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me?" Jacob answered Laban, “I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force." Laban answered Jacob, “Let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us. Don't mistreat my daughters, or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.” Then Jacob offered a sacrifice there in the hill country. And Laban left and returned home. (Genesis 30:25-55)
The Son's Return
Jacob also went on his way, and sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau. He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my master Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, menservants and maidservants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’” When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” In great fear and distress Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’” That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and sent them across with all his possessions. (Genesis 32:1-23)
Fighting again for the Blessing
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak, and touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men. But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked. Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.” So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. Jacob arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan. There he set up an altar. (Genesis 32:24 - 33:20)
The Death of Jacob's Wife & his Father
Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God." Then they set out, and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no-one pursued them. God appeared to Jacob again and blessed him, and Jacob named the place where God had talked with him Bethel. Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and as she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Jacob came home to his father Isaac. Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him. (Genesis 35) Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan. (Genesis 37: 1)
Q : Write down anything that impresses you about this period of Jacob's life?
(To be answered by the reader)