Jacob and Esau struggled to live in covenant faithfulness just as their father Isaac (Gen 26.7-11), and grandfather Abraham (Gen 12.10-20; 20.1-18). However, God’s redemptive plan was never stifled. Genesis 27-29 is framed by a literary inclusio: Jacob, at the prompting of his mother, played the role of trickster and supplanted Esau of the birthright (27.5-40); later Laban, Jacob’s father-in-law, played a trick on Jacob and gave him Leah instead of Rachel (29.13-30). Nonetheless, Jacob showed the persevering spirit of those called to inherit the promise (25.23), and worked seven more years for Rachel. Concerning morals, these chapters of Genesis remind the reader that truthfulness is of utmost importance for godly family relations.
Rebekah was the author of the ruse to advance Jacob’s place in the family:
“Now Rebekah was listening to what Isaac said to his son Esau. So while Esau went to the field to hunt some game to bring in, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, ‘Listen! I heard your father talking with your brother Esau. He said, ‘Bring me some game and make some delicious food for me to eat so that I can bless you in the LORD’s presence before I die.’ Now obey every order I give you, my son. Go to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, and I will make them into a delicious meal for your father—the kind he loves. Then take it to your father to eat so that he may bless you before he dies” (27.5-10).
But as Sarah’s attempt to immorally advance the covenant had severe consequences (cf. 16.5), so too Rebekah’s scam; Esau flew into a rage (27.41-45). In the end Rebekah’s pursuit (i.e. watching Jacob advance in the family) was hindered, and Jacob had to flee for his mother’s homeland simply to survive. Perhaps the ironic tragedy of the scene is that there is no evidence Rebekah would ever see her son again (28.10; 49.31).
Yet even in the midst of this profound darkness, Jacob received affirmation of God’s promises at Bethel. It may be preferable to read the latter half of Genesis 28 as Jacob’s faithful confession to accept the covenant status of God’s call, as opposed to an attempt to barter with God. This interpretation fits more squarely on the grammar of vv. 21-22, where many translations choose to render the final conjunction of v. 21, “then,” and leave untranslated the conjunction that begins v. 22—together leaving the impression that Jacob was haggling with God. It would be grammatically acceptable, perhaps preferable, to translate the final conjunction of v. 21, “and,” while translating the first conjunction of v. 22, “then,” which begins the verse. Verses 21-22 would then read: “and if I return safely to my father’s house, and the LORD will be my God, then this stone that I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give me.” The proposed interpretation more naturally accords the context of Jacob’s confession of faith in Gen 28.10-20. At Bethel Jacob vowed to faithfully walk with the God of his fathers. Gen 28.10-22 may thus be the pinnacle of Jacob’s life to this point in the narrative. The covenant was carrying on despite failures in the covenant partners.
Although the next scene portrays God’s providence of a mate for Jacob (29.1-12), it soon sours with Laban’s scam of the hard working covenant heir (29.13ff). Perhaps God gave Jacob what was necessary in both cases: a mate, and a dose of modesty that would keep him faithful in the covenant. Jacob began to learn his lesson, and here persevered seven more years for Rachel, his love. The LORD showed his faithfulness to Jacob, and by the end of ch 29, Leah had borne him Rueben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah (vv. 31-35).
Jacob’s confession in the latter portion of Genesis 28 introduced a theme that will have great significance for the remainder of the storyline of Scripture—indeed even to Revelation 22. At Bethel Jacob faithfully set up a marker-stone that he hoped would be “God’s house” (v. 22), in accord with the Hebrew translation of “Bethel.” Later Jacob did return to Bethel, where the LORD spoke to him and said: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation, indeed an assembly of nations, will come from you, and kings will descend from you. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you. And I will give the land to your descendants after you” (Gen 35.11-12). Throughout the Old Testament, the place of God’s dwelling was no small matter; He resided in a special way in the tabernacle (Exodus 40), and Solomon’s temple (2 Chronicles 5). But with the coming of Messiah there was a shift in the locus of “God’s house;” no longer is the place of God’s dwelling concerned so much with a geographical locale, but in the Person of Jesus Christ, and His followers:
- The person of Christ. The apostle John records that during a certain Jewish Passover celebration Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the court of Gentiles, and said: “Get these things out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!” (John 2.16). When asked for a sign of His authority to say and do such things, Jesus said that if His opponents destroyed the sanctuary He would raise it up in three days; John provided the interpretation: “But He was speaking about the sanctuary of His body” (v. 21). During Jesus’ time on earth, He was the presence of God with men; “In the beginning was the Word,” John wrote, “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1.1, 14). Matthew noted that the events of Jesus’ birth took place in accord with the prophecy of Isaiah, “See the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel,” which he said is translated, “God with us” (1.23; cf. Isa 7.14)
- The people of Christ. To the Corinthians Paul wrote: “We are the sanctuary of the living God, as God said: ‘I will dwell among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people” (2 Cor 6.16). Paul told the Ephesians (mainly Gentiles): “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. The whole building is being fitted together in Him and is growing into a holy sanctuary in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit” (Eph 3.19-22). Paul said that his purpose in writing to Timothy was that “you will know how people ought to act in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim 3.15). In the vision of the new creation the apostle John “heard a loud voice from the throne (saying): ‘Look! God’s dwelling is with men, and he will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev 21.3)
*For a complete list of references, please see scripturestoryline.com