A new Look at Jacob Part 1

A fresh perspective on the third patriarch

Have you heard the Johnny Cash song “A Boy Named Sue”? While very humorous, it speaks of the effect a name can have on one’s life. When they finally meet, his father tells the boy it was his name that made him strong. He said, “I knew you’d have to get tough or die…”.

It has been years since I started this study on Jacob. Each time I have gone back to it more comes to light bringing into question the prevalent teaching concerning this son of Isaac. I believe he has been severely maligned. Not that I think he was a superhuman saint, but then again how many of the very best of the Christian men you know would wait seven years to marry the love of their life and consider it but a few days?

Take a fresh look at how Scripture paints him and you may be surprised! You may even wonder how he got such a bad rap. Of course you are free to disagree as a matter of conscience, but as serious students of the Word, we are called to let it speak. Are you up for a new look at a very old subject?

If the common wisdom is questionable concerning this man whom God renamed Israel, what else might we legitimately question about the “common wisdom,” and in doing so, gain? God says He will make foolish the wisdom of the wise. Most importantly, does following this line of reasoning lead us into conflict with God’s description on any point of Jacob’s character?
In Genesis 25, Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife Rebekah. She was barren. His prayer was answered and she conceived twins. They struggled within her and she asked of the Lord why this should be so. Genesis 25:21-26 {KJV) tells this story:
25:21 And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
25:22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD.
25:23 And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
25:24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there
were twins in her womb.
25:25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they
called his name Esau.
25:26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.

Two nations: Israel and Edom. Two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels: the godly and ungodly, those turned to the flesh and those turned to the Spirit, those chosen by God and those not. One people shall be stronger than the other. The elder shall serve the younger. Please bear in mind that the prophecy concerning the brothers was given to Rebekah. Do you think it possible that part of the reason she loved Jacob was that she believed him to be chosen of God and as time passed she saw how he struggled to live down the name Isaac had given him?

Old testament names mean something and Hitchcock’s defines Esau as “he that acts or finishes” and Jacob as “supplanter; deceiver; the heel”. Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon defines Esau as hairy, and Jacob as heel holder. Verse 26 says “…and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel, and his name was called Jacob…”. This raises a series of questions! Was his act volitional? Was this act, coupled with the prophecy, the basis for Isaac naming him as he did?

Was his act volitional? I think not, he was only seconds out of his mother’s womb. Can you imagine a fetus in the moment of birth intentionally reaching out and grasping anything? His name brought with it an entire character description with which he was forced to live his daily life. If he didn’t adhere to the straight and narrow every minute, someone would say (as we have), “Yes, he really was a conniving trickster, cheating Esau like he did!” as if he had lived his whole life that way.
Jacob lived under the cloud of his name and the arrogance of his brother, the cunning hunter! So, Jacob could certainly have been on the lookout for a way to prove beyond a doubt to his father that Esau didn’t deserve the devotion and favoritism Isaac displayed any more than he deserved to be named ‘heel grabber’, and when Esau came back from hunting that day “perishing” with hunger, and demanding that Jacob give him something to eat, Jacob took advantage of circumstances that would prove the contempt in which Esau held his birthright. He was acting out the view and attitude of the prodigal son’s brother, a very human response to growing up with an overbearing older brother who was father’s obvious favorite!
(Continued in part 2)

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