Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week’s lesson dealt with Jacob and Rebekah’s deception of Isaac. Instead of Esau receiving the first-born son’s blessing, Isaac is tricked into blessing Jacob instead. This blessing promises him land and tells Jacob other people including his mother’s sons would bow down to him. Again, we see the term “cursed be everyone that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee. Last week connects to this week by continuing the Hebrew people’s ancestral saga. This week it is of the third great patriarch, Jacob. As Jacob flees his family and the only home he has known, he encounters God. Boyd’s and Townsend Title this week’s lesson “Jacob Forms a Relationship with God”. Standard titles the lesson “Jacob’s Dream”. The Scripture text is Genesis 28:10-22.
Chapter 28 begins with Isaac’s instructions to Jacob regarding marriage. It’s important to Isaac and Rebekah that Jacob marries “in the family”. So Jacob, like his father, will marry a relative. Perhaps this is a secondary but still important reason to leave home now. Esau has vowed to kill his brother after their father Isaac dies. Jacob knows his brother hates him. After all, Jacob has taken Esau’s birthright and stolen Esau’s blessing from their father. Jacob is fleeing his home in the Promised Land to return to his father’s homeland. The pretense for this 500 mile journey is for him to find a wife. But his mother Rebekah has learned of Esau’s intention to kill Jacob and she is again the one who steps in to aid her favored son, Jacob. Esau had already married Hittite women. This was a source of displeasure, disappointment, and bitterness for his parents. Rebekah uses this reason to save her son from Esau’s death threat.
Fleeing from his brother, Jacob is sent to his uncle Laban who lives more than 500 miles away. He will leave everything he knows and travel to a land he has never been to before. Not only to escape his brother but to also find a suitable wife. Laban is Rebekah’s brother. When Esau learns that Jacob has been sent to Laban for a wife, Esau marries Ishmael’s daughter. Perhaps Esau is thinking he can find favor in his parents’ eyes if he marries an even closer relative than Jacob.
What takes place in this passage:
These 12 verses detail Jacob’s dream at Bethel. After leaving Beersheba and on his way to Haran he stops for the night. Jacob uses a stone for a pillow. He dreams of a ladder (or stairway) reaching to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. The Lord says “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your Father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring”. God continues with language we have heard before with the same promises of land, many descendants, and the same blessings Abraham and Isaac had also heard. God continues to reassure Jacob telling him “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go”. When Jacob awakens from sleep he declares “Surely the Lord is in the place – and I did not know it”! Jacob takes the stone he used for a pillow and set it up as a pillar. He pours oil on the stone and called the place Beth el (the house of God). Jacob then makes a vow. “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God,”.
At Bethel, Jacob receives promises from the Lord. Those promises were first given to Abraham, then Isaac and now Abraham’s grandson Jacob. He is the third great patriarch. These promises deal with the land of Canaan, having many descendants, and being a blessing so great that others will also be blessed. They are the same promises his grandfather Abraham received from God. These three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the ancestors of what would become the Israelite nation. These patriarchs’ great success and wealth are a result of God’s intervention and that explains why the nation of Israel is blessed with great success and wealth.
Key Characters in the text:
Jacob – He is the sly, deceptive, selfish, and cunning second born son of Isaac and Rebekah. Though he has character flaws, he will still become the chosen son and third great patriarch of the Hebrew people.
The Lord God of Abraham –
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
- Dreams versus visions – Jacob had a dream. Both can be prophetic but visions always look to the future.
- Pillar – An upright shaft or structure of stone, brick, or other material. In this case, Jacob used a stone as a pillar for a memorial.
- Consecrate – To make sacred, the setting apart of a person or object or place for a special divine use.
- Bethel – In Hebrew it means “house of God”. This is where Jacob has his dream.
- Vows – That which one has promised, particularly to God or to other persons, that binds one to them. Jacob vows to God.
- Tithe – The practice of giving one-tenth of one’s property or resources to support a religious institution as response to God for God’s blessing. Jacob promises a tenth if God blesses him on this long journey.
- Memorial – Something designed to preserve the memory of a person or event. After Jacob’s dream he memorializes the experience by anointing a stone pillar.
Themes in this Lesson:
- Negro Spiritual – We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder
- Karma – When your past catches up with you
- Reaping what you sow.
- When God spoke to Jacob in his dream, why didn’t God mention Jacob’s past lies and deceit?
- Thanksgiving is approaching. If you could create your own holiday what event or occasion you would memorialize?
Time has a way of catching up with you. You will surely reap what you sow.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:
Next week’s lesson is taken from Genesis chapter 30. Here Jacob has finally reached his father’s homeland. This is where he will meet his wives including Rachel. This is also where the trickster gets tricked.