Genesis 27-29: The one who cheats vs. the one who promises

1.  Isaac blesses Jacob (Genesis 27)

2.  Esau and an Ishmaelite (Genesis 28:1-9)

3.  Jacob’s dream: the stairway to heaven (Genesis 28:10-22)

4.  Jacob’s marriage with Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29)

1.  Isaac blesses Jacob (Genesis 27)

Here is a picture of an old Isaac with dim eyes.  God’s blessing on Jacob had been pronounced in Genesis 25:23; but it appears that this promise has been ignored by Isaac and Esau.  Isaac would rather rely on his own works to please Jacob.  He would cheat his way back into the birthright which he had despised by resorting to the one thing he knows – that is, to hunt game for Isaac.  Where is God in this picture?  No-where – though Jacob be a Schemer, at least he values the birthright.  Here, we see two people joining together to disobey God’s plan which had been announced two chapters ago.

Which is why Rebekah is especially quick to act when she hears Isaac and Esau speaking to one another.  What is Rebekah’s solution?  Take the place of Esau, by pretending to be Esau!

But there is something very apparent.  Jacob is a smooth man!  And Esau is hairy!  Such an important physical difference, let alone difference in personality should be enough to distant his father from his son.  Jacob is fearful of this, and wishes to stay away: “Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing”.

Indeed, such is the same fear when we present ourselves to our heavenly Father when he expects something but we present something entirely unacceptable.  Instead, Jacob is advised to wear the goat skin to be in the place of Esau.  And who is to receive the curse?  Rebekah.  Who appeased the father’s wrath?  Rebekah, essentially.  Yet, who does Isaac look favourably on?  Jacob, in the place of Esau.  Not only goat skin, but also Esau’s best garments.

Then, let’s look at the blessing:

“See,(B) the smell of my son
is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed!
28May God give you of(C) the dew of heaven
and of the fatness of the earth
and(D) plenty of grain and wine.
29Let peoples serve you,
and nations(E) bow down to you.
(F) Be lord over your brothers,
and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
(G) Cursed be everyone who curses you,
and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

But let’s look at the blessing in detail.  Can this be a blessing strictly for Jacob the person?  No.  “Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you.” – within his lifetime, at most, only one nation bowed down to Jacob and his immediate descendants, that being the Egyptians when Joseph had aided the Pharoah.  But that is far from saying nation”s”… Secondly, Jacob has no other brother beside Jacob.  But the refrain in v. 29 is “Be lord over your brother”s”… and may your mother’s son”s” bow down to you”.

If anything, there is something interesting at play here – it is an entirely prophetic blessing, peering into the future of the nation Israel, the name of which means “God fights”.  If anything, this blessing seems to work… only in the context of Jesus Christ.  So what does Isaac mean in v. 37, when he says he made Jacob lord over Esau, and “all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him”?

Let me work on the typologies first lest I be misunderstood:

1.  Isaac = the Father

2.  Jacob = a son (note… not the son)

3.  Rebekah = Mediator, though she proclaims that the curse be on her, she was never actually cursed.

4.  Esau = a potential son… though not from the chosen race, he was given an option to serve.

5.  Goat skin = Christ

For point 4, Isaac told Esau (v. 40) that “By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow resltess you shall break his yoke from your neck”. Thus, he is given an option to serve Jacob… but he refused.  If he had listened, then like Jacob, Esau could have become part of the covenant people; like Japheth the brother of Shem (representing the Gentiles), taking cover under Shem the covenant people.

So here, the Father loves Jacob, one of his sons clothed in animal skin and blesses him and his kingdom in Christ.  Esau came with the wrong dress (Matthew 22), and though he smelt like Esau, and provided game like Esau… Isaac still said: “Who are you?” (v. 32).  And in the same way, even though we cry Lord Lord, He will still tell us go to away… replying “I never knew you” (Matthew 7).

The animal skin points to Christ himself… and yet Rebekah plays the role of the Mediator.  The curse never actually falls on her – and I think this is significant.  This most likely points to the aspect of the mediatorial role offered by people like Job… and by people like Moses, Nehemiah and Daniel with their respective intercessory prayers (Exodus 9, Nehemiah 9, Daniel 9).  Does this make Moses, Nehemiah and Daniel a representation of Christ?  Merely a type… but the true curse doesn’t fall on them.  They merely imitate the true Mediator, the true Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  Rebekah intercedes for Jacob… but the one truly interceding is the goat skin which witnesses to Christ.

What think you?

2.  Esau and an Ishmaelite (Genesis 28:1-9)

So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him finally, accepting God’s chosen one.  He finally gives him the same advice that Abraham gave him – to note marry a Canaanite women.  Rather, he tells Jacob to go back to the house where Rebekah was found – to take a wife from one of the daughters of Laban, his uncle (Rebekah’s brother).  Thus, Jacob goes to Paddan-aram. We’ve already established the significance of physically marrying someone from the same race – that it represents spiritual wholeness, like a Christian should marry a Christian out of obedience to display the picture of Christ marrying a Christian church, rather than Christ marrying a non-Christian.

But then Esau overhears the instructions given to Isaac, and attempts to imitate Isaac.  So Esau, after his marriage to the two Hittites, decides to marry another wife!  He completely misunderstands the instruction!  He just wants to appear like Jacob now.  Such is the problem of many “Christians” today.  They sing with their hands clapping, they lift their eyes to the ceiling as they sing, they jump up and down, or they bow down low… all of these are just external actions.  But their heart is not cured.  Their actions are misrepresented, while they compromise the other aspects of their life.  Esau still missed the point… and still refuses to serve Jacob.  Rather, he still wants to replace Jacob, given his actions in attempting still to please his father.

3.  Jacob’s dream:  The stairway to heaven (Genesis 28:10-22)

Now we come to what Jesus was speaking of in John 1:51.  Here’s the verse 48-51 to refresh your memory:

48Nathanael said to him, “How(A) do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49Nathanael answered him,(B) “Rabbi,(C) you are the Son of God! You are the(D) King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you,[a] you will see(E) heaven opened, and(F) the angels of God ascending and descending on(G) the Son of Man.” (John 1:48-51)

And here in v.12-13

12And he(A) dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder[a] set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold,(B) the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13And behold,(C) the LORD stood above it[b] and said,(D) “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.(E) The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.

Who is the LORD?  Jesus Christ himself.  Jesus in the book of John testifies to the Christophany of himself in Genesis 28:13.  But he doesn’t spend a long time explaining it.  He expects Nathanael to understand it.  So here, we see Jacob putting his head on the rock of oath, of Beersheba which Isaac had established with Abimelech.  And on this rock of oath does Jacob, just like Nathaneal, see “heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” – Christ himself.

Then, we see Jacob wake up in delirium, setting up a pillar and pouring oil on top of it, calling the place Bethel (house of God), though the city was named Luz.  Luz, being a Canaanite name, renamed as Bethel.  This re-confirms that “God is with him and will keep him in this way” (v.20).  Does Jacob really think that Bethel is the house of God?  No – he just made the point that God is with him.  Yet, this is a reminder, an establishment which he raised as a place of worship, an altar placed on the rock of oath.  This rock which shall be set up as a pillar.  A place where the worship takes the form of giving a full tenth back to the Angel of the LORD, reminiscent of Genesis 14:20 when Abraham gave a full tenth back to Melchizedek, establishing the connection between the Angel and Melchizedek.

However, we must distinguish something important.  Jacob is still Jacob – and has not been renamed Israel yet.  He is still the one who cheats – and here, he is offering God a conditional obedience in v.20-22.  He is not quite ready to be rid of his ways.  He is still trying to control the situation, and still, to many an extent, trying to control/manipulate his own obedience to God.

4.  Jacob’s marriage with Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29)

Jacob kissing Rachel.  Laban kissing Jacob.  I think we can guess that this kissing is quite innocent.  Probably more along the lines of 1 Thessalonians 5:26.  Laban’s proclamation in v. 14 – “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” is a repeat of Adam’s statement to Eve – it is a statement of oneness, a statement that we are of one flesh within the same church, the body of Christ. Such is the joy when we meet Christians whom we barely know, if at all – the hospitality of knowing that someone is striving in the race of faith as you are, whose founder of faith is the Spirit himself.

Something theologically profound in Chapter 29v.20 – “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her”.  Amazing.  7 years is not exactly a short time – but, just as the Trinity is awaiting the day that we marry into Christ; just as creation is awaiting the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19).  But because Christ loves us, and strives for his Bride, the 7 years, let alone 7000 years are just like a few days. 2 Peter 3:8-13:

8But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and(N) a thousand years as one day. 9(O) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise(P) as some count slowness, but(Q) is patient toward you,[a](R) not wishing that any should perish, but(S) that all should reach repentance. 10But(T) the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then(U) the heavens will pass away with a roar, and(V) the heavenly bodies[b] will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.[c]

11Since all these things are thus to be dissolved,(W) what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12(X) waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and(Y) the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13But according to his promise we are waiting for(Z) new heavens and a new earth(AA) in which righteousness dwells.

But Jacob has now met someone equally cunning – his uncle!  Firstly he gets Leah as the bride, then he has to work an extra seven years for Rachel, the true bride he had sought for.  However, even after Jacob’s struggle, the birth of children is still out of his hands.  The LORD continued with his unconditional promise by fulfilling the blessing which Isaac gave to Jacob, but through Leah, the neglected wife.  Through Leah is Jacob given 4 of the 12 tribes of the future nation of Israel – Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah.  Even this is out of his manipulative hands, and provides a leaping contrast between God’s faithfulness and unmoving promise; as opposed to Jacob and Laban’s trickeries and deceptions in order to struggle for what they both desire, even if it may not be pleasing to the LORD.

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Genesis 27-29: The one who cheats vs. the one who promises

2 thoughts on “Genesis 27-29: The one who cheats vs. the one who promises

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