GENESIS 27 31
Man of Transformation
Now it came to pass, when Isaac was old and his eyes were so dim that he could not see, that he called Esau his older son and said to him, 'My son.' And he answered him, 'Here I am.' Then he said, 'Behold now, I am old. I do not know the day of my death. Now therefore, please take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me. And make me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.'
As previously noted, Isaac loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob (25:28). That being the case, Isaac was determined to give the blessing to Esau and it probably didn’t cross his mind that the Lord had said … the elder shall serve the younger (25:23). So, Isaac set things in motion to bless Esau. An important principle comes to mind here, and that is … Nothing good ever comes from operating in the flesh. Instead of being led by his love for Esau, and thinking about his stomach, Isaac should have talked to God about which of his two boys he should bestow the blessing upon.
Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt game and to bring it. So Rebekah spoke to Jacob her son, saying, 'Indeed I heard your father speak to Esau your brother, saying, "Bring me game and make savory food for me, that I may eat it and bless you in the presence of the LORD before my death." Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to what I command you. Go now to the flock and bring me from there two choice kids of the goats, and I will make savory food from them for your father, such as he loves. Then you shall take it to your father, that he may eat it, and that he may bless you before his death. And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, 'Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.' But his mother said to him, 'Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.'
When Rebekah overheard Isaac's conversation with Esau, she immediately came up with a scheme based on fraud and deceit in order to get the blessing for Jacob instead and her plan was frantically set into motion. It would result in far-reaching and unforeseen consequences and would bring division and great grief to the Isaac family. Such are the bitter fruits of operating in the flesh rather than walking in the Spirit. Ever been there? Things didn't work out, did they? We've all walked down those lonely, useless and dead-end paths that do things our way … apart from our God … have we not? Jesus’ words from John 15 come to my mind,
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. John 15:5
And he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and his mother made savory food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the choice clothes of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she gave the savory food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob. So he went to his father and said, 'My father.' And he said, 'Here I am. Who are you, my son?' Jacob said to his father, 'I am Esau your firstborn; I have done just as you told me; please arise, sit and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.' But Isaac said to his son, 'How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?' And he said, 'Because the LORD your God brought it to me.' Then Isaac said to Jacob, 'Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.' So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, 'The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.' And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau's hands; so he blessed him. Then he said, 'Are you really my son Esau?' He said, 'I am.' He said, 'Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son's game, so that my soul may bless you.' So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, 'Come near now and kiss me, my son.' And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him and said: 'Surely, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed. Therefore may God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!'
At first blush, Rebekah’s plan really sounds farfetched. However, we need to keep in mind that Isaac was very old and, unfortunately, elderly people are easily taken advantage of. They are notoriously easy to deceive and bilk. Once, during my ministry, a very elderly woman in our church (she was in her late nineties), announced that she was getting married. Her fiancée, as it turned out, was a young con-artist in our community. Nothing could dissuade her, however. She went ahead with the marriage, and subsequently, lost everything that she owned … including her new and very expensive home. Only through the courts were her children able to recover some of the losses. I believe this is why Jacob and Rebekah so easily took advantage of Isaac. Jacob even brought the Lord into it when he spoke to his father. What a pious fraud he was. Perhaps, Isaac erred in not giving the blessing to Jacob in the first place, but Jacob definitely erred in stealing it from his aged father by deception. Had all concerned acted with integrity, God would have doubtless worked it all out correctly and saw to it that Jacob got the blessing, fulfilling his Word.
Now it happened, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. He also had made savory food, and brought it to his father, and said to his father, 'Let my father arise and eat of his son's game, that your soul may bless me.' And his father Isaac said to him, 'Who are you?' So he said, 'I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.' Then Isaac trembled exceedingly, and said, 'Who? Where is the one who hunted game and brought it to me? I ate all of it before you came, and I have blessed him; and indeed he shall be blessed.' When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, 'Bless me; me also, O my father!' But he said, 'Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing.' And Esau said, 'Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!' And he said, 'Have you not reserved a blessing for me?' Then Isaac answered and said to Esau, 'Indeed I have made him your master, and all his brethren I have given to him as servants; with grain and wine I have sustained him. What shall I do now for you, my son?' And Esau said to his father, 'Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me; me also, O my father!' And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: 'Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; and it shall come to pass, when you become restless, that you shall break his yoke from your neck.'
When Esau learned that Jacob had stolen the blessing, he cried … Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing! I bet you could have heard him for a mile! Remember, Jacob's name meant supplanter or underminer. By his deception and theft of Isaac's blessing, he was really living up to his name. Before we get too down on him, keep in mind that to one degree or another, we all have hearts like Jacob. Am I right? We are all a crafty and sneaky lot, are we not? We have all had occasions when we went to any lengths to get our own way and secure what we wanted, regardless of the consequences. The Bible says,
The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. Jeremiah 17:9-10
I certainly am glad that our God is so merciful and gracious. How about you? He forgives us for our self-centered, conniving, greedy and unloving trespasses, and is ready, willing and able to transform us into people of true character and righteousness. He even helps us to patch up the effects of our past transgressions. This would be the case with Jacob, as well. But for now, Jacob had really gone and done it. He would be paying for his act of greed and deceit for decades to come.
Esau was crushed. First, he had sold his birthright ... which would have given him a double portion of the inheritance … and now he had lost his blessing ... which would have put him in charge as head of the household. Sometimes, people just go too far. And, that's exactly what Jacob and his mother had done. When they heard Esau’s exceedingly great and bitter cry (remember, they dwelt in tents), it had to have sent shivers down their spines and sobered them to the soles of their sandals. And to top it all off, they had to have overheard Isaac's prophecy and blessing of Esau which could not have produced anything short of foreboding. Isaac's words … By your sword shall you live … was ominous, and doubtless echoed over and over again in Rebekah and Jacob's minds.
So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, 'The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.' And the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, 'Surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. And stay with him a few days, until your brother's fury turns away, until your brother's anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereaved also of you both in one day?'
Now this is real trouble, brother. The Isaac family had a full blown crisis on their hands. There are a lot of different kinds of trouble in the world. There are financial problems, relative problems, health problems, business problems, work problems and church problems. The list goes on and on, but of all the troubles in this world, nothing compares to family trouble. A very wealthy and successful businessman and uncle of mine used to say … You don't know what trouble is until you have family trouble. How true. Now, in the Isaac family, one son was so filled with hatred for the other … that he was literally plotting to kill his brother. And, believe you me, he meant business. Like Cain before him, Esau was so angry that he planned to murder Jacob as soon as his father had passed away. However, when Rebekah got wind of it, she immediately sent Jacob away to her brother in Haran … for a few days … she thought … until Esau cooled off. Those few days, however, turned into 20 years … and Rebekah never lived to see her “favorite” again. Getting by fleshly means never works out. It always blows up in one’s face.
27:46 - 28:5
And Rebekah said to Isaac, 'I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife of the daughters of Heth, like these who are the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?' Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him: 'You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother's father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother's brother. May God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may be an assembly of peoples; And give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your descendants with you, that you may inherit the land in which you are a stranger, which God gave to Abraham.' So Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Padan Aram, to Laban the son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.
You can't help but admire Isaac here. In spite of his great age … having discovered Rebekah and Jacob’s deception and finding himself in the midst of his family breaking up … he managed to keep his head and his spiritual perspective. He had blessed Jacob, unwittingly, but now he blesses him openly, having great compassion on his wayward and deceptive son. That is grace, maturity and a good heart, brother. We parents need to consistently operate on that level with our kids. No grudges ... no revenge ... just grace and blessing toward each and every one of them. My, how many Christian homes and children would be transformed … if this were the case with the parents that are in them. So, Isaac passed on the promise of Abraham to Jacob for his safekeeping ... knowing that God had chosen Jacob. As you have it in Romans 9:10-13,
And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil,that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, 'The older shall serve the younger.' As it is written, 'Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.' One more thought, before we leave these verses. It is an axiomatic truth that what we sow, we will also reap. People are paid back in their own coin. Jacob was on his way to live with his Uncle Laban in Haran. And, he was in for an education. He would soon learn that his Uncle Laban was the master of deceit and craftiness.
Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Padan Aram to take himself a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, 'You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan,' and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and had gone to Padan Aram. Also Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan did not please his father Isaac. So Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham's son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife in addition to the wives he had.
It appears that Esau decided that he might like his parent’s approval in acquiring a third wife. So, having seen how upset they were about the two Canaanite wives he had acquired, he went out and took a third wife from a relative, namely one of Ishmael's daughters. I guess he just didn't get it. Isaac and Rebekah desired godly wives for their sons ... not just relative wives for their sons. Oh well, that's the flesh and the oblivious mindset of a carnal person. Reminds me of that old commercial about Charley the Tuna … Charley! Starkist wants tunas that taste good! Not tunas with good taste! If you're too young to remember that one ... well, just indulge me. Anyway, this incident is just another insight into the character of Esau and why God rejected him and chose Jacob.
Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: 'I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 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 spoken to you.' Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.' And he was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously.
Bethel is about 40 miles from Beersheba, where Jacob had begun his journey. Due to his fear of Esau, he didn't stop until his second day out. I suspect that, when he finally paused to rest, he was so exhausted that he could have slept sitting up. He had gotten the blessing alright, but now, he was as poor as a church mouse and had to sleep with a rock for a pillow! In the midst of this, however, he received a vision from God. He was chosen, you see. It was through him that the promised Seed would come and the other promises of the Abrahamic Covenant would be passed down. So, that night, Jacob received the famous, Jacob's Ladder vision. You might recall that Jesus told Nathaniel that he, too, would one day see what Jacob saw, by the way. As you have it in John 1:51,
And He said to him, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.'
In a deep sleep, Jacob was the first to see this reality of the spirit world. He observed angels ascending and descending from the throne of God. Then, God spoke to him. He spoke about the Abrahamic Covenant and what Jacob's role would be in it. My, what promises God gave Jacob that night! Direct from God on his throne, four unconditional blessings were promised to him. Let's look at them. God said:
1. The land upon which you are sleeping I will give to you and your descendants.
2. I will make your descendants as numerous as the dust of the earth.
3. In your Seed (Jesus), all the families of the earth will be blessed.
4. I am with you and will keep you and will bring you back to this land.
When Jacob awoke, he should have been blessed out of his socks, but instead, he was terrified. He had never experienced anything like this before. Nor, had he ever been directly spoken to by God. He said … How dreadful is this place. Then, he hurried about to make an offering and worship. He didn't have much to offer, however, so he poured some oil on the rock that he had been using for his pillow. It was his small offering to the Lord. I'm sure it was incredibly sweet to the Lord who looks upon the heart and not at the gift. This was the beginning of a real relationship between Jacob and his God.
Then, Jacob named the place. There was a little town nearby called Luz ... which means almond tree. Jacob changed its name to Bethel … which means house of God. In the years to follow, and in the annals of scripture, it would become a famous place. Doubtless, this encounter was a mega encouragement to Jacob who had brought so much grief and trouble upon himself. Jacob, flawed though he was, had received great and wonderful promises from his God. And although comprehensive in scope, the promises Jacob received that night included him in a very personal way. The promises of God are like that. Have you not found them to be so?
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.'
What was Jacob’s response to God in all of this? Well, he attempted to bargain with God. He sounded like he was on that game show, Let's Make a Deal. Jacob was a real babe at this point in his experience with God. He had a lot to learn. Obviously, he doubted God's word, as given in his dream. What a fatal weakness this is for any saint of the living God, aye? Unbelief is the greatest hindrance of all to our walk with God.Jacob thought he could buy God's favor! How infantile. Before we get on Jacob's case too hard though, maybe we should ask ourselves … What do I offer God to pay for his favor and blessings? Nothing, I hope. Like Jacob, that would be a glaring sign of our spiritual immaturity. I never cease to be amazed at God's longsuffering with his people, aren’t you? We can't offer anything to God to secure his favor and blessings. We can't pay God back for his goodness or his great salvation … or buy his favor ... not even with our tithes (sic) … contrary to the popular opinion of many. God is just plain good to us because that is the way he is, beloved. Accept it and bask in it. One time my son Dave called me from El Paso, Texas, just to tell me about a blessing he received from God in selling an item on Ebay. He said … Dad, God blesses us just because he wants to bless us! I said … Amen, son. He certainly does. God is good! Believe it, brother. You and I can take it to the bank.
So Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the East. And he looked, and saw a well in the field; and behold, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks. A large stone was on the well's mouth. Now all the flocks would be gathered there; and they would roll the stone from the well's mouth, water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the well's mouth. And Jacob said to them, 'My brethren, where are you from?' And they said, 'We are from Haran.' Then he said to them, 'Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?' And they said, 'We know him.' So he said to them, 'Is he well?' And they said, 'He is well. And look, his daughter Rachel is coming with the sheep.' Then he said, 'Look, it is still high day; it is not time for the cattle to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go and feed them.' But they said, 'We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and they have rolled the stone from the well's mouth; then we water the sheep. Now while he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, that Jacob went near and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother.'
Ever notice how many coincidences there are in the lives of the people of God? Have you seen it in your own life? God is at work, isn't he?! Some years ago, while working as a courier for Providence Health System, I had just finished my day’s work and was heading for the main hospital to turn in all the blood specimens I had picked up (I had regular stops as well as radio dispatched pickups). Then, as I was driving along, all of a sudden an overwhelming impression came over me to go to Sellwood Medical. It was one of our customers that, when they had something to be picked up, they would call dispatch and then dispatch would call me to go and get their specimens. Well, dispatch had not called and I ignored the impression and kept on driving. But, it came again and again ... each time … more and more persistent … Go to Sellwood Medical. Finally, I heeded the persistent impression and broke off from returning to the hospital and cut across country to their clinic. They were closed when I got there so I opened their box with my key and there were several blood specimens for our lab. They had forgotten to call them in. By morning, they would all have been ruined. Was one of those specimens from one of God's children and vital to their health? Or, was God simply leading me, His own child? I don't know. I know this though … looking back over my life I can clearly see that God has led me ... sometimes, very specifically. He leads his own. As you have it in Romans 8:14,
For as many as are lead by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
God is in it all the way with each and every one of his children. Sometimes it is in obvious ways, such as my “Sellwood” incident. Often it is in ways that, perhaps, we did not even recognize. But this much is sure…
He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate'er I do, where-e'er I be,
Still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, He leadeth me, By his own hand He leadeth me!
His faithful follower I would be, for by His hand He leadeth me.
God was leading Jacob. His word at Bethel would now begin to be worked out in Jacob's life in shoe leather. As he said to Jacob,
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 spoken to you. Gen. 28:15
Coming back to our text, notice how similar this event was, when Rachel showed up at the well, with what Abraham's servant had experienced when Rebekah (Jacob’s mother), had also just showed up at this same well … and both of them from the same household (24:15). Do you think that God does not lead his people? He surely does, doesn't he? As you have it in Psalm 32:8,
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.
The next verse in that Psalm is also well worth noting in this regard. It says,
Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you.
God not only leads his people, but he wants them to know that he leads them. This brings a whole new level of fellowship into a believer's life. A while back, my wife and I arrived in Chicago to visit our son, Jonathan, who was attending Wheaton College. We came into town from Wisconsin and when we got closer in, I called Jonathan on my cell phone to let him know we had arrived. He answered … Where are you, dad? I looked over at the street signs of the intersection where we were sitting and told him we were at the corner of such and such. There was a moment of silence, then he said … Pull over, I'm just two blocks away! A couple of minutes later we were hugging. Ever been to Chicago? It's huge. Go figure!Coming back to the text, we have, here, one of the Bible's great love stories in the making. Do you believe in love at first sight? Apparently, Jacob did. He fell head over heels for this girl, Rachel, when he first laid eyes on her there at the well. When he saw her and kissed her, he was a goner. End of story. Although Jacob was fleeing from the wrath of his brother ... in reality, he had been sent to Haran to find his soul-mate. This would result in the second and third brides that would come out of Laban's household. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's relative and that he was Rebekah's son. So she ran and told her father. Then it came to pass, when Laban heard the report about Jacob his sister's son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. So he told Laban all these things. And Laban said to him, 'Surely you are my bone and my flesh.' And he stayed with him for a month. Then Laban said to Jacob, 'Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?
Granted, this was no romantic kiss. It was just that oriental custom that we still see today between people who greet one another in that culture. In Paul's admonition to the Romans, he speaks of it saying,
Greet one another with a holy kiss. Rom. 16:16a
So, after the traditional kiss of greeting, what happened next must have shocked Rachel. How strange it must been when, after greeting her, this young relative … lifted up his voice and wept! She must have asked herself … Is there something wrong with this fellow? Jacob's emotions had overcome him. The all too familiar story of his mother, having been found at this exact same spot and in this same manner at this same well in Haran … must have just swept over him. It was a story that was burned upon his brain. He had heard it again and again from childhood. And, the familiarity of it to his present encounter was overwhelming. Although everything else had gone bad for him, still God was looking out for him and was leading him … just as he had led his father and mother before him. By God's hand, he had arrived safely at Laban's town. And, I think Jacob sensed that this girl would become his wife. There was nothing for it then, but to weep. Have you ever felt like that … after plodding so long through the dark valleys of trial and tribulation … then suddenly, you discover that God has been walking beside you and directing you all the way? Sometimes, it’s just overwhelming. Shortly after, Jacob went to work for Laban.
Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah's eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance. Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, 'I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.' And Laban said, 'It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.' So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, 'Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her.' And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. And Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, 'What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?' And Laban said, 'It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.' Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also. And Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as a maid. Then Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years.
When it says here that Leah's eyes were delicate, well … that’s putting it delicately. The King James says tender eyed. Actually the Hebrew word means weak eyed. To put it bluntly, Leah was cross-eyed, hardly a mark of beauty in any culture. This statement contrasts Leah with Rachel who, it says, was beautiful of form and appearance. These two sisters compared to each other like the ugly duckling and the swan. And, as our texts states, Jacob loved Rachel.
The plot thickened. Jacob, the trickster, had met his match in his Uncle Laban. Laban had two daughters and he badly needed to marry off the older, ugly one. So, he set about to trick Jacob into marrying her. And, in the end, the conniver, Jacob, got out-connived. There really is something to that old adage … What goes around comes around. As unlikely as this may seem in our culture, in that culture it was not only quite possible to palm off the wrong bride … but Laban actually pulled it off. Apparently, brides were heavily veiled throughout the marriage ceremony and they only revealed themselves, physically, to their groom when they were alone in their honeymoon chamber. In addition, I suspect that Laban saw to it that there was a good deal of celebrating, by way of drinking, at the wedding. Leah, no doubt, even took it a step further, probably feigning modesty and blowing out the lamps before getting undressed and getting into bed with Jacob.
Now, I don't know about you, but I think that one of the funniest lines in Scripture is found right here where it says … it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. BEHOLD indeed. At first light, Jacob found he was not staring into the lovely eyes of Rachel at all … but into the crossed eyes of Leah! I chuckle even as I write this. Brother, that must have been the … behold … of all beholds. Now, don’t mistake me. I'm not making fun of Leah. As it turns out, of the two sisters, she was the one that had real true beauty. Her beauty was inward you see and far outshined that of Rachel. These two sisters were opposites outside in beauty and, inside, they were opposites as well. Make no mistake about it, when Jacob got Leah for his true and first wife, he got a prize indeed. And Leah, being his first wife, was the woman that God had planned for Jacob all along. Leah, not Rachel, would one day be buried with Jacob in the cave of Machpelah where Abraham and Rebekah were laid to rest.Immediately, Jacob confronted Laban about his blatant deception and they struck a deal for Rachel to become Jacob's second wife, as soon as Leah's week of honeymoon was over. But, Jacob had to agree to work an additional 7 years to pay for her. Actually, this was how Laban had pictured it working out, all along. He would get top dollar for Leah then, immediately afterward, he would give Rachel to Jacob … getting top dollar for her as well. Keep in mind that, in oriental cultures, brides are purchased and the more desirable the bride is, the higher the price she brings. The custom prevails even down to our day. I recall, back in July of ‘05, former President Bill Clinton received an offer from an African official saying that he would pay 40 goats and 20 sheep for his daughter, Chelsea. I don't suspect Chelsea was amused, but everyone else was.
Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also. And Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as a maid. Then Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years.
Now, God never intended for a man to have more than one wife. We clearly saw this in the “one man, one woman” creation account back in the second chapter of Genesis. Jesus also taught that marriage was a monogamous relationship, as does the whole of the New Testament. However, polygamy was and is practiced in many cultures and the Bible simply records the facts of it. However, invariably it always caused trouble. We see it here at the very beginning of Jacob's marriages to two women. When we read … he also loved Rachel more than Leah … we can take it to the bank that things are not going to be going well in the Jacob household. From the start, this home was in for some very rough water.
When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. So Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, 'The LORD has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.' Then she conceived again and bore a son, and said, 'Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.' And she called his name Simeon. She conceived again and bore a son, and said, 'Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.' Therefore his name was called Levi. And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, 'Now I will praise the LORD.' Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she stopped bearing.
My, what a great heart of compassion and justice our God has. When he saw that Leah was unloved, he was immediately moved to give her children to make up for it. It isn't unusual for God to step in and “even the playing field,” by the way. That was the basic principle behind Jesus' words, concerning the future day of rewards, when he said,
But many who are first will be last, and the last first. Matthew 19:30
Before Jacob had finished working off his debt for Rachel, Leah had presented him with four strapping baby boys. And, with each subsequent birth, Leah was sure that their new son would surely cause Jacob to love her. But, sadly, that was not to be. Notice though, she no longer had that expectation with the fourth one. When little Judah came along, she simply said ... Now I will praise the Lord. How appropriate, and how prophetic! Messiah would come through Leah's boy, Judah, you see. Blessed and happy, is and was, mother Leah, indeed!
Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, 'Give me children, or else I die!' And Jacob's anger was aroused against Rachel, and he said, 'Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?' So she said, 'Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, and she will bear a child on my knees, that I also may have children by her.' Then she gave him Bilhah her maid as wife, and Jacob went in to her. And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Then Rachel said, 'God has judged my case; and He has also heard my voice and given me a son.' Therefore she called his name Dan. And Rachel's maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, 'With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed.' So she called his name Naphtali.
Once again, we find that custom among the ancients here, whereby a servant, belonging to a certain wife, could be given to her husband as a servant-wife (concubine) and the offspring of that union could be counted as the offspring of the wife that owned her. You will remember that this was the custom that Sarah followed when she gave Hagar to Abraham in order to have Ishmael (Gen. 16). However, this practice merely added to the conflict that polygamy had already brought to Jacob's home. Several wives, all vying for one husband's affections, was bad news indeed.These two sisters’ jealousy of each other was exacerbated by the fact that Leah now had four sons but Rachel had none. In pain and anguish of spirit, Rachel struck out at Jacob accusing him for her barrenness. A verbal fight ensued. Then Rachel, realizing the flimsy nature of her accusation, decided to take matters into her own hands and gave her maid, Bilhah, to Jacob so that she could acquire children through her maid. She thought this would solve her problem, but in reality, it made their home even more complicated and stressed out because there were now three wives vying for Jacob's time and affections. Nevertheless, two more fathers of the tribes of Israel … Dan and Naphtali… were born and Rachel now had two surrogate sons.
When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took Zilpah her maid and gave her to Jacob as wife. And Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son. Then Leah said, 'A troop comes!' So she called his name Gad. And Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. Then Leah said, 'I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed.' So she called his name Asher.
Not to be outdone, Leah said … Two can play that game! So, she gave her maid, Zilpah, to Jacob for his fourth wife. And, as a result, along came Gad and Asher. There were now six boys in Leah's column and two in Rachel's.
Now Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, 'Please give me some of your son's mandrakes.' But she said to her, 'Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son's mandrakes also?' And Rachel said, 'Therefore he will lie with you tonight for your son's mandrakes.' When Jacob came out of the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, 'You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son's mandrakes.' And he lay with her that night. And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. Leah said, 'God has given me my wages, because I have given my maid to my husband.' So she called his name Issachar. Then Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. And Leah said, 'God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.' So she called his name Zebulun. Afterward she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah.
Interesting how parents draw their children into their quarrels, isn't it? Reuben, being fully aware of his mother's competition with Rachel, found some mandrakes in the field and promptly brought them home to his mom. Mandrakes (love-apples) were thought to be an aphrodisiac in those days. They are mentioned in the context of lovemaking in the Song of Solomon.
Let us get up early to the vineyards; Let us see if the vine has budded, whether the grape blossoms are open, and the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give you my love. The mandrakes give off a fragrance, and at our gates are pleasant fruits, all manner, new and old, which I have laid up for you, my beloved. Song of Solomon 7:12-13
Rachel heard about the mandrakes that Reuben had found and she was determined to get them for herself. This is beginning to sound like an episode of the Jerry Springer show, is it not?! Notice how bitter Leah was toward Rachel. She said … You have stolen my husband and you want my mandrakes also? Nevertheless, Rachel continued to bargain for the mandrakes and finally cut a deal with Leah. If she could have the mandrakes, she would tell Jacob to go to Leah's bed that night. Apparently, Jacob normally slept with Rachel. A bargain was struck and, as a result, Leah became pregnant again and gave birth to a fifth son, Issachar. And again, she gave the Lord the glory. This baby was an answer to prayer. As we read above … and God listened to Leah.
Up to this point, Rachel just doesn't seem to be very much with it, when it came to the Lord. Have you noticed that? But, she was growing, as we will shortly see. Then, Leah became pregnant again and gave birth to her sixth son, Zebulun. This caused her to both give glory to God and to renew her hope that, as the mother of eight of Jacob's sons, he would at long last love her. Unfortunately, that still was not to be … for now. I say, for now, because when we come to chapter 35, and the death of Rachel … and Jacob had lost the great love of his life … I believe that the love from Jacob, that Leah had so longed for, was finally obtained. I will comment on this further when we get to chapter 35.Once again, Leah became pregnant, and Jacob's only daughter, Dinah, was born. The score was now Leah 9 ... Rachel 2.
Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. And she conceived and bore a son, and said, 'God has taken away my reproach.' So she called his name Joseph, and said, 'The LORD shall add to me another son.'
Nice going, Rachel! You called upon the Lord and he heard you. Hallelujah! This is exciting territory. God hears the cries of his people. The problem is … we so often fail to seek his face. As James so bluntly puts it … you have not because you ask not (James 4:2b). Rachel cried unto God and asked him for a child. And, as a result, she gave birth to one of the greatest saints in all of recorded history, Joseph! Beloved, do you ask God for things? Jesus said,
So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8
Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:24
The Psalmist said,
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. James 1:17-18
And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, 'Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you.' And Laban said to him, 'Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the LORD has blessed me for your sake.' Then he said, 'Name me your wages, and I will give it.' So Jacob said to him, 'You know how I have served you and how your livestock has been with me. For what you had before I came was little, and it has increased to a great amount; the LORD has blessed you since my coming. And now, when shall I also provide for my own house?' So he said, 'What shall I give you?' And Jacob said, 'You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep your flocks: Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages. So my righteousness will answer for me in time to come, when the subject of my wages comes before you: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs, will be considered stolen, if it is with me.' And Laban said, 'Oh, that it were according to your word!' So he removed that day the male goats that were speckled and spotted, all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had some white in it, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and gave them into the hand of his sons. Then he put three days' journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flocks.
Now, the blessings of God were on Jacob and they had all along been spilling over onto Laban. Laban’s prosperity was clearly linked to Jacob and Jacob’s God and he knew it. Now that Rachel had now been paid for, Jacob was ready to leave, but Laban wanted him to stay. So, the two agreed that, from that point on, Jacob would begin to receive wages. Jacob requested that his wages be paid in the form of livestock. Namely, he wanted for his hire, all of the variegated (mixed colored), spotted and speckled livestock that were among Laban’s flocks. Immediately, Laban agreed, knowing that such animals were in the great minority amongst his herds, so a deal was struck.
30:37 - 31:2
Now Jacob took for himself rods of green poplar and of the almond and chestnut trees, peeled white strips in them, and exposed the white which was in the rods. And the rods which he had peeled, he set before the flocks in the gutters, in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, so that they should conceive when they came to drink. So the flocks conceived before the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted. Then Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the streaked and all the brown in the flock of Laban; but he put his own flocks by themselves and did not put them with Laban's flock. And it came to pass, whenever the stronger livestock conceived, that Jacob placed the rods before the eyes of the livestock in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods. But when the flocks were feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban's and the stronger Jacob's. Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys. Now Jacob heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, 'Jacob has taken away all that was our father's, and from what was our father's he has acquired all this wealth.' And Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favorable toward him as before.Uh oh, was Jacob the conniver back? We’ll have to wait and see. His plan was twofold. First, he would cause the flocks to mate in front of peeled rods so that they would produce all variegated offspring … which would then belong to him. Second, as time went on, he would improve on his herd by only allowing Laban's strongest animals to mate before the rods … insuring that his variegated stock would be the strongest and healthiest of the lot, and the puny and weak would be left for his Uncle Laban. Was this scientific ... you might ask? Not to my knowledge. But, if you will wait for a few more verses, I think it will become clear why it actually worked. Jacob, who had worked for over 14 years for nothing, except Laban's two daughters … as Laban himself had become rich, began to prosper under this plan as never before. It worked so well that you just have to smile when you read … Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favorable toward him as before. Laban, the master conniver, had been outfoxed. Again … what went around came around.
It was time for Jacob to go home, so God gave him his marching orders. No doubt, that was music to Jacob's ears. He would no longer be Laban's servant or employee. He would be on his own. Immediately, he called for his wives and gave them the good news. He also told them about the plan that God had given him in a dream … to ask Laban for all the streaked, speckled and gray-spotted flocks for his wages. That clears things up considerably, does it not? It was the Lord that gave crooked Laban's flocks to Jacob, as just recompense for Jacob's 14 years of hard work. Jacob's wives agreed that this was just. They knew, all too well, of Laban's greed and how he had used Jacob. In addition, Jacob's wives pointed out that there was no longer an inheritance for them in Laban's house, anyway. They said that Laban had sold them, and then used up the money that he had gotten for them. So, the whole Jacob household was together on leaving Haran and they all agreed that the herds they had gotten were from the Lord’s hand and were rightfully theirs.
Then Jacob rose and set his sons and his wives on camels. And he carried away all his livestock and all his possessions which he had gained, his acquired livestock which he had gained in Padan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan. Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father's. And Jacob stole away, unknown to Laban the Syrian, in that he did not tell him that he intended to flee. So he fled with all that he had. He arose and crossed the river, and headed toward the mountains of Gilead. And Laban was told on the third day that Jacob had fled. Then he took his brethren with him and pursued him for seven days' journey, and he overtook him in the mountains of Gilead. But God had come to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said to him, 'Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.' So Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mountains, and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mountains of Gilead.
And Laban said to Jacob: 'What have you done, that you have stolen away unknown to me, and carried away my daughters like captives taken with the sword? Why did you flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and not tell me; for I might have sent you away with joy and songs, with timbrel and harp? And you did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters. Now you have done foolishly in so doing. It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, "Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad." And now you have surely gone because you greatly long for your father's house, but why did you steal my gods?' Then Jacob answered and said to Laban, 'Because I was afraid, for I said, "Perhaps you would take your daughters from me by force." With whomever you find your gods, do not let him live. In the presence of our brethren, identify what I have of yours and take it with you.' For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them. And Laban went into Jacob's tent, into Leah's tent, and into the two maids' tents, but he did not find them. Then he went out of Leah's tent and entered Rachel's tent. Now Rachel had taken the household idols, put them in the camel's saddle, and sat on them. And Laban searched all about the tent but did not find them. And she said to her father, 'Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is with me.' And he searched but did not find the household idols.
After 20 years, Jacob was finally on the road again (31:41). The great escape commenced. But, the plot thickened. Laban was an idol worshipper. And, on the way out of town, Rachel stole Laban's household idols … which, no doubt, she mistakenly associated with the prosperity and favor that Laban had enjoyed. Consistent with most of the ancient history of Israel, Laban's household were polytheists. He worshipped the Lord, right along with several other gods as well (31:30). Pathetic but true. Apparently, God had not yet revealed his displeasure with such practices. That would come when he gave his Law to Moses.Our text says Jacob crossed the river. That would be the Euphrates River. However, Laban heard about it and he and his band of men quickly caught up. Jacob was encumbered with women and children, flocks and herds, you see. However, God warned Laban in a dream not to mess with Jacob by saying anything to him, good nor bad. I suspect that, had God not spoken to him, Laban might have killed Jacob and seized all of his possessions. But, after God's intervention, Laban was forced to tread softly.
Then Jacob was angry and rebuked Laban, and Jacob answered and said to Laban: 'What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued me? Although you have searched all my things, what part of your household things have you found? Set it here before my brethren and your brethren, that they may judge between us both! These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried their young, and I have not eaten the rams of your flock. That which was torn by beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it. You required it from my hand, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. There I was! In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes. Thus I have been in your house twenty years; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night.'
The love of money is a paramount reason that injustice reigns in our world today. The Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, said … for the love of money is the root of all evil (I Tim. 6:10 KJV). The NIV and others better translate it, … a root of all kinds of evil. Laban was greedy. His love of money and material things had consumed him. It was more important to him than his own daughters. He was a man driven by the philosophy of this world that says … Get all you can get and keep all you can keep! His priorities, like those of countless others down through history, were misguided and ran amuck. God is just. He hates injustice. Therefore, he had simply taken from Laban’s hand what he rightfully owed to Jacob. It was the just and right thing to do. Jesus said,
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (money). Matthew 6:24
We should ask ourselves, often … Are my priorities in the right place when it comes to money and the things of this world? God's Word says,
Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you. Proverbs 4:7-9
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:20-21
And Laban answered and said to Jacob, 'These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and this flock is my flock; all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne? Now therefore, come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.' So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. Then Jacob said to his brethren, 'Gather stones. And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there on the heap. Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. And Laban said, 'This heap is a witness between you and me this day.' Therefore its name was called Galeed, also Mizpah, because he said, 'May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from another. If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us; see, God is witness between you and me!' Then Laban said to Jacob, 'Here is this heap and here is this pillar, which I have placed between you and me. This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not pass beyond this heap to you, and you will not pass beyond this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of their father judge between us.' And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac. Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his brethren to eat bread. And they ate bread and stayed all night on the mountain. And early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.
In Aramaic … Jegar Sahadutha … means heap of witness. Gileed means heap of witness, in Hebrew. Mizpah means watch. J Vernon McGee says that this was a covenant between two rascals. Both men meant … The Lord keep an eye on you! Thus they parted, and I suspect neither one ever missed the company of the other again. One final word here ... when Jacob sealed his oath with Laban, our text says that he swore by the Fear of his father Isaac. This is one of God’s names. It is quite unique and very much to the point. His name is, simply… Fear. The Bible says … the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10). One of the key characteristics of an unbeliever is that he or she has no fear of God. As you have it in Psalm 36:1,
An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes.
Psalm 19:9 says,
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever...
Fear ...is the great and powerful name that Jacob chose to use to seal his oath with Laban. I fear the Lord. Do you, dear reader? It is one of God's names you know. And, the Bible says it is the beginning of wisdom.
taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Proceed to the next chapter