Although Jacob had to leave his family because of his deceit and trickery in stealing the birthright and blessing from Esau, Genesis makes it clear that he was indeed the one through whom God wanted to pass the promises of Abraham. In fact, Isaac directly tells him this, after having apparently come to grips with the promise God made to Rebekah before the twins were born. In Genesis 28:1–5, we see that Isaac sends Jacob off to Rebekah’s family to find a wife who is not like the Canaanite women. In this farewell, Isaac again blesses Jacob, declaring hope that God will make Jacob into a great company of people, and that God will “give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!” (v. 4).
Along the way, Jacob stops to sleep and has a dream involving ladder into heaven, with angels ascending and descending and the Lord at the top speaking to him (vv. 12–15). As the Lord speaks, he specifically reiterates to Jacob the promises originally made to Abraham: the Promised Land of Canaan, offspring as numerous as the dust of the earth, and a channel of blessing to all nations of the earth. The Lord then promises to be with Jacob without fail until these promises are completed.
Jacob wakes up and finally responds the way that he should: with praise and trust in God. He sets up a monument to the Lord and names the place Bethel (“house of God”), and then vows to worship the Lord if he cares for his needs and brings him back to his father’s house in peace (vv. 20–22). It takes twenty or so years, but the Lord does in fact bring him back to Esau in peace (Genesis 33), and Jacob indeed worships the Lord and gives birth to the nation of Israel.
We only looked at a small piece of the beginnings of Jacob’s family, but we catch the gist of it in Genesis 29:24–31. Jacob had arrived at Laban’s house (his mother’s brother) and falls in love with Rachel, Laban’s younger daughter. Laban makes a promise to Jacob that if he works for him for seven years, he can marry Rachel. The seven years go by quickly because of his love for her, and the morning after the wedding he wakes up to find that it had actually been Leah, the oldest sister, that had been given to him in marriage (apparently the wedding was at night time with veils and much alcohol involved). Obviously Jacob is furious because this is not the bride he was promised or with whom he had fallen in love. However, Laban justifies his deceit by stating that the culture’s custom is that the older daughter must be married before the younger daughter is able to be. The solution is simple, though—Jacob can marry Rachel a week later but must work another seven years for the second wife.
There is a great deal of irony here. Jacob tricked and deceived his way into the birthright and blessing, passing himself (the younger son) as the oldest son to his father. Here, Laban gives Jacob a dose of his own medicine by passing off the oldest daughter to Jacob as the younger daughter. Thus, the trickster is tricked. However, even in this unexpected dual marriage, Jacob begins to see the promises fulfilled to him. We didn’t read this in Sunday School, but Genesis 30 details the growth of Jacob’s family to include twelve sons and at least one daughter. Finally, the promise of a great nation is looking more and more realistic.
There are a few lessons to note from this story. First, God is absolutely faithful to his promises. The promises made to Abraham have been trusted for many years, but they are passed from generation to generation. However, they are finally beginning to come to fruition here with Jacob. Second, our sins often still have consequences (even when the Lord forgives). Jacob tricked, and then was tricked himself. His sins did not disqualify him from possessing God’s blessings, but they did make his life more difficult. The New Testament states that you reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7). Lastly, even in the consequences, God is still faithful and gracious. While Jacob did not want two wives, he was tricked into it and there was much strife from that. However, God used that to give him the twelve sons that would then give birth to the nation of Israel. As the Lord promised, he never left Jacob alone but remained faithful in blessing him and fulfilling what he had promised.
Whatever we face, we too can trust in the Lord. While we should always strive to obey the Lord, we will not be perfect. It is so important to remember that the Lord gives grace when we sin and repent, and he will be with us, even through the consequences of our own sins. He is a God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (Exodus 34:6). We can trust him absolutely!