Isaac was old, blind and near death. He asked one of his sons, Esau, a hunter, to kill some game and prepare him a stew for his final meal. Isaac promised to bless Esau after he’d eaten. In the ancient Jewish culture, a father’s blessing meant success and favour. When Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, overheard Isaac’s promise, she started to scheme. Esau’s twin, Jacob, was Rebekah’s favourite, and she wanted him to receive Isaac’s blessing. Rebekah instructed Jacob to bring her two young goats to cook for Isaac, so Jacob could present his dad the meal and receive the blessing.

Rebekah then disguised Jacob to feel and smell like Esau. Fooled by the ruse, Isaac gave Jacob his blessing. When Esau returned from the fields and brought his father the stew he’d prepared, Isaac told him, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing” (Genesis 27:35). Esau’s heart burned with hatred toward Jacob, and he made plans to kill Jacob after their father died.

On the outside, this situation seemed impossible for both Jacob and Esau. Jacob had to leave his homeland to avoid his brother’s rage. Esau lost his father’s blessing because of Jacob’s deceit. What good could possibly come from this family feud?

Decades-Long Anger

Hearing of his brother’s anger, Jacob fled north to live with an uncle until Esau’s anger subsided. One night during his travels, God spoke to Jacob and promised that He would return Jacob to his family’s land, and that he and his descendants would one day own it. When Jacob awoke, he experienced a new awe of God and named the spot Bethel, which means “house of God.”

Jacob lived with and worked for his uncle, Laban, for 20 years. By that time, he was an extremely wealthy man who owned huge flocks of cattle, sheep, goats, camels and donkeys. With God’s promise echoing in hisheart, Jacob started for home.

But when the servants he’d sent ahead returned to say that Esau and 400 men were coming to meet him, Jacob panicked. Maybe 20 years wasn’t enough for Esau’s anger to cool.

Wrestling With God

Hoping to pacify Esau, Jacob sent servants ahead with gifts of many herds and flocks. He stayed behind until he knew it was safe to proceed.

That night, an angel wrestled Jacob from sundown to dawn. When the angel realized he wasn’t winning, he asked Jacob to let him go. Jacob refused, saying, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26). Not only did the angel bless Jacob, he told him his name was changed from Jacob (schemer) to Israel, which means “he struggles with God.”

When the brothers finally met, Esau ran to Jacob, threw his arms around him and wept. Imagine Jacob’s surprise and relief that Esau no longer wanted revenge. Although Jacob offered his twin many gifts, Esau assured him, “I already have plenty, my brother” (Genesis 33:9). God had blessed Esau with his own riches, even without a birthright.

Because God is timeless, He has a plan in place before trouble starts and a solution to every problem before they occur. Even problems we get ourselves into, like Jacob and Esau did. Although we may get off track, scheme and take matters into our own hands, when we turn to God for help, He surprises us with great mercy and perfect plans.

All about Jacob

Read Genesis 27:33

• Who: The son of Isaac and Rebekah, grandson of Abraham

• When: Around 1850 BC

• Where: Canaan (modern-day Israel) and Mesopotamia (eastern Mediterranean)

IIllustration: Woodcut by Gustave Doré (1832-1883), courtesy of The Doré Bible Gallery

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