Wednesday: The Blessing of the Family
For Jacob the last seven years of exile were a burden, and yet, these were also the most fruitful years. In them, Jacob will father 11 of the 12 children who will become the ancestors of God’s people.
This section constitutes the center of Jacob’s story (Genesis 25:19-35:26), and it begins and ends with the key phrase God “opened her womb,” referring to Leah (Genesis 29:31) and to Rachel (Genesis 30:22). Each time this statement is followed by births, the evidence is that these births are the result of God’s miraculous action.
Read Genesis 29:31-30:22. How are we, today, to understand the meaning of what takes place here?
God opened Leah’s womb, and she had a son Reuben, whose name contains the verb ra’ah, which means to “see.” Because God “saw” that she was unloved by Jacob (Genesis 29:31), this child was compensation for her in her pain and suffering.
In addition, she gives the name of Simeon, which contains the verb shama‘, “heard,” to her second son, because God had “heard” (shama‘) the depth and the humiliation of her pain and, thus, had pity on her just as He had heard Hagar’s affliction (Genesis 29:33).
Leah’s son “Simeon” will also resonate with the name of Hagar’s son “Ishmael,” which means “God will hear” (see Genesis 16:11). When Leah gives birth to her last son, she calls him Judah, which means “praise.” Leah does not refer to her pain or even her blessing anymore. She just focuses on God and praises Him for His grace.
Strangely, it is only when Leah cannot give birth again that God “remembers” Rachel and opens Rachel’s womb (Genesis 30:22). Rachel, the loved wife, had to wait seven years after her marriage, and 14 years after her betrothal with Jacob, to have her first son (Genesis 29:18, Genesis 29:27; compare with Genesis 30:25). She gave him the name of “Joseph” to signify that God had “taken away [’asaf] my reproach” and “shall add [yasaf] to me another son” (Genesis 30:23-24, , NKJV). However wrong some of these actions were, God was still able to use these actions, even if He didn’t condone them, in order to create a nation from the seed of Abraham.
|In what ways does this story reveal that God’s purposes will be fulfilled in heaven and on earth, despite human foibles and errors?|
Question: In what ways does this story reveal that God’s purposes will be ****fulfilled in *****heaven***** and on *****earth***
despite human foibles and errors?
What immediately comes to mind is the covenant in the Godhead for immortal Sons and Daughters of God, through Christ Jesus.
That covenant was barren up to first century.
The incarnation of the Son of God.
The New Birth through the Spirit to humanity, through Christ's birth, death and resurrection.
Galatians 4:27-31 (CSB)
27 For it is written, Rejoice, *childless woman* unable to give birth. Burst into song and shout, you who are not in labor, for the children of the desolate woman will be many, more numerous than those of the woman who has a husband.
28 Now *you too, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise*
29 But just as then the child born as a result of the flesh persecuted the one born as a result of the Spirit, so also now.
30 But what does the Scripture say? “Drive out the slave and her son, for the son of the slave will never be a coheir with the son of the free woman.” 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of a slave but of the free woman.
There are no immortal sons or daughters of God yet, except for Jesus Christ, and there won't be any until the Second Coming. But we are considered part of the family of God while we are still mortal.
Where do you see any dates in my comment besides Jesus being resurrected in the first century AD , as a New Creation ?
The answer to the study question is answered by the apostle Paul, not me.
Dates were not part of the question, the people Paul addresed are the receiptants of this hope!
Are you assuming I believe in inherent immortality of the soul ?
Larry, I didn't assume anything but I was confused by your repeated mention of Immortal Sons and Daughters and was sharing my understanding of immortality for humans.
Reading about Jacob's family reminded me of the modern family situation we find today. No doubt we will read more about Jacob's family troubles later in this series of lessons, but at the outset, I would like to pause and consider the many broken/blended/dysfunctional family groups that make up quite a large portion of our church community today.
We often argue about the divorce/remarriage issue, but at the end of the day divorce and remarriage occurs and often it is the children who carry the stigma and suffer from the consequences. It is very easy for us to blame a child's behaviour on a broken marriage situation. I taught in church schools for many years and have sat on discipline committees and know the sorts of stereotypical comments that are made. Broken family relationships often lead to a feeling of being disenfranchised by the church and ultimately many lose their spiritual well-being as a result.
The story of Jacob's family is not really one about a successful blended family, although, by the time of the family's reunion in Egypt many years later some of them had come to their senses.
Perhaps the lesson for us is the reminder that we have families in our congregation who need our special attention. We are inclined to be judgemental in our treatment of such families and try and work out who is at fault. We have our own brand of shunning and sometimes we fail to recognise that the way we treat some people in these situations is not salvitic.
It is almost impossible for humans not to have any prejudice! We all grow thoughts about people that have different realities than ours, based on our own reality. What a mistake! Yes, God is perfect, and He longs for our imperfect hearts, so He can show us how much He is able to do for us, starting from the inside! Families are dysfunctional here because we are living in a dysfunctional world! That does not justifies immoral attitudes, but it certainly explains why we need God more and more! Without His guidance we go lost, through ways that only lead to death.
“For Jacob, the last seven years of exile were a burden, and yet, these were also the most fruitful years.” I wonder how Jacob felt during these seven years of extra toil after deception. Seven years of his beloved Rachel’s despondency as she failed to give birth. Seven years of having to scheme to get what was his due from Laban. Did he see them as his most fruitful or did that appreciation come later, or even at all?
In my own life, I go through seasons. Some seasons feel like a burden. My friend Mary reminded me of this powerful truth. She quoted to me Ecclesiastes 3:1–8. To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. There is a time for everything. And there is a purpose for everything. How terrible to go through a time, for a purpose and totally miss that purpose. Everything has its season, and every season has its reason. We may not always know the reasons, but we can always trust that God is in control of the seasons.
God help me to trust you through whatever season I am going through. Help me to believe that even those seasons that seem like a burden will work out for my good as I keep holding on to you. Help me to fulfil the purpose for each season that my life may be fruitful and that you may be glorified.
Sister in Christ ...
Pain and suffering brings greater joy when a child is birthed, and clings to its mother. This is an anology of being impregnated with the seed of Christ that is born in us. The Study shows our current mortal life is a struggle within and without. Jesus said he would not leave us as orphans, and that their will be seasons of renewal by his Spirit IN US, as we pass through the floods to completion.
Exodus 14:13-14, revelation 12:10-16, John 14:18
Numbers 6:24-26 (CSB)
24 “May the LORD bless you and protect you;
25 “may the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
26 “may the LORD look with favor on you and give you peace.” ’
It appears that Jacob and his wives did not learn/understand the issues that arose from Abraham & Sarah using Hagar as a surrogate to get a son. Both Leah & Rachel gave their 'handmaidens' to Jacob to get 2 extra sons each for themselves.
Surely Isaac would have told them the history?
Just imagine, if Jacob had waited for the LORD to fulfill His promise, his father might have sent Eliezer to choose a wife (with a dowry - like he did for Isaac) - it probably would have been Rachel and Jacob would have inherited cattle and sheep from his father (even if only a second son portion) and the LORD would have blessed them instead of Jacob having to working for 20 years.
God fulfilled His Plan and Promise but Jacob by his choice had to learn the lesson the hard way.
I do wonder if it was God's plan that Jacob marry Leah. She does seem to have a more spiritual character than her sister and Jesus did come from one of her sons. So perhaps she would have been the wife Jacob got if things had happened the "right" way.
Christina, what an interesting thought, sometimes the LORD gives us what we need and not what we want.
What leads you to the conclusion that Leah had a more spiritual character?
I'm not sure Leah had the more spiritual character. After all, she participated in her father's deception. I do agree that God's plan could have been fulfilled without all the family disfunction IF Jacob and his mother had waited on the Lord.
It was Rachel that stole the idols and hid them - Jacob didn't know that she had done that.
Gen 31:34-35 MKJV And Rachel had taken the images and put them into the camel's saddle, and sat on them. And Laban searched all the tent, but did not find them. (35) But she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before you. For the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but did not find the images.
Well, I just look at how she praised God when she named Judah. And of course, Rachel had the incident with her father's gods. It's hard to know for sure, however.
I suppose we have to believe she participated in the deception, but did she really have the ability to stand up to her father? Women didn't have lots of rights. It's hard to say.
True, we can't judge them, only learn lessons from their experiences.
At least I notice that they credited the LORD for giving them their children.
In response to the lesson’s question:
It was Issac, the one who believed his God that he would fulfill his promises, who sent Jacob to Rebekah’s brother Laban. Jacob knew about God’s plan to bless his father’s family and multiply it greatly; his father Isaac had experienced it first hand. Did Isaac know that Laban would deceive his son – no; though his confidence was in the assurance that God would fulfill his promises as He did so before.
Opening and closing wombs – under normal circumstances, would you tell a barren women that God closed her womb, or the women who bares many children that God blesses her – no!
I do not ‘evaluate’ the how, I only see Lea as the women God chose to give Jacob the son’s who would become the heads of the tribal families associated with Isaac’s promise to be the father of many nations. I see Rebecca as the women who gave birth to the son through whom God would save the families of Jacob’s siblings – Isaac’s grandchildren.
Though his brothers did not like him, jealousy and animosity between them seems to have been present from the start, nevertheless, their part in God’s plan was to enlarge their families and add many members to Jacob's ever enlarging family-tribe.
God accepted him to become the progenitor of a nation who would ultimately be called by his name – Israel.
It states in the lesson in the first paragraph that "Jacob will father 11 of the 12 children who will become the ancestors of God’s people". He had 13 children 12 male and 1 female.
Can someone explain this please, as I'm a little confused?
That sentence is not the most helpful. The author's emphasis appears to be on the patriarchs of the 12 tribes, not on the number of children Jacob fathered. The 12 sons of Jacob were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, Benjamin.
But Levi is not counted among the 12 tribes (Numbers 1:47-50) because of the curse on Levi (Gen 49:4-7). That tribe was to be scattered in Israel and not to inherit distinct land areas like the other tribes. But that tribe later became the priestly tribe. You can begin reading about the blessings on the sons in Gen. 49:1.
Joseph is represented by the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. So the usual 12 tribes are Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin. (Counting the priestly tribe would make it 13 tribes.) Ephraim and Manasseh were grand-sons, so that left 11 sons who became the heads of tribes. (Like I said, I don't think that sentence is helpful! I hope I got it all right ... )
Many thanks Inge for this explanation. It really has made a lot of sense and made it clear to me and my mom as we were studying this.
May God continue to bless you as you share you knowledge with others.
You're welcome, and thank you! 😊
I think the lesson is referring to his years in exile as being the most fruitful of his life. 11 of his 12 sons were born in exile. Benjamin will be born later after he had left the land of exile.
What I took away from the lesson was that God works with what we give Him. He always has a plan, and if we follow His leading, the plan will work out beautifully. But as sinful humans, our tendency is to think we have a better plan to get to where God wants us to be. Abraham did it, Isaac did it by not giving the blessing to Jacob as God had said, and here we have Jacob, following in his family’s footsteps. All these stories are in scripture so that we can learn from them. Have we/I?
To me, one definite answer to understanding the meaning of what took place then, is that I see the further continuance of "polygamy" among the Israelites here and also the furtherance of the use of concubines for extra marital sex and reproduction even with the Patriarch Jacob to boot!. It is no wonder that he had so many "male" children so God could then make 12 tribes for His Nation of Israel.
As far as Tribes of Israel being scattered: Currently there are only two tribes that any Jew can trace his ancestry to, Judah and Levi. All the other tribes have been scattered and lost to the four winds of heaven. When Jesus came as a baby, Israel was under Roman rule. And even when Israel was allowed to be a nation again, after the Second World War, they did not have all the 12 tribes there then. All even they can claim for Abraham as their Father is by faith in Jesus blood just like the Gentiles too.
You raise an interesting question Pete: Who is a modern Jew? The notion of ancestry is hotly debated, even in modern Israeli courtrooms. There are many Internet discussions on the topic. Essentially there are three broad definitions, religion, culture, and genetics.
Currently, there are two major groups: Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. The Ashkenazi are from Eastern Europe and Russia, while the Shepardic are from Spain/Portugal and Northern Africa. These groups originated after the diaspora when Rome destroyed the temple of Jerusalem. During this process, the most persistent characteristic that identified Jews was their culture, rather than their genetics.
I could add a lot more, but that is not the focus of this lesson. For those interested, there are many discussions on the Internet. Start by searching for Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.
Thanks, Maurice Ashton, my roots are Spanish from Mexico, both my father and mother had the same last names of "Villarreal." I was born in a town in the state of Nuevo Leon, Mexico called, Buena Vista. Sephartic Jews settled in that part of Mexico from Spain and they adopted the last name of "Villarreal." So that probably makes me a Jew of sorts but I have no idea of what tribe I am and I had no idea that I even had these roots at all since about a few years ago when I ran into another so called Sephartic Mexican Jew that filled me in on these facts.
That is interesting Pete.
Actually, Maurice Ashton, it was my wife that ran into a lady Sephartic Mexican Jew in a group of jurors when she was doing jury duty on one occasion. That lady Mexican Sephartic Jew shared this information with my wife etc. I just thought it was quicker to just say that I ran into a Sephartic Mexican Jew etc. and etc. But, oh well, now the truth comes out for more clarification. But I do have a sister that is younger than me that has done a lot of research on this topic and she assured me that the Mexican Sephartic Jew was correct about this with my wife.