Now Arise, Go Out From This Land

The son of Pharaoh’s daughter, a prince of Egypt, lived the life of a shepherd smelling like sheep. And would one day part the Red Sea leading God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, out from their slavery to Egypt. His name was…Charlton Heston. And he parts the Red Sea every Easter weekend on channel five.

There are certain similarities not between Jacob and Charlton Heston, but Jacob and Moses. Both men learned the life of a shepherd smelling like sheep. Both men met their wives by watering a flock of sheep. And both men would spend years tending the flock of their father-in-law!

The account of Moses is found in the book of the Bible called Exodus. Genesis 31 is an exodus! In the book of Exodus, God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, are in a land that was not home. In Genesis 31, God’s chosen man to be renamed Israel was in a land that was not home. In the book of Exodus, God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, spend years of servitude in a land that was not home. In Genesis 31, God’s chosen man renamed Israel has spent years of servitude in a land that was not home. In the book of Exodus, God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, flee a land that was not home for the Promised Land under the promise of God’s presence. In Genesis 31, God’s chosen man renamed Israel flees a land that was not home for the Promised Land under the promise of God’s presence. In the book of Exodus, God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, do not flee empty handed. In Genesis 31, God’s chosen man renamed Israel does not flee empty handed. And in both accounts, there is a hot pursuit.

Prosperity and Prominence Then Pursuit

But, keep this in mind, Genesis 31 is really about Jacob and Laban. Jacob flees. Laban pursues. Laban unloads six years of pent up frustration on Jacob. Jacob then unloads twenty-years of pent up frustration on Laban. And then the two men share dinner together. This is the whole chapter. But how does it all begin?

Genesis 31 begins with the sons of Laban talking. The sons of Laban are also the brothers-in-law of Jacob. And Jacob hears them talking. These men are talking about Jacob! Listen to what these men are saying. “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.” First, there is a key word in what these men are saying. I want us to pay close attention to it. It is the word father. And separate from this key word is a question. Why are these men talking about Jacob?

Jump ahead to Genesis 31:16. The daughters of Laban are talking. The daughters of Laban are also the wives of Jacob. The wives of Jacob are talking to Jacob. Listen to what these women are saying. “All the wealth that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children.” First, there is a key word in what these women are saying. I want us to pay close attention to it. It is the word father. And separate from this key word is a question. After listening to Rachel and Leah, the sisters of the sons of Laban, why would the sons of Laban be talking about Jacob? It has to do with wealth, the wealth of Jacob. The brothers are not too happy with Jacob’s prosperity. And why? Because it should have been their prosperity.

Keep all of this in mind and listen to Genesis 31:2. After Jacob hears the sons of Laban talking, he sees the father of the sons of Laban. “And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before.” Why, why is Laban not too happy with Jacob? It has to do with prosperity, Jacob’s prosperity! It has to do with Jacob’s prosperity that should have been Laban’s prosperity, all of it!

Here is something interesting. We will learn later in the chapter that Jacob has served Laban for twenty years (31:41). After fourteen years of Jacob’s service, Laban was a very wealthy man. Before Jacob arrived, Laban had little. After Jacob arrived, Laban had much, but Jacob had little. Jacob would serve Laban another six years and after these six years, it was Jacob who had much. But there is more. Notice the word wealth in verse one. This is the Hebrew word kabowd which means glory or glorious. It is the first time that this word is used in the Bible. Laban had prosperity, but it was not enough for Jacob had something that Laban never had. Jacob had prosperity and now prominence. And it will result in a hot pursuit.

Now Arise, Go Out From this Land

But we asked, how does it all begin? Listen to Genesis 31:3. Jacob hears the sons of Laban, sees Laban and then the Lord speaks to Jacob. “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” First, there is a key word here. I want us to pay close attention to it. It is the word father. Jacob will next talk to his two wives secluded out in a field. And he will explain to them that they understand there is only one reason that he has gained the wealth he possesses. God. God has been with him. God has watched out for him. God has cared for him…every step of the way. And it leads to Jacob sharing verse thirteen with them. “[God said] Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.”

In Genesis 30:25, after fourteen years and with much earnestness, Jacob shares with Laban his desire to go home…now. But when Genesis 31 picks up it is six years later. What happened to the Jacob who so eagerly wanted to go home? Some have suggested that it was wealth. Jacob grew comfortable as he gained all this prosperity and prominence. There might be something to it. For six years Jacob remained in his comfort zone. How often am I uncomfortable with leaving my comfort zone? But I think here it is much simpler. It was God’s timing. Although it was God’s will that Jacob return home, six years ago was not the time. This, Genesis 31, was God’s perfect timing for Jacob to return home. And it is emphasized here in verse thirteen with the word now. The time is now Jacob. The greater comfort is doing God’s will in God’s perfect timing.

So, Jacob shares all of this with his wives which they then say, “Now then, whatever God has said to you, do” (31:16). It helps a man to hear his wife say, “do God’s perfect will.”

Rachel and the Heart of the Home

And Jacob leads his family home. Jacob sets his children and his wives on camels and drives away all his livestock and all of the possessions in the direction of home. Which home? Listen to the last few words of verse eighteen. “…to go to the land of Canaan [this is the Promised Land] to his father Isaac.” First, there is a key word here. I want us to pay close attention to it. It is the word father. And then comes what are perhaps the pivotal verses of the entire chapter.

Laban heads out to shear his sheep. He leaves his home to shear his sheep and he has a lot of sheep. Apparently, this must be far away from home. And while gone, “Rachel stole her father’s household gods” (31:19). First, there is a key word here. I want us to pay close attention to it. It is the word father. These idols were most likely small, carved images, maybe images of ancestors. But these household gods would have been used for divination, worship; for protection or for healing, especially infertility. And remember, Rachel has had a history of infertility. The last we heard from her, she expressed her desire for another son (cf. 30:24). But. Rachel and Leah had expressed together that their father had wasted what should have been their inheritance (31:15). And the possession of the family gods strengthened one’s claim to an inheritance. Rachel, too, wanted what belonged to her.

But then there is verse twenty which intentionally runs parallel to verse nineteen. Rachel stole the household gods and “Jacob tricked Laban the Aramean, by not telling him that he intended to flee.”  Some translations have the word deceived instead of tricked. The King James translation reads, “And Jacob stole away unawares.” The word tricked and deceived though do not accurately reflect the Hebrew. The Hebrew word here is leb (pronounced labe). This word occurs 593 times in the Old Testament of which some 440 times it is translated heart. So, it seems that although Rachel stole her father’s household gods, by fleeing unannounced Jacob stole her father’s heart, although unintentionally.

And in these two pivotal verses, two things have happened. Rachel stole the heart of a home and Jacob stole the heart of a father.

Laban Pursues and Laban Follows and Laban Overcome

When it is told to Laban that Jacob and by Jacob it is meant Jacob and his wives, and his kids and all of his stuff have fled, three days have passed. Laban then pursues. And in Genesis 31:22-55, it is all about Jacob seeking to return home and Laban seeking the return to his home.

Laban pursues, and Laban follows. But God restrains. God restrains Laban from saying anything good or bad to Jacob (31:24). Once Laban catches up to Jacob, he overtakes him or corners him. Jacob cannot escape the grasp of Laban. And Laban unloads all of this pent-up frustration of the last six years upon Jacob. What have you done? And why have you tricked [this again is the word for heart] me? Why have you stolen my heart (31:26)? How has Jacob stolen Laban’s heart? “And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell? I would have thrown a going away celebration” (31:27-28). I am not sure how genuine Laban is being about the party, but it does seem that Laban’s heart were his kids and grandkids. And in a sense, he may want them to return to his home.

And Laban assures Jacob in verse twenty-nine, “It is in my power to do you harm. But the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’” First, there is a key word here. I want us to pay close attention to it. It is the word father. And then Laban asks, “Why did you steal my gods?”

No one knows that Rachel stole these family gods. And Jacob confidently tells Laban to search for them and whoever has stolen them will be put to death (31:32). In short, Laban comes up short (31:33-35). Rachel deceptively hid them (31:34). And then Jacob unloads twenty-years of pent up frustration upon Laban (31:36-42). But the only thing I want us to notice is Genesis 31:42. “If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac [or the one whom my father fears], had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty handed.” There is a word to pay attention to here: father.

The two men then agree to a treaty, a peace treaty. It is really because neither trusts the other (31:43-54). In that treaty, Laban proposes that each swear to uphold the treaty by “The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” There is a word to pay attention to here: father. The father in view is Terah and he worshiped not the God of the Bible, but gods. It could be that the gods of Laban’s household were the gods that his great-grandfather Terah worshiped. But instead, Jacob swears by the God his father worships and fears (31:53). The God Abraham eventually came to worship and fear.

There is a lot of mention of fathers in this chapter. The heart of Laban’s home were the gods of his fathers. The heart of the home Jacob was returning to, the heart of Isaac’s home was the God Isaac feared and worshiped. And the big idea for us is, what is the heart of your home?

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is seen praying…a lot. And when he taught his disciples to pray, he said to pray like this: Our Father in heaven… Jesus calls his disciples to call God their Father. It is amazing! The heart of a home is filled with those who are able to rightly call God Father! How is it even possible? “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

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Send Me Away, That I May Go Home

Yes, this too is in the Bible. A man wants to go home. A man who has been gone for fourteen years, one month and one week wants to go home.

Yes, this too is in the Bible. Another man wants him to stay. He who had little fourteen years, one month and one week ago, but now has an abundance wants him to stay.

Yes, this too is in the Bible. A man still wants to go home. But after fourteen years, one month and one week and two wives, eleven sons and one daughter, he has very little…to get home.

Yes, this too is in the Bible. A man with very little still wants to get home. So, he has a plan. He will breed striped and spotted and speckled sheep and lamb and goats.

Yes, this too is in the Bible. Another man with very much wants him to stay. So, he has a plan. He gets rid of every striped and spotted and speckled sheep and lamb and goats.

Yes, this too is in the Bible. A man still with very little still wants to get home. So, he has another plan. He will breed striped and spotted and speckled sheep and lamb and goats using sticks. He will put peeled, striped sticks in the drinking water. And it works. He gets striped and spotted and speckled sheep and lamb and goats by putting peeled, striped sticks in the drinking water. And he gets rich!

Yes, this too is in the Bible and at the very first it sounds so strange. So, perhaps the big question to ask is, why is this too in the Bible?!

Should You Serve Me for Nothing?

Genesis 30:25-43 is about Jacob. Jacob is on a journey, a journey that sent him away from home (cf. Genesis 28:6). This journey would take Jacob the furthest he had ever been away from home and it was because he had most likely never been away from home! But Jacob was on this journey for two reasons. It was because of his mom. His mom sent him on this journey for his own good. It was for his own safety. His brother Esau had planned to kill him, and Esau slept every night under the comfort that one day soon he would kill his brother.

But Jacob is also on this journey because of his dad. His dad sent him on this journey for his own good. Jacob was single. So, his dad sent him away to find a wife. Jacob found two wives.

The journey was a five-hundred-mile journey, a journey that Jacob’s mom promised would only be for a short while (cf. 27:44). And as the journey began to unfold, Jacob kept his eye on returning home (cf. 28:20-21). His eye was kept on returning home by the bare Word of God (cf. 28:20-21; 28:15).

But this journey which was initially promised to be only for a short while quickly turned into a month. A month turned into seven years. Seven years were extended by one week. And the one week led into another seven years. As Genesis 30:25 picks up, Jacob has been gone from home for fourteen years, one month and one week.

What had Jacob been doing for fourteen years, one month and one week? We know that he got married twice in about a seven-day period. He also had lots of kids, eleven sons and one daughter. So, Jacob multiplied. But what had Jacob being doing all this time? It began with watering a flock of sheep. These were Laban’s sheep (cf. 29:10). Then Jacob tended or pastured a flock of sheep. These too were Laban’s sheep. And then Jacob tended his father-in-law’s sheep. These too were Laban’s sheep.

But why was Jacob tending his father-in-law’s sheep? I know that this is review, but it is really important. Look back and listen to Genesis 29:15. Laban asked Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing?” The word we want to pay attention to is the word serve.

When Rebekah was pregnant with her twin boys Esau and Jacob, God revealed to Rebekah that the older, Esau, shall serve the younger, Jacob, (25:23). Prior to Jacob’s journey his dad Isaac blessed him saying, “Let peoples serve you” (27:29). And this is the same word as in Genesis 29:15. The word serve itself means to serve or to be kept in bondage. And the point is Jacob was a man to be served, but so far Jacob is the one doing all the serving! And Genesis 29:15 through Genesis 30:24 it is emphasized six times that Jacob served Laban.

Send Me Away, That I May Go Home

And after fourteen years, one month and one week of serving Laban, Jacob wants to go home. The big idea of Genesis 30:25-43 is home and the man who wants to go home and how this man plans to go home. And it begins with Jacob telling Laban rather clearly, “Send me away!” And what is the reason? “That I may go home” (30:25). And in verse twenty-six, Jacob continues rather clearly, “Give me my wives and my children!” And what is the reason? “That I may go home.”

But where is home? Jacob called it his own home and his own country. Where is it? Remember, Jacob had kept his eye on home by the bare Word of God. “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (28:15). This land was a land that God had promised to give to Jacob and to his offspring. This land was where his father’s house was, a house that Jacob looked forward to returning to in peace (cf. 28:21). It was a promised land.

But what had Jacob been doing as he held onto God’s promise of going home to this promised land? Listen to Genesis 30:26. “Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, that I may go, for you know the service that I have given you.” Look ahead to Jacob’s words in verse twenty-nine. “You yourself know how I have served you.” Beginning with Genesis 29:15, up to this point the word served has been mentioned nine times. What has been the emphasis of Jacob’s fourteen-year journey? Servitude. Jacob the man to be served has served another man. And now he wants to go home to a promised land.

Laban Wants Jacob Stay

And Laban says, “Stay.” He actually says, “If I have found favor in your sight,” which is odd. It was a fawning way of addressing a superior and Laban is the superior![1] “Please stay!” And what is the reason? “I have learned by divination…” The word divination here is sometimes associated with sorcery and witchcraft. But I do not think that is what Laban means here. I do not think he means that he has learned something about Jacob through sorcery or witchcraft. The basic meaning is to observe the signs (cf. 1 Kings 20:33). Laban has observed the signs. The signs are that Laban’s station in life has only improved since Jacob began serving Laban. Laban has gone from having very little to now having very much. And what is the reason? “The Lord has blessed me because of you.”

And Jacob gives Laban an amen! “For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned” (30:30). But the point to see is that the abundance is the Lord’s doing. Listen closely to the end of verse thirty. “But now when shall I provide for my own household as well?” In other words, Jacob is the one who after fourteen years has little. He came here with little and still has little. He has little to provide for two wives and twelve kids. And do not forget the point of Jacob and Laban’s conversation. Laban’s abundance was all the Lord’s doing. Why is that important? Because this chapter ends with abundance. Jacob goes from having very little to having camels! His prosperity increases abundantly! How could it be? It was the Lord’s doing.

Jacob’s Crazy Idea for Breeding Sheep

I only mention that because of Jacob’s crazy idea for breeding sheep. He proposes to Laban that he will continue to serve him, and his only wages will be sheep and lamb and goats. Whatever sheep and lamb and goats are striped and spotted and speckled will be Jacob’s flock. The more favorable looking flock will all be Laban’s. Laban agrees and then has all the striped and spotted and speckled removed a three days journey from Jacob. In other words, when Jacob returns to shepherd the flock all of what would be his flock are gone (30:31-36).

What will Jacob do? When the stronger of the flock will breed, and they always breed by the watering trough, he will put striped sticks in their drinking water. The thinking was that a vivid sight during pregnancy or conception would be reflected upon the offspring. And it apparently works! And once it works, Jacob kept doing this but only when the stronger of the flock would breed. The feebler got normal drinking water. The end result was that although Jacob’s flock were striped and spotted and speckled, they were strong. And although Laban’s flock was favorable looking they were also feeble. The point: Do not try this at home. It will not work. This only worked, and this is the only time in the Bible it worked, because it was God’s doing (30:37-42).

But Why Is This Too in the Bible?

But why is this too in the Bible? Did you notice when Jacob wanted to go home to the promised land after fourteen years of bondage? Listen to Genesis 30:25. “As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph.” Joseph is the turning point. Why?

The book of Genesis will end with Joseph, this Joseph, along with Jacob and all of Jacob’s sons in Egypt, some seventy persons (Exodus 1:5). Egypt is not the promised land. And while in Egypt over time, the people of Jacob also known as Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them (Exodus 1:6). In other words, there were more than just seventy people of Israel, there were actually too many, too many for the people of Egypt. So, what does Egypt do? They set taskmasters over them. Jacob’s descendants are in a land not their own, a people who are to be served, but are at this time doing the serving. They are in bondage.

And they come to a point when they wanted to go home. Listen to Exodus 2:23-25. “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery [the word slavery is the same Hebrew word as serve] and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” This is like Genesis 29:31-30:24, of which we asked, “Why is this in the Bible?” There God saw and God remembered and God heard. In the next passage, of which we asked, “Why is this too in the Bible?” Jacob while in servitude wants to go home.

In Exodus, God will raise up a man. His name was Moses. It begins with watering a flock and then tending the flock of his father-in-law (Exodus 2:16-17; 3:1). This man will rescue Israel and lead them out of the bondage to bring them home. Very similar to Jacob in Genesis 30. He too will lead the sons of Israel out of the bondage to bring them home.

What is the point for us? There will come a descendant of Jacob of whom God will say, “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Matthew 2:15). His name is Jesus. He too is a servant, one who waters and tends a flock (cf. Philippians 2; John 10). And he too is one who leads people out of bondage just to bring them home. It is us. Our bondage is sin (Romans 6:20). But Jesus the Christ at his cross seeks to bring us out of slavery to sin, to never return and bring us home! “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going” (John 14:1-4).

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, page 383.

God Saw and God Remembered and God Heard Her

Yes, this is in the Bible. A man fell in love with a woman. And then he married her…sister. A man still in love with the woman married her…a week after he married the sister.

Yes, this is in the Bible. A wife was unloved. A wife was unloved and so she had children. She had children because she was desperate for the love of her husband.

Yes, this is in the Bible. Another wife was loved. Another wife was loved and so she too had children. She had children because she was desperate to have children.

Yes, this is in the Bible. A wife was unhappy. A wife was unhappy and so she had more children. She had more children because she was desperate to be happy

Yes, this is in the Bible. Another wife was unhappy. Another wife was unhappy and so she sold her husband. She sold her husband for some fruit because she too was desperate to be happy.

Yes, this is in the Bible. And the big question is, why is any of this in the Bible?

Four Parts for a Big Question

There are four parts to Genesis 29:31-30:24. The first part begins with Genesis 29:31. “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” The second part begins with Genesis 30:1. “When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister.” The third part begins with Genesis 30:9. “When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children…” Notice that so far each of the three parts begin the same way. “When the Lord saw; When Rachel saw; When Leah saw.” But the fourth part is different. It begins with Genesis 30:22. “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.”

And there is a certain symmetry between the first part, Genesis 29:31, and the fourth part, Genesis 30:22. Listen closely to those two parts one more time. “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated.” I like how many English translations word this verse. “When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb.” Let’s highlight those words, “he opened her womb.” God opened Leah’s womb, implying what? Before God opened her womb, Leah was barren. And I want to make this point. God saw that Leah was unloved and God opened her womb. Why did God open Leah’s womb? The text does not say, “God saw that Leah was unloved and so he opened her womb.” The text simply says, “When God saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb.” And again, implying that before God opened her womb, Leah was barren. And what does the remainder of the verse read? “But Rachel was barren.” So, prior to Genesis 29:31, both sisters, both sisters who were wives, both sisters who were both wives to the same man, were barren. And when God saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb. And why? Why did he open her womb?

And now the fourth part. Notice the symmetry to the first part. “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.” Where is the symmetry to the first part? God opened her womb. There is the symmetry! The subject of the first part is Leah. The subject of the fourth part is Rachel. And both parts are about when each sister was barren. When God saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb. When God remembered Rachel and listened to Rachel, he opened her womb. Mark the word remembered. Rachel is just the third person in Genesis of whom it is said, “God remembered.” God remembered Noah (Genesis 8:1). God remembered Abraham (Genesis 19:29). God remembered Rachel and opened her womb (Genesis 30:22). And like Leah, why did God open Rachel’s womb?

Each of the four parts involve Leah and Rachel. And so, why is any of this in the Bible? It has something to do with Leah and Rachel. And, why did God open their wombs? It has something to do with why any of this is in the Bible.

Perhaps There Are Seven Lessons About Marriage

Both Leah and Rachel are married to the same man: Jacob. So, perhaps in these verses there is something to be learned about marriage. Perhaps in these verses there is a lesson or seven about marriage. It begins with lesson number one regarding marriage: Don’t do it. This leads to lesson number two regarding marriage. Do not be married to two women or more simultaneously. And like lesson number two is lesson number three regarding marriage: Be at all times a one-man kind of woman and a one-woman kind of man (cf. 1 Timothy 3:2). Then there is lesson number four: Do lessons number one through three and marriage will still have its difficulties. Then comes lesson number five. Do lessons number one through four and love your wife and love your husband. Lesson number six then follows: Keep lesson number five before you and do not have children to earn or to seek the affection of your spouse. Nor should you seek to have children for the mere sake of having a family or your own self-worth. And finally lesson number seven: Neither Jacob’s marriage to Leah or Jacob’s marriage to Rachel is the ideal biblical marriage.

The ideal biblical marriage has as its foundation Genesis 2:24. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife.” This is the foundation, but then there is the structure. And the structure, the display, is found in Ephesians 5:25-33. Marriage is a profound and great mystery because a husband loving his wife and a wife enjoying, respecting, loving her husband is a display of the good news of Jesus Christ. It is a display of the gospel which causes great joy. It is a display of the cross and Christ loving his bride, the church and giving himself up for her.

But Perhaps There is But One Lesson

But perhaps there is but one lesson. Perhaps the lesson is just this: this is one hot mess. It is messy! These marriages are a mess! Consider Leah. When God saw that she was unloved, he opened her womb. She then conceived and gave birth to four sons, but not all at the same time. Listen to what she said at the birth of her first son. “For now my husband will love me.” Listen then to what she said a year later at the birth of her second son. “God has given me this son also,” meaning, apparently the birth of the first son did not result in the affection of the husband. Surely the second son will arouse some feeling from the husband for the wife. Listen to Leah when the third son was born. “Now this time my husband will be attached to me.” Leah was no longer hoping for the love, the affection of her husband. Now she was simply hoping that Jacob would want to be in the same room as his wife. Perhaps now he will spend some time with me (cf. Genesis 29:32-34).

And really listen to what Leah says at the birth of the fourth son. “This time I will praise the Lord.” What is more painful than when a spouse is unloved? After four sons, is Leah satisfied? I was a bit critical of Leah, maybe lacking some compassion. I thought, why did it take the birth of four sons for you to finally say, “This time I will praise the Lord”? Do you know why I lacked understanding? It is because I do not know what it is like to be unloved. Leah does. And so, maybe it is difficult after one year, two years, three years, four years to be able to get to the point of being able to just say, “I will praise the Lord.” But I know this much: get there.

Then there is Rachel. She is watching her sister; her husband’s other wife and she is envious. She wants children and she does not want her sister to have children. She demands children from her husband or else she will die! Notice what Jacob says. “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” What is Jacob saying to Rachel? But also pay attention to how Jacob introduces his question to Rachel. “Am I in the place of God?” We will come back to this later. (cf. Genesis 30:1-2).

But Rachel has a plan. Her plan has nothing to do with God. Her plan has to do with her servant (reminiscent of Sarah). She gives her servant to Jacob her husband so that Rachel can build a family for herself through this servant (again reminiscent of Sarah). And Jacob says nothing, voices no opposition (reminiscent of Abraham). The servant bears a son of whom Rachel declares that God has vindicated her. Is she correct? So, Rachel gives her servant to Jacob a second time and there is born a second son. In some way, Rachel saw her struggle with Leah for children as a struggle with which God was involved, giving Rachel victory. Is she correct? (cf. Genesis 30:3-8).

Then Leah sees Rachel. Leah has for some reason stopped being able to bear children. She sees Rachel who is barren building a family for herself through another woman. So, Leah does the very same thing! She imitates her sister and succeeds with the birth of two boys! And Leah does not declare victory, but happiness. Happy days are here again (cf. Genesis 30:9-13)!

Both sisters are now barren together. Apparently so are the servants who were used as surrogates. There are no more children until sometime later, when the two sisters are out in the field. Rachel sees Leah’s son with some mandrakes (playfully called love apples). Mandrakes were assumed to help with infertility. Keep in mind that up to this point, Rachel has not personally bore any children. And Leah has not spent an evening with Jacob for quite some time. So, Rachel sells a night with Jacob to Leah for the mandrakes. The result is that Leah, not Rachel gets pregnant. And Leah gets pregnant again. And then Leah gets pregnant again (cf. Genesis 30:14-21).

After all these years, maybe nine or ten, Jacob has six sons and one daughter with Leah, two sons with one servant and two sons with another. This is ten sons and one daughter, none of whom are with the wife he loves more: Rachel.

God Saw and God Remembered and God Heard Her

After all this time, God remembers Rachel. God listens to Rachel, he heard her. And God opened her womb. She gave birth to a son named Joseph.

And so, we come back to our big question. Why is any of this in the Bible? And, why did God open her womb, Leah and Rachel?

Remember Jacob’s question to Rachel? “Am I in the place of God?” When Rachel finally has a child of her own she names him Joseph. At the end of Genesis, Joseph will ask his brothers, the brothers born in this chapter, “Am I in the place of God?” (50:19). He then will say to these brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (50:20).

And remember Leah’s fourth son, when she finally said that this time she will praise the Lord. His name was Judah. One of the descendants of Judah is King David. And one of the descendants of David is the King of kings, Jesus the Christ.

What then is the point? Why is any of this in the Bible? Why did God open their wombs? This all was a mess. But God saw her. He saw her in this mess. And God remembered her. He remembered her in this mess. And God heard her. He heard her in this mess.

Life can be messy, married or not, children or not. But God sees, God remembers, and God hears. Why? It is all to bring about good from your mess.

Why Then Have You Deceived Me?

When a man loves a woman can’t keep his mind on nothin’ else. He’d trade the world for a good thing he’s found. If she is bad, he can’t see it. She can do no wrong. Turn his back on his best friend if he puts her down. When a man loves a woman spend his very last dime trying to hold on to what he needs. He’d give up all his comforts and sleep out in the rain if she said that’s the way it ought to be.

When a man loves a woman….

Then Jacob Went on His Journey

Genesis 29:1-30 is all about a man. And the question to ask is, who is this man? It all begins with the first verse. “Then Jacob went on his journey.” The first words of these thirty verses are simply meant to put our attention on a man named Jacob. Watch him; watch him carefully and ask, what is he doing? The answer begins here. He is on a journey.

Jacob is on a journey, a rather long five-hundred-mile journey. And he is on this journey for two reasons. The first reason is his mom. His mom has sent him on this journey for his own good. It is for his safety. His older brother Esau has planned to kill him and sleeps well every night under the comfort of this plan. But the second reason that Jacob is on this journey is his dad. His dad has sent him on this journey for his own good. It is to find a wife.

What does Jacob think of this journey? In other words, and this is important to the whole text, what is Jacob’s view of this journey? Many English translations begin verse one with the word “so” or “then” meaning that the previous verses matter to this journey. So, what is Jacob’s view of this journey? Listen to Genesis 28:20-21. “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go (that is the journey), and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.” Jacob’s view of this journey is home. He is looking forward to going back home. But what is holding Jacob’s view? Again, this is important to whole the text. It is there in Genesis 28:20-21. If God will be with me and if God will keep me in this way that I go (that is the journey). Holding Jacob’s view in this journey is the presence of God and the care of God. Holding Jacob’s view in this journey is the Word of God (cf. 28:15). This is how Jacob knew that God promised to be with him and promised to guard and keep and care for him. So, what does Jacob then do?

The sense of this first verse is that Jacob continued on his journey. Remember, in the previous verses Jacob stopped in his journey to sleep for the night. But there is more here than just continuing on this journey. A literal translation of the Hebrew text reads, “Then Jacob picked up his feet.” This is what follows the previous verses! Jacob is refreshed for this journey. Jacob is renewed for this journey and all because of what is holding his view. Then Jacob picks up his feet.

Behold, Three Flocks of Sheep

And when Jacob picks up his feet, get ready for it, he gets to where he was going. He comes to the land of the people of the east. It is Haran. And when Jacob gets to where he was going…behold! Genesis 29:2 has in it that word of surprise, that word that is meant to grab our attention so that we may pay attention – behold. Jacob saw a well. And when he saw a well, he saw three flocks of sheep lying beside the well. And when he saw the well, the three flocks of sheep lying beside the well, he also saw shepherds…all lying around! Why? What is important about this well and the three flocks of sheep and the shepherds?

Out of this well the flocks were watered and there was a large stone covering the mouth of it (29:2). So, why is everyone lying around? Listen closely to verse three. “And when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place over the mouth of the well.” These shepherds are waiting for all the flocks to gather at the well. There are three flocks gathered so far which means these men are waiting for at least a fourth flock. And these shepherds, maybe three, are waiting not just for all the flocks, but for the fourth shepherd. It takes four shepherds to move that large stone.

Behold, a Fourth Flock of Sheep

Jacob then asks these men three questions. Where do you come from? Do you know Laban? And is he well? Their answer: Haran. Yes. Yes. That was it! I want us though to pay close attention to verse six. The shepherds then say, “and see, Rachel.” The word see is the same Hebrew word for behold. And what is the point of the word behold? It is meant to grab our attention so that we may pay attention. Here it is meant to grab Jacob’s attention so that he pays attention…to Rachel. She is keeping the fourth flock of sheep. But Jacob keeps talking. He tells them to behold! “You behold! Do not tell me to behold! It is still high day, get up, water these sheep and get going! Quit lying around!” Why does Rachel, at first, not grab Jacob’s attention? Listen to verse eight. “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.” Who moves the stone? The shepherds, all the shepherds. And who are these three shepherds, these three men waiting for in order to move the stone? The fourth shepherd with the fourth flock. And why does Jacob not pay attention to Rachel at first? In verse nine Rachel is called a shepherdess. She is the fourth shepherd! These three men are waiting for her so to move that large stone. What does that say about Rachel? What does this say about Jacob? He was not expecting the fourth shepherd to be a woman!

Behold, Now Jacob Sees Rachel

And behold, now Jacob sees Rachel. And when he sees Rachel, he also sees the sheep. And he finally puts it all together. Rachel is the fourth shepherd. Rachel is here to move that stone. These three men were waiting for her so that the stone could be moved. What then does Jacob do? He moves the stone…all by himself (29:10)! He then waters the sheep, just Rachel’s sheep. And when he is done, he gives Rachel the kiss of a lifetime. This is the only place in biblical narrative where we read of a man kissing a woman who is not his wife or mother. By the way, Jacob’s dad met Jacob’s mom at a watering hole too. What must Jacob be thinking? Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a terrible feeling, everything’s going my way.

Behold, Jacob Sees Laban

Genesis 29:1-30 is all about a man. And the question to ask is, who is this man? Look carefully at Genesis 29:10, when Jacob finally sees Rachel. “Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.”

Genesis 29:1-30 is all about Laban. He is mentioned by name sixteen times, more than any other person. Important though are his daughters. There is Rachel, she is his youngest daughter, beautiful both in form and in appearance and apparently really strong. And there is Leah, the oldest daughter. Her eyes are weak (soft). It may be that this just means that she is the least attractive of the two sisters (29:16-17). And the text does have a lot do with Jacob. It is about his journey. But there is Laban his mother’s brother. And the big question is, what does Laban have to do with Jacob and his journey?

After Jacob kissed Rachel, he wept really loud. After Jacob wept really loud, he then told her who he was. Rachel then ran. She ran to tell her dad. And what did Laban do? He ran. He ran to meet Jacob and embrace Jacob and to bring him to his house. Now this is rather interesting; Jacob then told “Laban all these things” (29:13). What things? Perhaps all about his journey. But what I really want us to notice is verse fourteen. “And he stayed with him for a month.”

Jacob is here to find a wife. The last man that came to Laban looking for a wife came with stuff. He came with gold rings and gold bracelets and camels! It all caught Laban’s eye (24:29-32). This man, too, Laban brought to his house. Jacob comes empty handed. No gold rings, no gold bracelets, no camels and not even a pillow! After a month, we find out that Jacob has been working for Laban. Laban then asks, “Should you serve me for nothing? What should your wages be?” (29:15). Notice verse eighteen. “Jacob loved Rachel.” And when a man loves a woman he says, “I will serve you for seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban agrees and agrees to give “her to you.” And notice, Laban does not specify when he would give “her to you.” But the big point is that a month of service has turned into seven years of service, feeling like just a few days to Jacob (29:20).

Behold, Jacob Sees Leah

At the end of seven years, Jacob demands without any more waiting, “Give me my wife!” So, Laban plans a wedding and invites guests to a week-long celebration. The wedding day arrives and there is Laban walking his daughter down the aisle. She is veiled from head to toe. The voice may not sound like Rachel, but Jacob is so excited. The two exchange vows and then go home as husband and wife. The next morning comes and “behold, it was Leah!” (29:25). Laban had given Jacob his daughter, but it was Leah.

Why Then Have You Deceived Me?

Jacob then asks his father-in-law, “Why then have you deceived me?” It is an interesting question from a man who deceived his brother and his father. It is an interesting question from a man who in deceiving his father pretended to be the older son, veiled in his clothing and hairy like him too. Here Jacob has been deceived with the older daughter. Laban’s response is simple. “In our culture we do not give the younger daughter to be married before the older daughter” (29:26). Now listen to his proposal, “Complete the week. Finish the wedding celebration. Then you may take Rachel as your wife, but at a price. Serve me for her another seven years” (29:27). The big point is that a month turned into seven years and an additional week and then another seven years. This is now Jacob’s journey.

And Jacob loved Rachel and served 14 years, one month and a week to be her husband. He was Leah’s husband too, but loved Rachel more. Jacob now knows what it feels like to be deceived. The schemer got schemed. But is that the point?

No. We were to keep our eye on Jacob, Jacob who picked up his feet so revived and refreshed. And so bold. He picked up that stone all by himself. At the end he is quiet. What happened? Laban happened. It was said that Jacob needed some trimming, some compassion, to experience some pain, some humility, some growth in faith. Jacob needed to stop trusting himself. It would take 14 years, one month and a week. It would take a Laban. But what was still to hold his view? I am with you. I will keep you. I will never leave you.

There are times when a Laban is needed as an instrument used of God for our good. What do we do when we are given Laban’s? “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). This will hold your view.

How Amazing is This Place!

Near the end of his life, Charles Templeton would share three of the most unexpected words: I…miss…him.

Billy Graham was Charles Templeton’s friend. These two friends had labored together, traveled the world together, preached to thousands together. So, what would be the best word to describe the moment when Billy Graham listened to his friend share his doubts and questions about the truthfulness of God’s Word? By the way, Charles was considered the better preacher, the more effective preacher of the two friends.

Fifty years after that moment, Charles would pen his memoir Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith. Soon thereafter he would give what would be one of his last interviews, if not his last interview, in which he was asked, “And how do you assess this Jesus?” Listen carefully. At this question, he softened. It was as if he suddenly felt relaxed and comfortable in talking about an old and dear friend. His guard seemingly down, he spoke in an unhurried pace, almost nostalgically, carefully choosing his words as he talked about Jesus. “He was, the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world. What could one say about him except that this was a form of greatness? I know it may sound strange, but I have to say…I adore him! Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. Yes…yes. And tough! Just look at Jesus. He castigated people. He was angry. People don’t think of him that way, but they don’t read the Bible. He had a righteous anger. He cared for the oppressed and exploited. There’s no question that he had the highest moral standard, the least duplicity, the greatest compassion, of any human being in history. There have been many other wonderful people, but Jesus is Jesus… In my view, he declared, he is the most important human being who has ever existed.”

And then came the simply unexpected. “And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, “I…miss…him!” With that tears flooded his eyes. He turned his head and looked downward, raising his left hand to shield his face. His shoulders bobbed as he wept.[1]

How Did Jacob Sleep?

Genesis 28:10-22 demands a big question. What happens here is something that Jacob will remember when he is a dad (Genesis 35:1-15). And what happens here is something that Jacob will remember when he is a granddad (Genesis 48:1-7). And the big demanding question is, how did Jacob sleep?

Notice the first two verses, Genesis 28:10-11. “Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep.”

Right away we are told where Jacob came from, where he is going and where he stopped – Beersheba, Haran and a certain place. Just notice that Moses calls where Jacob stopped a “certain place.” And notice that in verse eleven alone, Moses draws our attention back to this place two more times. “Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep.” But there are questions to ask like, why did Jacob leave Beersheba? Why is Jacob going to Haran? Those two questions will seem to answer each other. And why did Jacob stop in this certain place?

First, why did Jacob leave Beersheba? Beersheba was home. Jacob left home and he left home for two reasons. His mom urged him to leave home, immediately, for his own safety. His brother Esau had planned to kill him and was comforted by the fact with each passing day that he was going to kill him. His mom found out about it and did all she could to get Jacob out of there. But Jacob also left home because his dad urged him to leave home, immediately, because he was single. Jacob was single and should have been ready to mingle. He was at least forty years old. His twin brother Esau was already married, twice and at the same time. Isaac, his dad, did not want Jacob just to marry any woman. He did not want him to marry a Canaanite woman, where they were currently living. So, he sends him away, far away, miles and miles and months away to Haran for a wife. Which also answers why Jacob is heading toward Haran.

And so, why did Jacob stop in this certain place? It is rather simple. Listen to the start of verse eleven. “And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set.” He stopped not because he wanted to, he stopped because he had to. It was nighttime which means bedtime! And this is all meant to help answer, how did Jacob sleep? Now keep in mind that Jacob is at least forty years old and as far as we know this is the farthest he has ever been away from home, maybe about fifty miles at this certain place. And as far as we know, he has never left home and most likely because he liked staying home. But what is on his mind? Look ahead to something Jacob says in Genesis 28:21. “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace.” Jacob is looking forward to going back home.

But there is more. How does Jacob sleep? Listen to the rest of verse eleven. “Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.” This stone becomes rather important but notice its first importance. It is as a pillow! And what does this first tell us? Jacob left home without his pillow! So, how did he sleep? Anxious. Unprepared. Looking forward to going home. And alone. Jacob was all alone. And although he forgot his pillow, he will not forget that stone.

And He Dreamed

Jacob fell asleep and Jacob had a dream. And there are four things to not miss about this dream. This is all in Genesis 28:12-15. First, behold, there was a ladder. And this is just interesting, but the Hebrew word for ladder is only ever used here in the Old Testament. Some translations instead of the word ladder have the word stairway, which may be the better picture. So, behold there was a ladder and the ladder was set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven.

I did wonder if there was a contrast to be made here. Do you remember Genesis 11? Genesis 11 is about the Tower of Babel. The Tower of Babel was man’s attempt to “build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves” (11:4). The tower was man’s attempt to reach the heavens and to do so there would have been ramps and steps going up this tower to reach the heavens, to reach where God resided. So, there might be a contrast to be had here. But, behold there was a ladder.

And behold, the angels of God.  Now notice the angels of God. The angels of God were ascending and descending on it, on the ladder! Do not miss what the angels were doing. How were the angels getting from heaven to earth and from earth to heaven? The ladder! So, behold the angels of God ascending and descending on the ladder.

And behold, the Lord. Now this word, this name, is in all capital letters. It is the name signifying the most precious name for God – YHWH. This is Yahweh. There are two different ways to translate this part, neither affect the meaning of the text. The Lord was either standing above it, the ladder, or standing beside him, Jacob. But, behold the Lord.

Finally, and this is verses thirteen through fifteen, behold, the Lord spoke. “Behold, I am with you…” (28:15). I read an important observation about this dream. “Mute visions are cold. It is the word of the Lord that is the soul that quickens them.” This dream is cold if not for God speaking. But what does the dream mean?

I am the Lord

When God speaks, he introduces himself to Jacob as “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.” It is an introduction of a title, a title that from this point on will read, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (cf. Exodus 3:6). It is a title of God throughout the Old Testament, a title that Jesus said meant “He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Mark 12:27).

But what does the dream mean? God then establishes the promise he made with Abraham and with Isaac now to Jacob (cf. 13:14-16; 26:24). But the most important part, and this is just in answering the question, comes with verse fifteen. “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” What does the dream mean? It has everything to do with God’s promised divine companionship with Jacob. It has everything to do with God’s promised presence.

How Awesome is this Place

But does Jacob get it? Does he understand the dream? Does he understand what God said? If all we had was Genesis 28:20-22, we might say no. There he seems to be bargaining with God. “If God will be with me; if God will keep me in this way that I go; if God will give me bread to eat; if God will clothe me, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then he will be my God and I will give him a tenth of all that he gives me.” This may explain why Jacob will be gone from home for twenty-years. He has much to learn.

But does Jacob get it? Yes. He gets it, just listen to Genesis 28:16-17. “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it. How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” And so, Jacob calls the place Bethel which means “house of God” and he takes his pillow, pours oil all over it and sets it up as a marker. Why? So that he will not miss this place.

It is the house of God. It is the gate of heaven. And it is called Bethel. And it is awesome. This dream is mentioned one other time in the Bible. It is John 1:51. There Jesus is calling his disciples and one disciple in particular. His name was Nathanael. Jesus knew that he was sitting under a tree. And when he saw Nathanael coming his way he said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” What does Jacob’s name mean? Deceiver. Interesting. Nathanael is amazed at all this and that Jesus knew where he was under the fig tree. Jesus then says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

This is the same wording as Genesis 28:10-22, except for the ladder. What is Jesus saying? He is the ladder! He is the stairway! Better yet, he is Bethel! He is the house of God! He is the gate of heaven. He has come and been set up on the earth. And he has been lifted up at the cross that he might draw all men and women unto himself. And it is because he is the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through him. And to know him is to know eternal life. And to know him is to know God. And to know him is to know divine companionship. And to know him is to know the presence of God.

The point of it all is, “dear friends, don’t ever miss the presence of God.”[2]

[1] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/charles-templeton-missing-jesus/

[2] Taken from R. C. Sproul’s sermon on Genesis 28:10-22.

No Fury Like a Brother’s Scorn

Madison Olsen would finish Friday evening in the snow. It was “surprisingly soft.” This was her chance at an Olympic medal. It was the ski aerials and she was attempting a back-full-double full – that is two back flips with a twist on the first flip and two twists on the second flip. She completed the flips with the twists and landed in the snow…face first. Without any delay, she bounced right up, grabbed her skis, waved and smiled. Madison was receiving a big ovation. Without earning the medal, this was the highest finish for a U. S. woman in twenty years. And she is only twenty-two years old.

Just a couple of years ago she was thinking about retirement; retirement! She had been plagued with injuries and surgeries and more surgeries. And her dad was diagnosed with cancer. Madison then set her mind to enjoy any small moment with her dad – bike riding, sitting on the porch or just doing a puzzle. He died in August of 2016.

Madison Olsen would finish Friday evening in the snow being asked about her dad. She was still smiling, and with the rest of her strength she said, “He would have been proud.”

It is Still All About a Blessing

Genesis 27:1-40 is all about a blessing. It is about a blessing that Isaac, Rebekah’s husband, sought to give to their older son Esau. It is about a blessing that Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, sought to give to their younger son Jacob. It is about a blessing that Jacob sought by looking like Esau, feeling like Esau and even smelling just like Esau. And it is about a blessing that Esau sought from his dad, but it was too late.

Genesis 27:41-28:9 is then all about what happens next. And what happens next has two parts to it. The first part begins with Genesis 27:41. “Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” The second part begins with Genesis 28:6. “Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he directed him.” And it is these two verses of these two parts that draw our attention to what Genesis 27:41-28:9 is really all about. But make sure to see what brings these two parts together. Think of this like a bridge; look to see what bridges these two parts together.

Look and listen to Genesis 28:1. “Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and directed him.” Look and listen to Genesis 28:3. “God Almighty bless you.” Look and listen to Genesis 28:4. “May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring.” What is the bridge? It is there three times – the word blessing. And when this bridge is connected to Genesis 27:41 and Genesis 28:6, it is to the word blessing. All together the word blessing occurs seven times. Genesis 27:41-28:9 is all about what happens next. And in one word what happens next is still all about a blessing.

Why Does Esau Hate Jacob?

Pay close attention to how it all begins. “Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob’” (Genesis 27:41). There is but one big question to ask. Why does Esau hate Jacob?

Notice the word hate. It is a rather interesting word. It is rather interesting because it only occurs six times in the Old Testament. It is a rather interesting word because three of the six times it occurs in the Old Testament are found in Genesis. It is a rather interesting word because of the three times found in Genesis, two are about brothers. It is a rather interesting word because at the close of Genesis, Jacob’s own sons wonder if their brother Joseph hates them (cf. Genesis 50:15).

This word hate means to hold a grudge against or to cherish animosity against. Is that not rather peculiar, that hate would involve cherishing? It also means to lurk for, which just gives the picture of the hater hiding in the dark so as to not be seen by the hated.

But why did Esau hate Jacob? Genesis 27:41 continues to tell us that Esau hated Jacob, “because of the blessing.” Look back at Genesis 27:36. “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Why would Esau hate Jacob because of the blessing? Jacob took it from him! But there is more!

Why did Esau hate Jacob? Genesis 27:41 continues with more. “…because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him.” Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing and not merely because Jacob took it from him, but because this blessing meant something. It was the blessing with which his father had blessed Jacob. It was supposed to be the blessing with which his father was to bless Esau. Listen to the rest of Genesis 27:41. “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” Esau has this plan to kill Jacob. This plan alone is what is comforting Esau. But there is more. Who else is mentioned? Esau will not touch his brother until after their dad’s funeral. Esau is still under the impression that his dad is dying (cf. Genesis 27:2). But why does Esau hate Jacob? And why will Esau wait to kill Jacob? It all has something to do with dad. It all has something to do with Esau and his dad.

Esau Spoke to Himself, But Rebekah Listened

Genesis 27:41 says that Esau spoke to himself. He told himself about his plan to kill his brother, but not before his dad’s funeral. Genesis 27:42 says that Rebekah heard about this plan. At some point, Esau shared with someone his plan and this someone then shared it with Rebekah. Who would Esau share his plan with? And for what reason would this someone have to share it with Rebekah? I wondered if it was one of Esau’s wives, wives who Rebekah loathed. What reason would they have to share this plan with their mother-in-law?

Anyway, Rebekah finds out about it. It is just like when she overheard Isaac’s intentions to bless Esau and only Esau. She does not talk to her husband about this plan. She does not attempt to stop Esau from this plan. Instead, she calls for Jacob, tells him the plan and then comes up with her own plan. This all sounds like déjà vu all over again! Her plan is to get Jacob out of town as soon as possible. She seeks to send him to her brother’s house which is miles and miles and months and months away in Paddan-aram. Her thought is that Jacob will just need to be there for a few days or a short while (27:42-45). Rebekah is unaware, but this is her last appearance in Genesis. Rebekah is unaware, but Jacob will not be with his uncle for a few days. Jacob will be away from home for about twenty years. Rebekah is unaware, but she will never see Jacob again. There is no email to be had with Jacob. There is no face time to be had with Jacob. Ironically, we do not hear from Jacob in this passage. Rebekah is unaware, but she will never hear his voice again.

She never tells her husband what their son Esau is planning. But she needs to get Jacob out of town and so as to make it seem that Jacob is not running away, she needs her husband to take charge and send him away. Listen to what she says to Isaac. She tells him the truth. “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?” (27:46). Jacob is a single man. Esau is a married man to two women…two Hittite women (cf. 26:34-35).

Isaac Calls for His Son for the First Time

Rebekah’s words about Jacob’s availability and the women of the land, the Canaanite women, put new life into Isaac. He calls for his younger son for the first time and notice, “and blessed him” (28:1). And he gives him a charge to go to his uncle’s house. The sense feels like he should do this immediately, like there is no time to pack. And he charges Jacob to go there to get a wife. And then Isaac blesses him again. This blessing is acknowledging that God’s blessing to Abraham, which is also God’s blessing to Isaac, is now God’s blessing to Jacob and his offspring. It just means that all God has set to accomplish since Genesis 3:15 and through Abraham will be accomplished through Jacob. So, he sends him away.

Now Esau Saw His Dad

But what is most important is Genesis 28:6. “Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob.” Pause there. Think back to Genesis 27:41. Why were we told that Esau hated Jacob? It was because of the blessing, referring to the blessing of Genesis 27:1-40, with which his father had blessed Jacob. And what does Esau see now? He sees his dad blessing Jacob again. But most importantly, he sees his dad.

Remember, Esau’s plan was to kill his brother, but not until after his dad’s funeral. Rebekah’s plan was to send Jacob away until his brother’s fury and scorn faded away. Listen to what is discovered beginning with Genesis 28:6. Esau’s anger has faded way. Esau’s fury has faded away. And why? Because he saw his dad.

Esau knew that his dad blessed Jacob and sent him away to find a non-Canaanite, non-Hittite wife. Who has two Canaanite, Hittite wives? Esau! And what else did Esau see? “…and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. So, when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father” (28:7-8). Esau saw his brother obey. Esau saw, like it is the first time, that Canaanite women did not please his father and he has two of them as wives. So, what does he do? He goes to his Uncle Ishmael’s house while Jacob goes to his Uncle Laban and he seeks a non-Canaanite wife. When Esau saw his dad, what did he do? He imitated Jacob. Earlier Jacob had imitated Esau by looking like Esau, feeling like Esau, smelling like Esau just to get the blessing. Here Esau imitated Jacob by looking like Jacob, but not feeling like Jacob or smelling like Jacob. How did Esau look like Jacob? Obedience.

Why did Esau do it? Why did Esau imitate Jacob here? It could have been to get an additional blessing, but I think there is more. Why did Esau do it? It was to please his father.

The heart of Genesis 27:41-28:9 is about pleasing a parent. It is about Esau pleasing his dad. It may be why he hated Jacob and why that blessing meant so much to him. Esau lived to please his dad. Esau did what he did to please his dad. And it begs the question, is there a danger in living to please a parent? When is it a danger to do what we do solely to please a parent?

2 Timothy 3:5 talks of “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” Hebrews 12:16-17 exhorts us to not be like Esau. When is it a danger to do what we do solely to please a parent? It is when we put on the appearance of godliness while having no godliness. This comes in all forms. There are children who live to please their parents talking like a Christian, walking like a Christian, looking like a Christian, and…all the while their heart is so far from God. This is Esau.

What pleases a dad? What really pleases a mom? It is when a child seeks to glorify God by enjoying him forever.

What Then Can I Do For You, My Son?

Thomas Stevenson was an engineer. His grandfather was an engineer. His father was an engineer. His brother was an engineer. His other brother was an engineer. His nephew was an engineer. His other nephew was an engineer. His brother-in-law was an engineer. His son was…a writer. His son was Robert Louis Stevenson, author of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island.

Thomas raised his son, his only child, to not so much be an engineer or to be a writer, but to believe the Bible. And if Robert was asked, “What is the chief end of man?” he could answer, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” And if Robert was asked, “What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?” he could answer, “The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.”

Robert would attend Edinburgh University. There he would form a club which had as one of its mottos, “Ignore everything that our parents taught us.” His dad would discover this motto among some of his son’s things. It was then that Robert informed him that he no longer believed in the Christian faith. In what has been called an overstatement lacking the precision of truth, but carried the weight of sorrow, Thomas responded, “You have rendered my whole life a failure.” What does a dad then do?

Listen to something Robert wrote to a friend. “It was really pathetic to hear my father praying pointedly for me today at family worship, and to think the poor man’s supplications were addressed to nothing better able to hear and answer than the chandelier.”[1] It hurts to read these words. It hurts to hear these words until you realize what a father did for his son. This father prayed pointedly for his son. And this father continued to worship. And did you notice, the son was there to hear his father.

It is All About a Blessing

Genesis 27:1-40 seems really straightforward. It is all about a blessing. It is all about a blessing before it is too late. Isaac, Rebekah’s husband, seeks to bless their son before it is too late (Genesis 27:1-4). Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, seeks to have their son blessed before it is too late (Genesis 27:5-13). But there is a problem. Both parents are seeking the same, lone blessing for two different sons! Isaac seeks to give this blessing to Esau the hairy older son. Rebekah seeks to get this blessing for Jacob the smooth younger son.

And there is still a problem. How will each seek this blessing? It is the big question. And by each it is meant Isaac and Rebekah, Esau and Jacob. But especially Esau.

How Does Isaac Seek this Blessing?

How does Isaac seek this blessing? Pay careful attention to how it all begins. It is Genesis 27:1. “When Isaac was old…” We are first told that Isaac was old. How old? We do not know, except when Isaac’s mom was 89 years old she said she was old and she gave birth for the first time a year later (Genesis 18:13). And when Isaac’s dad was old, at least 140 years old, he remarried and had lots of kids (Genesis 24:1). In Genesis 27, Isaac was at least 100 years old (Genesis 25:26 plus Genesis 26:34). And we know that when Isaac died he was 180 years old (Genesis 35:28). And keep in mind that there are eight chapters in between Genesis 27 and Genesis 35. What is the point?

Pay careful attention to how Genesis 27:1 continues. “When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see…” So, not only was Isaac old, but he was blind. This is important because throughout Genesis 27, there is an emphasis on Isaac’s senses. “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son” (Genesis 27:21). “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau” (Genesis 27:22). “And he ate…and he drank” (Genesis 27:25). “And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said, ‘See, the smell of my son’” (Genesis 27:27).

There is an emphasis not just on Isaac’s senses, but all five senses – sight, touch, sound, taste, smell. And the emphasis is not so much about relying on these senses but thinking with these senses; one more than the others.

And when Isaac was old and blind he called for his son. Which son? Esau and only Esau. He called for Esau and said – pay close attention to what he says and how he says it – “Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death.” Isaac was old, but was Isaac dying? Was Isaac close to death? No! He was closer to old than he was to death! But Isaac just states what was true. He was old and did not know when he will die. Why is he talking like this? It was because he was hungry! “Go out to the field and hunt game for me, and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die” (Genesis 27:3-4).

And how does Isaac seek this blessing? It sounds so similar to the day that Esau sold his birthright. On that day he came in from the field famished, so famished that he was about to die! Who does that sound like, or better yet, where did Esau learn to talk like that? And on that day, Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for some stew because he was hungry. So, how does Isaac on this day seek this blessing? Before it is too late – I am about to die (not really). But more importantly, he seeks this blessing with the sense of taste and with hunger and he seeks to give this blessing after he tastes some delicious food and his hunger is satisfied. He will give the blessing for some delicious food.

How Does Rebekah Seek this Blessing?

How does Rebekah seek this blessing? Listen to Genesis 27:5. “Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau.” Rebekah was eavesdropping! So, she called for her son. Which son? Jacob and only Jacob. She shares with Jacob that Isaac is going to bless Esau before he dies, but not before he eats. Listen then to her plan. “Go to the flock and bring me two good young goats, so that I may prepare from them delicious food for your father, such as he loves. And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies” (Genesis 27:9-10). But there is a problem and Jacob knows it. “Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. Perhaps my father will feel me” (27:11-12). Jacob voices no objection! He is just thinking the whole thing through down to the last hairy detail.

But, how does Rebekah seek this blessing? Before it is too late! This all has to be done – the preparing the delicious food and preparing Jacob to give the delicious food – before Esau gets back. Remember, Esau was out in the field hunting game.

How Does Jacob Seek this Blessing?

How does Jacob seek this blessing? He gets the two good young goats so that his mom can prepare delicious food. But Jacob too needs to be prepared. Listen to Genesis 27:15-16. “Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her older son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And the skins of the young goats she put on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck.” Jacob looks like Esau and he also smells like Esau. But there is a problem and Jacob will know it.

He takes the delicious food to his father looking like Esau and smelling like Esau. He is eager to give the delicious food to his father and for one reason: to get the blessing. There is so much suspense here! Isaac will not give the blessing until his hunger is satisfied. And he stalls. Who are you? How did you find the game and prepare it so fast? Come close that I may feel if you are really Esau my son (Genesis 27:18-21). But there is a problem. “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau” (27:22). Isaac’s ears are telling him that something is not right. Jacob spoke, but those hands are fooling his mind. Is this really Esau? And if Isaac was not so hungry…

We wait with Jacob as he waits. His father eats. His father drinks. His father desires his son’s affection. Jacob is waiting for that blessing. How then does Jacob seek this blessing? Before it is too late! Remember, Esau was out in the field hunting game and most likely now preparing delicious food. Jacob needs to get this blessing before it is too late, before Esau comes walking into the room. And when Isaac smells his son, it is the smell of Esau. So, Isaac gives the blessing because “See, the smell of my son!”

And the blessing is that which echoes God’s revealed will of Genesis 25:23. And we discover something. Isaac knew God’s revealed will of Genesis 25:23 for his sons. He knew the older (Esau) was to serve the younger (Jacob). But what was Isaac seeking to do? He sought to redirect God’s revealed will to his son Esau. Rebekah knew God’s revealed will too for her sons. She thought God needed a little help moving his will along. Instead of taking a moment to display a holy hope in God, she acted without seeking God.

How Does Esau Seek this Blessing?

How does Esau seek this blessing? “As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, Esau his brother came in from his hunting” (27:30). Esau too had prepared some delicious food and brought it to his father. He was seeking the blessing. He knew he would not get the blessing until his father’s hunger was satisfied. He must have been so anxious and filled with some excitement for this was it. He had sold that birthright years ago. He too must have known about God’s revealed will and perhaps it is why he despised his birthright. But what mattered was not the past or God’s Word, no, what mattered was his father’s word, the words of the blessing that were mere moments away. But it was too late. How did Esau seek this blessing? It was too late.

And Isaac realized it too. He had inadvertently blessed the son that was to be blessed, but not the son he sought to bless. Isaac realized “the invincible determination of God to keep his word.” So, he declares, “Yes, and he [Jacob] shall be blessed” (27:33). Again, how did Esau seek this blessing? He sought it with tears and without repentance (Hebrews 12:16-17). He wanted it, he wanted it so badly! If only he never sold his birthright. And the saddest part for Esau is that Esau never used this as a chance to repent. He only grew bitter (Genesis 27:34, 38).

What Then Can I Do for You, My Son?

I feel, though, for…Isaac, the dad. Perhaps, it is because I am a dad and I have two children. When all is said and done, Isaac asks, “What then can I do for you, my son?” (Genesis 27:37). It is the problem of the chapter. I know there is blame to go all around in this family of four. No one is a hero. Everyone loses something in this chapter. But I feel that question in verse thirty-seven. What can you do for a child like Esau? What can you do for a child that has grown bitter; defiant; unrepentant; even despising the things of God? What can you do for a child like Robert Louis Stevenson?

1. Pray pointedly.

2. Worship continually.

[1] John Piper, The Satisfied Soul, page 58