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In this division, Moses focused once again on Jacob and Esau and the two nations they represented.

He did this in three parts. First, he recorded Jacob's lineage in Genesis This section elaborates on how Jacob's descendants formed the nation of Israel. It includes short notes about Benjamin and Reuben and ends with a list of the patriarchs of Israel's twelve tribes. This short passage reports that both Esau and Jacob buried Isaac. The poignancy of this report becomes clear when we recall that in Genesis Esau threatened to kill Jacob as soon as their father died.

In this light, the description of Isaac's death points out that the struggle between the brothers was over. Third, Moses gave a detailed account of Esau's lineage in Genesis This account combines two genealogies that report various segments of Esau's line.

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The section ends with the kings who ruled in the region of Seir. Then Moses added an afterword in explaining that Jacob continued to live in the land of Canaan. By ending Esau's lineage in this way, Moses made it clear that, although the struggle between Jacob and Esau had ended, the brothers had separated.


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The descendants of Jacob lived in Canaan and the descendants of Esau lived in Edom. With the content of the first and last divisions of Jacob's life in mind, let's move one step closer to the center of Moses' account, to the second and sixth divisions that deal with the patriarchs' encounters in the Promised Land. These divisions contrast peaceful encounters between Isaac and Philistines, in Genesis , with hostile encounters between Jacob and Canaanites in Genesis — We'll start with the second division that describes Isaac and his encounters with Philistines.

Now, many critical interpreters have argued that this chapter of Genesis is out of place. We can all see that it focuses on Isaac instead of Jacob. And it may very well be true that these events took place before the births of Jacob and Esau. But as we'll see, this division is vital to Moses' focus on Jacob's life.

This material divides into two closely related episodes. The first episode describes Isaac's initial peace with the Philistines in In these verses, Isaac deceived the Philistine king, Abimelech, into thinking that Rebekah was his sister. Upon discovering Isaac's deceit, Abimelech returned Rebekah to Isaac. He then gave Isaac permission to stay in the region and ordered his people not to harm them in any way. The second episode reports Isaac's enduring peace with the Philistines in In this section, God blessed Isaac but his many flocks and herds caused the Philistines to envy him.

So, Isaac avoided violence by moving from well to well. The episode closes as Abimelech acknowledged God's blessing on Isaac and the two made a treaty of peace between them at Beersheba. This narrative of Isaac's peace with Philistines highlights the fact that Isaac, and in turn his son Jacob, were Abraham's successors.

When we compare the content of this division with the life of Abraham, we find a number of parallels to Abraham's life. Abraham dealt with a Philistine king, also named Abimelech, in Genesis Abraham dug wells and lived among the Philistines in Genesis and Abraham also entered into a treaty with the Philistines at Beersheba in Genesis Moses designed these comparisons with Abraham to remove all doubt that God approved Isaac's peaceful relationship with the Philistines. Now let's turn from Isaac's interactions with Philistines to the sixth division of Jacob's life that focuses on encounters between Jacob and Canaanites in — Jacob's conflict with Canaanites also consists of two closely connected episodes.

The first episode concerns Jacob's conflict at Shechem in — In response to this attack on their sister, Jacob's sons tricked the Shechemites into believing all would be forgiven if they would be circumcised. But once the Shechemites were disabled by their circumcisions, Jacob's sons Simeon and Levi attacked and killed them all. Afterwards, Jacob expressed fear that the Canaanites would seek revenge and destroy his family. Even though Jacob's sons insisted that they had done the right thing, Jacob's final words about Simeon and Levi in Genesis indicate otherwise. In the second episode, Jacob received a dramatic assurance from God at Bethel in Genesis In , Jacob consecrated himself and his entire family to God in preparation for building an altar at Bethel.

As a result, the terror of God fell on the Canaanites and they didn't pursue Jacob. Then, after Jacob built the altar at Bethel, God spoke to him and assured him that he was his father's successor. We see this particularly in where God's words parallel his earlier words to Isaac in The episode closes with Jacob giving thanks for this blessing. And much like in the second division, we see several parallels between Abraham and Jacob in these chapters. Moreover, in , Jacob moved from Shechem to Bethel and built an altar there much like Abraham had done in Genesis As in the second division, these positive connections to Abraham's life showed that God approved of Jacob's conflict with the Canaanites.

Now let's turn to the third and fifth divisions that deal with Jacob and Esau's times of separation. These narratives focus on two distinct times when the brothers parted ways. The third division describes Jacob and Esau's hostile separation in — And the fifth division describes Jacob and Esau's peaceful separation in Genesis — Let's look at Jacob and Esau's hostile separation. This section focuses on four accounts that alternate between Esau and Jacob to display the moral complexities of these events.


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First, gives a brief report that Esau discredited himself by taking Hittite wives against his parents' wishes. Second, in —, we read a lengthy narrative of how Jacob's deception secured Isaac's blessing.

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In this well-known story, Jacob secured the blessing that was meant for Esau by deceiving his father Isaac. Upon learning what had happened, Esau became so enraged that Rebekah feared for Jacob's life. She convinced Isaac to send Jacob to Paddan Aram where Jacob might find a wife from among their relatives. Third, to keep the audience from feeling too much sympathy for Esau, Moses reported in that Esau took Ishmaelite wives in defiance of his parents.

The fourth and last segment affirms God's choice of Jacob as Isaac's heir by reporting Jacob's blessing through a dream at Bethel in In contrast to the third division's narrative of Jacob and Esau's hostile separation, the fifth division of Jacob's life reports the brothers' peaceful separation in — This division involves two closely connected episodes.

First, we see Jacob's preparation for Esau in Years after their hostile separation, Jacob prepared to meet Esau by sending messengers and gifts ahead of him. According to Hosea , the night before meeting Esau, Jacob was humbled as he wrestled with an angel and received God's blessing.

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We see that the promise had already been made to Rebekah that Jacob would be the one who would receive the blessing but the way that Jacob went about getting the blessing … he deceived his father and he, when he was asked his name, he said, "My name is Esau, your firstborn. And this time, the night before he's to meet Esau, he's wrestling with an angel and he's asked, "What is your name? He says, "My name is Jacob. Craig S.

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The second episode in reports Jacob's reconciliation with Esau. In this section, the brothers meet and then part on peaceful terms. The contrasts between this division and its parallel are obvious. Jacob was no longer deceitful but sincere and humble. Esau no longer sought revenge but granted forgiveness. In the end, the earlier hostility between the twins took a turn toward resolution and they went their separate ways in peace.

This division ends as Esau disappears from the storyline. Then, in chapter 34, Canaanites and a new geographical setting appear.

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All of this brings us to the fourth, pivotal division of Jacob's time with Laban in Genesis — Jacob's time with Laban divides into five main segments. It begins in with Jacob's arrival in Paddan Aram. We then learn in of Laban's deception of Jacob as he gave Jacob his daughters in marriage. Following Jacob's marriages, in — we read of the births of Jacob's children, the tribal patriarchs of Israel.

Then, to balance Laban's earlier deception, in Moses reported Jacob's deception of Laban as he sought wages for his years of work. Finally, in , we find Jacob's departure from Paddan Aram, including a covenant of peace made with Laban. These pivotal chapters deal with a variety of deceptions and conflicts. But, as we'll see in a moment, they brought about a radical transformation in Jacob.

Jacob: Unexpected Patriarch by Yair Zakovitch (Hardback, 2012)

When we look at the Jacob narrative in Genesis 25—37, we see a remarkable series of transformations that took place in Jacob's life. As he begins, as the deceiver, then he has that amazing gracious revelation from God in which God does not refer to the deception that Jacob has practiced but instead renews all the promises of Abraham to him. And Jacob becomes the dealer as he makes a deal with God that, if God will keep those promises, he will give him a little cut. But what a deal it was because God kept his promises when Jacob met a man who was crookeder than Jacob was in the person of Laban.

And as Jacob senses God's blessing in his life, it's very clear that he becomes more and more willing to trust God — at least in minimal ways — so that when God says to head home, he's willing to do it. And finally then, the deceiver, the dealer is defeated when he hears the word that his brother is coming with all those armed men.

And then the defeated is delivered when God comes and Jacob says, "It's your blessing I have to have — not my father's, not Esau's. It's yours! John Oswalt]. Up to this point in our lesson on the patriarch Jacob, we've explored the structure and content of Jacob's life in the book of Genesis. Now we should turn to our second main topic: the major themes that appear in these chapters. Unfortunately, followers of Christ often act as if Jacob's story was written primarily for individual believers to apply directly to their personal lives.

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Of course, this part of Genesis has much to say about how individuals should live. But we always have to remember that Genesis was not written with the expectation that the average individual believer would be able to read it. Only the leaders of ancient Israel had direct access to the Scriptures.

So, the life of Jacob was primarily written to address matters related to the nation of Israel as a whole. God had set Israel on a mission to build his kingdom in the Promised Land. And from there they were to spread his kingdom to the ends of the earth. And this kingdom-building mission helps us identify the major themes of Jacob's life for ancient Israel and for you and me living in Christ's kingdom today.

In our lessons on the life of Abraham, we saw that Moses emphasized four main themes: God's grace to Abraham, Abraham's loyalty to God, God's blessings to Abraham and God's blessings through Abraham to others. These same themes appear again in the life of Jacob. For this reason, we'll consider how the story of Jacob's life emphasizes these four major themes. First, we'll discuss God's grace to Israel; second, the requirement of Israel's loyalty to God; third, God's blessings to Israel; and fourth, the most important feature of these chapters, God's blessings through Israel to others.

Let's begin with some of the ways Jacob's story focuses on God's grace to Israel. We'll explore God's grace to Israel in two ways.