Lesson 4 – The Story of Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 25 to 50)

It is necessary to have already read these chapters before continuing this lesson; otherwise you will not profit much from it. Five important points are to be raised:

The two sons of Isaac: Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25,19+)

Rebekah (Rivca), like Sarah her mother-in-law, was Syrian. Genesis 25,20 insists on the revelation of the “Aramaean” origins of Isaac’s wife: “Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramaean of Paddan-Aram, and sister of Laban the Aramaean.” (Genesis 25,20)

Rebekah, like Sarah, was sterile: “Isaac prayed to Yahweh on behalf of his wife, for she was barren. Yahweh heard his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived.” (Genesis 25,21) She carried twins: Esau and Jacob. The first to be born was considered the older and it was customary that he is privileged and inherits the paternal dignity. According to human tradition, it thus falls on Esau, the elder, of inheriting the spiritual mission of Abraham and Isaac, the Messiah having to come from his line, not from that of his twin brother, Jacob.

But God does not let himself be submitted to human customs and considerations, familial or tribal, as is the case here. They are very often racist and dictated by unjust prejudices. He thus established his Covenant with Jacob, not with Esau, although he is the elder. This “Covenant” meant that the Messiah was to come from the line of Jacob.

Indeed, when Rebekah went “to consult God”, He answered her: “There are two nations in your womb… and the elder shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25,23) This is a total upheaval of the mentality of the time and of ancient traditions. The reason -strictly human- for the passing of the birthright to Jacob is that Rebekah “preferred Jacob” because he “was a quiet man, staying at home under the tents”, next to his mother (Genesis 25,27-28). She thus plotted in evading the right of seniority and to give it to her preferred son. By cunning, she obtained that her husband bless Jacob instead of Esau, although “Isaac preferred Esau, for he had a taste for wild game (cooked by Esau); but Rebekah preferred Jacob.” (Genesis 25,28) It was believed, at that time, that the blessing given was effective and irrevocable, not being able to pass to another, whether merited or not (Genesis 27,1-45). It should be noted that “this consultation of God” was practiced by male or female seers who claimed of holding this power of “clairvoyance”. Today still, many claim to hold such a power. The Bible reveals that the Israelites commonly practiced this custom (see Exodus 33,7 / 1 Samuel 14,41 etc…)

The attitude of Rebekah and Jacob in this case are not an example of high morality. The prophets ultimately condemned Jacob’s cunning: Jeremy presents it as an example of deception: “Let each be on his guard against his friend, be mistrustful of your brother, for every brother is a very Jacob…” (Jeremiah 9,3-4). “Yahweh has a case against Israel, he will pay Jacob as his conduct merits… In the very womb he supplanted his brother…”, Hosea also says (Hosea 12,3-4).

But the scribes, wanting to justify Jacob and his mother, presented the story of the lentil dish to the detriment of Esau. He returned famished and “exhausted” from work in the countryside; he told his brother who had prepared a good soup of lentils: “‘Let me eat (as he was so hungry) the red soup, that red soup there (color of the lentils); I am exhausted’”. But Jacob, famished for the birthright, seized the occasion on the spot and exploited it to steal this right from his brother: “First give me your oath”, he retorted. Esau, probably not taking the his brother’s covetousness seriously, acquiesced. “That was all Esau cared for his birthright”, the scribes cynically commented (Genesis 25,29-34).

This story, however, deserves to shake us: it invites us, if we are attentive to it, to revolt facing injustice. Isaac, indeed, note it well, tells his son Esau: “… you shall serve your brother. But when you win your freedom, you shall shake his yoke from your neck.” (Genesis 27,40) We must free ourselves from the yoke of the unfruitful religious traditions.

Another lesson to draw from this story: one must prefer the spiritual over the material, to not “sell our birthright”, which is our right to Eternal life, for a good of temporal nature. It is this teaching which Jesus gives us in refusing, the devil’s request, to transform the stones into bread, despite his hunger, because “Men do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4,4. See also Deuteronomy 8,3) We should be hungry and thirsty for the divine directives. If it is to choose between a material interest and a spiritual one, it is the latter one to choose and the first one to sacrifice, with no looking back, like Lot’s wife did…

God promised Adam and Eve a lineage which will crush the devil’s head. This Savior is the Messiah. God’s Messianic plan began with Abraham, passed on to Isaac, and continued with Jacob.

After having started with Abraham and after having been transmitted to Isaac, the progeny promised by God to Adam and Eve to crush the devil’s, their tempter, passed on to Jacob, who became the third Patriarch. The story of the lentils comes to explain why this lineage did not pass through Esau, although the elder. But this human explanation does not reveal God’s true intention.

The two wives of Jacob (Genesis 28 & 29)

Esau married two Hittites, not Aramaean: this deplored his parents (Genesis 26,34-35) and that was one more reason to resent him. Rebekah, who feared the same for Jacob, intervened next to her husband so that he gives Jacob this order: “You are not to choose a wife from the Canaanite women. Away now to Paddan-Aram (in Aram, Syria), the home of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and there choose a wife for yourself from the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother.” (Genesis 28,1-2) Notice that Isaac invokes on Jacob and his descendants “the blessing of Abraham”. In the divine intention, this blessing means that the Messiah comes from this line of descendants, not that of Esau. The scribes give this blessing a geographical interpretation, namely that Palestine belongs to Jacob’s (the Israelites) descendants, not that of Esau’s (the Arabs). This arises again in the following verse: “… so that you may take possession of the land in which you live now, which God gave to Abraham.” (Genesis 28,3-4)

On route to Syria, Jacob had a dream: God appeared to him at the summit of a ladder which goes up from the ground to Heaven to announce to him that his Covenant with Abraham would continue with him (Genesis 28,12-16). Jesus evoked this dream of the ladder, adapting it to his person and revealing that he is, henceforth, the holder of the Divine Covenant, the successor and heir to the true promises made by God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (John 1,51). He is this ladder that leads from earth to Heaven and permits all those who believe in Him to ascend toward Heaven.

Notice that the belief in the one God did not develop without difficulty. Personal experiences and choices were necessary. Indeed, Jacob was not sufficed with his father’s words. He hesitated to believe in God and his faith was conditional: “If God goes with me… if he gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, and if I return home safely to my father, then Yahweh (solely) shall be my God…” (Genesis 28,20-22).
The story of Jacob’s marriages begin in chapter 29,15. The frantic race between Lea and Rachel (Rahil) to have children appears odd to us. We should read these narrations whilst taking into account the period’s mentality: a husband’s esteem was measured according to the number of children, as the offspring was considered as a sign of divine blessing.

This unrestrained race for procreation between the two wives, to which the maidservants Zilpah (of Leah) and Bilhah (of Rachel) contributed, gave Jacob 12 boys and a girl. These 12 sons of Jacob are the ancestral founders of the 12 tribes of Israel, the first monotheistic community called to reveal to the world, with kindness, the one Creator. The prophets denounced the infidelity and ill-management of this first group of believers.

Being enriched, Jacob wanted to be independent of Labban, his father-in-law. He thus flees towards his native land, Canaan. Notice that, in the precipitation of the voyage, Rachel insisted to carry with her the idols of the gods whom she still worshipped in spite of her marriage with Jacob (Genesis 31,34). To note then, that the belief in the one God grew gradually and with time in the hearts of the ancestors. We should not be surprised. Still today, 4000 years after Abraham, we find a great number of Jews, Christians, and Muslims who do not believe in God… or who believe in Him in the wrong way, in a fanatic way, with a fundamentalist, fetishistic, non-renewable mentality.

Jacob’s “wrestling” against God (Genesis 32,24-33)

Jacob, on his return to Canaan, had another divine apparition: “There was one that wrestled with him until daybreak”. This “one” is God in human form, like the three “men” who appeared to Abraham (Genesis 18).

The “wrestling” between God and Jacob is symbolic: God wants to mold Jacob, to model him to his Holy Spirit, but man refuses to let himself be done so by his Creator. Seeing that Jacob resisted Him, God gives him the name “Israel”, which means “to wrestle against God” (Genesis 32,29).

In analyzing this fact, one concludes that Jacob wanted unconsciously to be equal to God, to face him as a rival. It is why his behavior was condemned by the prophets. Indeed, Hosea says: “Yahweh has a case against Israel, He will pay Jacob as his conduct merits… In the very womb he supplanted his brother, in maturity he wrestled against God… and beat Him”, concludes Hosea ironically (Hosea 12,3-4). It is by violence and personal interest, not by love and justice, that Jacob wanted to steal God’s blessing, exactly as he had done in robbing the blessing destined for Esau from his father.

After this incident, God gives Jacob another name: “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel (Isra=wrestle, and EL=God), since you have been strong against God, you shall prevail against men. (he “fought” against his brother Esau, a man, and stole his birthright)”, God declared to him ironically (Genesis 32,29). This resistance applies to the scribes and pharisees who always resisted God and his prophets. The latter, before Jesus and the Apostles, did not fail to denounce the refractory attitude of the religious chiefs toward God (see Isaiah 1,2-3 / Micah 1,5 / Jeremiah 2,20 / Matthew 23 / 1 Thessalonians 2,14-16). One must see in Jacob’s “triumph” in his fight against God, the same divine irony that was addressed to Adam after his fall (Genesis 3,22).

The Biblical scribes claim that God “blessed him (Jacob) there” (Genesis 32,30). In this “blessing”, there is a contradiction with the words of the prophets cited above: it is a supplement added by the “lying pen” of the scribes (Jeremiah 8,8) to justify their own resistance to God in presenting it as acceptable, seen as “blessed” by God. It is why God says to the Israeli community through Isaiah: “Your first father (Jacob-Israel) sinned, your mediators (the scribes and other religious chiefs who interpreted the Biblical texts) have rebelled against me. Your princes have profaned my sanctuary. So I have handed Jacob over to the ban, and Israel to insults.” (Isaiah 43,27-28) So where does this alleged blessing of Jacob come from? It comes from the interpreters and scribes, also revolters against God, like Jacob. He, because of his resistance against God, was named Israel. This name passed down to his descendants, heirs of the same resistance.

Still today, this fight against God is symbolized by the State of Israel. The Zionists continue politicizing Judaism, Jacob’s fight against God and men: against God by the refusal to admit that the mission is uniquely spiritual and universal Judaism and by their rejection of Jesus, and against men by the unjust and violent occupation of a land which does not belong to them, all while claiming to be the “chosen people”.

Many so-called believers, from all sides, deserve to be called “Israel” because, while saying to God, “Thy will be done,” they stubbornly impose their own will against God and men, disregarding God and men.

The 12 sons of Jacob: The 12 tribes of Israel (Genesis 35,22-26)

Jacob had 12 sons and one daughter from his two wives and their two maidservants.

Lea had 6 sons and one daughter:

  • Ruben (the eldest): He slept with Bilhah (maidservant of Rachel: Genesis 35,22) and, because of that, did not obtain a blessing from his father (Genesis 49,3-4).
  • Simeon and Levi: they committed a racist and treacherous crime (Genesis 34,25-31) which drew on them the curse of their father (Genesis 49,5-7). Moses and Aaron his brother, descendants from this cursed tribe of Levi, chosen by Moses to be the only sacerdotal tribe, ie the tribe which gives the priests to sacrifice the animals (Numbers 3,45).
  • Judah: from his tribe comes the Messiah (not of the tribe of the eldest, Ruben). This is why Jacob praises Judah (Genesis 49,8-12).
  • Issachar and Zebulun.
  • Dinah, lastly is Jacob’s only daughter.

Rachel had 2 sons:

  • Joseph: His half-brothers were jealous of him and sold him. He became very powerful in Egypt where he ended up accommodating his whole family.
  • Benjamin: the last-born child of Jacob, the “Benjamin”.

Bilhah (maidservant of Rachel) had 2 sons:

  • Dan
  • Naphtali

Zilpah (maidservant of Leah) had 2 sons:

  • Gad
  • Asher

Chapter 49 of Genesis reports the prophecies of Jacob concerning each one of his children. The most important is that of Judah because from the Messiah would come. He was called “The Lion of Judah” because this prophecy qualifies Judah as “the lion cub” (Genesis 49,9). The Book of Revelation allots this messianic title to Jesus (Revelation 5,5).

The tribe of Judah has held the messianic role in Jewish history. It gave the kings who ruled in Judaea, David and his dynasty, from which came the Messiah. Genesis 38 indicates the descendant of the Messiah, by Judah and Tamar, through a non-matrimonial union. Matthew 1,3 designates this genealogy. It is Judah who had revolted against his brothers following the sale of Joseph. He had left his family and married a Canaanite, not a Jewess. He intervened with his brothers to save Joseph’s life (Genesis 37,26). This noble attitude earned him the praises of his father (Genesis 49,9) and the merit of being the ancestor of the Messiah.

According to the prophecy of Jacob concerning Judah (Genesis 49,9-12), the Messiah was to abolish the royalty in Israel, not to consolidate it as the Jews, and the Apostles themselves believed (Acts 1,6). It actually says: “The scepter shall not pass from Judah, nor the mace from between his feet, until he come to whom it belongs (the Messiah), to whom the peoples shall render obedience.” (Genesis 49,10) The scepter, symbol of royalty, will thus remain until the arrival of the Messiah. He must seize the crown to proclaim universal and spiritual reign, according to God, not a politico-military one, according to men.

The reason for the destruction of the Israeli kingdom -we shall see that later- is that it was established by the Jews against God’s will. But if the Messiah comes to abolish the temporal royalty of an Israeli State, it is to build his spiritual and universal Kingdom according to Jacob’s prophetic words to his son Judah: “The scepter shall not pass from Judah… until he come to whom it belongs (the Messiah), to whom the peoples shall render obedience.” (Genesis 49,10) The royalty will thus cease in Israel, but after the arrival of the Messiah who will proclaim himself spiritual King of all nations. In fact, after Jesus, the political Kingdom ceased in Israel when Titus invaded Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. Since then, the spiritual and universal Kingdom of the Messiah, Jesus, the “Lion of the tribe of Judah”, was definitively established. To him belongs the “Scepter” forever.

The tribe of Judah (“Yehudah” in Hebrew) gave its name to the Jews (“Yehudim” in Hebrew, and “Yahoud” in Arabic). The English translation of the two words (“Yehudah” becoming “Judah” and “Yehudim” becoming “Jewish”) does not reveal, like in Hebrew and Arabic, this relation between the tribe of Judah and the Jews (Yehouda and Yehoudim). The words “Jew” and “Judaism” are derived from the name of this tribe which, because of its Messianic qualification, had great importance in all the community. The Jews claimed his name for themselves, becoming the “Yehudim“, to present themselves as the people of the Messiah, issue of the tribe of “Yehudah“, just as they had adopted the name of Israel to mean that they are Jacob’s descendants, named “Israel”.

The disciples of Jesus called themselves “Christians” because they believe that He is the “Christ“. Thus, the Messiah, is at the centre of the two communities and their point of reference. In Him, they define themselves and find their identity. He is the All-for-All in the Old and New Testaments.

So then, Judaism and Christianity talk about the Messiah: Judaism awaiting his Advent, and Christianity proclaiming this Advent in the person of Jesus. And so, a “Christian” is who recognizes in Jesus the announced Christ. We should therefore no longer wait for another as the Jews do.

The Jewish community had as mission, of spreading the knowledge of God and the future advent of the Messiah. The Christian community, on the contrary, testifies to the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies by Jesus, presenting him as the awaited and unique Messiah, and that we should no wait for another (Matthew 11,2-3).

The 12 sons of Jacob therefore had no political mission. Their mission was uniquely spiritual and consisted of getting to know God, and announcing the future advent of the Messiah in their community and the whole world. Also, the 12 tribes are not only the spiritual ancestors of the Jews, but of all who believe that Jesus is really the one and only Christ of God.

It should be known that the word “Messiah” is derived from Hebrew “Meshiah”, which means “Anointed”, the One who receives the unction of God. The word “Christ” is derived from the Greek “Christos” which also means “The Anointed“, the chosen one of God. It is by the unction that kings were enthroned. Now, the Messiah is the King of both worlds and his unction comes directly from God.

The 12 tribes in Egypt (Genesis 37 to 50)

With the story of Joseph, we saw how the “sons of Israel” ended up in Egypt around 1700 B.C. They remained there for four centuries, growing in number. The account of the Covenant “of the halves” between God and Abraham had “prophesied” this event (Genesis 15,13-15). We should not ignore that this story was put down in writing about 1000 B.C. The stay in Egypt and the exit from this country had thus already taken place. The scribes added this “prophecy” later.

This stay in Egypt strongly marked the Israelite community which, with time, had forgotten God and let themselves be contaminated to practice Egyptian idol worshipping. This exposed the Messianic plan of God to danger.

In order to pursue this plan successfully, God charged Moses to get the Israelites out of Egypt four centuries after their entry. The Book of Exodus, which we will see in the fifth lesson, reports the narrative of this exit. With Jacob, 70 Israelites had taken refuge in Egypt (Genesis 46,27); with Moses 600,000 exited 400 years later (Exodus 12,37).

We should retain the two dreams of Joseph when he was 17 years old: that of the wreathes of his brothers which bowed to his and that of the sun, of the moon and the eleven stars which did the same before him (Genesis 37,2-11). Retain the two dreams of the Pharaoh too: that of the cows and that of the ears of grain (Genesis 41,1-7). God often speaks to men in dreams and reveals Himself to them in that manner.

The Creator announces the same message under two different forms: first to Joseph, then to Pharaoh. God thus speaks by dreams. But it is also necessary to be prudent: there are some satanic sources in our dreams. It is thus necessary to discern the source and well-interpret the meaning of the messages thus received, and making sure that they come from God. We must pray well to understand them, and act wisely as a consequence. God has often employed this method in the Bible, and particularly in the Book of Revelation, where the same message is announced in repeated visions, but under various forms, like the dreams of Joseph and Pharaoh. The prophet Joel informs us, on behalf of God, that He manifests himself to his chosen in dreams and visions: “After that, I shall pour out my Spirit on all humanity. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old people will have dreams, and your young people see visions…” (Joel 3,1).

Genesis ends with the Israelites in Egypt, Jacob having been buried in Canaan (Palestine), in the current city of Hebron (in Arabic “El Khalil”), there where Abraham and Isaac are buried (Genesis 50,12-13). This place is, today, a mosque that the Jews want to recuperate.

Before dying, Joseph warned his brothers that “God will be sure to remember you kindly and take you back from this country to the land that he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” He demands that his bones are carried with them (Genesis 50,24-25). This is what Moses did whence leaving Egypt with the Israelites (Exodus 13,19).

The expression “God will visit you” is to be retained. It returns often in the Bible. God “visits” by an envoy, a prophet, to communicate a message, or by happy or unhappy events, to reward or to punish. This expression means that God is the cause of these events: “Suddenly, unexpectedly, you shall be visited by Yahweh Sabaoth with thunder, earthquake, mighty din…” prophesied Isaiah against Jerusalem, the wicked (Isaiah 29,6 / also see Jeremiah 29,10 / Amos 3,2 / Luke 7,16 and 19,44). God visits you and solicits you through the Biblical study…

Questionnaire recapitulation

  1. Have you done your “de-conditioning” and “Become aware”?
  2. Why do you study the Bible and not another holy book?
  3. Are you sure that the biblical text that you are studying is authentic? Why?
  4. Do you experience joy studying the Bible? What do you feel?
  5. Explain the accounts of creation and oral traditions.
  6. What does “God created man in his image” mean? Are you like this image?
  7. How do you imagine the state of man in Paradise before the fall? And after?
  8. How do you understand the sin of Adam and Eve?
  9. Explain Genesis 3,15. How does it relate to Abraham?
  10. God accepted Abel’s offering, not that of Cain. Why?
  11. Who was Abel’s successor?
  12. What did you understand of the flood and of the descendants of Noah?
  13. What do you know of the epic of Gilgamesh?
  14. How do you understand Genesis 6,1-4? Genesis 10? Genesis 15? Genesis 18,1-15? Genesis 32,23-33? Genesis 49,8-12?
  15. What was the goal of God’s plan with Abraham?
  16. Which of the two concepts is right: “chosen people” or “a formed community”? Why?
  17. Sarah expelled Hagar and Ishmael. Comment.
  18. Circumcision, baptism by water divine, are they divine requirements for the salvation of the soul?
  19. What did you understand of Melchizedek?
  20. What did you understand of Sodom and Gomorrah?
  21. Lot’s wife was transformed into a statue of salt. Comment.
  22. The 12 tribes of Israel. Explain.
  23. Comment on the dreams of Joseph and of Pharaoh.
  24. Who is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”? Why this name?
  25. Establish the Messianic line from Abraham to Judah.
  26. Why do the Jews want to take back the Mosque of Hebron and that of Omar’s in Jerusalem? (The mosque of Hebron is built on the site where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were buried. The mosque of Omar, in Jerusalem, is built on the presumed site where Abraham was in preparation of offering Isaac in sacrifice. Solomon had built the 1st Temple there, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, then again by Titus in 70 AD. In the VIIth century AD, the Caliph, Omar Ibn-el-Khattab built a mosque on this same site).