1 Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women. 2 Arise, go to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father, and take as your wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. 3 God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. 4 May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!” 5 Thus Isaac sent Jacob away. And he went to Paddan-aram, to Laban, the son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.
-As mentioned last chapter, it appears as though Rebekah gave Jacob’s need for a wife as an excuse for Jacob to leave before Esau killed him. It may be that Isaac did not know about Esau’s desire to actually want to kill his brother.
Esau Marries an Ishmaelite
6 Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. 8 So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, 9 Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth.
-Esau obviously is not getting it. Esau is not the chosen heir. It was in God’s will that Jacob should receive the blessing. Esau seems to think that if he too took a wife from his own relatives, he would be looked favorably on and still receive blessing from his father. He is not seeing God or the spiritual side at all. Esau only understand the physical way of looking at things and so he is making decisions based on these terms. He doesn’t even understand that Ishmael was overlooked in favor of his father, the younger son, and that marrying an Ishmaelite will do nothing for him especially since he still has the Hittite women.
10 Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 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 promised you.”
-We get more detail from Jacob’s vision than we had from Isaac or Abraham. We are told Jacob saw this while sleeping but this was no dream. What Jacob saw gives us a glimpse of what existence looks like when we add the spiritual that we cannot see. With us, as human beings, we can only see physical things. We can see the physical world and the laws of physics being obeyed. When miracles happen, we call them that because we cannot explain them in physical terms. But was is happening is that God, who exists also within the spiritual plain as do angels, will interact with the world but we only see the reaction in the physical world. For example, when someone is inflating a balloon, we can see the balloon inflate but we can’t literally see the air being breathed into it. But we know air is being breathed into or else there is no other way to explain how a balloon would mysteriously inflate itself. Even if we could not see the person inflating it, we know there must be an inflater because how else does the balloon inflate. Can it inflate itself? If it could, why is it doing it right now and not before if all conditions are the same? This is how we “see” God and the miraculous. We can’t prove by physical means God’s existence or anything else spiritual. But what we can do is see the effects the spiritual has on the physical world. What Jacob is seeing, however, is the full spectrum. He is seeing the spiritual world in his dream. The ladder that he saw where angels were ascending and descending was the activity of God telling His angels to perform various tasks for people. Maybe someone on Earth at the time needed protection, or needed something specific to happen to make a choice. Maybe the angel is descending to carry that person’s soul because it is their time to die. We certainly don’t know specifics. But this is a glimpse of how things work from the full spectrum of existence that we don’t get to see. This is a confirmation of angels active use in our world to do things that God wills.
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 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.” 18 So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first.
-Although the name is similar, Bethel is not the same as Bethlehem. Here is a map of where Bethel is located: http://bibleatlas.org/full/bethel.htm . Bethlehem is located South of Jerusalem. Jacob certainly has faith to believe that this dream is truly of God and not just a weird dream and response demonstrates the fear of God. We’ve already seen and will continue to see a sly, devious, not-so-righteous Jacob but it is important to point out Jacob’s faith and fear of God here. Like with Abraham, Jacob himself is not a great man on his own right. Jacob is a sinner. He is willful, he is rebellious, he is strongly self-centered, and he seeks to serve himself first before God and others. But God works with Jacob to the point of even changing his name to Israel just as Abram had his name changed to Abraham. This name change signifies this relationship that God has and the molding that is being done. As mentioned in a previous chapter’s study, the bible is not about great men. The bible is about God and the relationship he has with many different types of men and women but all of them flawed sinners. The story of Jacob and how he became Israel and all events in between are interesting history to be sure. But more importantly, his story is an example to us of how God works with a person throughout the course of his life when He has a plan for them. Jacob was given a vision in a dream. This tells us as believers today that we may be given visions in a dream and God may wish to communicate with us in this way. So we should be on the lookout, knowing that God may give us a dream and perhaps nothing else to tell us what we may need to do. The bible and the stories within are the only to confirm what God might be doing in your own life when you take the time to compare your experiences to those like Jacob’s.
20 Then Jacob made 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 clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”
-Here we see Jacob’s slyness and self-centeredness. Jacob has the gall to make a deal with God Almighty. Who does Jacob think he is? How is it that he thinks he can dictate to God the terms of their relationship. Jacob was taught of God by his father and grandfather Abraham since he was little so he is certainly aware of God. But knowledge that a God exists does not define maturity. Jacob doesn’t seem to have had a relationship with God up to this point and so he is a very immature believer. Jacob is being self-centered but it is all he knows how to be. He is like a child who only likes his parent’s so long as they give them stuff. But it seems the Holy Spirit was with him because he prophetically declares the he will give “a full tenth” to God. A tithe (one tenth) ends up being the law in Israel and was also what Abraham gave to Malchizedek.