Isaac and Jacob
by Hubert F. Sturges, www.everlastingcovenant.com, May 2012
We do not associate Isaac with any great events. We might even begin to think that he was a rather passive link between Abraham and Jacob. On the other hand, heroes stand out in times of crisis, whereby those same heroes might not even be noticed in times of peace. With this in mind, what can we find out about Isaac?
Jacob is a person who with considerable difficulty overcame his personality defects and the wrong choices of his younger years. God directly gave both Isaac and Jacob the covenant.
Isaac and Rebekah
Isaac was 40 years old when Rebekah became his wife. When there was a famine in the land, they went to live under Abimelech, king of the Philistines. Isaac did not trust the heathen in the area, and feared for his life because of the desirability of his beautiful wife. He told those he met that Rebekah was his sister. Before long, Abimelech discovered that Rebekah was Isaac’s wife. Abimelech chided him for this, as one of his men might have taken her for his harem.
Isaac stayed in the area, but lost several of his wells to the Philistines, forcing him to move on further away from them. He eventually settled at Beersheba. Isaac prospered to where the Philistines envied him, and Abimelech had to send him out of his territory. Later, Abimelech came to Isaac again, and they made a covenant of peace between them to ease the tension between the two tribes.
Rebekah was barren, and did not bear children until “Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren” (Genesis 25:21). Within a short time, she conceived and bore twins, Esau and Jacob.
Covenant Given to Isaac
God appeared to Isaac and presented the covenant to him on two occasions. The first was when he went to Gerar to live among the Philistines. God promised all the land that God had promised to Abraham, and that he would have descendants as the stars of heaven. Further, “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 26:3-5).
Later Isaac moved to Beersheba and God again appeared to him, “I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake” (Genesis 26:24).
The godly example of his father, Abraham, strongly influenced his son, Isaac. When God commanded Abraham to “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee unto the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:2), Isaac recognized that his father, Abraham, had heard the voice of God. Even though it meant his becoming a burnt offering, he willingly cooperated with his aged father, and allowed himself to be bound for a sacrifice. God interrupted the sacrifice, and provided a ram to be used instead. In later years, Isaac loved peace and moved several times rather than fight over water wells. God gave him the Abrahamic covenant, to pass on to his descendants.
Jacob deceives Isaac, flees from Home
Rebekah remembered, when she delivered twins, that God said, “the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). Jacob was the younger of the twins. Rebekah also knew that Jacob valued the covenant birthright and that Esau did not. However, Isaac favored Esau, his firstborn. When Isaac became old and his eyesight dim, he knew it was time to give the birthright blessing. He called Esau to bring savory venison and receive the blessing. Rebekah and Jacob connived to deceive the partially blind Isaac so that Jacob would receive it instead.
They were successful in deceiving Isaac (Genesis 27:1-29), but God could not be pleased with this deceptive action. Jacob and Rebekah reasoned that they were fulfilling the purpose of God, but they failed to recognize that God Himself had a better plan. The result of the deception was that Esau hated Jacob and planned to kill him after Isaac died. Jacob fled for his life to Haran and worked for his uncle Laban for twenty years.
When Jacob left home, Isaac blessed him with the covenant of Abraham (Genesis 28:3-4). After a day of travel, he lay at night with a stone for a pillow. He dreamed of angels ascending and descending on a ladder reaching from earth to heaven. In his dream, the Lord stood at the top of the ladder and repeated to him the everlasting covenant in detail (Genesis 28:12-15).
In Padan-Aram, it turned out that Uncle Laban was just as devious as Jacob, but not as smart. In spite of all Laban’s efforts to cheat Jacob, he failed, and Jacob prospered and gathered much cattle and sheep. He intended to marry Rachel, but Laban tricked him into taking Leah first. With two very competitive wives, and each of their handmaids as concubines, Jacob soon had a household of twelve sons and one daughter.
After 20 years in Padan-aram, Jacob left to return home. A crisis arose when he learned that Esau was coming with 400 men. He divided his company into two so that one might escape if the other were attacked. He sent Esau presents of sheep and cattle in waves; the first drove would arrive, given to Esau, then another, and then another. He gave these presents to tell Esau that he did not desire the wealth of his father, as he had enough already.
After sending his wives ahead to meet Esau, he stayed alone by the book Jabbok to pray. During the night, Jacob was attacked. Thinking that this was a common thief, Jacob wrestled all night for his life. When his assailant “touched the hollow of his thigh” and put it out of joint, Jacob knew that he had been wrestling with more than a man. As the sun came up, his assailant said, “Let me go, for the day breaketh.” Jacob answered, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”
In this story, we learn the lesson of being persistent in prayer. God is pleased when we in faith ask great things of Him.
27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. (Genesis 32:27-28).
Eventually they reached Bethel again, where Jacob dreamed of the ladder reaching heaven. It was the place where God gave him the covenant as he fled to Haran. Now that he was back in his own country, God repeated his new name, Israel (Genesis 35:10-12) (1) and the everlasting covenant of Abraham. This covenant was repeated again as Jacob moved to Egypt (Genesis 46:3,4). From this point on, the nation of Israel would refer to their heritage from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Each of these patriarchs had been given the covenant directly by God.
1. The Meaning of “yisra’el.” English Words used in KJV: Israel 2489, Israelites 16
Meaning: he will rule as God; “yisra’el,” a symbolical name of Jacob; also (typically) of his posterity :- Israel.