Genesis 29:1–30: The Deception of Jacob
As we arrive at Genesis 29, Jacob’s story balances on two paradoxical factors. On the one hand, God has promised to bless Jacob with the blessing of Abraham and Isaac. On the other hand, Jacob has behaved with cunning manipulation rather than faith. He exploited his brother’s desperation to buy the birthright, and he deceived his elderly, blind father to steal the blessing. Why should this scoundrel benefit from God’s blessing? Will the man whom God has chosen ultimately tarnish God’s glory? Should we think less of God for moving forward with a man such as Jacob? And if not Jacob, then who will God accomplish God’s mission in the world?
God knows exactly what Jacob has done. God will not ignore Jacob’s sin, but neither will God remove Jacob from his plan of redemption. Rather, God will discipline Jacob. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). In Genesis 29, Jacob will reap from his uncle Laban what he has sowed in his own, immediate family. By this discipline, God avoids condoning Jacob’s sin and he avoids rejecting Jacob altogether. Furthermore, God is not distracted by this discipline, as though this were a deviation in his plan for redeeming the world. On the contrary, God uses this discipline for his purposes. Indeed, Genesis 29 teaches that God fulfills his promises through discipline.
1. Is God righteous when he blesses Jacob, given all the things that Jacob has done? Is God righteous when he blesses you and me, given all the things that we have done? Is there anyone who deserves God’s blessing? How then can the Apostle John declare that God is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9)? What do we learn about grace from this passage?
2. Have you ever thought that you got away with something? Are you currently hiding sins that no one else knows about? Can we deceive God by covering up our sin? Why, then, do we try to cover up our sin? What would happen if we brought our sin into the light by confessing it to God and to others? What sins do you need to confess right now?
3. How many ways does the text demonstrate that Jacob’s suffering matches his sins? Why does God often cause us to reap what we have sown? Does God act punitively or restoratively by this discipline? How do experiences of poetic justice teach us to hate our sin? How do such experiences of fitting discipline teach us empathy toward those whom we have sinned against?
4. How have you reacted to receiving a taste of your own medicine? Do you think more about how you have been wronged, or about the wrongs you have committed? Where do we see the difference between Esau and Jacob in their respective reactions to suffering? What does this teach us about how we might endure discipline as God’s children (cf. Heb. 12:3–17)?