The Fugitive

Chapter 11

Jacob and Esau, the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, were very unlike in their character and in life. An angel of God foretold this difference before their birth. In answer to Rebekah’s troubled prayer, he told her that two sons would be given her and opened to her their future history. He told her that each would become the head of a mighty nation, but that one would be greater than the other and that the younger would have the pre-eminence. God knows the end from the beginning. He knew before the birth of the brothers what characters they would develop. He knew that Jacob would have a heart to obey Him, while Esau would center all of his interest in the present world.

The firstborn son in a family was entitled to special advantages and privileges, known as the birthright. Esau and Jacob were taught to consider this birthright a matter of great importance; for it included not only an inheritance of worldly wealth, but the privilege of spiritual leadership. The son who received it was to be the priest of his family; and in the line of his children, the Redeemer of the world was to be born.
Because the angel had told Rebekah that the older son would serve the younger, she understood the birthright blessing to properly belong to Jacob, the young brother. Isaac, however, loved Esau more than Jacob. He admired the bold, courageous spirit that Esau showed in hunting; and he determined to give him the birthright blessing.

Jacob had learned from his mother, however, of the divine intimation that the birthright should fall to him; and he longed more than words can express for the blessings and privileges that it would confer. It was not his father’s wealth that he desired so much as the spiritual blessings. His mind was ever reaching forward to the future and seeking to grasp its unseen blessings.

With an intense desire to obtain the birthright, Jacob listened to all his father told concerning the blessing. Day and night the subject occupied his thoughts until it became the all-consuming interest of his life.

Coming home one day faint and weary from a hunt, Esau asked for the food that Jacob was preparing. Jacob, ever mindful of the birthright, took the opportunity to bargain with his brother. He offered to satisfy his hunger at the price of the birthright. “Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.” A short time at most would have secured him food in his father’s tents; but to satisfy the desire of the moment, he carelessly traded away his birthright. His whole interest was in the present, and he was ready to sacrifice heavenly interests for a momentary indulgence.

Esau took two wives who were worshipers of false gods, and their idolatry was a bitter grief to Isaac and Rebekah. In marrying unbelievers, he had violated one of the conditions of the covenant; yet Isaac was still unshaken in his determination to place upon him the birthright. The reasoning of Rebekah, Jacob’s strong desire for the blessing, and Esau’s indifference to its obligations were of no effect in changing the father’s purpose.

Years passed on, until Isaac, old and blind and expecting soon to die, determined to no longer delay in placing the blessing upon his elder son. In accordance with the custom of making a feast upon such occasions, Isaac said to Esau, “Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death: now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison; and make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.”

No sooner had Esau left than Rebekah, who had overheard his conversation with his father, set about to see that Jacob received the blessing. She told her plan to Jacob, but the idea of deceiving his father caused him great distress. His mother’s insistence finally overcame his unwillingness, and reluctantly he followed her suggestion. After killing two kids from the flock so his mother could prepare a meat dish for his father, Jacob put on a garment belonging to his brother. Esau, however, was a very hairy man. To make the deception more complete, Rebekah covered Jacob’s hands and neck with portions of the skin from the slain kids.

Going into his father’s presence, Jacob said, “My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son? And Jacob said unto his father; I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison; that thy soul may bless me. And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly; my son? And he said, Because the Lord thy God brought it to me. And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not. And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, the voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy as his brother Esau’s hands: so he blessed him. And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am.” In deceiving his father and gaining the desired blessing, Jacob sinned against his father; his brother and against God. Rebekah and Jacob should have waited for God to work out His own plans in His own way. However, like many who now claim to be children of God. They were unwilling to leave the matter in His hands. In one short hour, he made a mistake for which he would repent the rest of his life.

Threatened with death by his angry brother, Jacob went out from his father’s home a fugitive. Before he left, Isaac had renewed to him the covenant promise and had bidden him, as its inheritor, to seek a wife of his mother’s family in Mesopotamia.

The evening of the second day after his departure found Jacob far away from his father’s tents. He feared that the God of his fathers would have nothing to do with him because of his wrong course of action. Before falling into a troubled sleep, with weeping and deep humiliation he confessed his sin and begged for some evidence that he was hot utterly forsaken.

God had not forsaken Jacob. His mercy was still extended to His erring; distrustful servant. Compassionately He revealed just what Jacob needed—a Saviour. As he slept, he dreamed he saw a ladder, bright and shining, whose base rested upon the earth while the top reached to heaven. Upon this ladder angels were ascending and descending. At the top was the Lord of glory; and from the heavens His voice was heard saying: “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac.” The promise that had been given to Abraham and to Isaac, was now renewed to Jacob. Then the assurance was given: “And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” Gratitude filled Jacob’s heart when he saw that, though he had sinned, there was a way by which he could be restored to the favor of God.

How different was Jacob’s arrival at his uncle’s home than that of Abraham’s servant nearly a hundred years before! The servant had come with a train of attendants riding upon camels and with rich gifts of gold and silver; the son, in contrast, was a lonely, footsore traveler, with no possessions other than the staff in his hand. On making known his relationship, he was welcomed to the home of Laban. Though he came with no earthly goods, a few weeks showed his value as a worker; and Laban urged him to remain with the family. It was arranged that he should work seven years in return for the privilege of marrying Rachel, Laban’s younger daughter.

Jacob gave seven years’ of faithful service for Rachel; but because of his great love for her, the years seemed to him to be but a few days. When he had completed the seven years as agreed upon, the selfish and grasping Laban practiced a cruel deception on Jacob. In the place of Rachel, Laban gave him Leah, his oldest daughter. The fact that Leah herself was a party to the cheat caused Jacob to feel that he could not love her. When he expressed his anger, Laban offered to give him Rachel if he would work another seven-year period. This placed Jacob in a very difficult position. He finally decided to keep Leah and marry Rachel also. Rachel was always the one he loved, which led to envy and jealousy between the sister-wives.

For twenty years Jacob remained in Mesopotamia, laboring in the service of Laban, who, with no thought to the fact that they were close family, continually tried to cheat him in his wages.

As time passed by, Laban became envious of Jacob’s greater prosperity. His sons shared their father’s jealousy, and their angry words were reported to Jacob. Recognizing that Laban did not view him as favorably as he once did, he determined to return to his homeland. He would have left long before but for the fear of meeting Esau; but now he felt that he was in danger from the sons of Laban, who, looking upon his wealth as their own, might try to take it from him by violence. Not knowing which way to turn, he asked direction of God. In a dream, his prayer was answered: “Get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.”

It was the spring of the year and Laban and his sons were at some distance shearing their flocks. Laban’s absence afforded opportunity for Jacob and his family to leave with their flocks and herds. After three days, Laban learned of their flight and set out in pursuit, overtaking the company on the seventh day of their journey. He was hot with anger and bent on forcing them to return. He would no doubt have successfully accomplished his purpose had the Lord not interposed in Jacob’s behalf. The night before He caught up with Jacob, the Lord appeared to Laban in a dream and warned him that he was not to threaten Jacob, nor was he to offer him rewards for returning with him. “It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt,” said Laban, “but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.” That is to say, he should not force him to return, or urge him by flattering proposals.

Though Laban had cheated Jacob in the matter of his marriages and had always tried to take advantage of him, when he finally caught up with them, he reproved Jacob for having left without allowing him an opportunity to make a parting feast or even to properly tell his daughters and their children farewell.

In reply, Jacob plainly outlined the dishonorable course of conduct that Laban had followed toward him, in contrast to his own course of faithful service. Laban could not deny the facts; and he now proposed that they enter into a covenant of peace, to which Jacob agreed. Together they erected a pile of stones as a token of their agreement. They then spent a friendly evening together. The next morning, Laban and his company left; and with their departure ended all trace of connection between the children of Abraham and his family in Mesopotamia.

This chapter is based on Genesis 25–31

◄Table of ContentsChapter 12►