God helps Isaac and Jacob
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Genesis chapters 25-36
Marie Wetherill and Keith Simons
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
We do not know who wrote the Book of Genesis. And we do not know when that person wrote the book. There is an ancient tradition that Moses was the author. Modern Bible students have many other ideas. But we can see that Genesis is a very old book. Even the oldest books in the Bible refer to it (for example, Exodus 3:15; Job 28:25-29).
The author was not merely collecting ancient stories. And he was not merely recording ancient history. In fact, Genesis is a very careful account, which teaches the main principles in the Bible. The author describes the nature of God. The author explains God’s plan for a perfect world. The author describes *sin and *sacrifice. He speaks about God’s promise to forgive. And, he speaks about God’s promise to send Jesus. The Bible teaches that the author was not merely setting out his own ideas. Instead, the author wrote by the Holy Spirit of God.
When Abraham was old, he married again. He did not want his new children to oppose Isaac. Abraham provided for them. But he sent them to live far away from Isaac.
Abraham was very old when he died. Isaac and Ishmael met again then. They buried his body together. This action showed that they both loved Abraham.
Ishmael had many *descendants, and they were successful. They lived across a large area. But the writer’s account continues with Isaac’s sons, called Esau and Jacob.
Esau was the oldest son. So, he had the right to benefit from God’s promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3). It seems that Esau did not care about this right. But Jacob recognised the importance of this right. And, even as a youth, Jacob was plotting how he could get this right, instead of Esau.
Verses 1-6 Abraham may have married Keturah before Sarah died. (It seems that the ‘*concubines’ in verse 6 include Keturah.) God was carrying out his promise to Abraham that he (Abraham) would be the father of many nations. God had promised the country called Canaan to Isaac and his *descendants. Abraham wanted to protect Isaac. Abraham realised that Keturah’s sons should not live with Isaac in Canaan. So, Abraham sent all his other sons away.
Verse 8 ‘Abraham went to be with his *ancestors.’ Perhaps the writer used these words to show that people still exist even after death. But these words probably just mean that Abraham died.
Verses 9-10 Again the writer gives the details about Abraham’s and Sarah’s grave. Abraham owned the land where the grave was. And the land was in the country that God had promised to Abraham’s *descendants. That fact was very important and so the writer wanted to remind us about it.
Verses 12-16 Again the writer reminds us that Ishmael was the son of Sarah’s *Egyptian maid. Ishmael was not the son that God had especially chosen. When we read about Ishmael’s *descendants, we can remember God’s promises to Ishmael. God had promised that Ishmael, too, would have many *descendants.
Verse 17 ‘He went to be with his *ancestors’ means that he died.
Verse 18 ‘Ishmael went to live opposite all his brothers.’ Ishmael’s *descendants would have a tendency to make war. Here the writer reminds us about that.
Verses 19-20 God made special promises to Abraham and his *descendant. We have seen in this chapter that Abraham had many sons, in the end. But God’s promises were not for those other sons, although God had also made promises about Ishmael. God’s promises were for Isaac. And this is why the Book of Genesis continues with Isaac’s life.
However, it was clear that God’s promises would not end with Isaac. In the end, these promises were about Jesus, who was Isaac’s *descendant (Galatians 3:16). It seems that people in the Book of Genesis were aware of this fact. In Genesis 3:15, God promised that the woman’s *descendant would defeat the devil.
So, it was important that Isaac should have a son.
Verse 21 Isaac and Rebekah had to wait for 20 years before their sons were born. But God answered Isaac’s prayer in the end.
Verse 22 Rebekah was having *twins (two babies born together). But even before their births, the babies seemed to be fighting inside her.
Verse 23 God knew the character of each son, even before the sons were born. And God knew about the future of their *descendants. Only one son would receive the benefit of God’s promises. And it was as if the babies were struggling for that right.
Usually, people expected the older son to rule the family. But God told Rebekah that the opposite would happen.
After the sons were born, the younger son (called Jacob) would be desperate to benefit from God’s promises. But the older son (called Esau) did not care about God’s promises. However, Jacob would have a struggle to take the right away from Esau.
Verse 25 The name ‘Esau’ is like the *Hebrew word for ‘hairy’.
Verse 26 ‘Jacob’ means ‘he takes hold of the *heel’. People sometimes used these words to mean, ‘he cheats’. Of course, Jacob was not cheating anyone when he was born! But the circumstances of the boys’ births would explain many things about their lives. Esau was the oldest son. But Jacob was desperate to gain the benefit of God’s promises. And this benefit would usually go to the oldest son. Jacob had struggled to be born first, but he failed. However, Jacob would not fail in his desire to gain God’s special *blessing.
Verse 27 Esau and Jacob had very different attitudes.
Verse 28 Isaac liked the food that Esau hunted.
Verse 29 Esau was a skilled hunter, but he was not always successful. Perhaps, he had been away for several days when this event happened. He hoped to bring back a wild animal for food. But, this time, he did not succeed. So, he was very hungry.
Verse 30 ‘Edom’ means ‘red’.
Verse 31 Jacob wanted God’s special *blessing. And so Jacob tried to take it from Esau when Esau was weak.
Verse 32 Esau acted as if God’s special *blessing was not important. Esau preferred the food.
Verse 33 Jacob wanted to be sure that Esau had handed over the *birthright. So, Jacob asked Esau to make a serious promise. Esau made the promise because he wanted the food. But he also made the promise because he did not care about God’s special *blessing.
Verse 34 The *birthright included God’s promises to Abraham for his family. Esau did not care about God’s promises.
Every person needs to invite God into that person’s own life. It is not enough if that person’s parents were Christians. Each person needs his or her own experience of a relationship with God.
It was the same for Isaac. His father, Abraham, was a real friend of God. And Abraham had learnt to trust God completely. So, Isaac had always known about God. But Isaac still needed to know God for himself. And Isaac needed to learn many of the lessons that Abraham learnt.
But it seems that Isaac learned easily. He had a good character. He wanted to serve God. And Isaac tried not to argue with people. God was kind to Isaac.
Verse 1 ‘Abimelech’ may have been a title for the king, like ‘*Pharaoh’. The Abimelech that Abraham knew may have died. The earlier *Philistines may have been a different nation from the *Philistines whom we read about elsewhere in the Bible.
Verse 2 There was a *famine. However, God clearly let Isaac know that he was looking after Isaac. But Isaac needed to obey God.
Verses 3-5 God reminded Isaac about the promises that God gave to Abraham. God was now making these promises to Isaac and his *descendants. Of course, Isaac had already heard about these promises from Abraham. But this experience was very important for Isaac. God was speaking to Isaac. So, Abraham’s God was now Isaac’s God too.
Verse 6 Isaac had heard God’s instructions. So, Isaac obeyed God. Perhaps Isaac was not sure how he could find enough food during the *famine. But he decided to trust God. The same God who created the world would look after Isaac.
Verse 7 People used the word ‘sister’ to mean many different relatives. But we can see that Isaac was lying. He did not want anyone to know that Rebekah was his wife. So, he said something that would confuse other people. Abraham had done the same thing in Genesis 20:2. Both Isaac and Abraham were trying to protect themselves. Isaac had not learned from Abraham’s experience. And Isaac was not yet ready to trust God to protect him.
Verse 8 Isaac did not need to be afraid. God was protecting Isaac. Nobody took Rebekah away from Isaac.
Verses 9-11 Isaac did not actually suffer because of his lies. But Abimelech had to warn Isaac. Perhaps Abimelech realised that Isaac was a holy man. Abimelech was worried that innocent people might suffer because of Isaac’s lie. Perhaps Abimelech remembered the message that God gave him about Abraham (Genesis 20:6-7).
So, Abimelech gave an order to his people. It seems that God was using Abimelech to protect Isaac and Rebekah.
Verses 12-13 We can see that God was *blessing Isaac. Even during the *famine, Isaac’s harvest was very plentiful. In fact, it was even more plentiful than you would expect in a good year.
Verses 14-16 Abimelech had ordered the *Philistines to keep Isaac safe. But they were jealous of his success. They tried to cause problems for him. And they tried to frighten him. Abraham and Abimelech had made an agreement about wells (Genesis 21:25-31). These wells now belonged to Isaac. But the *Philistines spoilt the wells. And Abimelech told Isaac to leave their country.
Abimelech’s men did not carry out the *covenant that people had made with Abraham. The *covenant had showed that the wells belonged to Abraham.
Water was precious and people often quarrelled about it. Lot quarrelled with Abraham and the *Philistines quarrelled with Isaac. Later, Laban quarrelled with Jacob.
Verses 17-18 But Isaac did not argue. He wanted to be at peace with the *Philistines. So, he moved elsewhere.
Verses 19-21 The arguments continued. Everyone wanted a good supply of water. But Isaac just moved to another place. It seems that he was trusting God to provide for him. Isaac had seen how God gave a plentiful harvest in a *famine. So, Isaac was not afraid to move elsewhere.
The name ‘Esek’ means ‘quarrel’. ‘Sitnah’ means ‘enemies’.
Verse 22 ‘Rehoboth’ means ‘space’. Isaac thanked God. Isaac did not need to fight the people who opposed him. God had given Isaac a place to live.
Verses 23-25 God spoke to Isaac again. By his (God’s) words, God gave confidence to Isaac. Isaac did not need to be afraid. God was with Isaac. God would help Isaac. And God would do for Isaac everything that he (God) promised to Abraham.
Like his father Abraham, Isaac stayed in Beersheba. And there, Isaac prayed to God.
Verses 26-29 Abimelech came to see Isaac. Abimelech wanted to make an agreement with Isaac. Isaac had become wealthy and powerful. So perhaps Abimelech was afraid that Isaac’s men might oppose him.
Abimelech’s words in verse 29 were not quite true. Abimelech had told his people to protect Isaac. But then, Abimelech told Isaac to leave the country. Abimelech’s people spoilt Isaac’s wells. And they argued about other wells. But it seems that Isaac did not care about these matters. Isaac wanted peace with Abimelech’s people. So, Isaac made the agreement with them.
Verses 30-31 When people made *covenants, they often had a meal together. They did that to show friendship.
Verses 32-33 Isaac’s servants finished digging another well that day. They were glad. They had left behind many wells. But God had provided another well for them.
Verses 34-35 Esau was Isaac’s first son. But Esau did not behave like Isaac. Isaac waited patiently while his father arranged a wife. But Esau chose his own wives. Isaac’s wife belonged to a family that knew about God. But Esau’s wives came from a country where people were wicked. Isaac hated arguments. But Esau chose wives who caused constant trouble for Isaac and Rebekah.
Isaac became an old man. He thought that he might die soon. (But in fact, he would live for many more years.) Isaac wanted to give a special *blessing to Esau, who was Isaac’s first son. Esau was also Isaac’s favourite son.
The whole family realised that this *blessing was an important matter. Isaac was a holy man. God would be present when Isaac gave his *blessing. And Isaac’s words would not just come from his own imagination. Isaac’s words would be a *prophecy that came from God’s Holy Spirit.
Rebekah wanted Jacob to receive the *blessing instead of Esau. And Jacob himself was desperate for the *blessing. Previously, he bought the *birthright (the rights of the oldest son) from Esau (Genesis 25:33).
Jacob obtained Isaac’s *blessing by methods that were not honest. But the *blessing that Jacob received really came from God. And it seems that Jacob received nothing from Isaac except the *blessing. Esau received great wealth in Canaan (Genesis 36:6). But Jacob left Canaan with very few possessions (Genesis 28:20). Jacob left home quickly, because he had to escape from Esau.
But the *blessing was all that Jacob really needed. And, as Jacob escaped, he received an even better *blessing. God himself spoke to Jacob. The God of Abraham and Isaac became Jacob’s God too (Genesis 28:13-21).
Verses 1-2 Isaac should have called both sons to him. He knew about the *prophecy at his sons’ births (Genesis 25:23). In the *prophecy, Jacob was the son that God had chosen.
It is clear that Isaac spoke to Esau in secret.
Verse 3 Isaac loved food and he wanted Esau to make a special meal for him. Esau was happy to do that, although he had given his *birthright to Jacob. Esau was the oldest son and so normally he would have had the *birthright.
Verse 4 At special times, people often ate special meals. Isaac’s request for a special meal emphasises the importance of his *blessing.
Verse 5 Isaac spoke to Esau in secret, but Rebekah heard Isaac’s words. Isaac and Rebekah may have lived in a tent. Rebekah was perhaps outside, but she heard clearly. She knew that Isaac loved Esau (Genesis 25:28). But God had told her that Jacob would be more important than Esau (Genesis 25:23). So, she made a plan so that Jacob would get Isaac’s *blessing.
Verse 6 Rebekah knew about God’s choice. She should have trusted God better. Then she would have known that God’s plans never fail. Rebekah wanted to get something that was right. However, her actions were not right. She lied and she cheated.
Verses 7-10 Rebekah was careful. She made a plan. She did not tell Jacob everything that he would have to do. He would have to lie. And he would have to cheat. But if he had known how much, he might have been afraid.
Verse 11 The *Hebrew text has ‘I am a smooth man.’ The *Hebrew word for ‘smooth’ can also mean that the person is not sincere.
Verse 12 Jacob realised that Isaac would not just be speaking from his own imagination. Isaac’s words would come from God’s Holy Spirit. So, it mattered whether Jacob received a *blessing or a *curse.
Verse 13 Rebekah was encouraging Jacob. She told him not to worry about a *curse. Of course, she had already heard the *prophecy in Genesis 25:23. So she was confident about Jacob’s future.
Verse 15 Esau was probably married, but his best clothes were still with Rebekah.
Verses 16-17 Rebekah and Jacob prepared everything carefully. They wanted Isaac to think that Jacob was really Esau.
Verses 18-26 Jacob went to see his father, Isaac. But Jacob wanted Isaac to think that Jacob was really Esau. Isaac wanted to give his *blessing to Esau, because Esau was Isaac’s oldest son. But Jacob was desperate to receive Isaac’s *blessing. This was because Jacob wanted God’s *blessing.
But Jacob did not really know God when these events happened. And Jacob did not realise how God wanted him (Jacob) to behave. Jacob imagined that he had to earn the *blessing by his own clever schemes. He had already persuaded Esau to sell the *birthright to him. And here, Jacob received Isaac’s *blessing by another scheme.
Jacob made Isaac give him the *blessing. But we cannot really earn God’s *blessing by our own efforts. God’s *blessing is a free gift because of his kindness. We receive God’s *blessing if we humbly invite him into our lives. In chapter 28, Jacob would himself meet God. Then Jacob would understand these things better.
Verses 27-28 Isaac’s *blessing came from God. God would make Jacob successful. God would do good things in Jacob’s life.
Verse 29 There were probably no other sons. But Isaac said this in case there would be other sons. *Blessings for families probably had the same words in them every time. But Isaac added the special words that God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 12:3. Jacob would receive the benefit of God’s promises to Abraham.
Verse 30 Esau too wanted Isaac’s *blessing. Esau had not cared about the *birthright, but he still wanted the *blessing.
Verse 31 Esau was able to prepare food. Rebekah did not stop him and neither did Jacob.
Verses 32-33 Before, Isaac had thought that he was *blessing Esau. But after that, the real Esau came in. Isaac could not deny that Jacob had received the *blessing.
Verses 34-36 Esau was sorry because he did not receive the *blessing from Isaac. But Esau was not sorry about the wrong things that he did in his life. Esau did not care about God. Esau did not care about what God wanted. Esau wanted to kill his brother (verse 41).
Verses 37-40 Isaac hesitated to give any *blessing to Esau. Isaac realised that God had told him what to say about Jacob. But then God gave Isaac a *prophecy about Esau.
Esau’s *descendants would live in a city that was later called Petra. This city was in the desert. And Esau’s *descendants would oppose Jacob’s *descendants. But Jacob’s *descendants would be more powerful. They would make Esau’s *descendants into slaves. You can read how this happened in 2 Samuel 8:11-14.
Verse 41 Esau was very angry. But he did not want to kill Jacob while Isaac was still alive. So, Esau waited. In fact, Isaac would live for many more years. And when Isaac died, Esau had become friendly with Jacob again.
Verses 42-43 Rebekah knew Esau’s plan. So, she decided to send Jacob away to her relatives in Haran. He would be safe there.
Verse 44 Rebekah said that Jacob would need to be away for only a very short time. But he was actually away for 20 years.
Verse 45 Rebekah said that she did not want to lose both her sons at the same time. It is not clear what she meant by that. Esau was not a ‘good’ son, but he was a son anyway. But Rebekah thought that she would ‘lose’ him too. We can guess how this might happen. Maybe if Esau killed his brother, then God might kill Esau. Or maybe other people would kill Esau for that reason. Or maybe he would have to go away to hide.
Verse 46 Again Rebekah showed how clever she was. She did not tell Isaac the real reason why Jacob should go away. Isaac would be happy if Jacob married a good woman. In this story, everyone in the family did something wrong. However, it does prove these facts to us. God gives his *blessing as he wants. And he gives it by his *mercy. Although we may do ‘good’ things in our life, we cannot earn God’s *blessing in that way. And we certainly cannot earn God’s *blessing by our own clever schemes. Instead, we need to be humble. We should confess our evil deeds to God. We should invite God into our lives. And we should trust him.
Jacob’s actions in this chapter were wrong. He lied and he cheated. But his attitude was right. He wanted to receive God’s *blessing. God gave a *blessing to Jacob by means of Isaac. But Jacob did not receive this *blessing just because he cheated. Isaac did not know whom he was *blessing. But God knew the truth. And God wanted to *bless Jacob. The *prophecy in Genesis 25:23 shows this.
Jacob had to leave home in order to escape from Esau. Isaac *blessed Jacob before Jacob left. This time, Isaac knew whom he was *blessing. He gave a wonderful *blessing to Jacob. Isaac said that Jacob would receive Abraham’s *blessing. And he said that Jacob’s *descendants would receive the country called Canaan.
Jacob really wanted to receive this *blessing. Now he received it. This was wonderful.
Jacob travelled alone on his journey. He had to sleep outside. He took few possessions. He even had to pray for his food and clothes (verse 20). But something very special happened as he travelled. He had a special dream. And in the dream, God spoke to Jacob. God gave to Jacob the same promises that he (God) had given to Abraham and Isaac. And Jacob promised that he, too, would serve God. And so, we call God, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ (Exodus 3:6).
Verse 1 Jacob needed to know that he was doing the right thing. So it was important for Isaac to *bless Jacob again. He needed to know that God wanted him to do that. Jacob would have difficult experiences sometimes. And so he needed the *blessing because the *blessing would help him to carry on.
Verse 2 Abraham had sent a servant to choose Isaac’s wife. But Jacob himself went to fetch his own wife. Isaac said that Jacob should marry Jacob’s cousin, someone from among Laban’s daughters. Cousins often married.
Verse 3 Jacob would have 12 sons. And his *descendants would become a great nation. Everything that God promised to Abraham and Isaac would happen to Jacob’s *descendants.
Verse 4 God had already given the country to Jacob and his *descendants, although they did not yet own any part of it.
Verses 6-9 Esau tried to please his parents by means of another marriage. But Esau still had *Canaanite wives, and God had not chosen Ishmael. Esau did not understand God’s plan.
Verses 10-11 Jacob had God’s *blessing. But Jacob had no money and he had no friends. He slept outside. He used a stone as his pillow.
Verse 12 This staircase was between earth and heaven. So it was similar to the *tower in Babel. But there were many differences. Men built the *tower and they tried to reach heaven. They thought that they were clever. And they thought that they could be equal to God. But in Jacob’s dream, God provided the staircase. In John 1:51, Jesus said, ‘Really and truly I say to you that you will see heaven open. And you will see God’s *angels go up and down upon the Son of Man.’ Jesus is the way to heaven. Jacob needed to know that God was near him. God was not far away.
Verse 13 ‘The *Lord stood above it.’ This may be ‘The *Lord stood above Jacob.’ Or ‘The *Lord stood near Jacob.’ The word ‘above’ shows that God was controlling the situation.
Abraham was Jacob’s grandfather. People often used the word ‘father’ to mean ‘*ancestor’. God showed to Jacob that God was really *blessing him. Jacob really wanted God’s *blessing. In fact, Jacob had even used wrong methods to try to get it. But God gives his *blessing where he wants to. We cannot earn it.
Verse 14 God made the same promises to Jacob that he (God) had made to Abraham and Isaac.
Verse 15 Jacob would return to this country that God had given to him. God would protect Jacob as he (Jacob) travelled.
Verse 17 Jacob was not afraid that something evil would happen. That was not what he meant. He knew God’s *almighty power. But in Jacob’s dream, he had seen God and he had heard God. God had promised great things to him. And Jacob realised how weak he was.
Verse 18 Later, God did not allow the *Jews to put up columns. That was because the *Canaanites did that to *worship false gods. But Jacob put up this one here. In that way, he wanted to remind himself and other people how great God was. And Jacob wanted to remember the exact place where he had this experience.
Verse 19 The place was probably not a city until later. It seems that Jacob was alone in the desert. ‘Bethel’ means ‘the house of God’. Jacob gave this name to the place because he met God there.
Verses 20-21 Jacob agreed to serve God if God helped him. Jacob’s words might sound as if he was trying to bargain with God. But we do not think that this was really Jacob’s intention. He knew that God was his God. He knew that God was great. He knew that God had promised to take care of him. And so he would *worship God.
Verse 22 At that time, Jacob had nothing to give! But he believed that God would *bless him. That was why he said this.
It was God’s plan that Jacob would have a large family. God had already promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that they would have many *descendants. But perhaps Jacob did not realise that God wanted him (Jacob) to have many children. It was the custom at that time for an important man to have many wives. But Jacob’s father, Isaac, married only one wife.
Jacob’s intention was to marry Rachel. He loved her as soon as he saw her. And he tried to impress her. He moved a large stone so that he could give water to her sheep. Soon afterwards, Jacob offered to work for 7 years so that he could marry Rachel.
At the end of the 7 years, Laban (Rachel’s father) cheated Jacob. It was the custom that the bride would cover her face at the wedding. The morning afterwards, Jacob discovered that he had married Leah (Rachel’s sister). Jacob never really loved Leah. But he did not refuse to accept her as his wife.
Laban allowed Jacob to marry Rachel too. But Laban insisted that Jacob must work for another 7 years for Rachel.
All this time, Jacob was learning to be humble. At home, Jacob used schemes to get whatever he wanted. But on the journey, Jacob had decided to serve God (Genesis 28:20-21). And now Jacob was learning to accept whatever God wanted to give him. In the end, God would give Jacob 12 sons. And their families would become the great nation that God had promised.
Verses 1-3 Jacob arrived near the home of Nahor’s family, who were Rebekah’s relatives. The *shepherds had brought some sheep near the well. But they were waiting for other *shepherds to arrive. Then they would remove the stone that covered the well.
Verse 4 Like Abraham’s servant (chapter 24), Jacob quickly found the people that he was looking for.
Verse 5 Laban was actually Nahor’s grandson. The *Hebrew word for ‘son’ can also mean ‘*descendant’. This is what it means here.
Verse 6 To look after the sheep seems to have been a woman’s job too. So, Rachel brought Laban’s sheep. Rachel was the first member of Laban’s family that Jacob met. Jacob was very excited to see her. It seems that he loved her at once.
Verses 7-8 Perhaps there were very many sheep that used water from the same well. So it might have been difficult to wait until the cooler evening to give water to them all. The stone that covered the well was very heavy. It was fairly difficult for one man to move it alone. It was easier when more than one man moved it. Also, it was safer to take the cover off the well less often. It was safer because then the well had a cover over it for a longer time.
Verses 9-10 Jacob wanted to impress Rachel. So, he moved the stone himself in order to provide water for her sheep. By this action, Jacob was showing Rachel that he would look after her.
Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, had used a well in that area in chapter 24. She provided water for Abraham’s servant and his camels. Soon afterwards, Rebekah married Isaac. Perhaps Jacob was already hoping that he could marry Rachel.
Verse 11 Jacob and Rachel were relatives. So, perhaps it was the custom to kiss. But we shall soon see how much he really loved her.
Verses 12-13 Laban and Rachel may have thought that Jacob would have valuable presents. Abraham’s servant had brought presents when he was arranging a wife for Isaac. But Jacob had nothing.
Verses 14-17 It was the custom to be friendly to all visitors. And Laban was especially pleased with Jacob, who was a relative. Laban invited Jacob to stay in Laban’s home. Laban was probably hoping that Jacob would marry Leah or Rachel.
Jacob was not lazy. He worked hard while he stayed with Laban.
Verse 18 Jacob had no ‘bride price’ to offer. (In other words, he had no money to ‘pay for’ his bride.) 7 years of work was a lot to give for a bride. But Jacob loved Rachel and he needed a home. Probably Jacob and Rachel were engaged, but they were not living together. That is like Joseph and Mary in the *New Testament.
Verse 20 Jacob really loved Rachel. He was happy as he worked. So he did not feel as if he was waiting for her.
Verse 21 Jacob had to go to Laban to claim his wife. Perhaps Laban did not want Jacob and Rachel to marry at once. Laban could remember how quickly Rebekah left home (Genesis 24:54-56). Both Jacob and Rachel were good workers. Laban did not want them to leave.
Verse 22 Laban arranged the wedding for his daughter and Jacob. But Laban was not an honest man.
It seems that Laban and his family knew about the real God (Genesis 24:31; 24:50). But perhaps they were not still serving God. They had images of false gods in their home (Genesis 31:30-35).
Verse 23 Laban cheated Jacob. Laban gave his older daughter, Leah, to Jacob instead of Rachel. The bride wore a *veil for the wedding, and the place was very dark. Also, Jacob had drunk wine.
Verse 25 In the morning, Jacob discovered that he had married the wrong woman. He complained to Laban. Rachel was the woman whom Jacob loved.
Verse 26 Among Jacob’s relatives the oldest son (the son that was born first in the family) had special rights. (In fact, Jacob bought those rights from Esau.) Here, Laban mentioned the idea that in his country the oldest daughter had special rights. But this excuse was not fair. Jacob believed that he was marrying Rachel. And Laban had not been honest.
Verse 27 When there was a wedding, people organised a *feast for it. The *feast lasted for one week. Jacob could have left afterwards, with his two brides. But Laban trusted that Jacob would stay. Jacob could not trust Laban. But Laban knew that he could trust Jacob.
Later, God’s law did not allow a man to marry two sisters.
Verses 28-30 So, Jacob had two wives. And each wife had a maid.
Verse 31 God was carrying out his promise. God was watching Jacob and his family, so that God could look after them.
Jacob never really loved Leah. But he accepted her as his wife. And God was kind to her. He helped her to have several children.
Rachel was the wife whom Jacob really loved. But, like Sarah and Rebekah, it was difficult for Rachel to have children.
Verse 32 Reuben meant ‘Look, a son!’ God was making Leah into the mother of many *tribes. The *tribes would belong to the nation called Israel. In that way, Leah was a part of God’s plan. But she could not force Jacob to love her.
Verse 33 ‘Simeon’ is like a *Hebrew word. The word means that someone ‘has heard’.
Verse 34 ‘Levi’ is like the word for ‘love’.
Verse 35 ‘Judah’ is like the word for ‘praise’. Leah was grateful to God for her children. Perhaps she was not still trying to persuade Jacob to love her. Perhaps now she was content that God cared about her. So she praised God.
Chapter 30 continues the account of the birth of Jacob’s sons. Jacob’s wives persuaded Jacob to accept their maids as *concubines. So, Jacob had children by 4 different women. Rachel, whom Jacob really loved, was the last of these women have babies.
Afterwards, Jacob wanted to leave Laban. God had promised Jacob that Jacob would return home (Genesis 28:15). Perhaps Jacob wanted to bring up his sons in the country that God had promised to their *descendants. But Laban persuaded Jacob to wait. Laban offered to pay Jacob for his work. They agreed which animals would belong to Jacob in the future. And so, Jacob became wealthy.
Verses 1-2 Jacob’s wives could have shared the joys that their husband and children gave to them. Instead, they were jealous of each other. And as a result, there was trouble among Jacob’s sons later. Rachel became sad when she could not have children. She even blamed Jacob.
Verses 3-5 It was the custom for a man to accept his wife’s maid as a *concubine. Abraham did this in Genesis 16:2-4. We do not know whether Jacob wanted to follow this custom. But Rachel was desperate. She could not have her own children. So, she wanted Bilhah to have children that Rachel could look after, with her.
Verse 6 The name ‘Dan’ means ‘God is my judge’. That is, God has been fair to me.
Verse 8 ‘Naphtali’ probably means a ‘fight’ or a ‘struggle’. It is a rare word. And so we are not sure what it means. Some people think that it means ‘God’s fight’. The ‘fight’ or ‘struggle’ might mean these things:
1) a powerful fight or struggle;
2) a struggle in the place where God had put her; that is, a struggle with her sister as Jacob’s other wife;
3) a struggle with God when she was asking him to give children to her; that is, a struggle in prayer.
Verse 9-10 We do not know whether Jacob wanted another *concubine. Jacob did not really love Leah. Laban forced Jacob to marry her. But Jacob was always fair to Leah. So, he accepted her maid too.
Verse 11 ‘Gad’ means ‘good luck’.
Verse 13 ‘Asher’ means ‘happy’.
Verse 14 *Mandrakes were plants. People thought that those plants could help a person to love his or her partner. They thought that the plants could help *barren women. The plants would help such women to become *pregnant. Rachel had never been *pregnant. And she was desperate to have children. This is why she wanted the *mandrakes.
Verses 15-17 It is clear that Jacob spent very little time with Leah. Leah very much wanted Jacob’s love and Rachel very much wanted children. But it was Leah who had another son after this event.
Verse 18 ‘Issachar’ may mean ‘Let God be *merciful’. Or it may mean a ‘hired man’.
Verse 20 Zebulun probably means ‘honour’.
Verse 21 People did not usually include daughters in lists of people’s children. Later, however, Dinah was an important part of the story about this family. ‘Dinah’ meant ‘judgement’.
Verses 22-23 At last, Rachel had a son. She always wanted children. But she had to wait for a long time.
Verse 24 ‘Joseph’ means ‘Let the *Lord add.’ Rachel was praying for another son. And, in the end, Rachel did have another son. But that was not a happy event (Genesis 35:16-19).
Verses 25-26 Jacob had stayed with Laban for 14 years. During that time, Jacob worked in order to pay for his marriages to Leah and Rachel. The time that he agreed to work had ended. So, Jacob wanted to return home to the country that God promised to him. He probably also wanted to introduce his wives and children to his mother.
Verses 27-28 Laban knew that God had made him (Laban) rich because of Jacob. And so Laban did not want Jacob to go. Laban offered wages in order to keep Jacob there.
Verses 29-34 A *shepherd’s wages were sometimes one from every four animals that were born. Laban thought that the animals with marks would be fewer than that. We do not know how *speckles and spots were different. The sizes of the marks were probably different.
Laban and Jacob agreed which animals would belong to Jacob. The animals with marks would belong to Jacob. The animals without marks would belong to Laban.
Verse 35-36 Laban did not really want Jacob to receive any wages. Laban led away all the animals that had marks. So, Jacob was looking after animals that had no marks. Of course, young animals would be born. Laban thought that the young animals would have no marks. He was trying to cheat Jacob.
Verses 37-40 It seems that Jacob had a dream at this time (Genesis 31:10-12). Jacob’s behaviour may seem strange to us. But perhaps he was acting the events that he saw in this dream. Whatever happened, God made Jacob wealthy. Jacob knew that Laban was trying to cheat. But Jacob was trusting God (Genesis 31:5-7)
Verse 41-42 God even allowed Jacob to own the stronger animals. But Laban’s animals were weaker.
Verse 43 God had promised that he would take care of Abraham and his *descendants. And clearly, God was doing what he had promised.
Jacob had worked very hard for Laban. But Laban and his sons did not respect Jacob. Laban continued to cheat and he did not pay fair wages to Jacob. And Laban’s sons were starting to accuse Jacob. They said that Jacob stole his wealth from Laban. This was not true. In fact, Jacob had become wealthy. But it was God who made Jacob wealthy.
In the end, God told Jacob to leave Laban. Jacob did not delay. He took his family and his animals.
Jacob did not tell anyone else that his family were leaving. They did not even say goodbye to Laban.
After three days, Laban heard that Jacob had left. Laban gathered his relatives to chase Jacob. We do not know what Laban intended to do to Jacob. Probably Laban wanted to take back his daughters and the animals. But, that night, God warned Laban in a dream. So, God was protecting Jacob.
On the next day, Laban and Jacob met. They argued with each other. But Laban was careful about his words, because God had warned him.
Laban and Jacob decided to make a *covenant. But this *covenant was not an agreement of friendship. Instead, they promised to stay apart. Then, their sons would not fight each other.
Verse 1 Laban was getting old. Laban’s sons were now adults. The sons were afraid that they would not receive Laban’s wealth. They were afraid that Jacob might get it. But they were accusing Jacob of something that was not true. Jacob never stole Laban’s wealth. In fact, Laban became wealthy because Jacob was working for Laban (Genesis 30:27). And now God had made Jacob wealthy too.
Verse 2 Everyone knew that Laban did not like Jacob. That was because Jacob had become very rich. And Laban was jealous.
Verse 3 Jacob had a good reason to go away. Also, God had ordered him to go. In the *Hebrew text, the writer says that Laban had ‘turned his face away from Jacob’. It means that Laban did not like Jacob. But God had ‘turned his own face’ towards Jacob. He was looking after Jacob.
Verse 4 Jacob wanted his wives to go with him. He did not want them to stay with Laban. He wanted to be sure about that. Jacob and his wives met together in a field. From that, we learn that they were just part of Laban’s *household. They did not have their own home where they could be alone and safe.
Jacob did not force his wives to leave Laban. Jacob allowed them to choose.
Verses 5-6 Jacob knew that God had helped him. And Jacob was grateful.
Verse 7 ‘10 times’ may be a way to say ‘many times’.
Verse 8 It seems that the story in Genesis 30:25-43 was just an example of Jacob’s problems with Laban. In fact, Laban changed Jacob’s wages many times. Laban was not an honest employer.
Verse 9 In the *Hebrew text, the writer says this: ‘God has rescued your father’s animals.’
Verses 10-12 God was guiding Jacob. An *angel spoke to Jacob during the dream.
Verse 13 At Bethel, Jacob had made a promise to God. Jacob would obey God if God looked after him. Here, God is reminding him about that promise. Jacob should do as he had promised.
Verse 14 Leah and Rachel believed that Laban had cheated them. They were his daughters. But he seemed to act as if they were strangers. A husband usually paid ‘bride money’ to his bride’s father. (It was like a payment to get the bride.) The father usually kept that money. But Jacob had no money. Instead, he worked for the father as a payment. Leah and Rachel thought that they should receive money from their father Laban. They thought that because their husband Jacob had worked for him.
Verse 15 Laban was behaving towards his daughters as if they were the wives of a slave. Daughters did not *inherit from their father. Only sons *inherited. But Laban had not given the right wages to Jacob. In that way, he had cheated Jacob. So he had cheated Jacob’s wives and family also.
Verse 16 Rachel and Leah thought that they could take their father’s wealth. Rachel even stole something (verse 19). But, in fact, God had not given Laban’s wealth to them. Really, God had given to Jacob his own wealth.
Verse 18 Jacob had come to Laban alone. Jacob had come without anything. The story shows how God had *blessed Jacob. God had given a lot of wealth to Jacob. God had promised to do that. He had also done that to Abraham and Isaac.
Verse 19 Laban was probably a fairly long distance away from home. When people cut the wool off sheep, it was a very important occasion. There was often a *feast at that time. The ‘gods’ that Rachel took from the *household were probably small *idols. Families *worshipped them. They thought that the *idols protected them. The *idols might have been images that were like *ancestors. We do not know why Rachel stole them. Perhaps the person that had them had a right to the family’s property. Perhaps she thought that the *idols would protect her during the journey. Perhaps she liked the *idols. Maybe Rachel just wanted to have something from home. Or maybe she wanted to make her father angry!
People in the Bible often had *idols. They did not always realise that *idols are false gods. So they did not always realise that it is wrong to have *idols. But God’s command was that people should not make *idols (Deuteronomy 5:8). We should only serve the real God (Deuteronomy 5:7).
Verses 20-21 Jacob and his family left in secret. Laban did not discover until three days afterwards.
Verses 22-23 Laban and his relatives followed Jacob. But Laban travelled faster than Jacob. Unlike Jacob, Laban did not have children and animals to look after as he travelled. So, Laban soon caught up with Jacob.
Verse 24 God told Laban to agree with Jacob always. In the *Hebrew text, God says this to Laban: ‘Say not a word to Jacob either good or bad.’ In other words, ‘Do not encourage Jacob to return. And do not force him.’
Verse 26 Jacob did not owe anything to Laban. Laban wanted to keep Jacob. That was because Jacob was a good worker. And God was *blessing what Jacob did. Masters did not let slaves take away wives and families. But Jacob had worked hard to get his wives. He was Laban’s nephew. He was not a slave.
Verses 27-28 Laban was unhappy that Jacob had left in secret. But Laban pretended that he was happy for Jacob to leave. This was probably not true.
It seems that Laban did not really care about his daughters. They had complained that he was unfair to them in verses 14-16.
Verses 29-30 Laban knew that the real God had spoken to him. But Laban still wanted Jacob to return Laban’s *idols (false gods). Perhaps the *idols were gold. So, they were valuable. Jacob did not know who stole them.
Verse 32 The writer writes in a very clever way here. We know that Rachel stole the gods from the *household at the beginning. And the writer makes us wonder whether Laban will find the *idols. We wonder what will happen. But we have to wait for a while before we can know that.
Verses 33-34 Laban looked for his *idols. Nobody expected that Rachel would steal anything. So Laban looked in the other tents first.
Verse 35 Rachel was not very gentle with the *idols here. She was sitting on them.
Verses 38-40 Jacob’s and Laban’s argument sounds like the discussions in a court. Laban accused Jacob. But Laban could not prove anything. Now Jacob accused Laban. Of course, there was no human judge. God was their only judge.
Verse 41 ‘Ten times’ may not mean the exact number ten. It may mean ‘many times’.
Verse 42 In the *Hebrew text, Jacob calls God ‘the fear of Isaac’. It can mean the God whom Isaac respected very greatly. And he was the God whom Isaac obeyed. It can also mean the God who makes people afraid. Jacob spoke to Laban very clearly. Jacob said that God was *blessing him (Jacob). He said that God was watching him so that he (God) could protect him. And Jacob said that God had already acted as their judge. God had already spoken to Laban. And God had told Laban what to do.
Verse 43 Laban was not willing to give in to Jacob. But Laban knew that he (Laban) could not win against God.
Verses 45-46 When people made *covenants, they sometimes built a heap of stones. So, when people saw the stones, they would remember about the *covenant.
Verses 47-49 The name that Laban called the stones was in his language. And the name that Jacob called them was in Jacob’s language. Both names mean ‘heap of witness’. The heap was like a witness. A witness gives evidence. And the heap was evidence that those men had made the *covenant. Mizpah means ‘watch-post’ (a place where a guard is watching).
Verse 50 Jacob had to promise not to marry any more wives.
Verses 51-52 The purpose of the heap of stones was to separate Jacob’s *descendants from Laban’s *descendants. Then, they would not fight.
Verse 53 Laban talked about ‘Abraham’s God’. Laban also talked about ‘Nahor’s God’ and ‘their father’s God’. Maybe Laban meant that all those men had the same God. Or he might have meant that Nahor and the father did not have the same God as Abraham did. (Look at Joshua 24:2, 14, 15.) Abraham *worshipped the one real God. And Jacob called only the one real God, the God of his father Isaac, as his witness.
Verse 54 The writer does not tell us whether Laban was also offering the *sacrifice together with Jacob.
Verse 55 When Laban first met Jacob, Laban was very friendly to him. But when Laban said goodbye to Jacob, Laban was less friendly to him.
When Jacob left Canaan, Esau was plotting to kill him. Now Jacob was returning to Canaan. And Jacob realised that he would have to meet Esau.
Jacob was afraid. He thought that Esau might still be very angry. And he heard that Esau had 400 men with him. Jacob knew that his family and servants could not defeat Esau’s men.
Jacob made plans in case Esau’s men attacked. Jacob separated his family into groups. He hoped that some would escape. And he sent his servants with gifts for Esau. Jacob hoped that the gifts would please Esau. And Jacob wanted to show that he respected Esau as his older brother.
Jacob had to depend on God. If Esau was angry, only God could save Jacob. Jacob prayed for help. Jacob had a special experience in prayer. He seemed to be fighting a man. That man was probably an *angel. The man was stronger than Jacob. But the man could not overcome Jacob. So, Jacob struggled with God in prayer. And Jacob continued until God *blessed him. Now, Jacob was trusting God.
Verse 1 Jacob met God’s *angels. They showed that God was with him.
Verse 2 ‘Mahanaim’ means ‘two camps’. Maybe there were two armies of *angels. (But we do not know why there would be two armies.) Or maybe ‘two camps’ meant Jacob’s camp and the *angels’ camp. Afterwards, Jacob separated his own camp into two camps (verse 7).
Verse 3 The region was called Seir. ‘Seir’ is like the *Hebrew word for ‘hairy’. The country was called Edom. ‘Edom’ is like the *Hebrew word for ‘red’. And Esau had red skin, because he was outdoors so much. Esau was a good hunter and he liked to be outdoors (Genesis 25:27). So, because of the name ‘Edom’, people could easily remember who Esau was.
Verses 4-5 Jacob was trying to make sure that Esau was not angry. So several times Jacob called Esau ‘my *lord’ and Jacob called himself ‘your servant’. This was the usual way for a younger brother to speak to his older brother. Jacob used these words to show that he respected Esau.
Verse 6 The writer shows to us that Jacob was afraid. Esau had brought 400 men, without *cattle and children. That was an army that Jacob might easily be afraid of! Jacob had servants and some of his sons were young men. But Jacob’s group were much too small and too weak to fight Esau’s men.
Verses 7-8 Jacob separated his family, servants and animals into two groups. If Esau attacked one group, the other group would run away.
Verse 9 Jacob prayed and he prepared. God expects us to do both. God has done good things in the past for us. It is good to say such things when we pray. It helps us to remember what God has done. And it shows to God that we are grateful. We are grateful for what he has done for us.
Verse 10 When Jacob left home, he had only his stick. But when he came back, he had a family. He had many servants and animals also.
Verses 11-12 Jacob said the right things in his prayer. But he was not yet ready to trust God. Jacob was still trying to use clever schemes to protect himself. He knew that God had promised to look after him. But Jacob thought that he would have to save himself by his own schemes.
Verse 13 Jacob made ready a very large present for Esau.
Verses 14-21 Jacob’s scheme was to send several separate gifts to Esau. Jacob thought that Esau would perhaps still be angry after the first gift. But Esau would be less angry after the second gift. In the end, Esau would receive many such gifts, even before he met Jacob.
Verses 22-24 The writer does not tell us why Jacob stayed behind alone. Perhaps Jacob realised that he needed to pray more. Jacob did not want anyone to disturb him as he prayed. He needed to spend time alone with God.
We do not know why God’s man fought with Jacob. (The man was probably an *angel.) But we do know why Jacob continued to struggle with the man. Jacob wanted to receive God’s *blessing (verse 26). It would have been difficult to fight in the dark.
Verse 25 The man was much stronger than Jacob was. The man hurt Jacob badly when he merely touched Jacob. Afterwards, Jacob could not walk well (verse 31).
Verse 26 Jacob did not want to fight for nothing. He wanted God’s *blessing. Jacob always believed that God’s *blessing was very important. Jacob would do anything to get God’s *blessing.
Verse 27 Israel means ‘God struggles’. Or it means ‘he who struggles with God’. Jacob had to struggle that night as he prayed. But Jacob overcame.
So, Jacob’s name changed to Israel, although we still call him Jacob. And Jacob’s character also changed. Jacob did not continue to use schemes. Instead, he learnt to trust God more.
Verse 30 Peniel means ‘God’s face’. In verse 31, the *Hebrew text has ‘Penuel’. It is another way to say the same name.
God is very holy. At that time, if people saw God, they did not usually stay alive. The verse might also mean this: Jacob knew that God was keeping him alive. That was because God had *blessed him.
Verse 31 God sometimes makes us weak in some way. That makes us trust him for his strength. (In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul wrote, ‘The *Lord said to me, “My grace (kindness) is enough for you. When you are weak, then my power becomes perfect in you.” So I am very happy to talk proudly about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me.’ Look also at the verse after that, 2 Corinthians 12:10.)
At last, it was time to meet Esau. Jacob had been very afraid about this meeting. Jacob’s body was weaker because of his experience when he struggled with the *angel. But Jacob probably felt stronger, because he now had God’s *blessing. Jacob led his family as they approached Esau.
But Esau was not angry. In fact, he was kind to Jacob. Esau did not even want to accept Jacob’s gifts. But Jacob insisted that Esau should accept them.
Jacob stayed in Canaan. He bought some land near a city called Shechem. He prayed there. And nobody opposed him. But there would soon be more troubles.
Verse 1 Jacob had a lot of time to wait for Esau. Jacob had time to arrange his people and animals in order. He had fought all night with the ‘man’ (God’s man). Jacob was afraid to meet Esau. So, Jacob needed the strength that God gave to him.
Esau still had 400 men with him. Jacob himself had an injury. He did not have 400 men. The men that he had were not able to fight. They had to take care of the animals. And they were probably tired after the long journey.
Verse 2 It was the custom to arrange sons in the order of their age (Genesis 43:33). This would usually be the same order as their importance in the family (1 Samuel 16:6-11). But Jacob arranged his sons in the order of the importance of their mothers. Jacob probably did not realise that he had given the most important place to Joseph. Joseph was Jacob’s youngest son at this time. But Joseph was the son of Jacob’s favourite wife.
Verse 3 Jacob showed that he had come in peace. He wanted to be friends with Esau. And he was careful to show it. He was willing to be humble. He did not want to get things from other people. He was content, because God was *blessing him.
Verses 4-11 Esau was not still angry. He, too, was content. He did not even want to take Jacob’s gifts. They were both happy to be together.
Verses 12-17 Jacob wanted to go to the country that God had promised. So he did not want to go to Seir, where Esau lived. We do not know why Jacob built a house at Succoth. ‘Succoth’ means ‘shelters’. That is, simple shelters. The people and animals probably needed a rest after the long journey. Maybe they did not stay there for a long time. However, we do not know how long they actually stayed there.
Verses 18-19 Jacob wanted to have a calm life. These verses are like Genesis 21:33-34 and Genesis 26:25. Both Abraham and Isaac found quiet places where they could live. These places were calm and Abraham and Isaac were able to pray there. Jacob hoped that he had arrived at such a place.
Verse 20 ‘El-Elohe-Israel’ means ‘God is Israel’s (Jacob’s) God’. Jacob remembered that he (Jacob) had promised this (Genesis 28:21). He had promised that God would be his God. And now, God had brought him safely back to Canaan.
Jacob served the real God (Genesis 34:20). But Jacob’s family did not. They used *idols, which were images of false gods (Genesis 35:2). And they were not behaving in the same manner as people who serve the real God.
This became a very serious matter when a man called Shechem *raped Dinah. Dinah was the daughter of Jacob and Leah. Simeon and Levi were brothers of Dinah. They became very angry when they heard about Shechem.
They made a cruel plot. They pretended that Shechem could marry Dinah. But first, Shechem would have to accept *circumcision. And they wanted every male in Shechem’s town to accept *circumcision. Shechem’s town was called Shechem too (Genesis 12:6). The men agreed. But while the men were still hurting, Simeon and Levi attacked them. Simeon and Levi killed every man in the town, including Shechem.
Jacob was very unhappy about the behaviour of Simeon and Levi. They had acted in the same manner as very wicked people behave. Shechem deserved punishment. But the actions of Simeon and Levi were much too cruel. And now, Jacob’s whole family was in danger.
Before he died, Jacob *blessed his sons. But he did not *bless Simeon or Levi. Instead, he said that their anger was terrible. So, God would scatter their *descendants across the country called Israel (Genesis 49:5-7).
Verse 1 We do not know whether Dinah had sisters. People often made lists that showed members in a family. (See Genesis 29:31-35; 30:1-24). But such a list did not include girls, unless there was a special reason for that. Maybe Dinah should not have gone out to visit those people. Maybe that was dangerous.
Verse 2 At that time, people considered that sex between unmarried people was very seriously wrong. God says that this is wrong. There are laws about this in Deuteronomy 22:23-29.
Verses 3-4 Shechem very much wanted to marry Dinah. We do not know whether Dinah wanted to marry Shechem.
Verse 5 The report about Dinah probably upset Jacob greatly. But Jacob did not say anything. Perhaps he was too sad to speak about the matter. Perhaps he did not want to make any decisions while his sons were away. Perhaps he was being careful not to speak too quickly, in case his reaction was angry. So, Jacob waited.
Verse 7 In *Hebrew, the writer says that Shechem had ‘done a foolish thing in Israel’. The word ‘foolish’ can mean ‘evil’. ‘In Israel’ may mean ‘in Israel’s family’. That is Jacob’s family, because Jacob was also called Israel. It may also mean that the writer was referring to the future nation called Israel. The nation called Israel would come from Jacob’s (Israel’s) family.
Verses 8-19 Hamor and Shechem were very polite. And Jacob and his sons were also very polite. However, Jacob’s sons were telling lies about what they would do. And Shechem had not given Dinah back.
Verses 8-9 God would give very clear rules about marriages between *Israelites and other nations. Jacob and his family did not know these rules yet. But both Abraham and Isaac thought that their children should not marry anyone from Canaan.
Verse 10 To ‘trade’ may mean to ‘move about’. Merchants (traders) were people that moved about.
Verse 13 The brothers were angry because Shechem had *raped their sister. It seems that he was still living with her.
Verses 14-17 Jacob’s sons were not respecting God. They were using *circumcision for their own advantage. They were not using it to show a *covenant with God. Jacob’s sons wanted only to make the men in Shechem weak. The sons wanted to defeat and to kill those men.
Verse 20 People usually discussed all the important things at the city’s gate.
Verses 21-23 Hamor and Shechem were clever. They told the men in their city that the *Israelites’ wealth would come to the city. Actually, Hamor had invited the *Israelites to have land in the city. But Hamor and Shechem did not tell that to the men in the city. The reason for all that was so that Shechem could marry Dinah, the *Israelite woman. But Hamor and Shechem did not say the reason. The writer writes about ‘men that went out of the gate’. It probably means healthy, skilful men that could fight. Such men could also work in the fields.
Verse 25 Simeon and Levi punished the men in Shechem too severely. The brothers were very cruel.
Verse 26 Simeon and Levi took Dinah away. In the meantime, Dinah had been with Shechem all the time. That was another reason why her brothers were so angry. Simeon and Levi may have had other men with them. But in a surprise attack, it was sometimes better to have only a few men.
Verses 27-29 After Simeon and Levi killed the men, Jacob’s sons took everything away from the city. They took all the possessions that had belonged to the dead men. And they kept these things for themselves. They also took the women and children to be their slaves. So, Jacob’s sons became wealthy. But they became wealthy because of Simeon and Levi’s cruelty.
Verses 30-31 The behaviour of Jacob’s sons upset Jacob greatly. He realised that other people would oppose him because of his sons’ actions. Now, his sons had become wealthy and powerful. And Jacob had learned that he could not control them.
God had promised to make Jacob’s *descendants into a great nation. But Jacob did not want that nation to be a wicked nation. So, Jacob needed to teach his sons about God (Genesis 35:1-15).
Nobody in the story was innocent. Dinah went out to visit those people. That was a dangerous thing to do. Hamor and Shechem did something wrong to her. And they were not honest with Jacob’s family about it. Hamor and Shechem were not honest with their own people either. Jacob probably should have done more about Dinah’s situation. But he was perhaps more worried about his own safety among his neighbours.
But the behaviour of Simeon and Levi was terrible. The brothers punished the men in Shechem too severely. They were cruel. It is clear that people in Jacob’s family were bitter and angry. And they were behaving like people who did not know God.
Jacob did not feel safe now near the town called Shechem. His sons, Simeon and Levi, had been angry, so they killed many men there. And Jacob was afraid that the relatives of those men might attack his family. God told Jacob to take his family to Bethel.
It seems that Jacob was pleased to take his family to Bethel. God first spoke to Jacob at Bethel. Jacob could teach his family about God during the journey. He explained to them how he met the real God. He told them that they should not keep their *idols (images of false gods). And he told his family that they were going to a holy place. So, they had to prepare themselves.
At Bethel, God repeated his promises to Jacob. And Jacob rebuilt the *altar that he made there.
Soon afterwards, Jacob’s last son, called Benjamin, was born. But Benjamin’s mother, Rachel, died at the birth.
A terrible event happened afterwards. It was the custom in Canaan that the oldest son should have sex with his father’s wives. Then, that son would become the leader of the family. (See 2 Samuel 16:21-22.) Jacob knew that this action was very wicked. And he hoped that his own sons had learned about God. But Jacob could not control his sons. They were adults now. So, they were responsible for their own behaviour.
Reuben, who was Jacob’s first son, had sex with Bilhah. Bilhah was Jacob’s *concubine. She had been Rachel’s maid. Jacob heard about Reuben’s behaviour. So, Jacob decided that Reuben must not receive the *birthright. And Reuben did not receive a *blessing from Jacob (Genesis 49:3-4).
Simeon and Levi were the oldest sons after Reuben. But Jacob would not give them the *birthright because of their cruelty. So instead, Jacob chose Joseph (Genesis 37:3; 1 Chronicles 5:1-2).
Verse 1 God was gently reminding Jacob that he (God) had been *faithful. He had taken care of Jacob. Now Jacob needed to *worship God at Bethel. Jacob had promised to do that.
Verses 2-4 People in Jacob’s *household still had *idols. That seems strange. However, they threw the *idols away when Jacob asked them to. They also threw away ear-rings. We think that the ear-rings had some connection with *idols. So those that wore the ear-rings served the *idols. The ear-rings were evidence of that. It is also strange that Jacob buried those things under a tree. He did not destroy them. Usually, before people *worshipped God in a special way, they washed themselves. They put on clean clothes. They did those things to respect God. It made the people remember that God is perfect. So, they must prepare themselves to *worship him.
Verse 5 Jacob’s sons had done an evil thing to the men in Shechem (chapter 34). So Jacob was afraid of the people that lived near.
Verse 7 El-Bethel means ‘God of Bethel’. That is, God who appeared at Bethel. Bethel means ‘the house of God’. Bethel was the place where Jacob decided to serve God (Genesis 28:19-22).
Verse 8 Deborah was very old. The writer speaks about her death. They buried her ‘below Bethel’. Some people think that it means ‘near Bethel’. Or perhaps they buried her at the actual spot where God first appeared to Jacob (Genesis 28:11-19).
The wives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all had maids (also called nurses). And all these maids became *concubines, except for Deborah. Deborah was a loyal servant. And it seems that the whole family loved her.
Verse 9 Perhaps the writer was saying again what had happened earlier. (Look at verse 1.) When something was repeated in the Bible, it was very important.
Verses 10-13 God repeated his promises to Jacob. Jacob’s *descendants would become a great nation. And God would give to them the country called Canaan.
Verses 14-15 This was the way that they *worshipped God. It made the column special for them.
This was the same place where God spoke to Jacob during a dream. (See Genesis 28:10-22.) At that time, Jacob put up a stone column. But it was now 20 years later. At last, Jacob was able to return to that place. Perhaps his column had fallen down and Jacob rebuilt it.
Verses 16-18 Rachel had the second son that she wanted (Genesis 30:24). But she did not stay alive after the birth. Benoni means ‘son of my sorrow’. (That means ‘the son that I got when I was sad’. ‘Sorrow’ means sad feelings.)
Benjamin means ‘son of my right hand’. A man would place his right hand on his oldest son when he *blessed that son. (See Genesis 48:13-19.) So, people associated the right hand with the *blessing. So, the name ‘Benjamin’ meant that God would *bless him.
Verses 19-20 Bethlehem became a very important town. King David came from Bethlehem, so Bethlehem became a royal town. And Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Verse 22 What Reuben did was very serious. Such actions in a family were very bad. Reuben was probably trying to become the head of the family instead of Jacob. Reuben wanted to show his authority. Jacob heard. And he decided that Joseph would receive the *birthright instead of Reuben.
Verses 23-26 Nearly all Jacob’s sons were born in Paddan-Aram. Benjamin was not born there. But the writer added Benjamin’s name (in verse 24) so that this list of Jacob’s sons was complete.
Verses 27-29 Jacob and Esau met together again. They buried their father Isaac together.
Isaac lived much longer than anyone had expected. Isaac was a man with a calm attitude. He did not like arguments. He would have been pleased that Jacob and Esau met together for his funeral. Their arguments had ended. And they were friendly again.
People try to discover what the names of Esau’s *descendants meant. People try to link the names with nations that people knew in that area later. But that is not very helpful. God always does the things that he promises to do. In this chapter, the writer reminds us about this principle. Esau was not the son that God had chosen. But God had made a promise about Esau (Genesis 25:23). So, God gave many *descendants to Esau. Later, King David defeated the *Edomites and he ruled over them. So they did serve Jacob’s *descendants.
Verses 2-8 Esau’s first two wives did not come from Abraham’s family. The writer reminds us about that. God had especially chosen Abraham’s family. So God did not want them to marry *Canaanite wives. But Esau did not care about that. It is very difficult to compare the lists that contain Esau’s wives. From chapters 26 and 28, we can make one list of Esau’s wives. There is Judith, the daughter of Beeri the *Hittite. There is Basemath, the daughter of Elon the *Hittite. And there is Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael. Then here in verses 2 and 3, we have another list of Esau’s wives. Both lists have the name Basemath, but in each list she has a different father. And there are two fathers that have a different daughter in each list. Maybe the wives had more than one name. Maybe Esau had more than three wives. We do not know.
Verse 7 God led Esau away from Jacob’s family. He did not want Esau and Jacob to marry members of each other’s family. We do not know when Esau went to live in Seir. (In Genesis 32:3, we see that Esau was already living in Seir then.) God was *blessing both brothers with large *flocks. He had promised to do that.
Verses 9-40 The list of Esau’s *descendants continues. Their nation became large and successful. They appointed kings before Jacob’s *descendants did (verse 31). But God’s ideas about success are different from people’s ideas. In God’s opinion, a nation is not really successful just because it becomes large and powerful. And a nation does not become really successful just because it appoints important kings. The only really successful nations are those whose rulers and people serve God.
almighty ~ when someone has enough power to defeat all his enemies; the Person who is better than everyone else; the *Lord over everything; the Person who has power over everything.
almond ~ a kind of tree with pink flowers; a nut that this tree produces.
altar ~ a table that people made out of stone or metal. People burned gifts to God (*sacrifices) on it.
ancestor ~ a relative that lived a long time ago. A person’s parents are *descendants of such a relative.
angels ~ God’s servants from *heaven, who sometimes bring God’s messages to people.
arrow ~ a stick with a point on it. People shoot it from a bow.
barren ~ a description of a married woman who has no children.
birthright ~ the oldest son had the birthright in the *Old Testament. He would be the leader of his family when his father died. And he would get a double share of the things that had belonged to his father. Sometimes in the Book of Genesis, a younger son actually received the birthright. Each time, there were special reasons why the birthright did not belong to the oldest son.
bless ~ to give someone a *blessing; or to be kind to someone; or to do good things for someone; or to promise good things to someone.
blessing ~ a good thing that God does for us; or when we ask God to help a person; or when we ask God to do something good in that person. In the Book of Genesis, blessings were often a type of *prophecy.
bow ~ to bend one’s body over to respect someone else. To bow one’s head means to bend one’s head forward.
Canaanites ~ people that were living in Canaan, the country that God had promised to the *Israelites. The Canaanites were already living in that country before the *Israelites went there.
cattle ~ animals that people look after in order to get milk or meat from them. They include cows.
circumcise ~ to cut off the loose skin from the end of a boy’s or man’s sex part.
circumcision ~ when someone cuts off the loose skin from the end of the male sex part; something that specially reminds people about God’s agreement with Israel. For *Israelites, it was a proof that a man agreed to obey God’s laws. Or it might show that a person had a good, innocent spirit.
concubine ~ a woman that lives with a man but she is not his wife; or people do not know her as his wife.
covenant ~ an agreement between two or more people, in which they all have responsibilities; such an agreement between God and a person (or people).
curse ~ say that something bad will happen to a person or thing by God’s (or a false god’s) power; when someone curses a person or thing; what someone says when they curse a person or thing. In the Book of Genesis, the word ‘curse’ often means a *prophecy about future troubles.
descendant ~ a child, grandchild, and so on; a person in your family who lives after you are dead.
dew ~ water on the ground at night. It comes from the air.
dome ~ a roof with a round top. Here, it means a very big roof over the whole earth.
donkey ~ an animal like a small horse. It carries things or people.
Edomites ~ the *descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau, who was also called Edom.
Egyptian ~ a person from the country called Egypt; when someone or something is from Egypt.
faithful ~ loyal; when someone does what they promise.
famine ~ a time when plants for food do not grow, so people cannot eat food from them.
feast ~ a very big, special meal; a special time when people eat a lot and they drink a lot. People usually have a feast for a certain special reason.
flock ~ a large group of such animals as sheep.
fruitful ~ fruitful land produces a lot of good crops. When a thing is fruitful, it produces many good results. When people are fruitful, they have many children.
heaven ~ the place that is God’s home.
Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke; someone from the nation that spoke the Hebrew language. The writer wrote Genesis in the Hebrew language.
heel ~ the back part of the foot.
herd ~ a large group of such animals as cows.
herdsman ~ a man that keeps cows and other animals safe.
Hittite ~ someone from a group (*tribe) of people called the Hittites. They lived in the country called Canaan.
Hivite ~ someone from a group (*tribe) of people called the Hivites. They lived in the country called Canaan.
holy ~ what God is like; completely good, with nothing bad in it; separate from *sin; perfect and clean; when something belongs to God.
Horite ~ someone from a group (*tribe) of people called the Horites. They lived in the country called Edom. The Horites were already living in that country before Esau (Edom) went to live there.
household ~ your household means everyone that lives with you. They do not have to be your family.
idol ~ a false god that people made out of wood or stone or metal.
inherit ~ to receive something from someone that has died. That thing is a gift. God too gives gifts to us, but he has not died!
Israelite ~ a person from the nation called Israel; a *descendant of Jacob, who was also called Israel.
Jew ~ a person that was born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children. People also use it to mean a person from the nation called Israel.
kid ~ a very young goat.
lamb ~ a very young sheep.
lord ~ a man that has complete authority over someone or something.
Lord ~ a special name for God. Sometimes it is the *Hebrew word YHWH. YHWH means that God is always God. Elsewhere, it is the *Hebrew word ADONAI, which means ‘my master’. People used these words to give honour to God.
lyre ~ something with strings that people can pull gently in order to make music.
mandrake ~ a kind of plant. People thought that it would make them want to have sex.
merciful ~ when someone has *mercy or he or she shows *mercy.
mercy ~ help to those that have lack or difficulty; the love that God shows when he forgives people; God’s love and goodness; God’s pity towards all that he has made; when someone is kind to bad people.
New Testament ~ the second part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after Jesus went back to *heaven.
oak ~ a kind of tree whose leaves fall off in winter. People often considered an oak tree a *holy tree.
offering ~ a gift to please God.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before Jesus came; the *holy things that the writers wrote before Christ’s birth.
ox ~ a big cow.
oxen ~ the plural of *ox.
peel ~ to take the thin outer cover off something (a branch, a fruit or a vegetable for example).
Perizzites ~ a group (*tribe) of people that lived in the country called Canaan.
Pharaoh ~ the king of Egypt.
Philistines ~ a nation of people that lived in Canaan or near Canaan.
plane ~ a kind of tree. Its leaves fall off in winter. It often has white or nearly white spots on its stem.
poplar ~ a kind of tree, whose leaves fall off in winter. This particular kind of poplar had a white or nearly white colour.
praise ~ to say how great somebody is; words to express how great someone is.
pregnant ~ when a lady is expecting to have a baby.
prophecy ~ messages that God wants to tell or teach to people, often about future events.
prostitute ~ a woman whom a man pays for sex.
rape ~ when a man forces a woman to have sex with him although she does not want to.
sacrifice ~ when someone puts an animal on an *altar in order to offer the animal to God; to give something valuable for someone or for God; to die for someone or for God.
shepherd ~ a person that looks after sheep.
sin ~ to do bad things against God or other people; a bad thing that a person does against God or other people; when a person does a bad thing.
sinew ~ a narrow piece of hard, thick skin that connects a bone to a muscle.
speckle ~ a small, slight mark on an animal, bird or egg. There are usually many speckles close to each other.
stew ~ food that people make from vegetables, meat or fish, which they cook slowly in water.
tambourine ~ something that people use in order to make the rhythm in music. They can hit it. Or they can shake it. (That is, they can move it very fast many times from one side to another and back again.)
thigh ~ the upper part of a leg.
tower ~ a tall, narrow building.
tribe ~ a family (and *descendants) from the same father; the whole family (and *descendants) from one of Jacob’s 12 sons.
trough ~ a long narrow container from which animals can drink water (or they can eat food from it).
twin ~ someone that was born about the same time as a brother or sister; twins are two children that were born together from the same mother.
veil ~ a piece of material that covers a woman’s face.
worship ~ to show very great honour to God; to show that we respect him very much; to *praise God and to serve him; to tell God that we love him very much.
John Calvin ~ Commentary on Genesis ~ Eerdmans
Rev. Stephen Dray ~ Genesis – Lecture notes (unpublished)
Victor P. Hamilton ~ The Book of Genesis (2 volumes) ~ New International Commentary on the Old Testament ~ Eerdmans
Matthew Henry ~ Commentary on the Whole Bible ~ Marshall Morgan and Scott
Rev. Derek Kidner ~ Genesis ~ Tyndale
C. H. Spurgeon ~ Treasury of the Old Testament ~ Marshall Morgan and Scott
Gordon J. Wenham ~ Genesis (2 volumes) ~ Word Biblical Commentary ~ Word
Bibles ~ RSV, NIV, International Children’s Bible, Bible for the Deaf
© 2006, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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