Friday, January 31, 2020

In The Beginning. Day 125, Laban Pursues Jacob

In yesterday's passage the Lord told Jacob it was time to go home to Canaan. Jacob took his family and everything he owned and sneaked away while Laban was away from home shearing sheep. The Lord would have protected him if he'd boldly announced his departure and had openly taken his leave, but Jacob was frightened of his dishonest, scheming father-in-law. He stole away at a time when he knew he'd get a good head start.

"On the third day Laban was told Jacob had fled. Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead." (Genesis 31:22-23) Since Jacob had already been gone three days when Laban found out, it took seven days to catch up with him.

One night on the road, the Lord speaks to Laban in a dream. "Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, 'Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.'" (Genesis 31:24) I think Laban has worked himself up into a rage and intends to lash out at Jacob when he finds him. The Lord would have to intervene if Laban lifted a hand to Jacob, so He warns Laban he'd better calm down before he says or does anything. The Lord doesn't want to have to strike this man down but He will if he becomes violent toward Jacob.

"Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too. Then Laban said to Jacob, 'What have you done? You've deceived me, and you've carried off my daughters like captives in war. Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn't you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrel and harps? You didn't even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, 'Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.' Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father's household. But why did you steal my gods?'" (Genesis 31:25-30) Laban puts on the wounded father act for Jacob. He says, "Why did you take my beloved daughters and precious grandchildren away like this without even letting me say goodbye? I would have thrown you a going away party! I would have loaded you down with supplies for the journey. I would have sent you away with many blessings."

I doubt Laban would have done any of these things. I think the Lord would have prevented him from stopping Jacob and the family from leaving, but Laban isn't a generous man. I don't think he'd have spent money on a party or that he'd have supplied them for the journey. Up til now he's had no concern at all for his daughters. Because he cares little for his daughters, it's doubtful he's spent a lot of time building a relationship with their children. He hasn't been a good father or a good father-in-law. It's unlikely he's a good grandfather either.

Rachel took her father's idols from the house but Jacob doesn't know it. He explains why he left in secret and then professes his innocence in regard to the gods. "Jacob answered Laban, 'I was afraid, because I thought you'd take your daughters away from me by force. But if you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.' Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods." (Genesis 31:31) Jacob speaks boldly because he knows he hasn't stolen anything and he doesn't believe it would ever cross the minds of his wives or children to commit thievery.

Jacob has overestimated Rachel's honesty. He's always been blinded to her faults because of his enormous love for her. But we can see what's brought her to the point of thieving from her father. She's been angry and resentful toward Laban for many years. She knows her father cares little about her or about her sister Leah. She knows her father has used and deceived Jacob and has profited greatly by Jacob's hard work without wanting to give him anything in return. Jacob isn't even going to be Laban's heir now, so to spite her father she grabbed up his gold-plated idols on the way out of the house as a way to get back at him and to give Jacob things she feels he is entitled to possess. The heir would have inherited the household idols. She believes Jacob should have been the heir and she takes what she feels is rightfully his.

Jacob has spoken rash words by saying that whoever has stolen the idols will die. In tomorrow's passage Laban will go through everything at the campsite looking for his idols. If Rachel wasn't able to come up with a clever lie to keep them hidden, she might have lost her life, but she's her father's daughter. He's set a bad example for her and she follows it.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

In The Beginning. Day 124, Jacob Flees From Laban

Jacob's in-laws are about to turn against him. Jacob is selectively breeding the flocks and herds so that they produce more speckled and spotted animals. The agreement between Jacob and Laban was that all the speckled and spotted animals would go to Jacob as his wages for continuing to stay on after completing fourteen years of service. Jacob is the reason Laban is so wealthy now, because he's managed his estate. But now Jacob is becoming wealthy too and Laban feels cheated by him. Is Jacob wronging Laban? I don't think he's doing anything wrong in making his own profits grow. He probably is spending less time helping Laban to succeed than he did in the past, but Jacob is a man with a huge family to support and he does have to think about the future and how he will provide for them. Something Jacob says in our passage today indicates that the Lord told him how to increase the odds of speckled and spotted animals being born. The Lord has seen how dishonestly Laban has always dealt with Jacob. The Lord knows Laban always will deal dishonestly with Jacob because that's the kind of man Laban is and Laban has no interest in changing. The Lord will soon tell Jacob it's time to head back to Canaan, and when He does Jacob is going to need a good nest egg so he can start his new life with his very large family.

"Jacob heard that Laban's sons were saying, 'Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all his wealth from what belonged to our father.' And Jacob noticed that Laban's attitude toward him was not what it had been." (Genesis 31:1-2) Jacob's fortune got its start from the animals Laban agreed he could have, but Jacob certainly didn't steal anything from their father. They are lying or at least wildly exaggerating when they accuse him of taking "everything" their father owned. For fourteen years Jacob worked for free because Laban cheated and deceived him when agreeing to accept him as a husband for Rachel. During that time Laban prospered exceedingly while Jacob had nothing but room and board and the clothes on his back. If Jacob had left before Laban gave him any animals, he'd have been leaving with nothing but his family. Laban had him trapped until now because Jacob couldn't afford to leave. Laban hasn't been aboveboard with Jacob at any time during their long acquaintance and now he's starting to reap what he's sown and he doesn't like it.

Some scholars believe Laban didn't have any sons until after Jacob came on the scene. Until his own sons were born it's likely Laban intended to make Jacob his heir, so he may have justified his stinginess with Jacob by saying to himself, "When I die someday all this will be his anyway." I think it's quite possible Laban really didn't have sons until after Jacob came into the family since their occupations are as shepherds, according to yesterday's passage. This was a job given to the pre-teen and teenage boys of the family. Now that Laban has sons of his own, I am sure he planned to disinherit Jacob, and these sons are angry that Jacob is more interested in making a living for himself than in continuing to make their father's estate prosper by leaps and bounds. The less their father's profits grow, the less they are going to inherit upon his death. If Jacob had previously been named as heir and has now been discarded, naturally he has to work hard to make his own living. He knows a day is coming when these boys will be men and their father will be old or dead and they will throw him out on his ear. He can't be penniless when that day comes.

Jacob is troubled in his heart. I picture him tossing and turning in bed at night thinking about the hostile family situation he's in. I think he worried a lot about the future. I don't know if he spent some of that time in prayer but I tend to think he did because the Lord tells him what he needs to do. "Then the Lord said to Jacob, 'Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.'" (Genesis 31:3) Jacob must have planned all along to someday go back to Canaan. But he was waiting for the right time. It could be he's counted his money and doesn't think he has enough yet to start a new life. But the Lord informs him that the time to go is now. When the Lord says to step forward, Jacob doesn't have to worry about how it's going to work out. The Lord already knows how He's going to provide for him. All Jacob has to do is obey.

"So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were." (Genesis 31:4) The Bible doesn't explain why Jacob doesn't share his plans with his wives inside the house but I suspect it's because he doesn't want to be overheard. He doesn't know who he can trust and who he can't. The servants might have been instructed by Laban to report to him anything they hear. Jacob meets his wives out in the field with nothing but sheep around them so he can be certain no one is eavesdropping.

"He said to them, 'I see that your father's attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I've worked for your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me." (Genesis 31:5-7) Here we learn that even after making an agreement with Jacob about which animals of the flock would be his, Laban has changed the agreement ten times. Originally Jacob was to have all the speckled and spotted animals. Then, as we will see soon, Laban started saying stuff like, "Okay, now only the speckled ones are yours." When the speckled ones reproduced more often he'd change his mind and say, "Now you don't get any more of the speckled ones. You can only have the spotted ones." Laban was always looking out for himself.

Rachel and Leah are aware of the poor character of their father. He's cheated them too. He consigned them to lives of jealousy and discontent by marrying them both to the same man in a dishonest charade. They know he's always been more concerned with his own wealth than with whether his daughters will be properly provided for by their husband. They are listening to what Jacob has to say and are going to be willing to do whatever he asks them to do. He now points out how the Lord protected him in spite of all Laban's attempts to cheat him. "If he said, 'The speckled ones will be your wages,' then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, 'The streaked ones will be your wages,' then all the flocks bore streaked young. So God has taken away your father's livestock and has given them to me." (Genesis 31:8-9) The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Sometimes when He takes away it's because the person doesn't deserve to have what he has. Laban has gained his wealth by using and mistreating Jacob. The Lord has been steadily taking away from Laban and giving to Jacob because Jacob is more worthy of His blessings.

Jacob reveals to his wives a dream he had about the Lord. "In breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. The angel of God said to me in the dream, 'Jacob.' I answered, 'Here I am.' And He said, 'Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.'" (Genesis 31:10-13) People may think they're getting away with treating us unfairly, but they aren't hiding anything from God. He sees their mistreatment of us and He will take action in the proper time and in the right way.

Laban has not only disinherited Jacob, but he's disinherited his daughters also. As soon as he got them married off he considered them Jacob's problem. He has no concern for their future whatsoever. "Then Rachel and Leah replied, 'Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father's estate? Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you.'" (Genesis 31:14-16)

"Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan." (Genesis 31:17-18) In yesterday's passage the Bible told us that with his earnings Jacob has at last accumulated some worldly goods and male and female servants. He packs up his entire household and heads out.

"When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father's household gods. Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. So he fled with all he had, crossed the Euphrates River, and headed for the hill country of Gilead." (Genesis 31:19-21) Jacob has a right to leave. He owes Laban nothing at this point and the Lord has instructed him to leave. But he goes about it in a way that puts him on bad terms with his father-in-law. He doesn't go to him and speak to him man to man but flees like he thinks Laban will try to stop him from going home or that Laban will force him to leave with nothing. Rachel, unbeknownst to her husband, steals objects which are probably plated in gold as "payment" for all she's suffered due to her father's greed and dishonesty. Laban will assume Jacob stole them. He will pursue Jacob in the outrage of one who has been robbed and in the indignation of one who was denied the opportunity to say goodbye to his daughters and grandchildren.

Jacob didn't have to leave in this manner. The Lord would have protected him. The Lord would have brought him out from Laban's estate with plenty, just as the Lord will later bring the nation of Israel out of Egypt with plenty. But Jacob flees like a man whose life is in danger. His trust in the Lord is growing, and we know this because he's willing to obey the Lord's instructions to move out now, but he doesn't yet trust the Lord enough to be certain He won't allow Laban to take anything from him when he leaves. I think we can cut Jacob some slack for this. He's lived in the household of a greedy, dishonest man for so long that he wouldn't put anything past Laban. He's so used to having to watch his back all the time that he's stuck in that mindset. He knows the Lord has been watching out for him, but he's on the alert himself all the time. He never knows when and where Laban will cheat him next and he can't yet relax in the promise of the Lord's protection. It's going to take time for Jacob to learn to fully trust the Lord. This is an ongoing lifelong process, for Jacob and for all of us.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

In The Beginning. Day 123, Jacob And Laban Make A Deal

The time Jacob agreed to work for Laban is up and he wants to take his family and his flocks and move back to the land of Canaan. Laban doesn't want him to go so they make a deal about what Jacob's wages will be if he stays.

"After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, 'Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland. Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I've done for you.'" (Genesis 30:25-26) Laban can't claim Jacob hasn't done everything required of him and more.

But Laban's finances have flourished under Jacob's care and he entices him to remain. "But Laban said to him, 'If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I've learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you.' He added, 'Name your wages, and I will pay them.'" (Genesis 30:27-28) We will learn later on that Laban keeps idols in his house. He believes in the Lord but not as the one and only God. Just as Leah did yesterday, we find Laban mixing pagan beliefs with worship of the Lord. This isn't necessarily surprising, considering they live on the outskirts of the idolatrous city of Ur, but it's disappointing. I don't know whether Laban truly learned anything from divination. If he did, it was revealed to him by the powers of darkness because idols represent gods who don't exist. Idols can't speak or move or do anything good or anything bad under their own power. So I don't know whether Laban was told anything by the spiritual forces of darkness or whether he makes this statement in a manipulative manner, such as: "The gods of the Chaldeans have told me I've been blessed by the Lord because you are in my home. If you leave my home then I may lose the Lord's blessings. You wouldn't want that for your father-in-law, would you?"

Jacob acknowledges that Laban is financially better off now than he was when Jacob first arrived, but Jacob wants to focus on making a living only for his own family, not for Laban. "Jacob said to him, 'You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has increased under my care. The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?'" (Genesis 30:29-30) All the work Jacob has done has been for Laban's benefit. Jacob has nothing he can call his own except four wives and the children he's had with them. If they leave they will be leaving with pretty much just the clothes on their backs because Jacob didn't earn anything but his room and board and his family by working fourteen years for Laban. Not a single sheep is in Jacob's name. Not a stick of furniture belongs to him. Jacob wants to make a living and support his family on his own.

Laban is trying to figure out what it will take to get Jacob to stay. He knows he isn't as good of a manager as Jacob and that his finances will suffer if Jacob leaves. "'What shall I give you?' he asked. 'Don't give me anything,' Jacob replied. 'But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.'" (Genesis 30:31-33) I suspect there are far more solid colored animals in the flocks and herds than speckled and spotted animals. Laban has a pretty good idea of what his flocks and herds look like, so this sounds like a good deal to him.

"'Agreed,' said Laban. 'Let it be as you have said.' That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban's flocks." (Genesis 30:34-36) Laban thinks he's getting the best end of the bargain but his knowledge of animal husbandry is lacking. This is why he's become so wealthy under Jacob's management of the estate; Jacob knows what he's doing when it comes to selective breeding of animals. Laban has never stopped to consider that a solid colored animal can still produce a spotted animal. A solid sheep with recessive genes for spotting can mate with another solid sheep who carries the same recessive genes for spotting. Next thing you know, this sheep couple has a spotted baby.

Here's an example of this in humans: My husband has blonde hair but both of his parents had very dark hair. A person without any knowledge of genetics might expect his parents to only be able to produce a dark haired child. But obviously the two of them carried recessive genes for blonde hair. When the two of them produced a child together, the recessive genes for blonde hair combined to make blonde hair a dominant trait in their offspring. Genetic diseases occur in this same way. A woman who carries a recessive gene for a hereditary illness may marry a man who carries the same recessive gene. When they mate, if the particular sperm and the particular egg that join together contain the genetic code for the illness, the child will inherit it. The parents themselves may be perfectly healthy but the child will have lost the genetic lottery, so to speak, because of how genetics works. The solid colored flocks and herds are much larger than the spotted herds and Laban expects his own wealth to grow far more than Jacob's, but that's because he doesn't understand that his own animals will still produce some spotted animals and those will belong to Jacob according to their agreement.

Jacob wants to ensure that the solid colored animals produce as many spotted offspring as possible. He does something odd next that, on the surface, seems like superstitious folk medicine. It seems unlikely to produce any results. Except it does produce results. "Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white strips on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted." (Genesis 30:37-39) He almost seems to be saying to the animals, "Here's an illustration of what I need you to do. See how I've caused these branches to be streaked and spotted? This is what I want your offspring to look like. So when you stand here near the water and mate with each other, keep your eyes on these branches so you won't forget what I'm asking you to do." How on earth does this actually work? Do these cut branches alter the chemistry of the water somehow and cause the animals to mate more often or become more fertile or cause certain genes to come to the forefront? Or is Jacob using these branches as a sign of his faith that God is going to vastly increase how many non-solid animals are born to the flock? Perhaps the branches are a visible reminder to him that God is going to take care of him. We don't know the answer and neither have all the Bible scholars and scientists who have pondered this passage.

The rest of what Jacob does makes more sense to us. As spotted and speckled animals are born, he only allows the spotted and speckled animals to mate, thereby increasing the odds of speckled and spotted offspring. He also makes sure that the solid animals who mate with each other are of different colors, which also increases the likelihood of spotting in their offspring. In addition, he only allows the strongest females to breed, which decreases the odds of mortality. The females won't die in childbirth and the offspring will be strong and healthy. "Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban's animals. Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys." (Genesis 30:40-43)

Jacob is putting his knowledge of animal husbandry to his advantage. At the same time, he's putting Laban at a disadvantage. At this point in Jacob's life he's still trusting in his own efforts more than he's trusting in the Lord. I don't think it's necessary to make Laban's flocks and herds weaker in order to make Jacob's flocks and herds stronger and more plentiful; I think the Lord would have increased Jacob's wealth without Jacob having to resort to putting his father-in-law at a disadvantage. But Jacob is a crafty, dishonest man who is dealing with another crafty, dishonest man. He's "fighting fire with fire" I suppose we could say, and although that's not always the best way to go about things, in Jacob's human reasoning it must have seemed the best way. Weak as Jacob's faith is at times, the Lord still honors it and assists him in getting ready to make his exodus from the suburbs of Ur. It's the Lord's will for Jacob to go back to Canaan---to the land the Lord promised Abraham's descendants.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

In The Beginning. Day 122, Jacob's Children, Part Three

Jacob is married to four women now: to Leah, to her sister Rachel, and to the maids of Leah and Rachel. He has had children with all of them except Rachel. Leah is still jealous of Rachel because Jacob loves Rachel more. Rachel is still jealous of Leah because Leah has borne Jacob four sons. Today the two women strike a deal that temporarily makes both of them happy.

"During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah." (Genesis 30:14a) In ancient times the mandrake was considered a fertility fruit. Whether eating them actually had any influence on fertility or whether this was just an old wives tale we don't know. But Leah and Rachel are evidently aware of the reputation of mandrakes. Reuben brings them to his mother when he finds them, perhaps because he knows she desperately wants to get pregnant again. But Rachel also wants desperately to get pregnant so she boldly asks for a share of the mandrakes. "Rachel said to Leah, 'Please give me some of your son's mandrakes.'" (Genesis 30:14b)

Her request angers Leah. "But she said to her, 'Wasn't it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son's mandrakes too?'" (Genesis 30:15a) She asks, "Don't you have enough already? I'm Jacob's first and chief wife, yet you have his heart. I will never have his heart no matter how many sons I give him. Why can't you be satisfied with his love? All I have ever done that pleases him is bearing children; must you be able to do that too?"

We can tell by Rachel's reply that she rules the roost even though she's the second wife. I think she gets her way pretty much all the time because of Jacob's love for her. I think he spends more time with her than with Leah, and the reason I think this is because of the way she casually and coldly "trades" him for some mandrakes. "'Very well,' Rachel said, 'he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son's mandrakes.'" (Genesis 30:15b) I get the impression that Jacob would have spent the night with Rachel if she hadn't traded him for the mandrakes. He likely spent the night with her more often than not, especially since she's trying to conceive a child. She says to her sister, "Okay, fine. I'll let you have a night with him if you'll give me some of the mandrakes. I'll give him up tonight so you can have him."

"So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. 'You must sleep with me,' she said. 'I have hired you with my son's mandrakes.' So he slept with her that night." (Genesis 30:16) I wonder how often Jacob came home from work to an uproar in the home. I think he's gotten into the habit of going along with whatever is asked of him just so he can have some peace. I picture him walking wearily in from the fields, dusty and dirty, to be met with Leah's announcement. He doesn't even ask to hear the story about the mandrakes or how he came to be traded for them. I don't think he cares about the explanation, so he goes into the house, cleans up, eats his supper, and goes to Leah's room when bedtime comes.

Leah prays to the Lord to help her conceive, and He does. "God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son." (Genesis 30:17) She now credits the "listening" of God to a cultural belief that was prevalent in her day. "Then Leah said, 'God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.' So she named him Issachar." (Genesis 30:18) This is not why God answered her prayers. In ancient Mesopotamia a wife who gave her husband her servant in order to provide him with more children was considered generous. She was called a good wife if, when she herself was unable to bear more children, she made it possible for her husband to have many sons to carry on his name. We find Leah mixing the idolatrous beliefs of her culture with her worship of the one true God and as a result she gives this son a name that means "reward". Mixing pagan beliefs in with her beliefs about the one true God causes her to come to a wrong conclusion. We have to be very careful even in our own day not to allow erroneous beliefs to creep into our worship. We have an advantage over Leah because we can study the word of God to check everything against it that sounds spiritual. But that also means we have less of an excuse than Leah for falling into error. The word of God is available to us whenever we want it and in any form we prefer to read it or listen to it. The Lord has richly blessed us in this way and if we don't accept this blessing then we are going to come to some false conclusions and make some choices that aren't Biblical.

"Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, 'God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.' So she named him Zebulun. Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah." (Genesis 30:19-21) This son's name means "dwelling". Leah still wants Jacob to dwell with her in love. She wants to live in his heart. But if she never truly has his heart, at least she will have his respect for presenting him with six healthy sons. As an added bonus, the Lord gives her one daughter who I'm sure was a comfort to her and that she grew to be a wonderful female companion. My own mother was one of my very best friends and I like to think that Leah and Dinah were best friends. Leah needs a friend in her household and the Lord lets her finish her fertile years with the addition of a daughter to her family.

Until modern times no one knew that it's the father who determines the sex of the baby. A woman's egg contains only X chromosomes while a man's sperm can contain either X or Y chromosomes. Some men have far more of one chromosome than the other to contribute to the baby-making process. That's why some couples have all girls or all boys, even though they may have four or five children or more. But until science taught us this, it was believed to be the fault of the woman if a man had no sons. That's why the infamous Henry XIII married a series of six women in an attempt to father a male heir; he believed it was the fault of his wives when in reality it's because he was contributing only X chromosomes to the baby-making process. Because the sex of the baby was thought in ancient times to be caused somehow by the mother, Leah is going to get the credit for bearing six sons to Jacob. Sons were valued far above daughters in a patriarchal society like Leah's. She knows everyone around her is going to respect and congratulate her on her ability to produce all these sons. She enjoys the admiration of her friends and family and neighbors, but what she wants most of all is Jacob's admiration, so she thinks to herself, "Now I will have great value in his eyes. Even if Rachel someday manages to give him children, I don't think she'll ever catch up to me. She'll never be able to give him six sons."

It's time for the Lord to bless Rachel. He has blessed Leah abundantly because, as the Bible told us, He saw that Leah was not loved. (Genesis 29:31) The Lord wanted Jacob to love Leah but the most Jacob has ever done is feel affection and respect for her. He never will love her as much as he loves Rachel, so the Lord has secured Leah's position in the home as chief wife by making her a mother first and the mother of the most children. I think it's likely that Rachel needed some humbling of her attitude and that this is another reason the Lord made her infertile for so many years. But now perhaps this has been accomplished and it's time for the Lord to allow her to be a mother. "Then God remembered Rachel; He listened to her and enabled her to conceive. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, 'God has taken away my disgrace.' She named him Joseph, and said, 'May the Lord add to me another son.'" (Genesis 30:22-24) Rachel has been praying to the Lord. She has stopped counting on home remedies to make her fertile. She has stopped making Jacob spend more nights with her than with Leah in hopes of conceiving a child. She has come to the point of humbling herself in the presence of the Lord and counting on Him to give her what she wants most in the world. She knows that nothing but a miracle from the Lord will make her able to bear children, so all her thoughts and hopes are in Him now.

Joseph's name reflects her desire to bear one more son. His name means "may He add". The Lord will add to her another son but she will die due to complications of childbirth. Leah will raise all the children of Jacob, which is yet another reason I believe the Lord would have chosen her for Jacob's only wife. Leah will be his helpmate and companion long after Rachel is gone, and whether or not Jacob ever truly loved her I believe he certainly appreciated her presence in his home and her godly influence on the children. I like to think the two of them grew older together in pleasant companionship and mutual respect. At last Leah will have the full attention of her husband and I like to believe this made her very happy. She deserves to be happy.

Monday, January 27, 2020

In The Beginning. Day 121, Jacob's Children, Part Two

Rachel becomes intensely jealous of her sister because Leah has borne Jacob four sons and Rachel hasn't been able to have any children. The envy causes her to lash out at Jacob unfairly.

"When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, 'Give me children, or I'll die!'" (Genesis 30:1) She blames Jacob as if he isn't man enough to give her children as well as Leah. Obviously Jacob isn't infertile since he's already fathered four sons, but jealousy has made Rachel irrational.

I don't know how many times Jacob has heard these dramatic pleadings from Rachel but I suspect this isn't the first time because he loses his temper. "Jacob became angry with her and said, 'Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?'" (Genesis 30:2) Jacob isn't behaving any better than she is. His reply is, "Don't blame me! Blame God! God is the One who has made you barren. I can't undo what He has done."

It's true that God has prevented Rachel from bearing children so far. He did this because Leah is treated like a third wheel in this family. Because Jacob so obviously prefers Rachel over Leah, and because Rachel has probably felt superior to her sister and has made her feel bad about herself, the Lord granted Leah the honor of being the mother of four fine sons. Leah is the one whose blessings are admired by her family and friends. Leah is the one who is congratulated in the marketplace. Leah, the less-loved wife, can hold her head up high now. Rachel, for the first time in her life, is pitied. For the first time she's jealous of someone else instead of feeling like other women are jealous of her. Jacob realizes that the Lord has prevented Rachel from bearing children. If he had wisely suggested the two of them go to the Lord in prayer to find out why, the things that happen next wouldn't have happened. If they'd gone to the Lord in a spirit of submission and had allowed Him to point out how unfair they've been to Leah, and if they'd repented and allowed the Lord to change their hearts and attitudes, the Lord might have given Rachel a child very soon. But instead Rachel takes matters into her own hands.

"Then she said, 'Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.'" (Genesis 30:3) This is the same thing Sarah did with her Egyptian slave Hagar; she gave her to Abraham as a concubine (a lesser form of a legal wife) so Sarah could adopt and raise the child as her own. Jacob agrees to Rachel's request. As we studied earlier in Genesis, the law allowed for such an arrangement. Some scholars feel that ancient Mesopotamian texts suggest that a husband was obligated to agree when a barren wife insisted he father a son for her through her servant. If a man died and left a barren wife behind, he ran a very real risk of leaving his wife utterly destitute. His estate had to go to a male heir, even if that heir was a distant cousin or his most-trusted male servant. The heir was not obligated to take care of the widowed wife since this woman was not his own mother. In Jacob's case, if he dies he knows Leah has sons who will provide for her and give her a home in her old age. But Rachel has no one. It makes sense that Jacob would agree to do what she asks in order to secure her future.

"So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, and she became pregnant and bore him a son. Then Rachel said, 'God has vindicated me; He has listened to my plea and has given me a son.' Because of this she named him Dan. Rachel's servant conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, 'I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.' So she named him Naphtali." (Genesis 30:4-8) Dan's name means "He has vindicated" and Naphtali's name means "my struggle". When Abraham took Hagar as his wife, there's no Biblical evidence that he spent any more time with her after she bore him a son. The two of them never had any more children together. But Jacob appears to have kept up an ongoing relationship with Bilhah, at least for a while, and I wonder if that might have been at Rachel's insistence. She's in competition with Leah who has four sons. One son is not enough for Rachel. And in a time when infant mortality rates were very high, having more than one son through her servant would have given Rachel an added measure of security for the future.

In yesterday's passage we were told that after Leah produced four sons she stopped conceiving children. I don't think she did anything to prevent conception but that it just wasn't happening. Sometimes fertility waxes and wanes like that. My parents had two children less than five years apart very early in their marriage and wanted more but nothing happened. Then suddenly, about sixteen years after the birth of their second child, they were unexpectedly expecting me. Leah may have felt satisfied with four sons until Rachel obtained sons through her servant. Leah may be worried Rachel will end up with more children than she has, so she wants to have more but every month she's disappointed when she realizes she isn't pregnant. She decides to give Jacob her own maid as a wife.

"When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. Then Leah said, 'What good fortune!' So she named him Gad. Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. Then Leah said, 'How happy I am! The women will call me happy.' So she named him Asher." (Genesis 30:9-13) Gad's name means "good fortune" and Asher's name means "happy". Now Leah's servant has borne Jacob as many sons as Rachel's servant has borne him. Leah has held onto top spot as far as she is concerned, for through her own fertility and through the fertility of her servant Jacob has been given six sons.

Jacob never wanted but one wife and now he has four. We need to keep in mind that the Bible reports to us the things that happened. When the Bible tells us Jacob had four wives it is not putting a stamp of approval on the idea of a man having multiple wives. When the Lord created the first married couple, He didn't give Adam two wives but only one wife. This is the best pattern for a happy marriage. A husband's love isn't intended to be divided between two women or among multiple women. A woman isn't intended to have to share her husband.

Ending up with four wives is a result of Jacob having made several bad choices. He deceived his father and stole Esau's blessing. Then he had to flee to Harran to escape his brother and to obtain a believing wife upon the command of his parents. When he arrived in Harran he should have prayed to the Lord to match him with the woman who would be the best wife for him. He should have followed the example of Abraham's servant who prayed to the Lord to help him find the right wife for Isaac. If Jacob had done this, I think the Lord would have pointed him to Leah. And if Jacob had listened to the Lord and had chosen Leah for his wife, none of these other things would have happened. Leah would have provided him with at least four sons, as she already has, and there would have been no reason to take on secondary wives for the purpose of siring heirs. We've already discussed some reasons to believe Leah is the wife the Lord would have chosen for Jacob and we may look at some more reasons before we are done with this subject because the rivalry between Jacob's two wives isn't over yet. In tomorrow's passage it continues to be an ongoing problem and Jacob will become the father of even more children.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

In The Beginning. Day 120, Jacob's Children, Part One

Jacob is married to two women, though unintentionally. Rachel is the only wife he wanted and she is dearly loved by him. We don't know whether Rachel ever cared as much for Jacob as he cared for her; the Bible doesn't say. But based on what we are told today we know that Leah, Jacob's other wife, has feelings for Jacob. I believe Jacob feels affection toward Leah and cares about her wellbeing. He finds her interesting enough to spend a fair amount of nights with her, based on how many children the two of them have together. But every day of her life Leah knows Jacob never wanted to marry her in the first place and that Rachel will always be his one true love.

Nobody in this situation seems to spare much thought for what a difficult situation Leah is in. Her father obviously never gave her a thought or a care when he switched Rachel for her during the wedding ceremony and in the bedchamber of Jacob. Jacob's shock and horror at discovering he'd married and slept with the wrong woman must have been heartbreaking for her. Whether or not Leah loved Jacob, she would have suffered a tremendous blow to her self esteem when she saw how unhappy he was that he'd gotten the "wrong" wife. And now, as these three adults try to make some kind of life together, there's never peace in the household. The two sisters are rivals. We don't know whether they got along well before this change in their circumstances, but if they did then they've lost each other's friendship now that they feel they must vie for the attention and affection of Jacob. Rachel probably looks down on her sister and reminds her that Jacob would never have married her if given the choice. Leah probably resents Rachel because of the way Jacob's eyes light up when he looks at her---something his eyes never do when Leah walks into the room. Jacob can't relax in his own house either. When he comes home from work he's got two women snapping at each other and competing with each other to do the best job as wife and homemaker. It's a terrible mess for all of them but for Leah most of all. And no one seems to care except the Lord. But, as the Apostle Paul said, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31) The Lord has seen Leah's pain and He is going to bless her.

"When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, He enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless." (Genesis 29:31) Yesterday we discussed the possibility that Leah is the woman the Lord would have chosen for Jacob's first and only wife if Jacob had consulted Him on the matter. The Lord allowed Jacob to be deceived by Laban to teach him a lesson but perhaps also to put him with the woman who was best for him. But Jacob failed to see Leah's worth. During his first week with her, which was like a honeymoon when he wouldn't have been expected to leave the house, his desire for Rachel didn't fade. He no longer had to suffer the sexual frustrations of a young single man now that he was married to Leah, but that didn't keep him from lusting for Rachel also. He was willing to work seven more years for free in order to obtain Rachel as his second wife. I think the reason the Bible says "the Lord saw that Leah was not loved" is because the Lord wanted Jacob to love Leah. And even if Jacob wasn't willing to give up on the idea of possessing Rachel as his wife and sexual partner, the least he could have done was not make Leah feel like an outcast in her own home. He could have treated the women equally instead of making it obvious (though probably not in a malicious way) that he far preferred one woman over the other.

It appears Rachel has an unfair advantage over Leah. She's more beautiful of face and figure. She's more loved by Jacob. So the Lord enables Leah to bear children and He prevents Rachel from conceiving. Rachel can't help it that Jacob has always preferred her over Leah, so it might seem as if she's being punished for something that isn't her fault, but I tend to think she enjoyed having the upper hand over her sister. If she isn't doing anything wrong then I just don't see the Lord preventing her from having what was considered the ultimate honor for a woman in those days: the bearing of sons. Women in those times sometimes worked outside the home, and some of them were even fine craftswomen and tradeswomen, but in a patriarchal society of ancient times no achievements were considered as important as being a mother. It didn't matter how much education a woman had or how talented she was at weaving rugs or creating sculptures or painting artwork. If she wasn't a mother she was pitied. Rachel, who I believe may have gone out of her way to heap pity on her less-loved sister, now has to endure the pitying looks of her family and friends while she fails to bear children for Jacob. But Leah, the one who was formerly pitied because she was less-loved, has no problem bearing four healthy sons in a row for Jacob.

"Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, 'It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.'" (Genesis 29:32) The name "Reuben" means "see, a son". How proud Leah must have been to present Jacob with his first son! She must have worried Rachel would become pregnant before she did, which would have felt to her like having salt poured into an already painful wound. She must have experienced a great deal of satisfaction in the moment when Jacob came into the bedroom to see his newborn child. His delight with the child and with her soothed her wounded heart. We can see by Leah's thoughts that she wants Jacob's love, but we can also see that she credits the Lord with the blessing of a child. She doesn't give the credit to Jacob for being virile and she doesn't congratulate herself for being fertile. She thanks the Lord for seeing her misery and for doing something about it.

"She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, 'Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, He gave me this one too.' So she named him Simeon." (Genesis 29:33) Simeon's name means "one who hears". It would seem Jacob hasn't shown her any extra love after the first son arrived than he was showing her before she presented him with a child. She has prayed to the Lord to help her produce another fine healthy son and He has heard her and answered her.

"Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, 'Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.' So he was named Levi." (Genesis 29:34) This child's name means "attached". Leah and Jacob have been married for quite some time now. In those days it was typical for a child to be weaned at about three years of age, and since nursing a baby often prevents ovulation, children tended to be spaced about three years apart. So we can assume that Leah and Jacob have been married for around nine years minimum. Jacob has been married to Rachel only one week less than he's been married to Leah but Rachel hasn't been pregnant a single time. Leah thinks to herself, "My sister is clearly barren. Jacob must be terribly disappointed in her. She might be fine to look at but she's a dud where childbearing is concerned. It's a good thing my father deceived Jacob into marrying me or else he'd have no children at all! Surely Jacob can see this by now. Surely he is becoming aware that I'm a far superior wife for him than my sister. Any day now his disappointment in her will result in him turning his affections away from her and then his heart will be all mine."

But Jacob still prefers Rachel over Leah. He may be giving Leah more physical attention than Rachel by now since his physical relations with Rachel never seem to produce any offspring, but his heart still belongs to Rachel. Leah would rather have his heart than his presence in her bed. How empty it must have made her feel knowing his visits to her room are based more on her fertility or on a sense of obligation than on affection. She knows that in the middle of the night, while she's lying in his arms, he wishes she was Rachel. By the time Leah conceives her fourth son, she's given up on expecting Jacob to fall in love with her and to prefer her over her sister. When she names her fourth son, his name makes no reference to her misery or to her desire for Jacob's love. The fourth son's name will reflect Leah's reliance upon the Lord's love. The Lord has been far more of a husband to her than Jacob. The Lord has spent far more time thinking about her needs and providing the attention and affection she so desperately craves. When she brings a fourth son successfully into the world, her mind is solely on the Lord and not on the husband who will never love her best. "She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, 'This time I will praise the Lord.' So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children." (Genesis 29:35)

Judah's name means "praise". His name has nothing to do with Leah's desire to please her husband and win his love. His name is given in gratitude to the Lord whose eyes are always on her and whose ears are always open to her prayers. The Lord is really all she needs. As long as she has Him, she can do anything. The Lord has said to her something He will later say to the entire nation of Israel to whom His love is forever pledged: "For your Maker is your husband---the Lord Almighty is His name---the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth." (Isaiah 54:5) Many a woman's husband hasn't loved her as he should. Many a woman's husband has been unfaithful to her or has walked off and left her as if he never made vows to cherish her for life. The Lord can be counted on when humans can't. The Lord will always love us as He should. The Lord will always be faithful. The Lord will never cast aside anyone who wants Him in their life. Many people expect their spouse to fulfill them in every way, and that's not something any human being can do, not even when they love their spouse with their whole heart. The Lord is the One who completes us and makes us whole, and Leah has learned that. I'm sure she'd still be overjoyed if her husband loved her as a man ought to love his wife, but by now she knows she's going to be okay if he never does.

We would expect Leah's first son Reuben to be Jacob's primary heir, the owner of the birthright, the leader of the family, and the ancestor of the Messiah. But neither he nor Simeon nor Levi will hold these honors. It's the son named "praise" who will be the ancestor of the Messiah. It's the son who was born to Leah after she had come to the conclusion that when the Lord is all you have, you still have all you need. Because this woman loves the Lord and gives Him her praise, this less-loved wife of Jacob is in the family tree of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you felt rejected or less-loved by anyone? Have you ever been passed over or mistreated? You can be certain this hasn't gone unnoticed by the Lord. If you give Him your praise and make Him the center of your life as we find Leah doing in our passage today, what might He do for you? Leah must have felt like she wasn't very important to the Lord. She'd never been important to to any man, not to her father and not to her husband. But the Lord showed her He loved her with all His heart and that she was very important to Him. What might He do for us out of His great love if we submit everything we are and everything we have to Him?

Saturday, January 25, 2020

In The Beginning. Day 119, Laban Deceives Jacob

Jacob has worked seven years for Rachel's hand in marriage. It's time now for the wedding to take place and Rachel's father Laban deceives Jacob in a similar way to how Jacob deceived Isaac. If anybody thought Jacob had "gotten away" with his ill treatment of his father, he hasn't. He's about to reap what he's sown. This is an example of poetic justice.

Our passage today begins with what seems like a crude comment by Jacob to Laban. At the end of the seven years, Jacob somewhat graphically asks for the marriage to take place immediately. "Then Jacob said to Laban, 'Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.'" (Genesis 29:21) It's hard to imagine a man speaking this way to the father of his fiancee. I know it's a private conversation between two men, and I could understand Jacob making a remark to one of his male friends like, "I can't wait to marry Rachel and be alone with her." To speak this plainly to Rachel's father is a little shocking to me but it could be that Jacob has asked several times, since completing his service, for Laban to set the wedding date. It may be that he has to speak boldly to show Laban that he's tired of delays and that he intends to wait no longer for Laban to fulfill his promise.

For seven years Jacob has had to eat dinner every night with the woman he loves. He's had to watch her beautiful face by the candlelight on the table. He's had to smell her perfume as she works about the house. He's had to watch her walk back and forth to the well for water for Laban's sheep. I think Jacob is just about out of his mind by now from wanting to consummate his union with the woman he's so crazy about. He's a single man in the prime of his life and he naturally has physical needs, but he's not allowed to embrace or kiss the woman he thinks about day and night, much less go any further with her.

Laban may have resisted setting the wedding date in fear Jacob would return to Beersheba with Rachel instead of staying on to keep running the estate. But now he knows he has to do something because Jacob is fed up with all the delays. He arranges the wedding feast and invites all his friends and neighbors to witness the ceremony, but he has figured out a way to prevent Jacob from leaving his employ. He's going to pull a switcheroo and give Jacob the wrong bride.

"So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her." (Genesis 29:22-23) The bride would have had her face veiled during the legal ceremony, then she would not have been brought to Jacob's living quarters until after sundown. In the dark he didn't know he'd married the wrong woman. Leah doesn't speak up. I don't know whether it's because she is in love with Jacob, but later on the Bible appears to indicate that she does love him. I don't know whether her father threatened her into silence. A man in those days could give his daughter's hand in marriage to anyone he chose, regardless of his daughter's feelings on the matter. Leah would have been brought up to obey her father without question and to recognize him as the person who makes all her important decisions for her. If Laban instructed her to remain silent all night, Leah would have remained silent all night.

Leah's maid also keeps her mouth shut when she arrives with Leah carrying Leah's bag of clothing and other personal items. Laban, like other well-to-do men of his day, gives his daughter a maid from among his own servants. This maid will now leave his household and serve his daughter for the rest of her life. "And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant." (Genesis 29:24)

When daylight arrives, the woman nestled in Jacob's arms isn't Rachel. "When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, 'What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?'" (Genesis 29:25) Jacob marches out of the house in self-righteous indignation to find his father-in-law and demand an explanation. He says, "How dare you pull a trick on me like this? What have I done to deserve such treatment? I kept my end of the agreement by providing you with seven years of free labor. I was honest with you; why weren't you honest with me?" The reason I say Jacob is "self-righteous" is because he's being hypocritical. His father Isaac had the right to ask him the same questions he's asking Laban. After Jacob deceived his father, Isaac could have said, "Why did you not love and respect me enough to refrain from pulling a trick like this on me? What have I done to deserve such treatment?"

Laban's reaction is cold and unfeeling. He dismisses Jacob's words and justifies himself by referring to an ancient custom of Mesopotamia. "Laban replied, 'It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.'" (Genesis 29:26-27) Even if this is a custom where Laban lives, there would be no excuse for not informing Jacob of the custom when making the original agreement with him. Laban only observes customs when it suits him. If a custom can be used for his benefit, he uses it. If a custom doesn't benefit him, he ignores it. When he and Jacob made the original agreement, it hadn't yet occurred to him that he could pull this switcheroo and keep Jacob around longer without paying him a dime. So during those seven years, or perhaps just during the last few weeks while Jacob insisted on a wedding date, Laban remembered the custom regarding the eldest daughter and he came up with the idea of deceiving Jacob.

It's not true that Jacob has to work seven more years before marrying Rachel, which is a common misconception. If Laban insisted on seven more years of work before giving Rachel to Jacob, he risked Jacob's refusal. Jacob might have wanted nothing more to do with Laban or his family and he might have packed his suitcase and departed. Laban is going to give Rachel to Jacob after Jacob spends a week being a husband to Leah. That way Jacob will have to work seven more years in order to keep his favorite bride. Laban isn't above taking Rachel back into his household if Jacob fails to fulfill the extra seven years. In those days a father could take his daughter back from a husband he deemed unworthy and then the couple would be legally divorced.

Jacob is trapped in this situation because of his enormous love for Rachel. Because he still wants desperately to be married to her, he has no choice but to agree to Laban's terms. But first he must live with Leah as her husband for a full week. This is his legal obligation. In Jacob's time it was the law that a man had to spend an entire week being a husband to his wife, even if it was a marriage made for financial or political reasons only. By being her husband (physically speaking) for a week, the man could never have the marriage annulled by claiming he didn't consummate it. This protected the woman from being thrown out of the house and perhaps not being able to find another husband to take care of her. The marriage week also provided her with an opportunity to become pregnant, which would solidify her position in her husband's household. Plus, being a mother was considered the ultimate achievement for women in those days. A woman who had been married but who had borne no children was deeply pitied. A woman who had no son to provide for her in her old age could easily end up homeless and begging on the street corners after her husband died. There were very few laws in those times to protect women, but this is an example of one that Jacob is obligated to obey, and he obeys it. "And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years." (Genesis 29:28-30)

I don't think Jacob harbors any ill will toward Leah. He knows she's a pawn in her father's game and that she has no real say in the matter. It's not her fault she was used in Laban's deception. Jacob will provide for her all their married life and I don't think he will ever deliberately mistreat her, but he will never love her like he loves Rachel. The only person I truly feel sorry for in this mess is Leah. The Lord is going to feel sorry for her too and He's going to show her a great deal of compassion in the coming years. Not only will she be a better godly influence on Jacob than Rachel, but she will be more fruitful in bearing children than Rachel. The Lord will choose Leah for the honor of bearing a son who will be the ancestor of God's own Son. Leah will be the mother of Judah, whose line will be the royal line of Israel. She---not Rachel---will be in the family tree of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, January 24, 2020

In The Beginning. Day 118, Jacob Asks For Rachel's Hand In Marriage

Jacob is in Harran staying with his mother's brother Laban. Because Jacob is gifted at estate management, he's been working hard every day to help his uncle Laban in exchange for his room and board. But Laban recognizes that the work Jacob does is too valuable to perform without a salary. Jacob is going above and beyond what any guest would normally do. We will learn that Laban isn't a man of very good character, so I think he offers a salary to Jacob in today's passage not so much because he feels guilty for accepting Jacob's work for free but because he wants to entice Jacob to stay in Harran. Laban's estate is flourishing under Jacob's management, as we will learn later on during Jacob's years there, and Laban doesn't want to lose him.

"After Jacob had stayed with him a whole month, Laban said to him, 'Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.'" (Genesis 29:14b-15) He says, "Jacob, I don't want to take advantage of you. You've been a big help to me out of the kindness of your heart because you're my kinsman. You're working as hard as anyone else here is and you should be compensated. Name your price."

Jacob names his price. "Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, 'I'll work seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.'" (Genesis 29:16-18)

Scholars are divided on their opinion of what the Bible means in the original Hebrew when it says Leah had "weak eyes". Some think she was nearsighted and that this might have made her squint unattractively in a time when eyeglasses weren't available to fix her problem. Others think it means she had a soft, kind look in her eyes or that her eyes were her prettiest feature---maybe her only pretty feature. I think that whatever the Bible is saying about Leah's eyes is a compliment since in the same passage the Bible compliments Rachel. So maybe what's being said here is something like: "Leah had lovely eyes, but Rachel had a beautiful figure and face." You can tell a lot about a person by the look in their eyes, and I think if Jacob had spent more time looking into Leah's eyes he would have seen that she was a better choice for him than Rachel. As time goes on we will see why Leah was likely the woman the Lord would have chosen for Jacob instead of Rachel. But Jacob's falls for Rachel on her looks alone, and he's not the first or the last person to choose a mate based on superficial qualities. I think he falls in love with Rachel not so much for her personality but because he's physically attracted to her.

Seven years of hard work is a much higher bride price than any father would expect a prospective son-in-law to pay. It's exorbitant, really. If we were to add up what an estate manager would make in those days during seven years, the sum would be far above anything any man would ask in exchange for his daughter's hand in marriage. But maybe Jacob doesn't want to risk being turned down. Whatever we might think about him choosing a wife based on looks alone, at least he's serious and his intentions are honorable. No man who is just trifling with a woman would offer to work seven years for her for free.

Jacob makes Laban an offer that Laban (being a greedy man) won't refuse. Laban knows seven years of labor is too much to ask from any man who wants Rachel's hand in marriage but he accepts. I tend to think Laban can hardly believe his luck in getting seven years of valuable free labor in exchange for giving his daughter in marriage. "Laban said, 'It's better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.'" (Genesis 29:19) Laban's statement sounds quite casual, as if on the inside he's not absolutely delighted with this turn of events. I picture him putting on a serious expression while he pretends to mull the idea over thoughtfully in his mind. Then he says to Jacob, "Hmmm. Well, she's not likely to make a better match. I doubt any of these guys in Harran will offer more for her, plus you're my kinsman and I like you. Why not? I accept you as my future son-in-law."

"So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her." (Genesis 29:20) Jacob's feelings for Rachel are genuine. He may not have put enough thought into his choice of bride, but no one can accuse him of not being so in love with her that he'd do anything to make her his wife. Because he loves her so much, working seven years for free seems like a small price to pay to win her.

Christ felt that way about us! He was willing to pay any price to win us back from sin and destruction. He would have done anything----and He did---to make us His bride. He was willing to endure the scorn and the taunts, and being spit on and cursed, and being beaten to within an inch of His life, and dying a torturous death on a cross in order to make us His forever. Just as Jacob considered seven years of work a small price to pay for his bride, Christ considered everything he endured a small price to pay for His bride, which is why the Bible tells us, "For the joy set before Him He endured the cross". (Hebrews 12:2) Christ's suffering, death, burial, and resurrection were intended to accomplish something. He was paying a price for us that we couldn't pay for ourselves. He was able to get through all these difficult things that happened to His human body because of the joy ahead of Him. Christ is going to live with and enjoy the presence of His bride for all eternity. Like any man who is truly in love, that fact outweighed anything He had to do to make it happen.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

In The Beginning. Day 117, Jacob Meets Rachel

Jacob is on his way to his mother's family. As he comes near Laban's hometown, he meets shepherds at a well. "Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples. There he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large. When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well's mouth and water the sheep. Then they would return the stone to its place over the mouth of the well." (Genesis 29:1-3)

What a welcome sight this well must be after his long journey. Not only will he find refreshment here, but the shepherds he meets here know Jacob's family members from Harran and will point out Rachel as she arrives with her father's sheep. "Jacob asked the shepherds, 'My brothers, where are you from?' 'We're from Harran,' they replied. 'He said to them, 'Do you know Laban, Nahor's grandson?' 'Yes, we know him,' they answered. Then Jacob asked them, 'Is he well?' 'Yes, he is,' they said, 'and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.'" (Genesis 29:4-6)

Is this the same well where Abraham's servant Eliezer met Rebekah when he came to this area to seek a wife for Isaac? Some scholars think so; the Bible doesn't say. But it's clear that the Lord has given Jacob success. Not only has he arrived at his destination safely but the first people he comes in contact with know the very man he's come here to see. And now Laban's beautiful daughter approaches the well and Jacob, being a single man faced with an attractive woman, wants the shepherds to make themselves scarce so he can speak with her alone. "'Look,' he said, 'the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.'" (Genesis 29:7)

It's likely that these shepherds are teenage boys. Watching the sheep was a job normally assigned to a family's youngest sons who were not yet mature enough to be tasked with conducting more important business. An example of this is David, who was the youngest son in his family and whose father gave him the job of watching the sheep. I don't think Jacob would try to give orders to a group of grown men the way he gives orders to these shepherds. I think he speaks to them this way because he's probably old enough to be their father.

But the young men don't do as he says because it goes against the way things are done here at this well. "'We can't,' they replied, 'until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.'" (Genesis 29:8) There are more flocks coming. Their custom is to wait until everyone is present who uses this well and then they roll the stone away and draw out water to serve all the animals at once. It wouldn't be courteous of them to roll the stone away, water their own flocks, roll the stone back, and leave before the other shepherds get there. This is a communal watering hole and gathering place where shepherds enjoy meeting each other each day and helping each other water their flocks. Jacob has to resign himself to talking to Rachel in front of an audience.

"While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for he was a shepherd. When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban's sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle's sheep." (Genesis 29:9-10) Jacob wants to flex his muscles in front of this attractive woman whose father is obviously well-to-do judging by the number of sheep Rachel is leading. We have been told the stone over the well is large, and it must have taken considerable effort if Jacob rolled it away all by himself, so some scholars suggest that a few of the young shepherds may have assisted him. Either way, he wants to be noticed as the man who rolls the stone away for Rachel and he wants to be chivalrous by doing the work of watering her sheep so she doesn't have to do it herself.

He talks with her while he waters the sheep, introducing himself and explaining that he's here to see her father. He kisses her next. Not on the mouth, I'm sure, but in the way a family member would kiss their kinsman on each cheek. "Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud. He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father." (Genesis 29:11-12) Jacob makes their family connection clear before he greets her in this familiar way. He's not doing anything improper by giving her a customary kinsman's kiss in this manner. He's so relieved to have made it there safely and to have almost immediately met one of Laban's children that he's overwhelmed with emotion and begins to weep happy tears.

"As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister's son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. Then Laban said to him, 'You are my own flesh and blood.'" (Genesis 29:13-14) Jacob describes his journey to Harran and how he was providentially led to meeting Rachel at the well, much in the same way that Eliezer previously told Laban and his family about his journey to Harran and about how he met Rebekah at the well. The ability to tell an interesting story was a highly valued talent in those times and Laban's family would have hung on every word as they sat around the dinner table. Does Jacob tell Laban how he deceived Isaac or that he stole Esau's blessing and that Esau has vowed to kill him? I very much doubt it. That wouldn't make a good impression. He wouldn't be presenting himself in a very trustworthy light and it's important that this family makes him welcome.

Does Jacob tell Laban that he's come to Harran to procure a believing wife because his parents don't want him marrying a woman of Canaan? I think it's possible. In tomorrow's passage Jacob will offer to work seven years for Laban without pay in exchange for Rachel's hand in marriage, so he may have made it clear from the outset that he's looking for a marriage partner. Whatever Jacob tells Laban at this first meeting, I think the family spends an enjoyable evening together and that Laban is pleased by the arrival of Jacob, so pleased that he basically says, "My house is your house. You are my flesh and blood and you are welcome here."

The Lord has kept His promise to watch over Jacob wherever he goes. Life in Harran won't be easy for Jacob and he will become the victim of a deception as bad as the one he perpetrated upon Isaac. He will be cheated and mistreated by his kinsman in several different ways. Jacob is an ambitious and crafty man but Laban is even more ambitious and crafty. Laban is willing to be dishonest when it suits him. But this is all part of the Lord's plan in training Jacob for what He his will for Jacob's life. Jacob needs a dose of his own medicine. He needs to be on the receiving end of deception and dishonesty so he can learn how vile such things are in the sight of God. What he endures in Harran won't always be pleasant but it's necessary for the building of his character. God knows what kind of man Jacob can be, but Jacob needs some discipline and refinement before he can become that man.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

In The Beginning. Day 116, Jacob's Dream At Bethel

Jacob is on his way to stay with his uncle Laban in order to avoid the wrath of Esau and to have a good marriage arranged for himself. On the first day of his journey he apparently travels about forty miles from his father's home at Beersheba, according to some commentaries, ending up in the area that will come to be called Bethel.

"Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep." (Genesis 28:10-11) A relatively fit person can walk about four miles per hour on level ground, so based on that it would take ten hours to travel forty miles, and that's without any rest stops. The ground Jacob has covered is likely not all smooth and level. If he has truly traveled forty miles in one day then he must have set out at first light and kept going until it was too dark to see. The Bible makes no mention of him traveling on a donkey or camel, although he might have, but in Chapter 28 we get the sense that Jacob is utterly alone. And yet he isn't, for the Lord is with him. Sometimes we feel utterly alone, don't we? We'll be going through a hard time and we'll be trying to make it through the long hours of the night all by ourselves. But the Lord is with us, even when in our distress we can't feel His presence. Jacob doesn't feel the Lord's presence when he lies down in exhaustion and loneliness, but the Lord is there.

"He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it." (Genesis 28:12) Scholars have differing opinions on what the stairway represents. But the Lord Jesus said something that I feel goes along with this passage: "Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." (John 1:51) In the Lord's statement, He is the stairway. He is the only way to heaven and to the Father. I think perhaps the stairway in Jacob's dream symbolizes Christ. And from the top of the stairway, God the Father speaks to Jacob.

"There above it stood the Lord, and He said: 'I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.'" (Genesis 28:13-15) This is the covenant promise, the same promise God made to Abraham and to Isaac. As far as we know, this is the first time the Lord personally speaks to Jacob, and when He does He makes it clear that no matter how hopeless things may look right now, all is not lost. The covenant has not been broken. God is still going to keep His promise to make a great nation from the family line of Abraham and God still intends for the Redeemer to come from this family line and more specifically from Jacob's line. Jacob hasn't made wise decisions but his puny human mistakes are not powerful enough to thwart the plans of God. As Jacob lies alone in a field in the dark, he must feel like he's irreparably messed up his life. He won the birthright and the blessing but he's now living in exile from the very things the birthright and the blessing should have guaranteed him. He thought he was the son of Isaac through whom God would fulfill the covenant promise, but now he thinks he has negated God's promise by his actions. Sometimes, of course, we can behave in such a way that we cause ourselves to miss out on blessings the Lord wants to give us, but there are some plans and promises of God that are irrevocable. Nothing any man or woman does can change them, and this is an example of an irrevocable promise of God. The Redeemer is coming from the family of Abraham, through his son Isaac, and through Isaac's son Jacob.

"When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.'" (Genesis 28:16) I love this verse! How many times in our lives have we felt alone in our sorrows only to realize later that the Lord was with us the whole time, strengthening us and protecting us? I've been through times of such distress that I couldn't feel the presence of God, but looking back on those times I can see that He was with me every second, giving me the strength to go on day after day.

Jacob has been driven away from all that's familiar to him. Whether or not he ever felt the presence of God in Beersheba, in his mind he accepted that the Lord was there with his family. He knew his father worshiped the Lord and that the Lord had done great things for both his father Isaac and for his grandfather Abraham. But out here in the dark wilderness? Out here so far away from family and friends? Jacob couldn't feel certain in his mind that God was in this place. To his way of thinking, perhaps God stayed behind in Beersheba with Isaac. Perhaps he thought God wasn't big enough to be in more than one place at once. But on this night Jacob gets his first glimpse of the awesome omnipresence of God. God is powerful enough to be everywhere all at once, and God is able to be in Beersheba with Isaac and to be in the wilderness with Jacob at the same time. What a revelation this must have been! Jacob is so overwhelmed by this knowledge that he begins to develop a fear (a holy and healthy reverence) for the Lord.

"He was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.'" (Genesis 28:17) As we said earlier in Genesis, the places where God meets with us and speaks with us become holy ground to us. It could be that up til now Jacob thought God only met with His followers at the altars Isaac and Abraham set up. This is similar to the erroneous belief that we can only pray to God and meet with God in church. But God doesn't live at church. God goes home with each of us. God goes with us to work and to school. God goes with us to the doctor or to the hospital. God stands beside us while we grieve over a casket at the funeral home or graveyard. Jacob knows now that God is accessible in more places than at Isaac's altar in Beersheba. God is accessible in the night and in the desert. God is going to be accessible when Jacob arrives in Harran. But to commemorate the first place God spoke personally to him, Jacob sets up a small altar and gives the place where God spoke to him a name.

"Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz." (Genesis 28:18-19) The nearby town was called Luz, which means "almond tree". Jacob may have been trying to reach Luz by nightfall but didn't quite make it there, having to sleep out in the open instead. But if that's the case then I think God intended for Jacob not to reach his destination. Would Jacob have been in the right frame of mind in a noisy, busy Canaanite city to hear the voice of God in the night? Or was the silence of a lonely campsite a better setting? Because the Lord spoke to Jacob in this location, he names it Bethel which means "house of God". There is a great deal of value in going to church, but the house of God can be anywhere we want to talk to God. We can talk to him while we drive in our cars or while we kneel beside our beds or while we bow our heads in church. Wherever we commune with the Lord is sanctified by His presence and becomes holy ground.

"Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that You give me I will give you a tenth.'" (Genesis 28:20-22) Jacob's personal relationship with the Lord is so new that he wants to see the Lord prove Himself. He doesn't yet have experience in walking with the Lord in his daily life and observing how the Lord works things out. He knows what the Lord promised him but at this point he's too new in the faith to wholeheartedly accept that when the Lord says, "I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go," He really will be with him every second of every day, providing for him and protecting him. I don't feel the need to criticize Jacob for not yet being able to place all of his trust in the Lord. We all have to start somewhere and this is where Jacob starts his walk with the Lord. When you were a new believer, you didn't quite know what to expect from the Lord, did you? Even the act of praying was new and unfamiliar to you. Studying and memorizing His word was a habit you had to learn. That's where Jacob is right now. He knows what the Lord has said but he hasn't yet seen the Lord in action fulfilling what He's promised. As each day goes on, and as Jacob sees the Lord working in every circumstance that comes his way, Jacob's faith will grow.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

In The Beginning. Day 115, Jacob Leaves Town

Esau threatened to kill Jacob just as soon as their father dies. Isaac is kept in the dark about this alarming turn of events. Rebekah knows Jacob must get away from Esau until Esau's anger subsides, so she convinces Isaac to send Jacob away to her brother's house in order to arrange a marriage for him. Neither Isaac nor Rebecca wants Jacob marrying a pagan woman. They are already grieved by the two pagan women Esau has married and they don't want a third idolatrous daughter-in-law.

"So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him, 'Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother's father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself from there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother's brother.'" (Genesis 28:1-2) It's bad enough that Esau already has two heathen wives, but now that Jacob is clearly the heir and future leader of the family it's vital that he not make the same mistake.

The Lord promised Abraham a son and so many descendants through that son that no man can count them. God promised Abraham that through one of his descendants (Christ) all nations would be blessed. Jacob's family line, not Esau's, is the one through which the Lord will fulfill His promise. Isaac has resigned himself to this now. In his heart he always wanted something other than what the Lord wanted: for Esau to be his heir and the possessor of the blessings God promised to Abraham. In spite of what the Lord said about Esau and Jacob before their birth, Isaac was determined to give Esau the birthright even though it wasn't God's will. But now, in spite of everything Isaac did to ensure Esau held onto the top spot as eldest son, Jacob has the birthright and the covenant promises God made to Abraham. There's nothing Isaac can do but accept it and transfer all his hopes to his younger son. The words contained in the blessing he speaks over Jacob prove to us that he's now in step with the Lord in this matter. "May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May He give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham." (Genesis 28:3-4)

"Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob and Esau." (Genesis 28:5) Jacob is getting away from the rage of his brother but he's about to go to the school of hard knocks. Laban is even craftier than he is, and Jacob will learn what it feels like to be horribly deceived, and he will have to work hard for everything he gets while living in Paddan Aram. While it's true that Jacob is going to become the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, he's not ready at this point to take up such a weighty mantle. The Lord has a lot of work to do on him to make him the man whom He will rename "Israel".

"Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, 'Do not marry a Canaanite woman,' and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram." (Genesis 28:6-7)
At this late date Esau recognizes how much it meant to his parents that he and his brother marry believing wives. I am sure Esau must have been taught about the Lord pretty much from birth and about how important it was for him and his descendants to keep believing in and obeying the Lord. He's been told the story of how Rebekah was obtained for his father so his father wouldn't marry a Canaanite woman. The importance of not marrying a heathen must have been stressed to him time and time again, yet it never sunk in. He's not a spiritually-minded man. All the religious instruction he's been given has sailed right over his head all his life. Godliness hasn't mattered much to him in his own heart and it never occurred to him to seek godliness in a mate. I think he completely ignored any instruction that went against what he wanted to do, which is why the Bible stresses the fact that "Jacob obeyed his father and mother" by going to Paddan Aram. I think the Bible makes this statement about Jacob's obedience because Esau didn't obey his father and mother when they told him to find a believing wife. But now, as the scene of Jacob's leaving plays out right before his eyes, he finally understands how much he disappointed his parents when he married two idolatrous women. He knows he went wrong but thinks he can "fix" it. He gets even further out of the will of God by what he does next.

"Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and the daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had." (Genesis 28:8-9) Esau was out of the will of God when he married more than one woman to begin with. God demonstrated the best pattern for marriage when He performed the first wedding ceremony in the Garden of Eden. Adam didn't have two wives. If Adam had needed two wives, God would have given him two wives, but no man needs more than one wife. It's not God's plan for marriage that a man divide his care and affection between two women---or among three or more women. Esau is not "fixing" or "undoing" his previous mistakes simply by making sure his third wife is a believer.

I'm exasperated by Esau but I feel sorry for him at the same time. He's so slow to catch on when it comes to anything pertaining to the Lord and to godliness. He keeps trying to fix things on his own instead of submitting himself to the Lord and asking the Lord what he should do. But the Lord isn't going to leave him where he is now. Just as He must do some work on Jacob, He must do some work on Esau. The next time we see Esau he will have matured into a respectable man. He will have forgiven Jacob and will have learned to make his own way in the world. In Genesis 28 it looks like Esau will never amount to much, but God isn't through with him. And aren't we glad of that? There may have been times in our own lives when it looked like we'd never amount to much, but God didn't give up on us.

Monday, January 20, 2020

In The Beginning. Day 114, A Family Divided

Esau has discovered Jacob's treachery. He knows his father can't take back the blessing he's already conferred on Jacob, but he also knows his father can bless him too. Isaac does bless him, but the circumstances of Chapter 27 are going to divide the family.

Upon his pleas for a blessing, Isaac blesses Esau. "His father Isaac answered him, 'Your dwelling will be away from the earth's richness, away from the dew of the heaven above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.'" (Genesis 27:39-40) Jacob's blessing promised material riches, with flowing wine and abundant grain. He's going to be successful at farming and agriculture. Esau's blessing makes it sound as if he will have to make his living from the land, but he's able to do so. He's a mighty hunter. He's strong and resourceful. He's accustomed to living off the land for days at a time while he stalks a particular prey. His father's blessing ensures that his endeavors will be successful.

The people who descended from Esau, known as the Edomites, dwelt in the hill country. The caves and the tall rock formations of that area provided an easily-defendable fortress for them. They lived off the land and were warlike with the tribes around them. In time Esau's descendants will rebel against Jacob's descendants, and when the children of Israel come out of Egypt and are on their way to the promised land, the people of Edom will forbid them to pass through their territory. Esau will never be as successful as his brother, but his family line won't always be subject to Jacob. Though the descendants of Esau and Jacob will be closely related, they will never be friends. Esau's family line will refuse to be subservient to Jacob's family line or to even show them common human decency, and this is why Isaac says in time Esau (his family line) will throw Jacob's yoke from off his neck.

"Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, 'The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.'" (Genesis 27:41) Esau vows to avenge himself, but not while his father lives. There are a couple of possible reasons for this. He may be reluctant to cause his father grief. He loves his father and doesn't want to bring more misery on him in his old age, so he won't lay hands on Jacob until after Isaac breathes his last. Another reason may be that, if his father is already dead, no one can prove Isaac conferred the blessing of the firstborn upon Jacob. No one will be able to contest Esau's right to be the heir. I don't know how Esau planned to go about killing his brother or whether he has yet formed a plan in our current chapter. Perhaps he intended to make it look like the two of them struggled and he killed Jacob in self defense. Or he might have intended to set it up to look like Jacob was attacked and killed by robbers while off the estate conducting family business.

We don't know whether Esau made this vow out loud to himself or whether he spoke it out loud to someone he trusted, but someone who heard his heated words passes them on to Rebekah. "When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, 'Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. Stay with him for a while until your brother's fury subsides. When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I'll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?'" (Genesis 27:42-45) If Esau kills Jacob, Rebekah will lose both her sons. She will lose Jacob to death and Esau to justice, because even if human beings don't find out Esau has murdered his brother, the Lord will know what Esau did and will avenge Jacob's blood.

The divided family is expected to be a temporary situation. Esau isn't the type to stick with anything for very long, not even anger and thoughts of revenge. His temper will rage at first but as the days go by he will spend less and less time thinking about how to get back at Jacob. He will go back to doing what he did before and will get back into the groove of daily life. He has more things to do than devise plots against Jacob; he has himself and two wives to support. And speaking of wives, Rebekah is going to use Esau's pagan wives as an excuse for sending Jacob away to her brother Laban. She doesn't want Isaac to know Esau is angry enough right now to kill Jacob and she needs a reason for sending Jacob away. Having Laban arrange a godly marriage for Jacob is going to be the reason she uses for sending Jacob to visit her brother.

"Then Rebekah said to Isaac, 'I'm disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.'" (Genesis 27:46) The Bible has already told us that both Isaac and Rebekah are deeply grieved by the fact that Esau took not one, but two, heathen wives. Rebekah knows she's going to find a sympathetic ear when she tells Isaac she doesn't think she can live and bear it if Jacob too takes a godless woman for a wife. Isaac feels exactly as she does. He wasn't able to prevent Esau from jumping into bad marriages; Esau has always done as he pleased without asking anyone. But Jacob cares what his parents think. Jacob is very close to his mother and he won't want to displease her by bringing yet another pagan daughter-in-law into the family. But if his parents don't help him meet a nice girl, he'll have no choice but to marry a woman of the land of Canaan. Isaac is going to agree to Rebekah's suggestion and will send Jacob to Harran. Rebekah believes that in the time it takes Jacob to go there, meet and marry a wife and bring her back home, Esau will have abandoned his plot to kill his brother. She pictures herself welcoming her son and new daughter-in-law home with open arms.

But, sadly, Rebekah won't live to see her son again. This may be the mercy of God upon Jacob since he is so easily influenced by her and since her bad advice is what has led to the troubles in Genesis 27. The Lord didn't need her help in making Jacob the heir; God would have seen to it that Jacob became the heir in a way that didn't cause division and anger and murderous plots. She will pass on during Jacob's absence. Isaac, who thinks he is at death's door in Genesis 27, will recover from his current illness and will be the one to welcome Jacob home. Then he too will go on to be with the Lord and will be buried by both his sons who, by the grace of God, have forgiven each other.