Jacob steals Esau’s blessing and Esau plans to murder him for it. Their mother Rebekah gets wind of it (she seems to hear everything) and sends Jacob back to her home country and relatives to live to be safe from his brother. Stopping one night on his journey the Lord gives him a dream. God speaks to him and confirms him as the heir of the Abrahamic promises. After waking up Jacob vows to serve God the rest of his life.
This section is important because Jacob is specifically named as the heir of the promises to Abraham. We are seeing God’ historical plans progress on to the next generation: first with Abraham, then to Isaac, now to Jacob.
I would say too that this section is important because the events of the lives of these men serve to us man lessons for living by faith. We can ask why Genesis traces out these seemingly irrelevant and drama-loaded episodes in their lives. But one thing that I just keep finding is the richly packed lessons of what living by faith looks like. They were real people who lived real lives. Their successes we can relate to and their failures touch home for us as well. And through their lives we’ve been given so many lessons on what to do and what not to do that we are foolish to ignore their lives.
We have 3 headings: Jacob’s Escape, Jacob’s Dream and Jacob’s Vow.
JACOB’S ESCAPE (27:41-28:5)
First we see that Jacob escapes. Read 27:41-28:5….
The Bible is full of examples of people dramatically fleeing their situations. Moses fleeing Egypt after murdering an Egyptian (Ex 2). The nation of Israel fleeing Egypt when led by Moses (Ex 13). Elijah fleeing Jezebel (1 Kings 19). David fleeing Saul (1 Sam 20), then later his own son Absolom (2 Sam 15). Joseph and Mary fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod when she was pregnant with Jesus (Mt 2). Early Jewish Christians fled Jerusalem when persecution broke out (Acts 8). The Apostle Paul fled nearly every city because of his persecutors. Jesus foretold the great end times flight of the Jews when he said, “When you see the abomination that causes desolation standing where it does not belong flee” (Mk 13).
In our text we see one brother fleeing another. Jacob flees Esau. Esau, like Cain, planned to make an ‘Abel’ out of his brother Jacob (Gen 4). “Brothers are born for adversity” Proverbs 17:17 says. Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount, “You’ve heard it said not to murder, but I tell you not to be angry in your heart or you’ll be subject to judgment.” (Mt 5:21-22). He later said what is in the heart will be seen in the actions (Mk 7). Esau was already murdering Jacob in his heart. Soon he would follow through with his hands.
Apparently Jacob was unaware and only found out because his mother knew (27:42). She seems to know everything going on in that household.
APPLICATION: Mothers know everything. 🙂
I’ll point out two things from this section. First is Rebekah’s public reason for sending Jacob is not the same as her secret reason. Her secret reason was to save Jacob’s life. Her public reason was getting him a wife. I love her drama in verse 46, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.” Of course, both reasons were valid: Jacob did need a wife, AND, the safest place was his mother’s relatives. So sending him there would provide both safety and a sweetheart. Rebekah wasn’t entirely acting here.
In all this Isaac was a man who understood her feelings. After all his own father felt the same way as she did. When it came to finding Isaac a wife Abraham would not tolerate Isaac marrying any of those Hittite women either. That was chapter 24 when sent his servant to find a wife for him back home. Isaac’s wife had the same attitude as his father. And just as it led to him finding the woman of his dreams, so now it would lead to Jacob finding the woman of his dreams.
The other thing to notice here is Isaac’s sending him off with a blessing. Intentionally this time. Remember in the last chapter Isaac mistakenly gave Jacob the blessing intended for Esau when Jacob deceived him. Look with me at 28:1-4. This is huge. Before sending him off Isaac confirms to Jacob that he is the heir of the Abrahamic promises: the land, the descendents and the Messiah.
What these verses right here are doing is completing the Patriarchal formula that will become so famous for the rest of the OT: “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Over and over God and people would say things like, “The God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” These three men: grandpa Abraham, father Isaac and grandson Jacob, would become the men by whom God would identify Himself to their descendents the Israelites. “I am the God of your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
So Jacob leaves with his belongings and his blessing and sets off to his relatives far away. He is heading to see his uncle Laban, his mother’s brother. Laban lives in Harran, which is a city north in the region of Paddan Aram. It would be like saying Grand Rapids, which is in West Michigan. Harran actually is where Abraham lived before finally leaving to Canaan back in chapter 12.
JACOB’S DREAM (28:10-15)
Next we see Jacob’s Dream. Follow along in verses 10-15 with me….
Dreams are a common way in the Bible that God communicated with people. Pharaoh’s dream of 7 fat cows and 7 skinny cows (Gen 41). King Nebuchadnezzar and King Belshazzar had dreams from God in Dan 4 & 5. Joseph, the husband of Mary, was approached by an angel in a dream (Mt 1). Pilate’s wife had a disturbing dream about Jesus (Mt 27:19). Peter declared in Acts 2:17, “In the last days God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams…”
Here God comes to Jacob in a dream. Which is interesting because with his father and grandfather, Abraham and Isaac, God seemed to appear to them by just showing up during the day while they were awake.
- “The Lord had said to Abram…” (12:1)
- The Lord appeared to Abram and said…” (12:7)
- The Lord said to Abram after Lot departed…” (13:14)
- After rescuing Lot it says “the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision…” (Gen 15:1) Then he seems to be awake and gets animals ready for a sacrifice and then falls into a sleep and the vision of God passing between the animals occurs
Let’s notice the content of the dream. We’ll pay attention briefly to two (2) things: the angels and the Abrahamic promises.
First the angels. This is fascinating. He sees a ladder, or stairway with the bottom on the earth and the top reaching up into heaven. On the ladder he sees two-way traffic of angels: some are going down to earth from heaven while others are going up to heaven from the earth. (I ask the question: Why do they need a ladder? Can’t they fly?” That, however, would probably be a pointless question that digresses from the point of the dream.) The real question here is Why is this the dream that God gave Jacob? Why did God show a stairway of angels moving up and down it between heaven and earth? How does this amazing sight relate to what God says to Jacob? I think they are related, they have to be related. I would suggest some answers:
First, God is God of heaven and earth. The picture of God here is one of authority and power and majesty over the earth, but also heaven as well.
Second, heaven is greater than the earth. Notice that heaven is up and earth is down. This kind of language always indicates a greater than/less than relationship. “As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” God says in Isaiah 55. Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind” 2 Kings 2:11 says. Jesus said, “I have come DOWN from heaven to do my father’s will” (Jn 6:38). Then in Acts 1 it says Jesus was taken up to heaven in a cloud and the disciples “were looking intently up into the sky as he was going up” (9-10).
Third, angels are dispatched by God all the time for various tasks. Remember Hebrews 1:14, “Are not all angels ministering spirits SENT to serve those who will inherit salvation?” They are sent by God. Gabriel was sent to Daniel and Mary, and probably Joseph. There is so much angelic traffic in this world and we don’t even know about it. Think about Hebrews 13 when it says, “For some have even entertained angels without even knowing it.” The whole book of Revelation is the constant traffic of angels doing this and that at God’s command. Go ahead and randomly open up anywhere in Revelation and you will see angels speaking or acting for God.
By the way: Don’t seek angels. Sometimes people think they are special and can contact angels. Sometimes people get so preoccupied and even obsessed with angels and the reason is because Jesus isn’t enough for them. It gets their ego going. That’s going down the wrong road. Nowhere are we told to seek angels and nowhere do God’s people call on angels. We call on the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone. The people who were contacted BY angels were not seeking contact with them. Let it be the same with us.
Fourth, this dream Jacob sees shows that God is active on the earth. Heaven is constantly at work in the affairs on earth. He’s not just at work though. The picture portrays a strong sense of God being in control of the earth. It’s not like God is a cowboy in a rodeo trying to hang on to some bucking bull. He’s standing
Fifth, so many things are happening we don’t even know about. The invisible world around us is a flurry of activity. Jacob had no idea about all that angelic traffic going on. He even says in verse 16, “Surely the Lord was in this place and I was not even aware of it.” He couldn’t see everything God was doing around him in this world. It was invisible to Him. And it is to us.
- It’s just like when the servant of Elishah was blind to the fiery angel army surrounding and protecting them (2 Kings 6).
- Remember according to Colossians 1 that Jesus is the creator of all things: “things in heaven and on earth, visible and INVISIBLE….” (16).
- All this reminds us too of the invisible battle we are part of too according to Ephesians 6, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood (visible), but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
- Our last memory verse said, “For we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.”
The reality of the invisible world is asserted throughout Scripture. And God is God over that world and the one we see, and He is at work in all kinds of ways we cannot even see on this earth.
APPLICATION: We don’t need to see specifically how God might be at work right now, but we must have faith and trust that He is. “My Father is at work to this very day and so am I” Jesus said (Jn 5:18).
Here’s how this dream and the things God said relate: the God who was God over heaven and earth and who was at work on the earth sovereignly working out his plans, dispatching angels here and there, was the God who not only desired to fulfill all those promises but was able to fulfill them. As God stood majestically in heaven over the ladder Jacob was overwhelmed with the sense that this God could not be prevented by anyone from doing what He said. Just as the angels ran back and forth at His command it was clear that what this God decided indeed came to be. Thus, Jacob would have no doubt of the things God said about all the promises of the Abrahamic covenant and about being with and never leaving him and watching over him. The dream was provided the overwhelming visual power to the impress on Jacob’s mind that this God does what He says and nothing stops him. Including those blessings.
JACOB’S VOW (28:16-22)
Finally we come to Jacob’s Vow. Follow along in verses 16-22…Other examples of vows in the Bible.
APPLICATION: Seeing God results in worshipping God. Jacob saw God. He saw him in this dream, but, I would use “saw” in the broadest way possible, meaning he understood God. He realized who God was and what God was like. That is more than just seeing with his eyes. Each of us needs to see God. Each of us needs to realize who God is and what He is like. That is the key to worshipping God.
APPLICATION: Everyone has to make their own decision to make God their God. Jacob is like a lot of you younger kids today: he grew up in a home where the true God was worshipped. Jacob grew up not worshipping pagan gods but the one true God. But there is something unique about this moment in Jacob’s life. He seems to for the first time, truly from his own heart, be making the decision that he will worship the God of his parents and grandparents. There is no virtue in rejecting the true God simply because your parents worship Him and you don’t want to be like your parents.
APPLICATION: Memorialize those key moments in your life with Christ. There is something beautiful and godly about Jacob setting up a stone to memorialize this moment. While you think about ways to do that in your personal life, lets remember that Jesus gave us some memorials as the Church. We are practicing one today: Communion. This is a memorial that reminds us of that most important event in human history and our own history: the Son of God died for our sins on the cross and rose again.
CONCLUSION: Heaven’s Gate
Jesus is the gate to heaven. Only through Him can anyone enter.
Fall is a beautiful season with all the changing colors and the apples and the cooling weather. But one of the headaches is all the leaves. The other day I borrowed a gas powered leaf blower and I discovered that my life is worth living now. Where have these been all my life?! The project went so easy and so fast. As I was blowing large quantities of leaves with ease I thought of a spiritual lesson. The leaf blower is like Jesus and my sins are like the leaves. The power of this echo hp500 gas powered 2 stroke leafblower effortlessly removes all my leaves. Without the echo hp500 gas powered 2 stroke leaf blower the leaves would never be removed. I thought, what if I had to blow the leaves away by using a straw?! That’s what it is like trying to remove my own sins. I can’t do it. By myself I just can’t do it. Like the piles of leaves my sins are too much. But if something – or Someone – with power were made available to me, they would be blown away easily. Jesus is our leaf blower. He takes away our sins. God made Him available to us. Our lives are not and have not been worth living until Him.