[Today: Genesis 28] Jacob Negotiates with God. In chapter 28 of Genesis Jacob takes his leave of Isaac and Rebekah to seek a wife among the daughters of his uncle Laban. On the journey to Padanaram he experiences a vision of angels ascending and descending on a ladder above him. The Lord appears and reiterates the promises and the blessings of Abraham after which Jacob sets conditions showing he doesn’t yet understand the nature of the covenant that is now his to walk in.
1 And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. 2 Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother. 3 And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; 4 And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham. 5 And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padanaram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.
6 When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padanaram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan; 7 And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padanaram; 8 And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father; 9 Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife. 10 And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. 11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. 13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; 14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. 16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. 17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. 18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. 19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. 20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: 22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
After Jacob receives the birthright instead of Esau, Rebekah insists that he flee to his uncle Laban in fear of his brother’s wrath. Even though he has attained the birthright by subterfuge Isaac still calls him and blessed him further with an additional instruction not to take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Instead Jacob is to take a wife of the daughters of his uncle Laban.
Isaac repeats the blessing conferred on Jacob previously to make it clear that with full knowledge and volition he is unequivocally choosing Jacob to be the recipient of the blessing of God that came upon Abraham, that was passed down to him and now to Jacob excluding Esau who despised his birthright and the blessing previously. Esau observes the instruction of his parents to Jacob and Jacob’s spirit of obedience to do exactly as he is told. In hopes of garnering favor of Isaac and Rebekah he goes and takes a wife of Ishmael. This show the complete lack of discretion and discernment on Esau’s part. For all his years growing up in Jacob’s house and hearing the stories of his grandfather Abraham, he still doesn’t understand or have respect to the covenant of God. He simply wants something for himself and his interests go no further. This is the same attitude in Cain who slew his brother Abel and no wonder that Esau moves in the same spirit desiring likewise to kill Jacob, thus Jacob flees.
Jacob makes his way toward Padanaram where Laban may be found and stops at a certain place to rest for the night. He dreams of a ladder extending from the earth to the heavens and sees the angels of God ascending and descending upon it. At the top of the ladder is a figure looking down who identifies himself as the Lord who blessed his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham.
This ladder that Jacob sees has meaning for us because Jesus mentions it in the gospel of John after meeting Nathaniel:
[Jhn 1:51 KJV] 51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.
What is this ladder? We know it is connected with the kingdom of God and has something to do with the entrance of angels going to and from the throne of God. It is interesting to note that the double helix of our DNA looks exactly like a ladder. When Jacob awakes he calls the place Bethel or house of God and he discerns rightly because we are (you and I) the house of God and the angels of God ascend and descend upon us. This picture is a picture of something not taking place near the rock in the West Bank territory of modern day Israel. This is something on the inside of you that Jesus spoke about in Luke 17:21:
[Luk 17:21 KJV] 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Now this place is called Bethel by Jacob the same Bethel where Abraham built an altar in Gen. 12:8 and frequented often as noted in Gen. 13:3. As Abraham was an altar builder so Jacob was an altar builder. Here we see the beginning of Jacob coming into his own walk with God building on the foundation of those that have gone on before him. At this altar Jacob vowed a vow that IF God will be with him that he will give a tenth of all that he has unto the Lord.
Do you think that Jacob’s promise impressed the Lord? Jacob is trying to leverage God and actually speaks from a position of distrust in God’s very word. He sees this wonderful vision but does not trust the Lord who Himself appeared and promised to bless him with the blessings of his grandfather Abraham. He disgraces himself with his “if you will – I will” conditions showing that he lacks in trust. Before he ever mentioned his willingness to tithe if God will keep up his end, God has already blessed him with no mention of any condition. Let’s read again the promises that the Father makes in Jacob’s vision:
Gen. 28:13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; 14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
In the promises God gives there is no condition mentioned and no requirement whatsoever other than Jacob’s willingness to believe which he demonstrates by his small minded negotiation that he does not fully believe in spite of the vision he experiences. Let us be careful not to follow Jacob’s poor example here. God doesn’t need us to make vain promises saying “God if you will answer my prayer – I will do thus and so…” In our ministry we hear this all the time “When God moves I will give…” Or when God does this I will give Him my all. Don’t be this person. Don’t put your faith in what you say or what you claim you will do. Rather put your faith in what God has said in His word and what He did in Christ 2000 years ago and then the promise will be sure in your life.