Younger of twin sons born to Isaac and Rebekah (). Isaac had prayed for his barren wife, Rebekah, and she conceived the twins, who jostled each other in the womb. She inquired about this of the Lord, who told her that she was carrying two nations and that the older son would serve the younger (v 23). Esau was hairy and red (later he was called Edom, “red,” v 30; 36:1), but Jacob was born holding the heel of his brother, so that he was named Jacob, “he takes by the heel” (cf. ), with the derived meaning “to supplant, deceive, attack from the rear.”
Personal History. Esau and Jacob were very different from each other. Esau was an outdoorsman, the favorite of his father, while Jacob stayed around the tents and was loved by his mother.
One day when Jacob was preparing red pottage, Esau came in famished. Jacob offered to sell Esau some stew in exchange for his birthright as firstborn, and Esau agreed, thus repudiating his birthright (cf. ). The significance of this episode of the red pottage is demonstrated by its association with Esau’s second name, Edom (“red”) ().
Isaac became old and blind. One day he asked Esau to take his weapons and get some wild game, of which Isaac was very fond (; cf. 25:28), so that he could eat and then confer his blessing upon Esau. Rebekah had been eavesdropping, so she called Jacob and told him to go to the flock and select two good kids. She would prepare a dish that would pass for the game while Esau was out hunting. Jacob feared that Isaac would detect the deception, for Esau was very hairy, but Rebekah had everything planned. She placed the skins of the kids on Jacob’s hands and neck to give the impression of hairiness (27:16) and clothed him in Esau’s best garments, which had the smell of the outdoors on them. Although Isaac recognized the voice of Jacob, his other senses failed him, and he was deceived by the feel of the skins and the smell of the garments. He proceeded to give the blessing to Jacob (vv 27–29).
No sooner had Jacob left than Esau arrived with the game he had cooked. Jacob’s ruse was discovered, but the deed could not be undone () for, as the Nuzi tablets show, an oral blessing had legal validity and could not be revoked. Esau was heartbroken (cf. ). Isaac gave him a blessing inferior to the one given to Jacob (, ).
The animosity between the brothers deepened, and Esau plotted to kill Jacob after the death of their father. Rebekah learned of this, so she instructed Jacob to flee to her brother Laban in Haran (). Esau’s Hittite wives meanwhile had been making life miserable for Rebekah; she complained to Isaac, who called Jacob and sent him to Laban to marry one of his uncle’s daughters. (v 46–28:4).
Jacob set out for Haran. Using a stone for a pillow, he dreamed one night of a ladder reaching up to heaven, with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. God spoke to Jacob and gave to him the promise he had given to Abraham and Isaac concerning the land and descendants. The next morning Jacob took his stone pillow and set it up as a pillar, anointing it with oil. He named the place Bethel (“house of God”) and made a vow that if the Lord would be with him and provide for him he would give a tithe to the Lord ().
When Jacob reached the area of Haran he met shepherds who knew Laban. Rachel, Laban’s younger daughter, arrived with her father’s flock, and Jacob rolled the large stone from the mouth of the well and watered the sheep for her (). When Rachel learned that Jacob was from their own family, she ran to tell her father, who greeted Jacob warmly. After staying with them for a month, Jacob was hired to tend Laban’s flocks. When wages were discussed, Jacob proposed to work seven years to earn Rachel as his wife (vv 15–20).
DeVries, C. E. (1988). Jacob. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 1084). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
Time is a strange thing. On one hand it seems there is never enough time while on the other hand it seems that time is taking forever.
There are distinct moments when you just know that you will not have enough time to finish that project, or homework, or yard-work or whatever.
But then, there are equally distinct moments when you just know you are going to most assuredly die of old age waiting for things like the DMV, a pot of water to boil, or for a package to arrive.
If you watch a show like Chopped, you can see time become an issue in both ways for the contestants as they battle a time limit that seems so short, but small steps in the cooking process seem to always take longer than they want them to.
I was thinking about some of this when a movie we were watching commented about how strange it was that people allowed time keeping devices to rule their entire lives. The comment caused me to wonder, have we become slaves to time? Aren’t deadlines incredibly important to us?
He better propose soon or this relationship is over
How much longer until the sale is over?
The grant is due on such and such a date
Deadlines are important to us… even now some of you, maybe most of you have wondered how much longer the sermon is going to be.
He better not preach too long this morning, I have things to do
We try to influence deadlines too
I was talking with someone taking some evening classes and they casually mentioned they could simply ask for an extension for their report
When I was in school you needed a dead parent and a rotten kidney to get an extension but the person I was talking too was so casual in their comment so I asked
“Isn’t it hard to get an extension?”
Oh no I do it all the time. I just mention my kids.
We try to influence deadlines.
We all do it, even here.
I’m a football fan too, trust me I know the game is on.
I cook, I know how important temperature and time are.
Even my cats look at me on a Sunday as if to say, “Now you know what time we’re supposed to eat right?”
Now this might sound judgmental but I admit, I do it too. Whenever we go to Officer’s Councils I like to remind DHQ about how far everyone’s driven just in case they’ve forgotten.
We all try to influence time.
Here’s my latest war on time: Anyone try to beat the estimated arrival time the gps gives you?
You know how you beat that time don’t you?
Breaking the laws of the land.
It’s not like we’re actually beating time and yet my goodness doesn’t it feel good when we get there before the estimated time.
We brag about it too.
“Well I know a shortcut”
“I outsmarted the traffic pattern”
We get weird with time and I think its because time is weird.
In our portion this morning, Jacob is going to learn some very valuable life lessons, most notably a lesson about deception, but the one we will focus on is the lesson about time and waiting.
So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.
We’re familiar with the saying time flies when you’re having fun and this was true for Jacob. While he was working for his uncle, there would have been plenty of interaction with Rachel. He loved every minute of it. The more they interacted the deeper his love for her became. Now unlike today, the seven year period would have been very rated G… as in Walt Disney Romance G. Consider vs 21:
Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.”
Seven years had gone by quickly, but now that it was gone it was time in Jacob’s mind for this rated G romance to turn into something a bit R rated.
But there was protocol to be followed and so there needed to be invitations sent, a feast to be had and finally the wedding night.
So seven years felt like a few days, but a few hours probably felt like years.
Finally the wedding night and trickery!
When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”
Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one.
Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”
You’ll remember that Jacob’s first seven years seemed like nothing at all. Imagine how long the week felt waiting for Rachel after Leah. Also, once Rachel was Jacob’s wife the drama really began in what had to feel like the seven longest years of Jacob’s life.
Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.
There was animosity between the sisters and at various times one felt loved while the other felt despised. At one point Leah “hired” Jacob by giving Rachel some mandrakes, plants thought to have fertility powers.
All of this while Jacob was working another seven long years for Laban.
There is a great deal in this story that we’ve left uncovered today because to be quite honest, there are a number of topics that deserve their own time. Perhaps over the next few weeks we can take a look at the other issues that are jumping off the page so that we can have a very full understanding of everything happening in this portion of scripture. But once again, for today’s purpose, this is about the time that Jacob spent working for Laban to get the love of his life.
The question that comes to me this morning is why? Why did it happen this way? Then I think about Jacob’s history and it starts to become clear:
Family history. It seems like Jacob learned how to be like he was with the help of his mother. It also seems evident that the sin of deception was a family trait because uncle Laban was a master.
Jacob ate the fruit of his labor. Scripture is clear you will reap what you sow.
It took time to form Jacob into the kind of man God had called him to be. There i s more to the story between Jacob and Laban but the point of it all is that it takes time for God to form us into the people we are called to be and its usually just a little bit longer than we think it should be.
So a few closing thoughts. When I worked at Ontario Knife, I learned a couple of things about sin and waiting.
Raw steel has very sharp edges. Its so sharp in fact that your hands get cut even with gloves on. I was shocked when I went home my first day of work and discovered 100’s of little cuts on my hands. They were everywhere. Every time I moved my hands, I could feel them as they popped open again and again. I went to work for weeks in agony but my hands finally stopped hurting as I became desensitized to the pain. I thought this was great, but the truth is my nerve endings were dead and dying thanks to repeated abuse.
My hands eventually healed after I left that kind of work but it took time for that to happen. One injury I sustained is now finally just starting to regain feeling after 20 years. I thought I was all healed up but now realize its going to take just a little bit longer.
Now think about the damage that we carry, not damage of the flesh, but the damage of the heart, the damage of the soul
Some of that come by way of the example of other people or the interactions we have we other people. Maybe its family like in the case of Jacob, maybe someone else. It takes time to be freed from a negative influence, especially when its hard to sort out emotional attachments. It was Jacob’s mother who reinforced his deceptive tendencies.
A machine shop I worked for refused to hire anyone with previous experience. Sounds weird I know but their rationale in this context makes sense: they knew it would take too long to break all of the bad habits that are learned over time.
Our healing, our redemption, our Godly character, usually take just a little bit more time then we think it should.
Homer Simpson in one episode is at a state fair with his family. One of the product hawkers gets his attention with a new deep fryer. His sales pitch to Homer is that it will deep fry an entire Buffalo in 60 seconds. Homer’s response? But I want it now.
Loved ones. God knows what it takes and how long it will take to produce the kind of character in each of us that He desires. Our job is to continue to follow Him and allow Him to do the work in our lives that only He can do.
Wait just a little longer
For they that wait upon the Lord
Shall renew their strength
They shall mount up with wings as eagles
They shall run and not be weary
They shall walk and not faint
Teach me Lord
Teach me Lord to wait
Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.