Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 28:20-22

20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,

21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:

22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

We have previously heard mention of tithing in the Old Testament, such as when Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek, but these verses are, in my opinion, the clearest definition of what tithing actually is.

Tithing is a covenant. Jacob is entering into a solemn, two-way agreement with God. On the one hand Jacob is agreeing to give up one tenth (a tithe) of all he possesses to God, and in return God will sustain Jacob in all of the necessities of life: food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over one’s head.

Gifts and offerings to God are not bound but such clearly defined criteria, because they are not solemn covenants. But when we today speak of tithing, we are again referring to this idea of a two-way contract between us and God. And the parameters for us are the same as they were for Jacob. We give a tenth of our increase and we are cared for in our earthly needs. And, for what it’s worth, this is a covenant that I live, and I absolutely have seen God’s hand sustaining me and my family in all of the essentials.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 28:16-18

16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.

17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

“The house of God,” was what Jacob called this place of holy visitation, and he was in a reverential fear of the place! This idea of a house for God will reoccur many times throughout the Bible. Initially the house of God was in the mountains, far and removed from the places of man. Later God instituted the tabernacle through Moses, a specially dedicated place for Him to come and abide while the children of Israel wandered through the desert. Next, God commissioned King Solomon to build him a permanent edifice: the temple. Of course, that temple was eventually destroyed, twice, and where the house of God is today is disputed by the different branches of theology.

I love the detail in verse 18 about Jacob making his altar from the stones he had laid out for his pillow. A common pattern among the “houses of God” is that they are formed through the sacrifice of His people. Here Jacob is in a place of extreme poverty, lacking even the most basic of comforts, yet he gives what very little he has to build a foundation for his God. By surrendering his all to God, he is becoming clay that the Master can form into whatever He wishes.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 28:13-14

13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

Last week I examined the vision of Jacob’s Ladder and noted a number of significant details. However, there was one more point that I thought best to visit separately today. Namely, the difference between the blessing Jacob receives from God in this moment and the blessing he obtained from his father Isaac.

I had always believed that the blessing Jacob obtained by trickery from his father was the same covenant blessing from God to Abraham. But really it isn’t. Here, once more, is the language of the blessing Isaac gave in Genesis 27:28-29:

28 Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:

29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.

An impressive blessing, but not the same as the one from God. Isaac’s blessing is focused more on other people being subservient to Jacob, God’s is about Jacob becoming a great soul that blesses the lives of countless others. Isaac’s blessing reads more like a wish, “God give thee…,” “let people serve thee…,” while God’s is confident and sure, “thou shalt!” Of the two, God’s blessing is the more sublime in purpose and more definite in fulfillment.

And Isaac seems to have known that the blessing he gave was not the same that God could. Here again are his words to Jacob when he left home in Genesis 28:3-4:

3 And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;

4 And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham. 

“Give thee the blessing of Abraham,” meaning that Isaac knows he has not already given that blessing to his son, because he knows it is not his place to do it.

I do wonder whether Jacob and Esau understood that distinction, though. All of their squabble about receiving their father’s birthright and blessing might have been because in their eyes that was the ultimate pinnacle of achievement. Many boys view their father as being essentially God Himself, and only have their eyes opened when they get out on their own as Jacob did.

The things that were incredibly important to Jacob only a few days prior have now become very small. Everything he had hoped to gain from his father has now been eclipsed by the promises of God.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 28:12-15

12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

15 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.

In this moment of lonely isolation Jacob lays down to sleep and has a heavenly vision. We have not been told what sort of spiritual encounters he had before this moment, but surely this was his first time experiencing anything quite like this.

Let us examine a few of the details from this vision.

First, the image of a ladder between heaven and earth and angels climbing up and down it is a wonderful testimony of God’s active interest in the world. This is showing a direct conduit between God and man, and God’s servants being constantly busy with carrying out God’s work among the mortals.

Second, God introduces Himself as the one who blessed and prospered Jacob’s father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham. Surely Jacob was aware of how those men had flourished under the hand of their God, and now he knows that he is being welcomed into the same covenant that they enjoyed.

Third, God now gives to Jacob the same covenant that He instituted with Abraham and continued with Isaac. I have always loved this scene because it shows that God does not give a blessing to our ancestors and then leave us to assume that we have just inherited it also. There are no implicit or assumed blessings when it comes to God, all of them are made directly to each of his children when they are ready to receive it. Rather than being left to assume “God loved my father so he must love me,” Jacob has his own manifestation of that love directly.

Fourth, God speaks directly to Jacob’s worries in that particular moment. He concludes the vision by assuring Jacob that He is with him, that Jacob is not alone, that he will be preserved in this strange land, and that he will be brought back safely, all because he is safely held in the hand of God. What a sweet sign of God’s intimate knowledge of Jacob’s heart and His immense desire to comfort it.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 28:10-11

10 And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran. 

11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

This seems like it would be a very fragile time for Jacob. He was raised in a comfortable home, the son and grandson of rich and powerful men, and he had a delicate disposition, preferring to dwell in his father’s tent than to roam in the wild.

Now he is fleeing from his home, in fear for his life, out in the middle of nowhere, and using hard stones for his pillow! Later in this chapter we will hear what thoughts are weighing on his mind, and he is longing for is “bread to eat, and raiment to put on, and to come again to my father’s house in peace” (Genesis 28:20-21).

Alone, afraid, and in want, this is certainly not the happiest of situations to be in. Yet it is while he is isolated and without earthly comfort that Jacob will finally find his God.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 28:6-9

6 When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padan-aram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan;

7 And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padan-aram;

8 And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father;

9 Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.

Esau witnessed the blessing and charge that Isaac gave to Jacob, and he realized how his own marriage choices had distressed his parents. He therefore married his cousin Mahalath, daughter of Ishmael, Isaac’s brother.

But Esau’s motivation here was to appease his parents. Not an evil desire, of course, but hardly the best reason for following commandments. Esau’s chief concern was not obedience to God or to overcome his base impulses, but to find a quick solution to return himself to the good graces of other people.

But then, that is most often the case with each of us. Most of us try to do good things to appease some worldly influence, and then get frustrated that we can’t keep up that game for long. If we want to change, to truly change, it has to be founded in something more real.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 27:46-28:4

46 And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?

And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.

Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother.

And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;

And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.

Rebekah needed an excuse to send Jacob away from their home, and we know from previous verses that she was distressed by the pagan wives that Esau had married. And so, killing two birds with one stone, she convinced Isaac to send Jacob to her childhood home to find a wife within the covenant.

It is interesting to note in verse 4 how Isaac admits that Jacob is the rightful heir of Abraham’s blessing. Is this Isaac accepting the outcome of Jacob’s trickery then? Is this him showing that even though he had intended to give the blessing to Esau, he was going to honor what had transpired instead?

I think this moment of Isaac reassuring the blessing upon his son is significant. There is no deception this time, there is no being blinded from the truth. Isaac has a perfectly clear and accurate understanding of this moment, and he is using it to show his support of Jacob.