Posts Tagged ‘Genesis’

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the forefathers of the nation of Israel. Whenever God is mentioned after the lives of these men, He is called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, infamous for his faith to yield his very own son to God, (Genesis 12-25) is mentioned 231 times in the Bible. Isaac, Abraham’s promised son, (Genesis 21-27) is mentioned 124 times. Jacob, father of Israel’s 12 tribes, (Genesis 25-49) is mentioned 352 times in the Bible. This is almost the same amount of Abraham and Isaac combined. Roughly half the book of Genesis covers Jacob’s life!

Jacob’s parents were Isaac and Rebekah, and he had a twin brother named Esau. During their birth, Esau was born first, but Jacob was grabbing Esau’s heel. This younger twin’s name, Jacob, is literally translated as “heel,” however; to grab someone by the heel was a figure of speech meaning “to deceive.”

Esau, a hunter and hairy man’s man, is favored by Issac while Rebekah favors Jacob, the more clean-cut kid who helps mom in the house, is a good cook, and not the outdoorsy type. As a result, Jacob does not have much of a relationship with Isaac. Esau is prideful and Jacob lives up to his name by cooking up some stew and stealing Esau’s birthright (Gen. 25:29-34). Later Jacob’s mom puts him up to deceiving his dad and stealing Esau’s blessing (Gen. 27).

Up to this point, Jacob was named “deceiver,” was second best in his father’s eyes, stole his brother’s birthright, and stole his brother’s blessing. This is all before he left the house. His brother, Esau, hates him and he barely knows his dad. In Genesis 28, he leaves home and encounters God in a dream on his way to his Uncle Laban’s. This is what God says to him:

“I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth 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 promised you.” (Genesis 28:13-15 ESV)

Has Jacob pursued God up to this point? Hardly. Yet God is intervening in Jacob’s life, pursuing him, speaking to him, encouraging him, and reiterating His promise to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, a promise which now belongs to Jacob. Jacob still has a religious mindset vowing if the Lord blesses him and allows him to return to his father’s house then the Lord will be his God (as in He’s not my God yet). As he waits for this “if”, Jacob meets Rachel and works for Laban. His own flesh patterns and idols are used against him. Laban deceives him and first gives him Leah as his wife and dupes him into working for 14 years for Rachel, the woman he really loves. This was an enormous price for a bride at the time (Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p27). But sex with Rachel is such an idol for Jacob that he walks right into it:

“’Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her (Verse 21)”’ [Robert] Alter [the great Hebrew literature scholar at Berkeley] says that the Hebrew phrase is unusually bald, graphic, and sexual for ordinarily reticent discourse. Imagine saying to a father even today, ‘I can’t wait to have sex with your daughter. Give her to me now!’ The narrator is showing us a man overwhelmed with emotional and sexual longing for one woman.” – Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p27

Can you blame him? He likely never felt loved by his father, probably missed his mom deeply, and didn’t know God very well at all at this point. He saw Rachel and thought that being with her would satisfy his deepest longings.

As he works for Laban, God blesses him. Jacob recognizes God’s blessing but gets self-righteous and even scolds Laban as if he has the moral high ground. He acts as if God is blessing him because of his own merit.

As he enjoys God’s blessings, his struggles with pride, deception, lust, and self-righteousness go away right? Just like us, right? Of course not. He then battles with his sin being passed onto his children. His Isaac-like favoritism of Joseph, the first born son of Rachel, alienates him from the rest of his 11 sons, and leading to Joseph to be hated by his brothers and sold into slavery by them. His first born son, Reuben, emulates Jacob’s idolatry of sex and sleeps with his half-brothers’ mother (Bilhah). His daughter, Dinah, gets taken advantage of and raped. To avenge Dinah’s defilement, Simeon and Levi, emulate Jacob’s deceptive nature, and kill all the men of the village of Dinah’s perpetrator. That’s all while Jacob passively does nothing with regard to Dinah, which probably enraged Simeon and Levi all the more. Judah, like Reuben, sleeps with his daughter-in-law who was disguised as a prostitute (deception and sex all in one!). Jacob, and his family, is a disaster, definitely not an example to follow!

But I actually find tremendous encouragement from Jacob’s life and sin, from the man later renamed Israel:

“And he [Jacob] blessed Joseph and said,
‘The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day,’”
(Genesis 48:15 ESV)

“by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
by the God of your father who will help you,
by the Almighty who will bless you
with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that crouches beneath,
blessings of the breasts and of the womb.”
(Genesis 49:24-25 ESV)

Up to Genesis 48, Jacob has always called God, “the God of Abraham” or “the God of my father” or the God of Isaac” but never “my God” or “my shepherd.” That’s significant. Is Jacob a sinner? Yes. But did he know God and walk with Him? Yes. Did God love him as he is and pursue him all his life? Yes! Much like Christians said to Johnny Cash and now to Bono, I think we would have told Jacob: “Don’t call God ‘my shepherd’ or ‘my God!’ Jacob, you have sin, you’re a sinner!” Today we would put it: “Don’t claim to be a Christian! You have sin! You stumble!” Thank God for Jacob. Thank God Jacob really knew God and God loved Him as he was. There were consequences for Jacob’s sin, but God never deserted him. If I were put in Jacob’s shoes, lived to be 150, and had 25 chapters of the Bible written about me, it would be just as ugly, folks. But hopefully, by the grace of God, as I am dying I would, like Jacob, call God, “My God,” and “the Mighty One of Anthony,” “the Stone of Anthony.”

The Rest of the Series:

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 2

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Saul

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Ahab

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