Jacob and Esau
GOD knows the end from the beginning. He
knew, before the birth of Jacob and Esau, just what characters they would both develop. He
knew that Esau would not have a heart to obey Him. He answered the troubled prayer of
Rebekah and informed her that she would have two children, and the elder should serve the
younger. He presented the future history of her two sons before her, that they would be
two nations, the one greater than the other, and the elder should serve the younger. The
first-born was entitled to peculiar advantages and special privileges, which belonged to
no other members of the family.
Isaac loved Esau better than
Jacob, because Esau provided him venison. He was pleased with his bold, courageous spirit
manifested in hunting wild beasts. Jacob was the favorite son of his mother, because his
disposition was mild and better calculated to make his mother happy. Jacob had learned
from his mother what God had taught her, that the elder should serve the younger, and his
youthful reasoning led him to conclude that this promise could not be fulfilled while Esau
had the privileges which were conferred on the first-born. And when Esau came in from the
field, faint with hunger, Jacob improved the opportunity to turn Esau's necessity to his
and proposed to feed him with pottage if he would renounce all claim to his
birthright, and Esau sold his birthright to Jacob.
Esau took two idolatrous
wives, which was a great grief to Isaac and Rebekah. Notwithstanding this, Isaac loved
Esau better than Jacob. And when he thought that he was about to die he requested Esau to
prepare him meat, that he might bless him before he died. Esau did not tell his father
that he had sold his birthright to Jacob and confirmed it with an oath. Rebekah heard the
words of Isaac, and she remembered the words of the Lord, "The elder shall serve the
younger," and she knew that Esau had lightly regarded his birthright and sold it to
Jacob. She persuaded Jacob to deceive his father and by fraud receive the blessing of his
father, which she thought could not be obtained in any other way. Jacob was at first
unwilling to practice this deception, but finally consented to his mother's plans.
Rebekah was acquainted with
Isaac's partiality for Esau, and was satisfied that reasoning would not change his
purpose. Instead of trusting in God, the Disposer of events, she manifested her lack of
faith by persuading Jacob to deceive his father. Jacob's course in this was not approbated
by God. Rebekah and Jacob should have waited for God to bring about His own purposes in
His own way, and in His own time, instead of trying to bring about the foretold events by
the aid of deception.
If Esau had received the
blessing of his father, which was bestowed upon the first-born, his prosperity could have
come from God alone; and He would have blessed him with prosperity, or brought upon him
adversity, according to his course of action. If he should love and reverence God, like
he would be accepted and blessed of God. If, like wicked Cain, he had no
respect for God nor for His commandments, but followed his own corrupt course, he would
not receive a blessing from God but would be rejected of God, as was Cain. If Jacob's
course should be righteous, if he should love and fear God, he would be blessed of God,
and the prospering hand of God would be with him, even if he did not obtain the blessings
and privileges generally bestowed upon the first-born.
Years of Exile
Rebekah repented in
bitterness for the wrong counsel which she gave to Jacob, for it was the means of
separating him from her forever. He was compelled to flee for his life from the wrath of
Esau, and his mother never saw his face again. Isaac lived many years after he gave Jacob
the blessing, and was convinced, by the course of Esau and Jacob, that the blessing
rightly belonged to Jacob.
Jacob was not happy in his
marriage relation, although his wives were sisters. He formed the marriage contract with
Laban for his daughter Rachel, whom he loved. After he had served seven years for Rachel,
Laban deceived him and gave him Leah. When Jacob realized the deception that had been
practiced upon him, and that Leah had acted her part in deceiving him, he could not love
Leah. Laban wished to retain the faithful services of Jacob a greater length of time,
therefore deceived him by giving him Leah, instead of Rachel. Jacob reproved Laban for
thus trifling with his affections, in giving him Leah, whom he had not loved. Laban
entreated Jacob not to put away Leah, for this was considered a great disgrace, not only
to the wife, but to the whole family.
Jacob was placed in a most trying position, but he
decided to still retain Leah, and also marry her sister. Leah was loved in a much less
degree than Rachel.
Laban was selfish in his
dealings with Jacob. He thought only of advantaging himself by the faithful labors of
Jacob. He would have left the artful Laban long before, but he was afraid of encountering
Esau. He heard the complaint of Laban's sons, saying, "Jacob hath taken away all that
was our father's; and of that which was our father's hath he gotten all this glory. And
Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before."
Jacob was distressed. He knew
not which way to turn. He carried his case to God and interceded for direction from Him.
The Lord mercifully answered his distressed prayer. "And the Lord said unto Jacob,
Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.
"And Jacob sent and
called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock, and said unto them, I see your
father's countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath
been with me. And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. And your
father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt
me." Jacob related to them the dream given him of God, to leave Laban and go unto his
kindred. Rachel and Leah expressed their dissatisfaction of their father's proceedings. As
Jacob rehearsed his wrongs to them and proposed to leave Laban, Rachel and Leah said to
Jacob, "Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house. Are we
not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.
For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours, and
now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do."
Return to Canaan
In the absence of Laban,
Jacob took his family and all that he had, and left Laban. After he had pursued his
journey three days, Laban learned that he had left him, and he was very angry. And he
pursued after him, determined to bring him back by force. But the Lord had pity upon
Jacob, and as Laban was about to overtake him, gave him a dream not to speak good or bad
to Jacob. That is, he should not force him to return, or urge him by flattering
When Laban met Jacob he
inquired why he had stolen away unawares and carried away his daughters as captives taken
with the sword. Laban told him, "It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but
the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak
not to Jacob either good or bad." Jacob then rehearsed to Laban the ungenerous course
he had pursued toward him, that he had only studied his own advantage. He appealed to
Laban as to the uprightness of his conduct while with him, and said, "That which was
torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou
require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Thus I was; in the day the drought
consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes."
Jacob said, "Thus have I
been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and
six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times. Except the God of my
father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac,
had been with me, surely thou hadst
sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and
rebuked thee yesternight."
Laban then assured Jacob that
he had an interest for his daughters and their children, that he could not harm them. He
proposed to make a covenant between them. And Laban said, "Now therefore come thou,
let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee. And
Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar. And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather
stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the
And Laban said, "The
Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another. If thou shalt afflict
my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives besides my daughters; no man is with us;
see, God is witness betwixt me and thee."
Jacob made a solemn covenant
before the Lord that he would not take other wives. "And Laban said to Jacob, Behold
this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee; this heap be
witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that
thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm. The God of Abraham,
and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob swear by the
fear of his father Isaac."
As Jacob went on his way, the
angels of God met him. And when he saw them, he said, "This is God's host." He
saw the angels of God in a dream, encamping around about him. Jacob sent a humble,
conciliatory message to his brother Esau. "And the messengers returned to Jacob,
saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men
with him. Then Jacob was greatly afraid
and distressed: and he divided the people that was
with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands; and said, If Esau
come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.
"And Jacob said, O God
of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return
unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: I am not worthy of
the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast shewed unto Thy
servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
Deliver me, I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear
him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. And Thou saidst, I
will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be
numbered for multitude."
Copyright © 1974
The Ellen G. White Estate, Inc.
All Rights Reserved