Jacob (The Heel)
Genesis 25:29-34; 29:18-30
INTRODUCTION How Jacob came to be called Jacob is related in Genesis 25:26. The name "Jacob" in the Hebrew is from the word meaning "heel," and is often translated "one who takes by the heel." In a slang sense, the English word "heel" may mean "a contemptible, self-centered, untrustworthy person;" and this description fits Jacob, in his natural state, like a comfortable old shoe. By divine grace the contemptible Jacob became the admirable Israel, but that is another story. That God's sovereign choice of His people is not based upon any merit or virtue in them is surely evident enough in the case of Jacob. Lest anyone should miss the point, however, it is clearly stated in Romans 9:10-13. Our lesson includes two passages from the history of Jacob: the first telling how he out-traded his brother Esau, and the second telling who Jacob in turn was outfoxed by his uncle Laban. Outline follows: 1. Winning, Genesis 25:29-34. a. Birthright desired, 29-31. b. Birthright despised, 32-24 2. Weddings, Genesis 29:18-30. a. Choice for marriage, 18-21. b. Cheated at marriage, 22-27. c. Cheating in marriage, 28-30.
NOTES ON THE TEXT:
WINNING, Genesis 25:29-34. Even before these twin brothers were born, God had informed the mother, "the elder shall serve the younger" [Genesis 25:23]. We are not told whether Rebekah kept this prophecy to herself or whether it was common knowledge in the family. We do get a picture of gross favoritism in the home, with Isaac loving Esau and Rebekah loving Jacob. With such partiality shown by the parents, the rivalry between the brothers is not to be wondered at. Moreover, both Rebekah and Jacob were rather unscrupulous in resorting to trickery to get the advantage over Isaac and Esau. Considering the divine promise, they might have been content to wait on the Lord to establish Jacob in a superior position by honorable means; but no: like too many people they must hurry to win what they wanted at any cost and by any means. Birthright Desired, 29-31. "Sod" here is an obsolete or archaic word meaning "seethed" or "boiled." The "pottage" was soup or stew. It may not have been the best food in the world, but no doubt it looked, smelled, and tasted good to a hungry man. We may condemn Jacob for taking advantage of his brother, but at least Jacob had a proper appreciation of the birth-right. No doubt he had been for a long time envious of Esau's seniority, and perhaps had been scheming to get himself the birthright by some means. It is not hard to believe that Jacob, knowing his brother's weakness, had carefully planned to tempt him with food at an opportune time and get from him the birthright he desired. Birthright Despised, 32-24. Esau despised the birthright which Jacob desired. Apparently a slave to the immediate desires of the flesh, his present hunger was more important to Esau than his birth-right to blessings far in the future. Like too many people, he exaggerated his physical needs, claiming to be "at the point to die" when he was merely somewhat hungry. Jacob could not be content with Esau's mere word; the bargain must be sealed with an oath; and "thus Esau despised his birthright."
WEDDINGS, Genesis 29:18-30. Years passed. Feelings between the brothers became anything but brotherly, and the time came when Jacob had to leave home to escape Esau's anger. with Isaac's blessing he went to Padanaram to take "a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother" [Genesis 28:2]. Notice -- "a wife" -- not wives. Choice for Marriage, 18-21. Instructed by his father to marry one of Laban's daughters, Jacob naturally chose the younger and more beautiful of the two. Whether this was a wise choice or not, it was Jacob's choice. Moreover, his love was no passing fancy or impatient lust; he proved through seven years of service the sincerity of his love, and the seven years "seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her." Cheated at Marriage, 22-27. As Jacob had taken unfair advantage of Esau's weakness for food, so now Laban took advantage of Jacob's weakness for a beautiful girl. In one way or another, we reap what we sow; and when retribution comes, it is likely to hit us where it hurts the most. Custom of the time made deception easy; the bride was brought veiled to the groom, who then did not see her face until morning. It does not seem that either Leah or Rachel had much choice in the whole business; Laban saw an opportunity to get another seven years of service from Jacob, and took advantage of it. Cheating in Marriage, 28-30. Remember that all this took place before the law was given at Sinai. We have no way of knowing the extent of divine revelation at that time, or how well these people understood their violation of moral principles made more clear to us in the written Word. We do know that polygamy is contrary to the divine arrangement for the human race "from the beginning" [Matthew 19:3-8]. Cheating in marriage was bad when it involved Abraham, Sarah and Hagar; it was worse when it involved Jacob, Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah. Both plurality in marriage connections and sexual relations outside of marriage are cheap cheating, though the eventual costs may be high beyond mortal calculation.
CONCLUSION [Proverbs 3:5] Let us do evil, that good may come" is a false philosophy; and the Bible justly condemns those who commend and practice it [Romans 3:8]. No doubt both Jacob and Laban thought that the ends justified the means of trickery; that is, when the ends were what they desired. They were less pleased when the trick was at their expense. We shall be far better off in the end if we will simply trust God to bless and prosper us as He please, if we will stop trying to promote ourselves and our objectives by taking unfair advantage of others. ==================
[From Ashland Avenue Baptist paper, October 24, 1975. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More Old Testament Lessons
Baptist History Homepage