This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.
Jacob received his father’s blessing by devious means, stealing it from his brother, Esau. Esau was enraged, causing Isaac and Rebekah to send Jacob away while his brother’s anger cooled. The Abrahamic covenant was now Jacob’s to trust and hope for. First, however, he needed to obtain a wife so that the LORD could multiply him into the great nation that he was to become. From his loins would come kings and priests as well as the long-awaited seed of the woman, who would take away the sins of the world, break the curse of sin, and reign in righteousness forever.
1 So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said to him, “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. 2 Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and from there take to yourself a wife from the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. 3 May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. 4 May He also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you, that you may possess the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham.” 5 Then Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Paddan-aram to Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.
If it were not for the previous chapter, we would have no clue as to the underlying reason that Jacob was sent away. Isaac seems to have come to himself, having been snapped out of the spiritual slump by the previous event. He referred to God as ‘Almighty God,’ perhaps having been reminded of God’s sovereignty over the lives of men by what had occurred. He prayed that God’s covenant blessing would be upon Jacob to make his journey a success and to bring him back to the land of Canaan for the fulfillment of the promises.
6 Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take to himself a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he charged him, saying, “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and had gone to Paddan-aram. 8 So Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan displeased his father Isaac; 9 and Esau went to Ishmael, and married, besides the wives that he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth.
It is now Esau that is presented as the confused one. He had not perceived before that his Canaanite wives had offended his parents. So, in an attempt to please them, he goes to the Ishmaelites to find a third wife, either not knowing or not considering that Ishmael was living in opposition to his brothers. Esau acted foolishly, not knowing how to please God or his parents.
10 Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. 12 He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
This occurred on the edge of the Promised Land as Jacob was leaving for Haran. He caught a glimpse of the heavenly activity as angels were traveling back and forth between heaven and earth. The sight must have been impressive and must have remained in Jacob’s head for the rest of his life; so that he always remembered that God commands innumerable angels going about His business upon the earth.
13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. 14 Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 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.”
Jacob had bought his brother’s birthright, and he had deviously received his father’s blessing. Now, for the first time, he receives the promises of the Abrahamic covenant straight from the mouth of God. The picture of God standing above the ladder with the heavenly host busy about His work conveyed the assurance that nothing in heaven or earth could stop God’s promise from coming about.
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
Jacob was very immature in his walk with the LORD, but God would use the next twenty years to teach and shape him. For now, He received Jacob’s crude worship:
18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, 21 and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the LORD will be my God. 22 This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
This also shows how immature Jacob was: he was trying to manipulate God. He made the promise that he would accept the LORD as his God if (and only if) God would accompany and protect him to bring him back home and provide for him along the way. God would indeed do all of this, but only because of His lovingkindness.
God’s grace abounds even to those who are immature in the faith. How great is His faithfulness to those whom He bestows His covenant. He requires faith, and brings it about, so that those whom He calls will trust Him and hope for all that God has promised. Now, many thousands of years later, God has promised eternal life for those who believe in His Son, who died on the cross in the place of sinners so that they would be forgiven their sins and given a place in God’s eternal kingdom.