Genesis 28:1–22: The Giving of Jacob
Up to this point, Jacob has been a taker. With two meals, Jacob took his brother’s birthright (Gen. 25:29–33) and blessing (Gen. 27:1–25). In this, Jacob’s fault has not been what he has wanted, since the text of Genesis places most of the blame on Esau, who “despised his birthright” (Gen. 25:34) and married two Hittite women (Gen. 26:34). Instead, Jacob’s guilt lies in how he has sought after these things. Whether by cold negotiation or outright fraud, Jacob is willing to do whatever it takes to gain the inheritance and blessing of God. The consequences of his ruthlessness will be costly, as Jacob must now go into a twenty-year exile (Gen. 31:38, 41) to avoid being murdered at the hands of Esau (Gen. 27:41).
If God has indeed set apart Jacob from the womb (Gen. 25:23), how will God rein in this rebellious man? How will God work to sanctify Jacob’s cunning, manipulative, scheming heart? Surprisingly, God transforms Jacob from a taker into a giver by promising to give Jacob everything he promised to give to Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 28:13–15). God is not rewarding Jacob; rather, God is building his kingdom through Jacob. Far from spoiling Jacob, God’s generosity will ultimately break the power of greed in Jacob’s life. God continues the same work today by bestowing the riches of Christ’s kingdom upon an unworthy people in order to put our greed to death. As Genesis 28 demonstrates, God generously blesses his people to make us into a generous blessing.
1. What do you think leads Isaac to openly bless Jacob in Genesis 28:1–4? Why didn’t Isaac bless Jacob the first time around? What do we learn from Isaac’s repentance in this matter? Where have you turned away from some sin to begin obeying God? What makes repentance so difficult for us to do? Is there an area where you need to turn away from a sin right now?
2. What is Esau trying to do by taking an Ishmaelite woman as his third wife? Why will this course of action fail to accomplish his objectives? What does this teach us about seeking God’s blessings according to human wisdom, rather than God’s word? Can you think of any areas where you are hoping to gain something with God apart from what he reveals in his word?
3. Why does God make such lavish promises to a scoundrel like Jacob (Gen. 28:13–15)? How do these promises advance God’s agenda of bringing into the world the kingdom of his Son Jesus Christ? Why doesn’t God use someone more righteous than Jacob for his purposes? Which of these promises does God extend to us in the new covenant that we have in Christ?
4. What prompts a greedy man to generosity in making a sacrifice of oil (Gen. 28:18) and vowing a tithe (Gen. 28:22)? What kinds of sacrificial generosity does God require of us in the new covenant? How do you steward the wealth that God has entrusted to you? Do you give cheerfully, generously, and sacrificially? If not, what in your life needs to change?