Genesis 28:1-9 The Pattern Continues
The pattern continues, as Isaac counsels Jacob regarding the importance of his choice in a marriage partner, then sends Jacob to Haran (called “Padan-aram” in this chapter) to find a wife among Jacob’s cousins (the daughters of his uncle, Laban, who was the brother of Jacob’s mother, Rebekah; verses 1-2). Isaac then pronounces upon Jacob the blessings associated with the Abrahamic covenant (verses 3-4).
Meanwhile, Jacob’s twin Esau had already married multiple women (presumably Canaanites, among whom they lived). Learning that Isaac did not want Jacob to marry a Canaanite, Esau appears to attempt to gain favor with his father Isaac by marrying again, this time to his cousin Mahalath (the daughter of Abraham’s son, Ishmael; verses 6-9).
Genesis 28:10-22 “Surely the Lord Is in This Place”
Before meeting Rachel, there is a significant spiritual prelude for Jacob, in which he has a visionary experience:
- Some have suggested that Jacob’s vision of the ladder reaching to heaven can represent a temple experience, with the rungs symbolizing temple covenants. This may be why Jacob called the place Bethel (verse 19), which means “a holy place” or “house of the Lord.”
- What are the sweet, wondrous promises the Lord made to Jacob, in verses 13-15?
- An interesting sideline shows up in verse 17, wherein Jacob says, “How dreadful is this place!” Many
English Bible versions use the word “awesome” here, instead of dreadful, yet others use words such as “fearful,” “frightening,” “terrifying,” and “scary.” If the latter is the correct sense, this verse may be referring to an attempted interruption by Satan, trying to interject himself into Jacob’s vision of the Lord; similar to Joseph Smith in the First Vision, Moses in Moses 1:12-22, and Abraham in Genesis 15:12.
- In any event, the Lord prevailed and Jacob sets up a pillar or monument to the Lord (verse 18) and declared the place to be the House of God (verse 19, footnote a; see also verse 22).
- What vows did Jacob make in verses 20-22? Among the “gods” to which Jacob had been exposed during his life, he determinately declared that Jehovah shall “be my God.”
Have you declared in your heart that the Lord is the God you choose to follow? Do you live in such a way that there are “no other gods” in your life? (see Exodus 20:3-6).
Genesis 29-30 Jacob and His Wives
As in the case of Isaac and Rebekah, the story of Jacob and Rachel coming together in marriage displays the hand of the Lord. Read 29:1-20, looking for evidence of God’s involvement. As seen in these chapters, in this life we do not behave perfectly and we do not love perfectly, but the Lord still labors with us and through us to carry out His purposes.
The narrative of Laban’s deception against his nephew Jacob (29:21-30) is another perplexing account, yet the Lord turns it into the beginnings of the house of Israel (verses 31-35; see also Genesis 30:1-24; 35:16-20, 23-26).
The statement in 30:22, “God remembered Rachel,” and the blessing that follows in verses 23-24, can be considered a pattern for faith and patience in our lives, as well as the goodness and mercy of our God.
Looking back on what you have read in Genesis 29-30, what did Jacob, Laban, Leah, and Rachel really want? How did they go about obtaining their desires? Did they follow gospel principles? Did they seek the Lord’s guidance? In what ways did the Lord help them? What lessons do you learn for yourself?
Genesis 31-33 “I Will Be With Thee”
Jacob’s grandfather and his father, Abraham and Isaac, had resolved potential conflicts through Christlike charity (see Genesis 13:5-12, 26:17-33). Find the following:
- In Genesis 31:1-7, 14-55, what were the issues between Jacob and Laban? How were they resolved? What help did the Lord provide?
- In Genesis 32:3-23; 33:1-15, what were the issues (or potential issues) between Jacob and Esau? (Remember, Genesis 27:41 states that Esau hated Jacob and planned to kill him.) How were the issues between Jacob and Esau resolved? What help did the Lord provide?
- Note Jacob’s profound humility before the Lord in 32:10; see also Ether 3:2-3.
- Note that after these tension-filled events, Jacob built an altar to God and named it El-elohe-Israel, which means “El is the God of Israel” (Genesis 33:20; “El” is one of the Old Testament names for God).
How do you manage (or seek to prevent) conflict and strife in your life? In what ways do you seek the Lord’s involvement?
Genesis 32:24-30 “Thy Name Shall Be … Israel”
After extensive preparation for his meeting with his brother Esau, Jacob has another personal experience with God. This account is a little difficult to understand, but we may note the following:
- The “man” or “messenger” in these verses is unidentified, except for the chapter heading’s statement that he is a messenger of God. However, in verse 30 Jacob states that he had seen God.
- Jacob’s “wrestle” with the messenger appears to be a literal, physical encounter, but it was more likely a spiritual wrestle, like unto that experienced by Enos in the Book of Mormon (see Enos 1:1-4, 10-12).
- Also, like Enos, Jacob’s struggle appears to last an extended period of time (Genesis 32:24; Enos 1:4).
- Jacob asked the messenger of God to pronounce a blessing upon him (Genesis 32:26; see also Enos 1:48)
- Jacob is given a new name, “Israel” (verse 28), indicative of his experience of persevering with God. But more significantly, “Israel” may also be translated, “let God prevail” (see verse 28, footnote b).
- The messenger continued, telling Jacob, “as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (verse 28).
- Jacob memorialized this life-changing encounter by naming the place “Peniel,” which means “face of God”; the chapter heading states that Jacob “sees God face to face.”
Brother Hugh Nibley considers this experience to be temple-like, wherein Jacob did not actually wrestle with an angel, but rather that he embraced God, having also received a new name and priestly and kingly power (see Temples of the Ancient World, p. 580; see also Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 2nd edition, p. 434).
Regarding Jacob’s new name, in the October 2020 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson taught, “One of the Hebraic meanings of the word Israel is ‘let God prevail.’ Thus the very name of Israel refers to a person who is willing to let God prevail in his or her life. That concept stirs my soul!… Are you willing to let God prevail in your life? Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life? Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day? Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other? Are you willing to let whatever He needs you to do take precedence over every other ambition? Are you willing to have your will swallowed up in His?” (“Let God Prevail,” October 2020 general conference).