Monday, September 21, 2009

Isaac’s Charge to Jacob As He Sends Him To Haran -- Genesis 28:1-5

So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said to him, "You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother's father; and from there take to yourself a wife from the daughters of Laban your mother's brother. May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. May He also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you, that you may possess the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham." Then Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Paddan-aram to Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.

It appears that Rebekah’s continued manipulation of things through her words to Isaac about Jacob not marrying locally did in fact have their impact. Isaac calls Jacob over and once again blesses him. I find this most interesting. Even though Isaac knew that Jacob had tricked him into giving him the eldest son’s blessing, he is willing to bless him again. Perhaps this is just one good example of Jacob’s strengths. In this case, he acts like a loving father. No matter what his child has done, a loving father continues to want the best for his child. I want to be a parent like that. I want to model that behavior for my own children to follow in their role as parents of my grandchildren.

The blessing was part and parcel of a charge to a particular course of action. Isaac instructs Jacob to take a wife from his own people, not from the daughters of Canaan. He tells him to go to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel, his mother Rebekah’s father. And from within that house, Jacob was to find a wife from the family of his uncle Laban, his mother’s brother. The actual blessing was a complement to his original blessing. Isaac was asking God to bless Jacob and make him fruitful and his family many in numbers. He asked that God would allow Jacob to be the one through whom Abraham’s blessing and covenant from God would continue and that Jacob’s people would inherit the Promised Land that God had given to his grandfather.

And then just like Abraham had sent Ishmael and his mother Hagar away many years before, the text says, Isaac sent Jacob away. Notice there was no reply or comments recorded from the mouth of Jacob. The only thing to do was to obey while at the same time realizing that he was being able to leave his father peacefully for a reason other than the true one, that of fleeing from his brother Esau, who still had it in his mind to kill him.

So Isaac goes to Paddan-aram and to his uncle Laban. You will remember how Laban had figured into the earlier chapters of this story. When Abraham, Isaac’s father, had sent his servant to the land from which he had come to find a wife for his son, the servant was settling on Rebekah who treated him kindly at the well. Rebekah took the servant home and Laban her brother came running out to meet him. Seeing the gifts of gold and other things the servant carried for the occasion, he bid him to stay in their home. To his credit, he was indeed a gracious host although some may question the reason for such hospitality. Best to give him, to this point in the story anyway, the benefit of the doubt. Laban then went on to play a key role in the terms of the agreement to send Rebekah back to Abraham and Isaac. And Laban was active in the negotiations to send Rebekah back. Now Laban returns to our saga and takes on perhaps an even more critical part in the storyline.

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