Online Sunday School. “Beginnings: A Study of the Call of God in Genesis” using Kerygma’s study guide. Jacob


Jacob is the founding patriarch, from whom the 12 tribes of Israel claim descent (born of 2 different wives and two different handmaids). Surprisingly for such a figure, Jacob is not particularly moral, but God blesses him anyway.


Read Genesis 25:19 through 34:31.  The Jacob stories are organized symmetrically with three sets of stories

  1. Jacob and his brother Esau. Jacob buys his hungry brother’s birthright for some food, then with the connivance of their mother Rebekkah, conceals himself as Esau and tricks their aging father Isaac out of his blessing. Jacob flees to his uncle Laban.
  2. Jacob and God. At Bethel, Jacob dreams of angels climbing a ladder between earth and heaven. God speaks to Jacob and promises “I am with you, I will keep you and I will bring you back to this land.”
  3. Jacob and Laban connive and cheat each other in various ways. Jacob falls in love with Lathan’s daughter Rachel who is promised to him for seven years’ service, However Lathan then tells him he must marry his older daughter Leah first, and serve seven more years for Rachel. Family conflict is aggravated by Rachel’s barrenness until God intervenes. When God tells Jacob to take his family and flocks and leave, Rachel steals Laban’s gods and successfully hides them when they are pursued.
  4. While awaiting a feared encounter with his vengeful brother Esau, Jacob encounters and wrestles with a mysterious figure, described as a man, an angel and God. They wrestle to a draw, Jacob receives a new name “Israel”(you have striven with God and with humans and have prevailed”) and a blessing, but also an injury that causes him to limp.
  5. Jacob encounters his brother Esau. Esau does not attack or kill Jacob, or take his belongings but embraces kisses him. They then part ways.

What do you make of this story?

Consider these thoughts.

The call of God can be not only a summons to hope and good fortune but also a call to strife and struggle, including struggle with God.

God overcomes and overcomes our notions of convention and propriety, if not right and wrong. Consider 1 Corinthians, 1: 27-29. “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; “

Esau represents an animal like existence while Jacob represents civilization. Jacob is deviously clever while Esau is stupidly impetuous. Jacob believes in deferred gratification and the future while Esau does not. Yet Esau is the most Christian-like person in the story.

Jacob and his family members are very human in their scheming and conflicts, perhaps like our families, and much more so than the obedient Abraham. Does your family story remind you of this one?

The characters are not really in control, God is.

God’s blessing will be worked out in spite of human character. Human freedom must always been seen in the context of a gracious God. Beyond jacon & angelour scheming is a loving forgiving God who can use all types of people in the service of the ultimate, divine purpose.

God acts through Jacob in a way that seems as scandalous as Jacob’s conduct.


Consider the Presbyterian Declaration of Faith, 1977, Chapter Three

God chose one people for the sake of all. To the world in its rebellion and alienation, God promised blessing and restoration. The Lord chose Abraham and his descendants as bearers of that promise for all peoples. They had done nothing more than others to deserve the Lord’s favor, but God loved them and made them his own. We acknowledge God’s freedom and grace. Though we are unworthy, the Lord has made us his own in Christ.”
Sculpture by Karen Schmidt.