Connections 07.23.2023: Jacob and the Lord

Genesis 28:10-19a

As Genesis 28 starts, we read that “Isaac sent Jacob away” (v. 5). Why? Because Jacob deceived his father Isaac into giving him the blessing that belonged to his twin brother, Esau. “Esau hated Jacob” for this (Gen 27:41), and it’s hard to blame him for that, considering the power of a father’s blessing in biblical times. Esau was angry enough to kill Jacob, and when their mother Rebekah heard about that, she told her beloved son to leave home and head to his uncle Laban’s place, at least until Esau could calm down (27:42-45).

Isaac agreed with her, and in today’s lesson text we find Jacob on his journey to Laban, leaving the life he has known, fleeing his brother’s wrath. Exhausted from travel as the sun sets, he finds a place to sleep. We can only imagine what went through his mind as he adjusted his head on the rock, trying to get comfortable and staring at the night sky. Did he have regrets at this point? Was he sorry about what he did to his twin brother? Were the twinges of guilt settling over his conscience now that he was far from home?

If he did have any of these feelings, what happened next must have reassured him. Using a common method of spiritual communication in the Bible, God comes to Jacob in a dream. Jacob sees angels going up and down a vast staircase connecting heaven to earth, and then he finds God standing right beside him. The words God speaks must seem overwhelming: “the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring, and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring” (28:13-14).

Not bad for a guy who has specialized in deceit and thievery. But rather than inflating Jacob’s ego even further, God’s promise seems to humble him. When he wakes up, he is “afraid” (v. 17) and awestruck. He recognizes that God is truly present with him, and he marks the occasion with a small monument, naming this place where he has encountered the Lord Bethel, “house of God” (v. 19, NRSVUE footnote).

Surely this encounter puts Jacob in his place. It sets the tone for the rest of his journey—both to Laban’s home and through the remainder of Jacob’s life. There will be ups and downs, twists and turns, but God never forsakes the promise to be with Jacob wherever he goes (v. 15). Perhaps this promise is what later leads Jacob into a spirit of remorse and reconciliation concerning his brother. Perhaps it’s why we remember him even today.


• Considering the events of last week’s lesson (Genesis 25:19-34), what are your feelings about Jacob as we enter Genesis 28? Is he admirable, detestable, or something else?
• Do you think his “punishment” for deceiving his family is justified? Or would Esau think he has gotten off easy?
• In Scripture, God often communicates with people through dreams and visions. Do you think God still does this today? How can we discern God’s message?
• Why do you think God seems to favor Jacob in this dream? How do you think the dream made Jacob feel? Did it make him a better person?
• How can you cultivate a spirit of openness and humility as you listen for God to speak to you?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.


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