Genesis 27:1 When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau.
Isaac was preparing to die, and he wanted to give his fatherly blessing to his firstborn son Esau, rather than to Jacob. This was against God’s will since the Lord had told Rebekah, the older will serve the younger (Genesis 25:23). But Isaac favored Esau, so he sent him out to hunt for game, and then to prepare a meal for him. Then he would give Esau his blessing.
The blessing was thought to carry real power, and was a continuation of the blessing God gave to Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3). Esau regretted selling his birthright, and wanted to recover the loss, so this was an important moment for him.
But Rebekah overheard the conversation, and since Jacob was her favorite, she took action. Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing (Genesis 27:8-10), she said.
The deception became even more complex, but surprisingly, it worked. May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness—an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed (Genesis 27:28-29), said Isaac.
Shortly after Jacob received his father’s blessing, Esau returned and discovered what happened. He received a secondary blessing, but was furious that his deceptive brother took both his birthright and the primary blessing. He was so angry, in fact, that he planned to kill his brother after their father died. The threat was real enough that Jacob would soon run for his life and stay away for twenty years.
There is little in Jacob or Esau that we should admire. They shared the serious flaw of wanting the blessing of God without pursuing God himself. God is not a means to an end, however, but the end for which we are made. The greatest blessing we can receive is more of God himself. And he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6), says Hebrews.
Genesis 27:46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.
Another source of tension in this troubled family was Esau’s choice of wives. They were a source of grief to Rebekah, and she hoped that Jacob would do better. Few things shape our lives more than who we marry, and it affects our larger family as well. It may be wise, therefore, to consult our parents before we choose a spouse.
Isaac and Rebekah struggled with Esau’s wives because they were from a different clan. Marriage within a clan was usually preferred due to social customs. Ordinarily, we prefer people who are like us, and find them easier to live with. Esau’s wives brought Rebekah sorrow instead of joy.
We can think of marriage as two overlapping circles. The overlapping part represents what we share in common. It may include age, education, politics, religion and background. The non-overlapping parts represent what we do not share in common. They may include all the above and more. The overlapping part is what makes marriage easy; the non-overlapping parts are what make marriage interesting. Over a lifetime, most people prefer easy.
Genesis 28:10-11 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.
Taking his parents’ advice, Jacob fled the comforts of home. The first night he slept on the ground, surrounded by who knew what. Away from the people he knew, some of whom he loved, Jacob must have felt alone. What he needed most, he thought, was a good night’s sleep.
That night He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. . . . All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring (Genesis 28:12-14).
Jacob was at a low point when God appeared to him in a dream. The Lord confirmed the promise he gave to Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3), then to Isaac (Genesis 26:2-5), and now to Jacob. Jacob was not a good example, but his faith in God was not misplaced. God was alive, and he would do what he had promised.
The stairway to heaven which Jacob saw in his dream speaks of Jesus Christ. [Y]ou will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man (John 1:51), said Jesus. Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6), and because of him, the angels go up and down to serve those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14), says Hebrews.
This is also helpful for understanding how Jesus read the Old Testament. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me (John 5:39), he said. When Jesus read about the stairway to heaven, he saw himself as the way to God. When he read about sacrificial lambs, he saw himself as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). When he read about the high priest, he knew he was the faithful high priest in service to God (Hebrews 2:17).
There are other examples, but these are sufficient to show that Jesus saw himself throughout the Old Testament, and that we should see him there as well. The Bible points to Jesus Christ from beginning to end. He came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21), and to restore us to a greater paradise than the one Adam lost (Genesis 3, Revelation 22). The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does (Psalm 145:13), wrote David.
Genesis 28:16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.
Jacob thought God was far away, but then he learned that God is near. God did not seem near when Jacob had only a rock for a pillow, but then God appeared in his dream. We too can go through life unaware of God’s presence, but he is always closer than we think. The Lord is always near, even when we are not aware of it.
Reflection and Review
What was Jacob’s family like?
How does Jacob’s dream remind us of Jesus Christ?
Why was Jacob surprised that God was near?