Peace train

When Jacob had moved to Haran twenty years earlier, Esau had also moved away from his father’s house. He had taken his wives, children, livestock, and possessions, and settled in the hill country of Seir. Now, as Jacob and his entourage drew closer to his brother, he decided to dispatch couriers ahead of them to seek peace with Esau.

When the messengers arrived, they said to Esau, “Your servant Jacob has been living with your Uncle Laban until recently. He now has oxen, donkeys, sheep, and slaves, and he sent us in hopes that you’ll receive him on friendly terms.”

“Tell Jacob,” Esau answered, “that I’m coming to meet him with an army of four hundred.”

When they returned and told Jacob what Esau had said, Jacob was terrified. He split his camp into two companies and divided his livestock equally, so that half of his estate could still survive the wrath of Esau.

Then he prayed. “O God, O Master, you told me to go back home and said you’d be with me. I went to Haran with a shepherd’s crook and a father’s blessing, and I’m now a very rich man. I’m not worthy of your love and faithfulness, but I ask that you save me and my family from my brother. You said you’d make my offspring like the countless sands of the shore.”

Jacob continued to pray into the night until he fell asleep. The next morning, he brought out two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, gave them to a servant and said, “Deliver these goats to my brother and say, ‘These are a peace offering from your servant Jacob, and he is coming behind us.’”

Then he took two hundred ewes and twenty rams from his flock. He gave them to another servant and told him the same thing he told the first servant, adding, “Keep space between you and my servant ahead of you.”

Next, he took thirty milking camels and their young, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. Again he gave each species of animal to a servant and had him form the next drove in a long line of gifts for his brother. “Tell him your servant Jacob comes behind us,” he told each one, “but keep a distance between the drove ahead of you.”

Jacob hoped that by the time he met his brother Esau, his anger would have subsided. In the meantime, he waited for each drove to take its turn toward Esau and continued to sleep unsettled for another night.

Inspiration: Genesis 32, 36

Jacob’s love

Jacob continued traveling east until he came to a field where three flocks of sheep were resting by a well. Jacob asked the shepherds, “Where are you from, brothers?”

“We’re from Haran,” one of the shepherds offered.

“Do you know Laban?” Jacob asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“Look,” another shepherd pointed further east. “Here comes his daughter with Laban’s sheep.”

Jacob saw a girl approaching in the distance with a flock. He looked around at all the sheep lying around. “Why aren’t these sheep out grazing? It’s not even near nightfall. Water them quickly and get them to pasture.”

“Can’t be done,” the first shepherd said. “The stone covering the mouth of the well is too heavy. We need all the shepherds together to move it. Only then can we water the sheep.”

When Laban’s daughter Rachel was close enough for Jacob to see her beauty, he took hold of the huge boulder with both arms and rolled it away from the mouth of the well. He watered Laban’s sheep, gave Rachel a kiss, and cried in front of everyone.

“I’m your Aunt Rebekah’s son,” he said.

Rachel ran home to tell her father, and Laban ran back to meet him. They embraced, and Laban welcomed Jacob into his home.

Jacob told Laban all that had transpired over the last several days, and Laban answered, “We’re related by blood.” He thought back to a time when a servant of Jacob’s father came with riches for the hand of his sister Rebekah.

Jacob stayed with Laban for a month.

Inspiration: Genesis 29

Jacob’s ladder

Jacob traveled from Beersheba toward Haran, and as evening approached one night, he settled in a clearing near the city of Luz. Using a stone as a pillow, he slept like a rock.

He dreamed that a ladder rose up from the ground and into the sky, and angels moved up and down its rungs. God stood next to him and said, “I’m the God of Abraham and Isaac. This land will be yours, and your descendants will spread to the north, south, east, and west, like dust on the wind. Every family on earth will be blessed by you and your descendants. I’m with you wherever you go and won’t leave you until I’ve fully paved the way of my promise, bringing you back to this land.”

Jacob woke suddenly, saying, “God is here, and I didn’t even know it.” Then, a surge of fear came over him. “I’m in awe here in God’s house, facing heaven’s gate itself.”

In the morning, Jacob got up early, fashioned a marker from the stone he had slept on, and he poured wine and oil on it. He named that place Bethel, “House of God” and said, “If God stays with me and feeds and clothes me as I go, and protects me against my angry brother until I return to my father’s house, then God will be my Master, this stone will mark the place of his house, and I will give back to him one tenth of all I own.

Inspiration: Genesis 28

Selecting wives

Esau hated Jacob for his wholesale robbery of their father’s blessing, and he was often heard grumbling about future plot points of revenge.

“After Dad dies and I’ve mourned his passing, I’ll kill that thief while he sleeps and take what’s rightfully mine.”

Rebekah heard Esau’s venomous pronouncements, so she warned Jacob. “Run to your uncle Laban’s house in Haran,” she said, “and stay there until Esau’s anger has subsided. When your offense is no more than a distant memory, I’ll send a messenger for your return. If you don’t do as I say, I’ll have to mourn the loss of my husband and my beloved son in the same season.”

Then Rebekah conspired for Isaac to have a heart to heart with their younger son about a wife.

“These Hittite women make me want to die,” she complained. “If Jacob marries one, I see no reason to live.”

So Isaac sat Jacob down and said bluntly, “Don’t marry a Canaanite. Instead, go to your Grandpa Bethuel’s house and find a wife among Laban’s daughters. God’ll give you the family blessing, numberless descendants and all the real estate you could want.”

After hearing from both of his parents, and seeing they were in agreement for once, Jacob left for Haran to find his uncle Laban.

In the meantime, after having overheard the part of the conversation about not marrying a Canaanite, and realizing his wives disgraced his parents, Esau went to visit his uncle Ishmael. While there, he took Ishmael’s daughter Mahalath, also called Basemath, as a wife in addition to his foreign wives, Judith, Adah, and Oholibamah.

Inspiration: Genesis 27-28