After deceiving his father (with the help of his mother) by stealing his older brother Esau's rightful blessing as the eldest son, Jacob fled from home and Esau's great anger (Gen 25). Of this, the Smith's Bible Dictionary states that:
"Jacob did not obtain the blessing because of his deceit, but in spite of it. That which was promised he would have received in some good way; but Jacob and his mother, distrusting God's promise, sought the promised blessing in a wrong way, and received with it trouble and sorrow."
During his flight, Jacob lived with his Uncle Laban. Here he met and fell in love with Rachael who was not the eldest of Laban's many daughters. Without his knowledge, the deceiver Jacob was himself deceived by his own uncle into marrying the eldest Leah first after working the flocks for seven years. If he wanted to marry Rachael, the real love of his life, he would have to tend the flocks for seven more years. About this, Adam Clarke, in his commentary on Genesis 28, states that:
"It is perfectly plain that Jacob did not serve seven years more before he got Rachel to wife; but having spent a week with Leah, and in keeping the marriage feast, he then got Rachel, and served afterwards seven years for her."
Angered by this, Jacob made a way to deceive his uncle out of his best sheep. After Jacob had accomplished this, he took all that was his and fled Laban's anger toward him for what he had done (Gen 31). With nowhere to go, God tells Jacob to head back home (Gen 32).
During this journey, word came to Jacob that Esau was on his way towards him. Still a coward, and most likely still feeling shameful for what he had done to Esau, Jacob first sent a few messengers to speak to Esau about how much Jacob had obtained. When Jacob heard that an army was with his brother he sent half of his flocks and family to meet Esau, hoping that this would defuse Esau's great anger toward him when Esau saw that he had plenty for Esau to take if that would help defuse his anger. Still in great fear, Jacob sent many more of his flock in spaced-out groups, hoping to appease Esau before he arrived to meet Jacob. Of this meeting, Adam Clarke has to say:
"Jacob, conscious that he had injured his brother, was now apprehensive that he was coming with hostile intentions, and that he had every evil to fear from his displeasure. Conscience is a terrible accuser."
But when Jacob met Esau, after a night of wrestling with God where God gave him the name of Israel (the name of God's chosen nation) and a bad hip as proof (Gen 32), he received something that he hadn't thought possible; he received mercy. Instead of being angry with Jacob, Esau was joyful that his brother had acquired so much and, like the prodigal son, kissed his brother as a sign that everything was now okay. Even when Jacob tried to give Esau some of his flock, Esau refused them until Jacob begged him to take them. The two parted ways (Gen 33) and Jacob's family, flock, and nation prospered greatly.
The difference between the Jacob of Genesis 29-31 and the Jacob of Genesis 32-33 was one of confidence and fear. In Genesis 29-31, Jacob was now on his own, away from his angry brother, and was confident in his ways. In these few chapters, there is not one prayer to God for
direction as Jacob made all of his decisions on his own was deceived and deceived into marrying Laban's daughters and in the breeding of Laban's sheep. But the Jacob of Genesis 32-33 was once again a man of fear, knowing that the brother he had deceived was coming near to where he was. Yet, this fear did not relieve Jacob of his deceiving nature. He hadn't learned any lessons from the first time he had deceived his brother out of his inheritance. Through deception, Jacob tried to delay the meeting of his brother by sending his flocks out in groups to slow him down.
God was very much a presence in the life of Jacob, even if Jacob did always include God in all of his dealings. God made a way for his chosen vessel to begin the nation of Israel by giving him flocks and family. God also worked in Esau's heart while Jacob was out being Jacob. God, too, gave Esau the great blessings that were rightfully his from the day Isaac was supposed to bless him.
In the story of Joseph, God's presence was there from the start. Joseph was the first-born of Jacob's wife, Rachael. God had Joseph marked out for a great calling to feed the people of the land during the famine of Egypt. Like Jacob, Joseph was in a hurry to get his blessing by telling his family of the dreams that god had given him that says the he will be greater than anyone. But where Jacob had to flee his brother's anger, Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery. During his slavery and his time in prison, God grew Joseph, as He did Jacob, into a man of good character that would take hi calling and fulfill it as God had first intended.
In the stories of Jacob and Joseph, I find that God will do whatever He needs to do to get me directly into the center of His will for the calling He has given all of His children in the Lord. The lives of Jacob and Joseph show me that, even when I run in front of God, He is still in control of my calling. This also shows me that when I stay right along with God, my calling is that much easier to maintain and pursue. As Jacob and Joseph shows me, deceiving others gains me nothing but heartache, shame, and fear when I take God's calling into my own hands to lead and control. Leaving God in control of my calling will bring me great joy in knowing that I can count on Him to fulfill what He has spoken into my life. When Jacob and Joseph began to follow the Lord more, their lives became great for their obedience to God than more for who they were. If they had both known this fact throughout the years they were being strengthened in the Lord, would they have turned out to be as obedient and faithful as they had become?
Clarke, A. (2004). Adam clarke's commentary on the old testament: a commentary and critical notes. Wordsearch.corp.
Smith, W. (2007). Smith's bible dictionary: comprising antiquities, biography, geography, natural history, archaeology and literature. Wordsearch.corp.
Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love. He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.