Vol 1 - No 17, October 2, 2004
Jacob becomes Israel:
God promised to bless Jacob and he was intelligent and talented, a winning combination for success. He prospered greatly and his wealth increased but time after time he became embroiled in conflicts with others. However, God protected, reassured and pulled him through each crisis.
After Jacob tricked his father into giving him the blessing instead of to Esau to whom it belonged, Esau purposed to kill him. As a result Jacob had to flee Beersheba and go to Heran. He stopped to sleep at a place called Luz, which means "separation." There, separated from his homeland and family, God appeared to him in a dream and reassured him - Genesis 28:12 - 1512 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
. "And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of."
In this dream God assured Jacob of His constant presence, assistance and watchfulness by angels that traveled from heaven to earth and back in addition to reiterating the promises to Jacob that He had made to Abraham and Isaac. When Jacob awoke he anointed the stone on which he had slept with oil and named the place Bethel, which means "The House of God." He acknowledged that all possessions he would amass come from God and promised to return a tenth part (a tithe) - Genesis 28:18 - 2218 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
21 So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
. And thus by God's grace, Jacob's separation (Luz) became the House of God (Bethel.)
Upon arrival at Haran, Jacob immediately fell in love with his Uncle Laban's daughter Rachel and agreed to work seven (7) years for Laban in exchange for Rachel's hand in marriage. But when it came time for the wedding Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Leah and as a result Jacob had to work an additional seven (7) years to also take Rachel for his wife - Genesis 29. Children were born to Jacob by his two wives and their two handmaids. After Joseph, his 11th son, was born Jacob asked Laban for permission to leave Haran and go back to his own country. By this time Laban's flocks had increased a great deal because of Jacob's intelligent and capable care. Therefore Laban did not want him to leave so offered Jacob the opportunity to breed some of Laban's cattle, sheep and goats to keep for himself if he would stay and continue working for Laban.
Jacob took advantage of Laban's offer and using his superior knowledge of breeding, greatly increased his own herds, but in so doing left much less for Laban - Genesis 30:25 - 4325 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.
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.
29 And he said unto him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me.
30 For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased unto a multitude; and the LORD hath blessed thee since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?
31 And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock.
32 I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire.
33 So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me.
34 And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word.
35 And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstraked and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons.
36 And he set three days' journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flocks.
37 And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods.
38 And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink.
39 And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.
40 And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban's cattle.
41 And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods.
42 But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's.
43 And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.
. This of course angered Laban and his sons against Jacob - Genesis 31:1 & 21 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 was time for Jacob to leave and God again spoke, telling him to return to Bethel, "The House of God," with reassurance that God would be with him - Genesis 31:33 And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.
. Jacob called Rachel and Leah together and rehearses their situation and what God had told him and they agree to leave. Genesis 31:4 - 134 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 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.
Jacob packed all he had and left Haran unaware his wife Rachel had stolen, of all things, her father Laban's idols - Genesis 31:17 - 1917 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 Padanaram, for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan.
19 And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's.
. When Laban discovered the loss he pursued Jacob but here again God interceded on Jacob's behalf and appeared to Laban, telling him not to harm Jacob - Genesis 31:2424 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.
. When Laban caught up to Jacob's entourage he searched Jacob's belongings but Rachel deceived him and he was unable to find his idols - Genesis 31:33 - 3533 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.
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.
. Herein did Laban prove he had no faith in God's Word; even though he had acknowledged in Genesis 30 that God had prospered Jacob and now God appears to him personally, he still pursues his ungodly idols, which are vain and wicked inventions of man.
While en-route to Canaan, the Lord again reassured Jacob by sending His angels to met him - Genesis 32:1 - 21 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.
. But in spite of God's promise of protection and the presence of angels, Jacob was afraid to meet his brother Esau. As he approached where Esau lived he divided his camp as a safety measure, asked God for protection and sent large gifts of livestock in groups ahead to Esau in order to appease him. One night when Jacob stayed alone, having sent his family and possessions ahead, he actually wrestled with God until dawn. During the scuffle God crippled Jacob's hip but he clung to God, demanding a blessing. God responded by changing Jacob's name to "Israel" and blessing him - Genesis 32:24 - 2924 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
As it turned out, Jacob had nothing to fear from Esau who welcomed him home. But instead of proceeding to Bethel, as God told him to do he went to another area of Canaan - Genesis 33:16 - 2016 So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir.
17 And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.
18 And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city.
19 And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money.
20 And he erected there an altar, and called it EleloheIsrael.
. As should be expected, because he was out of God's will, Jacob had problems there also. A Hivite man named Shechem fell in love Jacob's daughter Dinah and took her for his own, thus defiling her. Shechem wanted to marry Dinah and so he and his father Hamor went to Jacob and Jacob's sons and asked what they could do to accomplish this. Jacob's sons talked Shechem and Hamor into convincing all the Hivite men in their city into being circumcised. They were told that if they did this then Jacob's children would be allowed to marry the Hivite's children.
Three (3) days after being circumcised the Hivite men were very sore and unable to defend themselves. At this time Jacob's sons Simeon and Levi went into the city and killed all the Hivite men and took all they had including women and children. Of course Jacob recognized this could bring a great deal of trouble to his household from the other Canaanites in the land because they outnumbered his family - Genesis 34.
This entire sordid episode would have been avoided had Jacob just gone to Bethel where God had told him to go in the first place. But regardless of Jacob's disobedience God graciously appeared to him again with instructions to go to Bethel and build an alter - Genesis 35:11 And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.
. Now Jacob obeys, first telling everyone in his household to get rid of the idols they had collected. At Bethel God blessed Jacob yet again, told him his name was changed to Israel, promised him all the land already promised to Abraham and Isaac and that a nation of people would come out of him. - Genesis 35:9 - 139 And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him.
10 And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.
11 And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;
12 And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.
13 And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him.
Jacob's wife Rachel died giving birth to his last son Benjamin - Genesis 35:16 - 2016 And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.
17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also.
18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.
19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.
20 And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day.
. Thus he had 12 sons: six (6) from Leah; two (2) from Rachel; two (2) from Bilhah who was Rachel's handmaid; and two (2) from Zilpah who was Leah's handmaid. All turned out to be rogues except for Joseph and Benjamin, the two sons Rachel had borne, --- but God's blessing would be carried out through all twelve of them.
Israel's life portended or foreshadowed what would become of his descendants. He fathered 12 sons who fathered the 12 tribes of Israel known as the nation of Israel, also known as the Hebrew people and later referred to as the Jews. He and his 12 sons set the standard, they were the prototypes for which the Children of Israel would come to be recognized. Generally speaking they were grasping, cunning and successful but hated, hounded and terribly persecuted but through it all surviving uniquely as a people, because of God's promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
To be continued.