Genesis 28 – Jacob Flees from Esau
A. Isaac’s farewell to Jacob.
1. (1-2) Instructions to not take a Canaanite wife.
Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him: “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.”
a. Isaac called Jacob and blessed him: By now, Isaac had resigned himself to what he knew was the LORD’s will all along – that the older would serve the younger, and that Jacob, not Esau, would receive the birthright (Genesis 25:23). So he sent Jacob on with blessing and instructions (and charged him).
b. You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan: It was essential Jacob not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan, as his brother Esau did. Jacob was the one to inherit the birthright and carry on the seed of the Messiah.
2. (3-5) The all-important transferal of Abraham’s blessing.
“May God Almighty bless you, And make you fruitful and multiply you, That you may be an assembly of peoples; And give you the blessing of Abraham, To you and your descendants with you, That you may inherit the land In which you are a stranger, Which God gave to Abraham.” So Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Padan Aram, to Laban the son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.
a. May God Almighty bless you: Isaac blessed Jacob in the name of God Almighty, that is, El Shaddai. This title for God was previously used in Genesis 17:1, where God described Himself to Abraham with this phrase. Abraham passed the knowledge of El Shaddai on to his son Isaac, who now passed it on to Jacob. He first pronounced a general blessing of prosperity upon Jacob.
b. And give you the blessing of Abraham: After the general blessing, Isaac then gave the specific blessing of Abraham, the covenant blessing made to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:7, 15:8, 17:7-8). This was the aspect of the birthright that Esau despised, but Jacob (who seemed equally unworthy) would gain. Jacob was the one to carry on God’s promise to Abraham.
i. Jacob was promised a land (that you may inherit the land), a nation (that you may be an assembly of peoples), and a blessing (give you the blessing of Abraham), even as Abraham was promised (Genesis 12:1-3).
c. To you and your descendants with you: Jacob was by no means worthy of this blessing. Each of the four parties in the whole birthright mess acted in an unspiritual manner somewhere along the line. The amazing thing is that God brought any good out of all this. This was a triumph of God’s sovereignty.
d. So Isaac sent Jacob away: Jacob would travel eastward to the region where his mother Rebekah was raised. He would not see his father Isaac again for more than 20 years, when Isaac was truly near death.
3. (6-9) Esau adds wives.
Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Padan Aram to take himself a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan,” and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and had gone to Padan Aram. Also Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan did not please his father Isaac. So Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife in addition to the wives he had.
a. Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob: Now the blessing and the birthright seemed important to Esau. They were important enough to him that he determined to impress his father by marrying non-Canaanite women when he saw that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother.
b. Esau went to Ishmael: Esau avoided the Canaanite women and married women from the family of his uncle Ishmael.
B. Jacob meets God at Bethel.
1. (10-12) Jacob’s dream of a ladder.
Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
a. Went toward Haran: Jacob traveled eastward toward the ancestral lands of his grandfather Abraham (Genesis 11:31-32) and his mother Rebekah (Genesis 24:3-4).
b. Then he dreamed: In this desolate wilderness, Jacob had a significant dream as he used a stone for a pillow. One can only imagine the strange flood of feelings in Jacob at this moment: the fear, the loneliness, the isolation, the excitement, and the anticipation. This was an important time in Jacob’s life.
c. A ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it: In Jacob’s dream, there was now access to heaven. Jacob now knew God was closer than he ever thought before and there was real access and interaction between heaven and earth.
i. “The God of Bethel is a God who does concern himself with the things of earth, not a God who shuts himself up in heaven, but God who hath a ladder fixed between heaven and earth.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Jesus made it clear in John 1:51 that He is the access to heaven. He is the means by which heaven comes down to us and by which we can go to heaven. Jesus Messiah is the ladder. And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John 1:51).
iii. Jesus is the way to heaven. He does not show us a way; He is the way. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
2. (13-15) God speaks to Jacob.
And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”
a. I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac: Jacob had no doubt heard about the great God who appeared to Abraham and to Isaac, but now this same God met Jacob in a personal way. This was a life-changing experience for Jacob.
b. The land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants: These words were for comfort and hope to Jacob at this critical crossroads in his life. Essentially, God repeated to Jacob the terms of the covenant He gave to both Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) and to Isaac (Genesis 26:2-5).
i. Before, Isaac told Jacob the covenant was his (Genesis 28:3-4), but now the voice of God Himself confirmed it. God promised him land, a nation (your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth), and a blessing (in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed).
c. I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you: God gave to Jacob the same kind of promise found in Philippians 1:6: being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. God won’t let us go until His work is complete in us.
i. Behold, I am with you: “That God should give to Jacob bread to eat and raiment to put on was much, but it is nothing compared with ‘I am with thee.’ That God should send his angel with Jacob to protect him would have been much; but it is nothing compared with, ‘I am with thee.’ This includes countless blessings, but it is in itself a great deal more than all the blessings we can conceive of.” (Spurgeon)
ii. God’s blessing and faithfulness to Jacob is seen in the several ways that His presence is described in Jacob’s life.
· Behold, I am with you (Genesis 28:15) – This describes present blessing, and the indescribable blessing of God’s presence.
· I will be with you (Genesis 31:3) – This describes the wonderful promise of God’s future presence and blessing.
· The God of my fathers has been with me (Genesis 31:5) – This was Jacob’s testimony of God’s faithfulness and presence with him.
· God will be with you (Genesis 48:21) – This was Jacob passing on the blessing of God’s presence to the next generations.
3. (16-19) Jacob worships God, naming the place Bethel (house of God).
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously.
a. Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it: Jacob was right in sensing the presence of the LORD there. If he thought that God was in some places but not in others, he was wrong.
i. King David knew that God was everywhere: Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? (Psalm 139:7)
b. How awesome is this place: From his unspiritual and perhaps superstitious perspective, Jacob put too much emphasis on a particular place. He didn’t realize that if the presence of the LORD was not with him in every place, then God could never fulfill His promise to him.
c. He called the name of that place Bethel: The city of Bethel would play an important (though not glorious) role in Israel’s history. Among the cities of Israel, it is second only to Jerusalem in the number of times mentioned in the Old Testament.
i. Later, when speaking to Jacob, God referred to Himself as the God of Bethel (Genesis 31:13).
ii. Bethel would eventually become a high place, known for a place of sacrifice to idols (1 Kings 13:32, Hosea 10:15, Amos 4:4).
4. (20-22) Jacob’s vow unto God.
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
a. If God will be with me: This can also be translated “since God will be with me”; but knowing Jacob, he undoubtedly meant it in the sense of “if God will be with me.” God gave him a promise, yet he still tried to bargain with God, even promising God money if He fulfilled His promise.
i. The way Jacob prayed, it was evident God’s mere word was not enough for him. He had to see God do it before he would believe. We should not be the same way, but we often are. God says, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19); He says, “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him,” (Nahum 1:7). We should believe these things, even before we see them.
b. Keep me in the way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on: Here, Jacob spoke as if he could set the terms of his covenant with God. In his thinking, he made the deal for God instead of humbly receiving what God said would be the arrangement.
i. Jacob wasn’t very submitted to God. In the next phase of his life, God taught him submission in adversity, through his Uncle Laban.
c. Jacob made a vow: Unfortunately, there was a great contrast between God’s promise and Jacob’s vow. One was totally God-centered; the other was terribly man-centered.
i. God’s promise to Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15):
· I am the LORD God.
· I will give to you.
· I am with you.
· I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken.
ii. Jacob’s vow to God:
· If God will be with me.
· And keep me.
· In this way that I am going.
· Give me bread and clothing.
· So that I come back to my father’s house.
iii. It would have been much better if Jacob had prayed like this: “Because You promised to be with me and to keep me and to provide for all my needs, and to bring me back to the land which you swore to give to my fathers and to me, I will be completely Yours, God.”
iv. God was gracious enough not to take His covenant back when He saw such an unspiritual response from Jacob. Instead, He was willing to be called the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (Exodus 3:6).
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission