Title: Jacob the Wrestler
This could probably be trimmed down a bit more
- Chuck Smith’s material from his C2000 series
- Dennis McCallum’s teaching on Jacob from his Genesis series on the Xenos website
- John White’s chapter on Jacob in his book Daring to Draw Near
1 So Isaac called for Jacob… [“Go visit Uncle Laban and find a wife”] 3 May God Almighty bless you and give you many children. And may your descendants multiply and become many nations! 4 May God pass on to you and your descendants the blessings he promised to Abraham. May you own this land where you are now living as a foreigner, for God gave this land to Abraham.”
10 Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. 11 At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. 12 As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
13 At the top of the stairway stood Yahweh, and he said, “I am Yahweh, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. 14 Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. 15 What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely Yahweh is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” 17 But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!”
18 The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. 19 He named that place Bethel (which means “house of God”), although it was previously called Luz.
20 Then Jacob made this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s home, then Yahweh will certainly be my God. 22 And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.”
Q: What do you think about Jacob’s response to this tremendous promise from Yahweh?
- Point out Jacob’s restlessness throughout this story – constantly trying to manipulate things and can’t simply rest in the goodness of God.
- God initiated with him and promised to bless and protect him.
1 Then Jacob hurried on, finally arriving in the land of the east. 2 He saw a well in the distance…
[Jacob meets Laban’s daughter, Rachel]
11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and he wept aloud. 12 He explained to Rachel that he was her cousin on her father’s side—the son of her aunt Rebekah. So Rachel quickly ran and told her father, Laban.
[Jacob meets Laban]
Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel
14b After Jacob had stayed with Laban for about a month, 15 Laban said to him, “You shouldn’t work for me without pay just because we are relatives. Tell me how much your wages should be.”
16 Now Laban had two daughters. The older daughter was named Leah, and the younger one was Rachel. 17 There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes,* but Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face. 18 Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.”
19 “Agreed!” Laban replied. “I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.” 20 So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.
21 Finally, the time came for him to marry her. “I have fulfilled my agreement,” Jacob said to Laban. “Now give me my wife so I can sleep with her.”
22 So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood and prepared a wedding feast. 23 But that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her.
[Explain how this could happen]
25 But when Jacob woke up in the morning—it was Leah! “What have you done to me?” Jacob raged at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?”
26 “It’s not our custom here to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn,” Laban replied. 27 “But wait until the bridal week is over, then we’ll give you Rachel, too—provided you promise to work another seven years for me.”
28 So Jacob agreed to work seven more years. A week after Jacob had married Leah, Laban gave him Rachel, too.
Q: What similarities do you see here with the maneuver Jacob pulled on Esau last week, and what do you think God was doing through this?
Next we see Jacob begin to have kids
32 …She named him Reuben,* for she said, “The Lord has noticed my misery, and now my husband will love me.”
Leah – first four kids (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah)
Bilhah – Dan & Naphtali
Zilpah – Gad, Asher
Leah – Issachar, Zebulun [“honor”], Dinah
Rachel – Joseph (#11)
This introduces Jacob’s family and shows the dysfunction there. This is one battle he’s not winning.
Jacob’s Wealth Increases
25 Soon after Rachel had given birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Please release me so I can go home to my own country…
27 “Please listen to me,” Laban replied. “I have become wealthy, for Yahweh has blessed me because of you. 28 Tell me how much I owe you. Whatever it is, I’ll pay it.”
29 Jacob replied, “You know how hard I’ve worked for you, and how your flocks and herds have grown under my care. 30 You had little indeed before I came, but your wealth has increased enormously. Yahweh has blessed you through everything I’ve done. But now, what about me? When can I start providing for my own family?”
31 “What wages do you want?” Laban asked again.
Jacob replied, “Don’t give me anything. Just do this one thing, and I’ll continue to tend and watch over your flocks. 32 Let me inspect your flocks today and remove all the sheep and goats that are speckled or spotted, along with all the black sheep. Give these to me as my wages…
34 “All right,” Laban replied. “It will be as you say.” 35 But that very day Laban went out and removed [all those animals]…
37 Then Jacob took some fresh branches from poplar, almond, and plane trees and peeled off strips of bark, making white streaks on them. 38 Then he placed these peeled branches in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, for that was where they mated. 39 And when they mated in front of the white-streaked branches, they gave birth to young that were streaked, speckled, and spotted…
Modern genetics has told us this isn’t why lambs give birth to different colored babies.
Q: What do you think about Jacob’s strategy here?
- Q: How does this fit with God’s earlier promises to him?
[The flocks grow, and Laban keeps changing the deal on Jacob. When they produce specked animals he says you get the striped ones, etc]
Jacob Flees from Laban
1 But Jacob soon learned that Laban’s sons were grumbling about him. “Jacob has robbed our father of everything!” they said. “He has gained all his wealth at our father’s expense.” 2 And Jacob began to notice a change in Laban’s attitude toward him.
3 Then Yahweh said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you.”
4 So Jacob called Rachel and Leah out to the field where he was watching his flock. 5 He said to them, “I have noticed that your father’s attitude toward me has changed. But the God of my father has been with me.
6 You know how hard I have worked for your father, 7 but he has cheated me, changing my wages ten times…
14 Rachel and Leah responded, “That’s fine with us! We won’t inherit any of our father’s wealth anyway…
[So Jacob leaves…]
19 At the time they left, Laban was some distance away, shearing his sheep. Rachel stole her father’s household idols and took them with her. 20 Jacob outwitted Laban the Aramean, for they set out secretly and never told Laban they were leaving.
Laban Pursues Jacob
22 Three days later, Laban was told that Jacob had fled. 23 So he gathered a group of his relatives and set out in hot pursuit…
[They catch Jacob and search for the idols…]
34 But Rachel had taken the household idols and hidden them in her camel saddle, and now she was sitting on them. When Laban had thoroughly searched her tent without finding them, 35 she said to her father, “Please, sir, forgive me if I don’t get up for you. I’m having my monthly period.” So Laban continued his search, but he could not find the household idols.
[Laban and Jacob make peace, and make a treaty]
Jacob Sends Gifts to Esau
3 Then Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother, Esau, who was living in the region of Seir in the land of Edom. 4 He told them, “Give this message to my master Esau: ‘Humble greetings from your servant Jacob. Until now I have been living with Uncle Laban, 5 and now I own cattle, donkeys, flocks of sheep and goats, and many servants, both men and women. I have sent these messengers to inform my lord of my coming, hoping that you will be friendly to me.’ ”
6 After delivering the message, the messengers returned to Jacob and reported, “We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you—with an army of 400 men!” 7 Jacob was terrified at the news. He divided his household, along with the flocks and herds and camels, into two groups. 8 He thought, “If Esau meets one group and attacks it, perhaps the other group can escape.”
Trapped! Esau’s army is closing in, and Laban’s army is behind him. No retreat. No more escape. All of the scheming Jacob has done over his whole life is now collapsing down in on him at this all important showdown.
And so, things have gotten so bad in Jacob’s life that he does something that we haven’t seen him do at any point in his life up until now.
9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac—Yahweh, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’ 10 I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps! 11 Yahweh, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children. 12 But you promised me, ‘I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore—too many to count.’ ”
Q: What sticks out to you about Jacob’s prayer?
Great prayer, but he decides to try to add some insurance…
13 Jacob stayed where he was for the night. Then he selected these gifts from his possessions to present to his brother, Esau [lots of livestock; explain the special instructions for the men who are bringing them to Esau]
20b Jacob thought, “I will try to appease him by sending gifts ahead of me. When I see him in person, perhaps he will be friendly to me.”
Jacob Wrestles with God
22 During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. 23 After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions.
24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
Hosea 12:4 tells us he did this with weeping: “He wept and pleaded for a blessing from him.”
27 “What is your name?” the man asked.
The last time he was asked that question it was Isaac on the day Jacob stole the blessing from Esau. This time he answers truthfully.
Remember his name meant “deceiver.” Confronting Jacob with who he was.
He replied, “Jacob.”
I’m the deceiver. The heel catcher. I’ve always been able to get by on my own and have made a way for myself. And now I’m done. I’m trapped in the vice of my own making. I can’t run anymore. I’m pleading with you for the blessing.
28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”
Receiving a new name means submitting to the authority of someone. It also means a new beginning.
What does the name mean?
- Jacob meant “deceiver”
- But Israel means “God fights”
- A reminder of how Jacob fought against God
- But now you have been broken, and you will see how God will fight for you.
- What does it mean that he has “won”?
- Not that he overcame God or tired him out (see how God finally wins)
- In reality, He had lost the battle with God and with men, but had won the victory in the end – because of God
- Jacob had been scheming and wrestling with everyone his whole life. Esau, Isaac, Laban, to some extent his family. But really he was wrestling with God. He had to finally surrender to God.
- Jacob was an iron-willed man. His strength was his biggest weakness. God had to bring him to the end of himself.
- God wants to change you from someone who governs your own life to someone who is blessed by him.
- You can’t manipulate him or fend for yourself. All you can do is realize your weakness, his power and just hang on and ask for a blessing
- Funny that what Jacob wanted from God was what God wanted to give him too. He had promised that from the beginning.
29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said. “Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. 32 (Even today the people of Israel don’t eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob’s hip.)
Jacob and Esau Make Peace
1 Then Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming with his 400 men… 3 Then Jacob went on ahead. As he approached his brother, he bowed to the ground seven times before him. 4 Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept.
5 Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, “Who are these people with you?” “These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,” Jacob replied…
8 “And what were all the flocks and herds I met as I came?” Esau asked. Jacob replied, “They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship.”
9 “My brother, I have plenty,” Esau answered. “Keep what you have for yourself.”
It wasn’t Jacob’s scheming that kept him safe after all. It was God Almighty’s promise to him.
Will you receive your new name? Receive Christ.
Are you ready to surrender to God? Stop struggling. Jacob drew this out way too long
Will you hang on, even in great pain and let God change you forever?