Jacob and Esau






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So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, 'This is God's camp.' And he called the name of that place Mahanaim. Genesis 32:1-2




No doubt, this was an amazing experience for Jacob. He had told his wives about the dream that God gave him, in which God had said … I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family (31:13). Then, as soon as he obeyed and moved out … the angels of God met him. How’s that for a welcoming committee, aye? And, what a huge encouragement that must have been, for he must have had many misgivings about what was awaiting him when he encountered Esau again. Twenty years before, Jacob had fled because of Esau’s threat to kill him (27:41). This powerful and visible manifestation of God’s angels must have gone a long way to allay those fears. Jacob named the place Mahanaim, meaning two camps. I think he was referring to the fact that he had camped in the midst of God's camp. In Second Kings 6:15-17, Elisha’s servant received a similar encouragement, when he too saw God’s angels. There, we read,


And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.


By the way, are you aware that God’s angels are constantly ministering to you, dear saint? Hebrews 1:14, says,


Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?


And again, in Hebrews 13:2, speaking to believers, we read,


Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.


The primary function of an angel, by the way, is to minister to the children of God. And, as we saw in the case of Abraham, sometimes they can appear in human form in carrying out their function. Often, people are unaware when angels are present. They do not always appear as angels, you see.  One thing is certain. There is a spirit world. And, it is far more real than the physical world in which you and I are living right now. We believers constantly enjoy the ministry of God's angels, whether we are aware of them or not, and whether they manifest themselves openly or not. Isn't our God good! The idea of guardian angels is a biblical one. Have you entertained any strangers lately?



Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. And he commanded them, saying, 'Speak thus to my lord Esau, "Thus your servant Jacob says: I have dwelt with Laban and stayed there until now. I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.'" Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, 'We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.' So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies. And he said, 'If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the other company which is left will escape.' Genesis 32:3-8




Proverbs 29:25, says,


The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.


Isn't that a precious truth? Both sides of that scripture are illustrated for us here in Jacob’s story. Jacob was deathly afraid of Esau. Esau had vowed to kill him. True to the scripture above, when Jacob allowed his fear of Esau to take over, it was a snare to him. The trouble with fearing man is that it takes the place of trusting the Lord. It focuses one's heart and mind away from God and his promises and causes us to focus on the problem and ourselves ... culminating in despair and unbelief. When we fall into that trap, we find ourselves asking questions like … What if God doesn't come through? What if I get killed? What if … What if … What if.


No doubt, over and over again, Isaac's troubling prophecy about Esau kept running through Jacob’s mind ... 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 (27:39-40).


Satan loves to put God’s people in situations like this. Then, he sets about to accuse them, lie to them and twist the scriptures in order to get them to take their eyes off of the Lord. I suspect that he gave Jacob no rest. He probably said, This is the day your father's prophecy will be fulfilled and it will be fulfilled with your own blood. Then … one can only imagine the impact it had when Jacob received word that Esau was coming and that he had four hundred men with him. Four hundred! Immediately, Jacob began to make preparations to deal with an all-out assault. He divided up his family into two groups and sent them on ahead. He reasoned … If Esau destroys the first group, maybe the other one can escape. The problem with all of this was, it was all about survival ... and God was left on the sideline. Ever been there?





Then Jacob said, 'O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the LORD who said to me, "Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you": I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. For You said, 'I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.' Genesis 32:9-12




When Jacob turned to God, he had come to the right place. And, furthermore, the elements of his prayer were rock solid. Rock solid, because he anchored it on two promises that God had given him. Jacob was really standing on the promises, brother. Prayer, grounded on the promises of God, is always prayer that is going to get answered! God had promised him that if he would return home, I will deal well with you. Jacob reminded him of that promise. Also, God had said, I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude. Jacob reminded him of that promise as well. Jacob laid the foundation of his prayer well. Then, he made his simple request, Deliver me ... from the hand of my brother. Stellar prayer, beloved. When you pray, dear saint, pray the promises that God has made to you. They will always lift your prayer to a whole different level.


We people of God are a needy people. But, praise the Lord, we have a wonderful Father to turn to in times of great need, fear and trouble. It would be better for us, if we never feared man and always simply trusted our God but, in all honesty, that is not always the case. So, in times when our world is literally crumbling all around us … we can always do what Jacob did ... just run under the wings of our Father above ... which, by the way, exactly what he is waiting for us to do. The wonderful words of the Psalmist come to mind here,


Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56:3-4


Are you afraid of something or someone today, dear Saint? Take it to the Lord. Put your trust in him. He’s not called the Deliverer for nothing. Those of us who have had children will recall the many times when our little ones became terrified and ran to our arms. Remember how we lifted them up … high above their little troubles and fears? We protected them, assured them and comforted them, did we not? So it is with our heavenly Father and his children. Although fears can snare us, our Father is always there to lift us above them and give us the strength and faith to overcome. So it was, that starry night, when Jacob ran into the arms of his God. Have you ever stopped to think about what might have happened to Jacob if he had not prayed to the Lord for deliverance? Perhaps, Esau really was indeed intent on murdering his brother, pillaging his flocks and seizing his goods and family! Why else did Esau have 400 men of war with him? But, Jacob prayed and God answers prayer. Personally, I believe God intervened because of Jacob’s prayer and changed Esau's vengeful heart. Hebrews 4:16, says,


Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.





So he lodged there that same night, and took what came to his hand as a present for Esau his brother: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milk camels with their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten foals. Then he delivered them to the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, 'Pass over before me, and put some distance between successive droves.' And he commanded the first one, saying, 'When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, saying, "To whom do you belong, and where are you going? Whose are these in front of you?" then you shall say, "They are your servant Jacob's. It is a present sent to my lord Esau; and behold, he also is behind us.'" So he commanded the second, the third, and all who followed the droves, saying, 'In this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; and also say, "Behold, your servant Jacob is behind us." For he said, 'I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.' So the present went on over before him, but he himself lodged that night in the camp. And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. Genesis 32:13-23




You may have noticed that, in spite of the fact that Jacob was much older now and had had several encounters with the living God, and had prayed … still, he resorted back to conniving. He carefully plotted out his own deliverance from the hand of Esau. He decided that his first line of defense would be to space the second half of his people into three groups and provide each group with gifts for Esau. Then, after that, he decided he would send his wives across the River Jabbok, as a final buffer between him and his brother. Jacob sent his entire family to face Esau alone. He, himself, however, remained on the far side of the river and at the rear of the parade. Obviously, his number one priority was … save Jacob. Like many a child of God, he had called upon the Lord for deliverance, but then he continued setting about to secure his own safety. And so it was, that in that miserable and cowardly estate, that the pre-incarnate Christ Jesus came to Jacob on the far bank of the Jabbok River. As a result, from that time forward, Jacob’s life would never be the same.





Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, 'Let Me go, for the day breaks.' But he said, 'I will not let You go unless You bless me!' So He said to him, 'What is your name?' He said, 'Jacob.' And He said, 'Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.' Then Jacob asked, saying, 'Tell me Your name, I pray.' And He said, 'Why is it that you ask about My name?' And He blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: 'For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.' Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob's hip in the muscle that shrank. Genesis 32:24-32







Jacob had exhausted all of his own resources and set into motion everything he could think of to deal with Esau. Can you picture him there, on the bank of the river Jabbok, all alone in the firelight? Then, suddenly, a Man stepped out of the shadows and literally laid hold of him ... and the fight was on! The struggle was immediate and desperate. They rolled in the dust. How fear must have risen in Jacob's throat! He probably thought, This is an assassin from Esau! The struggle continued throughout the night ... ebbing and flowing ... hour after hour. Countless times, the two must have battled to a standstill ... then ... when their panting subsided and their strength had returned ... the desperate struggle began anew. Several times Jacob must have spoken ... but he probably received no answer. They seemed to be evenly matched. Neither gained the upper hand on the other. But, at the break of day, the true strength and superiority of Jacob’s protagonist was suddenly and dramatically revealed. With the mere touch of his finger, Jacob's opponent ended the fight. Immediately, Jacob’s hip was out of joint. Ever had something out of joint? My wife fell over an object in the dark one time and threw her shoulder out of joint. I have never seen her in such pain before nor since. Immediately, Jacob was hit with excruciating pain ... then, fear ... the only good fear a human being can have, by the way. It came from the sudden realization that this was no mere man with whom he had been wrestling the night away. It was, in fact, The Man, himself! The Psalmist said,


The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever... Psalm 19:8a


Jesus said,


And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. Matt. 10:28-33


Jacob’s entire life, he had been in the desperate need of an attitude adjustment. And, this night, that is what he got. And, he got it in spades. I don’t pretend to understand the enormity of what God actually did in Jacob that night. But, I do know that deep things took place in his spirit ... major adjustments by the physical and spiritual hand of the Lord of Hosts himself. Make no mistake about it … Jacob actually wrestled with the pre-incarnate Christ ... third member of the Trinity ... the Son of God, himself! Jesus had wrestled with this conniving, stubborn, selfish and bullheaded man for years. Now, he laid hold of him for real. I repeat … there were some very deep things that happened in Jacob that night. I don’t know that you and I can fully understand them, but the Lord did. I just know this … He administered exactly what Jacob needed. Somehow, Jacob had to be physically slapped down before he could be the spiritual man God wanted him to be. This was also the case with Saul, on the road to Damascus, by the way (Acts 9), was it not? And, I suspect it is a more common experience in the lives of many of God’s children than we often care to admit.


Finally, the Man spoke. Let me go, for the day breaks. This is absolutely amazing. What a stubborn guy this conniving Jacob was. For crying out loud, his hip was out of joint … but, he still wouldn’t give up! Finally, as Jacob realized, more and more, who he was wrestling with, he said … I will not let You go unless You bless me. His request was immediately granted. Now, Jacob was finally in the position that God had wanted him to be, all along. He had forgotten all about Esau. He didn’t ask for prosperity or protection or any one of a hundred other things he might have asked for. He simply asked to be blessed of God! That’s all Jacob ever needed. And, by the way, it is all that you and I ever need, as well.


Again, the Man spoke … What is your name?  Jacob, he replied ...  (conniver … sneak … supplanter … “Con-man”) ... a name that, up to that time, he had lived out everywhere he went. But, there is a God who is in the people changing business. So, what we are … does not matter. What we can become ... in our Lord's hands and with his blessing … is all that matters. The Lord said … Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed. Jacob was never the same after that night. He was changed forever, just as his new name reflected. He was no longer the sneak and the conniver. He was now, the Prince. That's what God can do for sinners like you and me too, beloved. He changes sneaks and connivers into princes and princesses. As you have it in  II Corinthians 5:17,


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.


Jacob asked, Tell me Your name, I pray. The Lord must have smiled when Jacob asked for his name. He replied … Why is it that you ask about My name? The implication of the Lord’s answer was … You know who I am, Jacob. We've met before, have we not? Phillip asked a similar question of Jesus in John 14:8-9,


Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?


Then, the Lord blessed Jacob. This was a high water mark in the life of this great saint. We believers, today, have been blessed by Him as well. In fact, we have been blessed far beyond the blessing that he bestowed upon Jacob that bright morning, so long ago. As you have it in Ephesians 1:3-6,


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.


The words of David in I Chronicles 17:27b (KJV), come to mind,


...for thou blessest, O Lord, and it shall be blessed for ever.


There is no greater thing in life than to be the recipient of the blessing of God, my friend. Whoever he blesses stays blessed. The Lord blessed Jacob, and then Jacob let him go and the pre-incarnate Christ vanished from his sight. Afterwards, Jacob called the place Peniel, meaning … the face of God … for, he said … I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. And, indeed, he surely had. He had wrestled with the very one who, one day, would become flesh and dwell among us and personally wrestle with Jacob's sin ... and yours and mine ... on a rugged cross ... and prevail. And, I might add, not our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world (I John 2:2).


Jacob was permanently injured in his physical encounter with the Lord that long ago night. Ever after, his hip was affected and he walked with a limp. It was a constant reminder to him of his face to face encounter with the true and living God and his need to be completely dependent upon him and be blessed by him.  The Lord had wounded him outwardly but healed him inwardly. To this day, the Jewish people will not eat the sinew of the hollow of the thigh of an animal, in remembrance of this amazing encounter that their father, Israel, had when his hip was thrown out of joint by the finger of God.





Now Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and there, Esau was coming, and with him were four hundred men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two maidservants. And he put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children behind, and Rachel and Joseph last. Then he crossed over before them and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. And he lifted his eyes and saw the women and children, and said, 'Who are these with you?' So he said, 'The children whom God has graciously given your servant.' Then the maidservants came near, they and their children, and bowed down. And Leah also came near with her children, and they bowed down. Afterward Joseph and Rachel came near, and they bowed down. Then Esau said, 'What do you mean by all this company which I met?' And he said, 'These are to find favor in the sight of my lord.' But Esau said, 'I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.' And Jacob said, 'No, please, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me. Please, take my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough.' So he urged him, and he took it. Genesis 33:1-11




Proverbs 18:19, says,


A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle.


In this life, when a serious rift comes between blood brothers and/or sisters, those schisms can be extremely difficult to resolve. That's because it takes a lot to cause such a fracture in those deepest of relationships in the first place. Just such a break had occurred between Jacob and Esau. Nevertheless, nothing is impossible with God. The worst fracture can be made whole again if God is in it. Obviously, the Lord had been working on Esau, in respect to his brother, Jacob. And, when the two finally saw one another, they fell upon each other's necks and wept. Beautiful, is it not? Afterwards, Jacob pressed Esau to accept all the gifts he had sent ahead for him and that also added to the reconciliation. As you have it in Proverbs 17:8,


A present is a precious stone in the eyes of its possessor; wherever he turns, he prospers.





Then Esau said, 'Let us take our journey; let us go, and I will go before you.' But Jacob said to him, 'My lord knows that the children are weak, and the flocks and herds which are nursing are with me. And if the men should drive them hard one day, all the flock will die. Please let my lord go on ahead before his servant. I will lead on slowly at a pace which the livestock that go before me, and the children, are able to endure, until I come to my lord in Seir.' And Esau said, 'Now let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.' But he said, 'What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.' So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, built himself a house, and made booths for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth. Then Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan Aram; and he pitched his tent before the city. And he bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for one hundred pieces of money. Then he erected an altar there and called it El Elohe Israel. Genesis 33:12-16




Although Jacob and Esau were now reconciled, old wounds are hard to heal. So apparently, they parted ... not really being comfortable with one another's company. You can feel it in their words to one another above. And, though they said they would meet on down the road at Seir. In actuality, they went their separate ways and Jacob ended up in Shechem. Upon his arrival there, Jacob bought a piece of land from Hamor, which became a key piece of real estate in biblical history. As it turns out, Joseph's bones would one day be buried there, after the land was conquered (Josh 24:32). And further yet, down in history, Jesus would sit on Jacob's well there and meet a woman to whom he would offer living water (John 4).





Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her. His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, 'Get me this young woman as a wife.' Genesis 34:1-4




Proverbs 13:20, says,


He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.


Do you think that Dinah just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or, in reality, was her rape actually a train wreck that was waiting to happen? I believe it was the latter. I believe it occurred because of her desire to run with the wrong crowd and her lack of caution. Our text says that Dinah went out … to see the daughters of the land. What do you suppose those daughters were like? Well, they were Canaanites. Need we say more? They were idol worshippers. Their culture was ungodly and immoral to the core. The written history of Canaanites is among some of the most sordid accounts of ancient history. They practiced human sacrifice. And, sexual immorality was rampant among them. Archeologists have found that their bones are riddled with sexually transmitted diseases. Dinah had no business looking for friends among that crowd. And, when she did, it cost her dearly. Take note young people. Take care who you associate with ... who you decide to make friends with ... what kind of crowd you decide to run with. They can mean the difference between a good life for you … and ruin. Listen carefully to God's Word quoted above in Proverbs 13:20, above. Think about it. Let it sink in. It can’t be over stated how important it is that we make good choices when it comes to our friends. This is the principle that Proverbs 27:10, has in mind when it says,


Do not forsake … your father’s friend…


Real, solid, godly friends are hard to come by and are to be treasured.


Now, after Shechem raped Dinah, he fell in love with her. Then, he proceeded to attempt to acquire her for his wife. In reality though, Shechem's love was a sham. It was that Hollywood variety of love. His love was all about infatuation (the world's definition of love). If he had any clue as to what real love was, he would never have raped Dinah in the first place. True love is a far cry from what Shechem thought it was. I Corinthians 13, presents us with the true picture of what real love is.




And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter. Now his sons were with his livestock in the field; so Jacob held his peace until they came. Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. And the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved and very angry, because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob's daughter, a thing which ought not to be done. But Hamor spoke with them, saying, 'The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him as a wife. And make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to yourselves. So you shall dwell with us, and the land shall be before you. Dwell and trade in it, and acquire possessions for yourselves in it.' Then Shechem said to her father and her brothers, 'Let me find favor in your eyes, and whatever you say to me I will give. Ask me ever so much dowry and gift, and I will give according to what you say to me; but give me the young woman as a wife.' But the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father, and spoke deceitfully, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. And they said to them, 'We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a reproach to us. But on this condition we will consent to you: If you will become as we are, if every male of you is circumcised, then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to us; and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. But if you will not heed us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone.' And their words pleased Hamor and Shechem, Hamor's son. ' "So the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he delighted in Jacob's daughter. He was more honorable than all the household of his father. And Hamor and Shechem his son came to the gate of their city, and spoke with the men of their city, saying: 'These men are at peace with us. Therefore let them dwell in the land and trade in it. For indeed the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters to us as wives, and let us give them our daughters. Only on this condition will the men consent to dwell with us, to be one people: if every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised. Will not their livestock, their property, and every animal of theirs be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will dwell with us.' And all who went out of the gate of his city heeded Hamor and Shechem his son; every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city. Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males. And they killed Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem's house, and went out. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. They took their sheep, their oxen, and their donkeys, what was in the city and what was in the field, and all their wealth. All their little ones and their wives they took captive; and they plundered even all that was in the houses. Genesis 34:5-24




The rage of Dinah’s brothers, and their desire for revenge, exploded into coldblooded, premeditated murder. Consequently, the transgression of the sons of Jacob far exceeded what Shechem had done. This is why you and I are not to judge, by the way. When we fallible humans judge one another, we always go too far, or we don't go far enough. We never get it just right. Only the Omniscient One … the Judge of the whole earth … always gets it right. He judges with absolute righteousness and justice. God's Word says,


So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19


Now, keep in mind that what we are reading here is history. It is what happened. The Bible does not condone it. God did not order it. Levi and Simeon carried out their revenge on their own. In their anger, no doubt they felt they were justified, but they weren't. Those who, in wrath, take revenge, always feel they are justified. Shechem didn't deserve this stiff a penalty … not to mention all the other inhabitants of the city.





Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, 'You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Caananites and the Perizzites; and since I am few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and kill me. I shall be destroyed, my household and I.' But they said, 'Should he treat our sister like a harlot?' Genesis 34:30-31




Jacob was right when he told Simeon and Levi that the inhabitants of the land would surely band together and come after them. And, that's exactly what they tried to do. They viewed the murder of Shechem and the blood bath at his city as an atrocity that required immediate retaliation and they now saw Jacob and his clan as dangerous renegades who must be dealt with before they killed again.


I wish that Jacob had spoken to his sons about the moral issues of their actions and not just how they had jeopardized the family’s safety. But, apparently, he didn’t. His boys justified themselves saying … Should he treat our sister like a harlot? Jacob should have replied … But, did he deserve to die? And, what about the others who you killed? What did they do? This is not the last word on this incident, by the way. Jacob carried it in his heart to his dying day. At the time, he glossed over it with his sons, but he never forgot what these two boys had done and what they were capable of doing. And, when it came time to bless them from his deathbed, he finally told them what he should have told them way back here. He said,


Simeon and Levi are brothers; Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place. Let not my soul enter their council; Let not my honor be united to their assembly; For in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they hamstrung an ox. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel. Genesis 49:5





Then God said to Jacob, 'Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.' And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, 'Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.' So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree which was by Shechem. And they journeyed, and the terror of God was upon the cities that were all around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. And he built an altar there and called the place El Bethel, because there God appeared to him when he fled from the face of his brother. Now Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the terebinth tree.So the name of it was called Allon Bachuth. Genesis 35:1-8




It's an amazing thing how God, down through the ages, has worked with fallen man. We find here that God was not the only deity that was worshiped in the Jacob household. Many of Jacob's family were polytheists. They worshiped many gods. So, the Lord instructed Jacob … put away the foreign gods that are among you. You will remember that Rachel had stolen Laban’s household gods and kept them. Now, it is a very hard thing to put an idol away, once it has been accepted into one's life and home. So, Jacob didn’t completely put them away. He buried them under the terebinth tree which was by Shechem. Why did he do that? Why didn’t he destroy them? Since the tree was a landmark, we can only conclude that Jacob intended to retrieve them in the future when he wanted them back again. Have you ever done that, dear saint? An idol is anything in the life of a Christian that is desired more than the desire for the Lord Jesus Christ. As we have it in Colossians 3:5,


Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.


May I say to you, we need to frequently examine our lives in this area. We believers should do frequent “idol sweeps” of our hearts. We need to ask ourselves … What is in this heart of mine that I desire more than I desire the Lord Jesus? What are my idols? Is it possessions or a relationship ... a position or money ... prestige or education, or some so-called “addiction”? Once we have defined it, then we can turn from it and forsake it completely. Getting rid of an idol is a four step process:


     First, we need to lay it at Jesus' feet and call it what it is.


     Second, we need to ask the Lord to forgive us for making it an idol in the first place (I Jn.1:9).


     Third, we need to ask Jesus to deliver us from it altogether. I can't overemphasize the importance of this third step. It is not our job to clean ourselves up, beloved. That is God’s job. It is the Lord's job to sanctify his people. Our job is to go to him. His job is to clean us up and to deliver us.


     Fourth, we must forsake it completely. Walk away and never look back.


Then, the Lord instructed Jacob to return to Bethel and to build an altar there. Notice that God sent a supernatural terror of the Jacob clan upon all the Canaanites of the land. God had said he would be with Jacob, you see. And, true to his word, Jacob was spared the wrath of the Canaanites. Out of that “dog eat dog” world, God was calling out a people for his name's sake ... sinners like Jacob and his sons. Someone has said … It doesn't amaze me that God sends people to Hell … it amazes me that God saves anybody from Hell in the first place! Praise God for his grace and mercy to sinners like you and me, Amen?


In verse 8, the death of Deborah, Jacob's mother's nurse, is recorded. You will recall that this dear lady went with Rebekah when she left Laban's house to become the wife of Isaac (24:59). For the first time, we are given her name here at the recording of her death. Being Rebekah's nurse, meant that she actually nursed little Rebekah as an infant. After that, she faithfully served her all the remaining years of her life and, after the death of Rebekah, she remained on with the Jacob family. The death of this old and faithful servant was bitter to them all. They buried her under an oak that they named Allon Bachuthoak of weeping.


God takes note of his obscure, but faithful, saints. I am convinced that, at the judgment seat of Christ, we will not be evaluated on the basis of what we accomplished on Earth. We will be judged for our faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that is why Deborah's name is written here in the eternal Word of God. She was one of the Lord's faithful children. She was faithful to the task that he assigned her in life. And, she was faithful in it … all the way to the end of her life.





Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, 'Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.' So He called his name Israel. Also God said to him: 'I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.' Then God went up from him in the place where He talked with him. So Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured a drink offering on it, and he poured oil on it. And Jacob called the name of the place where God spoke with him, Bethel. Genesis 35:9-15




Once again, God appeared to Jacob. Apparently, he had not taken on the new name that God had given to him on the banks of the Jabbok River (32:28). He was still going by his old name. Perhaps he had not taken the Lord’s words too seriously. After all, a name change, this late in life, was no small thing. However, God reminded him afresh that his name was now Israel. It was important because it not only indicated the change in Jacob's character (from conniver to prince with God), but it was also the name that would one day identify all of his descendants for all time. In addition, the Lord also reiterated the Covenant to Jacob, which he had confirmed to his father, Isaac, and first instituted with Abraham.


Another important thing to see here is that the Lord identified himself to Jacob as El ShaddaiGod Almighty. This is the same name he used when he spoke to Abraham and first gave him these same promises back in 17:1. The name means the all powerful One. The Lord identified himself with this name to assure Jacob that he is perfectly capable of accomplishing what he promises. It was El Shaddai who was going to rise up a nation from Israel … indeed, a company of nations (the twelve tribes of Israel) … and give them the Promised Land for their future home. Now, when God Almighty says he is going to do something, brother, you can take it to the bank. It's going to get done!





Then they journeyed from Bethel. And when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel labored in childbirth, and she had hard labor. Now it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said to her, 'Do not fear; you will have this son also.' And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni; but his father called him Benjamin. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). And Jacob set a pillar on her grave, which is the pillar of Rachel's grave to this day. Genesis 35:16-20




And so, there on the road to Bethlehem, one of the great love stories in the Bible came to an end. Jacob's beloved Rachel, whom he had obtained by working for 14 years for Laban, died there ... while giving birth to Benjamin. This was Israel’s twelfth son. Joseph now had a little brother but, they had both lost their mother and Israel had lost the great love of his life. What a dark day that must have been. The pillar that Israel used to mark Rachel's grave was still standing there over five hundred years later, when Saul was instructed by Samuel to go there to find his father's lost donkeys (I Sam.10:2).





Then Israel journeyed and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. And it happened, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine; and Israel heard about it. Genesis 35:21-22a




A concubine, you will remember, was a servant-wife. She was someone who was owned to begin with, but who, in time, became an additional wife. For a servant girl, in the context of such times and cultures, this was considered a great promotion and was a great elevation in status. Israel had two such concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah, just as his grandfather, Abraham, had Hagar.


Now, Reuben was Jacob's firstborn and his sexual violation of Bilhah was a horrendous wrong. And, it would cost him dearly. He lost his birthright over this transgression. The birthright was a double portion of the inheritance. Jacob's final words to this boy were … you will not excel (Gen. 49:3-4). Sin always has consequences, even when it does not seem readily apparent. As you have it in Numbers 32:23b,


...and be sure your sin will find you out.


I don’t believe that it was by accident that the death of Rachel and Reuben's defilement of Bilhah both occurred in such close proximity to each other. You will remember that Bilhah was Rachel’s maid, who she gave to Jacob to raise up children in her name. But, Reuben was Leah’s firstborn. Are you getting the picture? Did Reuben do this in order to remove Bilhah from the marital picture? I believe there is strong evidence here that that was exactly why he did it. After his violation of her, both Rachel and her maid, Bilhah, were then put out of the picture and Leah, Reuben's mother, had Israel all to herself, along with her maid, Zilpah.


For years, Leah had longed and prayed for her husband’s love. And, I believe that now, in their old age, Leah finally got her wish. She had Israel’s undivided attention and I think he came to love her much more dearly for who and what she really was ... his true wife, friend and mother of nine of his children. It is quite telling that Israel didn't take Rachel's body to the cave of Macpelah for burial … where Abraham and Sarah were buried.  On the contrary, it would be Jacob and Leah who would one day be interred there. God designed marriage to be monogamous ... one man and one woman. Leah was Israel's first and true wife and God saw to it that they would end their lives together ... loving one another.





Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: the sons of Leah were Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun; the sons of Rachel were Joseph and Benjamin; the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's maidservant, were Dan and Naphtali; and the sons of Zilpah, Leah's maidservant, were Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Padan Aram. Genesis 35:22b-26




Again, please note how the Word of God lists Jacob’s true wife, Leah, first here. She was Jacob's first wife, and therefore, his only scripturally correct wife … regardless of how it had come about. She was blessed of the Lord and bore Jacob 6 sons. Then, Rachel had 2 sons; Bilhah had 2 and Zilpah had 2. These sons became the twelve tribes of Israel.





Then Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had dwelt. Now the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years. So Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, being old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.




With the death of Isaac here, we come to another milestone in the history of God's people. Isaac was a man of peace and a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. Forever after, one way that God would described himself was as … the God of Abraham and Isaac.


Again, notice the way the Lord describes death here. He tells us that Isaac … was gathered to his people. Isn't that precious? At the point of death, Isaac found himself in the middle of a great reunion. He found himself in the presence of his father, Abraham, and his mother, Sarah, and many other godly relatives and friends. My own mother passed away in 2005. She was 91. Afterwards, as I would pass by her empty room, it seemed like she was still there … but the bed was empty and the room was silent. I could still see the grooves that her walker made as she went back and forth to the bathroom. My greatest prayer warrior was gone and I felt an emptiness that only she could fill. However, I took comfort in the thought that not only was she taken into the presence of her Lord, but she was gathered to her people. She was with her father, Cliff, and her mother, Bertha, her brother and her sisters, her grandpa Mose, (a great saint who lived in Big Spring, Texas, and often preached when the pastor was absent) and many others. It is a great and sure hope that we have in knowing that we will one day be reunited with our loved ones in the presence of the Lord. As you have it in Second Corinthians 5:6,


So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.


And praise God, should we not have to die at all, but live until the Rapture of the Church, the reunion will be even greater. As you have it in I Thessalonians 4:14-17,


For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.


Sweet, as the young folks say. Amen!, say us oldsters.





Now this is the genealogy of Esau, who is Edom. Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite; Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite; and Basemath, Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebajoth. Now Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, and Basemath bore Reuel. And Aholibamah bore Jeush, Jaalam, and Korah. These were the sons of Esau who were born to him in the land of Canaan. Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the persons of his household, his cattle and all his animals, and all his goods which he had gained in the land of Canaan, and went to a country away from the presence of his brother Jacob. For their possessions were too great for them to dwell together, and the land where they were strangers could not support them because of their livestock. So Esau dwelt in Mount Seir. Esau is Edom. Genesis 36:1-8




Finally here, we have Esau’s genealogy. It is proof of the fulfillment of God word to Rebekah, back in 25:23, where the Lord said to her … Two nations are in thy womb. From Jacob came the nation of Israel. From Esau, came the nation of Edom.





And this is the genealogy of Esau the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir. These were the names of Esau's sons: Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau, and Reuel the son of Basemath the wife of Esau. And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, and Kenaz. Now Timna was the concubine of Eliphaz, Esau's son, and she bore Amalek to Eliphaz. These were the sons of Adah, Esau's wife. These were the sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah. These were the sons of Basemath, Esau's wife. These were the sons of Aholibamah, Esau's wife, the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon. And she bore to Esau: Jeush, Jaalam, and Korah. These were the chiefs of the sons of Esau. The sons of Eliphaz, the firstborn son of Esau, were Chief Teman, Chief Omar, Chief  Zepho, Chief Kenaz, Chief Korah, Chief Gatam, and Chief Amalek. These were the chiefs of Eliphaz in the land of Edom. They were the sons of Adah. These were the sons of Reuel, Esau's son: Chief Nahath, Chief Zerah, Chief Shammah, and Chief Mizzah. These were the chiefs of Reuel in the land of Edom. These were the sons of Basemath, Esau's wife. And these were the sons of Aholibamah, Esau's wife: Chief Jeush, Chief Jaalam, and Chief Korah. These were the chiefs who descended from Aholibamah, Esau's wife, the daughter of Anah. These were the sons of Esau, who is Edom, and these were their chiefs. These were the sons of Seir the Horite who inhabited the land: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan. These were the chiefs of the Horites, the sons of Seir, in the land of Edom. And the sons of Lotan were Hori and Hemam. Lotan's sister was Timna. These were the sons of Shobal: Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho, and Onam. These were the sons of Zibeon: both Ajah and Anah. This was the Anah who found the water in the wilderness as he pastured the donkeys of his father Zibeon. These were the children of Anah: Dishon and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah. These were the sons of Dishon: Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran, and Cheran. These were the sons of Ezer: Bilhan, Zaavan, and Akan. These were the sons of Dishan: Uz and Aran. These were the chiefs of the Horites: Chief Lotan, Chief Shobal, Chief Zibeon, Chief Anah, Chief Dishon, Chief Ezer, and Chief Dishan. These were the chiefs of the Horites, according to their chiefs in the land of Seir. Genesis 36:9-30




I love the little details that the Word of God includes, don’t you? This fellow, Anah, for instance, is known by the fact that he discovered water out there in the desert while he was caring for his father’s donkeys. These bits of information speak of the fact that the Bible is indeed a history book but, also, that God loves people and takes note of them and enters into each and every event of their lives. Anah was probably just a boy. One day he was out there keeping his dad’s donkeys and he found water. Boys have a way of doing things like that, by the way, and the Lord loves being involved in it. No one else knew that water was there. In that wilderness Anah’s finding was better than finding gold. It made him famous beyond his wildest dreams for we find him and his discovery recorded here in the eternal Word of God. Not bad for a kid, aye?





Now these were the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the children of Israel: Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom, and the name of his city was Dinhabah. And when Bela died, Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his place. When Jobab died, Husham of the land of the Temanites reigned in his place. And when Husham died, Hadad the son of Bedad, who attacked Midian in the field of Moab, reigned in his place. And the name of his city was Avith. When Hadad died, Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his place. And when Samlah died, Saul of Rehoboth-by-the-River reigned in his place. When Saul died, Baal-Hanan the son of Achbor reigned in his place. And when Baal-Hanan the son of Achbor died, Hadar reigned in his place; and the name of his city was Pau. His wife's name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mezahab. And these were the names of the chiefs of Esau, according to their families and their places, by their names: Chief Timnah, Chief Alvah, Chief Jetheth, Chief Aholibamah, Chief Elah, Chief Pinon, Chief Kenaz, Chief Teman, Chief Mibzar, Chief Magdiel, and Chief Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their dwelling places in the land of their possession. Esau was the father of the Edomites.




Our chapter ends with a list of the kings of Edom. Again, this is proof positive that the descendants of Esau became a nation … just as God had foretold they would.


Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

All rights reserved.



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