Genesis 37:12-36 The Sons’ Deception.

Genesis 37:12-36 The Sons’ Deception.

For one who was forgotten by his family, Joseph figures prominently in the history of redemption. Israel sent his favoured son from the valley of Hebron to Shechem, to see how his brothers were doing in tending the flocks, and to bring back a report (vv. 12-14). Not finding them in Shechem, he gets information that they had traveled to Dothan (vv. 15-17). However, while they saw the ‘dreamer’ coming, some of his brothers conspired to kill him, with a plan to say that a wild animal had devoured him (vv. 18-20). Rueben stepped in to save Joseph (vv. 21-22). “As the eldest brother (29:32), Reuben assumed leadership in Jacob’s absence and was responsible for the safety of his brothers (vv. 29, 30).” (NGSB 71) When Joseph arrived they stripped off his special coat of many colours, given to him by his father, and cast him into a pit without water (vv. 23-24 Cf. Mt. 27:28). Then as some Ishmaelites passed through they sold him as a slave, and he was taken to Egypt (vv. 25-28). So they didn’t murder him, but they did put blood on his tunic and took it to their father, in support of their deception that he had been devoured by a wild animal (vv. Vv. 31-33). Jacob then mourned for what he thought was the loss of his favoured son (v. 34), and he could not be comforted (v. 35). “Now the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharoah and captain of the guard” (v. 36). Hatred and envy in the hearts of Joseph’s brothers, issued in lies and deception, and nearly in his murder. Their deception was like their father.

Genesis 37:1-11 Joseph’s Dream.

Genesis 37:1-11 Joseph’s Dream.

It is of interest that what follows concerning the life of Joseph, Moses calls “the history of Jacob.” Joseph was Jacob’s favoured son, he and Benjamin being also the sons of Rachel. The bad report concerns the sons from Leah, so there is this history involved between them all (vv. 1-2). Joseph was also favoured, because he was born in his old age (v. 3). For these reasons his brothers hated him (v. 4). Added to this was the dream he had with respect to them and his parents. Rachel named him Joseph because he was her firstborn, and as his name means ‘He will add’ she said, “The LORD shall add to me another son” (30:24). Was she looking beyond Joseph, or did she have a previous miscarriage? Scripture does not say. What was clear, was this dream – that his family would be among those over whom he would reign (vv. 5-10). “And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Genesis 36 Esau’s Descendants And The Chieftains Of Edom.

Genesis 36 Esau’s Descendants And The Chieftains Of Edom.

Esau’s history and genealogy were different. He chose to marry Canaanite women, and his nation of Edom would be a perennial enemy against the nation of Israel (vv. 1-5). He also acquired great wealth, but he determined to move away from his brother – dwelling in Mt. Seir (vv. 6-8). “36:9-14 This genealogy focuses on Esau’s twelve sons (vv. 2-8), not counting Amalek, the son of Eliphaz’s concubine, Timna (v. 12). 36:15-19 This list shows the transition of Esau’s descendants from a family to a tribal structure. 36:20-30 This genealogy presents the aboriginal inhabitants of Mount Seir whom the sons of Esau destroyed (Deut. 2:22) and, in other cases, married (vv. 22, 25). 36:31-39 This list sows Edom’s transition from tribal structure to designated kingship.” (NGSB 68-69). Moses thought it important to point out that Edom had their king “before any king reigned over the children of Israel” (v. 31). Every place had their own chieftain, and there is no mention of these political leaders being the people’s elected representatives, as was the case with Israel (vv. 40-43). Moses was unique in his selection of the first leaders, but in doing so he showed the people what to look for, because prior to his departure, he instructed the people to elect similarly qualified leaders (Dt. 1:13) – “such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness” (Ex. 18:21-26). This is yet one more evidence that having a human king was not a good thing. God alone is the King of all nations (Ps. 2).

Genesis 35 The Return To Bethel, And The Deaths Of Rachel And Isaac.

Genesis 35 The Return To Bethel, And The Deaths Of Rachel And Isaac.

Jacob returns to the place called God’s house, where he had received the vision of the ladder up to heaven, and angels ascending and descending. It was in this dream that the LORD told him that the promise of the land, given to Abraham his forefather, would be fulfilled in him and his posterity which would be greatly multiplied (Gen. 28:10-19). This is also the place where he made a vow that, if the LORD would give him food and clothing for his coming journey he would return to this place in the promised land (vv. 20-21). An altar was consecrated there, and Jacob also vowed to give a tenth of all he had (v. 22). Then, leaving father and mother he began his journey and meets and marries Rachel and Leah, and we read of the record of his sons and Dinah (29:1-30:24). Then he makes an agreement with his father-in-law Laban, and continues on his journey, until he is pursued by Laban and they make a covenant (30:25-31:55). Jacob then is visited by angels again, and meets Esau, but not until he wrestles with the God-Man and he is given a new name – Israel, the prince of God (32-33). Jacob is then told by God to return to Bethel (35:1).

In light of this journey back to Bethel, the house of God, Jacob instructs everyone to repent of their idols, purify themselves, and put on new clothes (v. 2). They were going to worship the LORD at the place where Jacob’s journey had begun (v. 3). Jacob then buries the idols and earrings by the terebinth tree in Shechem (v. 4). The terror of God was upon the surrounding peoples so that the people could make this journey unmolested (v. 5). Upon arriving at Bethel Jacob built an altar to the LORD, and they remembered that it was the LORD who had been with them of their journey, and was bringing them here to fulfill promises made to Abraham – so it was a place of covenant renewal (vv. 6-7). Deborah, Rachel’s nurse, dies and is buried below Bethel, at Allon Bachuth (Terebinth of Weeping) (v. 8). God then appeared to Jacob again, and told reminded him that his name was now Israel, and commanded again the nation to be fruitful and multiply, and that from Jacob’s seed kings would come (vv. 9-11). The promise of land given to Abraham and Isaac, would now be carried forward in Israel. When the LORD departed then Israel (Jacob) consecrated the altar he had erected there (vv. 12-15).

There is something else which came full circle, the life of Rachel. Jacob met Rachel as he began his journey, and now she will pass away upon her return, but not until she gave birth to another son (vv. 16-17). Rachel wanted to name the boy Ben-Oni (meaning ‘Son of My Sorrow’), but in faith Israel named him Benjamin (meaning Son of the Right Hand’) – this was on the way to Ephrath (that is Bethlehem, meaning ‘House of Bread’) (vv. 18-19). Jacob then set up an altar at the site of Rachel’s burial (v. 20). For Rachel the birth of Benjamin was a matter of sorrow, but Jacob looked at him as one who would rule – the meaning of “the right hand.” However, no sooner than when they had settled in the land, sin broke out with Rueben laying with Bilah, his father’s concubine (vv. 21-22). Reuben was also a son of Leah, and Jacob’s firstborn (v. 23a). As the only sons of Rachel, Joseph and Benjamin were special to Jacob. Upon listing the twelve sons (vv. 23b-26), Moses then recorded Jacob’s last visit with Isaac before his death, at Hebron, “where Abraham and Isaac had dwelt” (v. 27). Isaac lived 180 years, and surprisingly both Jacob and Esau buried him together.

Genesis 34 Dinah.

Genesis 34 Dinah.

A relationship of a commercial type had already been established between Jacob and Hamor, when Jacob bought a parcel of land from him, not in the city but in front of it (33:18-20). Dinah, a daughter of Leah went to visit the daughters of the land (v. 1), and on this visit she was seen by Shechem, the king’s son, the prince. We are told that “he took her and lay with her, and violated her” (v. 2). The pertinent question to ask here is – was this rape? According to the law, the presumption of innocence is granted to a woman if no one was around to hear her cry for help (Dt. 22:25-27). However, if the act was done in a city, where she could be heard, they would both be regarded as guilty of a capital crime (vv. 23-24). There is a specific procedure where it concerns a virgin betrothed to her husband, who then charges that she was not a virgin. If she could produce the evidences of her virginity then the man would be regarded as a false witness, and he would be punished, fined 100 shekels of silver, and the woman would be his wife, and he would not be able to divorce her (vv. 13-19). However, if proof of virginity could not be produced, she would be regarded as a harlot and stoned to death (vv. 20-22).

However, if the woman is a virgin but not betrothed to a husband, “and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days” (vv. 28-20). By the phrase, “and they are found out,” the clear implication here is that they both were willing participants. Therefore, to protect any other young men in the future, they would be forced to get married, and the woman’s value to her father would be only half of what it would have been if she had remained a virgin, and in that state betrothed. This brings us to Dinah. The first issue one may argue in this case, is that this occurred before the civil code was written. However, this assumes that there were no civil laws before the specific code laid out through Moses. It would be hard to conceive that there would be a radical difference between this time and that of the code. The fact that this account states that Shechem ‘took’ Dinah and ‘violated’ her would seem to suggest that he took her away from those who might respond to her cry, and certainly the word ‘violated’ would suggest that she was not willing.

The words “young woman” would also suggest that she was in fact a virgin. The fact that she had no husband, would in that culture, assume that she was a virgin. There is a sense in which what Moses laid down in the civil code was simply putting into writing what was already the established practices. Therefore, what the pagan Shechem wanted, since he claimed to love Dinah, was to take her as his wife (vv. 3-4). Now if he were a member of the covenant already, i.e., had expressed sincere and genuine faith in the LORD God of Israel, then that would be one thing, but Shechem was an uncircumcised pagan. When Jacob had learned of the disgraceful thing which Shechem had done in defiling of his daughter, he held his peace until his sons returned from the fields. When they returned they found Hamor making his appeal to Jacob concerning Shechem and Dinah (vv. 5-6). Now the interesting thing here is that even though they did not have the specific code given through Moses, it is stated that the brothers regarded what Shechem had done, as a thing which “ought not to be done,” showing that they had ‘oughts’ – things, whether written or not, that ought not to be done (v. 7). Again, if he had already been a sincere member of the covenant community that would be one thing, but he was not.

What Hamor was asking for was not just that his son could take Dinah as his wife, but in order to do this, he was asking Jacob and the house of Israel, to accept Shechem and his people into the covenant they had with Yahweh, the LORD (vv. 8-10). To this end he was willing to pay any price, hoping that money or possessions was all that might be required of him (vv. 11-12). Not waiting for Jacob’s response, his sons, much like their father, deceitfully came up with a scheme to exact vengeance upon Hamor, Shechem, and his men (v. 13). They appealed to the fact that they were forbidden by the LORD to be unequally yoked with uncircumcised pagans, so they stated to Hamor the condition that he and all his males would need to be circumcised (vv. 14-16). The promise, if they complied, was that they would be one people, intermarrying as they chose, but if they did not comply, the sons would take back their sister and be gone (v. 17). Was this vigilante justice? Though there was no written code yet, their very appeal to what ought not to be done showed, along with the requirement of circumcision, that they understood that they had oughts – that is, the rule of law.

Hamor and Shechem agreed (v. 18), and Moses states that Shechem was actually more honourable than Hamor’s men, because he truly delighted in Dinah, and did not delay in being circumcised, even as he had previously spoke kindly to Dinah (vv. 3, 19). Hamor, however, had different motives, for in his appeal to his men to be circumcised, besides the incentive of taking their neighbour’s daughters, he incentivised them with a conspiracy of his own, that they would eventually acquire all that they possessed (vv. 20-23). However, at this point Shechem also agreed with his father in this conspiracy (vv. 20a), and their men took the bait (v. 24). After three days, when these men were be in great pain, Simeon and Levi, slew all the males with the sword, and took their sister Dinah away with them (vv. 25-26), as well as all their wealth and possessions, and the women and children (vv. 27-29). Jacob did not castigate his sons for what they did per se, only that they had now made him “obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites,” and due to their small numbers he feared that they would all be destroyed (v. 30).

However, his sons state to Jacob, that these men, who by hearing what had been done to Dinah, were themselves condoning what had been done to her by agreeing to be circumcised, even without the scheme which they had conjured up. In their minds they were treating Dinah like a harlot, and not one who was a virgin, a pure young woman of Israel. Shechem was guilty, because he had taken Dinah, who if she cried out was among Shechem’s own people who, even if they heard, would see no need to respond, especially concerning their prince. Furthermore, when they agreed to be circumcised they made no inquiry as to its meaning and significance, so for them it was simply a means, an external act to be performed to achieve their duplicitous ends. How could Jacob object, when he was named as one who was a usurper and deceiver? However, when Jacob’s death approached, and he gathered his sons together, he said of Simeon and Levi, that they dwelt with the instruments of cruelty, and would not speak for him in the future, “for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they hamstrung an ox” (49:6). “Self-will” would seem to suggest that they were acting above the law in these instances, but nothing is said of any illegality in the incident with Dinah.

However, things go much deeper here, for both Simeon and Levi were sons of Leah, whom Jacob hated and never wanted in the first place. In fact, Simeon received his name, because Leah stated her faith in the LORD, in that he knew that she was hated by her husband, but that he heard her prayer and granted to her Simeon (Gen. 29:31-33). Furthermore, Dinah was Leah’s daughter, which perhaps explains now why Moses saw fit to include her in his treatment of Jacob’s children, as the only daughter mentioned there (Gen. 29:30-30:24), also noted previously, prior to the journey to Egypt (46:15). ‘Levi’ as a name means “attached”, because Leah continued to believe that with all these sons she was bearing for him that he would then love her, or be attached to her. Her last son she named Simeon, which means “dwelling”, because she still held out hope that with six sons Jacob would love her since with six sons he would be able to dwell in the land in peace. When he still hated her, she bore a daughter, and she named her ‘Dinah’ meaning “judgment,” which name signified that Leah had now given up trying to earn Jacob’s love. Her children were proof enough to her that the LORD loved her. After the notation at 46:15, we hear no more of Dinah. Did she remain unloved by a man, like her mother? We do know she was a daughter of the covenant, loved by the LORD.

Genesis 33 Peace With Esau, And The Land Claimed For The LORD.

Genesis 33 Peace With Esau, And The Land Claimed For The LORD.

Despite wrestling with the God-Man, Jacob still continued with his plan of meeting Esau in stages, the last to go from him being Rachel and Joseph. The most precious to him were the last to go. Perhaps in being the last to move forward Jacob was thinking in an official capacity, looking upon himself as an office holder, whose office, like that of a president or prime minister, needed to be preserved (vv. 1-2). By bowing seven times, seven signifying perfection, he was showing to Esau absolute deference (v. 3). It must have been a shock to him to find the response of Esau to be what it was, a happy reunion (v. 4). Surely he must have reflected on the fact that the LORD had fulfilled his promise here, in making his way to prosper. When Esau asked about the way of Jacob’s approach, he then learned that Jacob was as earnest in being reconciled as Esau seemed to be (vv. 5-9). Jacob also, in this blessing, preached the gospel, for he made clear that all these blessings were due solely to grace of God (vv. 5b; 11a).

It is significant that Jacob describes what he was offering as a gift to Esau as a sharing of the blessings which he had received from the LORD. The people were not the gifts, they simply followed Jacob’s example in bowing before Esau, showing deference, and that they came in peace. It is not clear that Esau knew at this point that Jacob had seen God face to face, as he said, perhaps this is what he was also saying when he stated here that he was blessed in also seeing Esau’s face in peace and blessing (vv. 10-11). Esau thought to himself that he and his brother would now be able to walk together as one (v. 12). However, Jacob appealed to the weariness of their travels, to suggest that he and his company would instead follow Esau and his company, taking the time to rest which they needed (vv. 13-14). Jacob also did not want Esau to leave any of his people behind (vv. 15-16). Clearly Jacob did not, in any way, want to be unequally yoked with those he regarded as covenant breakers – peace yes, union no.

He also did not continue to follow Esau, because his plan was to plant himself in the land of their sojourn. Jacob built himself a house, and booths for his livestock, as did no doubt those who were with him, and the place was therefore called ‘Succoth’ meaning ‘shelters’ or ‘booths’ (NGSB 65 v. 17). They then went on to Shechem, in the land of Canaan, and Jacob pitched his tent before the city (v. 18), buying the parcel of land “from the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father”(v. 19). Jacob was staking a claim, not for himself first of all, but for the LORD, and for this reason he erects an altar, “and called it El Elohe Israel” (v. 20), meaning “God, the God of Israel” (Ibid. 65). It was no coincidence that Jacob “built his altar at Shechem where Abraham built his altar in the Promised Land” (Ibid. 65). Jacob now refers to himself in the third person as ‘Israel’, laying claim to the promise made specifically to him when he wrestled with the God-Man. Here was expressing covenant continuity in renewal.

Genesis 32 Jacob Becomes Israel.

Genesis 32 Jacob Becomes Israel.

“God’s camp” is where the angels are. This is why Jacob called the place where they met him ‘Mahanaim’ (vv. 1-2). However, despite this wonderful appearing and assurance, Jacob was still fearful of his brother, and so he came up with a plan to have his servants meet Esau’s company ahead of himself (vv. Vv. 3-5). Jacob was not exactly a testimony of courage or faith. He had worked by deception, with respect to his brother, his whole life. This was no different. Upon hearing that Esau was making an effort to meet him, with four hundred men, he continued to fear and decided to divide his company in two, that if one were attacked the other half might escape (vv. 6-8). Only then do we learn that he prays to the God of his father Abraham, appealing to the promise of the covenant that the LORD would be with him (v. 9).

Though late, Jacob’s prayer was a good one, first acknowledging how unworthy he was to receive any of the LORD’s mercies, and especially the truth which the LORD had shown him, including his crossing of the Jordan with a multitude of people and possessions (v. 10). Therefore, on the basis of truth shown in the past, he pleads with the LORD to deliver him and his company from the hand of his brother (v. 11), again reiterating the promise given of descendants “which cannot be numbered for multitude” (v. 12). Jacob then put together some gifts for Esau, deliberately delivered in successive droves (vv. 13-16). By telling each servant of the droves to explain to Esau that these were gifts from his brother, he hoped to appease what he feared to be Esau’s anger against him (vv. 17-21a), “but he himself lodged that night in the camp” (v. 21b).

A true leader would have surely led his men into battle, if that is indeed what he thought was about to take place. However, this was something Jacob lacked. Finally he sent his two wives, two female servants, and his eleven sons over the brook, the ford of Jabbok (vv. 22-23). “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him” (vv. 24-25). This Man was determined to end the struggle before light would reveal His image to Jacob, but Jacob insisted on being blessed (v. 26). It would seem that Jacob knew this was no ordinary man, because no ordinary man could provide the blessing he sought. The one who struck his hip could certainly have done more.

Jacob needed to learn that he had more strength than he feared he did not have, and a real presence of his God than he ever thought possible. For this wrestling with the Man, Jacob is changed, the discipline making him stronger. To this end he was given a name to reflect this change. Jacob would ask for the Man’s name, but it would not be given to him. Instead, God would rename him. Instead of being “one who takes the heel” as a “supplanter or deceitful” (NGSB p 51 Cf. Gen. 25:26), which is what he was, he would now be called ‘Israel’ (‘Prince with God), for he had “struggled with God and with men,” and had prevailed (vv. 27-28). Jacob, now Israel, still wanted to know the Man’s name, because he wanted to know who or what kind of man He was. However, he was not given a name, but he was blessed (v. 29).

However, even though Jacob was not given a name, he knew he had “seen God face to face,” and his life was preserved, and only God could have blessed him as He did (v. 30). For this reason he called that place Peniel, meaning “face of God” (Ibid. 64). As he crossed over this place, “the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip” (v. 31). From that time the people would refuse to eat that same part of the animals they had for food. Jacob’s limp would also be a reminder to him that he wrestled with God and prevailed, for God was with him (v. 31). Before Jacob would meet Esau, he needed to wrestle with God and to learn that with God he need not fear. One who wrestles with God and prevails, need not fear men. Israel was now a “Prince with God,” called to serve the King.

Genesis

Genesis 31 Jacob Leaves Laban And They Make A Covenant.

Laban’s sons accused Jacob of becoming wealthy by stealing from their father (v. 1). Laban had turned against him (v. 2). The LORD’s command was for Jacob to return to the promised land (v. 3). In response, Jacob confesses to his wives that the covenant LORD has been with him, how through Jacob’s honest labour the LORD had providentially blessed and protected him, even though their father had changed his wages 10 times (vv. 4-7). Here we discover why Jacob had proposed his plan to receive for his wages only the streaked, speckled, and spotted of the flock-because it was told him in a dream from the Angel of God, a pre-incarnate appearing of the Son of God (vv. 8-12).

The Angel of God then clearly describes himself as the “I Am the God of Bethel,” the house of God, His presence where Jacob anointed a pillar and made a covenantal vow to this Angel of God. This God was commanding Jacob to return to the promised land (v. 13). Since Laban had also consumed any inheritance which they may have received, Rachel and Leah are determined to go with Jacob wherever the Angel of God would lead them (vv. 14-16). So Jacob saddled up his family to leave with all his wealth, yet not knowing that Rachel had taken her father’s idols, all this without telling Laban of the departure (vv. 17-21). Was Rachel divided in her loyalty to the LORD, or simply wanted the value of the material with which they were made?

Laban then spent a week pursuing Jacob to the mountains of Gilead (vv. 22-23), but God had warned Laban not to speak good nor bad to Jacob (v. 24). Nevertheless he asks Jacob why he fled without telling him, so that, as he said, they might have a party (vv. 25-28). Yet, Laban added that even though he may have wanted to come with bad intentions, he informed Jacob that God had warned him not to. However, he wanted to know why he had taken his idols, Jacob not knowing what Rachel had done, promising that whoever took his idols should not live, that these idols would also be returned to Laban (vv. 29-32), but Rachel hid them under a saddle and sat on it so that Laban could not find them (vv. 33-35).

Jacob then opposed Laban, arguing with him how he had earned all that he had acquired, even though Laban treated him so unfairly (vv. 36-42). Laban then disagreed, claiming that everything Jacob had departed with was really all his (v. 43). Laban then proposed to Jacob that they make a covenant between them, to bear witness to their relationship going forward (v. 44). They called the heap of stones a “heap of witness,” each in their own language (vv. 45-52). So Jacob swore by the God of his fathers, and offered a sacrifice, and called upon his brethren to break bread (vv. 53-54). The next morning Laban then departed and returned to his place (v. 55).

Genesis

Genesis 30 The Beginnings Of The Nation.

Rachel was envious of her sister bearing children. She complains to her husband, but clearly Jacob did not consider himself to be at fault. Was Rachel unable to bear children? Why would Jacob not have prayed that her womb would be opened? He acknowledged that it was God alone who could open the womb. When she bears a son, she names him Joseph, which means that the LORD would add to her another son. This is the forgotten overlooked state of Joseph in his life. However, the LORD did grant Rachel another son. When Joseph was born, Jacob also took this to mean the promised son had arrived, and he petitioned Laban to now leave to fulfill a return to the promised land. However, the fact is all 12 sons would be blessed, and demonstrate the blessing of Abraham expanding through salvation history. In fact, it was through Judah, Leah’s son, that the messianic hope and lineage would come.

Mandrakes were apparently associated with fertility-something which mattered to both Rachel and Leah. However, in the end it was God’s will alone that mattered. As far as the wealth Jacob had accumulated, he thought it was due to his good scheming that he gained on Laban, but Laban liked the idea that he thought Jacob was taking the imperfect of the flock. Like Esau, Laban reaped what he sowed. It is a sad story of Leah, but she would come to understand that the LORD’s love was greater than that of any man. It is remarkable how much history repeats itself in the actions of Jacob-like that of Abraham and Isaac. In spite of their sinful failings, including taking more than one wife because they wanted to see the promise fulfilled on their terms, the LORD established the 12 tribes of the covenanted nation. All these characters are clear examples of God’s grace shown to sinners.

Genesis

Genesis 26:34-28 Covenantal Succession.

Esau sealed his apostasy when he married women who served other gods (26:34). Like other covenantal parents before and after, “they were a grief to Isaac and Rebekah” (v. 35). Nevertheless, Isaac himself was wedded to a view of the covenant where he believed he was bound to pass on his blessing to Esau as his firstborn, despite the fact that he sold his birthright and then sealed this rebellion by marrying women of another God. This would necessitate the need for Rebekah and Jacob to deceive Isaac, who himself was clouded by his love for Esau, in effect putting loyalty to him before the LORD. Children of covenant parents are to be regarded as children of promise until they prove otherwise, and Esau had proven otherwise.

We should not lose sight of the fact that Rebekah was so committed to the LORD that she was willing to be cursed to do the right thing (v. 13). It is also surprising that Esau went to such length to seek the blessing, when he despised his birthright earlier for a bowl of stew (v. 36 Cf. 25:29-34). Jacob was blessed, but Esau was also, but evidently he did not like the idea of first having to serve his brother, “so Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, ‘The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob’” (v. 41). Rebekah then sends Isaac to his uncle Laban, but she also is weary with the thought that Jacob might not marry a covenant woman (vv. 42-46).

Isaac agreed with Rebekah, and again blessed Jacob and charged him not to do like his brother and take a wife from the daughters of Caanan, but in going to Laban, he would also seek out a proven daughter of the covenant (28:1-2). Now Jacob’s blessing to Isaac was specifically connected to the covenant made with Abraham (vv. 3-4). This was also an exercise of the faith of Rebekah. Out of hate Esau then added more pagan wives to those whom he had already taken (vv. 6-9). Stepping out in obedient faith, Jacob was then met by the LORD of the covenant in a dream, which included a ladder “set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” (v. 12).

Jacob was in the Glory-Presence of God, the place where the prophets heard from the LORD in His council, and here the LORD of the covenant reiterated the promises of the covenant. In fact, Jacob calls what he saw in his dream was “none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (v. 17)! For this reason he erected an altar, anointed it with oil, and called that place Bethel-the house of God. This is the core promise of the covenant-He our God and we His people, by grace through faith. Here Jacob vowed to follow the LORD, and to tithe to Him a tenth of all that God would give him (vv. 18-22). The covenant is thus about God’s oath to us first, then of our oath to Him.