Isaac, the child the Lord promised to Abraham, continues the line in which God will fulfill the covenant promises of blessing made to Abraham. Isaac marries Rebekah and together they have twin sons, Jacob and Esau. The life of Isaac includes both faithfulness and failure. His faithfulness is seen in submission to his father (Gen. 22), in his trust in God for children (Gen. 25:21-26), and in his prayer life (Gen. 26:25). The New Testament affirms his faith in the Lord (Heb. 11:20). Isaac also failed (we will consider this below). Despite his failures, God remained faithful to His promise to Abraham, which was repeated to Isaac (Gen. 26:4).
Isaac didn’t get married until he was 40 years old. When Abraham was advanced in years he instructed his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. Abraham wanted the wife for his son to be from his homeland (this journey was over 800 kilometers). Abraham’s servant goes on the long journey and seeks guidance from the Lord and makes a specific request (Gen. 24:12-14). Once he arrives Rebekah shows generous kindness and does exactly what the servant had prayed. God is then praised (Gen. 24:27-28), Rebekah and her family acknowledge this to be God’s will, she is blessed, and she leaves her home and family to marry Isaac (cf. Gen. 12:1-3). When she arrives she covers herself with a veil before the wedding. Isaac is informed and then the two marry (Gen. 24:62-67). This marriage is a highpoint and shows the reader that God’s promises made back in Genesis 3:15 and 12:1-3 are coming to pass.
For twenty years, Isaac and Rebekah were unable to have children, as Rebekah was infertile. Isaac prayed for his wife and God answered his prayer (Gen. 25:21). This shows the consequences of the curse (Gen. 3) and God’s plan to undo the curse through the blessing promised to Abraham (Gen. 12). Rebekah conceived and she was carrying twins! The Genesis account records that “the children struggled together within her” (Gen. 25:22). This is a theme repeated in Genesis (and throughout the Bible) of conflict (cf. Gen. 4). It is the playing out of the conflict between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. God reveals to Rebekah His sovereign plan for the children – the older will serve the younger: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided;the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23). This sets the stage for God’s plan to pass on the promise made to Abraham, repeated to Isaac, in the life of Jacob.
When they were born, we learn about their different personalities and temperaments. Esau was a more outgoing outdoorsman, whereas Jacob was a more reserved homebody. Problems occur when Isaac favoured Esau and Rebekah favoured Jacob (Gen. 25:27-28). This is followed by the birthright incident. Esau displays disregard and Jacob deception. Despite Isaac’s initial act, in the end, he acknowledged that what happened is what was supposed to happen. This reveals that he ultimately submitted to God’s plan (Gen. 27:33 and Heb. 11:20).
We now come to the third major character and that is Jacob, the second born child of Isaac and Rebekah.
After deceiving his father and infuriating his brother, Jacob leaves home and at his parent’s counsel seeks a wife from Paddan-aram from the house of Laban (Rebekah’s brother). This is similar to the instructions Abraham gave his servant for Jacob (Gen. 24:3-4).
Jacob goes on his journey and along the way stayed at a certain place to sleep and rest. As he slept he had a dream of a ladder on the earth that reached to Heaven. Angels were going up and down. Then the Lord stood above it and said,
“And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’” (Gen. 28:13-15)
This amazing announcement of the Lord repeat the promises made to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3) and Isaac (Gen. 26:4). This again reveals God’s grace and faithfulness to bring about His eternal plan. Jacob awoke and knew God was in this place, so he named it Bethel, which means “House of God”.
Jacob finally arrive sat his destination and seeks out his uncle Laban. Laban had two daughters (Leah and Rachel), and Jacob set his affection on Rachel. Jacob agreed to work for Laban for seven years in order to be able to marry Rachel. His affection was so strong; these seven years “seemed to him but a few days” (Gen. 29:20). After the seven years the time had come for the marriage. However, Laban deceives Jacob and gives him his other daughter Leah. Jacob didn’t realize until the morning after the wedding. With the combination of darkness and the veils worn, this explains why he didn’t know. After complaining, Laban agrees he can marry Rachel, but if he worked another seven years for him.
With a bad start to married life, family life becomes dysfunctional and divided. A battle of births takes place. Jacob loved Rachel and didn’t show the love toward Leah he should have. The Lord then allowed Leah to have children and Rachel to be barren. Over time, Leah gives birth to four sons (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah). Rachel was crushed by this and was filled with envy, so she sent Jacob to go in to her maidservant (cf. Gen. 16:1-4). Two boys were born (Dan and Naphtali). Responding to this, Leah sends Jacob in to her maidservant. Two boys were born (Gad and Asher). After having a dispute, Leah buys the opportunity to lie with Jacob, and she bears her fifth son, Issachar. After this she conceived again and had her sixth son, Zebulun and then had a daughter named Dinah. Then God opened Rachel’s womb and allowed her to conceive and she gave birth to a son named Joseph. During this dysfunctional time, eleven sons and one daughter is born to Jacob. Later on Rachel has one more child, and she dies giving birth. His name is Benjamin. In total, Jacob had twelve sons.
Later God blesses Jacob and changes his name to Israel. He reaffirms the promise made to Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 35:11-12).