The previous chapters of Genesis further illuminate God’s faithfulness to the Abrahamic covenant, and these follow in the same vein. Specifically, Genesis 30-33 seeks to explain some of the initial fulfillment of the ‘lineage’ promise in the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 12.1-3; 15.1-6)—despite continued threats against the covenant family. Jacob’s place in the covenant family endured the perils of both Laban and Esau—and with such veracity that Genesis 33 concludes with Jacob and his lineage enjoying the land of promise (33.19)!
If one can get over the sibling rivalry between Leah and Rachel, the latter portion of Genesis 29 and the initial developments of ch 30 provide the reader with an expansive picture of the covenant family. The text emphasizes God’s sovereignty over the fertility of both sisters, recalling the initial barrenness of Sarah and the miraculous birth of Isaac (18.9-15; 21.1-7). God would not allow His people to enjoy the covenant blessing of procreation apart from continual reminders that He alone opens the womb.
But Genesis 30 relates more than an increase in lineage; under Jacob’s care even Laban’s livestock prospered (v. 27)! The balance of ch 30 and the preliminary scene in ch 31 explain how God worked through Laban’s greed to provide Jacob and his clan with enough plunder to live and thrive as an independent family. After Jacob had grown wealthy, and Laban’s sons began to view the patriarch as a threat, God called him and his family to return to the Promised Land (31.1-3).
Despite confessing God’s providence over Jacob’s abundance, Rachel faltered in allegiance to the God of the covenant, choosing to adopt Laban’s family idols into her religious practices (31.19). When Laban set out after his son-in-law, God warned him in a dream not to harm Jacob, the heir of promise (31.22-24). While Jacob and Laban made a covenant to ‘live-and-let-live,’ Jacob’s lack of trust in his father-in-law can be deduced from the tone of Gen 31.49: “May the LORD watch out between you and me when we are out of each other’s sight.”
Genesis 30-32 details how the covenant survived—even thrived—in the midst of threats and family strain. While this had been the case even in Jacob’s servitude of Laban, he had yet to face what may have been considered the greatest obstacle to God’s promises: his brother Esau. The previous encounter between the brothers was so severe that Jacob’s parents sent him away simply to ensure his survival (Gen 27.41-28.9). Though blind and aged and deceived, Isaac spoke prophetic words to Jacob: “Be master over your brothers; may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Those who curse you will be cursed, and those who bless you will be blessed” (27.29). Perhaps these words were Jacob’s meditation as he marched back toward the land of promise, knowing that his brother may be awaiting his arrival.
God, ever quick to remind His people of covenant faithfulness, met with Jacob at the ford of Jabbok (Gen 32.24-32). There Jacob’s persistence with God was rewarded with weakness so that he, now called Israel, would be reminded that his life was in God’s hands—even if the encounter with his brother would get physical. As is commonly the case with the fears of the elect, the threat of Esau proved to be no real cause for alarm. The brothers met, and Esau displayed a magnanimous spirit to his younger brother.
In a panoramic view of the lives of Jacob and Esau to this point in the flow of Genesis it becomes clear that things have turned out just as Isaac had predicted in ch 27. Although Isaac was blind, he was not ultimately fooled by Jacob (and Rebekah’s) trickery; Jacob became a great force and his life gave evidence of the covenant blessings (27.27-29), while Esau had broken free of his brother’s fetters (27.39-40). These episodes of Genesis get attention later in the storyline of Scripture. According to the author to the Hebrews, Isaac made these predictions by faith: “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” (Heb 11.20). That is, even though Isaac was blind, he acted in a faithful manner and ultimately trusted God to work it out such that His earlier word to Rebekah, “Two nations are in your womb; two people will come from you and be separated. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger” (25. 23), would come to pass. For the author to the Hebrews the point of this—indeed all of the events listed in Hebrews 11—was that of the lesser to the greater; if blind Isaac could act in a faithful manner and trust God in the blessing of Jacob and Esau, could not we—who live with the profound insight of God’s faithfulness in Christ—trust Him to help us endure our Christian difficulties? Perhaps it is the case that because of your identification with Christ things aren’t going as well as you’d like at work, at home, or even in your church. God knows your situation; even if someone is scheming or lying, be faithful to Christ—and God will help you to endure.
*For a complete list of references, please see scripturestoryline.com