Archive for February 5th, 2013

The narrative and the life of Jacob covers half of Genesis, from his birth, along with his fraternal twin, Esau,  recorded  in Genesis  25: 19-28  to Jacob’s death in 49: 28-33. And what a story it is! He was son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, completing the triumverate of the 3  Patriarchs.

Highlights and lowlights from Jacob’s life:

25: 19-28 He is born along with his fraternal twin Esau.  They come out of the womb, Esau first, then Jacob holding his twin’s heel.  So he is given the name, Jacob which means “supplanter”, or “one who holds the heel”.   “Esau” means “red” because he is  red and hairy. These are two nations as they will be the fathers of two nations and already in the womb they are are in conflict and will be! Note:  Mother favors Jacob over her other son.  This happens more than once Genesis:  we would say this is just the worse in parenting.  And the twins are just polar opposites, vs. 27.

25: 29-31 Esau sells his birthright to Jacob because Esau is hungry! Jacob tricked him.  Feast days always are accompanied with food and on the Commemoration  it should be lentil soup!

Chapter 27:  Jacob, with Mother’s able assistance, trick Father Isaac to obtain for Jacob Isaac’s inheritance and blessing which belonged to the first born, per the rule of primogeniture, that is, Esau.  This does not end well:  Esau swears to kill his brother. Mother tells her favorite son Jacob:  get out of Dodge!  Flee! She does not want Jacob killed by Esau.  Esau,in this instance, just maybe a man of his word! Further Isaac wants him to marry within their extended family so off goes Jacob to Paddam-Arram and Uncle Laban.

27: 10-22:  On the way to Paddam-Aram, the Lord gives Jacob a dream which has been called “Jacob’s Ladder”.  He builds an altar and calls the place, Bethel, literally, the House of God.

29: 1-30:22:  Jacob falls in love!  But there are problems!  This chapter is probably one reason why prudes in our nation have periodically banned the Bible from public libraries.   Jacob eventually marries Rachel, who always will be his favorite wife. He also marries  Rachel’s sister Leah.  Rachel and Leah respectively give their servants, Bilhah and Zilpah, after the sisters can no longer conceive (or thought they could not) , to be their surrogates for being fruitful and multiplying.  From Jacob’s two wives and the two handmaidens, they have one daughter and 12 sons.   The 12 sons would become the 12 tribes of Israel.  This video is not bad, the singing, well, so-so but it’s a good review which begins with the patriarchal family tree:

Rachel gave birth to Jacob’s two favorite sons, Benjamin and Joseph.  In one of the saddest scenes in the Bible, Rachel, Jacob’s beloved wife, dies in childbirth giving birth to Benjamin, their youngest, chapter 35:

16 Then they journeyed from Bethel. When they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. 17 And when her labor was at its hardest,the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.”18 And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni (literally: the son of my sorrow); but his father called him Benjamin (literally:  the son of my right hand: that is, very dear to me).19 So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), 20 and Jacob set up a pillar over her tomb. It is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day. 

These two sons will figure prominently in the last major section of Genesis, the story of Joseph, beginning in Chapter 37.

Chapter 32:  Some 20 plus years pass since Jacob and Esau parted company under intense family conflict.  Jacob hears that Esau and his clan are coming to see him along with “400 men” and that meant then a war party!  So now, Jacob figures, his twin will make bad on his promise to kill Jacob!

Jacob splits his large clan, which included his vast wealth in goats, sheep, donkeys etc. , sending them ahead, so that they are not all in danger and in the highlight of Jacob’s life, he finds himself utterly alone at the river Jabbok (probably for the first time in his life) and he wrestles with a stranger:

22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children,and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was

left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said,“Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “ForI have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 

“No one wrestles with the living God and looks normal and well adjusted. There is a further irony here. Jacob began life by tripping his brother as the latter exited the womb. Now Jacob himself will be permanently tripped up by a limp.”–Fr. Patrick Daniel Reardon, Touchstone

Chapter 33: The meeting between the brothers…

Chapter 37:  Jacob’s favored son Joseph is sold into slavery by 10 of his brothers and the brothers tell Father Jacob that wild animals devoured him.  Jacob grieves…

There is so much more:  Luther’s commentaries, for instance on Genesis alone in English, encompasses 7 volumes.


“The great Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, was once approached by a woman distressed from her recent reading of Romans 9:13. “I cannot understand,” she said, “why God should say that He hated Esau.” “That is not my problem, madam,” Spurgeon replied, “My difficulty is to understand how God could love Jacob.”–Fr. Reardon, Touchstone.

The Lord’s favor is on those who are repentant. Esau was not repentant.  Jacob knew he was a “heel”!  Esau sold his birthright and was only sorry for losing it, not for the sin of doing so.  As Luther commented that Esau was contrite because of punishment not because of the sin against God.  Jacob wrestled with God…Esau was on the sidelines waiting his due.  The Lord can work with sinners as they know their sin, He changes them by His grace and providence…and with Jacob it took time…with us as well.  As someone has commented:  it took the Lord only 6 days to create the heavens and the earth but 33 years to redeem us…and when we factor in the great history of Israel:  a lot longer, but He did so at the right time.

Let us pray…

Lord Jesus, scepter that rises out of Jacob, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,rule our heats through Your suffering cross and forgive us our sins, that we may become partakers of Your divine life;  for You live and reign with the Father andthe Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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