“After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob” (Genesis 25:26).
One of the things that help as we read our Bibles – especially in the Old Testament – are the footnotes that are often printed at the bottom of the page. Throughout this week’s readings, we will be introduced to individuals with significant names. Names are important in the Bible since they often reveal important characteristics about that person. Consider, for example, that angel Gabriel tells Joseph that Mary’s child is to be named “Jesus” – a name that literally means “he saves.” Already at his birth, the name “Jesus” reveals an important truth about the reason he has come into the world.
One of the figures that will factor prominently in our readings this week is Jacob – the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. If your Bible has a footnote at the birth and naming of Jacob (recorded in Genesis 25:26), it might tell you that “Jacob” means “he grasps the heel,” which is a common Hebrew way of describing someone who deceives. Jacob’s name reveals an important part of his character – his early life will be characterized by being a deceiver.
We’ll see this flaw in Jacob’s character play out in the interactions with his brother Esau and his father Isaac. First, Jacob will leverage Esau’s extreme hunger into an opportunity to steal the birthright from his older brother (Genesis 25:27-34). Even more vividly, Jacob will deceive his father Isaac to receive a special blessing originally intended for Esau (Genesis 27:1-40). Over and over again, Jacob reveals the weakness hinted at by the name he received at his birth – he will be a deceiver!
It’s also worth pointing out that Jacob’s deceitfulness has consequences. Because of the way he treated Esau, he will literally have to flee for his life (Genesis 27:41-45). When he arrives in his mother’s home country of Paddan Aram, he runs into trouble with his uncle Laban and the Deceiver finds himself deceived (Genesis 29:14-30, especially v. 25)!
As is always the case, it’s important to remember that Bible depicts the people of God as they truly are – with their own weaknesses, frailties, and sinfulness. But despite their faithlessness, God remains faithful to his promises! The Abrahamic promise will be repeated to Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15). Jacob will be blessed despite his deceptions. And the promise of the Savior would continue to march forward.
God’s richest blessings to you as you continue reading about God’s grace and power through the lives of Isaac and Jacob!