Day 6: Genesis 25:12 – 30:45
Ishmael and Isaac now have children of their own. Ishmael’s family settles near Egypt but, Isaac receives the promise of his fathers from God that his children will inherit the land where they now live as strangers. Rebekah is barren like Sarah was until Isaac prays for her. She then becomes pregnant with twins who fight violently in her womb. When she goes to God to find out why this is going on He tells her in vs. 23, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” Sure enough when the boys are born out first comes Esau all red and hairy followed by Jacob clinging to his brother’s heel.
Esau grows up to be a hunter favored by Isaac because he likes the taste of game-meat. Jacob was a quiet man who stayed closer to home and was loved more by his mother. Esau came in one day starving after a hunt to find Jacob making stew. Esau demands that Jacob give him some. So Jacob tells him he will give him some of the stew if Esau will be him his birthright (inheritance). Esau responds that he is dying so what is that birthright to him.
Our old friend King Abimelech returns in this chapter when famine strikes the land where Isaac’s family is living. Like father like son, Isaac tells the people of the land that Rebekah is his sister not his wife. His excuse is the same as Abraham’s was. Fortunately for him the king has learned his lesson about this family. He is soon proven right in suspecting something is not quite right when he sees Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. Abimelech then calls Isaac out on this for an explanation. When all is said and done the king commands his people that if anyone molests Isaac or Rebekah they will be killed. Like his father before him, Isaac soon becomes very wealthy in that land to the point that the people living there start closing up the wells his servants have dug and he is forced to leave. Once Isaac and his family have left Abimelech’s land the king comes to him to renew the treaty that stood between their people and Abraham. Isaac is skeptical at first but renews that alliance. Around this time Esau marries two Hittite women from that land who make Isaac and Rebekah’s lives miserable.
For us with siblings these next few chapters sound pretty familiar. Parents are blessed with having many children, their children often don’t find the same happiness in it. There is all sorts of fighting and trickery going on that parents either don’t see or help to enable. Rebekah is an enabler. Isaac is blind. When Rebekah overhears him giving orders to his son Esau to go hunting for food to make Isaac so that he can be given his blessing she goes to Jacob with other plans. She tells her younger son to go get her two goats from his flock. From them she makes food the way Isaac likes it and uses the hides to make Jacob’s arms feel hairy like Esau’s. Dressing him in Esau’s best clothes she sends him into Isaac with the food. Isaac thinking that this is Esau returned to him for his blessing, instead gives it to Jacob. Imagine you’re Esau coming into that tent later only to find that your horrible younger sibling has stolen the blessing meant for you. Yeah, we’d all be making threats that didn’t involve that sibling’s health or happiness and we would definitely be begging for our own blessing too. Rebekah hears the threats Esau is making and warns Jacob to go to her brother Laban until his brother isn’t so mad at him.
Isaac agrees with this plan and sends Jacob away making him promise to find a wife from among Laban’s daughter’s while he there. He makes sure his son knows he doesn’t want him to marry Hittite women like Esau has done. So Jacob goes. When Esau hears about it, especially the part about Jacob not being allowed to marry Hittite women he realizes how much misery his wives are bringing his parents. He then goes to Ishmael and marries one of his daughters.
During his journey Jacob stays the night in Bethel where God appears to him at the top of a ladder to heaven and passes on his promise to Jacob that He will make his descendants as numerous as the dust of the earth and they will spread out across the land in all directions. God will be with him wherever he goes and will one day bring him home again. Jacob wakes up in the morning, builds an alter with the rock he laid his head on for a pillow, and names the place Bethel saying that this place must be the doorway to heaven or God’s house.
Jacob finishes his journey a little outside Haran where he meets shepherds from that region. Rachel, the younger daughter of Laban, is also a shepherdess who is bringing out her father’s sheep to water them at the well where Jacob and the other shepherds are talking. When Jacob sees her he rolls back the stone for the well and waters all her fathers she for her. The shepherds have told him who she is so when she finds out that he is Rebekah’s son she runs home to tell her father, Laban the good news. Jacob is quickly welcomed into their family where he continues to work for Laban. Laban comes to Jacob after a month has passed and tells him he can’t work for nothing, what will his wages be? Jacob responds that he will work another 7 years for Laban if he will give Jacob his daughter Rachel in marriage. Laban agrees. The years pass like days for Jacob because of his love for Rachel. Plot twist, when the time comes for them to be married Laban sends his older daughter, Leah, into Jacob instead. When Jacob discovers this in the morning he is very angry and confronts Laban about the issue. Laban simply says that in their culture they didn’t marry off the younger sister before the older. Then he says that Jacob should finish the bridal week with Leah after that he can marry Rachel and serve for her 7 more years. Jacob agrees to this. As you can imagine, another sibling rivalry is about to begin.
The LORD looks down and sees that Leah is not loved so he gives her 4 sons while Rachel remains barren. These sons are Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.
Rachel is very jealous of her sister’s good fortune so she tells Jacob in vs. 1, “‘Give me children, or I’ll die!” This of course makes him angry, “‘Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” Rachel then decides to give him her handmaid, Bilhah, so she can build a family through her. Bilhah has two sons, Dan and Naphtali, after which Rachel declares that she has had a great struggle with her sister and has won.
This makes Leah upset, knowing she has stopped bearing children so she gives her handmaid, Zilpah to Jacob so she can keep building her family. Zilpah has two sons as well, Gad and Asher. Some time later during harvest Reuben brings his mother, Leah, some mandrakes. Rachel asks Leah to share, but of course the snotty reply is: you took my husband from me and now you will take my son’s mandrakes too. Rachel comprises telling Leah that she can sleep with Jacob that night if she will share. Leah agrees and gets get pregnant with Issachar. After that she has another son and a daughter, Zebulun and Dinah.
Finally, God gives Rachel a son too. She names him Joseph saying that God has taken away her disgrace and asking Him to give her another son.
May I just say here that, 12 is quite the amount of children to have while arguing over your husband. Also, how absurd is it that these poor sister wives are also blood related sisters. That’s horrible, if you have a sister you probably have experience in sharing a room, toys, and clothes. With that experience can you even begin to comprehend how hard it would be to share a husband???
After the 7 years have passed Jacob wants to return home with his family. Laban has other plans, so he negotiates with Jacob over his new salary. Jacob says I will take the spotted and speckled sheep you can have the white ones. Laban sees this as a good idea and leaves their care to Jacob. Jacob is able to come up with a trick for making the strong sheep have spotted and speckled lambs every time and letting the other weak sheep have pure colored lambs. Therefore, he becomes a very wealthy man while Laban’s flock shrinks and becomes weaker every day. This can’t last long…
*image is from here