Jacob Was No Abraham


Abraham wasn’t perfect, but he was pretty amazing. Leave your home, God said. Where to? Abraham asked. Just go until I tell you to stop. So off he went “as the Lord had spoken to him.”

When it was clear that his and his nephew Lot’s animals couldn’t pasture together any longer, he unselfishly gave Lot the pick of the land.

Later he pleaded with God to be merciful to Sodom on behalf of Lot and his family. Six times he interceded for them.

When God told him to circumcise every male in his household, he took care of it the very same day.

When Sarah wanted to send Hagar and Ishmael away, Abraham objected, but God told him to listen to Sarah. So “Abraham rose early in the morning,” packed them up, gave them provisions, and sent them on their way.

One boy gone, but then God tells him to sacrifice the son of promise. “So Abraham rose early in the morning,” took wood, fire, and his son and set off. Three days later they came to the place where God told him to go. (Good thing Abraham listened since that’s where the ram was that would become the substitute sacrifice).

Compare this to Jacob. He swindled his brother out of his birthright, lied to his dad and fooled him into thinking he was his twin in order to obtain his brother’s blessing, manipulated his uncle’s animals to procure the best for himself, and sneaked away without saying goodbye.

On top of that, as he’s returning home, he gets word that his brother–who, rumors said, planned to kill him–is on his way to meet him, with four hundred men. So Jacob, brave man that he is, sends a gift, divides his people and property in two, with the hopes that at least half of them could get away, and puts it all in front of him.

Interesting, though. He had an encounter with God and the next morning he changed things up–putting himself ahead of his family and falling on his face before Esau.

He’s learning.

But he made more mistakes, most notably favoring Joseph, Rachel’s firstborn. To be fair, he learned about favoritism from his parents. His mother Rebekah favored him–which is why she came up with the idea for him to steal his brother’s blessing–and his father Isaac favored Esau. So Jacob is carrying on the family tradition. It’s just that it didn’t sit well with the ten older brothers. They eventually kidnap Joseph, sell him, and report to Jacob that they found his bloody coat.

Believing Joseph to be dead, Jacob shifts his protection and possibly his favor to his youngest, Benjamin. Fast forward years later, and famine forces Jacob to send his sons to Egypt to buy food–all except Benjamin. Unbeknown to the brothers, Joseph is the man they buy from, and he tells them not to return unless their youngest brother is with them.

Time passes, food dwindles, the famine continues, and Jacob won’t sent Benjamin. Ruben tries to give his father assurances, to no avail. Judah tries and is turned down, but finally things grow desperate, and Jacob relents. Here’s the big turning point of his life, I believe. He went from saying

“My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow” (Gen 42:38)

to saying

“may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” (Gen 43:14)

It took him a long time to get there. In the meantime, God gave him the same promise He had given Abraham and Isaac–one not connected with the blessing he stole. He also protected him from his uncle and from his brother, appeared to him more than once in visions and dreams and perhaps even as the pre-incarnate Christ. And at last, he stopped grabbing and grasping and holding on. He opened his hand and relinquished his son. Only then did he receive Joseph back, alive and well.

Two patriarchs–one quick to obey, the other oh, so slow. One willing to give up his sons, the other holding on as if he could care for them better than God. In the end, God used them both, but I can’t help but think Abraham took the better road.

Published in: on August 31, 2012 at 6:36 pm  Comments Off on Jacob Was No Abraham  
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