If Abraham was the founder of Israel, Jacob was its father. In the lineage of Israel, Abraham contributed one son: Isaac. He in turn produced one son for the nation of Israel: Jacob. But it was Jacob who produced twelve sons who formed the tribal foundation for the nation of Israel. Further to this, God changed Jacobís name to Israel from which the nation itself bears its name (and is often interchanged with "Jacob" by Biblical writers, for example, Isaiah 10:21; 14:1).
1. We are introduced to Jacob in Genesis 25:26-27. Note why he is called Jacob, And how he differed from his brother:
2. The most significant interaction between young Esau and Jacob, occurs in Genesis 25:29-34. Why is it so significant?
According to Deuteronomy 21:17 the firstborn son received certain exclusive privileges. This included at least twice the inheritance that the other children were to receive. A father could not give his younger more favourite son more than his eldest less-favoured son, because that was a violation of the birthright. In 2Kings 2:9, Elisha asks Elijah for the spiritual equivalent of this since he was like a spiritual son to Elijah. God promises in Isaiah 61:7 that He will give Israel a "double portion" inheritance.
In examining Abraham and Isaac we saw the importance placed upon the blessing of God transferred from Abraham to Isaac. The event where Esau sold his birthright to Jacob needs to be appreciated in relation to the blessing that could passed down from Abraham and Isaac. When Esau "sold" his birthright he forfeited his opportunity to receive the blessing. You might then wonder how it seems that each of Jacobís sons went on to receive a share of the blessing.
3. The answer appears in 1Chronicles 5:1-2. Why was it that Reuben, the firstborn and heir to the blessing, did not receive his inheritance (which included the blessing)?
Thus, Jacob was the recipient of the blessing that passed down from Abraham. The name "Jacob" meant heel catcher, cheater, or deceiver.
4. How do the circumstances that led to Jacob receiving the blessing, reveal that he was well named? (Genesis 27:1-36)
Despite the strange circumstances that led to Jacob receiving the blessing of Abraham, we have almost immediate evidence that God recognised that Jacob was the rightful heir to it (just as had been promised to Rebekah, Genesis 25:23).
5. How do we know that God almost immediately recognised Jacob as the rightful recipient of Abrahamís blessing? (note Genesis 28:12-16)
6. What was Jacobís response to God reiterating the blessing to him? (Genesis 28:20-22)
We note that Jacob was sent away from his family (Gen. 28:1, 5). He didnít run. He didnít need to. He had the blessing of Abraham (Gen. 28:4). But Godís blessing on a person without character strength, can ruin them. The next phase of Jacobís life was spent in being trained to be vessel of honour, a person of strong character. In some respects Jacob began to reap what he had sown for most of his life.
7. What was the first Ďreapingí of deception that Jacob experienced? (Gen. 29:25)
8. Why do think God allowed Jacob to reap in this way?
Someone has said that forgiveness can deal with sin, but even forgiveness canít deal with sinís circumstances. And all sin has circumstances (Num. 32:23).
9. What was the next thing that happened to Jacob, that could be seen as consequences of his prior deception? (Note Genesis 31:6-7)
While all this was happening in Jacobís life, he ended up with four wives. Of all his wives I always feel most sorry for Leah. Laban was right: Jacob was obliged to marry Leah first (Gen. 29:26). Some believe that Godís destiny for Abrahamic blessing was to flow through Leah, the firstborn daughter of Laban, because: God especially took pity on Leah (Gen. 29:31), and listened intently to, and answered, her prayers (Gen. 30:17). They see this also because Leahís offspring experience the blessing of Abraham as tribes (note the destiny of Reuben [Gen. 29:32], Simeon [Gen. 29:33], Levi [Gen. 29:34], Judah [Gen. 29:35], and Issachar [Gen. 30:18]). And when you consider that Christ, the ultimate fulfilment of the Abrahamic blessing, came from the tribe of Judah, it is further reinforced.
SEEDS OF A NATION
With the twelve sons of Jacob, the seeds of the Hebrew nation were place. Not until they are extradited from Egypt do they actually become a nation. There remains one more episode that was to break the old character of Jacob and make him into the person that God wanted him to be.
10. Note the events of Genesis 32:24-31. Who did Jacob wrestle with?
At this point Jacob the trickster has his old character finally broken and changed. He now becomes Israel...one who overcomes with God. Now that he has learnt to battle with God, he can be used. He is reconciled to Esau and is eventually taken down to Egypt and treated as royalty.
11. What lessons can we learn from Jacobís life?
© 2001 Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania