Pregnant, Rebekah was alarmed over the battle within her body and took her concern to God Who told her there were two children – two nations (!) – inside her womb, and that in violation of tradition, the younger child would rule the older. She gave birth to Esau and Jacob. Remember this.

Father Isaac preferred Esau because Esau enjoyed hunting in the fields and preparing delicious food; mother Rebekah preferred Jacob, he liked to hang out around the house. Remember this.

Rebekah overheard her husband instructing Esau to go hunting and to fix him a special meal, promising to give Esau the family blessing, a declaration of who would assume leadership of the family and most of the possessions following his death – this would impact Esau’s children and future generations. As soon as Esau headed for the fields, Rebekah told Jacob to bring two kids from their flocks so that she could prepare a special meal and send Jacob to claim the blessing. Jacob was concerned that if his father discovered he was Jacob instead of Esau, he would receive a curse instead of a blessing. Rebekah claimed the curse if it came. Remember this. 

Isaac’s eyes were blind from age, so Rebekah clothed Jacob with Esau’s finest garments to identify him with Esau’s scent. And since Esau was hairy, she put skins from the goats on his neck and hands, and sent him in to his father with the meal she had prepared. When Isaac noted how quickly his son accomplished the task, Jacob said it was because the Lord your God blessed me, and he collected his father’s blessing. Remember this.

When Esau discovered the deception, he wept bitterly and pleaded for a blessing. But what his father granted only made him angry enough to kill his brother. This alarmed Rebekah, so she schemed to have her husband send Jacob to her brother Laban in Haran to take a wife, thinking it would be only a short season until Esau’s anger subsided. Remember this.

Sleeping with his head on a stone, Jacob dreamed he saw a ladder with angels ascending and descending between heaven and earth. God appeared in his dream, identified Himself, and promised him the land he was sleeping on, descendants as numerous as the dust of the earth, blessings expanding in every direction, and that through him and his children the families of the earth would be blessed. God promised to be with him, protect him, and bring him back to that land, never leaving him until he accomplished His great Promises. (I can’t help but wonder how many times Jacob’s thoughts returned to this event to hold his heart steady during the years of trial and disappointment that lay ahead. Clearly, God used this dream to equip and encourage him for this long journey.)

Jacob awoke, acknowledging the awe-inspiring Presence of God, defining that site as the house of God, the gate of heaven. He marked the site with the stone he used as a pillow, pouring oil on it and calling it Bethel, meaning House of God. He vowed that if  God would be with him, feed and clothe him, and return him home in peace, then the Lord would be his God, the stone would be God’s house, and he would tithe all that he received.

In Haran, he fell so deeply in love he was willing to work seven years out in the fields to claim his bride, only to discover that as he and his mother had deceived his father and brother, he himself had been deceived by his uncle. Influenced by the wedding wine, in the morning light he discovered that Leah, not his beloved Rachel, was his wife. One can’t help but wonder how Leah would have felt about her role in this ruse and about Jacob’s rage at Laban on what should have been a blissful morning. Remember Esau’s emotions following Jacob’s deception.

Another agreement was made; he’d get Rachel after seven days, but would have to work another seven years! Rebekah, who loved her son so deeply, thought he’d only be gone a few days. He didn’t have a cellphone to call home. Consider the cost of her deception. 

Sibling rivalry continued, now through his wives as they competed in having children and fighting for his affection.

After paying for his brides, Jacob wanted to go home. But Laban enjoyed his free services, the dramatic increase of his personal belongings because God blessed Jacob’s labors, and having his daughters and grandchildren nearby, so Laban agreed to pay whatever Jacob requested. Jacob agreed to continue working if he could have all the speckled and spotted sheep and goats, and all the dark sheep. The visual distinction between their animals would provide evidence of ownership. Jacob’s flocks increased rapidly, providing wealth, servants, camels, and donkeys.

Had things been pleasant, Jacob might have been content to remain in Haran. But family tensions increased as Laban’s sons grumbled, recognizing their wealth was being systematically transferred to Jacob. When God deemed hearts and circumstances appropriate, He told Jacob to return home, promising to be with him. Jacob obeyed God.

Upon discovering his absence, Laban went after him. As we consider their encounter, remember that Esau had loved the fields, but Jacob preferred to spend his time in the tents.

Twenty years Jacob endured the scorching heat and cold, sleepless nights in the fields, caring for Laban’s flocks, having to pay for them if any died or were stolen. His uncle changed his wages ten times, but he had endured his circumstances, recognizing that God was fulfilling His Promise. They parted in peace, but danger remained as Esau set out to meet him with an army of 400 men.

God gave him a wise, diplomatic strategy to counter his brother’s rage. The testing of his faith resulted in the change of his name from Jacob to Israel, through whom the nation would be named.

There are many powerful life-applications to glean from this story. How many can you find in Genesis 25 – 33?
Need encouragement and guidance? There are many hurting or "dysfunctional" families described in the Bible ~
  • Cain killed his brother Abel
  • Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery
  • Reuben had sex with his father's concubine
  • Moses' brother and sister demonstrated jealousy and contempt for his Ethiopian wife
  • David's brothers rebuked him when he took a stand against Goliath, and what devastating heartbreak this father suffered over his children! 
  • Even Jesus' brothers mildly mocked Him
There's much more. This is an excellent topical study to get you through any family  frustration or crisis.