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The story of Jacob in the Bible has all the elements of high drama. True love thwarted, family division, a deceiving father-in-law, a tight escape. If it was a movie you’d want to watch it, but it’s much better than a movie because over arching all, it is the story of the covenant in the lives of real people.


Hello, we’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this is Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast, where today we’ll talk about Genesis 28 through 33, titled “Surely the Lord is in This Place”

The Bible covers two thousand plus years of history in 12 chapters and then zeroes in on Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their posterity for the rest of the 1, 184 pages for this reason. The Old Testament is about the covenant blessings and obligations as they play out over generations. The idea is to teach us what this covenant is, what it means, and the consequences of purposely turning your back on it. We hear of the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but we could say instead: the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, because the renewal of the covenant was made afresh with each one. Even if you are born in the covenant, it is not an entitlement.  Ultimately this is a promise that each has to choose and live worthy of.


The covenants we make in the temple are consistent with these ancient covenants. Though the delivery may have been modified somewhat, our covenants have these ancient origins. That is what makes the Old Testament so particularly relevant to Latter-day Saints. We understand the power and blessing of covenants better as we see them play out in the lives of individuals and nations.

The new and everlasting covenant existed before the creation of the world. When we understood that to advance meant that we would be cut off from God’s presence, it is the new and everlasting covenant, through the atonement of Jesus Christ, that would allow our return in a higher and holier state. This is why the covenant is everlasting.


Kerry Muhlestein notes, “Once they lost the presence of God, [Adam and Eve] must have felt an immediate and keen need for assurance that they could once again regain it in some way….It is powerful and striking to realize that so soon after separation from Humankind, God was willing to bind Himself to us.” Take note of that. Here we are in a fallen world, where the influences we swim in are corruption, misinformation, and we can’t remember who we are, but the Lord says, “I will take your hand.” This is just like you would do with a child when you came to a busy road. You would take their hand and safely walk them across.

Muhlestein said, After Abraham’s day there is an iteration to the covenant. “Anyone who wanted to be part of the covenant would have to become part of Abraham and Sarah’s seed. Covenantal blessings would focus around Sarah and Abraham’s descendants [or those who were adopted in] from this time forward.” (Kerry Muhlestein, Let God Prevail, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book).


As with Abraham and us today, Jacob seems to have received the covenant blessings in stages or steps. Remember that when Rebekah was about to give birth to twins, Esau and Jacob, the children were struggling in her womb, and she sought the Lord to understand. He told her that “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23). She knew by revelation that Jacob was to receive the covenant blessing.

They were very different sons. Esau was red and hairy and “a cunning hunter” and “Jacob was a “plain man, dwelling in tents” (Gen. 25:27).   Isaac preferred Esau, and since he was the older of the twins, intended to give him the birthright blessings. In this case, Rebekah received a revelation that Isaac had not received, and remember in chapter 27, she creates an elaborate ruse to assure that Jacob receives the blessing.  The wives of the patriarchs played a responsible role in assuring that the son God had chosen received the birthright as well as the blessings of the covenant.


Though in many ways, Esau seemed to disregard the birthright blessings, and was willing to sell them for a mess of pottage, still there is a plaintive moment when Esau learns that Jacob now has both the birthright and this covenant blessing. Esau cries with “a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father” (Gen 27:34). He feels twice cheated. Esau hates Jacob and resolves to kill him. This is the set up to understand today’s lesson, but first an aside.

There are some interesting parallels in the covenant stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the story of Joseph fits some of these as well. First, the oldest in the family is to be the birthright son, yet, traditions tell us that Abraham was a younger son, so was Isaac, and so was Jacob. This fits Joseph as well, who was the oldest son of Rachel, but not the oldest son of Jacob. Second, in every case, there was a threat to their lives. Abraham’s father, Terah tried to have him sacrificed, Isaac was taken to be sacrificed, and Jacob’s brother purposed to kill him. Of course, Joseph’s brothers tried to kill him. Third, each of them found refuge in a foreign land. Fourth, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all had wives who were barren, which was a great irony considering that the covenant blessings were to go through the family line. Fifth, in each case the wives finally conceive through the power of God. Finally, the wife designates the birthright son. This is because the matriarchal line is as important as the patriarchal line and, Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel were also specifically chosen by the Lord.


Of course, we know that the importance of the birthright going to the first born was that this was in similitude of the Lord Himself, who is the firstborn of the Father. How can we explain, then, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not their father’s firstborn sons?

James Ferrell makes an intriguing point about this: “The rule itself can be thought to be in similitude of Christ’s spiritual role and identity. By contrast, exceptions to the rule can be thought to be in similitude of Christ’s temporal role and identity. That is, the one who would come as Messiah would not come in the way most would expect. He would not be mighty in appearance or in political or military power. He would be a Savior who to the spiritually undiscerning would appear unable to save even himself—one whom Isaiah described as having ‘no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him . . . despised and rejected of men . . . esteem[ed as] stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.’ In short, the Savior of the world would not be great in the eyes of the world. He would come in a form that was unexpected, and his lowly station in life would hide his divine origin and mission from those who were without faith. He was, as it were, in the eyes of the world, the younger son—one without station or claim to position or greatness.”


Ferrell continues: “One reason the eldest son, birthright rule may have been created was to emphasize the exception to the rule, in order to communicate a central truth about the Lord’s identity. The exception also communicates a central truth about our own identity: Exaltation does not come as a matter of right, whether by physical birth or by religious affiliation. Using the birthright convention metaphorically, being an ‘eldest son’—either because one comes from a certain lineage, for example, or simply belongs to a certain faith—does not entitle one to the blessings of the firstborn. Such blessings come through being born again in Christ, whereby we become members of the ‘church of the Firstborn,’ and therefore become joint-heirs with him.

“Failure to understand the relevance of the exceptions to the rule led many at the time of Christ both to miss who he was and to misunderstand who they themselves were. Mere membership in the family of Abraham did not entitle them to his blessings. The blessings of heaven did not come then, nor do they come now, merely by blood or paper membership in any lineage or church. Rather, the blessings of heaven come to those who, to the best of their abilities given the knowledge they possess, come unto Christ.” (James L. Ferrell, The Hidden Christ: Beneath the Surface of the Old Testament, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book).


As Genesis 28 begins, Jacob is leaving his home in Canaan to travel north to Haran, to find a wife among his mother’s family. He has been charged specifically by his father, Isaac, “not to take a wife of the daughters of Canaan” (Gen 28.1), and with this discussion of the covenant, we can see why this matters so much. Through his family, through all his posterity, the covenant has to be carried, and so he cannot marry outside of the faith. On his parting, this time without being tricked, his aged, and nearly blind, father, Isaac, offers this blessing: “Give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham” (Gen. 28:4).

Yet, it is not just to marry that Jacob leaves. He also has to escape his brother Esau’s wrath because he has vowed to kill him. Jacob’s life is endangered and he must escape.


On his journey, Jacob gets to make his own personal and conscious choice to be a part of the covenant. One night he took a stone for a pillow and lay down to sleep when he had a dream of a “ladder set up on the earth and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (Gen 28: Gen. 28: 12). This is a symbol of the way from earth to heaven that consists of steps, gradually leading to the presence of God. It is a symbol of the temple experience where knowledge is given and commitments are made, line upon line, so that participants can become eligible to be with God again.

Jacob understood the covenants he made with God were the rungs on the ladder and to obtain the promised blessings, he too would have to climb. The Lord and Jacob exchanged covenants as we still do in our modern temples.

Joseph Smith connected Jacob’s revelation to the experience of Paul, the Apostle. He said, “Paul ascended into the third heavens, and he could understand the three principal rounds of Jacob’s ladder—the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories of kingdoms, where Paul saw and heard things which were not lawful for him to utter.” (Joseph Smith Papers, “History, 1838–1856, volume D-1,” 1556).


The Lord promises Jacob as part of the covenant, “I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whether thou goest…I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Gen. 28:15),  and Jacob answers, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go…then shall the Lord be my God” (Gen. 28:20). If you really want to understand what a covenant is, there is the very center point, the very essence. God says “I am with thee…I will not leave thee” and the one who covenants, “Then shall the Lord be my God.” The covenant foremost is about your connection to God. When you promise to let Him prevail in your life, He reshapes and transforms you to dwell with Him.

With that promise, if you have made covenants, you have no need to feel unsafe, alone or neglected in a dangerous world. You are in a safe place. Maurine always says, “You are not insecure. You only think you are.” If we could only truly comprehend and believe this covenant promise from the Lord, “I am with thee…I will not leave thee,” our entire lives would be different.


When Jacob arose the next morning he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.” Sometimes we could say, “Surely the Lord is in my life, and I knew it not.” Jacob exclaims, “How dreadful is this place” (Gen. 28:17). By this he means, how awe-inspiring or holy is this place. It is the very “gate of heaven”. He sets up that stone he had slept on for a pillar, “poured oil upon the top of it” (v. 18), and calls the name of the place Bethel. In Hebrew, “Bet” means house and “el” is the name of God. He calls this sacred place the house of God, or the temple.

Jacob paid a tithing, as did Abraham before him, demonstrating just how ancient this practice is.

An interesting side note is that in legend, Jacob’s stone, sometimes called Jacob’s pillow or the Stone of Scone [pronounced Skoon] made its way to Ireland, Scotland and finally to Westminster Abbey, where it was stolen and now is back in Scotland again. Ancient Gaelic kings were crowned sitting on this stone so great waves of mystery surround it. Could this stone, now held in Edinburgh castle be the real one? Despite all the lore around it, the answer is probably not.


Jacob continues his journey and finally comes to the well of Laban, his mother Rebekah’s brother and son of Bethuel. A well is the center of life and camaderie in any ancient land, and it was a back-breaking job to water the animals. Water rights were protected by covering the well with a heavy stone which usually required the heft of several men to move it.

Now a scene unfolds that deserves to stay alive through history as Rachel comes to the well, and we have the sense that Jacob fell quickly for this “beautiful and well-favored” young woman. Jacob gives her a kiss, as any kinsman would do, but it seems probable that he was a homesick young man who felt gratified that the Lord had led him to this very well and a kinsman.

Significant meetings at a well recur in scripture. Of course, we think of the meeting of Abraham’s servant with Rebekah; Moses’s meeting with the daughters of Jethro, where he will find his bride, and we remember the Savior meeting with the Samaritan woman at a well. A well symbolizes a source of life. Christ is the living water, so, of course, these life-giving events  happen there.


As is the case with many of these encounters with women at the well, the hero of our story, Jacob, is brought to Laban’s home. Unlike Abraham’s servant who had come before with camels laden with gifts to find Rebekah for Isaac, Jacob is essentially on the run from his own country and penniless. The contrast is clear.

He works for Laban a month and then a deal is struck. Here are the romantic, yearning ways the scripture describes it. “And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter…And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. (Genesis 29:18)

Here is a story among our covenant parents of devotion and loyalty. Stephen C. Walker wrote, “It’s easy not to notice; there’s much more than we’re see in those twenty-one simple words condensing seven years. But the force of that titanic tribute to the attractiveness of Rachal and the gallantry of Jacob and the power of the human soul for enduring loyalty is almost totally missed if you miss the unwritten detail between those lines, if you fail to put ourself imaginatively in Jacob’s sandals herding goats and sheep in some place…for seven long sun-withered, wind-blasted, grit-flavored, sheep-stinking, backbreaking years of your own ardently impatient youth.” (Steven C. Walker, “Between Scriptural Lines.” Ensign,  Mar. 1978, (62-73).


Life was about to become more complex, because Rachel had a sister named Leah, and a father who found a way to go back on his word.

Camille Fronk Olson said, “Ancient Jewish commentary “claims the girls were fraternal twins and that their marriages to their twin cousins Esau and Jacob were arranged by Rebekah and Laban from the time of the girls’ births. . . . Another Jewish tradition explains that Leah’s ‘tender’ or weak eyes were the result of continual weeping over a marriage contract that promised her to the wicked Esau. . . . The Bible gives no suggestion that any jealousy existed between the two sisters before their marriages. The implication is that Leah and Rachel were close confidantes who shared hopes and dreams for their future families” (Olson, Women of the Old Testament, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 67).

Suitors had apparently come for Rachel previously, but we see no indication that any had come to pay the bride-price for her less attractive sister, Leah.


Somehow, you feel to weep for both of them as we know what happens. After all this love, all this devotion, all this sweaty, uncompromising work from Jacob, on the bridal night, Leah is switched for Rachel. Olson comments, “The week-long wedding celebration began with a feast attended by members of the larger clan and community. The scriptural narrative does not furnish any clue for whether Leah had the role of bride all week long or just before the official ceremony. Most likely, the dark of night and the bride’s veil prevented Jacob from detecting Laban’s strategy of substituting his elder daughter for the younger as the bride until after their first night together.

“The biblical text reports Jacob’s anger and dismay when he discovered the deception, but no mention is made of the response of Leah or Rachel (Genesis 29:25). What did they think about their father’s marriage schemes for them? Why did the sisters go along with the plan? Did they have a choice?”


This deception that Laban thrust on Jacob, Rachel and Leah will produce untold pain, division and complexities in this family. Two points intrigue us here.

First, When Jacob learned that Laban had given him Leah instead of Rachel, he says, “What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? Wherefore then has thou beguiled me? (Gen. 29:25). Jacob answers him very tellingly, “It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn” (Gen. 29:26).

Jacob has been deceived, and the point here is around the idea of “first born”. Rebekah had it revealed to her that Jacob was to receive the birthright and covenant blessings, but she and Jacob had accomplished it by trickery, though Isaac later confirms his blessing. Now the deceiver is himself deceived, which is indeed a bitter lesson. Jacob had resorted to a ruse, unwilling to let the Lord give him his blessing in His own time and way. With his mother, he had taken matters into his own hands. Was that wrong or inspired? I have always thought it was inspired, but it brings up an interesting parallel.


Robert Alter comments: “It has been clearly recognized since late antiquity that the whole story of the switched brides is a meting out of poetic justice to Jacob—the deceiver deceived, deprived by darkness of the sense of sight as his father is by blindness, relying, like his father, on the misleading sense of touch. The Midrash Bereishit Rabba vividly represents the correspondence between the two episodes: “And all that night he cried out to her, ‘Rachel!’ and she answered him. In the morning, ‘and,…look, she was Leah.’ He said to her, ‘Why did you deceive me daughter of a deceiver? Didn’t I call out Rachel in the night, and you answered me!’ She said: ‘There is never a bad barber who doesn’t have disciples. Isn’t this how your father cried out Esau, and you answered him?’”

Second, Nahum Sarnia points out “retributive justice is not the only motif. Just as Jacob’s succession to the birthright was divinely ordained, irrespective of human machinations, so Jacob’s unintended union issued Levi and Judah, whose offspring…[sustained] the two great institutions of the biblical period, the priesthood and the David monarchy.” Most important is that from Leah, through Judah, would come the lineage of the Savior. The Lord’s plan is not thwarted. (Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, “What are We to Make of Jacob’s Apparent Deceitfulness.”


Camille Fronk Olson notes, “Written marriage contracts were customary throughout the ancient Near East. Before the wedding day, the groom and the bride’s father (or his representative) signed the contract containing all the accepted negotiations. Consequently, Jacob held a solid legal claim against Laban for failing to meet his commitments in the contract and therefore could have been released from his marriage to Leah. Reflecting his weakened position, Laban proposed an appealing solution the moment Jacob accused him of duplicity. If Jacob would give Leah her due attention during the full bridal week, he could also marry Rachel. Furthermore, Laban did not require Jacob to wait until the negotiated seven additional years of labor were completed before relinquishing his second daughter to him, again indicating Laban’s awareness of his vulnerable position.”

“The only evidence of dowries for Leah and Rachel from their father at the time of their weddings was the gift of a handmaid to each of them. Laban gave his servant Zilpah as a handmaid to Leah and his servant Bilhah to Rachel (Genesis 29:24, 29). No mention is made of any inheritance for them. Years later, when Jacob and his family finally left Haran, Leah and Rachel’s lack of inheritance became an important issue.” (Olson, Women of the Old Testament, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book).


This family will have to live with the high emotions of the deception. Jacob and Rachel are sweethearts and Leah is an obligation. Remember that the Lord had told Jacob, “I am with thee, and I will keep thee,” which is exactly what He says to us through our temple covenants. It’s clear, however, that this doesn’t mean that Jacob’s life is without the most wrenching challenges.

It is good to realize that the Lord can be with us, accomplishing his purposes with our lives, and we may still wade through heart-breaking realities. He does not always soften his necessary schooling, but He will hold on to our hand if we submit.

Now we have two sisters, as well as Jacob, who are pulled crosswise by family dynamics. We have no indication that the sisters had been at odds before, but now we have this crack based on a withering reality. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. The scriptures suggest that “the Lord saw that Leah was hated”, and so he “opened her womb” (Genesis 29: 30-32).  


“Hated” is a strong word, which may be overstated here. What seems to be true is that he discounted her, valued her less, ignored her, was blind to her. Olson notes: “In this way, Leah represents those whom God loves, even if no one else seems to. Others may not have been sensitive to Leah’s rejection, but God certainly was. His compensatory care and blessing led her to deeper faith and greater reliance on Him. Leah eventually bore six sons and one daughter. The names she chose for her sons reflect her growing realization that she needed the Lord’s grace and enduring love more than her husband’s attentions and an elevated position in the family. Her sons’ names also serve as reminders of our need for Christ, the Son who opens our communication so that God hears us, joins us to the Father with His At-one-ment, and deserves our eternal praises for His sacrifice on our behalf.

“By contrast, the beautiful Rachel was surrounded by Jacob’s love and attention but bore no children. Her cry, “Give me children, or else I die,” gives painful reality to the void in her life (Genesis 30:1). Her husband’s love and visible gifts did not provide an escape from serious disappointment and trials of faith. As He did for Leah, the Lord would also lead Rachel to where only He could help her. Jacob’s angry response to his beloved wife indicates his realization of the same truth (Genesis 30:2). Rachel, Leah, and Jacob all endured uncertainties and adversities which led them to acknowledge that God was their foundation.”


Two words are juxtaposed in this story. The one is barren, which in this case means Rachel has not been able to have children. But the hard, dusty, bewildering struggles of our lives can make us all feel barren. We can become barren of hope, barren of faith, lonely and unable to find solutions to the problems before us. The complexities of life dash us and sometimes when we need to know the Lord has heard our prayers, we only hear an echo of our prayer coming back to us in a hollow room. We feel barren and dashed when what we want the most is what escapes us, when the miracle we need right now is undelivered and we are left with ashes. Rachel struggled with barrenness, but so did Leah. Feeling unloved is being barren.

When a woman who hopes to be a mother is barren, her disappointment rains upon her regularly, monthly. She is dashed to weeping regularly. But other kinds of barrenness have that same effect. Barrenness leaves you thirsty and withered in waves of heat that break upon your well-being. In Rachel’s case, she believed that the Lord had purposely withheld this blessing from her, that perhaps she was unworthy.

So the word that goes with “barren” here is “wrestled.” The King James version of the Bible quotes Rachel saying, “With great wrestling have I wrestled with my sister”, but many other translations take it farther. They write that Rachel said, “The wrestlings of God have I wrestled with my sister.” She seems to be expressing here an inner conflict, not understanding why the Lord is withholding a blessing from her. This wrestle to come to know God and how and when He gives and doesn’t, how and when he reveals and doesn’t, is common to a life where our thoughts and understandings are so different than His. Just talk to me, we sometimes plead. Will thou just talk to me? Relieve me. Help me.


From our vantage, reading these ancient stories we want to say, “Oh Rachel. Have faith and hold on. From you will come Joseph who will save and bless the entire House of Israel.” And “O Leah, you are remembered. You are the mother of the sons from whom spring so much of the House of Israel. From your son Judah, the Messiah will be born.” But when you are in that minute, you don’t know the big picture or see God’s purposes.

Peter said of Christlike attributes, “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8). Sometimes it is only the need from that very barrenness that awakens us to know God. Our barrenness can be a blessing to drive us to Him as we realize no one else can really help.


After Jesus’s birth, when Herod killed the children of Bethlehem, we see that the longing of Rachel still touches the racial memory of Israel generations later. In Matthew 2: 18, we read, “In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”

Olson notes, “For the patriarchs, a son was the assurance of the continuation of God’s covenant with Abraham…Rachel’s plea, ‘Give me children, or else I die’ (Genesis 30:1) was more than an instinctive maternal desire but was a profound longing to fulfill her responsibility to continue the Abrahamic covenant.”


In this quest for children, Leah would ultimately give Jacob her servant Zilpah and Rachel, would give her servant Bilhah to be additional wives. Between the four of them they would give birth to twelve sons whose posterity are the Children of Israel. We have this tender verse describing when Rachel conceived, “And God remembered Rachel.” So much tenderness is expressed in that. The scriptures say, “God hearkened to her and opened her womb.” When she gave birth to her son she named him “Joseph”, which means “He shall add,” or even more significantly, “He shall gather.” We love those moments when we feel that God has remembered us. In reality, He does not need to remember, because He is always with us.

Jacob was with Laban 20 years, 14 years working to obtain his wives and another six working for Laban taking care of his flocks. We get a glimpse that Laban was a sly character in that he changed Jacob’s wages 10 times, and not in his favor. It was time for Jacob to leave, “Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country,” Jacob said, but Laban resisted. “I have learned by experience that the Lord hath blessed me for thy sake” (Gen. 30: 25, 27). Still, Laban agrees to give Jacob his wages.


Jacob proposed that his wages shall be all the “speckled, spotted, and ringstraked animals”, in other words the animals of abnormal color and more of a rarity. He goes through the flocks and separates those out, keeping Laban’s flocks separate. But God is with him and Jacob flourishes as his cattle and herds grow in strengths and numbers. This not only angered Laban’s sons, we are told that “Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and behold, it was not toward him as before.” The Lord tells Jacob, “Return unto the land of thy fathers.” It is time to go. (Gen. 31: 1-3).

Jacob came empty-handed to see Laban, but he leaves flourishing, both in family and in wealth. Just as God opened the womb of Rachel so she could deliver a child, so did God prosper Jacob. An angel came to him in a dream and told him exactly what to do to prosper with the flocks and herds. This story is clearly about the covenant blessings. Covenants will not erase hardship and real struggle from life. Our covenant father, Jacob, had to take an arduous journey, put himself at risk often, the journey was part of God’s purifying and sanctifying way for him. But the covenant children are blessed and sanctified by their hardships. They are prospered and changed. God even prepares Jacob’s way by sending an angel to Laban’s dream, warning him, “Speak not to Jacob either good or bad” (Gen. 31:24).


Imagine that journey south toward home in Canaan. Jacob has flocks and herds, wives and children, men and maid servants, and some anxiety.

Now, Jacob must face Esau again. Is Esau still boiling in anger? Does he still want to kill him? Jacob beseeches the Lord, “Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children” (Gen. 32:11). This is surely the most impassioned prayer of his lifetime. He is instructed to send great presents to appease Esau, but he can’t be sure of the outcome and while he waits, alone and uncertain, “he wrestled a man with him until the breaking of day” (Gen. 32: 24).

What does this mean? Andrew Skinner notes:

  1. Jacob wrestled all night for a blessing in the face of great trial, in which he, his family, and the fulfillment of the covenant all faced annihilation.
  2. Jacob was asked for his name, and he disclosed his own given name to a divine messenger or minister.
  3. Jacob was then presented with a new name.
  4. Jacob was next given an endowment of power, which would be recognized in the eyes of both God and men.
  5. Jacob was finally given an additional blessing, and the divine minister was not heard from again.

“Jacob is being ushered into the presence of God to have every promise of past years sealed and confirmed upon him.”


This is clearly a temple experience. Another scholar writes:” The Hebrew word for “wrestled” is yea’abek, which can also mean “embrace.” This leads us to believe that there is, in this fragmentary text, the suggestion of ritual embrace, new name, priestly and kingly power bestowed, which has a parallel in the holy endowment. The man had power to change Jacob’s name, and from this struggle Jacob (“he shall supplant”) emerged as Israel (“let God prevail”). Some see a real change in his nature and way of life from this time on.” (Andrew C. Skinner, D. Kelly Ogden, Verse by Verse, The Old Testament Vol. 1 & 2. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book).


Jeffrey Bradshaw writes, “We learn from the story of Jacob that rough-hewing of one’s own ends, trying to leave God out of the picture, is a tedious, sometimes painful, and always futile pastime.

“Man proposes, but God disposes.”[xc] No human folly is more common or more destructive than the attempt to wrest our future from the hand of God so we may place it, as we suppose, securely into our own hands. After the inevitable disaster that follows an awakening from the illusion of exclusive self-reliance, those wise enough to listen will hear the kind, corrective voice of the Father, ‘I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be.’ (Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, What are We to Make of Jacob’s Apparent Deceitfulness?


When Esau and Jacob see each other again, Esau responds with largesse. There is forgiveness and old divisions are buried. The Lord has blessed their wounds and healed them.

That’s all for today. We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this has been Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. Next week we’ll study Genesis 37 through 41. Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and to Michaela Proctor Hutchins our producer. See you next week.