How Jacob Became Abraham's Heir

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How Jacob Became Abraham's Heir

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God chose Jacob, the second-born of Isaac’s twins, to receive the birthright inheritance that is usually reserved for the firstborn. This bestowed on him the right to become the family’s patriarch upon Isaac’s death (Genesis 25:29-34 Genesis 25:29-34 29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: 30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray you, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. 31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day your birthright. 32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? 33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he swore to him: and he sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.
American King James Version×
). The birthright blessing made Jacob the direct heir of Abraham and the recipient of the divine commitments to Abraham and his posterity.

At the time Jacob received the blessing, he still had not committed himself to live by faith in God. Though God had designated Jacob as heir of Abraham’s blessing shortly before his birth (Genesis 25:23 Genesis 25:23And the LORD said to her, Two nations are in your womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from your bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
American King James Version×
), Jacob and his mother were both weak in faith and resorted to deceit to obtain the blessing from Isaac (Genesis 27). This earned Jacob the hatred of his brother. Esau seethed with anger and set out to kill him (Genesis 27:41 Genesis 27:41And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.
American King James Version×
). Their mother heard about Esau’s plans, so she asked Isaac to send Jacob to stay with relatives far away so he would be safe (Genesis 27:42-46 Genesis 27:42-46 42 And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, Behold, your brother Esau, as touching you, does comfort himself, purposing to kill you. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; arise, flee you to Laban my brother to Haran; 44 And tarry with him a few days, until your brother’s fury turn away; 45 Until your brother’s anger turn away from you, and he forget that which you have done to him: then I will send, and fetch you from there: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day? 46 And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?
American King James Version×
).

So Isaac and Rebekah sent Jacob back to Rebekah’s family in northern Mesopotamia. Apparently the only reason they mentioned to their large household was that they wanted Jacob to find a wife from among Rebekah’s relatives. This was true, but Rebekah was also trying to prevent Esau from killing Jacob.

Before sending Jacob away, however, Isaac summoned his overly ambitious and crafty son and blessed him again. Isaac apparently forgave his son’s previous deceptive behavior and this time willingly repeated his original blessing. By this time Isaac had probably remembered and acknowledged that God had designated Jacob, even before his birth, as the heir.

Then Isaac rehearsed some of the key covenant promises that God had made to him and Abraham (Genesis 28:1-5 Genesis 28:1-5 1 And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him, You shall not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. 2 Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and take you a wife from there of the daughers of Laban your mother’s brother. 3 And God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, that you may be a multitude of people; 4 And give you the blessing of Abraham, to you, and to your seed with you; that you may inherit the land wherein you are a stranger, which God gave to Abraham. 5 And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padanaram to Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.
American King James Version×
). In doing so Isaac openly announced to the family that Jacob was indeed inheriting the prime responsibility for the family’s everlasting relationship with God (Genesis 17:19 Genesis 17:19And God said, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son indeed; and you shall call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
American King James Version×
).

God was making sure no one forgot His promises to Abraham. He was formally passing them from one generation to the next.

Isaac passed on the key covenant promises to Jacob: “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and numerous, that you may be a company of peoples. May he give to you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your offspring with you, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien—land that God gave to Abraham” (Genesis 28:3-4 Genesis 28:3-4 3 And God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, that you may be a multitude of people; 4 And give you the blessing of Abraham, to you, and to your seed with you; that you may inherit the land wherein you are a stranger, which God gave to Abraham.
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

As Jacob hurriedly left home, he possessed both the birthright promise and a special blessing. But his life had suddenly turned upside down. What did it all mean? Would his grandfather’s and father’s God really be there for him too?

Jacob must have thought about the stories he had heard while growing up about his family’s encounters with this awesome, divine being. Would that same great God honor what he had worked so deceitfully to obtain, even though God had promised it to him before he was born?

It was at this point in his life that God personally revealed Himself to Jacob. “[Jacob] came to a certain place and stayed there for the 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. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

“And the LORD stood beside him 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; and 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 all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that 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.’

“Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!’ 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.’ So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he 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. He called that place Bethel…” (Genesis 28:11-19 Genesis 28:11-19 11 And he lighted on 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 your father, and the God of Isaac: the land where on you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed; 14 And your seed shall be as 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 in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 And, behold, I am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go, and will bring you again into this land; for I will not leave you, until I have done that which I have spoken to you 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 on 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.
American King James Version×
, NRSV). Jacob now knew for certain that he was the officially confirmed heir of the promises made to Abraham.

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