top Jacob #3 Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Learning From The Life Of Jacob
A Study Of The Life Of Jacob #3
This is a continuation of a study of the life of Jacob. In Study #1 we had an introduction to Jacob, his birth and God-given birthright. In Study #2 Jacob obtains the birthright, and had to flee to Haran from the wrath of Esau. He see in a dream a ladder that reached to heaven, meets Rachel and falls in love with her.
The experiences of the Saints and Bible Characters, both Godly, and ungodly, are useful guide-posts on the Heavenly Road. They help by counsel, caution, inspiration, comfort, and warning. A wise traveler will not despise any of them, but will listen, and watch, and learn from them.
If a traveler is about to cross South America from West to East, he will not fail to ask what were the fortunes and experiences of those who have already made that perilous journey.
He would avail himself of maps they composed, learn what streams to expect, what was the climate, how difficult the mountains, the jungle, the reptiles, the animals and people, he will come across. He would ask, are there any roads or trails to follow?
He will learn from their mistakes and their sufferings what to avoid. He will learn from their successes how far he should tread in their footsteps. The journey is not as difficult now as it was to the First Adventurer.
A similar thing is this of our Heavenly Journey. Others have passed this way before us, and now we are indebted to them for the record of their different and numerous experiences.
They tell us how they climbed The Hill Of Difficulty.
They tell us how they were overtaken by the foe unwarily.
They tell us how they fought, and by what method they conquered.
They tell us how at times Spiritual Drowsiness crept over them.
They tell us how they bemoaned their folly;
They tell us how they aroused themselves afresh and journeyed on.
Through their experiences we discover that these imperfections are not peculiar to ourselves.
We see also the ones who went astray.
We see those who gave up in time of difficulty.
We see those who fought against God and against His People.
But above all, those who won the victory over all odds and are enrolled in Heaven’s Hall Of Fame, mentioned in Hebrews Chapter 11.
In this lesson we want to discuss one of my favorite Bible Characters, Jacob. I have heard Jacob maligned, yea assassinated, by so many preachers and teachers that I thought it good to bring something good about Him to our attention.
After all, Jesus said that one day we would get to sit down with Him in the Kingdom Of Heaven (Matthew 8:11). I want to speak well of Him so that I will not be embarrassed when that great day comes. There are those who have spoken so harsh and unsympathetic of Him that they may need to apologize to Him. After all, the whole Bible story turns round him and his family (the Children of Israel) after Genesis 28. Everything after this point is about Jacob’s family.
~~~~~~~~~~ Contents ~~~~~~~~~~~
1. The birth of a nation
2. The 11 sons born to Jacob
3. Jacob asks Laban to Let Him Go
4. Laban's selfish hinderance to Jacob
5. Seven more years of working for Laban
6. Jacob's craft verses Laban's greed
7. God's explicit order for Jacob to return home
8. Stolen God's
9. Jacob steals away from Laban
10. Laban's hostile pursuit of Jacob
11. Jacob and Laban cut their bonds
12. God's welcoming host
13. Jacob prepares to meet Esau
14. Jacob's strategy in time of distress
15. Jacob's prayer
16. Jacob sends a present to Esau.
1. The Birth Of A Nation
The next fourteen years were possibly the grandest period of time in the history of Israel. It was during that period of time that eleven boys were born who were to become the fathers of the tribes of Israel. Another boy would be added later, but it was during the servitude of Jacob to Laban for Rachel that the nation of Israel was born.
Genesis 29:31. And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.
We should not think that Leah was hated in the sense of being regarded with aversion. The numerous family she bore to Jacob proves that Leah was not treated with friction or hostility, although she occupied a lower place than Rachel in Jacob’s affection is explicitly declared. Yet Jacob was not cold and indifferent towards her.
This preference of Rachel to Leah was natural to Jacob. Rachel had been his heart’s choice from the first, while Leah had been thrust upon Him against his predisposition. But even had this been otherwise, as no man can serve two masters, so can no man love two wives equally—an argument against polygamy.
Leah entertained towards Jacob an affection strong and tender, she yearned for a larger share of his esteem, and at each successive child’s birth gave utterance to a hope that he would yet be joined to her (Genesis 29:32, 33, 34, 35). No heavier blow can be dealt by a husband to the tender heart of a loving wife than to withdraw from her his love, or even be cold and indifferent in its expression.
Though not so beautiful as Rachel, Leah was entitled to an equal share with her of Jacob’s affection. Equally with Rachel she was Jacob’s wife. Though not the wife of his choice there is reason for believing that Leah, rather than Rachel, was the bride God had chosen (she was the mother of most of his children, and the ancestress of our Lord through Judah); Hence Jacob was doubly bound to love Leah equally with Rachel.
It is God that gives the children, as Eve’s son was from the Lord (Genesis 4:1), and Jehovah visited Sarah (Genesis 21:1), and was entreated for Rebekah (Genesis 25:21), so here He again intervenes in connection with the onward development of the Holy Family.
Genesis 29:32. 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.
33. 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.
34. 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.
35. 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. (only temporarily)
Probably in the fourth year of their marriage, and in Jacob’s eighty-eighth year of age, he having been seventy-seven when he arrived in Haran, and eighty-four when he was united to Laban’s daughters, four sons were born to Leah.
Genesis 30. In this chapter we have an account of the increase, of Jacob's family, and of Jacob's estate.
Genesis 30:1. 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.
2. 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?
In this we see the envy and frustration which had built up in Rachel. She seems to have forgotten that children are given by God. Jacob rebukes her sharply when she confronts him with her lack of fertility.
The next several verses (Genesis 30:3-24) we see the competition between the two sisters in giving their maids and themselves in various ways in order to have children.
The complete list of Jacob’s sons is as follows:
The sons born to Leah: (6)
1. Reuben—(see, a son) (Genesis 29:32)
2. Simeon—(hearing) (Genesis 29:33)
3. Levi—(joined) (Genesis 29:34) from whom comes the priesthood.
4. Judah—(praise) (Genesis 29:35) from whom comes the royal line, even Christ.
5. Issachar—(hire) (Genesis 30:18)
6. Zebulun—(dwelling) (Genesis 30:20)
The sons born to Bilhah, the handmaid of Rachel: (2)
7. Dan—(judge) (Genesis 30:6)
8. Naphtali—(wrestling) (Genesis 30:8)
The Sons Born To Zilpah, handmaid of Leah: (2)
9. Gad—(a troop or good fortune) (Genesis 30:11)
10. Asher—(happy) (Genesis 30:13)
The sons born to Rachel: (2)
11. Joseph—(adding) (Genesis 30:24)
12. Benjamin—(son of the right hand) (Genesis 35:18)
We do know that there was at least one daughter, Dinah, born to Leah.
There could have possibly been more than one.
All these, except Benjamin, were born in a seven year period of time.
Another complete list can be found in Genesis 35:22-26.
The Birth Of Joseph:
Genesis 30:22. And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.
23. And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach:
24. And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son.
At long last (nearly seven years) God gave Rachel a son whom she called Joseph. Joseph was a type of Him (Christ) who, though He was sent after many Prophets and long tarrying, was greater than all his brethren. Joseph, though born next to last, would be a savior for the whole family.
Jacob’s Respectful Request Of Laban:
Genesis 30:25. 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.
26. 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.
Soon after the birth of Joseph, and at the end of the second term of seven years of exacting service to his uncle Laban, Jacob was ready to leave and return to his own place in his own country, Canaan. Indeed, God had promised to bring him back to his homeland. (Genesis 28:4, 15)
Jacob realized that the blessing of his father (Genesis 28:4), and the promise of Almighty God (Genesis 28:13-15), was that he and his seed would be settled in that land and that it would be fulfilled in due time.
Jacob approached Laban and asked permission of Laban to leave Haran with his wives and children. We must note at this time that, after fourteen years of labor and service for Laban, Jacob did not own any thing he could call his own, save his two wives and eleven children.
Jacob did not ask Laban for any part of the flocks he had cared for so well. All he asked for were his wives and children. He came with nothing (Genesis 32:10), he was willing to leave with nothing, trusting God to supply his needs.
Since Genesis 29:16 speaks only of Laban’s daughters during Jacob’s visit, Laban probably did not have a son at the time. Therefore he adopted Jacob as his son and principal heir. The code of Hammurabi attests that this was a common practice in the ancient Middle East.
As the principal heir, Jacob, and his family, was regarded as a part of Laban’s household. But in the intervening years, Laban had fathered sons who would threaten Jacob’s status in the family (Genesis 31:1). Hence he asked Laban to let him go.
Laban’s Selfish Hindrances Of Jacob:
Genesis 30:27. 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.
28. And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it.
Notice What Laban Said. “I have learned by experience…” Laban had taken note of the blessing that the God of Jacob had brought upon him and his family by the coming of Jacob, both naturally and spiritually.
God had promised to bless others through Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 12:2, 3). Now, God blessed Laban through Jacob, and later he would bless an Egyptian household through Joseph, his son (Genesis 39:5).
Few people we ever knew or read about worked as hard as Jacob did during the twenty years he was in Haran, even though he was seventy-seven when he arrived and was now ninety-one.
Jacob Strikes A New Bargain With Laban: (Genesis 30: 25-34)
In the six years further service he did for Laban, God wonderfully blessed Jacob, so that his own flocks became very considerable (Genesis 30: 35-43), and herein was fulfilled the blessing which Isaac dismissed him with.
“And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;” (Genesis28:3)
Jacob’s Craft Versus Laban’s Greed:
Jacob agreed to serve a third term with Laban on condition of receiving all the speckled and spotted, ringstaked and brown, animals that Laban’s flocks might produce, after all these sort had been removed from the present herds.
The proposal of such a strange bargain by Jacob, as these types of animals were unusual, or out of the ordinary, was an act, not of folly, but of faith, committing his cause to the Lord God. Remember that “it is God who gives the increase.”
Later (Genesis 31:10-13) Jacob revealed to his wives, Rachel and Leah, the dream in which God revealed the plan to him. Before we chastise Jacob for using devious methods to acquire Laban’s cattle we need to look at all of the facts.
Genesis 31:5b. “but the God of my father hath been with me.
6. And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.
7. And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.
8. If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstraked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstraked.
9. Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.
10. 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 ringstraked, speckled, and grisled.
11. And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I.
12. And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstraked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee.
13. 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.
The acceptance of the proposal on the part of Laban was a display of greed, no doubt gleefully rejoicing about Jacob’s stupidity. The bygone years of prosperity had both awakened in the soul of Laban the insatiable demon of avarice and extinguished any spark of kindly feeling towards Jacob that may have existed in his breast.
Genesis 31:8. Speckled … Streaked: Apparently, Laban kept on switching the deal as he watched the births of a variety of colored animals (Genesis 31:36-41). But with every new deal, God always increased Jacob’s herd.
The methods that Jacob used, other than using the stronger animals in the scheme, has no basics in scientific breeding. So the extraordinary rapidity with which brown and speckled animals were produced appears to point to the intervention of a special act of God Himself on Jacob’s behalf.
Genesis 30:43. And the man (Jacob) increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.
In spite of Laban’s avarice, eventually Jacob’s craft, with God’s blessings, eclipsed him in possessions of flocks and herds. We see in this the advantage of having God on our side in all our bargains, especially when dealing with the selfish and mean-spirited. Yet these blessings brought strife with Laban’s household.
Laban’s Displeasure Displayed:
Genesis 31:1. 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.
2. And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before.
It is a sad day when we look on the facial expressions of those we have deemed our friends and see the subtle frown or scowl come on their face when addressing us or meeting us. We know that something has happened to cause a coolness to come over them toward us. Through Laban’s angry countenance the greatest blessing his family ever had was lost, and justly.
Note, envy is a sin that often appears in the countenance; Hence we read of “An evil eye” (Proverbs 23:6). Sour looks may do a great deal towards the ruin of peace and love in a family, and the making of those uneasy of whose comfort we ought to be tender.
During the fourteen years that Jacob kept the flocks for Rachel and Leah, Laban regarded him with evident satisfaction; not perhaps for his own sake, but for the unprecedented increase in his (Laban’s) wealth of flocks and herds which had taken place under Jacob’s supervision. He was even disposed to be somewhat pious so long as the flocks and herds continued multiplying.
But now, when at the end of six more years the relative positions of himself and Jacob are reversed, and Jacob is the rich man and he (Laban), comparatively speaking at least, is the poor one, not only does his piety towards God disappear, but his civility towards Jacob does not remain.
Jacob had now served twenty years with Laban, and must accordingly have been in his ninety-seventh year, and Laban must have been one-hundred-sixty years old.
Laban’s Son’s Complaint:
We can rightly suppose that these young boys, who were probably no more than fourteen years old, were only echoing what they had heard at home. And early in their life they were developing the same attitude of greed and covetousness which we have seen manifested in the life of their father Laban. And they were filled with envy at the remarkable prosperity which Jacob and his family had enjoyed the past six years.
In what Jacob did there was nothing fraudulent that may be inferred. The fact that he acted under divine approval (Genesis 31:9-12), and made use of nothing but the superior knowledge of the habits of animals which he had acquired through his long experience in keeping sheep and goats. In no wise can we, or they, Laban’s sons, say rightly, that Jacob was guilty of dishonesty.
From wicked thoughts came evil words, not only accusing Jacob in their minds, but openly vilifying him with their tongues, adding to the sin of private slander that of public defamation—conduct which the word of God severely reprehends. (Proverbs 30:10; 1 Corinthians 6:10; Titus 3:2; James 4:11)
A note of caution to all preachers, teachers, Bible commentators, we too may be held accountable for vilifying some of these great Bible characters, even though they lived many years ago, God still takes note of them and will rise to their defense.
Jacob heard himself the stinging words of Laban’s sons, and saw the scowl on Laban’s face as he turned a cold shoulder towards him, and Jacob was hurt by these accusations. But God also saw, and heard, and acted.
God’s Explicit Order For Jacob To Return Home:
Though Jacob had met with very hard usage here, yet he would not quit his place till God bade him. He came here by orders from Heaven, and there he would stay till he was ordered back.
Genesis 31:3. And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.
How the Lord spoke to Jacob is not revealed, possibly a dream, a vision, or a voice from Heaven, but Jacob recognized the voice. Jehovah reiterate the promise he had made to him at Bethel twenty years earlier to bring him back again to Canaan (Genesis 28:15), and now issues formal instructions for His servant to return.
I have found that God orders the footsteps of all His children if they will listen closely.
Jacob was a very honest and good man, a man of great devotion to his family and to his God, and integrity, yet he had more trouble and vexation than any of the Patriarchs. He left his father’s house in a fright, went to his uncle’s home in distress, very hard usage he met with there, and now is going back surrounded with fears.
Here is his resolution to return. The old longing for home, and the promise of God’s protection of him, moved Jacob to call his wives and reveal to them the feelings of his heart. At a time in history when men ruled their households it was unusual for them to consult their wives before making a move. This shows Jacob’s tender concern for his family.
The Conference In The Field:
Genesis 31:4. And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock,
5. 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.
6. And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.
7. And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.
8. 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.
9. Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.
10. 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.
11. And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I.
Note: The positive meaning of the name Jacob (Genesis 31:11) is used for the first time by Jehovah. I am enclosing the following explanation of what I mean.
In Genesis 31:11. the Angel of God may be translated The Angel of Genuine Deity. (A Theophany) the way God revealed Himself in Jacob’s dream (See Genesis 28:13–17; 32:22–30).
“Jacob:” Here (Genesis 31:11), God used the positive meaning of the name Jacob “He (The Lord) Supplants.”
For the negative sense, see Genesis 25:26; 27:36. In the past, Jacob (“He who supplants”) had achieved what he wanted by deceit and trickery. Now he had achieved great wealth because of God’s blessing.
The Lord is the Great Supplanter! Although Jacob’s name was later changed to Israel (A Prince Of God) (Genesis 32:28), The name Jacob continued to be used as a term indicating God’s work in Jacob’s life. (Genesis 46:2; Psalms 114:7)
Jacob Explained To His Wives God’s Voice To Him:
Genesis 31:12. And he (The Lord) 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.
13. 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.
In these verses we are informed of the way Laban had changed the color of the cattle and sheep several times, that he wanted to keep. And we also see how Laban had treated Jacob, had God not intervened Laban would possibly have done bodily harm to him (Genesis 31:29).
Also here Jacob reveals to his wives that God was behind his success in accumulating the large herds of cattle and sheep. Jacob reveals the dream in which God told him to return to his country. This is the third time that Jehovah had appeared to him.
It would be good for us to take note of these interesting facts when we are tempted to berate Jacob in his dealings with Laban. God appeared to Jacob a total of Eight Times that we have record of. Only Abraham and Moses, and possibly Elijah had more personal dealings with God in the Old Testament Record.
Rachel And Leah Agree To Leave:
Genesis 31:14. And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house?
15. Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.
16. 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.
Rachel and Leah agreed that it was proper to leave their father’s home, despite the cultural ties that ordinarily would have kept them there (Genesis 30:26).The births of sons to their father Laban may have displaced their inheritance (Genesis 31:1).
Both daughters resented the way their father had sold them (Genesis 29:15). Furthermore, they argued that whatever God had taken from their father belonged to them anyway. They recognized the hand of Jehovah in Jacob’s unusual prosperity. “Now whatsoever God (Jehovah God) said unto thee, do it” (Genesis 29:16b).
This speaks badly of Laban that his daughters would rise in protest of his heartless cruelty and his insatiable greed. It is clear that they were equally prepared to sever all relationship with their father Laban. They were willing to go along with their husband (Jacob), and put themselves with him under the divine direction.
What a moment in the history of the world. Rachel and Leah could not have fathomed the depths of their decision. It would lead to the creation of a new Nation under the direction and protection of Almighty God, a Nation that would live to create new laws and standards of living for almost all the human race, a nation that would produce a Savior (Jesus Christ) to deliver men from their sins. That decision was one of the deciding factors in Jewish, should I say world, history.
Jacob Was Not Disobedient To The Heavenly Vision:
Jacob Hastily Departs Unaware To Laban:
Genesis 31:17. Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels;
18. 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 Padan-aram, for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan.
This action is expressive of the vigor and eagerness which has been associated with the entire life of Jacob. His haste in rolling the stone from the mouth of the well so that Rachel could water her flock (Genesis 29:10). Few people we ever knew or read about worked as hard and diligently as Jacob did during the twenty years he was in Haran.
Since neither the wives, nor the children, the oldest not more than thirteen, were able to undertake a journey to Canaan on foot, which is about 500 miles through very harsh country, he set them on camels. Camels were the best mode of transportation for desert travel, and owning them is another indication of the wealth Jacob had obtained while in Pandan-aram.
Genesis 31:19. And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's.
20. And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled.
21. 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.
The first opportunity that offered itself Jacob laid hold of, it was when Laban was shearing his sheep, that part of his flock which was in the hands of his sons, three days journey off. In this Laban would probably be detained several days. The time of shearing sheep being a festive occasion usually lasting a week or more.
It is certain that it was lawful for Jacob to leave his service suddenly, without giving any hint or warning. It was not only justified by the particular instructions God gave him, but warranted by the fundamental law of self-preservation, which directs us, when we are in danger, to move for our own safety, as far as we can do it without wronging our consciences.
It was his common sense to steal away unawares to Laban, lest, if Laban had known, he would have hindered him or plundered him.
Jacob took what God had given him, and was content with that, and would not take the restitution of his damages into his own hands. Yet Rachel was not so honest as her husband; She stole her father’s images (Genesis 31:19), unknown by Jacob, and carried them away with her. The Hebrew calls them “Teraphim.”
What Were They?
Some think they were only little representations of the ancestors of the family, in statues or pictures, which Rachel had a particular fondness for, and was desirous to have with her, now that she was going into another country, and would never see them again. Others rather seem to think that they were images for a religious use, “Penates,” or “personal household-gods,” either worshipped or consulted as oracles.
This is the first direct mention of images in connection with worship in the Bible, though tradition speaks of Te-rah, Abraham’s father, as an Idolater (Joshua 24:2). Laban calls them his “gods” (Genesis 31:30), yet his family knew the Lord God (Jehovah). His use of them shows the deterioration of true worship in his life.
The use of these images started, not as intentional rebellion against God, but rather as a help to worship Him. It was an error later forbidden in the second commandment. (Exodus 20:4) These gods had become a snare in Laban’s life.
Let us look at the effects of this on the moral character and spiritual life of Laban. As we compare him in Genesis 24 with how he now appears n Genesis 31. There (Genesis 24) he is hospitable, frank, and liberal with Abraham’s servant; Here (Genesis 31) he is sordid, ungenerous, deceitful even to his own nephew. There, Genesis 24:50, 51, he acknowledges the Lord as guide of actions; Here he speaks of “The God of Your Father” (Genesis 31:29), and of “my gods.” (Genesis 31:30)
The love of wealth had made God no longer first in his thoughts (Psalms 10:4; Philippians 3:19). Thus worship became a thing of times and seasons, a thing separate from daily life, and therefore possessing no influence on daily life.
The Lesson For Our Times:
The second commandment meets a real danger in every age—of leaning on “Secondary Means” as necessary in religious service.
Teraphims no longer tempts us. But amid the whirl of active life, the danger of leaning too much on outward impressions for spiritual life; of cultivating emotions in place of spiritual earnestness (Psalms 130:6; Matthew 11:12); of putting religious service, or work, in place of walk with God; of having to have the right tempo in the music before we feel the spirit of worship; can becomes teraphim in many lives.
In Defense Of Rachel:
In this culture, possession of the household idols was the right of the principal heir. Rachel probably did not steal the idols in order to worship them, but to retain the rights of the principal heir for Jacob. Ultimately, the Lord’s blessing on Jacob was more important for him than any rights derived from being Laban’s principal heir. (They were later buried when he returned to Bethel. Genesis 35:2-4)
Laban’s Hostile Pursuit Of Jacob:
Jacob was a very honest and good Man, a man of great devotion and integrity, yet he had more trouble and vexation than any of the Patriarchs. He left his father’s house in fright, went to his uncle’s in distress, very hard usage he met with there, and now he is going back surrounded with fears. His father-in-law pursuing, his brother Esau is waiting ahead. No wonder he told Pharaoh, “few and evil have the days of my life been, (Genesis 47:9)
Genesis 31:22. And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled.
23. And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days’ journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.
News was brought to Laban, on the third day, that Jacob had fled; he immediately raises the whole clan, takes his brethren, that is, the relatives of his family, and pursues Jacob (as Pharaoh and his army afterwards pursued the seed of Jacob) to bring him back into bondage again, or with design to strip him of what he had. Seven days journey he rushed in pursuit of Jacob.
The distance between Padan-aram and Mount Gilead was a little over 300 miles, which must have taken Jacob and his host several days, quite a feat to say the least with all the host of sheep and cattle.
Though Laban, who was less encumbered than his son-in-law, accomplished it in seven days, which might easily be done by traveling from 40 to 45 miles a day, by no means a great feat for a camel. I’m sure the trail left by the host of Jacob’s flock would have been easy to follow.
Laban Under Divine Restraint:
The night before the fugitives were overtaken Laban had a celestial visitation. Laban, during his seven days of pursuit, had been full of rage against Jacob, and was now full of hopes that his vehemence should be satisfied upon him. But God came to him, and with one sentence ties his hands, though he does not turn his heart.
Genesis 31:24. 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.
Let us read from the song of Moses, when, 400 years later, Pharaoh and his army were in pursuit of Jacob’s descendants.
Exodus 15:9. The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.
10. Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.
God sometimes appears wonderfully for the deliverance of His people when they are upon the very brink of destruction. (Esther 9)
Genesis 31:25. Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead.
26. 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?
27. 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?
28. And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.
Laban accuses Jacob that as a renegade that he had unjustly deserted his service, and represented Jacob as a criminal. He will have it thought that he intended kindness to his daughters (Genesis 31:27, 28), and that he would have dismissed them with all the marks of love and honor that could be, and that he would have made a solemn business of it. And would have liked to kiss his little grandchildren (and that was all he would have given them), and would have sent them away with mirth, and with songs, with Tabret, and with Harp.
Laban likewise suggests that Jacob had some bad design in stealing away thus (Genesis 31:26), that he took his wives away as captives. He suggested that Jacob acted like a fool.
Genesis 31:29. 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.
Laban boasts of his own power, as the Roman governor did 1700 years later (John 19:10-11): “It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt.” He supposes that he had both right, and might on his side, either to avenge the wrong or recover the right.
Bad people commonly value themselves much upon their power to do hurt, whereas a power to do good is much more valuable.
And yet, Laban admits himself under the check and restraint of Jacob’s God’s Power; and, though it works out much to the welfare and comfort of Jacob, he cannot help telling him the warning God had given him the night before in a dream.
Genesis 31:30. And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?
Laban calls Jacob a fool (v.28), now he calls him a thief, and Laban accuses Jacob of stealing his gods. But let see who the fool is. Foolish man, Laban! To call those his gods that could be stolen!
Could he expect protection from those that could neither resist nor detect their danger? Happy are those who have the Lord for their God, for they have a God that they cannot be robbed of. Enemies may steal our goods, but not our God.
Laban had probably gone to consult his gods before he set out to apprehend Jacob and so discovered their loss. The loss of Laban’s manufactured gods is a ridiculous commentary on the folly of worshipping or trusting in a god that could be stolen.
JACOB RESPONDS PASSIONATELY TO LABAN, YET TOO HASTILY:
Genesis 31:31. And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me.
Those that commit their cause to God are not forbidden to plead it themselves with meekness and fear. As to the charge of stealing away his own wives he clears himself by giving the true reason why he went away unknown to Laban. He feared lest Laban would by force take away his daughters, and so obligate him, by the bond of his affection to his wives, to continue in his service.
We know that the scripture makes it plain to us that Jacob’s wives went willingly with him when he told them that the Lord had told him to return to the land of his kindred. (Genesis 31:14-16)
If Laban deceived Jacob in his wages, it is likely he will make no conscience of robbing him of his wives, and put asunder whom God has joined together. What may not be feared from men who have no principle of honesty?
Genesis 31:32. (Jacob to Laban) 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.
As to the charge of stealing Laban’s gods Jacob pleads not guilty. He not only did not take them himself (he had no need of them), but he did not know that they were taken. Yet perhaps he spoke too hastily and inconsiderately when he said, "Whoever had taken them, let him not live;’’
Upon this statement he might meditate with some bitterness when, not long after, Rachel who had taken them died suddenly in travail. (Genesis 35:16-20)
Searching For Missing Gods:
Genesis 31:33. 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.
“He Found Then Not.” Invited by Jacob to make a search for his lost gods, Laban begins with Jacob’s tent, running his hands over and feeling of everything, then into the tents of Leah and the handmaids, Bilhah and Zilpah, after which he passes into Leah’s, and finally comes to Rachel’s; but everywhere his efforts to recover his gods is fruitless.
What a spectacle of infinite humor, if it were not rather of untold sadness — man seeking for his lost gods! The Gospel presents us with the opposite picture —the ever-present God seeking for his lost children.
Genesis 31:34. 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. 35. 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.
We do not find that he searched Jacob’s flocks for stolen cattle; but he searched his furniture for stolen gods. He was of Micah’s mind, “You have taken away my gods, and what have I more?” (Judges 18 & 20:24).
Were the worshippers of false gods so set upon their idols? Did they thus walk in the name of their gods? And shall not we be as anxious or concerned in our enquires after the true God? When he has justly departed from us, how carefully should we ask, “Where is God my Maker? O that I knew where I might find him!” Job 23:3.
Laban, after all his searches, missed of finding his gods, and was baffled in his enquiry with a sham; but our God will not only by found of those that seek him, but they shall find him their bountiful rewarder.
Genesis 31:36 “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?
Jacob’s natural temper was mild and calm, and grace had improved it; he was a smooth man, and a plain man; and yet Laban’s unreasonable charges towards him put him into a heat that transported him into some vehemence. It is a very great affront to one that bears an honest mind to be charged with dishonesty, and yet even this we must learn to bear with patience, committing our cause to God.
So few are the instances that are recorded for our benefit do we find that any of the Patriarchs letting their inner feelings come out in defense of themselves. This is a rare instance in Jacob.
But Jacob had a good conscience. This was Jacob’s rejoicing, that when Laban accused him his own conscience acquitted him, and witnessed for him that he had been in all things willing and careful to live honestly.
Jacob Defends His Honesty:
Genesis 31:37. “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.
38. 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.
39. 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.
40. Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.
41. 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.
42 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.
Laban had been a hard taskmaster beginning with the way he deceived Jacob in causing him to serve fourteen years for his wives and changing his wages multiple times.
In Jacob we see the character of a good servant, and particularly of a faithful shepherd. Jacob had approved himself such a one, v. 38–40. He was very careful, so that, through his oversight or neglect, the ewes did not cast their young. His piety also procured a blessing upon his master’s effects that were under his hands.
Servants should take no less care of what they are entrusted with for their masters than if they were entitled to it as their own. He was very honest, and took none of that for his own eating which was not allowed him. He contented himself with meager fare, and coveted not to feast upon the rams of the flock. He was very laborious, v. 40. He stuck to his business, in all kinds of weather; and bore both heat and cold with invincible patience.
Jacob is here an example to ministers; they also are shepherds, of whom it is required that they be true to their trust and willing to take pains with their flock, willing to go the second mile if necessary.
The Eyes Of The Lord Are Always Watching Over His Own:
God took note of the wrong done to Jacob, and repaid him whom Laban would otherwise have sent away empty, and rebuked Laban, who otherwise would have swallowed him up. God is the benefactor of the oppressed; and those who are wronged and yet not ruined, cast down and yet not destroyed, must acknowledge him in their preservation and give him the glory of it.
Here Jacob speaks of his guardianship, and preservation by the God of his father Isaac, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, for Abraham was dead, and had gone to that world where perfect love casts out fear; but Isaac was yet alive, sanctifying the Lord in his heart, as his fear and his dread.
Jacob Pours Out His Wrath Upon Laban:
It was now Jacob’s turn to pour out the vials of his wrath upon Laban, and certainly it burned all the hotter because of its previous suppression.
1. He upbraids Laban with the unreasonableness of his persecution. (ver. 36)
2. He taunts Laban with the fruitlessness of his search. (ver. 37)
3. He reminds Laban of the faithful service he had given for twenty years. (vers. 38-41)
4. He recalls the crafty attempts to defraud him of which Laban had been guilty. (ver. 41)
5. He assures Laban that it was God’s gracious care, and neither his honesty nor affection, that had prevented him from being that day a poor man instead of a rich emir. (ver. 42)
6. He somewhat fiercely bids Laban accept the rebuke which God had addressed to him the previous night.
Laban’s Wrath Is Suddenly Abated:
Genesis 31:43: “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?
44. Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.”
Doubtless much to Jacob’s surprise, the wrath of Laban all at once subsided, and a proposal came from him to bury past animosities, to strike a covenant of friendship with one another, and to part in peace. The seven days journey, affording time for reflection; the Divine interposition, inspiring him with fear; the mortification resulting from his fruitless search, convincing him that he had really overstepped the bounds of moderation in accusing Jacob; the voice of conscience within his breast re-echoing the words of Jacob, and declaring them to be true; and perhaps the sight of his daughters at last touching a chord in the old man’s heart; — all these may have contributed to this unexpected collapse in Laban; but whether or not these took place, Jacob, cordially agreed to the proposition.
Genesis 31:45. “And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.”
THE PILLAR OF REMEMBRANCE:
The erection of the stone slab appears to have been the act of Jacob alone, and to have been designed to commemorate the important transaction about to be entered into with Laban. It is well to keep note of those engagements we make with our fellow-men in order to their punctual fulfillment; much more of those we make with God. It does not appear that any name was given to the column, and this may have been because it was intended chiefly for himself.
Genesis 31:46. “And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.
47. And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed.”
THE PILE OF WITNESS:
This was the work both of Laban and Jacob, which they conjointly performed through the instrumentality of their brethren; and being of the nature of a public monument, it was further characterized by a name — Laban calling it Jegar-sahadutha, and Jacob calling it Galeed, both expressions signifying heap of witness, and perhaps both of them naming it Mizpah, or watchtower, from the nature of the oath which they both took on the occasion.
Men who are truly sincere in their covenant engagements are never afraid to bind themselves by public attestations of their good faith, though it is certain that of all men these least require to be so bound.
Genesis 31:48. “And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;
49. And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.
50. 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.
51. And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee;
52. 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.
53. 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.”
This was a solemn engagements. On the one hand Laban undertakes never to pass the stone heap on Gilead to do injury to Jacob — not mentioning the pillar, which was purely of Jacob’s construction, and therefore supposed to have a religious significance solely for Jacob; and on the other hand Jacob records his vow never to cross the pillar and the pile to inflict wrong on Laban.
And in addition, as Laban might be injured in his daughters without crossing the forbidden line, Laban charged Jacob never to afflict Rachel and Leah by taking other wives besides them. The engagement on both sides is to abstain from doing injury of any sort to each other; and to this all men are bound by both natural and revealed religion without the formality of an oath; and much more than other men, are Christians bound by God’s grace and Christ’s blood to live peaceably with all men and be at peace amongst themselves.
It is amazing how far back into their ancestry Laban reaches to seal the covenant. By Laban going so far into their ancestry is an almost sure sign that the true God was worshiped by some even in those idolatrous years, and in a semi-superstitious way united the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their fathers, to judge between them. Jacob does not mention either pile or pillar, but swears by the fear of his father Isaac. It seems they both swore by Elohim the God of their fathers.
JACOB OFFERED SACRIFICE:
Genesis 31:54 “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.”
Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and invited his brethren (Laban and his men) to a sacrificial banquet; and it was in that atmosphere of mingled reverence for God and human affection that the heir of the covenant bade farewell to all that held him in restraint, and set his face once more towards the land of promise.
LABAN AND JACOB CUT THEIR BONDS:
Genesis 31:55. “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.”
THE KISS OF RECONCILIATION: It is not certain that Laban kissed Jacob when he prepared for his departure in the morning; perhaps that was too much to expect; but he kissed Rachel and Leah and their children. It was a sign of forgiveness not alone to them, but through them also to Jacob.
THE PATERNAL BENEDICTION: Laban, whose better nature appears to have returned as the result of the covenant, or of the feast, or of the contemplated parting with his daughters, poured out his feelings in a farewell blessing on their heads. It is the last we hear or see of Laban in the Scripture narrative. Let us hope it was the revival of early kindness and piety in the old man’s heart.
GOD’S WELCOMING HOST MEETS JACOB:
Genesis 32:1. “And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
2. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.”
Angels appeared when Jacob was proceeding on his way to Canaan (Genesis 28). The road which Jacob now pursued was the path of duty, inasmuch as it had been prescribed by God, and led to the covenant inheritance; and only then need the saints expect to meet with either God or his angels, when they are walking in the way of his commandments, and making for the better country, even an heavenly.
The appearance of this invisible host may have been designed to celebrate Jacob’s triumph over Laban, as after Christ’s victory over Satan in the wilderness angels came and ministered unto him, or to remind him that he owed his deliverance to Divine interposition. But it was more probably intended to assure him of protection in his approaching meeting with Esau, and perhaps also to give him welcome in returning home again to Canaan.
Genesis 32:2. “And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host (Army): and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.”
The word “Mahanaim” seems to mean two hosts. Whether completely surrounding him, or divided into two companies, one on either side of him, Jacob’s angelic visitors, from their number, their orderly array, their military dispositions, assumed the appearance of a heavenly army lying encamped over against His own; and the sight of the two companies immediately suggested the exclamation, “This is God’s host,” and caused him to name the place Mahanaim.
The angels of God met him, in a visible appearance, whether in a vision by day or in a dream by night, as when he saw them upon the ladder (Genesis 28:12), is uncertain. Those that keep in a good way have always a good guard; angels themselves are ministering spirits for their safety, Hebrews 1:14. Where Jacob pitched his tents, they pitched theirs about him, (Psalms 34:7)
They met him, to bid him welcome to Canaan again; a more honorable reception this was than ever any prince had, that was met by the magistrates of a city in their formalities. They met him to congratulate him on his arrival, as well as on his escape from Laban; for they have pleasure in the prosperity of God’s servants. They had invisibly attended him all along, but now they appeared to him, because he had greater dangers before him than those he had hitherto encountered.
The greatest probability it was to prepare Jacob for his rapidly approaching meeting with Esau. It was also to remind him of the heavenly reinforcements that are always at hand to assist saints in their extremities.
Psalm 34:7. “The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.”
Psalm 91:11. “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”
JACOB PREPARES FOR A MEETING WITH ESAU:
Genesis 32:3. “And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.
4. 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:
5. And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and women-servants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.
Now that Jacob was re-entering Canaan, he rejoices to see Canaan again, and yet cannot but rejoice with trembling because of Esau. It is very possible that the angels, which are God’s messengers, told him of Esau being in the vicinity.
What shall poor Jacob do? He longs to see his father, and yet he dreads to see his brother. He sends a very kind and humble message to Esau. It does not appear that his way lay through Esau’s country, or that he needed to ask his permission for a passage; but his way lay near it, and he would not go by him without paying him the respect due to a brother, a twin-brother, an only brother, an elder brother, a brother offended.
The expression “my lord” and “thy servant,” may have been designed to signify to Esau that he (Jacob) did not intend to assert that superiority or priority which had been assigned him by Isaac's blessing (Genesis 27:29), at least so far as to claim a share in Isaac’s wealth, but was probably due chiefly to the extreme courtesy of the East, or to a desire to reconcile his brother, or to a feeling of personal remorse for his misbehavior towards Esau, and perhaps also to a secret apprehension and fear of danger from Esau’s approach.
It was also to let Esau know that he had been blessed with flocks and herds, and most of all he had many men-servants and women-servants accompanying him. He seems to have made no mention of his wives and children which he hoped to shield from Esau’s wrath. From the last phrase, “and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace (favor) in thy sight,” he hoped for the best.
Genesis 32:6. “And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother, to Esau; and he also is coming to meet thee, and four hundred men with him.”
When Esau was told that his brother Jacob was coming back from Mesopotamia with a great company, he came to meet Jacob with a great host.
That Esau was attended by 400 armed followers was a proof that he had grown to be a powerful chieftain. If the premise be admissible that he had already begun to live by the sword (Genesis 27:40), and was now invading the territory of the Horites, which he afterwards occupied, it will serve to explain his appearance in the land of Seir, while as yet he had not finally retired from Canaan.
The reason he came with such a formidable force to meet his brother has been set down to personal vanity, or a desire to show how powerful a prince he had become; to fraternal kindness, which prompted him to do honor to his brother.
Some think Esau came with a distinctly hostile intention, at least if circumstances should seem to call for vengeance (Keil), though it is probable that Esau’s mind, on first hearing of his brother’s nearness, was simply excited, and in that wavering state, which the slightest incident might soothe into good will, or rouse into vengeance, he was prepared.
JACOB’S STRATAGY IN TIME OF DISTRESS:
Genesis 32:7. “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;
8. And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.”
Jacob was perplexed, afraid, distressed. Remember Christ himself, in his agony, was “sorely amazed” (Mark 14:33). Clearly the impression left on Jacob’s mind by the report of his ambassadors was that he had nothing to expect but hostility. And clearly from the memory of the last word he had heard from Esau twenty years previous (Genesis 27:31) it was what he anticipated.
But the fear inspired by Esau’s approach had not been so great as to make him lose command of his faculties. The division of his company into two bands afforded to one at least of the portions a chance of escaping the sword of Esau. Although contrary to the Divine word to resist evil, it is not wrong to use all lawful endeavors to avoid it.
In a time of danger he thinks of the safety of others, of the women and children, rather than of himself. This is a sign of Jacob’s meekness. He contemplates not armed resistance to the onset of his infuriated brother, but prepares by peaceful means to elude at least the full force of his attack. Men that have God upon their side should not allow themselves to be thrown by evil tidings into excessive alarm.
We are beginning to see a truly-religious spirit in Jacob, since in his terror he betakes himself to prayer, throwing all his trouble out unto the Lord in one of the greatest prayers in the Bible.
Genesis 32:9. “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:
10. I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
11. 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.
12. 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.”
This prayer was answered again a thousand years later. “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:7). We could wonder how many thousand times in their times of trouble God’s people have come to Him in like manner.
As I have already said this is one of the greatest prayers in the entire Bible. We want to look at this prayer and analyze it for our own use. We will look at the combined beauty and power, humility and boldness, simplicity and sublimity, brevity and comprehensiveness of this prayer. In 130 words Jacob covered everything necessary in a prayer. It fore-shadows the great prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray.
This prayer is the more remarkable because it won him the honor of being an Israel, a prince with God, and the father of the praying remnant, who are hence called the seed of Jacob.
FIRST TO WHOM HE ADDRESSES THE PRAYER:
Jacob’s prayer is addressed not to Deity in general, but to the living personal Elohim who had taken his fathers Abraham and Isaac into covenant, to Jehovah who had enriched them with promises of which he was the heir, and who had specially appeared unto himself (Genesis 28:13; 31:3,13). He was praying to a personal God, one that he himself had experienced.
Times of fear should be times of prayer; whatever frightens us should drive us to our knees, to our God. Jacob had lately seen his guard of angels, but, in this distress, he applied to God, not to them; he knew they were his fellow-servants, (Revelation 22:9). Nor did he consult Laban’s teraphim; it was enough for him that he had a God to go to. And to him he addresses himself with all possible solemnity, so running for safety into the name of the Lord, as a strong tower, (Proverbs 18:10)
He reminded God that he was doing His will by returning to Canaan. “The LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:” Here was a clear indication that Jacob had in faith both obeyed the command and embraced the promise made known to him in Haran. (Genesis 31:3)
A PRAYER OF PROFOUND HUMILITY:
He not only acknowledges the Divine hand in his remarkable prosperity, which is always difficult for the proud spirit of the worldling to do, but he distinctly describes “all the mercies” he has received to the pure, unmerited grace of God, declaring himself to be utterly less than the least of them. Language such as this is either impious hypocrisy or lowly humility.
“I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant;” (Genesis 32:10a)
The profound humility which these words breathe is a sure indication that the character of Jacob had either undergone a great inward transformation, if that was not experienced twenty years before at Bethel, or had shaken off the moral and spiritual lethargy under which he labored while in the service of Laban.
A PRAYER OF GRATITUDE:
“For with my staff” (possessing nothing but my staff) “I passed over this Jordan” (the Jabbok was situated near, indeed is a tributary of the Jordan); “and now I am become two bands.” (Genesis 32:10b)
Jacob tells God, “I was alone, no companion, no guide and didn’t have any thing but this staff when I came over here, but now with your blessings I have become rich.”
This staff was a life-long companion of Jacob. He no doubt had fashioned this staff as a teenage boy from a sapling, working with crude knives until it was about 7 to 8 foot long, very strong and stiff once it was seasoned. It was with him night and day when herding the flocks of his father, and then he carried it with him into the service of Laban for twenty years. The last we read of it is an interesting note in Hebrews 11:21. “By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.”
This staff has been with him throughout most of his life, every time Jacob took a step the staff took a step, and at his death (147 yrs.) the staff had worn down to the point he could lean on the top of it. That means about three or more feet had been worn off the bottom of it.
Genesis 32:11. “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. 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.”
The scripture tells us to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Jacob had one request, to be delivered from the hand of his brother. Then he expressed to God the reason for this request, “for I fear him.”
Though there was no human probability on his side, yet he believed the power of God could rescue him as a lamb out of the bloody jaws of the loin. We have to be particular in our addresses to God, to mention the particular straits and difficulties we are in; for the God with whom we have to do is one we may be free with.
JACOB SENDS A PRESENT TO ESAU:
Genesis 32:13. “And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother;
14. Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams,
15. Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals.
16. 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.
17. 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?
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. 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.
21. So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company.
After this wonderful prayer, Jacob hoping to further appease his brother Esau, sent him a very noble present, not of jewels, or gold, or fine raiment (which he did not have), but he gave “such as he had” cattle , sheep, goats, camels, and pack animals, some 580 in all. Quite a present Jacob sent in three droves, each with a message of conciliation and peacemaking to Esau.
This is th end of this section on the life of Jacob.
We will be puttin another section as soon as we get it prepared.
We will begin that section with Jacob wrestling with God .
Write to us at Godsgrazingfield@att.net
By James L. Thornton