Family Favoritism – Genesis 37-40

Our church family is reading through the first five books of the Bible together in ninety days. We invite you to join us as we believe this will be a time that will change our lives. 

Read Genesis 37-40

If you remember Jacob married Rachel and they had two boys, Joseph and his younger brother, Benjamin. But there were 12 brothers in all, giving Jacob a total of 70 descendants. So, here is a family of shepherds – what could be more boring than a family of shepherds? At the beginning of the chapter, we witness everyone together. Yet as the story advances, this family continues to disintegrate. By the end of chapter 37, even the father, Jacob, refuses the comfort of his children. Here is a family that is fractured, backbiting, and backstabbing.

Jacob favored Joseph over his other eleven sons. He should have known better than to favor one child over the others – it was exactly what his father did to him. Favoritism was a generational sin in Jacob’s family. Jacob knew better than to show favoritism. Why? Because Jacob’s father, Isaac, loved his brother, Esau, more than Jacob. Jacob knew firsthand the sting of being passed over for the “favored one.” Jacob desperately wanted his father’s love. This neediness caused Jacob to be a deceptive manipulator. He manipulated people all of his life – he carefully crafted the outcome. The lifelong hurt inflicted by his father should have taught him otherwise.

Jacob’s Wrestling Match – Genesis 31-33

Our church family is reading through the first five books of the Bible together in ninety days. We invite you to join us as we believe this will be a time that will change our lives. 

Read Genesis 31-33

As difficult as it may seem, God chooses to use Jacob as a foundation stone for Israel – His one people to work His plan of saving humanity. Jacob, with all of his family dysfunction and history of deceit, becomes Israel, the nation that will eventually give birth to the Messiah, Jesus. Strangely, God chooses to transform Jacob both physically and spiritually through a wrestling match.

Jacob was a stubborn man who wrestled with his father (Genesis 25:22), his brother (Genesis 27), and his father-in-law (Genesis 29-31). And now he was to wrestle with God Himself (Genesis 32:22-32). The strange account tells of an all-night struggle between God’s messenger and Jacob. Somewhere in the middle of the night, Jacob becomes aware than he is not wrestling with a mere mortal. While the shroud of darkness covered the identity of his attacker, the enormous power of his opponent was evident the moment Jacob’s hip was dislocated by a simple touch from his adversary. Hours and hours of thrashing about soon gave way to the dawning of a new day. But just before the light of dawn broke, Jacob clung to his rival like a rag doll. The story takes an odd twist – whereas Jacob’s earlier efforts had been in hopes of defeating his opponent, he now hung on in hopes of receiving a blessing.

Towards the end of the fight, the angel asks Jacob his name. In the context of the Bible, to disclose your name was also often an act of self-disclosure. When Jacob shares his name, it is essentially a confession of his lifelong practice of deceit. Jacob’s name was given to him because he grasped at the heels of his older brother, Esau, at their birth. From the beginning, Jacob would do anything necessary to climb to the top (Genesis 27:36). So when Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, we begin to see the purpose of the all-night wrestling match (Genesis 35:10). It’s not just that Jacob’s name has changed, but his character and life undergoes a profound metamorphosis.

The Deceiver is Deceived – Genesis 27-30

Our church family is reading through the first five books of the Bible together in ninety days. We invite you to join us as we believe this will be a time that will change our lives. 

Read Genesis 27-30

Just as quickly as Isaac’s life and story have appeared, we see him quickly fade away from the pages of Genesis. Isaac is both old and blind when his son, Jacob, tricks him with help from his mother. As we see Jacob’s plotting and his ridiculous disguise, we quickly discern he has the ethical makeup of a con artist. And while there are no heroes in this story, we soon see God shaping and remaking Jacob’s character.

Shortly after experiencing the vision of a ladder dropping down from heaven, Jacob journeys east. It is here he meets the beautiful Rachel and her scheming father, Laban – also a con artist. Jacob had met his match.

Remember, before leaving home, Jacob had tricked his brother. Now he spots the beautiful Rachel. In pursuit of this dream girl, Jacob agrees to work seven years for the beautiful Rachel’s hand in marriage. Yet, Laban was also father of the not so beautiful Leah, Rachel’s sister.

Jacob effectively tells Laban, “I’ll do anything for the hand of Rachel,” and Laban exploits the situation. First, Laban manages to become quite wealthy off the back of Jacob when he agrees to work for seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage (Rachel must have been beautiful!). Then, Laban tricks Jacob into marrying Leah, Rachel’s older and unwanted sister. At the end of the seven years, Jacob demands to be given Rachel. Yet, after a night of revelry, he wakes up married to Rachel’s sister, Leah – evidently, too drunk to notice whom he had married in the dark. When the morning came, he is outraged at the deceit. As soon as Jacob realizes the deception, he confronts Laban who offers him a second deal: “Work for me for an additional seven years for Rachel’s hand.”

Consider Leah for a moment. Here was the girl no one wanted. She had to be part of the ploy set up by Laban. Consider this: where was Rachel during the wedding festival? Had Laban or Leah locked her away? Did Leah not correct Jacob when he referred to her by Rachel’s name? What did Jacob call his new wife on the first night of their marriage? Did Leah’s jealousy cause her to agree to this deception?

In the end, Jacob finally knew what it was like to be on the receiving end of the chicanery he played on his brother and father years before. His deceit of his brother Esau had boomeranged back to him when Laban said he must marry the older sister before he could have the younger sister. Could he now finally understand the pain he had caused his family?