Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome." Genesis 32:28
Genesis 24-36, key verse 32:28
Timeline, about 2000 BC . During this time, the areas were ruled by Egypt and the Pharaohs, the Bronze Age is in its apex, and the epic construction projects of Sphinx and great Pyramids are built.
Key personalities: Abraham , Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Esau, and the clan.
The story continues. Abraham is the ultimate Patriarch and father of the Jewish faith and lineage. He obeys God, journeys where he is called, relies on His promise and heads to His leading. But, there is more--more people from his lineage that God raises to show us real faith in life. After Abraham, comes his son Isaac, then Isaac's son Jacob, renamed by God to Israel, the ancestors of lineage and faith of Abraham and all of the Israelites. Joseph is also considered a 'minor' Patriarch. The Matriarchs, the women of faith, start with Sarah, the wife of Abraham, and Isaac's wife, Rebekah, and Jacob's two wives, Leah and Rachel. They were the 'brand' and marker that pointed all Jewish women as the demonstrators of knowing God, His precepts, revelations and promises. They all point to a living faith that is manifested personally and can show up in history and be an influence to others for all time.
This is the age of the Patriarchs (Gen. 12-50), where God selects a few people to 'brand' His Message, to promote, train, equip to know and worship One God-Yahweh--as Lord and tell His story to the world. Through these people, God's precepts, plans and blessings will flow through and gives us positive role models, their frailties and the pitfalls to avoid. This is the model on how the Christian is called to know God, surrender to His Lordship, worship, grow and promote the faith. The key difference is that they looked to Christ's work; we have Christ. All the people went to them; we are called to go to the world with the Gospel.
Key Happenings--a New Nation!
Chaps. 24-25. Isaac continued the legacy of faith whereas many other beloved sons would have rested on their fathers' laurels and accomplishments and have done nothing for themselves. He gets married, has an adventure and now, at the age of sixty, Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau. As God deals with individuals, each one needs to take a stand for faith and pass it one to the next generation by teaching, inspiration, and example (Gen. 25:22-23; 27:27-40).
Chap. 27. Jacob and Esau are as different as humans can be, let alone brothers, and were warring with each even in the womb. Jacob name means "heel-catcher," because he was born grasping his brother's heel and, in his early life, lived up to his name of being a deceiver and grasper of what was not his.
· Jacob is a crafty man who engages in questionable behaviors and deceit. He steals the birthright and his father's blessing, cheating Esau, leaving epic drama, chaos and a feud. Jacob dresses up like his brother to deceive and steal. Yet, God chooses to bless and use him. Then, Esau traded his birthright for food; being foolish caused him to lose his blessing, and resulted in a life of bitterness. This makes us wonder how bad Esau was and how graceful is God. Mark Twain, received his inspiration from Jacob for his character of Huckleberry Finn, and Shakespeare draws from this feud for many of his story lines, as do many movies (TV does today, too). They eventually make an uneasy peace in chapters 31-33.
· Inheritance rights . The firstborn son got a double share of the inheritance and carried the family name and reputation (Gen. 25:31-34; 27:36; Deut. 21:17).
· Sought the blessing with tears . Meaning making bad choices and regretting it afterwards much as a drunk who destroyed his life and lays on his deathbed in tears and regret (Gen. 27:38).
Chaps. 28-30. Wrestling with God and Jacob's Ladder, Jacob flees his brothers wrath and has a dream of heaven. This event was pivotal. A major conflict emerged in Jacob's life so his whole worldview, passions and reason in life transferred from being self-centered to God-centered. Later, he encounters and angel; it did not go so well. Jacob brazenly decides to fight an angel for a blessing. During Jacob's 'WWF' (TV's wresting sensation) experience, the angel could have taken out Jacob in a microsecond, but allowed a struggle to take place to give a subordinate perspective to the self-driven patriarch (Gen. 27:27-29; 28:10-19; 32:23-34; 48:8-20; 49).
· Like Esau . Jacob was repentant and changeable; Esau was not. Thus, Esau becomes a byword, meaning do not compromise your faith with ingratitude and do not hate. He is the example of bad values and a man famous for being apostate and immoral, shortsighted, making poor choices, and suffering the consequences because he did not look beyond his current situation and desire. He rejected his birthright for a bowl of soup. Then, he despised his call and role, took pagan wives, was ruled by anger, and did not look to God for his future. We need to look ahead because how we are and what we do-the choices we make-are not temporary. They last and last and impact others for generations (Gen. 25:29-34; 26:24-35; 27:29, 34-38; 28:8-9; Phil.3:18-19; Heb. 12:16).
· Pious Jews were embarrassed by Esau and their descendants who wandered in the desert. We should be embarrassed by our lack of faith; we should be concerned that we might be worse than Esau and the generation of the Exodus.
Chaps. 29-31, Love and marriage. Jacob flees to Laban, his uncle's house, where God blesses him and those around him. He falls I love with Laban's daughter Rachel, and works seven years for her, and Jacob gets a taste of his own medicine and gets deceived, and is given the sister, he did not want, Leah. Yet, love prevails. He works the additional time for his bride Rachel. Jacob eventually had to deceive Laban for being manipulated and flees back to the land God called. Conflict resulted and peace was finally made between Laban and Jacob and his clan. Jacob has twelve sons and they become the twelve tribes of Israel.
· God blesses Jacob because he became faithful, and he was the one to first possess the land as an inheritance. He had a change of mind, a place of repentance. He reverses his purpose and decisions as an example of receiving grace. God did not bless Esau; perhaps his sorrow was not "godly sorrow". Perhaps he only wanted to change his father's mind to get a monetary inheritance, not to please God for an eternal one. But here, once the cat is out of the bag, he scampers off, no redo's or reboots. Fortunately for us, we have grace, but we still have to take the responsibility to repent (Gen. 27:34-38; 2 Cor. 7:10; Heb. 6:12-18).
· Jacob built an altar at Bethel in memory of his vision there (Jacob's Ladder). This prompts us: have you recognized who He is? The faith continues to and through the patriarch's lineage and their own mortality of life spans. From Jacob came the 12 tribes Hebrew tribes, descended from 12 sons of the patriarch who become the bloodline of Israel ( 28:10-22 ; Gen 32:33).
· Jacob's two wives and their servants had twelve sons and one daughter. The oldest is Reuben, followed by Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulon, Dinah, Joseph, and the youngest is Benjamin (Gen. 29:32-25, 30:5-23).
· God tests and allows deception and chaos . God seems to be contradicting His Divine promise; how can He do that? However, this was not about choosing between love and duty or the oldest versus the youngest. Rather, it was a lesson of trust that Abraham and Jacob had to learn, that Esau and Laban refused. We have to learn this lesson before we can go on to maturity and apply actual faith. God sees if we are genuine and real, such as, is our faith authentic all the time or does it only function when we feel like it? In testing, God looks for our authenticity while Satan tempts us to get us in trouble. This is a call to look beyond our experiences and circumstances, to see and seek God, and to place Him first (Rom. 5:1-5; 1 Cor. 13:13; 1 Thess. 1:3; James 1:12-18).
Chaps.32-36 Isaac continued the legacy of faith and the promise of God given to Abraham is received and passed on and lived out. A call for us, too, to take our faith and live it out and pass it on. Despite Jacobs's faults, he trusted God, and carried out the plan. This was a sudden change after a family division conflict and an intervention via a dream, yet it took a while for it to fully sink in (Gen. 32:28).
· At the end of his life, the nation of Israel is born and the tribes are forming; each of Jacob's son leads a tribe. The Joseph clan will be cut in two and Levi will be the priest. Jacob is a prime example that God deals with persons one by one and collectively, calling each of us to take a stand for faith and pass it to the next generation by learning His precepts, as being motive to live for God and be His example. Thus, Jacob's name was changed to Israel and his decedents are the Israelites. This act was his turning point and a vivid illustration on the importance of names.
· Jacob and Esau are about conflict and drama (what we might find in churches today). If you and your church are fueled only by emotional drama and sensationalism or have no effective instruction, your faith is weak and on a thin bed of ice on a hot day. You are in the house of Esau. There is nothing to hold, mold, or shape you; there is nothing to transform you and build faith, character, or spiritual and emotional maturity. God wants character--Fruit first and foremost and will use you wherever you are.
· We need to focus on building faith by spending more devotional time with Christ. Start with a few minutes a day and build; pray through the day and monitor how you are to others with attitude and fruit. When you are ready and in His perfect time, the other things will unfold before you. This is what Jacob had to learn to break his pride, put his trust in God, and bring him to patience, which took 14+ years.
· Take comfort, that God does not judge us on our popularity, but on our faithfulness to Him!
The foreshadow of Jesus Christ. God demonstrates grace, and Jacob develops faith in all that Christ will do for us. The demonstrations of faith that point us to a Christian living is about being centered in Christ and trusting Him for our provision, while not waiting around, doing nothing. Faith calls us to action, not to complacency or foolishness. Real, effectual faith is our conviction of trust and confidence--we do not merely believe, for even the demons do that, but that we have assurance beyond doubt. It is the object of our faith that is paramount, and that is Jesus Christ. He is the substance that gives us hope. We do not have blind faith because what we seek and place first is evidenced and supported.
Key Takeaway: Jacob was able to repent and change, and Esau was unwilling . This is the classic struggle of humanity and our wrestling with God. Will we surrender to Christ as Lord, or do as we see fit and leave destruction, chaos and bitterness behind us? Jacob was a scoundrel and was able to make the change to faith and faithful. Being faithful is the "gluing" fruit that will preserve our faith and the other characters of the Holy Spirit and identify God's will so we can be dependable and trusting to God and others. It is the one fruit that we give to God, whereas the others are from the Holy Spirit working in us! Faithfulness is authenticity, perseverance, and the power and motivation for Christian living. Because God is trustworthy with us we can be faith-worthy in Him (Isa. 40:31; Gal. 5:19-26; Heb. 11:8, 17)!
Questions to Ponder
1. Have you ever had a pivotal event that changed your life and faith?
2. How do passions create conflicts, and shape ones worldview? How can faith and reason create a life that is transferred from being self-centered to God-centered?
3. Why do you think God chose to use someone who is a deceiver, crafty and engages in questionable behaviors and deceit?
4. Why do you think Esau traded his birthright for food?
5. How is this passage a warning about bad attitudes and shortsightedness?
6. What lessons of trust have you had? What do you think you still need to learn?
7. Jacob had to learn to break his pride, put his trust in God, have you had this lesson? What stops someone from heeding to Christ as Lord?
8. How do you feel that with all the ruin and rebellion, chaos and strife; yet, God persists with His mercy He perseveres to and for us?
9. Jacob built an altar at Bethel in memory of his vision there; have you recognized who He is? What gets in the way?
10. What do you need to do to be God's example, to listen to Him, and to trust and obey?
11. How can you better remain faithful even in hard times? How does your faith help you to be faithful?
12. How can you be better at looking beyond your current situation and desires and see what Christ has for you?
© 2012 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org