Today’s reading: Genesis 26-28.
When God speaks prophetically, does He reveal the future that He wants to happen, or just the future that will happen?
Back in Genesis 15:13-14, God told Abraham in the dreadful darkness:
Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.
Ten chapters later, He told Rebekah:
“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” ~ Genesis 25:23
Are those events that He wanted to happen and would cause to happen … or did He just know for certain that they were going to happen, and He would work through them?
As Isaac aged, his eyesight and energy dimmed. He sent firstborn – by moments – Esau to snare and prepare him some tasty wild game (did it trigger an unpleasant memory for Esau of a deal made over red stew?) so that he could receive his father’s blessing.
Rebekah, overhearing the request, waited until Esau left and told Jacob to dress in his brother’s outdoorsy-smelling clothes and pad his less-hairy arms with goatskin. It was all a lie to fool his father and receive the blessing that went with the birthright he had cheated away from Esau in a weak moment over that red stew. He would pretend to be his brother. This time, though, she would cook – and accept the responsibility for any curse that might come from being discovered.
Before I became a dad, I couldn’t understand how such a transparent ruse could have worked. But now as a dad, I do. You want to think the best of your children. You don’t want to think that they would deceive you, lie to you, steal from one another, conspire with their mother against your wishes. So, even though Isaac can’t rely on his eyes and doubts his ears (“The voice is the voice of Jacob …”), he trusts his fingers and his nose. He blesses the slightly-younger son with abundance and power and security.
No more had Jacob scurried out of his father’s tent than Esau entered; father and firstborn discern the deception, and the only blessing left for him is what God foretold to Rebekah, plus …
“But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.”
Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” ~ Genesis 27:40-41
Rebekah, told of Esau’s threat, urged Jacob to flee for his life and used her dislike of Esau’s Hittite wives to encourage Isaac to send him Haran for a bride among her relatives. Once sent, Jacob went. If he took time to pack provisions, it certainly doesn’t show in the text of the story!
Esau, furious at Jacob, married another Canaanite woman to spite his parents. That made three. Did I already say something about bigamy being a bad idea? Is there such a thing as trigamy? Esau would gain infamy as Edom, the Red Man, and head of the warrior clan later known as the Edomites – yet another thorn in Israel’s side for generations.
But Jacob’s journey took an odd turn. At a place he would later call Bethel (“House of God”), Jacob rested with a pillow for a stone. In a dream, he saw angels ascending and descending from heaven on a sort of ladder or stairway, while he heard God confirm the promise He had made to Abraham and Isaac.
Upon awakening, Jacob was thoroughly awed and upended the stone to become a pillar marking the place of this divine appearance. He made a vow himself – conditional to God holding up His end of the bargain – to recognize God, name that pillar His house, and give Him a tenth (perhaps just as his grandfather had honored Melchizedek).
So was it fair that Jacob – though completely lacking in resources at the moment – should stand to gain from his double deceit (just like his grandfather Abraham did)? Was God rewarding him for doing what we would have expected to deserve punishment?
Or were there consequences yet to come?
P.S. I thought about naming this post “Lies, Damning Lies, and Statistics” – the statistics being God’s accuracy in predicting the future. But I thought better of it, since the statistic is pretty obviously 100%.