GENESIS ch. 25 – 30


Birth of Esau and Jacob.

19 These are the descendants of Isaac, son of Abraham; Abraham begot Isaac.20Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram and the sister of Laban the Aramean. 21Isaac entreated the LORD on behalf of his wife, since she was sterile. The LORD heard his entreaty, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22But the children jostled each other in the womb so much that she exclaimed, “If it is like this, why go on living!” She went to consult the LORD,23and the LORD answered her:

Two nations are in your womb,

two peoples are separating while still within you;

But one will be stronger than the other,

and the older will serve the younger.


24When the time of her delivery came, there were twins in her womb.  25The first to emerge was reddish, and his whole body was like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau.26 Next his brother came out, gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when they were born.

27When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country; whereas Jacob was a simple man, who stayed among the tents. 28Isaac preferred Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah preferred Jacob. 29Once, when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.30He said to Jacob, “Let me gulp down some of that red stuff; I am famished.” That is why he was called Edom.31But Jacob replied, “First sell me your right as firstborn.”*   32“Look,” said Esau, “I am on the point of dying. What good is the right as firstborn to me?”33But Jacob said, “Swear to me first!” So he sold Jacob his right as firstborn under oath. 34Jacob then gave him some bread and the lentil stew; and Esau ate, drank, got up, and went his way. So Esau treated his right as firstborn with disdain.


Isaac and Abimelech.

1 There was a famine in the land, distinct from the earlier one that had occurred in the days of Abraham, and Isaac went down to Abimelech, king of the Philistines in Gerar. 2The LORD appeared to him and said: Do not go down to Egypt, but camp in this land wherever I tell you.3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I will give all these lands, in fulfillment of the oath that I swore to your father Abraham.  4I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and I will give them all these lands, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth will find blessing— 5this because Abraham obeyed me, keeping my mandate, my commandments, my ordinances, and my instructions.

6  So Isaac settled in Gerar.7When the men of the place asked questions about his wife, he answered, “She is my sister.” He was afraid that, if he called her his wife, the men of the place would kill him on account of Rebekah, since she was beautiful. 8But when they had been there for a long time, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked out of a window and saw Isaac fondling his wife Rebekah. 9He called for Isaac and said: “She must certainly be your wife! How could you have said, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac replied, “I thought I might lose my life on her account.”10“How could you have done this to us!” exclaimed Abimelech. “It would have taken very little for one of the people to lie with your wife, and so you would have brought guilt upon us!”11Abimelech then commanded all the people: “Anyone who maltreats this man or his wife shall be put to death.”

12 Isaac sowed a crop in that region and reaped a hundredfold the same year. Since the LORD blessed him,13 he became richer and richer all the time, until he was very wealthy.14He acquired flocks and herds, and a great work force, and so the Philistines became envious of him.15 The Philistines had stopped up and filled with dirt all the wells that his father’s servants had dug back in the days of his father Abraham.16 So Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us; you have become far too numerous for us.”17Isaac left there and camped in the Wadi Gerar where he stayed.18Isaac reopened the wells which his father’s servants had dug back in the days of his father Abraham and which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham’s death; he gave them names like those that his father had given them. 19But when Isaac’s servants dug in the wadi and reached spring water in their well,20the shepherds of Gerar argued with Isaac’s shepherds, saying, “The water belongs to us!” So he named the well Esek, because they had quarreled there.21Then they dug another well, and they argued over that one too; so he named it Sitnah.  22So he moved on from there and dug still another well, but over this one they did not argue. He named it Rehoboth, and said, “Because the LORD has now given us ample room, we shall flourish in the land.”

23From there Isaac went up to Beer-sheba.24The same night the LORD appeared to him and said: I am the God of Abraham, your father. Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for the sake of Abraham, my servant.  25So Isaac built an altar there and invoked the LORD by name. After he had pitched his tent there, Isaac’s servants began to dig a well nearby.

26 Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath, his councilor, and Phicol, the general of his army.27Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have driven me away from you?” 28They answered: “We clearly see that the LORD has been with you, so we thought: let there be a sworn agreement between our two sides—between you and us. Let us make a covenant with you:29you shall do no harm to us, just as we have not maltreated you, but have always acted kindly toward you and have let you depart in peace. So now, may you be blessed by the LORD!”30Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. 31Early the next morning they exchanged oaths. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they departed from him in peace.

32That same day Isaac’s servants came and informed him about the well they had been digging; they told him, “We have reached water!” 33He called it Shibah hence the name of the city is Beer-sheba to this day.34 When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith, daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath, daughter of Elon the Hivite.  35But they became a source of bitterness to Isaac and Rebekah.


Jacob’s Deception

1When Isaac was so old that his eyesight had failed him, he called his older son Esau and said to him, “My son!” “Here I am!” he replied.2 Isaac then said, “Now I have grown old. I do not know when I might die.3So now take your hunting gear—your quiver and bow—and go out into the open country to hunt some game for me.4Then prepare for me a dish in the way I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may bless you before I die.”

5Rebekah had been listening while Isaac was speaking to his son Esau. So when Esau went out into the open country to hunt some game for his father,  6Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Listen! I heard your father tell your brother Esau,7‘Bring me some game and prepare a dish for me to eat, that I may bless you with the LORD’s approval before I die.’8Now, my son, obey me in what I am about to order you. 9Go to the flock and get me two choice young goats so that with these I might prepare a dish for your father in the way he likes. 10Then bring it to your father to eat, that he may bless you before he dies.”11But Jacob said to his mother Rebekah, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man and I am smooth-skinned!  12Suppose my father feels me? He will think I am making fun of him, and I will bring on myself a curse instead of a blessing.”13His mother, however, replied: “Let any curse against you, my son, fall on me! Just obey me. Go and get me the young goats.”

14So Jacob went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared a dish in the way his father liked. 15Rebekah then took the best clothes of her older son Esau that she had in the house, and gave them to her younger son Jacob to wear; 16and with the goatskins she covered up his hands and the hairless part of his neck. 17Then she gave her son Jacob the dish and the bread she had prepared.

18Going to his father, Jacob said, “Father!” “Yes?” replied Isaac. “Which of my sons are you?”19Jacob answered his father: “I am Esau, your firstborn. I did as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may bless me.”20But Isaac said to his son, “How did you get it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “The LORD, your God, directed me.”21Isaac then said to Jacob, “Come closer, my son, that I may feel you, to learn whether you really are my son Esau or not.”22So Jacob moved up closer to his father. When Isaac felt him, he said, “Although the voice is Jacob’s, the hands are Esau’s.”23(He failed to identify him because his hands were hairy, like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him.) 24Again Isaac said, “Are you really my son Esau?” And Jacob said, “I am.”25Then Isaac said, “Serve me, my son, and let me eat of the game so that I may bless you.” Jacob served it to him, and Isaac ate; he brought him wine, and he drank.26Finally his father Isaac said to him, “Come closer, my son, and kiss me.”27As Jacob went up to kiss him, Isaac smelled the fragrance of his clothes.

With that, he blessed him, saying,

“Ah, the fragrance of my son

is like the fragrance of a field

that the LORD has blessed!

28May God give to you

of the dew of the heavens

And of the fertility of the earth

abundance of grain and wine.

29 May peoples serve you,

and nations bow down to you;

Be master of your brothers,

and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.

Cursed be those who curse you,

and blessed be those who bless you.”


30Jacob had scarcely left his father after Isaac had finished blessing him, when his brother Esau came back from his hunt. 31Then he too prepared a dish, and bringing it to his father, he said, “Let my father sit up and eat some of his son’s game, that you may then give me your blessing.” 32His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?” He said, “I am your son, your firstborn son, Esau.” 33Isaac trembled greatly. “Who was it, then,” he asked, “that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it all just before you came, and I blessed him. Now he is blessed!” 34As he heard his father’s words, Esau burst into loud, bitter sobbing and said, “Father, bless me too!”35When Isaac said, “Your brother came here by a ruse and carried off your blessing,”36Esau exclaimed, “He is well named Jacob, is he not! He has supplanted me* twice! First he took away my right as firstborn, and now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not saved a blessing for me?” 37Isaac replied to Esau: “I have already appointed him your master, and I have assigned to him all his kindred as his servants; besides, I have sustained him with grain and wine. What then can I do for you, my son?” 38But Esau said to his father, “Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me too, father!” and Esau wept aloud

39His father Isaac said in response:

“See, far from the fertile earth

will be your dwelling;

far from the dew of the heavens above!

40By your sword you will live,

and your brother you will serve;

But when you become restless,

you will throw off his yoke from your neck.”


41Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. Esau said to himself, “Let the time of mourning for my father come, so that I may kill my brother Jacob.” 42When Rebekah got news of what her older son Esau had in mind, she summoned her younger son Jacob and said to him: “Listen! Your brother Esau intends to get his revenge by killing you. 43So now, my son, obey me: flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran,44and stay with him a while until your brother’s fury subsides—45until your brother’s anger against you subsides and he forgets what you did to him. Then I will send for you and bring you back. Why should I lose both of you in a single day?”

Jacob Sent to Laban.

46Rebekah said to Isaac: “I am disgusted with life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob also should marry a Hittite woman, a native of the land, like these women, why should I live?”


1 Isaac therefore summoned Jacob and blessed him, charging him: “You shall not marry a Canaanite woman!  2Go now to Paddan-aram, to the home of your mother’s father Bethuel, and there choose a wife for yourself from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. 3May God Almighty bless you and make you fertile, multiply you that you may become an assembly of peoples.4May God extend to you and your descendants the blessing of Abraham, so that you may gain possession of the land where you are residing, which he assigned to Abraham.” 5Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way; he went to Paddan-aram, to Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean, and brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.

6Esau noted that Isaac had blessed Jacob when he sent him to Paddan-aram to get himself a wife there, and that, as he gave him his blessing, he charged him, “You shall not marry a Canaanite woman,”7and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and gone to Paddan-aram.8Esau realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac,9so Esau went to Ishmael, and in addition to the wives he had, married Mahalath, the daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.

Jacob’s Dream at Bethel.

10Jacob departed from Beer-sheba and proceeded toward Haran.11When he came upon a certain place, he stopped there for the night, since the sun had already set. Taking one of the stones at the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.12Then he had a dream: a stairway rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God’s angels were going up and down on it. 13And there was the LORD standing beside him and saying: I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants. 14Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and through them you will spread to the west and the east, to the north and the south. In you and your descendants all the families of the earth will find blessing.15I am with you and will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you.

16When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Truly, the LORD is in this place and I did not know it!” 17He was afraid and said: “How awesome this place is! This is nothing else but the house of God, the gateway to heaven!” 18Early the next morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head, set it up as a sacred pillar, and poured oil on top of it.  19He named that place Bethel, whereas the former name of the town had been Luz.

20Jacob then made this vow:* “If God will be with me and protect me on this journey I am making and give me food to eat and clothes to wear,21and I come back safely to my father’s house, the LORD will be my God. 22This stone that I have set up as a sacred pillar will be the house of God. Of everything you give me, I will return a tenth part to you without fail.”


Arrival in Haran.

1 After Jacob resumed his journey, he came to the land of the Kedemites. 2Looking about, he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep huddled near it, for flocks were watered from that well. A large stone covered the mouth of the well. 3When all the shepherds were assembled there they would roll the stone away from the mouth of the well and water the sheep. Then they would put the stone back again in its place over the mouth of the well.

4 Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where are you from?” “We are from Haran,” they replied.5Then he asked them, “Do you know Laban, son of Nahor?” “We do,” they answered.6He inquired further, “Is he well?” “He is,” they answered; “and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.”7Then he said: “There is still much daylight left; it is hardly the time to bring the animals home. Water the sheep, and then continue pasturing them.”8They replied, “We cannot until all the shepherds are here to roll the stone away from the mouth of the well; then can we water the flocks.”

9While he was still talking with them, Rachel arrived with her father’s sheep, for she was the one who tended them.10As soon as Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of Laban, he went up, rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well, and watered Laban’s sheep.11Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud.12Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s relative, Rebekah’s son. So she ran to tell her father.13When Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he ran to meet him. After embracing and kissing him, he brought him to his house. Jacob then repeated to Laban all these things,14and Laban said to him, “You are indeed my bone and my flesh.”

Marriage to Leah and Rachel.

After Jacob had stayed with him a full month,15 Laban said to him: “Should you serve me for nothing just because you are a relative of mine? Tell me what your wages should be.”16Now Laban had two daughters; the older was called Leah, the younger Rachel.17Leah had dull eyes, but Rachel was shapely and beautiful.18Because Jacob loved Rachel, he answered, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”*19Laban replied, “It is better to give her to you than to another man. Stay with me.”20So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, yet they seemed to him like a few days because of his love for her.

21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, that I may consummate my marriage with her, for my term is now completed.” 22So Laban invited all the local inhabitants and gave a banquet. 23At nightfall he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he consummated the marriage with her. 24Laban assigned his maidservant Zilpah to his daughter Leah as her maidservant. 25In the morning, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban: “How could you do this to me! Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why did you deceive me?”26Laban replied, “It is not the custom in our country to give the younger daughter before the firstborn. 27Finish the bridal week for this one, and then the other will also be given to you in return for another seven years of service with me.”


28Jacob did so. He finished the bridal week for the one, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife. 29Laban assigned his maidservant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant. 30Jacob then consummated his marriage with Rachel also, and he loved her more than Leah. Thus he served Laban another seven years.

Jacob’s Children.

31When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, he made her fruitful, while Rachel was barren. 32Leah conceived and bore a son, and she named him Reuben; for she said, “It means, ‘The LORD saw my misery; surely now my husband will love me.’”  33She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “It means, ‘The LORD heard that I was unloved,’ and therefore he has given me this one also”; so she named him Simeon. 34Again she conceived and bore a son, and she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, since I have now borne him three sons”; that is why she named him Levi. 35Once more she conceived and bore a son, and she said, “This time I will give thanks to the LORD”; therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing children.


1When Rachel saw that she had not borne children to Jacob, she became envious of her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children or I shall die!”  2Jacob became angry with Rachel and said, “Can I take the place of God, who has denied you the fruit of the womb?”  3She replied, “Here is my maidservant Bilhah. Have intercourse with her, and let her give birth on my knees, so that I too may have children through her.” 4So she gave him her maidservant Bilhah as wife, and Jacob had intercourse with her. 5When Bilhah conceived and bore a son for Jacob, 6Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; indeed he has heeded my plea and given me a son.” Therefore she named him Dan. 7Rachel’s maidservant Bilhah conceived again and bore a second son for Jacob, 8and Rachel said, “I have wrestled strenuously with my sister, and I have prevailed.” So she named him Naphtali.

9When Leah saw that she had ceased to bear children, she took her maidservant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as wife. 10So Leah’s maidservant Zilpah bore a son for Jacob.11Leah then said, “What good luck!” So she named him Gad. 12Then Leah’s maidservant Zilpah bore a second son to Jacob;13and Leah said, “What good fortune, because women will call me fortunate!” So she named him Asher.

14One day, during the wheat harvest, Reuben went out and came upon some mandrakes in the field which he brought home to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” 15Leah replied, “Was it not enough for you to take away my husband, that you must now take my son’s mandrakes too?”  Rachel answered, “In that case Jacob may lie with you tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.”16That evening, when Jacob came in from the field, Leah went out to meet him. She said, “You must have intercourse with me, because I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So that night he lay with her,17and God listened to Leah; she conceived and bore a fifth son to Jacob. 18Leah then said, “God has given me my wages for giving my maidservant to my husband”; so she named him Issachar. 19Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob; 20and Leah said, “God has brought me a precious gift. This time my husband will honor me, because I have borne him six sons”; so she named him Zebulun. 21Afterwards she gave birth to a daughter, and she named her Dinah.

22Then God remembered Rachel. God listened to her and made her fruitful.23She conceived and bore a son, and she said, “God has removed my disgrace.”  24She named him Joseph, saying, “May the LORD add another son for me!”




This talk is by Clifford Yeary.

Importance of “righteousness”  Cain/Abel, Noah,  Abraham / Isaac

Jacob is a more complex figure, clearly depicted as a mix of good and bad

Genesis from beginning to end is about “beginnings” – creation

When the LORD saw how great the wickedness of human beings was on earth, and how every desire that their heart conceived was always nothing but evil, the LORD regretted making human beings on the earth, and his heart was grieved.  Gen 6:5-6


Even though things degenerated quickly again after Noah and the flood, God made a covenant not to destroy the earth again.  Instead – God will build a righteous community beginning with one good man and woman – Abraham and Sarah.  Through them all the nations of the earth will be blessed.  A story of salvation.

Abrahams descendants will be a great nation – but they are old and barren.  Ups and downs. Then Isaac is born, then the threat to that with command to sacrifice him.  Jacob is key to God’s plan – but is he righteous?

Two nations are in your womb, two peoples are separating while still within you; But one will be stronger than the other, and te older will serve the younger.  Gen 25:23


Her favorite son – Jacob.  Smothers brothers – mom liked you best.

Why had God chosen Jacob over Esau?  As in other cases – not clear.  Jacob not righteous but has been chosen.  “Holy” means to be set apart for God.  Jacob is a ‘trickster’, common in ancient stories

God’s choices are made for God’s own purposes.  Salvation history through the bible ultimately points to a larger trajectory in which it is clear that God’s plan is directed to the salvation of the whole world.

Scripture, which saw in advance that god would justify the Gentiles by faith, foretold the good news to Abraham, saying, “Through you shall all the nations be blessed.”  Gal. 3:8

So, favoritism now is part of the larger plan of God to shower favor on all.

Jacob is a unique character.

“The first to emerge was reddish, and his whole body was like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau.  Next his brother came out, gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.”  Gen 25:25-26

Jacob means “supplanter”

When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country; whereas Jacob was a simple man, who stayed among the tents.  Gen 25:27


Patriarchal blessing was the equivalent of a will, a prophetic power

All characters are fleshed out and independent – not puppets for God’s will

Esau is his own worst enemy, sells birthright


“Look,” said Esau, “I am on the point of dying. What good is the right as firstborn to me?”33But Jacob said, “Swear to me first!” So he sold Jacob his right as firstborn under oath. 34Jacob then gave him some bread and the lentil stew; and Esau ate, drank, got up, and went his way. Gen 25:32-34


Is Isaac truly deceived?  Or does he just go along with the ruse?


What happens later in Bethel is key to understanding Jacob and his role in God’s plan


11When he came upon a certain place, he stopped there for the night, since the sun had already set. Taking one of the stones at the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.12Then he had a dream: a stairway rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God’s angels were going up and down on it. 13And there was the LORD standing beside him and saying: I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants.  Gen 28:11-13


Jacob does not ‘deserve’ to inherit God’s promises to Abraham – but then neither does any one of us








Chapter 26

Another version of the “she is my sister” story.

prosperity and blessing create inequality which then leads to trouble. Isaac’s actions here are a reprise of those of Abraham (prosperity, sister story, blessing by local king, wells)

Isaac deceives Abimelech in chapter 26, is deceived by Jacob in chapter 27.  This is most certainly a different Abimelech from the one Abraham encountered much earlier.  OR the two stories are variants on the same theme, attributed to different ancestors.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have encounters with God.  Abraham and Jacob get new names (Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel) but Isaac does not get a new name.

Chapter 27

Westermann p. 435: “The narrative acquires its particular importance for us because the deathbed blessing is described and passed on to us in full detail; it is a precultic rite which had great significance for the patriarchal life-style.  The interruption of this ancient rite by the deception of the father points to a crisis within it which is reflected in the narrative.”

taking place at the end of life the ancient idea was that the vitality of the giver was poured into the receiver of the blessing – and therefore the blessing could not be taken back or changed.

Westermann p. 438: “The old narrative presupposes an understanding of the right of the firstborn which regards it as a privilege which is the exclusive prerogative of the eldest son.  In a later era two (Gen. 48) or twelve sons could receive a blessing, though on different levels.  But in the case of twins the exclusive right of the firstborn is acutely incomprehensible; both are born at virtually the same time.  The mother objects to this exclusive prerogative of the one son.  Revolt against a “social” injustice lies behind her plan.  She resists with all means at her disposal a privilege of the “great” which excludes the “small.”  Rebekah is here ahead of her time; the privilege of the eldest which excludes all others did not prevail.”

She intends to substitute one son for the other, she substitutes lamb for wild game in the meal



Westermann p. 439: the blessing ritual:

  • entrance and address of the father / blesser and subsequent identification
  • presentation of the food and the meal together
  • direct physical contact (embrace, kiss …)  (transference of vitality needs this)
  • the words of blessing (normally contain a blessing of fertility and here – dominion)

Westermnn p. 443:  “Esau becomes his brother’s enemy, as did Cain of his brother Abel; like Cain he resolves to kill him when the period of mourning for the father has passed (usually seven days, Gen. 50:10).  For Jacob, this means that he has achieved nothing by his deception.  His father’s blessing is of no help in face of his brother’s hate; blessing can thrive only in a community at peace (Gen. 37-50).”

Rebekah ends up defeated – her son goes away for 20 years, she never sees him again.  This becomes an unspoken but powerful commentary on the use of deception.  Nevertheless – it is God who chooses to work through Jacob and has done so from the beginning.

In the closing verses of chapter 26 it was noted that Esau married two Hittite women.  At the end of this chapter, and to explain the journey of Jacob to get a wife, this text and idea is reintroduced.


Chapter 28

Esau, knowing now that his Hittite wives have caused a problem, tries to remedy the situation by marrying a relative.  Westermann p. 448: “One can understand from its historical setting why marriage within one’s own people became for P a critical Israelite command.  After the dissolution of the Israelite-Judaean state the family became in fact the form of community that preserved the continuity of Israel and its religion.  When P bases the prohibition to marry foreigners in the patriarchal period, then it is historically correct that the tradition of the patriarchal stories has preserved the great importance of the family for Israel through all periods…”  On returning to the land of Israel from Babylon Nehemiah required (or attempted to require) that men put away their foreign wives.  This is part of the background to the biblical book of Ruth.

The story involving Jacob and the dream is partly the narrative of the discovery of a holy place and its naming, partly the story of one of the forefathers coming to know God and to receive the blessing first given to Abraham and repeated for Isaac.

Bethel = Beth El = house of God

Westermann p. 453 – archeology shows that the site was a holy sanctuary long before any Israelite set foot  near it.  This re-purposing of sites happened / happens all the time.  Near Ephesus – a house now said to be the place where John took Mary after the crucifixion is on a hill where Astarte was venerated.  Churches sold to other churches, synagogues become churches etc.  Native American holy places have also become “sacred” to us.

“maqom” = place = (in this context, ‘holy place’) = also one of the (28) names / aspects of God!

Westermann p. 454 – stone was not really a pillow but protection for his head.  (Not sure how…)

vision: not a ladder to heaven but a stairway – most likely a ramp

Once the temple is in place in the time of Solomon and the priests control worship there, there is a deliberate suppression of the other holy sites in the land as well as of those who offered sacrifices at them.

Westermann p. 460: “Jacob discovers the holy place at Bethel, but he does not stay there; the Israelites come to Sinai, but they do not settle there; the prophets proclaim destruction to the temple in Jerusalem, but the religion of Israel goes on.  Jesus replies to the Samaritan woman’s question about the “proper” holy place: “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth…””


Chapter 29

A meeting at the well again.  Then the deceiver is deceived!

Originally these were two separate stories that have been brought together in our text.  The “substituted bride” motif (common around the world) interrupts the basic narrative of meeting at the well and the marriage.

The custom was for all the shepherds to gather at that well before any accessed the water.  It took the whole crew to move the stone.  Jacob steps in (chivalry?  demonstrate his muscles?) and by himself moves the stone from the well for her.  The text implies that his immediate great love for her gave him extraordinary strength at that time.  Jacob was not otherwise a “giant”.

In the patriarchal time period women apparently were free to move about the world without a veil and to interact with men.  This was NOT true later.

In contrast to the servant of Abraham seeking a wife for Isaac – Jacob came seeking a wife without gifts and wealth to offer the family of the girl.  Hence the need to work for her.

The deception creates deep distrust and tension between Jacob and Laban.  It also creates tension between Jacob and Leah and between Leah and Rachel.

Leah was not loved as Rachel was.  She has four sons before Rachel has any.  This may in fact parallel the sadness of Sara – deception rarely produces what those who deceive intend it to produce.

  • Reuben – whose name means “sandwich”
  • Simeon
  • Levi
  • Judah

(actually Reuben does not mean sandwich.  “look, a son” and “he saw my misery”)


Chapter 30

Westermann p. 474: “To think that after the beautiful, gentle love story at the beginning of chapter 29 this angry exchange between the two is our first and only experience of their marriage!  It is the suffering of the childless wife, of which we hear so much in the Old Testament, that cries out in Rachel’s demand.  the suffering is all the more bitter when each day Leah and her son are present:…”

Rachel via maidservant Bilhah has:

  • Dan
  • Naphtali

Then Leah gets back into the scene via her maidservant Zilpah:

  • Gad
  • Asher

Mandrakes (love-apples) were thought to be a sort of aphrodisiac.  The hostility / competition between the two sisters is quite out in the open. Leah gets Jacob for a night (presumably he spent most nights with Rachel).

Westermann p. 477: “Whereas men were basically at strife over living space and means of subsistence, women clashed basically over position and status in the community; here it was still in the simple realm of the family were recognition by the husband and birth of children were decisive for them. … We can still sense that a profound conflict between recognition because of one’s function as a mother and recognition because of personal liking had established itself in the society of that era.  Chapters 29-30 are among those texts in the patriarchal story where one can recognize a more significant place for women in society.  Here, as in a number of other places, it is the woman who is the champion of the interest of the person over against the prevailing interest of the community.”

Leah has:

  • Issachar
  • Zebulun
  • daughter – Dinah

Finally Rachael has:

  • Joseph


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