Understanding Genesis 28: Reconciling God to Us
Read the entire chapter 28 of Genesis on your own. You can read a variety of versions, from contemporary English to literal translations. You can download bible apps, websites (blueletterbible.org or biblegateway.com) or buy one from your local bookstore. I will use King James Version because some of the nuances are missing from other translations. When you read the chapter, don’t just read it—study it with questions and try to make sense of it.
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. Genesis 28:5
After Esau makes his vow to kill Jacob, there is tension in the family home. Esau is bitter about the “curse” said over him, and he vows to kill Jacob. Isaac is aware of Rebekah and Jacob’s lies and there is tension between each party. There must be a lot of regrets in Jacob’s mind: his father sees him as a liar, his brother is plotting to kill him, and he must leave his mother. Even though Isaac sent Jacob away with a blessing, there were no words of comfort or forgiveness. Isaac regrets his impulse to bless Esau, and understanding the characters of both sons, he acknowledges that Esau would never surrender to God, and gives the blessing to Jacob.
Jacob is no longer a child, but instead of having an adult friendship with his father, they are both made aware of each other’s shortcoming. They are both imperfect, and embarrassed for being caught red-handed.
God's Will, Not Our Will
And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father; 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. Genesis 28:8,9
Esau reaffirms his lack of understanding of who God is, and what He requires of us, by taking a third wife! Perhaps he thought Mahalath would please Isaac, because she was a descendant of Abraham, but he lost sight that God wanted a healthy marriage between two people, more than whose blood ran in His people’s veins.
We must be led by the Holy Spirit and not by our own desires. We often want to read signs from God and pray that God will bless OUR will, but if our will is contrary to God’s teachings, how is He to bless it?
"A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed." Matthew 16:4 "And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness," Luke 4:1
God has given us instructions throughout the Bible, but if we pray for anything that is contrary to God’s instructions, and then blame God for not answering our prayer—than we are being short-sighted and willful like Esau.
Jesus Bridges Heaven and Earth
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. Genesis 28:12
After 40 years living with his parents, finally getting the blessing that he’s always wanted—Jacob is feeling abandoned and exiled. On his way to Padanaram, Jacob has a dream. God speaks to Jacob, just like He had spoken to Abraham and Isaac. God affirms that He will be with Jacob and repeats the promise He gave to Abraham.
Jacob had grown up wanting this blessing; he heard the stories of the Abraham’s sojourns, the destruction of Sodom, Isaac’s trip up Mount Moriah—but he did not know God personally. As he lies on the ground, with no servants, no family—he sees clearly all the wrongs he had done. As he repents, God comes to him and comforts him. At this point, Jacob realizes that God still loves him, despite the lies and his failing relationship with his family. For the first time, Jacob sees God for who He truly is—a loving Father. Jacob starts to have a relationship with God, not just recognize Him cerebrally. Jacob starts to realize who God is and all that God is doing to reach him.
This is how God is with us; He’s always reaching down to meet us where we are. This ladder is a representation of Jesus. Jesus is bridging heaven and earth, to bring God to us. Not that God was far from us, but that we had deserted Him.
"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." John 1:51 By Jesus dying for us, He has shown how much God loves us. He has shown that we have no need to run from guilt, assume that is God angry with us; because Jesus’ sacrifice is evidence of God’s unbound love for us. Jesus volunteered to die so we could see, have incontrovertible proof, that God loves us.
"But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made near by the blood of Christ. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father." Ephesians 2:13,18 "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled." Colossians 1:20,21
Jesus is able to bring heavenly beings and us, together. The angels are able to connect with us because of our faith in God and in His power to help us. When we doubt (enemies in your mind by wicked works) and are unable to pray for His intercession, the angels have no way to reach us. It is when we pray in Jesus’ name; trust in His power and love, that we can see God clearly. We must admit our need for Him.
Beginning of Wisdom
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. Genesis 28:18
Jacob woke up from his dream, understanding what is holy and sacred (house of God and gate of heaven). He was not afraid of the Lord or the place, but it was starting to dawn on him who God really is. "Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God." Proverbs 2:3,5 "The fear of the LORD is the beginningofwisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." Proverbs 9:10
In fact he goes back to sleep, 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. Genesis 28:18
As Jacob wakes, he sees the sunrise over the vast plains. He remembers the promise that God spoke in his dream, and Jacob is at peace. As he acknowledges God’s promise, he also makes a vow (God did not demand anything from Jacob—God made all the promises without asking for anything in return); Jacob promises to be faithful to God IF God will take care of him. Jacob claims God as his God, not just the God of Abraham and Isaac; but as a fallible human being, Jacob also makes a bargain with God. He is stepping out in faith and claiming God’s promise, but he still has a lot to learn.
The danger of bargaining is that we are the ones who build the requirements; we try to think of something equivalent to what God gives freely. We assume that grace has to be earned and make sacrifices or create large objectives to equal what we ask for. The pagans wanted things from their gods, and it was so grand and preposterous, that only killing their children would equal what they wanted from their gods. God is not like that. God does not ask anything from us, except to believe He loves us.
"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Romans 8:32 "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Revelation 22:17
We assume that salvation has to be earned by doing this, and not doing that. Is eternity and heaven the objective of a Christian life? Is a good earthly life all we want from God?
We must have our own relationship with God; we cannot rely on our parents, our spouse to teach us about God. We must experience a relationship with God and understand who He is for ourselves. To say you know God, but not have a relationship with Him, is similar to the devils believing in God’s existence. "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." James 2:19 Don’t just recognize God, have a relationship with Him. "Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God." Joshua 23:11
- Understanding Genesis 29: An Unhappy Marriage
A Bible Study of Genesis 29.