Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Edomite Nation Begins

Genesis 36:1-29

Proverbs 13:22 states, “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children:…” Though Esau viewed the things of God as of little value, his descendants were blessed by
god because of Isaac’s righteousness. At this point God takes time to show how his family was blessed. Over a thousand years later, Esau’s descendants, the Edomites were still in contact with Israel. God had told Rebekah that the elder, Esau, would serve the younger, while Jacob prophesied in his blessing that Esau would ultimately break free. We see here how the Edomite peoples developed.

“Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom. Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite; And Bashemath Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebajoth.” (Genesis 36:1-3)

Esau initially married the two Canaanite women because they were who he was most familiar with. Later, when Jacob was sent away, he married his cousin Bashemath, the daughter of Ishmael in an effort to please his parents.

“And Adah bare to Esau Eliphaz; and Bashemath bare Reuel; And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these are the sons of Esau, which were born unto him in the land of Canaan.” (Genesis 36:4-5)

By time Jacob returned from Padanaram, Esau’s family had grown to include his five sons, their wives and perhaps some of their children, as well as more than four hundred employees and followers. When Jacob moved close to Hebron, even though there was no longer enmity between Jacob and Esau, their combined herds and forces were more than the area would support in addition to the various Canaanite peoples who already claimed the land.

“And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the persons of his house, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his substance, which he had got in the land of Canaan; and went into the country from the face of his brother Jacob. For their riches were more than that they might dwell together; and the land wherein they were strangers could not bear them because of their cattle. Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom.” (Genesis 36:6-8)

Esau moved his herds to the south east to a region known as Mount Seir, after the leader of the Horite People who lived there. Later the region was called Edom. In Christ’s day the region was known as Idumea. It encompassed most the southern part of present day Jordan and a small part of Saudi Arabia.

“And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir: These are the names of Esau's sons; Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau, Reuel the son of Bashemath the wife of Esau.” (Genesis 36:9-10)

Adah was a Hittite girl, of the descendants of Heth. While she and Esau had only one son, he had six sons. One of them was by a Horite woman named Timna. She named him Amalek.

“And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, and Gatam, and Kenaz. And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz Esau's son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek: these were the sons of Adah Esau's wife.” (Genesis 36:11-12)

Bashemath was Ishmaels daughter and she and Esau also had just one son, named Reuel. Reuel had four sons. Undoubtedly part of the reason for Esau moving to south was to be near Ishmael’s family.

“And these are the sons of Reuel; Nahath, and Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah: these were the sons of Bashemath Esau's wife.” (Genesis 36:13)

Aholibamah was a Hivite girl, but her mother was a Horite. She and Esau three sons.

“And these were the sons of Aholibamah, the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon, Esau's wife: and she bare to Esau Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah.” (Genesis 36:14)

Each of Esau’s grandsons formed a clan of their own. The word translated duke here refers to either the clan itself, or the leader of the clan.

“These were dukes of the sons of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz the firstborn son of Esau; duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho, duke Kenaz, Duke Korah, duke Gatam, and duke Amalek: these are the dukes that came of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these were the sons of Adah.

And these are the sons of Reuel Esau's son; duke Nahath, duke Zerah, duke Shammah, duke Mizzah: these are the dukes that came of Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Bashemath Esau's wife.

And these are the sons of Aholibamah Esau's wife; duke Jeush, duke Jaalam, duke Korah: these were the dukes that came of Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, Esau's wife. These are the sons of Esau, who is Edom, and these are their dukes.” (Genesis 36:15-19)

The Horites under Seir already possessed the land. After moving to Mount Seir, Esau’s son Eliphaz married Seir’s daughter, tying the two groups closely together.

“These are the sons of Seir the Horite, who inhabited the land; Lotan, and Shobal, and Zibeon, and Anah, And Dishon, and Ezer, and Dishan: these are the dukes of the Horites, the children of Seir in the land of Edom. And the children of Lotan were Hori and Hemam; and Lotan's sister was Timna.

And the children of Shobal were these; Alvan, and Manahath, and Ebal, Shepho, and Onam.” (Genesis 36:20-23)

One of the reasons Esau went to Mount Seir was probably that his wife Aholibamah was Seir’s great granddaughter. Esau’s son married Aholibamah’s aunt, Seir’s daughter. It is only as we understand how long people lived in those days that we can understand how this could be possible. Remember that at this time, Esau would have been about a hundred, and Isaac had lived to be a hundred eighty, Shem had died only a few years before, having lived five hundred years after the Flood.

“And these are the children of Zibeon; both Ajah, and Anah: this was that Anah that found the mules in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father.

And the children of Anah were these; Dishon, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah.

And these are the children of Dishon; Hemdan, and Eshban, and Ithran, and Cheran.

The children of Ezer are these; Bilhan, and Zaavan, and Akan.

The children of Dishan are these; Uz, and Aran.

These are the dukes that came of the Horites; duke Lotan, duke Shobal, duke Zibeon, duke Anah, Duke Dishon, duke Ezer, duke Dishan: these are the dukes that came of Hori, among their dukes in the land of Seir.” (Genesis 36:24-29)

Not all the original clans in Edom were descendants of Esau, but the two peoples lived together and became increasingly intermingled. Not all of Seir’s descendants formed their own clans. Eventually Esau’s descendants became the dominant force.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rachael’s Death

Genesis 35:16-20

“And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour. And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also.” (Genesis 35:16-17)

Abortion proponents view pregnancy as almost as bad as cancer, but even the medical establishment treats it more as a disease than as a natural and necessary part of life. One is left with the impression that no mother or child would ever survive childbirth if it were not for the doctors. God designed the woman’s body to give birth efficiently and with little risk. For thousands of years, women had babies without doctors present, and still do. Many of the present day problems with childbirth are the result of the modern lifestyle rather than inherent risk. Both the pain and the risks involved can be reduced by changes in lifestyle.

Though it is a completely natural process, things can go wrong. Rachael was at least fifty and probably well into her sixties by this time. Women are more likely to have problems giving birth after the age of about forty five or fifty, and she had problems delivering the baby. The midwife, who was there to minister to the baby advised her tha the baby would survive.

“And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.” (Genesis 35:18)

About ten years after Joseph’s birth, Benjamin was born. Rachael called him “the Son of My Sorrow” because she would not be there to see hjm grow, but Jacob called him “the Son of The Right hand,” referring to his relationship to Rachael. Benjamin would always be extra special to Jacob as the last thing Rachael had given him.

“And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day. And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.” (Genesis 35:19-21)

Jacob did not take Rachael to Machpelah where Sarah and Abraham were buried, but buried her near present day Bethlehem. As a memorial, he set up a pillar similar to what he had erected at Bethel. He then continued his journey, caring for the rest of his family.

“And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard it.” (Genesis 35:22a)

Years of conflict and favoritism combined with a attitude that cheating was okay had resulted in a lack of confidence and moral standards in Reuben. Genesis 49:4 tells us that it was that the resulting instability that led to his sin and would always prevent his attaining his potential. Though he was the eldest son, he was never the leader, always upstaged by his brothers.

“…Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun: The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin: And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali: And the sons of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid; Gad, and Asher: these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padanaram.” (Genesis 35:22b-26)

*Note that once again we have a situation where those who added the verse divisions ignored the punctuation and meaning of the text. The first part of verse 22 concludes with a period. The last part clearly is related to the following verses and concludes with a colon clearly indicating the sentence and thought are not complete.

“And Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned. And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years. And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.” (Genesis 35:27-29)

As a child and young man Jacob had been much closer to his mother than to his father. That Deborah was with Jacob’s family at Bethel indicates there had bee contact between them, but this is the first time Jacob had moved his entire group to see them. They stayed in the area for a considerable period and Jacob spent time with Isaac before he died.

Isaac was a hundred eighty years old at his death, between five and six hundred years after the flood. Shem died five hundred and two years after the flood so his life overlapped that of Isaac and probably Jacob. Notice the decreasing lifespan. God had said man’s lifespan would be a hundred twenty years in Genesis 6:3.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Back To Bethel

Genesis 35:1-14

“And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.” (Genesis 35:1)

After his sons wiped out the city of Shechem, God instructed Jacob to return to Bethel, the House of God. It was a place where Abraham and Isaac had returned repeatedly, and where God had first revealed himself to Jacob. He was to again build and altar to the Lord there.

“Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.” (Genesis 35:2-3)

A sense of guilt and fear of reprisal by other Hittite cities or attack by other groups had focused Jacob’s attention once again on the Lord. He could no longer depend on the Hittites for protection and had to trust God. When the problems got bad enough so Jacob was willing to listen, God had told him to leave Padanaram, and when Jacob was ready to listen, God told him to go back to Bethel.

Laban’s grand father had been a brother to Abraham,, but his family had begun to worship other gods. Rachael had stolen Laban’s gods when they left Padanaram. Theough Jacob had surrendered to God at Penuel, and had built and altar and worshipped God at Shechem, they had continued to worship other Gods as well, and Jacob had ignored and tacitly approved it, if not participating in the idolatry. For the first time, he realized that those idols were preventing a proper relationship with the Lord and demanded they be put aside.

“And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem. And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob. So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him. And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.” (Genesis 35:4-7)

Having put away their idols and depending on God for protection, Jacob and his family went to Bethel as commanded. God protected them from retaliation by the surrounding Hittite and Canaanite groups. At Bethel Jacob built an altar and was again reminded of the his previous experience of meeting God there.

“But Deborah Rebekah's nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.” (Genesis 35:8)

Over a hundred years before, Abraham’s servant had brought Rebecca to marry Isaac. She was accompanied by some handmaids, one of whom was Deborah. She had joined Jacob’s family and her death at Bethel was a momentous occasion.

“And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him. And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land. And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him.” (Genesis 35:9-13)

For the first time, Jacob was not hedging his bets by depending on other gods or his own efforts to get him by. God responded by revealing what he had wanted to show him all along. He repeated that Jacob was no longer the Supplanter, but the Prince with God, or Israel. He then went on to declare that he would receive the promises made to Abraham more than a hundred years before. Unless we trust God completely, we will never understand his working in our lives.

“And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon. And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel.” (Genesis 35:14-15)

Once again Jacob sets up a pillar of stone for a reminder of his encounters with God. Sometimes we need such reminders.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Anger Results In Sin

Genesis 34:1-31

Though he built lambing sheds and corrals at Succoth, Jacob had no intention of living with the noise and smells of his livestock all the time. Near the Hittite village of Shechem he bought land and built a permanent home for his family.

“And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.” (Genesis 34:1)

As the only girl, Dinah was undoubtedly adored and spoiled by her eleven brothers, her father, her mother and each of Jacob’s other wives. With no other girls her age around, she undoubtedly craved someone to talk to. She went into town looking to make friends.

“And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her. And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel. And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife.” (Genesis 34:2-4)

Looking for friends of her own, Dinah met a handsome young man who didn’t treat her as his sister. Her craving for friendship and lack of experience with people who weren’t relatives or employees of her father’s made her especially susceptible to his attraction. It wasn’t long before they were sexually involved, effectively making her marriage to anyone else wrong, Deuteronomy 22:13-21 describes the penalty for a girl who’d had sex marrying another guy. If she’d been sexually involved, she had better let the guy she married know in advance if she didn’t want to be killed.

I Corinthians 6:17 describes the bonding that takes place as a result of sexual involvement, and Shechem, the young man, wanted to marry Dinah. In doing so, he fulfilled God’s command in Exodus 22:16. “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.” He asked his father to make the necessary arrangements.

“And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter: now his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they were come. And Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him. And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter; which thing ought not to be done.” (Genesis 24:5-7)

Jacob was upset, feeling that Shechem had taken advantage of Dinah. Her brothers were even more upset. Sex was viewed as a very important part of marriage and was not to be treated casually, even though the law would not be given for another five hundred years.

“And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife. And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein.” (Genesis 34:8-10)

For a hundred fifty years, the Hittites had dealt with Abraham and his family, and they were closely allied. Hamor was asking for a permanent tie and relationship between the two groups.

“And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give. Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.” (Genesis 34:11-12)

Shechem was willing to pay whatever amount her family might require because he loved Dinah and wanted to set things right, He recognized her parent’s authority since she was still under their care. Exodus 22:17 acknowledges the parents part. “If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.”

“And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister: And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us: But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised; Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone.” (Genesis 34:13-17)

Jacob and his son’s had no intention of joining and becoming part of the Hittite nation. They were depending on the promises by God. There was nothing in their covenant with God to require that the family they married into adopt the Jewish religion. The covenant was strictly for those of Abraham’s family or those who wanted to be part of it. They would have no qualms about one of the boys marrying a Hittite girl, but because she was their only sister they were overly protective.

Jacob’s sons had seen constant efforts to deceive by both their father and their uncle as well as by their mothers. It had become accepted as the proper way to do things. Their response to Shechem and Hamor was a conditioned response. They would have had to work at doing differently.

“And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor's son. And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob's daughter: and he was more honourable than all the house of his father.” (Genesis 34:18-19)

Shechem and Hamor were entirely honest in their approach. Because they were honest, they assumed Jacob and his family would be equally honest. They didn’t hesitate about committing to the terms they were offered.

“And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying, These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, it is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters. Only herein will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised. Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs be ours? only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us. And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city.” (Genesis 34:20-24)

Because Hamor and Shechem were highly trusted by their own people, the men of the city took their word for the intentions of Jacob’s family. If circumcision was what a treaty would require, they were willing to submit and did so. No one suspected any duplicity.

“And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out.” (Genesis 34:25-26)

Simeon and Levi were Leah’s sons, just younger than Reuben and several years older than Dinah. The constant conflicts within the family appear to have resulted in Reuben lacking confidence and moral strength according to Genesis 49:3-4, probably blaming himself for the conflict. Simeon and Levi became angry, though they probably concealed it. The suggestion to require the Hittites to be circumcised probably came from them, and was adopted by the others with no knowledge of what they planned. Dinah had moved in as Shechem’s wife.

Taking advantage of the men’s pain after being circumcised, Simeon and Levi then murdered all the men in the city. The release of their pent up anger resulted in violating the agreement Jacob had made, a refusal to forgive even when God’s standards had been met, and the deaths of innocent men. As Proverbs 29:22 states, “An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.”

“The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister. They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field, And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.” (Genesis 34:27-29)

Though they hadn’t approved the murders, Jacob’s other sons were still resentful about what had happened. The resentment was used as an excuse for taking everything the Hittites had for themselves, even though they had done nothing wrong to them.

“And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.” (Genesis 34:30)

Abraham and Isaac had spent nearly a hundred and fifty years establishing a relationship with the local people and in a fit of anger, Simeon and Levi had destroyed all that trust by ignoring the favors the Hittites had done them in leaving them alone and allowing them to live there, and openly violating the treaty they had made. Fifty years later, in Genesis 49:5-7, God directed Jacob to warn the others, “Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.”

Proverbs 22:4-5 commands, “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.” God cursed their anger, and, because anger is so easily learned and feeds on the anger of others, God would separate the two tribes in Israel, even splitting Levi so they never had a possession of their own.

“And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?” (Genesis 34:31)

Their response was typical of angry people, focusing on the perceived wrong and dismissing their own sin as justified, even thought it was far worse than what they had suffered. Dinah had been as much a participant as Shechem, and he had not treated her as a prostitute, nor had he raped her. Anger seldom looks at all the facts.

Colossians 3:21 commands, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Though they demonstrated their frustration differently Jacobs children were all affected by the conflict in the family. Parents seldom realize how much their attitudes affect the children. The cause may not be obvious without looking beyond the immediate situation.

One thing that must be remembered is that while the parents are responsible for what they teach their children, the children are responsible for what they do.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wrestling With God

Genesis 32:24-32

Even after seeing God’s host there to protect him, and doing everything he could to ensure that Esau wouldn’t kill him, Jacob was still afraid. Just as Adam and Eve hid from God in fear as a result of their sense of guilt, Jacob was unable to trust God because of his.

“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.” (Genesis 32:24-25)

Jacob had done everything he could possibly do and his guilt had him convinced there was no hope, because Esau was approaching with four hundred men, enough to completely wipe out his entire party, Jacob was cringing in fear on the other side of the brook, completely alone. It is at the lowest point in his life and the Lord confronted him again. Jacob refused to yield, but at the same time not willing to let the Lord go. It is a scene that is played out by many people, although not always physically. Like so many, Jacob refused to yield until God used physical loss of health, loved ones or belongings to get his attention.

“And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” (Genesis 32:26)

All night Jacob wrestled with God trying to get God’s blessing his own way. At Bethel, Jacob had left the impression he was doing God a favor by accepting his blessings. After all the struggles, and wrestling with the Lord all night Jacob was willing to give anything to obtain God’s blessing. It is a point everyone who wants to be a Christian must come to according to Luke 14:26. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” For some it seems much harder than others, because they are more controlled by pride.

“And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.” (Genesis 32:27)

Once Jacob committed to wanting God’s blessings, he still needed one thing. The Lord asked his name. It must have been unpleasant confessing he was called Jacob, “the supplanter or cheat” because of his nature, but until we acknowledge our sin, our pride keeps us from receiving salvation, according to I John 1:8-10. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” By admitting his name, Jacob was admitting that was what he was.

“And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28)

Twenty seven years after his attempt to bargain with God, and experiencing God’s protection and blessing for the entire time, though he thought it was the result of his own efforts, Jacob finally surrendered to God. From that moment he was no longer Jacob, “the cheat,” but Israel, “a prince with God”.

II Corinthians 5:17 declares, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Like Jacob, we are no longer the sinner, but a new person. I Corinthians 6:9-10 lists lifestyles that will not be admitted to heaven. The next verse, 11, states, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” While we may fall back into the old habits occasionally, we have a new nature, and will be very uncomfortable. I wonder what would have happened if Jacob had believed God at Bethel?

“And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.” (Genesis 32:29)

When Jacob wanted to know the Lord’s name he asked him why. Jacob already knew who he was. A formal name was less important than that Jacob knew he was God. It is far more important to a little child to know this is “Daddy” than to know his name is John Henry Smith III. It is far more important we Know God as our father than to know his name. He then gave Jacob the blessing he had sought.

“And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.” (Genesis 32:30-32)

Since we are repeatedly told that no man hate seen God at any time, it is obvious that Jacob had not seen God the father, but Jesus Christ. Jacob called the place Peniel or Penuel, meaning “the face of God”. The physical injury he’d sustained would remain with him for the rest of his life as a reminder of his meeting with God, both to him and his descendants.

The removal of his guilt took away Jacob’s reason for fear, and he wasted no time crossing the brook.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Still Depending On Himself

Genesis 32:1-24

Through out his life Abraham had depended upon God to accomplish things in his life. He left Haran because God told him to, headed for an unknown destination god was to show him. He believed God’s promise to give him the land without hesitation, and acted accordingly. While there were a few exceptions when his faith wavered, he had set such and example of faith that even his servants learned to trust God as was demonstrated by the servant who went to get Isaac a wife.

Isaac had grown up seeing the results of Abraham’s faith but because of it he had rarely needed to exhibit his own faith as openly. Like many second generation Christians, who were not old enough to understand what their parents went through, he had a strong belief in God, but because his life had fewer struggles than his parents, his children didn’t see how real his faith was.

Like many third generation Christians, Jacob viewed serving God as something their family did, but with no real faith, as demonstrated by his proposal to God in Genesis 28:20-21. “And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:…”

As a result of his not lack of faith, Jacob constantly tried to ensure he would get what he wanted by cheating and manipulation, from his trading a bowl of lentils for Esau’s birthright to stealing the blessing, to his efforts to influence the genetics of Laban’s cattle. It was an unsatisfying life, but it was not until God showed him it was God’s actions and not his scheming that had produced his wealth that he began to really worship God for what he had done.

“And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.” (Genesis 32:1-2)

When Jacob built an altar and began to worship God on his way back to where he had directed him God began to reveal himself to him. Suddenly he saw the forces God had to protect him. It was a memorable sight, and he named the place Mahanaim, or ‘the double encampment,’ as of a military encampment adjacent to a civilian community.

“And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom. And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now: And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.” (Genesis 32:3-5)

A walk with God requires there be no ongoing sin in our lives. Things we have done against others stand between us and God. Matthew 5:23-24 commands, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” As we develop a love for God we should desire to eliminate things which stand between us and him. For the first time, Jacob began to try to straighten out his relationship with Esau.

“And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him. Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands; And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.” (Genesis 32:6-8)

Just as God had warned Laban not to attack Jacob, he had worked in Esau’s heart to produce forgiveness. When Esau heard that Jacob was coming he collected a force of four hundred to help herd his flocks and protect them. Jacob’s guilty conscience immediately assumed Esau was still angry, and began to try to figure out a way to protect himself, never recognizing that the host of God was there to protect him if needed. For the first time, he asked for God’s protection, reminding him of his promise.

“And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.” (Genesis 32:9-12)

Although Jacob had finally begun to trust God, he still had the habit of trying to make things happen his way. When confronted with a similar situation, he habitually reverted to his old way. This is exactly what Paul described in his own life in Romans 7. Only as we allow the Holy Spirit to have his way do we overcome that tendency. Jacob decided to try to placate Esau with a series of gifts.

“And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother; Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams, Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals. And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove.

And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, Whose art thou? and whither goest thou? and whose are these before thee? Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob's; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us.

And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him. And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me. So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.” (Genesis 32:13-21)

A sense of guilt grows as long as it is not dealt with, often taking over a persons whole life. In his book, Competent To Counsel, Jay Adams described a number of people who had taken refuge in insanity or drugs to escape the consequences of their sin. After twenty seven years, Jacob’s guilt feelings were huge. He assumed that Esau’s anger had grown in a corresponding manner. He hoped that a series of gifts would break down Esau’s wrath. He wasn’t even sure that would be enough.

“And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had. And Jacob was left alone;…” (Genesis 32:22-24)

In a last ditch effort, Jacob sent his wives and children ahead, hoping that Esau would feel bad about killing the children’s father and change his mind. Fearing that Esau might even kill his family, Jacob separated them, sending the different wives and their children out with those he cared least about in front in hopes that the others would have time to escape if he attacked them. Jacob himself remained on the other side of the brook, knowing that Esau’s anger was toward himself. Only if Esau appeared to be mollified would Jacob cross the brook.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dealing With Conflict

Genesis 31:36-54

“And Jacob was wroth, and chided with Laban: and Jacob answered and said to Laban, What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me? Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff? set it here before my brethren and thy brethren, that they may judge betwixt us both.” (Genesis 31:36-37)

Jacob had snuck away as if he were hiding something, waiting until he thought Laban would not find out for several days. When Laban searched for his idols and didn’t find them the emotional tension was released as anger. The frustration and anger had built for twenty years. The accusations of theft and search of his goods pushed Jacob too far. Though they had been buried, all the grievances had never been dealt with or forgiven, and anger was just below the surface. It finally came out.

“This twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy she goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten. That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes. Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.

Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.” (Genesis 31:38-42)

Laban had intentionally taken advantage of Jacob, never sticking to his agreements. By ignoring it and saying nothing, Jacob left the impression that he didn’t care, and Laban was encouraged to do even more. Had Jacob spoken sooner, the problem would never have reached such a level. To ignore wrongdoing encourages it. In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus gives advice on how to prevent it becoming a problem, by addressing it before we get angry, and if the person insists on doing it, by separating on friendly terms.

Though he was family, Laban would have left Jacob destitute and blamed him for being such a fool, except for God’s protection. Even the previous night, God had warned Laban not to interfere. Notice that Jacob refers to God as the God of Abraham and Isaac. He still hasn’t committed himself to God. He’s a little like Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 1-3 talking about the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Finally in Daniel 4:37 he said, “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven…” Though he knew God, and God had spoken to him, He had not worshipped God since his vision at Bethel.

“And Laban answered and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that thou seest is mine: and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto their children which they have born? Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.” (Genesis 31:43-44)

Like many selfish people, Laban, though he had agreed to allow Jacob to have those things, had never acknowledged they were not his. A friend of our family bought a used car from a lady. A few days later she parked the car on the street, and the former owner chewed her out because that car was not to be parked in the sun. Laban still thought of even Jacob’s wives as belonging to him. When confronted and God intervened he finally relinquished control and asked for a peace agreement with Jacob.

“And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar. And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.

And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed. And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed; And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another. If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee.

And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee; This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm. The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac.” (Genesis 31:45-53)

They carefully set one large stone up as a pillar and piled others beside it to remind both groups of the treaty between Jacob and Laban. It was established as an oath or promise before God, and they would both trust God to keep things right between them. Like Jacob, Laban doesn’t have a very strong personal relationship with God, referring to him as the God of Abraham and Nahor, his grandfather, not as his own. He worshipped other gods.

“Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount. And early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them: and Laban departed, and returned unto his place.” (Genesis 31:54-55)

With the years of resentment resolved, they were able to sit and fellowship together and part with no bad feelings between them. It will be the last significant dealings between the Syrians and Israel for centuries. From then on their wives would be taken among their neighbors.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Leaving Without Saying Goodbye

Genesis 31:19-35

Laban’s sons had begun to accuse Jacob of stealing from their father, and the tensions were getting quite high. God had promised Rebekah that Jacob’s descendants would be the stronger people, but Jacob had cheated to get the birthright because he didn’t trust God’s promise. He and Rebekah had deceived his father for the same reason. At Bethel, he tried to make a deal with God to force God to keep his promise. He consciously tried to manipulate the terms of his contract with Laban, because he doesn‘t trust God to keep his promise. After having established such a pattern of manipulation of others, it is not surprising that he would try to slip away without attracting anyone’s attention.

“And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's. And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled. So he fled with all that he had; and he rose up, and passed over the river, and set his face toward the mount Gilead.” (Genesis 31:19-21)

Knowing that Laban and his sons would be gone for possibly a month, Jacob took advantage of their absence to leave, trying to put enough distance between them so Laban wouldn’t bother to pursue them. During his stay in Padanaram, Jacob had been so wrapped up in his own plans he had neglected his relationship with God. As a result, Rachael still worshipped the idols Laban’s family had begun to worship. With Laban gone, she stole them to take with her, although she knew Jacob would not approve the theft.

“And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled. And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days' journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead. And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.” (Genesis 31:22-24)

Things didn’t work out quite the way Jacob expected. He had only been gone three days when Laban was informed of his departure, and of the theft of the idols. Angered by the theft Laban pursued them far more intently than he otherwise would have. Herds such as Jacob had would not normally travel more than eight or ten miles a day, and a man on foot can easily travel thirty to forty miles a day. Jacob was pushing his cattle and sheep so hard it took Laban and his sons seven days to catch up, implying Jacob had a guilty conscience.

By the time he caught them Laban was really upset. God spoke to him warning him not to express his anger, but to say nothing either good or bad to Jacob. Jacob was undoubtedly shocked that they had pursued him so far. Sneaking away shouldn’t have upset him that much.

“Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead. And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword? Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp? And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing. It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.” (Genesis 31:25-29)

Jacob’s selfish effort to avoid an emotional scene had hurt Laban deeply by not allowing him to tell his daughters and grandchildren goodbye. It would have hurt Jacob’s children equally, leaving the impression that things were not right between them and their grandfather. Because we don’t want to deal with our childerns grief, we may avoid letting them attend a funeral or sneak away from their grandparents. In doing so, we prevent their being able to come to terms with the separation, extending the pain, but causing it to be hidden. Emotions are a very important part of human life and need to be dealt with in a proper manner to avoid causing long term pain. We need to accept our responsibility in addressing the emotional effects of our actions. Ignoring them is a foolish decision.

“And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?” (Genesis 31:30)

While he’d been hurt by not being allowed to tell them goodbye, Laban could understand his desire to go to his own family. What really upset Laban was the theft of his gods. One of the reasons for sending Jacob to Laban for help finding a wife was because they knew his family had worshipped God. While he hadn’t completely turned away yet, Laban had begun to worship other gods. Taking away his gods was an attack on his most innermost beliefs and values. It could only be perceived as a personal attack, and provoke antagonism. Had God not stopped him Laban and his party would have attacked and tried to kill Jacob. If we cared enough to consider how it affects people’s emotions, Christians would approach other groups far differently, in a far more scriptural manner.

“And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me. With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them.” (Genesis 31:31-32)

Jacob admitted his failure to trust God. Despite God’s promise to protect him and bring him safely back to Canaan, he was afraid and snuck away. Not believing that any of his family had stolen the gods, Jacob gave Laban permission to search their belongings and execute whoever had stolen them. He was sure they weren’t there.

“And Laban went into Jacob's tent, and into Leah's tent, and into the two maidservants' tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah's tent, and entered into Rachel's tent. Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel's furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not. And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but found not the images.” (Genesis 31:33-35)

After searching everyone else’s stuff, Laban came to Rachael, who had stolen the idols. To hide them she had stuffed them into the camel saddle and was using it for a chair. When her father came in she used the excuse of menstruation as and excuse for not welcoming him and stayed seated on the saddle so he couldn’t see them. As a result Laban didn’t find them.

Each family develops a family culture. It is different from every family around them and is learned from the attitudes and behavior of the parents and grandparents, although it is affected by the temperaments of the children. Both Laban and Rachael had learned a deceptive attitude in Bethuel’s home and it was passed on to their children. Parent often don’t realize how much our children copy them. Those cultural attitudes affect everything we do. Fortunately they can be changed.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Decision to Leave Padanaram

Genesis 31:1-18

Laban had agreed to let Jacob have the off color cattle in the belief that by separating the herds, there would be very few. He was trying to take advantage of Jacobhoping to get a lot of work for very little pay. It wasn’t long before he and his sons began to resent every animal that Jacob got, although their herd was growing acceptably. Most dishonest people assume others are just like they are and when their efforts to cheat are unsuccessful, they assume the intended victim is cheating them and get very angry. It seems to be okay for them to cheat you, but not for you to cheat them.

“And he heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, Jacob hath taken away all that was our father's; and of that which was our father's hath he gotten all this glory. And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before. And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.” (Genesis 31:1-3)

Though it was what Laban had agreed to, Laban’s sons began to feel that Jacob’s cattle rightfully belonged to them. There began to be jealousy and tensions between Jacob and the rest of the family, making it uncomfortable to stay. Jacob probably began to wish he’d left when Joseph was born as he’d originally planned. God usually speaks with a still small voice and only those who are listening hear him. Jacob was hearing the money he thought he’d make and ignored God’s voice, until things got unpleasant enough to get his attention.

“And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock, And said unto them, I see your father's countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me. And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.

And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me. If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstreaked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstreaked. Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.” (Genesis 31:4-9)

Jacob wisely got his wives together and explained what was going on. Laban had been trying to cheat Jacob ever since he had substituted Leah for Rachael twenty years before, although Jacob was considerate enough not to upset Leah by bringing it up. Like many modern employers, when Jacob began to make fairly good wages, Laban changed the reward program in an effort to keep more for himself. Laban had even gone so far as to limit Jacob’s pay to those of a certain patterns in an effort to limit his profit, but God had continued to provide for Jacob, causing the cattle to have a predominance of the color that were to be Jacob’s. God also revealed that Jacob’s attempts to influence what color calves and lambs they would have had accomplished nothing.

“And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ringstreaked, speckled, and grisled. And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I. And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstreaked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee. I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.” (Genesis 31:10-13)

Though a particular color or pattern might predominate. Labans cows were still mixed stock, carrying genes for more than one color or pattern. From Mendel’s Laws, we know that over time the ratios of one color to another should remain about the same, except that selective breeding can eventually isolate a particular trait, although at times one color or another might be most common. God simply caused the color Laban designated to Jacob to be most common that year. Under mendel’s laws, if one color dominated one year, a different one was likely to be predominant the next. Had Laban kept the agreement the same, over time the laws of genetics would have ensured that most of the cattle would be his, but by changing them he increased his risk, and at the same time antagonized God.

Twenty seven years after the saw the vision at Bethel and promised God that if he’d take care of him and bring him back safely, he’d let God be his God, god reminds him of that promise and tells him to go back where he belongs. God never forgets his promises, or ours.

“And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house? Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money. For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours, and our children's: now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do.” (Genesis 31:14-16)

Rachael and Leah had been aware of the deteriorating relationship with their family, and knew they were not really welcome anymore, The original intent of the dowry had been to provide a fund for the wife so if something happened to her husband she wold have some thing to live on. Her parents were responsible to see that the money was available should it ever happen. Today, the dowry is usually treated as payment to the parents for raising the girl, and is treated as income, rather than being held in trust for her. Under the old Testament law, if a man had sex with a woman he was to endow her as his wife, even if she was underage and her parents refused to let her live with him as his wife according to exodus 22:16.

Jacob had produced a great deal by working for seven years for each of the girls, but Laban had spent the money instead of saving it for them, so there was nothing for them to look forward to if they stayed. If God wanted them to leave, they were willing to go. That they were willing to leave was a confirmation that God was leading, so Jacob packed up and left, without telling anyone he was leaving.

“Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels; And he carried away all his cattle, and all his goods which he had gotten, the cattle of his getting, which he had gotten in Padanaram, for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan.” (Genesis 31:17-18)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Trying To Cheat

Genesis 30:37-43

After twenty one years of being taken advantage of, Jacob felt he deserved proper some reward for his labor. Though he had a workable understanding of genetics, he was also familiar with an old wives tale that things the mother saw could influence physical characteristics of the baby. The same tale persists in many areas today. Jacob had proposed his offer to Laban, hoping that it would turn out to be true.

“And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chestnut tree; and pilled white streaks in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods. And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink.” (Genesis 30:37-38)

Selective breeding depends on selecting the individuals having the desired characteristics and mating them. As we learn form Mendel’s work, initially the ratios of desired characteristics will remain fairly constant, but as time goes on, if only those who possess the desired characteristics are allowed to breed, the number offspring with other characteristics will decrease, eventually becoming quite rare. This is the system by which purebred breeds are derived. Many generations are required to develop a pure strain.

With an incomplete knowledge of genetics, Laban believed that separating the off colored cattle would result in a purebred strain immediately. Jacob had observed that not all the offspring bred true, and since he didn’t know why, he accepted the old wives tale and tried to use it to influence the outcome, by setting multicolored objects in front of the healthiest cattle.

“And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstreaked, speckled, and spotted. And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstreaked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban's cattle.” (Genesis 30:39-40)

The percentage of off colored cattle was high enough that Jacob was convinced his strategy was working and he continued it, while being very careful to separate the off colored ones to his own herd. He did not deliberately cross breed the off color ones with Laban’s.

“And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods. But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's. And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.” (Genesis 30:41-43)

Mendel’s law tells us that in a genetic pool, the ratios of different charateristics will remain the same unless something prevents breeding of some of the characteristics, which is what selective breeding does. Because solid colored cattle were only a small part of the herd, often even those with solid colors also carried mixed color genes. Initially there would be more mixed colors than solids. It wasn’t long before Jacob’s cattle outnumbered Laban’s, and he began to be known as a cattleman himself.

Selective breeding inevitably reduces the genetic pool in other areas beside that of the desired characteristics, and in general, purebred animals are more susceptible to genetic defects and disease than mixed breeds. It wasn’t long before the difference in health began to show up. Believing his efforts were producing the results, Jacob kept them up for about six years. It would not have been long enough to have produced a truly purebred herd, as only about three generations of cattle would have been born.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jacob Agrees To Stay

Genesis 30:25-36

“And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country. Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and let me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee.” (Genesis 30:25-26)

Jacob originally had gone to Padanaram to find a wife. After a month with his uncle he offered to work seven years as a dowry for Rachael. Tricked into taking her sister, he agreed to work another seven years to get the girl he wanted, then stayed another seven years. After twenty one years working for Laban, Jacob decided to go home and introduce his family to his parents.

“And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake. And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it.” (Genesis 30:27-28)

For twenty one years, Laban had had a top notch employee who was willing to work for almost nothing. He knew that much of the growth of his herds was attributable to God having blessed Jacob’s efforts. When informed of Jacobs decision to leave, he realized that he would lose a valuable employee, and the closeness to his grandchildren. In an effort to retain his services, he asked what Jacob would take to stay.

“And he said unto him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me. For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased unto a multitude; and the LORD hath blessed thee since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?” (Genesis 30:29-30)

Jacob, the “supplanter” couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that. The same natural instinct that led him to offer a bowl of lentils for Esau’s birthright inspired him to reconsider his decision. To up the probability, and make his proposal more palatable, he reminded Laban of how much benefit he had provided as an unpaid employee. He also stressed that as a result, he had nothing of his own to provide for Laban’s grandchildren.

“And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock. I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire. So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me.” (Genesis 30:31-33)

After years raising livestock, both Laban and Jacob had a working understanding of genetic principles, although they had not made a formal statements. Many times such practical understandings are more accurate than are those of people have had formal training. Farmers and ranchers are often in conflict with environmental groups because their understanding of natural relationships is so different than the understanding of the educated but inexperienced environmentalist. Their very life depends on maintaining an acceptable relationship.

Since livestock tend to produce offspring that has a similar appearance to their parents, Jacob asked to be allowed to separate out all the off colored cattle and sheep and retain only those of the solid colors. By separating the herds, with Laban and his sons taking the off colored ones, an elementary selective breeding program would be established, minimizing the births of off color cattle and sheep. Jacob would then receive the off colored ones as his wages. Eventually, of colored off spring should be eliminated.

“And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word. And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstreaked and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons. And he set three days' journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flocks.” (Genesis 30:34-36)

Laban was glad to accept the offer, having the same understanding. He could retain Jacob’s services with only minimal cost in livestock. He immediately separated all the livestock by color. Then, to make sure there was no possibility of crossbreeding, he separated the different herds by three days journey, Even those who escaped were unlikely to travel such a distance. If he was careful, and things went well. he could get Jacob’s work for almost nothing.

Laban’s father, Bethuel, had been most impressed by the gold Abraham’s servant presented when asking for Rebekah to marry Isaac. Both Laban and Rebekah learned his attitude about wealth, and connived to get ahead. Rebekah had directed Jacob in deceiving his father to obtain the blessing intended for Esau. Laban had connived to get fourteen years labor from Jacob, and instead got twenty one. Cheating has become a way of life, and family relationships will not stand in his way. Often family is the easiest to cheat because they want to trust, and depend on the relationship to protect them.

That Jacob learned and developed the same attitude from his mother was clear from his deception and taking advantage of Esau. That Rachael and Leah learned a similar attitude from Laban is apparent in their conniving to get Jacob’s attention. It is nearly impossible to distinguish how much of a person’s nature is genetic and how much was learned starting on the first day of his life. It will only be changed by powerful forces.

Had Jacob left then, some serious problems would have been avoided, but his interest in possessions kept him there.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Competition Worsens

Genesis 30:14-24

There are just a few things God hates, and Proverbs 6:16-19 names seven. “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” Notice that causing conflict between siblings ranks right along side murder, lying, and deliberate wickedness.

Jacob had married two sisters, and it caused a conflict between them. Nearly five hundred years later, though he never forbid polygamy, God forbid marrying sisters in Leviticus 18:18 because it would cause conflict between them. “Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.” Once initiated, the conflict tends to keep growing unless someone makes a deliberate effort to reduce it. The anger and bitterness shows up in many ways.

“And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes. And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son's mandrakes.” (Genesis 20:14-15)

According to the dictionary, mandrakes are a member of the night shade family, and are toxic if too much is eaten. Found largely in the Mediterranean region, their roots are especially valued for medicinal purposes. Leah’s oldest son, Reuben brought some home, and Rachael asked for some. Innocuous though it was, the request stirred the resentments simmering just below the surface.

Jacob had loved Rachael and thought that was who he was marrying on their wedding night, but their father had switched the girls, and for seven years Leah was Jacob’s only wife. When Jacob took Rachael also, Leah no longer had him to herself, and she blamed Rachael for stealing him. Irrational though it was, the request for some of the mandrakes seemed like she was just trying to take away everything. As the favored wife, Rachael got most of Jacob’s attention, and she offered to allow Leah to enjoy her husband’s company that night. With that offer, Rachael just changed sex from a demonstration of love to bargaining tool to get what one wanted.

“And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son's mandrakes. And he lay with her that night.” (Genesis 30:16)

Prostitution is having sex to obtain something one wants. Though they were husband and wife, the sexual relationship that night was a form of prostitution, The meaning had been destroyed, as was most of the pleasure. Both Leah and Jacob were aware the only reason they were together was the money. It was just a business transaction involving emotions.

“And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son. And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar. And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son. And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun. And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.” (Genesis 30:17-21)

Emotionally bonded to Jacob, Leah was desperate for his love, and hoped that having another child would win it, or at least his attention. When Issachar was born, she felt that she had been vindicated for encouraging Jacob to marry Her maid, Zilpah. When Zebulon was born, she believed it would make Jacob prefer her because she had more sons.

Between Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah, Jacob had ten sons. As the only girl, Dinah was probably a little spoiled and could wrap all of them around her little fingers. Even the other wives would treat her special.

“And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son.” (Genesis 30:22-24)

Like a lot of other women who don’t get pregnant as soon as they want, Rachael had gotten discouraged and decided to get a child another way, giving her maid, Bilhah as a surrogate mother. As so often happens, after seven years of marriage, and twenty one years after Jacob fell in love with her, Rachael finally had a son. She named him Joseph, meaning “let him add” or “adding” expecting that God would give another as well.

While competition is not always bad, it often leads to sin, just as it did in this case. It would be better to avoid it in most cases.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Growing Competition

Genesis 30:1-13

Most women seem to have an innate desire to have children and feel incomplete if they don’t. Many cultures have aggravated the feeling of incompleteness by making it appear that a woman who doesn’t have children is not really normal. In at least a few societies, men hesitate to marry a woman who hasn’t had at least one child. Throughout history Kings like Henry the eighth of England divorced wives who didn’t produce sons.

“And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.” (Genesis 30:1)

Both Leah and Rachael knew that Jacob had only married Leah because he’d been tricked, and that he loved Rachael, but he’d been married to Leah a lot longer. Because of Jacob’s preference for Rachael, God had blessed Leah with four sons. Rachael began to fear that he would begin to prefer Leah instead. Like most people who feel insecure, she began to look for somebody to blame.

It is amazing how often people blame an innocent party. A person whose mate is running around on them will usually blame themselves, but an unresponsive or cruel husband or wife blames their mate. Rarely does anyone sit down and accurately assess their own part in the situation. Rachael began to blame Jacob for not giving her children, as if he were in some fashion holding back on her.

“And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?” (Genesis 30:2)

Blame makes the accused a defendant, putting him on the defensive, whether the charges are valid or not. Most people become angry or fearful when they feel attacked, and respond by either striking back or withdrawing. Either response increases the feelings of insecurity of the accuser. Jacob’s response was typical of a person on the defensive. Notice that he was not wrong in what he said, but that it did nothing to resolve the problem.

“And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son. And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.

And Bilhah Rachel's maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son. And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.” (Genesis 30:3-8)

Emotions such as anger, fear, and happiness are a natural response to situations. They are the flesh’s reaction to stimulus. Unfortunately many people begin to base decisions on those feelings, sometimes believing they are spiritual. It almost always leads to worse problems because the decisions seldom are logical when viewed in the light of reality.

Fearing that Jacob would stop loving her if she didn’t give him children Rachael gave him her maid Bilhah to be another wife. From an emotional point it made sense to assume that he wanted children more than anything, but it ignored several things. She had no way of knowing if children mattered that much. It ignored the fact of his love, and the fact that she was already in competition with another woman for his love and introducing another woman could only make it worse. Actions of the flesh can only produce fleshly results, and anytime we are acting on our emotions, we are acting in the flesh.

One of the saddest points of the whole story is her statement that it was God’s doing. Notice verse 6, “And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.” How often when we have acted in the flesh and sinned or caused others to sin, we credit God with the results if they seem to have accomplished our purpose. It is blasphemous to blame God for things he didn’t do.

“When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife. And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a son. And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad. And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a second son. And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.” (Genesis 30:9-13)

Fleshly, carnal action almost always elicit a carnal response. Rachael’s demands on Jacob produced anger. Her action in giving Bilhah to be his wife resulted in sexual action by Jacob. It increased Leah’s insecurity and resulted in an increase in competition. Leah then responded the same way Rachael had, giving her maid, Zilpah to be Jacob’s wife. The conflict would eventually involve their sons until, years after her death, the others decide to kill Rachael’s son.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jacob Fell In Love

Genesis 29:15-35

After a month of having Jacob around, helping with the cattle and sheep and visiting, Laban didn’t want to lose such valuable help. He decided to take advantage of the family relationship and offered Jacob a job to get him to stick around. Laban’s father had focused on the gold the servant had given Rebekah. Laban focused on what he could get out of Jacob. Even family relationships are affected by human nature.

“And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be? And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured. And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.” (Genesis 29:15-18)

Jacob had come to Laban for assistance in finding a wife. Jacob had seen Rachael when he first came and fallen for her immediately. While her sister had beautiful eyes, Rachael was far more beautiful of face and very shapely, and Jacob was smitten with her. He offered to work seven years for the privilege of marrying her.

“And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me. And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.” (Genesis 29:19-21)

Seeing an opportunity to get seven years of free labor, and to get her married off to someone he trusted, Laban seized the chance. Who knew how much work he could extract in seven years. It would undoubtedly be more than somebody else would give for a dowry. Jacob was so madly in love that he hardly noticed the passage of time. But after seven years demanded Laban keep his promise.

“And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid.”

“And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?” (Genesis 29:22-25)

Knowing how much Jacob loved Rachael and that once he married her, he might decide to return to his family, Laban set out to guarantee another seven years of service. Since guys weren’t just standing in line offering a dowry for Leah he decided to trick Jacob into paying the same for her. Late in the evening, after the lights were out he switched girls, bringing Leah to Jacob instead of Rachael. The next morning when Jacob found out the girl he’d slept with was not Rachael, he was really upset, and accused Laban of tricking him.

“And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.” (Genesis 29:26-27)

Laban excused himself by claiming that the younger daughter could not marry until her older sibling had married and that thus the agreement was invalid, but that if Jacob would give another seven years, he could have Rachael as well. Since Leah was a virgin, and he’d had sex with her, Jacob could not refuse to accept her as his wife according to Deuteronomy 22:13-19. He still wanted to marry Rachael, so he agreed to the deal. Please understand that polygamy was never specifically forbidden in the Bible, except for those who wish to be pastors or church leaders. Adultery, or sex without taking responsibility, on the other hand, was forbidden.

“And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also. And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid. And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.” (Genesis 29:28-30)

Jacob worked another seven years to get the woman he loved. That he’d been tricked into accepting Leah probably caused some resentment toward her, weakening the relationship. A marriage based on deceit has an extra set of problems to overcome. Couples who marry while concealing prior sexual behavior or because the girl lies about being pregnant have to overcome these lies in addition to the regular marital problems.

“And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me. And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon. And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi. And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.” (Genesis 29:31-35)

Under the Mosaic law, a man who married another woman could not neglect his responsibilities to his first wife because he loved the second one more. Both Exodus 21:10 and Deuteronomy 21:15-17 stress the responsibility. Because Jacob was not fulfilling his responsibility to love her, God intervened on Leah’s behalf, giving her children and preventing Rachael from having them.

Even after being cheated and tricked, because it was family, Jacob stayed seven more years. We’d like to think our family always had our best interest at heart, but it is not always true.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Family Reunion

Genesis 29:1-14

“Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east. And he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well's mouth. And thither were all the flocks gathered: and they rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again upon the well's mouth in his place.” (Genesis 29:1-3)

After his dream of angels ascending and descending from heaven and speaking with God at Bethel, Jacob continued his journey toward Haran and Padanaram. Having never been there he was dependent on instructions from his mother and other travelers. Fortunately walking gives the opportunity to really observe one’s way so the instructions were quite detailed and accurate. After several days travel, he came to a well with three flocks of sheep waiting nearby,

In arid country, sources of water are critical and both men and animals are drawn to them. To prevent animals from falling in and polluting the water, they would be lined with stones and a large flat stone placed over the mouth. To obtain water it was necessary to remove the stone. These stones could weigh several hundred pounds and were very difficult for one person to remove. The shepherds usually waited until several were available to help remove the stone and replace it.

“And Jacob said unto them, My brethren, whence be ye? And they said, Of Haran are we. And he said unto them, Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? And they said, We know him. And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep.” (Genesis 29:4-6)

It had been nearly eighty years since Rebekah had left her father’s home to marry Isaac. Hoping to get more current directions to Laban’s house, Jacob began to question the sheepherders. Imagine his surprise when they told him one of the approaching flocks was Laban’s and that his daughter was herding them. She could show him where to go.

“And he said, Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep, and go and feed them. And they said, We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and till they roll the stone from the well's mouth; then we water the sheep.” (Genesis 29:7-8)

Jacob than asked them why they didn’t go ahead and water their sheep so they wouldn’t be interfering with each other. Their answer was that the stone was so heavy they had to wait until the others were there to help them.

“And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep: for she kept them. And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother.” (Genesis 29:9-10)

When he saw his cousin, Jacob didn’t want anything to interfere with her getting the sheep watered, so he moved the stone for them, and helped water Laban’s sheep. Funny how a little motivation enables us to do things others won’t try.

“And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother, and that he was Rebekah's son: and she ran and told her father.” (Genesis 29:11-12)

To finally meet his relatives was undoubtedly an emotional event for Jacob and for Rachael. When he explained who he was she left the sheep and ran home to tell her parents he was there. With no phones or regular mail, communication was difficult and a personal visit might bring everyone up to date.

“And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister's son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things. And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month.” (Genesis 29:13-14)

Laban was equally thrilled to meet his nephew. After Jacob explained who he was and why he’d come, Laban reminded him that he was family. They spent a whole month just enjoying getting acquainted and sharing news about their family. It reminds me of the relationships our family used to share.

We would go for several days, with the kids sleeping on the floor, or sometimes in a tent outside while the adults would occupy the bedrooms. Us kids had a wonderful time playing with our cousins and seeing what the others had, while our parents would sit up half the night playing Chinese checkers or dominos and talking. During the day, we’d have picnic lunches or grill hamburgers and play workup or volleyball or go for drives through the country. If the home we visited had things to do, such as painting the house or building fence or hauling hay, everyone would pitch in to get the job done. After several days, everyone would go home, looking forward to getting together again next year. They were some of the most memorable events in my life, and our culture has lost a lot by neglecting such family relationships.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jacob Meets The Lord

Genesis 28:10-22

“And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.” (Genesis 28:10-11)

In accordance with his parents wishes, that he would look for a girl with a suitable upbringing to marry, Jacob set out to his Padanaram in Haran to his uncle’s home. About fifty miles from Beersheba, because it was getting dark, Jacob stopped for the night, placing some stones where they would support his body most comfortably. In Boy Scouts, I learned to scrape out holes in the ground instead. Today most people use an air mattress instead. Some have wondered if it was not the rock under his head that caused his dreams. It wasn't.

“And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” (Genesis 28:12-15)

In his dream, God revealed himself as the same God Abraham and Isaac worshipped. He then summed up all the promises he’d made to Abraham in Genesis more than a hundred years before, that Jacob’s descendants would own the entire area, and that they would be a blessing to all the earth. The last is clearly a reference to salvation through Christ.

God then went on to give some personal promises to Jacob himself, that he would be with him to protect and bless him wherever he went, that he would bring him safely back to the land of Canaan, and that he would not leave him everything was complete. The last part is essentially the same promise he makes to Christians today in Hebrews 13:5-6. “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Both the promise to Jacob and the one to Christians are unconditional, based solely on the faithfulness of God with no stipulations of behavior on the individual’s part.

“And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.” (Genesis 28:16-19)

Notice Jacob’s reaction? “And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place!”? Almost every biblical vision of including Moses, Ezekiel, Daniel, Paul, and John refer to the same sense of fear and awe, and an awareness of their own sinful state. Many today who claim to have had a vision of God describe it totally differently, as a wonderful pleasant experience. Based on Paul’s comments in II Corinthians 11:13-15, I have to wonder if they have not been deceived by Satan, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” Only after we have confessed and been cleansed is meeting God wonderful. The first contact is always frightening.

Jacob then proceeded to set up one of the stones as a pillar and poured olive oil on it as an offering to God calling the place Bethel, “the House of God.” It was called Luz by the Canaanites. It is the same place Abraham built his first altar and worshipped God when he came to the land, and where he built another altar after being driven out of Egypt. It continued to be a place of worship throughout most of the Old testament, reminding them of their Heritage as God‘s chosen people. For the Christian, there should be some places that have a similar meaning.

“And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” (Genesis 28:20-22)

When God made a similar promise to Abraham, Genesis 15:6 declares, “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” Instead of accepting God’s promise by faith, Jacob tried to make a deal. If God would keep his promise, bringing him safely back to Canaan, then Jacob would make him his God and worship him. His failure to trust God completely explains many of the struggles Jacob would go through for the next twenty years, until he finally surrendered. That same lack of trust is one reason there are so many unsaved in churches today. They don’t want to commit themselves until they have received the promises. They are the ones described in Hebrews 6:4-6. Like Jacob, some of them eventually turn to the Lord. Those who turn away never come back.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trying to Rebuild His Relationship With His Parents

Genesis 28:6-9

Imagine a bunch of balloons stuffed into a box. Every time one balloon loses a little air, the pressures and relationships of all the other balloons are affected, although they may not be noticed. If a balloon pops, or another one is added, the effects are more noticeable. Human relationships are much the same way. A change in one affects all the others in some way, although the changes may not be noticed.

Living in constant contact with the Hittites, Esau had been attracted to two of the women and married them. Genesis 26:34-35 describes it. “And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.”

Because his wives didn’t feel comfortable around his parents, Esau probably spent less time with his parents than he otherwise would have. Unfortunately this probably also resulted in some resentment toward his wives. Undoubtedly, there were also tensions between the wives which also strained their relationship with him.

“When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padanaram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan; And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padanaram; And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father; Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham's son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.” (Genesis 28:6-9)

Looking for a way to improve his relationship with his parents, Esau saw how they had sent Jacob away to find a wife they approved. That they specifically charged him not to marry a local girl made it clear that the separation was the result of his marriage choice. Hoping to find a girl his parents would welcome into their home, Esau went down to his uncle Ishmael’s home, and married one of Ishmael’s daughters.

In modern culture, divorce is viewed as acceptable and polygamy is not, but in their culture it was. In the modern world, he would have left his first two wives, and remarried. He would still be required to pay child support and perhaps alimony. The biggest difference between then and now is taking responsibility for their actions.

Conflict with inlaws and friends is a major factor in much of the divorce today. Introducing a new relationship changes all the old ones but may not relieve the tensions. Both parents and children need to learn to consider the effects their actions may have on other people’s lives.

One relationship that is affected but often ignored is that between a person and God. I Peter 3:7 emphasizes the effect of marriage relationships on our relationship with God. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” II Corinthians 7 deals with several aspects of this.