Jacob meets God
An EasyEnglish Bible
Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Genesis chapters 25-36
This commentary has been through Advanced Theological Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
v1 Abraham married another wife, who was called
Keturah. v2 She became the mother of Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian,
Ishbak and Shuah. v3 Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan. The sons
of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim and Leummim. v4 The sons of Midian were
Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.
v5 Abraham gave everything that he had to Isaac. v6 However
Abraham also gave gifts to the sons of his extra wives. And, while he was still
alive, he sent them away from his son Isaac. He sent them towards the east
v7 The years of Abraham’s life were 175 years. v8
He died at a great age. He was an old man and he had lived for many years. So
he went to be with his fathers. v9 Abraham’s sons, Isaac and Ishmael,
buried him in the cave at Machpelah. The cave was in the field that had
belonged to Ephron. Ephron was the son of Zohar, who was a *Hittite. The field
was east of Mamre. v10 Abraham had bought that field from the *Hittites.
They buried Abraham there. That was the place where Abraham had buried Sarah
his wife. v11 After Abraham’s death, God was very kind to Isaac. Isaac
was Abraham’s son. And Isaac lived at Beer-lahai-roi.
Isaac was the son that God had promised. Isaac owned everything
that had belonged to Abraham. So Isaac must be Abraham’s only son who lived in
*Canaan. Therefore, Abraham sent the other sons away. Before this, Abraham sent
his son Ishmael away for the same reason. (See Genesis 21:14.) God had told him
to do that.
‘He went to be with his fathers.’ A man’s body dies. But, if the
man knows God, his spirit still lives. Abraham knew this. He knew that he would
be with his fathers and with God. Jacob also knew this. (See Genesis 35:29.)
And so did Joseph. (See Genesis 47:30.)
Abraham had sent Ishmael away with his mother Hagar. But Ishmael
was not completely separate from Abraham. Ishmael heard that Abraham had died.
And Ishmael came to bury him. (See the comment on Genesis 21:12.)
v12 These are Ishmael’s *descendants. Ishmael was
Abraham’s son. Ishmael’s mother was Hagar, who had come from Egypt. Hagar was
Sarah’s maid. v13–15 These are the names of Ishmael’s sons. The
names are in the order of their sons’ births. Nebaioth was Ishmael’s oldest
son. After him were Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema,
Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. v16 These are the names of Ishmael’s sons.
These are their names by villages and camps. They were 12 princes of 12
*tribes. v17 The years of Ishmael’s life were 137 years. He died and he
went to be with his fathers. v18 Ishmael’s sons lived in the region
between Havilah and Shur. It is opposite Egypt and it is towards Assyria.
Ishmael lived near to all his family.
Isaac’s family is more important than Ishmael’s family. So
Genesis tells us Ishmael’s family first. When it has done that, it tells us the
more important family of Isaac.
v19 These are Isaac’s *descendants. Isaac was
Abraham’s son. Abraham was Isaac’s father. v20 Isaac was 40 years of age
when he married Rebekah. She was Bethuel’s daughter and she was Laban’s sister.
Bethuel and Laban lived in Paddan-aram. They were Arameans (people from Aram).
v21 Isaac prayed to the *Lord about his wife because
she had no child. The *Lord granted Isaac’s prayer and Rebekah became
*pregnant. v22 The children fought against each other while they were in
her. She said, ‘I do not understand why this is happening.’ So she went to the
*Lord and inquired from him. v23 The *Lord said to her,
are in you.
groups of people are separating as they are born.
One shall be
stronger than the other one.
older one shall serve the younger one.’
Paddan-aram was the same as west Mesopotamia. (See the comment on
Rebekah did not know yet that she had two babies in her. But the two
babies caused great trouble for her. They kicked and they moved strongly. So
she prayed. She asked God what was happening.
‘Two nations are in you.’ God told Rebekah that she had two
babies. Each baby was a son. Each son would grow and he would have many
*descendants. The *descendants of each of her sons would become a nation.
‘Two groups of people are separating as they are born.’ The two
boys were already fighting against each other. After their birth, they would be
enemies. And their *descendants would fight against each other.
‘One shall be stronger than the other one.’ The older son, Esau,
was the stronger one. But later, the *descendants of the younger son, Jacob,
would be stronger. The next line says this.
‘The older one shall serve the younger one.’ This started to
happen when Esau sold to Jacob the right of the oldest son. (See verse 33.) It
became true almost 1000 years later, when the Edomites became king David’s
servants. (See 2 Samuel 8:14.) ‘Edom’ was Esau’s other name. (See verse 30.)
The Edomites were Esau’s *descendants.
v24 When the time for the birth came, there were two
children in her. v25 The first one came out and he was red. All his body
was like hairy clothes. So they called him Esau. v26 Afterwards his
brother was born. His hand had gripped the back of Esau’s foot. So they called
him Jacob. Isaac was 60 years of age when the boys were born.
‘He was red.’ This probably means that his hair was red. He had
hair on all his body.
The name ‘Esau’ is not the same as the *Hebrew word for ‘hairy’.
So we do not know why they called him Esau.
The back of the foot is called the ‘heel’. Jacob seized Esau’s
heel. Jacob means ‘someone who follows another person’s heels’. That can mean
‘someone who takes the place of another person’. So it can mean ‘someone who
Esau sells the right of the oldest son
v27 When the boys became men, Esau was a skilful
hunter. He was usually outdoors. Jacob was a quiet man. He stayed in the tents.
v28 Esau hunted wild animals and Isaac ate some of the meat. For this
reason, Isaac loved Esau. But Rebekah loved Jacob.
v29 On a certain day, Jacob cooked meat in boiling
water. Esau came in from outdoors and he was very hungry. v30 Esau said
to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red meat. I am very hungry.’ Therefore, he
was called Edom. v31 Jacob said, ‘Before you eat it you must give to me
the right of the oldest son.’ v32 Esau said, ‘If I do not eat, I will
die. I have the right of the oldest son. But that right is not useful to me if
I am dead.’
‘Edom’ means ‘red’. Probably Esau was already called Edom because
his hair was red. Perhaps this verse means, ‘He likes red meat. That is another
reason to call him Edom.’
The right of the oldest son was very important. There were two
reasons for this. The oldest son took most of his father’s possessions when his
father died. That was one reason, but the other reason was more important. When
the father died, the oldest son became the head of the family. But sometimes
God chose another son instead of the oldest son. Here are some examples.
Abraham died, Isaac had the right of the oldest son. But Ishmael was older than
Isaac. (See Genesis 21:12 and the comment.) However, Ishmael’s mother was
Hagar, who was Abraham’s extra wife. So Ishmael was not a son of Abraham’s
took Esau’s right of the oldest son. (See verse 33.) God made this happen.
was Joseph’s oldest son. But God told Jacob to bless Ephraim as if he was the
oldest. (See Genesis 48:5, 13, 19.) Jacob was Joseph’s father and he was the
grandfather of Ephraim and Manasseh.
was Jacob’s oldest son. But God told Jacob to bless Judah as the oldest son
instead of Reuben. (See Genesis 49:4, 8.) Judah was Jacob’s third son.
So God chooses the best person to do his work. That is not always
the oldest person.
v33 Jacob said, ‘Make a firm promise to me before you
eat.’ So Esau made a firm promise to Jacob. He sold to Jacob the right of the
oldest son. v34 Then Jacob gave to Esau bread and meat and vegetables.
Esau ate and drank. Then he stood up and he went away. So he did not think that
the right of the oldest son was important.
The firm promise that Esau made was not enough. Their father
Isaac had not agreed to it. And before Isaac died he must give his *blessing to
his oldest son. But God was working out his plan. God had already said that the
older son would serve the younger son. (See verse 23.) And before Isaac died he
gave his *blessing to Jacob instead of Esau. (See Genesis 27:18-29.) He did
that because Jacob cheated him. And Rebekah told Jacob what he should do. But
this was part of God’s plan.
This verse, with verse 27, tells us about Esau’s character. He
enjoyed hunting and he enjoyed eating. He did not think that his family was
important. So it is not surprising that God did not choose him. But Jacob was
not honest. He cheated his father Isaac and he cheated his uncle Laban. But God
chose him and God made him an honest man.
Isaac among the *Philistines
v1 Now there was a *famine in the country. It was
like the previous *famine when Abraham did not have enough food. And Isaac went
to the town of Gerar. He went to Abimelech who was the king of the
v2 And the *Lord appeared to Isaac. He said to him,
‘Do not go down to Egypt. Live in the country that I will show you. v3
Stay in this land and I will be with you. I will bring many good things to you.
I will give all these lands to you and to your *descendants. I will keep the
firm promise that I made to Abraham your father. v4 I will make you have
very many *descendants. They shall be as many as the stars that are in the sky.
And I will give all this land to your *descendants. All the families that are
on the earth shall receive good things because of you. v5 I give you
these things because Abraham obeyed me. He obeyed all that I said. He obeyed my
demands and my *commands and my laws.’
(For the previous *famine, see Genesis 12:10.)
Gerar was a town that was west of Beer-sheba. It was near to the
coast. The inhabitants were *Philistines.
‘Abimelech’ means ‘my father is king’. Every *Philistine king was
called ‘Abimelech’. It was not the name of one king. Abraham had met Abimelech.
(See Genesis 20:2-18.) But Abraham probably met the father of the Abimelech
that Isaac met.
‘Do not go down to Egypt.’ Egypt was a good place to live when
there was a *famine. The river Nile provided water for Egypt. Therefore, crops
grew in Egypt even when there was no rain. And so there was food in Egypt even
when there was a *famine in other countries. To go to Egypt would be a wise
thing. Abraham went to Egypt when there was a *famine. But God told Isaac not
to go to Egypt. God said that he would provide for Isaac. Sometimes we have to
make decisions like this. We know what is a wise thing to do. And perhaps God
will let us do that. Or perhaps God will tell us to do something different. We
must be ready to hear what God says to us.
God repeated to Isaac the promises that he had made to Abraham.
(See Genesis 12:2-3; 15:18-21; 17:1-8; 22:15-18.)
v6 So Isaac lived in Gerar. v7 The men in
Gerar asked Isaac about his wife Rebekah. He said to them, ‘She is my sister.’
He was afraid to say, ‘She is my wife.’ He thought, ‘If I say that, the men in
Gerar will take her. They will take her because she is very beautiful. And they
will kill me.’ v8 Now Abimelech was the king of the *Philistines.
When Isaac had been in Gerar for a long time, Abimelech
looked out of a window. He saw Isaac. Isaac touched Rebekah as a man touches
his wife. v9 So Abimelech called Isaac. He said to Isaac, ‘I see that
she is your wife. Why did you say, “She is my sister”?’ Isaac said to him, ‘I
thought that someone might kill me because of her.’ v10 Abimelech said,
‘You have done an evil thing to us. Somebody might have had sex with your wife.
You would have made us guilty.’ v11 So Abimelech warned all the people.
He said, ‘Whoever touches this man or his wife shall be put to death.’
During the previous *famine, Abraham went to Egypt. And he said
that his wife Sarah was his sister. (See Genesis 12:10-13. At that time,
Abraham was called Abram. And Sarah was called Sarai.) And on another occasion,
Abraham went to Gerar. Again, he said that his wife Sarah was his sister. (See
Genesis 20:2.) On both occasions, this caused trouble. For the reasons why
Abraham said this, see the comment on Genesis 12:11-13.
During this *famine Isaac went to Gerar. He did the same thing
that Abraham had done. He said that his wife Rebekah was his sister. What
Abraham said was not completely wrong. (See the comment on Genesis 12:11-13.)
But when Isaac called Rebekah his sister, that was a lie.
Abimelech insisted on right moral standards. Probably he knew
what had happened when Abraham visited Gerar. Probably his father had told him
about his dream. (See Genesis 20:3. For ‘his father’ see the comment on verse
1.) So Isaac had no need to lie about his wife. He was not in danger.
v12 And Isaac sowed seeds in that country. In the
same year, he gathered the crops. They were 100 times more than he sowed. The
*Lord brought many good things to Isaac v13 and he became rich. He gained
more property and he became very wealthy. v14 He had many sheep and cows
and servants. Therefore the *Philistines were angry with Isaac because he had
so much. v15 The *Philistines ruined all Isaac’s wells. The servants of
Abraham, who was Isaac’s father, had made those wells. The *Philistines filled
the wells with earth. v16 And Abimelech said to Isaac, ‘You are much
more powerful than we are. Go away from us.’
A harvest that was 100 times was a very good harvest. The *famine
was over. And Isaac’s animals increased greatly. But the *Philistines did not
gain so much. God brought good things to Isaac but he did not bring good things
to the *Philistines.
Wells were very important. The animals needed to drink water.
Apart from the wells, there was little water in the country. Therefore, to fill
wells with earth was like an act of war. Things like this happen nowadays. God
may give good success to people who know him. Then other people may attack
those people because they are successful.
Abimelech would not attack Isaac. But he could not prevent his
people from attacking Isaac. So he advised Isaac to go away.
v17 So Isaac left there. He put his tents in the
valley of Gerar and he lived there. v18 And Isaac repaired the wells
that people had made in the days of Abraham his father. The *Philistines had
ruined them after Abraham’s death. Isaac called the wells by the same names
that his father Abraham had given to them. v19 But when Isaac’s servants
made a hole in the valley, they found water. It was a new well. v20 Then
the men who kept cows in Gerar were angry. They quarrelled with the men who
kept Isaac’s cows. They said, ‘The water is ours.’ So Isaac called the well
Esek, because they quarrelled with him. v21 Then Isaac’s servants made
another well and the men of Gerar quarrelled about that well also. So Isaac
called it Sitnah. v22 And Isaac moved from there and he made another
well. Nobody quarrelled about that well and so Isaac called it Rehoboth. He
said, ‘Now the *Lord has made enough room for us. Now we shall gain wealth in
Isaac did not fight against the *Philistines. He did not try to
defend the wells that the *Philistines had ruined. Instead, he went away, as
Abimelech had said. But he did not go far.
Isaac repaired other wells, which the *Philistines had ruined on
a previous occasion. Abraham had shown to Isaac where these wells were. That
was important information. So Isaac was able to find them. He called them by
their old names in order to prove that they had belonged to Abraham. Therefore,
they were Isaac’s property.
The *Philistines still quarrelled with Isaac’s men because there
was not enough space. But when Isaac moved far enough away they stopped
‘Esek’ means ‘difficulty’. ‘Sitnah’ means ‘quarrel’. ‘Rehoboth’
God appears to Isaac
v23 From there Isaac went to Beer-sheba. v24
During that night the *Lord appeared to him. The *Lord said, ‘I am the God of
Abraham your father. Do not be afraid. I am with you. I will bring many good
things to you. I will give you many *descendants because you are the son of my
servant Abraham.’ v25 So Isaac built an *altar there and he prayed to
the *Lord. He put his tent there. And Isaac’s servants made a well there.
God repeated the promises that he had already given to Isaac.
(See verses 3-4 and the comment.)
Isaac’s agreement with Abimelech
v26 Then Abimelech went from Gerar to visit Isaac. He
took with him Ahuzzath, who advised him. And he took with him Phicol, who
*commanded his army. v27 Isaac said to them, ‘I do not know why you have
come to me. You hate me and you have sent me away from you.’ v28 They
said, ‘We realise that the *Lord is with you. So we propose that we should make
firm promises to each other. Let us make an agreement with you. v29
Promise that you will not do evil things to us. We have not done any evil thing
to you. We have done only good things to you and we have sent you away in
peace. The *Lord has now brought many good things to you.’
v30 So Isaac made a big meal for Abimelech and
Ahuzzath and Phicol. They ate and they drank together. v31 On the next
morning they got up early. They made a firm agreement with each other. And
Isaac saw them set out. They went away him in peace.
Abimelech was the king of the *Philistines. (See verse 1 and the
comment.) Abimelech realised that Isaac had become powerful. Isaac had many
servants. So Abimelech did not want Isaac to be an enemy. Therefore, Abimelech
wanted to make an agreement with Isaac. And probably he thought, ‘I sent Isaac
away. I did not punish the men who ruined his wells. Perhaps he will come and
he will attack me.’
Isaac did not want to be friendly with the *Philistines. But
also, he did not intend to fight against them. So he was willing to make an
agreement with them. They agreed to live in peace with each other.
v32 On that same day, Isaac’s servants came to him.
They told him that they had made a well. They said to him, ‘We have found
water.’ v33 Isaac called the well Shibah. Later, people built a town
there. This town is still called Beer-sheba today.
v34 When Esau was 40 years of age, he married Judith.
She was the daughter of Beeri, who was a *Hittite. Esau also married Basemath.
She was the daughter of Elon, who was also a *Hittite. v35 These two
women made Isaac and Rebekah very unhappy.
Abraham had called this well ‘Beer-sheba’. (See Genesis 21:31.)
That means ‘the well of 7’. The number 7 was a sign of an agreement. (See the
comment on Genesis 21:27-30.) Isaac calls it ‘Shibah’, which means ‘agreement’.
‘Shibah’ is almost the same word as ‘sheba’. Isaac might have said, ‘Abraham
called this well “the well of 7”. I call it “the well of the agreement” because
I have made an agreement with Abimelech. But my name for the well is the same
as Abraham’s name for it.’
Esau married foreign women. Genesis does not tell us that
marrying foreign women was always wrong. But sometimes it caused trouble and it
made people unhappy. And in later times, God told Jacob’s *descendants not to
marry foreign women. (See the comment on Genesis 38:2.)
Jacob cheats his father
v1 Isaac was very old. His eyes had become so weak
that he could not see. Then he called Esau, who was his older son. Isaac said
to Esau, ‘My son!’ And Esau answered, ‘I am here.’ v2 Isaac said, ‘You
see that I am old. I do not know how soon I will die. v3 Take your bow
and your arrows. Go out and hunt. Kill a wild animal for me. v4 Prepare
for me a tasty meal, such as I love. Bring it to me so that I may eat. So I may
bless you before I die.’ v5 And Rebekah listened when Isaac spoke to his
son Esau. Then Esau went out to kill an animal.
In ancient times, before a father died, he gave *blessings to his
sons. The *blessing to his oldest son was the most important one. It showed
clearly that he had the right of the oldest son. So Isaac intended to give his
*blessing to Esau.
But God had said that the older son would serve the younger one.
(See Genesis 25:23.) And Esau had made a firm promise to give his right of the
oldest son to Jacob. (See Genesis 25:33.) But Isaac did not agree with that. He
still intended to give his *blessing to Esau.
Isaac lived for more than 20 years after this time. Jacob stayed
in Paddan-aram for 20 years. (See Genesis 31:41.) And Isaac did not die until
Jacob had returned. (See Genesis 35:29.)
v6 When Esau had gone out, Rebekah spoke to her son
Jacob. She said to Jacob, ‘I listened when your father spoke to your brother
Esau. v7 He said, “Fetch meat for me. Prepare a tasty meal so that I may
eat it. Then I will bless you in front of the *Lord before I die.” v8 So
listen to me, my son. Do what I tell you to do. v9 Go to the animals and
choose two good young goats. Bring them to me so that I may cook them. I will
prepare a tasty meal for your father, such as he loves. v10 You shall
take it to your father so that he may eat. So he will bless you before he
v11 But Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, ‘My brother
Esau is a hairy man and I am a smooth man. v12 Perhaps my father will
feel me. Then he will think that I am cheating him. Then he will not bless me.
Instead, he will bring evil things on me.’ v13 His mother said to him,
‘If evil things come, let them come to me. Do what I tell you to do. Go and
fetch the two young goats.’ v14 So Jacob went. He chose two young goats
and he brought them to his mother. And his mother prepared a tasty meal, such
as his father loved.
This family was in two halves. Isaac loved Esau and Rebekah loved
Jacob. (See Genesis 25:28.) Rebekah wanted Jacob to have Isaac’s *blessing. So
she cheated and she told Jacob to lie to Isaac. These things were wrong, but
God used them. God had chosen Jacob instead of Esau. So God made Rebekah and
v15 Then Rebekah took the best clothes that belonged
to Esau, her older son. These clothes were there in the house. She put the
clothes on Jacob, her younger son. v16 She took the skins of the young
goats. She put the skins on Jacob’s hands. She also put them on the smooth part
of his neck. v17 And she took the tasty food that she had prepared. She
also took bread that she had prepared. She gave this food to her son, Jacob.
Rebekah had many times watched Esau go to Isaac. Isaac was blind.
(See verse 1.) And Isaac wanted to be certain who came to him. So he used to
feel Esau’s clothes. He used to feel the backs of Esau’s hands. And he used to
feel Esau’s neck. Esau’s hands and neck were hairy like a goat’s skin. (See
Genesis 25:25 and the comment.) So Isaac recognised Esau. And so, Rebekah knew
what she should do. She could make Isaac think that Jacob was Esau.
v18 So Jacob went to his father. He said, ‘My
father!’ And Isaac said, ‘I am here. Who are you, my son?’ v19 Jacob
said to his father, ‘I am Esau, your oldest son. I have done what you told me
to do. Now get up and eat some of my meat. And when you have eaten it, bless
me.’ v20 But Isaac said to his son, ‘How did you find the meat so
quickly, my son?’ Jacob answered, ‘The *Lord your God made me succeed quickly.’
v21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come close to me so that I may feel you,
my son. So I will know whether you are truly my son Esau.’ v22 So Jacob
went close to Isaac his father and Isaac felt him. Isaac said, ‘The voice is
Jacob’s voice, but the hands are Esau’s hands.’ v23 And Isaac did not
recognise Jacob, because his hands were hairy. His hands were his brother
Esau’s hands. So Isaac blessed Jacob.
v24 Isaac said, ‘Are you really my son Esau?’ Jacob
answered, ‘I am.’ v25 Then Isaac said, ‘Bring the meat to me. I will eat
some of the meat that my son killed. After that I will bless you.’ So Jacob
brought the meat to Isaac and he ate. Jacob brought wine to him and he drank.
Isaac expected Esau to come to him. But he did not expect Esau to
come so soon. To hunt a wild animal takes a long time.
Isaac himself had lied. He lied when he called Rebekah his
sister. (See Genesis 26:7.) And in these verses, Jacob lies several times to
Because Isaac was so old, he could not hear clearly. He thought
that the voice was Jacob’s voice. But he was not certain. However, he felt the
goat’s skin on Jacob’s hands. So he was certain that the hands were hairy.
Therefore, he believed that it was Esau.
When Jacob came close to Isaac, Isaac smelled his clothes. (See
verse 27.) They were Esau’s clothes, which Jacob was wearing. (See verse 15.)
So Isaac was certain that it was Esau.
Isaac blesses his sons
v26 Then his father Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come close
to me and kiss me, my son.’ v27 So Jacob came close to him and he kissed
him. Isaac smelled the smell of his clothes. He blessed him and he said,
‘The smell of
my son is like the smell of a field
the *Lord has made rich.
v28 Let God
give you the dew that comes from the sky.
God give you the good things that the earth produces.
God give you plenty of grain and wine.
v29 Let many
people serve you
let nations bend themselves down in front of you.
Be a ruler
over your brothers
let your mother’s sons bend themselves down to you.
things come to everyone who wishes evil things for you.
good things come to everyone who wishes good things for you.’
Dew is water that appears on the ground. It comes out of the air,
especially in the morning. The country where Isaac lived, *Canaan, had very
little rain for a part of each year. So at that time, dew was very important.
‘Let nations bend themselves down in front of you.’ This shows
that you are their master. It shows that they give honour to you. And it shows
that they are not your enemies.
‘Be a ruler over your brothers.’ This clearly gave the right of
the oldest son. Isaac believed that he gave this right to Esau. Actually, he
gave it to Jacob. Genesis does not tell us that Jacob had any other brother
except Esau. So perhaps ‘your brothers’ means ‘your brother and your other
v30 So Isaac blessed Jacob. As soon as Jacob had left
his father Isaac, Esau his brother returned from his hunt. v31 He also
prepared a tasty meal and he brought it to his father. And Esau said to his
father, ‘Please get up, my father. Eat some of your son’s meat, so that you may
bless me.’ v32 His father Isaac said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Esau
answered, ‘I am your oldest son, Esau.’ v33 Then Isaac trembled
strongly. He said, ‘Who killed an animal and brought it to me? I ate it before
you came. And I have blessed him. Nobody shall change that.’
‘I have blessed him. Nobody shall change that.’ When a father
gave his *blessing to his son, that *blessing was true. God showed to the
father what he should say. Therefore, the father could not change it.
v34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he cried with
a loud and bitter cry. He said to his father, ‘Bless me! Bless me also, my
father!’ v35 But Isaac said, ‘Your brother came and he cheated.
Therefore I blessed him instead of you.’ v36 Esau said, ‘It is right
that he is called Jacob. He has cheated me twice. He stole the right of the
oldest son from me and now he has stolen my *blessing.’
Then Esau said to Isaac, ‘Can you bless me too?’ v37
Isaac answered Esau, ‘I have made him a ruler over you. I have given all his
brothers to him to be his servants. I have given him plenty of grain and wine.
So what can I do for you, my son?’ v38 Esau said to his father, ‘Can you
give me just one *blessing, my father? Bless me! Bless me also, my father!’ And
Esau wept loudly. v39 Then Isaac his father said to him,
live far from the plenty that the earth produces.
shall live far from the dew that comes from the sky.
v40 You shall
use your sword in order to live.
shall serve your brother.
But you shall
escape from him
after that you shall not serve him.’
‘Jacob’ means ‘one who cheats’. (See the comment on Genesis
(For the meaning of ‘dew’, see the comment on verse 28.)
When Jacob came to Isaac, Isaac thought that he was Esau. (See
verse 27.) He did not know which of his sons he was blessing. But he did know
things that happened very many years later. He knew because God told him. He
said to Esau, ‘You shall escape from him.’ This happened when Jehoram was the
king of Judah. (See 2 Kings 8:22. Esau’s *descendants are called ‘Edom’. See
Genesis 25:30 and the comment.)
Esau hates Jacob
v41 Esau hated Jacob because his father had blessed
Jacob. And Esau said to himself, ‘Soon it will be the time to weep for my
father’s death. Then I will kill my brother Jacob.’
v42 But someone told to Rebekah the words that Esau,
her older son, had said. So she called Jacob, her younger son. She said to him,
‘Your brother Esau intends to kill you. v43 So listen to me, my son. Do
what I tell you to do. Run to Haran, where Laban my brother lives. v44
Stay with Laban for a short time. Stay there while your brother is angry. v45
Stay until your brother’s anger stops. Stay until he forgets what you have done
to him. Then I will send a message to you. I will tell you to return from
there. It is not right that I should lose both my sons in one day.’
v46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I am very unhappy
because of the *Hittite women whom Esau has married. Perhaps Jacob will marry a
*Hittite woman like these. Perhaps he will marry a woman of this country. If he
does that, I will not want to live.’
Esau expected that Isaac would die very soon. So he decided to
wait until after Isaac’s funeral. Then he would kill Jacob. But Isaac lived for
many more years. (See the end of the comment on verse 4.)
Rebekah was wrong when she said ‘a short time’. Jacob stayed with
Laban for 20 years. And after that time, Jacob still did not know whether Esau
would accept him.
There were two reasons why Jacob went to Haran.
Jacob did not go, Esau would kill him. That was the reason that was important
Haran, Jacob could find a suitable wife. That was the reason that Rebekah told
And the second reason was important in God’s plan.
Jacob sets out on his journey
v1 Then Isaac called Jacob and he blessed him. He
*commanded him, ‘Do not marry a *Canaanite woman. v2 Go to the district
that is called Paddan-aram. Go to Bethuel’s house. He is your mother’s father.
Find a wife there. Marry a daughter of Laban. He is your mother’s brother. v3
Let God, who can do anything, give success to you. Let him give to you a large
family. So your *descendants shall be many nations. v4 Let God bring
many good things to you and to your *descendants. Let him bring to you the good
things that he promised to Abraham. So you shall possess the land where you
have lived. That is the land that God gave to Abraham.’
v5 Then Isaac sent Jacob away. And Jacob went to the
district that is called Paddan-aram. He went to Laban, who was the son of Bethuel
the man from Aram. Laban was the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother of
Jacob and Esau.
Isaac blessed his son Jacob again although Jacob had cheated his
father Isaac. Isaac realised what God wanted. God intended that Jacob should
receive Isaac’s *blessing. Isaac realised this and so he blessed Jacob again.
‘Do not marry a *Canaanite woman.’ This is like what Abraham
said. Abraham did not want his son Isaac to marry a foreign woman. (See Genesis
24:3-4. See also the comment on Genesis 38:2.)
Paddan-aram was the same as west Mesopotamia. (See the comment on
Genesis 24:4.) For Bethuel and Laban see Genesis 24:24, 29.
v6 So Isaac blessed Jacob. He sent Jacob away to
Paddan-aram in order to take a wife from there. And Esau saw this. When Isaac blessed
Jacob, he *commanded him. He said, ‘Do not marry a *Canaanite woman.’ v7
Jacob obeyed his father and his mother. He went to Paddan-aram. And Esau saw
all these things.
v8 Then Esau realised that the *Canaanite women did
not please Isaac his father. v9 So Esau went to Ishmael and he took a
wife from Ishmael’s family. He married Mahalath, who was the daughter of
Abraham’s son Ishmael. She was the sister of Nebaioth. He took Mahalath in
addition to the wives that he already had.
Esau had married foreign women. And he did not realise that this
caused great trouble to his parents. (See Genesis 26:35 and 27:46.) But Esau
heard what Isaac said to Jacob. (See verse 6.) So he married another wife who
was a relative. This probably did not improve the situation.
v10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and he travelled toward
Haran. v11 He travelled until the sun set. Then he stopped for the night
at the place where he was. He found a stone and he put it as a pillow. He lay
down there and he slept. The stone was under his head.
v12 And he dreamed that he saw a staircase. It stood
on the earth and its top reached to heaven. And he saw God’s *angels. Some of
them climbed up the staircase and some of them came down the staircase.
v13 And he saw the *Lord, who stood above the
staircase. The *Lord said, ‘I am the *Lord. I am the God of Abraham your
grandfather. I am the God of Isaac your father. I will give the land where you
are lying to you and to your *descendants. v14 I will make your
*descendants as the dust that is on the earth. Your *descendants shall spread
far to the west and to the east. They shall spread far to the north and to the
south. All the families that are on the earth shall receive good things because
of you. v15 Be sure that I am with you. I will keep you wherever you go.
And I will bring you back to this country. I will not leave you until I have
done these things. I will do all the things that I spoke to you about.’
Jacob was in a place where there were many stones. There was
nothing else that he could use as a pillow. He probably chose a flat stone. And
probably he folded some clothing and he put that on the stone. If he did that,
it would be less hard.
Many Bibles call the staircase a ‘ladder’. But *angels went up
and other *angels came down. They could not do that at the same time on a
ladder. We do not know exactly what the *Hebrew word means.
God gave the dream about the staircase to Jacob. God showed to
Jacob that there is communication between earth and heaven. Therefore Jacob
said, ‘This is the gate that leads to heaven.’ (See verse 17.)
‘As the dust that is on the earth.’ God made the same promise to
Abraham and he explained it. He said, ‘Nobody can count the dust on the earth
and nobody will be able to count your *descendants.’ (See Genesis 13:16.) And
the end of this verse is like God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3.
v16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep. He said, ‘Now I
know that the *Lord is in this place. I did not know it before.’ v17 And
he was afraid. He said,
‘This is a
place that one must greatly respect!
is certainly God’s house!
this is the gate that leads to heaven!’
v18 So Jacob got up early in the morning. He took the
stone that he had put under his head. He put it so that it stood up. And he
poured oil on the top of it. v19 He called that place Bethel. Before
that time, the town that was near to that place was called Luz.
Jacob said, ‘I did not know it before.’ Until this time, he did
not know that God was with him. He knew that God was the God of his father,
Isaac. But Jacob himself did not know God until God came to him in a dream. But
after this time, he knew God. He knew that God was with him. And he knew that
he belonged to God.
‘Bethel’ means ‘God’s house’.
v20 Then Jacob made a firm promise. He said, ‘Perhaps
God will be with me. Perhaps he will keep me in this way where I go. Perhaps he
will give bread to me, so that I may eat. Perhaps he will give clothing to me,
so that I may wear it. v21 Perhaps I shall return to my father’s house
in peace. If the *Lord does these things for me, then the *Lord shall be my
God. v22 And this stone, which I have put here, shall be God’s house.
And I will give to God a part of everything that he shall give to me. I will
give to him one thing out of every 10 things.’
Jacob had met God. He immediately made a change in the way that
he lived. He started to give a part of his wealth to God. But his character did
not change immediately.
Jacob decided to give to God one thing out of every 10 things.
This probably means that he would do that regularly. He would not do it only on
Many people nowadays give a part of their wealth regularly to
God. Some of them always give one part in 10 parts of their wealth. They call
this part a ‘tithe’. Perhaps they give their tithe to the church. Or perhaps
they give a part of the tithe to the church. And they give the rest to other
people who work for God. We do not know how Jacob gave his tithe to God.
Jacob meets Rachel
v1 Then Jacob continued his journey. He came to the
land where the people in the east lived. v2 As he looked, he saw a well
in the field. And he saw three groups of sheep that lay near to the well.
People used to take water out of that well to give it to the sheep. A large
stone lay on the top of the well so as to close it. v3 When all the
sheep gathered there, people used to roll the stone away from the top of the
well. And they would give water to the sheep. Then they used to put the stone
back on the top of the well.
v4 Jacob said to the people, ‘My brothers, where is
your home?’ They said, ‘We have come from Haran.’ v5 Jacob said to them,
‘Do you know Laban, who is Nahor’s son?’ They said, ‘We know him.’ v6
Jacob said to them, ‘Is he well?’ They said, ‘He is well. And look! Rachel, who
is his daughter, comes with the sheep!’ v7 Jacob said, ‘The day is not
yet over. It is not yet the time when the animals will gather together. Give
water to the sheep. Then take them to eat grass.’ v8 But they said, ‘We
cannot do that. We must wait until all the sheep gather together. Then people
will roll the stone away from the top of the well. Then we will give water to
‘The people in the east’ were those who lived near to the rivers
Euphrates and Tigris. That land is nowadays Syria and Iraq. Jacob had actually
gone more to the north than to the east.
When Jacob said ‘Nahor’s son’ he meant Nahor’s grandson.
We can be certain that God caused Jacob and Rachel to meet.
Abraham’s servant and Rebekah met in a similar way. (See Genesis 24:15.)
Perhaps people had agreed that they would give water to the sheep
at the same time. And not all the sheep had arrived.
v9 While Jacob still spoke with them, Rachel arrived.
She was looking after her father’s sheep and she brought them to the well. v10
Jacob saw Rachel, who was his uncle Laban’s daughter. He saw Laban’s sheep. So
Jacob went to the stone that was on the top of the well. He rolled the stone
away from the well. Then he gave water to his uncle Laban’s sheep.
v11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and he wept aloud. v12
And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s relative. He told her that he
was Rebekah’s son. And she ran to her father and she told him these things.
v13 So Laban heard that Jacob, who was his sister’s
son, had come. Laban ran to meet Jacob. He greeted him and he kissed him. Then
he brought him to his house. Jacob told to Laban all the things that he had
already told to Rachel. v14 And Laban said to him, ‘Certainly you are a
member of my family!’ And Jacob stayed with Laban for a month.
Until Jacob left home, he used to do what his mother told him to
do. (For example, see Genesis 27:13-14.) But from this time, he himself decided
what he would do. He did not wait to see what the local people did. He opened
the well himself. He wanted to show to Rachel that he was strong. And he wanted
to show to her that he could make strong decisions.
Rachel’s aunt Rebekah had gone to *Canaan to marry Isaac. (See
Genesis 24:50-51, 61.) We can be sure that Rachel’s father Laban had told her
This does not mean that Jacob stayed for only a month. He began
by staying for a month. After that, he agreed that he would stay for another 7
years. (See verse 20.) And in the end, he stayed for 20 years.
v15 At the end of the month, Laban spoke to Jacob. He
said, ‘You are my relative. But that is not a reason that you should serve me
without wages. Tell me, what shall your wages be?’ v16 Now Laban had two
daughters. The older daughter was called Leah and the younger daughter was
called Rachel. v17 Leah’s eyes were gentle but Rachel was beautiful and
lovely. v18 Jacob loved Rachel. So he said to Laban, ‘I will serve you
for 7 years. My wages shall be your younger daughter Rachel.’ v19 Laban
said, ‘It is good that I should give her to you as your wife. That is better
than that I should give her to any other man. Stay with me.’ v20 So
Jacob served Laban for 7 years in order to earn Rachel. The 7 years seemed to
Jacob to be only a few days. That was the effect of his love for her.
Genesis does not tell us that Jacob served Laban during the first
month. But we can guess that Jacob looked after Laban’s animals. And that is
why Laban said, ‘You should not serve me without wages.’
Many Bibles say, ‘Leah’s eyes were weak.’ But the *Hebrew word
probably means ‘gentle’ or ‘lovely’. It probably does not mean ‘weak’. Rachel
was younger and she was beautiful. Leah was older and she was not beautiful.
But her eyes were lovely.
Laban said ‘her’. He did not say ‘Rachel’. Perhaps he had already
decided that he would give Leah to Jacob instead of Rachel. (See verse 23.)
v21 After 7 years, Jacob spoke to Laban. He said,
‘Give me my wife so that I may have sex with her. I have served you for the
time that I promised.’ v22 So Laban prepared a big meal. He gathered
together to the meal all the men who lived in the place.
v23 But in the evening Laban took his daughter Leah
and he brought her to Jacob. So Jacob had sex with her. v24 And Laban
gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid. v25 When it
was morning, Jacob saw that his wife was Leah. And Jacob said to Laban, ‘You
should not have done this to me. I served you in order to earn Rachel. And now
you have cheated me.’
Jacob thought that his wife was Rachel. He did not recognise
Leah. There could be several reasons for this.
covered her head with a cloth when she came to Jacob. That was the custom. (See
Genesis 24:64-65 and the comment.)
was dark while Leah lay with Jacob.
had drunk much wine during the big meal.
Jacob and Rebekah had cheated Jacob’s father, Isaac. (See Genesis
27:19.) Leah and Laban cheated Jacob in a similar way. The next 6 lines show
how the two events were similar.
Jacob cheated Isaac,
pretended to be his older brother.
mother Rebekah made the plan for this.
Leah cheated Jacob,
pretended to be her younger sister.
father Laban made the plan for this.
v26 Laban said, ‘In our country we do not give the
younger daughter until we have given the older daughter. v27 This
daughter’s wedding will last for one week. That is the custom. After that, we
will give you our other daughter also. She shall be your wages if you will
serve me for another 7 years.’
v28 Jacob waited for a week until the wedding
finished. At the end of the week, Laban gave his daughter Rachel to Jacob as
his wife. v29 And Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to
be her maid. v30 So Jacob had sex with Rachel also. He loved Rachel more
than he loved Leah. And he served Laban for another 7 years.
Perhaps this was true. Perhaps Laban had a good reason to give
Leah first, before he gave Rachel. But Laban ought to have explained that to
Jacob. He ought to have told that to Jacob 7 years earlier. So for 7 years he
had been cheating Jacob. Jacob was working so as to earn Rachel as his wife.
But Laban intended to give Leah to him.
Jacob’s first 4 sons
v31 Then the *Lord saw that Jacob did not love Leah.
So he made Leah able to produce children. But Rachel had no child.
v32 And Leah became *pregnant and a son was born to
her. She called him Reuben. She said, ‘The *Lord has seen my trouble. Now my
husband will love me.’
v33 She became *pregnant again and another son was
born to her. And she said, ‘The *Lord has heard that my husband does not love
me. Therefore he has given me this son also.’ So she called him Simeon.
v34 Again she became *pregnant and a son was born to
her. She said, ‘Now this time my husband will join with me, because I have
given him 3 sons.’ Therefore, he was called Levi.
v35 And she became *pregnant again and another son
was born to her. And she said, ‘This time I will praise the *Lord.’ Therefore,
she called him Judah. After that, she had no more children for a time.
Some people are very sad because of trouble in their family. Perhaps
their relatives do not love them. God helped Leah because he loved her. He
helped her when Jacob did not love her. God can help us too, if we ask him.
‘Reuben’ means ‘see a son’.
‘Simeon’ means ‘one who hears’.
‘Levi’ sounds like ‘joined’.
‘Judah’ sounds like ‘praise God’.
Jacob has 6 more sons
v1 Rachel saw that she produced no children for
Jacob. And she was angry with her sister because her sister was successful. So
she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children! If you do not give me children, I shall
die!’ v2 Jacob was angry with Rachel. He said, ‘I do not have God’s
power! I did not prevent you from producing children. God did that.’ v3
Then Rachel said, ‘Here is my maid Bilhah. Have sex with her. She shall produce
a child on my knees. So I may have children by her help.’ v4 So Rachel
gave her maid Bilhah to Jacob as a wife. And Jacob had sex with Bilhah. v5
So Bilhah became *pregnant and a son was born to her for Jacob. v6 Then
Rachel said, ‘God has given his judgement for me. He has heard my voice and he
has given me a son’. Therefore, she called him Dan.
v7 Rachel’s maid Bilhah became *pregnant again and a
second son was born to her for Jacob. v8 Then Rachel said, ‘I have
struggled fiercely against my sister and I have overcome.’ So she called him
v9 Leah saw that she produced no more children. So
she gave her maid Zilpah to Jacob as a wife. v10 And Leah’s maid Zilpah
produced a son for Jacob. v11 Leah said, ‘Fortunately!’ So she called
him Gad. v12 And Leah’s maid Zilpah produced a second son for Jacob. v13
Leah said, ‘I am happy because all the women will call me happy.’ So she called
God intended that Rachel should have children at a later time.
But the time was not yet right. And Rachel did not know that she could trust
God. Many years before this time, Sarai was in the same situation. (See Genesis
16:1-2. Sarai was later called Sarah. Her husband Abram was later called
‘She shall produce a child on my knees.’ This was an ancient
custom. When Bilhah’s child was born, Bilhah and Rachel were together. And the
child was born on Rachel’s knees. Then Rachel took the child and the child
‘Dan’ means ‘he gave his judgement’.
‘Naphtali’ means ‘struggle’.
‘Gad’ means ‘fortunately’.
‘Asher’ means ‘happy’.
v14 At the time when people harvest wheat, Reuben
went out into the field. He found *mandrake plants that had fruit. He picked
the mandrake fruits and he brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to
Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.’ v15 But Leah said
to Rachel, ‘You have already taken my husband. Now you want to take my son’s
*mandrakes too!’ Rachel said, ‘If you give your son’s mandrakes to me I will
let him lie with you tonight.’ v16 In the evening, Jacob came in from
the field. Leah went out and she met him. She said, ‘You must come in to me. I
have hired you with my son’s *mandrakes.’ So he lay with her that night and he
had sex with her.
A mandrake is a yellow fruit. Women who had no children would eat
the mandrakes. They believed that they were then more likely to become
*pregnant. Rachel probably believed that. She wanted to eat the mandrakes. She
thought that in that way she would produce a child.
v17 And God listened to Leah’s prayer. She became
*pregnant and a fifth son was born to her for Jacob. v18 Leah said, ‘God
has given me my reward because I gave my maid to my husband.’ So she called him
v19 And Leah became *pregnant again and a sixth son
was born to her for Jacob. v20 Then Leah said, ‘God has given me a
valuable gift. Now my husband will give honour to me, because I have given him
6 sons.’ So she called him Zebulun. v21 Afterwards she produced a
daughter and she called her Dinah.
v22 Then God was kind to Rachel and he heard her
prayer. He made her able to produce children. v23 A son was born to her.
She said, ‘God has taken away my shame from me.’ v24 And she called him
Joseph. She said, ‘Let the *Lord add another son to me!’
‘Issachar’ sounds like ‘reward’.
‘Zebulun’ means ‘honour’.
Jacob had other daughters too. (See Genesis 46:7.) But Genesis
does not tell us the names of the other daughters. Genesis mentions Dinah for a
special reason. A *Canaanite who was called Shechem seized Dinah. And Genesis
tells us about that. (See Genesis 34:1-2.)
God made Rachel able to have children. The *mandrakes did not do
it. (See verse 14 and the comment.)
‘Joseph’ means ‘let him add’.
Jacob becomes wealthy
v25 After Joseph was born to Rachel, Jacob spoke to
Laban. He said, ‘Send me away. Let me go to my own home and to my own country. v26
Give to me my wives and my children. I have served you in order to earn them.
Now let me go. You know how well I have served you.’
Jacob had been with Laban for 14 years. Rebekah, Jacob’s mother,
had promised to tell him when he could return home safely. (See Genesis 27:45.)
She had not yet done so. So perhaps it was too soon for Jacob to return.
Actually, Jacob stayed with Laban 6 more years after this time.
v27 But Laban said to him, ‘Please listen to me. I
have become wealthy because of you. And the *Lord has blessed me. v28
Tell me what wages you want, so that you may stay with me. I will give to you
whatever you ask.’
v29 Jacob said to him, ‘I have served you well. You
yourself know that. You know that your animals have increased with me. v30
You had few animals before I came to you. Since I came, they have greatly
increased. And the *Lord has brought good things to you wherever I went. But
now it is the time when I should provide for my own family.’
Laban saw that God made Jacob successful. Before this time, God
made Isaac successful. (See Genesis 26:12-13.) And after this time, God made
Jacob’s son Joseph successful. (See Genesis 39:3.)
Jacob had been looking after Laban’s animals. Laban wanted Jacob
to continue to do this. Laban’s reason was a selfish one. When Jacob looked
after the animals, they increased. And so, Laban became richer.
Jacob meant, ‘You ought to be grateful for what I have done for
you. But now I will work for myself and for my family.’ Jacob wanted to return
to the country that is called *Canaan. (See verse 25.)
v31 Laban said, ‘What shall I give to you?’
Jacob said, ‘You shall not give anything to me. If you will
do one thing for me, I will again look after your sheep. v32 Let me look
at all your sheep today. Let me take from them every spotty sheep. Let me take
every young sheep that is black. Let me look at the goats and let me take the
spotty ones. That shall be my wages. v33 So you will know that I am
honest. When you check my wages with me, you will know that I am honest. You
may look at the animals that are with me. You may look for a goat that is not
stripey or spotty. You may look for a young sheep that is not black. You will
not find any animals that are like that. Otherwise you will know that I have
v34 Laban said, ‘That is good! Let it be as you have
Jacob changed his plan. He would not yet go to *Canaan, but he
would stay longer with Laban. He had made Laban rich. And he realised that he
could make himself rich instead. He would cheat Laban.
There was a reason why Jacob changed his plan. Jacob told his
wives, 6 years after this time, why he changed his plan. God’s *angel spoke to
Jacob in a dream and he told him what to do. (See Genesis 31:10-12.)
In that region, most sheep were white and most goats were black.
Spotty sheep and black sheep were unusual. And spotty goats were unusual.
v35 On the same day Laban removed some of his goats.
He removed the ones that were stripey or spotty. He removed the ones that were
partly white. He also removed every young sheep that was black. He told his
sons to look after these animals. v36 Then Laban and his sons went away.
They took these animals. They went away from Jacob a distance that a man can go
in 3 days. Jacob remained and he fed the rest of Laban’s sheep.
Laban tried to cheat Jacob. He agreed to Jacob’s plan. (See verse
34.) Jacob would take as his wages all the sheep that were not white. And he
would take all the goats that were not black. But Laban left only white sheep
with Jacob. And he left only black goats. He removed the other goats. Laban’s
sons looked after those at a long distance away from Jacob. Laban thought that
white sheep would produce only white young sheep. And he thought that black
goats would produce only black young goats. Therefore, Jacob would not have any
animals as his wages.
v37 Then Jacob took fresh sticks from bushes. He
removed part of the outsides of the sticks so that one could see the white
insides. v38 He put these sticks at the place where the animals came to
drink. And they mated when they came to drink. v39 Therefore the animals
mated at the place where they could see the sticks. And the young animals that
were born were stripey or spotty.
v40 Jacob separated the male animals. He brought the
female animals to the male animals that were stripey or black. So he collected
animals for himself and he did not put them with Laban’s animals.
v41 Whenever the stronger animals mated, Jacob put
the sticks in front of the animals. So they mated where they could see the
sticks. v42 But he did not put the sticks in front of the weaker
animals. Then the weaker animals belonged to Laban and the stronger animals
belonged to Jacob.
v43 So Jacob became very rich. He had sheep, goats,
maids, servants, camels and *donkeys.
The sticks did not affect the colour of the young animals.
Perhaps Jacob thought that the sticks did have that effect. Or perhaps Jacob
pretended to Laban that they had that effect.
Some stripey male animals were born after Laban took away the
other animals. So Jacob made these stripey male animals mate with the stronger
female animals. And he let the male animals that were not stripey mate with the
weaker female animals. Therefore, the young animals that were stripey were
stronger. And the young animals that were not stripey were weaker. Laban did
not know how Jacob did this. He thought that the sticks had an effect. He
thought that the sticks caused the young animals to be strong and stripey.
God tells Jacob to return
v1 Laban’s sons said, ‘Jacob has taken all that
belonged to our father. He has gained all his wealth from our father.’ People
told Jacob what Laban’s sons had said. v2 And Jacob saw that Laban was
not pleased with him. Laban was not friendly with Jacob as he had been before. v3
Then the *Lord said to Jacob, ‘Return to the country where your fathers and
your relatives have lived. And I will be with you.’
Jacob had left the country that is called *Canaan 20 years before
this time. Jacob’s mother Rebekah had promised to tell Jacob when he should
return. (See Genesis 27:45.) But she did not tell him. Perhaps she had already
died at this time. But God told Jacob that he should return.
v4 So Jacob called Rachel and Leah. They came into
the field where his animals were. v5 And Jacob said to them, ‘Your
father is not pleased with me as he was before. But my father’s God has been
with me. v6 You know that I have served your father with all my
strength. v7 But your father has cheated me. He has changed my wages 10
times. However, God did not permit him to have any bad effect on me. v8
Sometimes your father said, “The spotty animals shall be your wages.” Then all
the animals that were born were spotty. And sometimes he said, “The stripey
animals shall be your wages.” Then all the animals that were born were stripey.
v9 So God has taken your father’s animals and he has given them to me.’
If they spoke in the house, someone might hear them. Someone
might hear what they said. So they spoke in the field, where nobody else could
This was only partly true. Initially, Jacob had served Laban
well. But for many years, Jacob had served himself more than he had served
Laban. And Jacob had cheated Laban.
Jacob complained that Laban cheated him. But Jacob cheated Laban
more than Laban cheated Jacob.
‘He has changed my wages 10 times.’ Jacob was not right when he
complained like this. Jacob suggested what his own wages should be. (See
Genesis 30:31-32.) Laban changed Jacob’s wages only once. (See Genesis
29:26-28. Laban agreed that Jacob’s wages for his first 7 years was marriage to
Rachel. Laban changed this and he made it marriage to Leah.)
What Jacob said in verse 8 is not true. But God had shown Jacob
how to gain animals from Laban. So what Jacob said in verse 9 is partly true.
v10 And Jacob said to Rachel and Leah, ‘In the season
when the animals mate, I saw the animals in a dream. The male goats that mated
in my dream were stripey and spotty. v11 Then God’s *angel spoke to me
in the dream. He said, “Jacob!” And I said, “I am here!” v12 And he
said, “Look! All the male goats that mate are stripey and spotty. I have seen
all that Laban has done to you. v13 I am the God of Bethel. Remember
Bethel, where you poured oil on a tall stone. There you made a firm promise to
me. Now set out and leave this country. Return to the country where you were
God showed to Jacob how he could cheat Laban. This does not mean
that to cheat is right. But Jacob and Laban were already cheating each other.
And God intended that Jacob should gain wives and children and wealth. So God
caused this to happen.
God changed Jacob’s character so that he did not cheat. But God
did not do this suddenly. He did it slowly during many years.
‘You poured oil on a tall stone.’ Jacob did that during his
journey from *Canaan to Laban’s home. (See Genesis 28:18.)
v14 Then Rachel and Leah answered Jacob, ‘We have no
place to live in our father’s house. v15 He thinks that we are
foreigners. He has sold us. He has spent all the money that belonged to us. v16
All the property that God has taken from our father belongs to us. It belongs
to us and to our children. Therefore do whatever God has said to you.’
‘He has spent all the money that belonged to us.’ Jacob had
worked for Laban for 14 years. Jacob’s wages were marriage to Leah and to
Rachel. So the value of Jacob’s work was the marriage gift. (See Genesis 34:12
and the comment.) Laban should have kept a part of that for Leah and Rachel.
But Laban had used it for himself. He cheated his own daughters.
v17 So Jacob put his sons and his wives on camels and
he set out. v18 He took all his animals that he had gained. He had
gained them while he was in that district, Paddan-aram. He set out and he
started to go to his father Isaac. He set out for the country that is called
v19 Laban went out into the field to cut the wool
from his sheep. And while Laban was out, Rachel stole her father’s gods. v20
Jacob did not tell Laban that he intended to go away. So he cheated Laban, the
man from Aram. v21 He ran away with all that he possessed. He set out
and he crossed the river Euphrates. He travelled to the hilly region that is
Jacob did not take animals that belonged to Laban. He took his
own animals. He had gained them by his agreement with Laban. (See Genesis
‘Rachel stole her father’s gods.’ These were small models of
human shapes. Perhaps they were wooden or perhaps they were like pots. They
were models of false gods. Perhaps Rachel thought that the gods would bring
good luck to her during the journey. Or perhaps she stole them because they
were valuable. She did not tell Jacob that she had taken them. (We know that
from verse 32.)
Gilead is east of the country that is called *Canaan. Gilead is
east of the river Jordan.
Laban chases Jacob
v22 Two days later, people told Laban that Jacob had
run away. v23 So Laban set out and he took his relatives with him. He
pursued Jacob for 7 days. He followed him to the hilly region that is called
Gilead. v24 But God appeared to Laban the man from Aram at night. God
spoke to Laban in a dream. He said, ‘Do not say anything to Jacob. Do not say
good things or bad things.’ v25 And Laban came to the place where Jacob
was. Jacob had put his tent in the hilly region that is called Gilead. Laban
with his relatives put their tents in the same region.
v26 And Laban said to Jacob, ‘You did not need to
cheat me! You should not have carried off my daughters like prisoners that an
army takes. v27 You did wrong when you ran away secretly. And you should
have told me. I would have sent you away with happiness and songs and music. v28
And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters? I would have
said goodbye to them. You have done a foolish thing. v29 I have the
power to hurt you. But your father’s God spoke to me last night. He said, “Do
not say anything to Jacob. Do not say good things or bad things.” v30
Now you greatly desire to be in your father’s house. Therefore, you have gone
away. But you should not have stolen my gods.’
Laban was away from his home because he was cutting the wool from
his sheep. That took several days because there were many sheep. Jacob chose
this time to set out. So Laban did not know immediately that Jacob had gone.
Therefore, Jacob could travel a long way before Laban came to him.
Laban pretended that he was friendly and generous to Jacob. But
Jacob did not trust Laban. And Jacob was wise not to trust Laban.
‘I would have sent you away.’ Probably Laban would not have let
Jacob take all his wealth and his animals with him. But God let Jacob escape
safely. God did two things. He told Jacob to leave secretly. (See verse 3.) And
he spoke to Laban in a dream. (See verse 29.)
(For ‘my gods’ see verse 19 and the comment.)
v31 Jacob answered Laban, ‘I went because I was
afraid. I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force.’
v32 Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen Laban’s
gods. So he said, ‘Search for your gods. If any one has them here, that person
shall not live. Show us any of your possessions that we have. Show it to us and
take it.’ v33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent. He went into Leah’s tent.
He went into the tent of the two maids. But he did not find the gods. And he
went out of Leah’s tent and he entered Rachel’s tent.
v34 Now Rachel had put the gods in the camel’s saddle
and she sat on them. Laban searched everywhere in the tent, but he did not find
them. v35 And Rachel said to her father, ‘Let not my master be angry
because I cannot stand in front of you. The thing that happens to women is
happening to me.’ So Laban searched, but he did not find the gods.
Jacob did not believe that any of his people had the gods. He did
not think that any of Laban’s possessions were in his camp. Otherwise he would
not have said, ‘That person shall not live.’
Perhaps what Rachel said about herself was true. Or perhaps she
lied to her father Laban.
v36 Then Jacob was angry and he accused Laban. Jacob
said to Laban, ‘Tell me what wrong deed I have done. You pursued me as one
pursues a criminal. Tell me what my crime is. v37 Now you have searched
through all my possessions. You searched for anything that is yours. If you
have found anything, put it here in front of my relatives and in front of your
relatives. They shall say which of us two is right. v38 For 20 years I
have been with you. Your female sheep and your female goats have not lost their
young ones. I have not eaten your male sheep. v39 When wild animals
killed a sheep or a goat, I did not tell you. The loss was mine. You demanded
that I should pay for it. I paid for all that I lost in the day or at night. v40
It was always the same. In the day, I suffered from the heat and at night, I
suffered from the cold. I was not able to sleep.’
v41 Jacob continued, ‘For 20 years I have been in
your house. I served you for 14 years for your two daughters. I served you for
6 years for your animals. And you have changed my wages 10 times. v42
But God is my father’s God. He is Abraham’s God. He is Isaac’s God. He helped
me. If he had not done so, you would certainly have sent me away with no
possessions. God saw my trouble and my labour. And he showed his decision to
you last night.’
Most of what Jacob said was right. But Jacob had cheated Laban
and he did not say that.
‘You have changed my wages 10 times.’ Jacob was not right when he
said that. (See the comment on verse 7.)
‘He is Isaac’s God.’ The actual *Hebrew words mean ‘Isaac’s
fear’. That means the God who caused Isaac to have fear. God showed his great
power to Isaac and therefore Isaac was afraid. Verse 53 uses the same *Hebrew
words. That verse says, ‘Jacob made a firm promise by the God of his father
Isaac.’ The actual *Hebrew words mean ‘by the fear of his father Isaac’.
Jacob and Laban agree
v43 Then Laban answered Jacob. He said, ‘The
daughters are my daughters. The children are my children. The animals are my
animals. All that you see is mine. But I can do nothing to these daughters who
are mine. And I can do nothing to their children. v44 Let us make a firm
agreement. And let there be a sign of the agreement between you and me.’
v45 So Jacob chose a large stone. He put it so that
it stood up. v46 And Jacob said to his relatives, ‘Gather stones.’ So
they took stones and they made a heap. And they ate a meal there by the heap.
Laban said that Leah and Rachel and their children were still
his. That was not true. And he said that Jacob’s animals belonged to him,
Laban. That also was not true. Laban might have said, ‘Your wives were my
daughters. Your family came from my family.’ And he might have said, ‘The
animals came from my animals. All that you see came from my possessions.’ That
would have been true. But these things did not still belong to Laban. When
Jacob took things from Laban, he took them with Laban’s agreement.
The tall stone and the heap were signs of the agreement that
Jacob and Laban had made. If either of them passed that place (see verse 52),
they would see the signs. The signs would remind them about the agreement.
Also, when they were far from that place, they would remember the signs. They
would remember that they had made the signs. And they would remember the
*offering and the meal. (See verse 54.) That too would remind them of the
v47 Laban called that place Jegar-sahadutha, but
Jacob called it Galeed. v48 Laban said, ‘This heap is now a sign of the
agreement between you and me.’ That is the reason why they called it Galeed. v49
Laban called the tall stone Mizpah. He said, ‘Let the *Lord be a guard between
you and me, when we are absent from each other. v50 If you do evil
things to my daughters, God will see. If you take other wives in addition to my
daughters, God will see. Although nobody is with us, God is a witness between
you and me.’
‘Jegar-sahadutha’ means ‘the heap that is a sign’. It is in the
Aramaic language. The inhabitants of the region that is called Paddan-aram
spoke the Aramaic language. Haran, where Laban lived, is in Paddan-aram.
‘Galeed’ also means ‘the heap that is a sign’. It is in the *Hebrew language.
These two languages were similar. People who knew one language could usually
understand the other language.
‘Mizpah’ means ‘a place to watch’ or ‘a look-out’.
This verse tells us the reason why Laban made an agreement with
Jacob. He was anxious about his daughters, Leah and Rachel. He did not know
whether Jacob would deal fairly with them. Laban forgot that he himself did not
deal fairly with Jacob.
v51 Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘See this heap. See the
tall stone that I have put between you and me. v52 This heap is a sign
and the tall stone is a sign. I will not pass this heap to go to you for an
evil purpose. And you will not pass this heap and this tall stone to come to me
for an evil purpose. v53 Let God be a judge between us. He is Abraham’s
God and he is Nahor’s God.’ So Jacob made a firm promise by the God of his
Laban said that he set up the heap and the stone. That was not
true. Jacob and his relatives set them up. (See verses 45-46.)
Jacob made a firm promise to Laban. And when he made that firm
promise, he used the words ‘by God’. Jacob meant that God heard his promise.
Jacob had promised to do certain things. And God would know whether Jacob did
those things. So Jacob meant that his promise was absolutely firm.
God said a similar thing to Abraham. He said, ‘By myself I have
made a firm promise.’ (See Genesis 22:16 and the comment.)
Jesus said that it is better not to make promises ‘by God’. It is
better to make ordinary promises. We should always do the things that we have
promised. If we do that, we do not need to say ‘by God’. (See Matthew 5:33-37.)
(For ‘the God of his father Isaac’ see the comment on verse 42.)
v54 Jacob killed an animal there in the hilly region.
He gave part of it as an *offering to God. And he invited his relatives and
they ate a meal. They stayed there for the whole night. v55 Laban got up
early in the morning. He kissed his grandchildren and his daughters. Then he
blessed them. And he set out and he returned to his home.
Jacob burned part of the animal. That was the part that was an
*offering to God. The rest of the animal was the meat for the meal. By the
*offering, Jacob thanked God. He thanked God for the things that God had done
Jacob prepares to meet Esau
v1 Jacob continued his journey. God’s *angels met him
v2 and Jacob saw them. He said, ‘This is God’s army!’ So he called that
v3 Jacob sent some of his servants to take a message
to his brother Esau. They went before Jacob to Esau. Esau was in the region
that is called Seir. It is in the country that is called Edom. v4 Jacob
said to the servants, ‘Say, “This is what your servant Jacob says to my master
Esau: I have stayed with Laban until now. v5 I have cows, *donkeys,
sheep, servants and maids. I have sent this message to my master so that you
may be pleased with me.” ’
v6 And the *messengers returned to Jacob. They said,
‘We came to your brother Esau. He comes to meet you. He brings 400 men with
him.’ v7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid. He divided those that were with
him into two groups. He divided the people and the sheep and the cows and the
camels. v8 He thought, ‘If Esau kills one group, the other group will
God’s *angels did not give any message to Jacob, but Jacob saw them.
So Jacob knew that God was guarding him. ‘Mahanaim’ means ‘two armies’ or ‘two
camps’. Perhaps he meant God’s army and his own people. His own people were not
strong enough to defend themselves against Esau. But if God’s army camped round
him, he was safe.
Many years after this time, Elisha saw God’s army. He too knew
that God was guarding him. (See 2 Kings 6:15-17.)
‘Edom’ was another name for Esau. ‘Edom’ also means Esau’s
*descendants. And it also means the country where they lived. This country is
south and east of *Canaan.
Jacob did not know whether Esau was friendly to him or not.
Perhaps Esau was bringing 400 men so as to kill Jacob and all his people.
v9 And Jacob said, ‘God of my father Abraham! God of
my father Isaac! You said to me, “Return to your country and to your relatives.
I will do good things to you.” v10 I do not deserve any of the great
love that you have shown to me, your servant. When I crossed this river Jordan,
my only possession was my stick. But now because of your care I have become two
groups of people and animals. v11 Please save me from my brother Esau. I
am afraid of him. I am afraid that he will kill us all. He will kill the
mothers and the children. v12 But you said, “I will do good to you. I
will make your *descendants as many as the sand of the sea. The sand is many
tiny pieces and nobody can count them.” ’
Jacob was greatly afraid. (See verse 7.) But he had learned to
trust God. So he prayed. These are the parts of his prayer. We might use them
as a pattern for our own prayers.
speaks to God. He says, ‘My father’s God’. We might say, ‘Our father in
repeats God’s promise. (See the end of verse 9.)
tells God that he does not deserve anything. (See verse 10.)
thanks God for his gifts. (He says, ‘your care’, in verse 10.)
asks God for what he needs. (He says, ‘Please save me’, in verse 11)
repeats God’s promise again. (See verse 12.)
‘You said to me, “Return.” ‘ (See Genesis 31:3.)
God said these words to Abraham. (See Genesis 22:17.) He said a
similar thing to Jacob but he mentioned dust instead of sand. (See Genesis
28:14.) But the meaning is the same.
v13 So Jacob stayed there that night. And he chose
from his possessions a gift for his brother Esau. v14 He took 200 female
goats. He took 20 male goats. He took 200 female sheep. He took 20 male sheep. v15
He took 30 female camels and their young camels. He took 40 female cows and 10
male cows. He took 20 female *donkeys and 10 male *donkeys. v16 These
animals were in separate groups. He gave them to his servants. And he said to
his servants, ‘Go on before me. Let there be a space between one group and
Jacob chose the gift after he had prayed. That was the right
thing to do. We should pray before we decide. Perhaps God will answer our
prayer by helping us to make the right decision.
Jacob believed that God would protect him. But he also did
sensible things so that Esau would accept him. These were the effects of the
showed to Esau that Jacob wanted to be friendly.
showed to Esau that Jacob respected Esau. Notice that Jacob used the words ‘master’
and ‘servant’ in verse 18.
Jacob behaved to Esau as one behaves to an older brother. Jacob
had taken from Esau the right of the oldest son. (See Genesis 25:33.) Jacob had
also taken from Esau his father’s *blessing. (See Genesis 27:27.) But these
gifts showed to Esau that Jacob was not proud. Jacob did not say, ‘I was the
younger son but I became the oldest. My father made me the head of the family.
So I am better than Esau.’ Instead, he showed that he respected Esau.
v17 Jacob *commanded the servant who had the first
group. He said, ‘Esau my brother will meet you. He will ask you, “Whose servant
are you? Where do you go? And whose are these animals that are in front of
you?” v18 You shall say, “They belong to your servant Jacob. He has sent
them as a gift to his master Esau. And your servant Jacob is behind us.” ’
v19 Jacob said the same words to the servants who had
the second and the third groups. And he said the same words to all those who
followed the animals. He said, ‘You shall say the same thing to Esau when you
meet him. v20 And you shall say, “And your servant Jacob is behind
us.” ’ Jacob thought, ‘I may make him pleased with me by this gift. The
gift goes before me and afterwards I shall meet him. Perhaps he will be
friendly with me.’
v21 So the animals that were a gift went on in front
of Jacob. And Jacob himself stayed in his tent that night.
Jacob’s servants gave messages to Esau. The messages told Esau
that Jacob was friendly to him. And Esau had enough time to think about those
messages before he met Jacob.
Jacob fights with God
v22 During the night, Jacob got up. He crossed the
stream that is called the Jabbok. He took his two wives. He took his two maids.
He took his 11 children. v23 And he made them cross the stream. He made
everything that he had cross the stream. v24 Then Jacob remained alone.
And a man struggled with him until the day came.
v25 The man saw that he did not win against Jacob. So
he touched the side of Jacob’s leg. Jacob discovered that he could not use his
leg. But he continued to struggle. v26 Then the man said, ‘Let me go,
because the day is near.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you
bless me.’ v27 And the man said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he
said, ‘Jacob.’ v28 Then the man said, ‘You shall not be called Jacob.
You shall be called Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men.
And you have won.’ v29 Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’
But the man said, ‘You do not need to ask my name.’ And there the man blessed
The Jabbok is a stream that flows into the river Jordan from the
east. It is shallow and one can cross it easily. It divides the region that is
called Gilead in two parts.
This was God, who appeared as a man. We know that from verse 28
(‘struggled with God’) and from verse 30 (‘seen God’s face’).
‘The man saw that he did not win.’ God is powerful. He can do
anything. But he did not overcome Jacob, because he used only a man’s strength.
‘Jacob’ may mean ‘one who cheats’. (See Genesis 25:26 and the
comment.) ‘Israel’ probably means ‘God struggles’ or ‘he struggles with God’.
God said to Jacob, ‘You shall be called Israel.’ But after this
time he had two names. He was sometimes called Israel and he was sometimes
called Jacob. And even God called him Jacob. (See Genesis 46:2.) It was
different for Abraham. He was initially called Abram. God said to him, ‘Now
your name shall not be Abram. Your name shall be Abraham.’ (See Genesis 17:5.)
And after that time he was only called Abraham. He was not called Abram.
v30 Jacob said, ‘I have seen God’s face. But I did
not die.’ So he called that place Peniel. v31 The sun rose as Jacob
passed through Penuel. He walked with one weak leg, because the man had touched
v32 Therefore even today Jacob’s *descendants do not
eat the meat that is at the side of the leg. That is the place where the man
touched Jacob’s leg.
God had appeared as a man. See the comment about verse 24. Many
Bible students believe that it was Jesus who met Jacob.
‘Peniel’ and ‘Penuel’ are
both names of the same place. They both mean ‘God’s face’.
‘Penuel’ became the usual name of that place but its meaning is
not quite clear. The meaning of ‘Peniel’ is clear, but it is not the usual name
of the place.
To understand this, use English words to make the name. Imagine
that the place was called ‘Godface’. Then these 2 sentences would be like this.
‘So he called that place “God’s Face”. The sun rose as Jacob passed through
Esau and Jacob meet
v1 Jacob saw that Esau approached. And 400 men came
with him. So Jacob divided the children into 4 groups. Leah and Rachel and the
2 maids took care of the groups. v2 Jacob put the maids with their
children in front. After them, he put Leah with her children. Rachel and Joseph
followed after all the other people. v3 Jacob himself went in front of
them. He bent himself down to the ground 7 times, until he came near to his
brother. v4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob. He hugged him and he kissed him.
They both wept.
v5 And Esau looked and he saw the women and the
children. He said, ‘Who are these that are with you?’ Jacob said, ‘These are
the children that God has kindly given to your servant.’ v6 Then the
maids came near and they brought their children. They all bent themselves down
to the ground. v7 Leah also came near with her children. They also bent
themselves down. After them, Joseph and Rachel came near and they bent
v8 Esau said, ‘Why did you send these animals that I
met?’ Jacob answered, ‘I sent them so that you, my master, would be friendly
with me.’ v9 But Esau said, ‘I have enough possessions, my brother. Keep
your own possessions for yourself.’ v10 Jacob said, ‘No, I ask you to do
this. If you are pleased with me, accept my gift. Your face is to me like God’s
face because you greeted me so kindly. v11 Please accept my gift that I
have brought to you. God has dealt kindly with me and so I have enough
possessions.’ So Jacob urged Esau and Esau took the gift.
Jacob greeted Esau in a very polite way. He started his greeting
before they came close to each other. Esau did not delay so as to be polite.
Instead, Esau ran to meet Jacob.
Esau refused Jacob’s gift. Then Jacob insisted. Then Esau
accepted. That was the custom. If Esau accepted the gift immediately, that
would be an insult. But when Jacob insisted, then Esau accepted it. That showed
to Jacob that Esau was genuinely friendly to him.
v12 Then Esau said, ‘Let us travel on our way. I will
go before you.’ v13 But Jacob said to him, ‘My master knows that the
children are weak. I must take care of the young animals. If they travel too
fast for one day, all the animals will die. v14 Let my master go before
his servant and I will follow slowly. I will travel at the right speed for my
animals. I will go at the speed of the children. And I will come to my master
v15 So Esau said, ‘I have men with me. Let me leave
some of them to guard you.’ But Jacob said, ‘There is no reason that my master
should help me in that way.’ v16 So Esau returned at once to Seir. v17
But Jacob travelled to Succoth. There he built a house for himself. He made
shelters for his cows. Therefore, the place is called Succoth.
Esau lived in the region that was called Seir. (See Genesis 32:3
and the comment.) Jacob’s home was the country that was called *Canaan. He
wanted to go there. He did not want to go to Seir. And Jacob was afraid that
Esau might not always be friendly. Esau had said, 20 years earlier, that he
would kill Jacob. (See Genesis 27:41.) Esau might still do that. Therefore,
Jacob wanted to separate from Esau. So he said that he needed to travel slowly
because of his animals. He said that he would meet Esau in Seir. That was not
true. He did not intend to go to Seir. And Jacob and Esau probably did not meet
again until they met to bury their father Isaac. (See Genesis 35:29.)
Jacob did not want Esau’s men to guard him. They would expect
that he would go towards the south to Seir. But actually, Jacob went west. He
crossed the river Jordan and he went to Shechem. (See verse 18.)
‘Succoth’ means ‘shelters’.
v18 So Jacob had come from Paddan-aram. He arrived
safely at the city that was called Shechem. Shechem is in the country that is
called *Canaan. And he put his tent in front of the town. v19 He bought
the piece of land where he had put his tent. He bought it from the sons of
Hamor, who was Shechem’s father. He paid for it 100 pieces of money. v20
There he built an *altar and he called it El-Elohe-Israel.
‘Shechem’ is the name of a city and it is a man’s name. In verse
18, it is the name of a city, but in verse 19 it is a man’s name.
‘El-Elohe-Israel’ means ‘God is Israel’s God’.
Shechem wants to marry Dinah
v1 Now Dinah was Leah’s daughter and her father was
Jacob. Dinah went out to visit the women who lived in *Canaan. v2 And
Shechem, who was Hamor’s son, saw her. Hamor was a Hivite and he was the prince
of the district. Shechem seized Dinah. He had sex with her and he made her
ashamed. v3 And Shechem loved Dinah, who was Jacob’s daughter. He loved
her and he spoke gently to her.
‘Shechem’ was the name of the town. (See Genesis 33:18.) And
‘Shechem’ was also a man’s name. In this chapter, it is a man’s name. The
Hivites were one of the *tribes that lived in Canaan before Abraham went there.
v4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor. He said,
‘Get this young woman for me. She shall be my wife.’ v5 Now Jacob heard
that Shechem had spoiled his daughter Dinah’s honour. But Jacob’s sons were
with his animals in the field. Therefore, Jacob did nothing until his sons came
back. v6 And Hamor, who was Shechem’s father, went to Jacob. He went to
speak with Jacob.
v7 Jacob’s sons heard about this and they came in
from the field. They were very sad and very angry because Shechem had sex with
Jacob’s daughter. Shechem had done a very wrong thing against Israel. That is a
thing that nobody ought to do.
v8 But Hamor spoke with them. He said, ‘My son
Shechem greatly desires your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. v9
Make marriages with us. Give your daughters to us and take our daughters for
yourselves. v10 You shall live with us and the country shall be open to
you. Make this country your home. Do your business in it and get property in
it.’ v11 And Shechem also spoke to Dinah’s father and to her brothers.
He said, ‘Please be friendly to me. I will give to you whatever you ask. v12
You may make the marriage present and the gift very large. I will give to you
whatever you say. But give the young woman to me so that she shall be my wife.’
The marriage present was a present that the man’s family gave to
the woman’s father. The gift was a present from the man’s family to the woman.
So what Shechem said meant this. It meant, ‘Give Dinah to me as my wife. And I
will give to you as much wealth as you ask.’
Jacob’s sons defend Dinah
v13 Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father
Hamor. They decided to tell lies to them, because Shechem had spoiled their
sister Dinah’s honour. v14 They said to Shechem and to Hamor, ‘We cannot
do this thing. We cannot give our sister to one who is not *circumcised. That
would take away our honour. v15 We will do this only if you will obey
our demand. You must become as we are. Every male person who is among you must
be *circumcised. v16 If you will do this, we will give our daughters to
you. And we will take your daughters to ourselves. And we will live among you
and we will become one nation. v17 But perhaps you will not listen to
us. Perhaps you will not become *circumcised. If so, we will take our daughter
and we will go away.’ v18 Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son
Jacob’s sons decided to tell lies so that they could kill the
inhabitants of Shechem. They could not kill only Hamor. If they did that, all
the other inhabitants would attack Jacob’s family. So they decided to kill all
the inhabitants and not only Hamor. Jacob did not agree to this plan. We know
that he did not agree from verse 30 and from Genesis 49:6.
For ‘*circumcised’ see Genesis 17:10-12 and the comment.
This was a lie. It was a part of the brothers’ plan. Jacob and
his family were not willing to marry *Canaanites. (For the question of marrying
foreign women, see the comment on Genesis 38:2.)
Jacob’s sons called Dinah ‘our daughter’. She was not their
daughter. She was their sister. They might have meant that she was the daughter
in their family.
Jacob’s sons kill the *Canaanites
v19 Shechem had more honour than all the other
members of his family had. He did not delay, because he had delight in Jacob’s
daughter. He did what Jacob’s sons said. v20 So Hamor and his son
Shechem went to the gate of their city. They spoke to the men from their city,
who were at the gate. They said, v21 ‘These men are friendly with us.
Let them live in this country. Let them do their business here. There is enough
room in this country for them. Let us take their daughters as our wives and let
us give our daughters to them. v22 The men will live with us and we will
become one nation. They will do this if we obey their demand. Every male person
who is among us must be *circumcised. We must be *circumcised as they are
*circumcised. v23 Their cows and their property will be ours. All their
animals will be ours. Let us do what they say. If we do that, they will live
v24 Everyone who went through the gate of the city
listened. They heard what Hamor and his son Shechem said. And every male person
who went through the gate of the city was *circumcised.
There was a wall round the city. So anyone who entered or left
the city had to go through the gate. Therefore, people often met each other at
the gate. And the gate became the place where people sat and talked. And people
might meet there to make decisions. So the gate was the best place to speak to
the men from the city.
These things were not true. They were the lies that Jacob’s sons
had told to Hamor and Shechem. (See the end of verse 16.) And Hamor and Shechem
believed them. But Hamor and Shechem were lying to the men of the city. They
said that these things were the reason to *circumcise themselves. And the true
reason was that Shechem wanted to marry Dinah.
v25 On the third day the men were very sore. Then
Simeon and Levi took their swords. Simeon and Levi were Jacob’s sons and they
were Dinah’s brothers. They went to the city. The inhabitants of the city did
not expect them to come. Simeon and Levi killed all the male inhabitants of the
city. v26 They killed with their swords Hamor and his son Shechem. They
took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and they went away.
v27 And all Jacob’s sons came to the city where the
men were dead. They took away all the goods that they could find. They did this
because Shechem had spoiled their sister’s honour. v28 They took the
sheep and the cows and the *donkeys. They took everything that was in the city.
They took everything that was in the field. v29 They took all the
valuable things. They took all the women and they took all the children. They
took all that was in the houses. They took all these things and they made them
v30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have
brought trouble to me. The people who live in this country will hate me. The
*Canaanites and the Perizzites will hate me. We are only a few men. Perhaps
they will gather themselves together and they will attack me. If they do that,
they will kill me and all my family.’ v31 But Simeon and Levi said, ‘He
would have made our sister into a woman who has sex for money.’
‘On the third day’ does not mean 3 days later. The *Hebrews
counted the first day and the last day. So the 3 days were:
end of the day when they *circumcised the people
early morning of the next day
That makes about 2 nights and a day.
What Simeon and Levi did was an evil deed. Jacob said that it was
wrong (in verse 30). He said that because he was afraid of the other
*Canaanites. However, we know that the deed was evil from Genesis 49:5-7. In
that verse, Jacob is giving his *blessing to his sons. The *blessing was true,
because Jacob’s words came from God. And because Simeon’s and Levi’s deeds were
wicked, their *descendants would not receive land with the other *tribes. It
was wrong to kill all the men in the city because Shechem had done an evil
Jacob moves to Bethel
v1 God said to Jacob, ‘Move away from here. Go to
Bethel and live there. Make an *altar there for me. I am God. I appeared to you
when you ran away from your brother Esau.’ v2 So Jacob spoke to his
relatives. And he spoke to all who were with him. He said, ‘Hide the foreign
gods that are among you. Make yourselves clean and put on clean clothes. v3
Then we will set out and we will go to Bethel. There I will make an *altar for
God. He answered me when I was in trouble. He has been with me wherever I have
v4 So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that
they had. They gave to him the rings that were in their ears. And Jacob buried
these things under the big tree that was near to the city of Shechem. v5
And as they travelled to Bethel, God protected them. He made the inhabitants of
the cities that were near to them afraid. Therefore, those people did not
pursue Jacob’s sons.
Jacob was afraid of the *Canaanites who lived near to Shechem.
(See Genesis 34:30.) He might be safer if he moved away from Shechem. Perhaps that
was the reason why God told Jacob to move away from Shechem. But that was
certainly not the main reason.
Jacob had met God at the place that he named ‘Bethel’. (See
Genesis 28:16-19.) That name means ‘God’s house’. So God was saying to Jacob,
‘Go to the place where you met me. Go to my house. Build an *altar there. Use
the *altar to bring *offerings to me. When you met me at Bethel for the first
time, you were alone. Now you have wives and children and servants. Bring them
with you. They too must come to my house.’
God did not tell anyone else in Genesis to build an *altar.
People built *altars when they wanted to give *offerings to God. But on this
occasion God said, ‘Make an *altar.’ This caused two changes for Jacob’s
this time, Jacob had one special place where he would give *offerings to God.
Many years later, God’s people had a special place where God met them. After
they left Egypt, this place was a tent. (See Exodus 4:2.) And, many years later
than that, it was a building that king Solomon built. (See 1 Kings 9:1-3.) So
God was beginning to prepare his people for those later ages.
this time, Jacob’s family and his servants had to approach God, in addition to
Jacob. That was the reason why they needed to hide their foreign gods. (See
Probably these foreign gods included the gods that Rachel had
stolen from Laban. (See Genesis 31:19 and the comment.)
This is the answer to Jacob’s fear. (See Genesis 34:30.) They
were safe because God protected them.
v6 And Jacob came to Luz, which is also called
Bethel. It is a city in the country that is called *Canaan. Jacob and all the
people who were with him came there. v7 And Jacob built an *altar there.
He called the place El-bethel. At that place, God had shown himself to Jacob
when Jacob ran away from his brother.
v8 Deborah, who was Rebekah’s nurse, died. They
buried her under a big tree below Bethel. So that place was called
‘El-bethel’ means ‘God of Bethel’ or ‘God of God’s house’.
‘God had shown himself.’ (See Genesis 28:13.)
‘Allon-bacuth’ means ‘the tree of weeping’.
God appears to Jacob
v9 God appeared to Jacob again, when Jacob came from
Paddan-aram. And God promised good things to him. v10 And God said to
him, ‘You are called Jacob. But you shall not be called Jacob. You shall be
called Israel.’ So he was called Israel. v11 And God said to him,
‘I am God who
can do anything.
shall have a large family and you shall have many *descendants.
shall become a nation and it shall become a group of nations.
of your family shall be kings.
v12 I will
give to you the land that I gave to Abraham and to Isaac.
I will give the land to your *descendants who shall live after you.’
v13 Then God left him. v14 And Jacob set up a
tall stone in the place where God had spoken with him. And Jacob poured wine on
the stone as an *offering. And he poured oil on it. v15 So Jacob called
the place, where God had spoken with him, Bethel.
Before this time, God spoke to Jacob at this same place, Bethel.
(See Genesis 28:13-15.) And when Jacob returned to Bethel, God spoke to him
again (in these verses). God repeated some of the things that he had said
earlier. He repeated Jacob’s new name, Israel. (For ‘Israel’ see Genesis 32:28
and the comment.)
‘Bethel’ means ‘God’s house’. Jacob had already named this place
‘Bethel’. (See Genesis 28:19.) So ‘Bethel’ was not a new name. But Jacob had
just met God there. So he called the place Bethel again. He might have said,
‘When I was here 20 years ago, I named this place “God’s house”. Now I have met
God here again. So it is truly God’s house.’
Rachel and Isaac die
v16 Then they travelled away from Bethel towards
Ephrath. Before they reached Ephrath, Rachel struggled to produce her baby. She
suffered much and she had great pain. v17 And the nurse who helped at
the birth spoke to her. She said to her, ‘Do not be afraid. Now you will have
another son.’ v18 Rachel called her son Ben-oni and then she died. But
his father called him Benjamin. v19 So Rachel died, and they buried her
on the way to Ephrath, which is also called Bethlehem. v20 Jacob set up
a tall stone on her grave. The stone is called ‘the stone of Rachel’s grave’.
It is still there today.
‘Ben-oni’ means ‘son of my pain’.
‘Benjamin’ may mean ‘son of my right hand’.
v21 Israel travelled on and he put his tent beyond
Migdal-Eder. v22 While Israel lived in that district, Reuben had sex
with Bilhah. Bilhah was an extra wife of Reuben’s father. And Israel heard what
Reuben had done.
Now Jacob’s sons were 12.
(Jacob’s oldest son), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
sons (Bilhah was Rachel’s maid) were
sons (Zilpah was Leah’s maid) were
These were Jacob’s sons who were born to him in Paddan-aram.
Most of these sons were born in the district that is called
Paddan-aram. But Benjamin was not born in Paddan-aram. He was born in the
country that is called *Canaan. These verses do not name the sons in the order
of their birth. The order of their birth was this:
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar,
Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin.
v27 And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre.
Mamre is near to Kiriath-arba, which is also called Hebron. Abraham and Isaac
had both stayed at Mamre. v28 Isaac’s life was 180 years v29 and
then he died. He died when he was very old. So he went to be with his fathers.
His sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
‘His fathers’ means his father and his grandfather and those who
had lived before them.
v1 This is the story of Esau’s family. Esau is also
v2 Esau took his wives from the *Canaanites. They
Adah, who was
Elon the *Hittite’s daughter
who was Anah’s daughter (Anah was Zibeon the Hivite’s son.)
who was Ishmael’s daughter and Nebaioth’s sister.
v4 Adah was the mother of Esau and Eliphaz. Basemath
was the mother of Reuel. v5 Oholibamah was the mother of Jeush, Jalam
and Korah. These sons of Esau were born in the country that is called *Canaan.
v6 Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, his
servants, his cows and his animals. He took all his property, which he had
gained in *Canaan. And he went into a region that was far away from his brother
Jacob. v7 He did this because their possessions were great. Their
possessions were so great that they could not live close together. The region
where they were could not produce enough food for all their animals. v8
So Esau lived in the hilly region that is called Seir. Esau is also called Edom.
Jacob’s family is more important than Esau’s family. So Genesis
tells us Esau’s family first. When it has done that, it tells Jacob’s family.
It tells us the more important family afterwards.
The Hivites were another *tribe.
‘Esau went into a region that was far away from his brother
Jacob.’ That region was Seir. (See verse 8.) But Esau already lived in Seir
when Jacob returned to *Canaan. (See Genesis 33:14.) So these verses probably
mean that Esau had moved to Seir before that time. Perhaps this sentence is a
short way of saying this:
went into a region that was far away from his family.
went far away from his father Isaac.
when Jacob returned to *Canaan, Esau was far away from Jacob.’
Jacob and Esau each had great possessions and most of these
possessions were animals. These animals needed to eat grass. And there was not
enough grass in a small region.
v9 These are Esau’s *descendants. Esau was the father
of the Edomites. They live in the hilly region that is called Seir. v10
These are the names of two out of Esau’s sons:
son of Adah (Adah was Esau’s wife.)
son of Basemath (Basemath was Esau’s wife.)
v11 Eliphaz’s sons were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and
Kenaz. v12 Amalek was another one of Eliphaz’s sons. His mother was
Timna, who was an extra wife of Eliphaz. These are the grandsons of Adah, who
was Esau’s wife.
v13 Reuel’s sons were Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and
Mizzah. These are the grandsons of Basemath, who was Esau’s wife.
v14 And Esau had 3 other sons. They were Jeush, Jalam
and Korah. Their mother was Oholibamah, who was Esau’s wife. She was the
daughter of Anah, who was Zibeon’s son.
v15 This is a list of the *tribes who were Esau’s
*descendants of Eliphaz, who was the oldest son of Esau:
*tribes of Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, v16 Korah, Gatam and Amalek.
These are the
*tribes of Eliphaz in the country that is called Edom.
were *descendants of Adah.
*descendants of Reuel, who was Esau’s son:
*tribes of Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah.
These are the
*tribes of Reuel in the country that is called Edom.
were *descendants of Basemath, who was Esau’s wife.
*descendants of Oholibamah, who was Esau’s wife:
*tribes of Jeush, Jalam and Korah.
These are the
*tribes who were *descendants of Oholibamah, Anah’s daughter.
v19 These are Esau’s *descendants. Esau is also
called Edom. These are the *tribes who were members of his family.
A member of the *tribe of Teman was called a ‘Temanite’. Job had
a friend who was called Eliphaz the Temanite. (See Job 2:11.) He was not the
first Eliphaz and he was not Esau’s grandson. He was a *descendant of the first
Eliphaz. But he had the same name as the father of his *tribe.
v20 This is a list of Seir the Horite’s sons. (The
Horites were the people who already lived in the region.) These are their
Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, v21 Dishon, Ezer and
These are the princes of the Horites. They were Seir’s sons
in the country that is called Edom.
v22 Lotan’s sons were Hori and Heman. Lotan’s sister
was Timna. v23 Shobal’s sons were Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho and
Onam. v24 Zibeon’s sons were Aiah and Anah. Anah found the wells of hot
water in the desert. He found them while he looked after his father Zibeon’s
*donkeys. v25 Anah’s children were Dishon and Oholibamah. Oholibamah was
Anah’s daughter. v26 Dishon’s sons were Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran and
Cheran. v27 Ezer’s sons were Bilhan, Zaavan and Akan. v28
Dishan’s sons were Uz and Aran.
v29 This is a list of the *tribes of the Horites:
Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, v30 Dishon, Ezer and Dishan.
These are the *tribes of the Horites. They lived in the
district that is called Seir.
v31 This is a list of the kings who ruled the country
Edom. (At that time, no king ruled Israel’s *descendants.) v32 Bela,
Beor’s son, ruled in Edom. The name of his city was Dinhabah. v33 Bela
died. And Jobab, who was the son of Zerah of Bozrah, ruled instead of him. v34
Jobab died. And Husham, who had come from the region of the *tribe of Teman,
ruled instead of him. v35 Husham died. And Hadad, Bedad’s son, ruled
instead of him. And Hadad defeated the *descendants of Midian in the country
that is called Moab. The name of his city was Avith. v36 Hadad died. And
Samlah, who had come from Masrekah, ruled instead of him. v37 Samlah
died. And Shaul, who had come from Rehoboth on the river Euphrates, ruled
instead of him. v38 Shaul died. And Baal-hanan, who was the son of
Achbor, ruled instead of him. v39 Baal-hanan, Achbor’s son, died. And
Hadar ruled instead of him. The name of his city was Pau. His wife’s name was
Mehetabel. She was the daughter of Matred, who was Mezahab’s daughter.
v40–43 This is a list of the *tribes who were
Esau’s *descendants. Each one had its city. The names of the *tribes were:
Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, Kenaz,
Teman, Mibzar, Magdiel and Iram.
These are the *tribes of Edom. Each one lived in its own
district. Esau was the father of the Edomites.
‘No king ruled Israel’s *descendants.’ It is difficult to
understand why this verse is here. Israel’s *descendants had no kings until
very many years later. The first king of Israel was Saul. (See 1 Samuel
10:1.) Writers who wrote after that time knew about kings. Perhaps a later
writer added this comment to Genesis.
altar ~ a table where one burned an animal as an *offering
to God. An altar is usually several large stones that form a pile.
angel ~ a servant of God who brings messages from heaven.
The *Hebrew word that means ‘angel’ also means ‘*messenger’.
blessing ~ a father’s prayer for his sons before the
father died. God sometimes showed the father what would happen to the son. And
so the blessing said what would happen in the future. The blessing of the
oldest son was extra important. It showed that the oldest son took his father’s
place as the head of the family. (The word ‘blessing’ also has other meanings.)
Canaan ~ the country where the *Canaanites lived. (See
*Canaanites.) It is approximately the same land as the modern country Israel
together with the land of the Palestinians.
Canaanites ~ Canaan’s *descendants. Canaan was a grandson
of Noah. (See Genesis 9:18.) The word Canaanites included Amorites and Hivites
and other nations. (See Genesis 10:16-17.) It sometimes also included other
people who lived in the country *Canaan. These people were not *descendants of
circumcise ~ to cut the skin from the end of a male
person’s sex part. (See Genesis 17:10-12 and the comment.)
command ~ to tell people (or a person) that they must do
something; to say to people (or to a person) something that they must obey; to
control by means of commands. A command is an order that one must obey.
descendants ~ children and grandchildren and later members
of the family.
donkey ~ an animal like a small horse. Donkeys can carry
heavy loads on their backs. People ride on them.
famine ~ a period when crops do not grow. It may last for
several years. There is a serious lack of food.
Hebrew ~ the Hebrew people were Abraham and his
*descendants. The ancient Hebrew language is the original language of Genesis.
It is also the original language of most of the Old Testament (the first part
of the Bible). This language is like the modern Hebrew language, which people
speak in the country Israel today.
Hittites ~ one of the *tribes that lived in Canaan before
Abraham went there.
Lord ~ a lord is a person who has authority. ‘The Lord’
means God. It is a translation of God’s name. The *Hebrews wrote God’s name as
YHWH. We may write it as Yahweh.
mandrake ~ a yellow fruit.
messenger ~ someone who brings a message.
offering ~ a gift to God. An offering may be an animal.
People killed the animal and burned it on an *altar.
Philistines ~ people who lived on the coast of the country
that is called *Canaan. In the times of Genesis, few Philistines lived in
*Canaan. And they were peaceful people. Very many years after that, many more
Philistines arrived. They were not peaceful. The modern name ‘Palestine’ comes
from the name ‘Philistine’.
pregnant ~ a woman is pregnant when she has a baby in her.
tribe ~ a large group of people who are relatives of each
other. Judah’s *descendants were called ‘the tribe of Judah’. In a similar way,
each of the 12 sons of Israel became a tribe. But Joseph’s *descendants were
not called ‘the tribe of Joseph’. They were the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.
Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph’s sons.
G. Ch. Aalders ~ A Short Introduction to the Pentateuch ~ Tyndale
V. P. Hamilton ~ The Book of Genesis (NICOT) ~ Eerdmans
E. F. Kevan ~ ‘Genesis’, The New Bible Commentary ~ IVF (1953)
G. T. Manley ~ The New Bible Handbook ~ IVF
M. Salisbury (editor) ~ Skills for Translating and Exegeting the
Primary Scriptures (STEPS) ~ SIL (CD-ROM)
J. A. Thompson ~ The Bible and Archaeology ~ Paternoster
G. J. Wenham ~ ‘Genesis’, New Bible Commentary 21st Century
Edition ~ IVP
Chambers Concise Dictionary
Oxford Bible Atlas ~ Third edition
Logos Bible Computer Software 1.6
Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon
Bibles ~ KJV, NIV, REB, RSV, TEV
© 1997-2004, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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