Each week during our summer message series, Wonder Women: Female Heroes of the Bible, we highlight a male figure in the life of our feminine champion. This week’s man is Rebekah’s son, Jacob.
The patriarch Abraham had a son named Isaac, who in turn had a son named Jacob. Jacob’s twelve sons made up the twelve tribes of Israel that eventually became the nation of Israel. In many of the psalms and other parts of the Scripture, God is referred to as the “God of Jacob,” because it was through Jacob that God first formed his human family.
The name Jacob means to “supplant,” “scheme,” or “cheat.” Jacob was always thinking about how he could get more in life. He had an older twin brother named Esau, with whom he fought even in the womb. Their mother, Rebekah, called out to God, who told her that there were two nations in her womb, that one would be stronger than the other, and that the older would serve the younger.
Esau turned out to be an athletic, hairy, “man’s man,” while Jacob was a smooth-skinned, quiet “momma’s boy,” who liked to stay indoors. Isaac’s favorite was the tough-guy, Esau, while Rebekah’s favorite was Jacob. As the first born son, Esau had a birthright that entitled him to spiritual, moral, and political authority over the family once he received his father’s blessing. When Isaac’s death drew near, he asked Esau to bring him a final meal and receive the blessing he was entitled to from birth.
Rebekah overheard this and conspired with Jacob to steal his father’s blessing away from Esau. She covered Jacob’s forearms and neck with animal fur and gave him Esau’s smelly clothes to wear, so that his father, who had become blind, would believe he was Esau.
Soon after, Esau returned from the hunt and discovered the fraud. Rebekah overheard Esau comforting himself with thoughts of killing Jacob and warned him to escape and hide at his uncle Laban’s house far away. On his way, Jacob stopped at a shrine to sleep and dreamed of a ladder leading to heaven and God promising to bless him.
Jacob then spent the next twenty-one years in exile, away from his home and family. Over time, he amassed wealth by managing Laban’s property, but tensions with his uncle eventually led him on a long journey back home. About a day away, he sent gifts ahead of him to Esau, in an attempt to smooth his return, but soon heard that Esau was advancing with 400 men. Afraid, Jacob stayed awake all night fighting with a “man,” who turned out to be God. At break of day, Jacob then received God’s true blessing and was renamed “Israel,” which means to “wrestle with God.”
Working, planning, and scheming will not produce the life for which we long. We were not meant to arrange for it, but to receive it from our heavenly Father as a blessing. To the extent we desire God’s blessing in our marriages, businesses, and lives, we must renounce scheming, strategizing, and always attempting to get what we want on our own. Instead, our role simply is to cling to God, as Jacob did, and receive his abundant blessings.
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