Jacob couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw Esau approaching with a smile and open arms. The two men embraced and cried for several minutes. The bond of blood and the passing of time had healed old wounds.
Jacob pulled back, wiped his eyes and sniffled in the tears. “Is Abba still alive?”
Esau smiled. “Yes, Abba is alive. He’s looking forward to hearing from you again.”
Jacob swallowed. “And what about Mom?”
Esau shook his head slowly. “Mom’s heart broke the day you left. She never recovered. She’s been gone several years now.” A twinkle returned to his eye. “Deborah insisted on coming with us. She just had to be with you as soon as possible.”
Jacob peered over his brother’s shoulder and spied an elderly woman approaching. He limped to her and hugged her tight.
Esau cleared his throat. “And who, Little Brother, are all these people with you?”
Jacob used his mom’s nurse as a support as he limped back to the group.
Deborah searched the crowd of children with a smile. “What happened to your leg, Jacob?”
Jacob glanced at her. “It’s a blessing from God.”
Deborah searched his eyes. “If that’s how He blesses you I’d hate to see what would happen if you got on His bad side.”
Jacob chuckled. “Indeed, I’ll explain it to you later.”
They stopped next to Esau. “Deborah, Esau, this is the family God has blessed me with while I was gone.”
Introductions followed, along with a feast.
Rather than go with Esau back to Hebron Jacob settled near Shechem to rest his herds and children. A search in town for other girls to play with ended badly for Dinah when she was raped and used as a ploy to draw Jacob’s family into the townfolk. A twist of deception was used by her brothers to weaken the men in town so Simeon and Levi could kill all the men to avenge their sister.
Jacob vented his anger when his blood-stained sons returned home. “Why have you made me a stench in the nostrils of the Canaanites? Now they’ll gather together and wipe us out. What were you thinking?”
Levi stepped forward. “Nobody’s going to treat our sister like a harlot.”
A few days later Jacob gathered everybody around him. “God has told me to move on to Bethel, the place He first spoke to me when I left home. I want all of you to bring me your foreign gods, purify yourselves and put on clean clothes before we depart.”
The idols were all buried under a tree.
While at Bethel Deborah died.
God spoke to Jacob yet again. “Your name shall not be Jacob. From now on you shall be called Israel. This land I promised to Abraham and Isaac I now promise to you and your descendants.”
Israel exited the tent Rachel breathed her last breath in. “We shall set up camp here while I dig Rachel’s grave and we morn. My son Benjamin will be coming with us.”
They moved on from the future place of Bethlehem and stopped for a time of rest near Eder. While there Reuben seduced Bilhah into bed.
They arrived home in time for Israel to see Isaac before the elder man died.
One of the main differences between Joseph and his brothers is the fact that although they shared the same father they had very different dads.
Before Jacob left home he’d quickly bribed the family birthright from Esau for a meal, and Rebekah helped him deceive Isaac into giving him the family blessing.
Laban deceived him into an extra seven years of free labor by switching his daughters around at the wedding. So, Jacob deceived Laban’s flocks into breeding the stronger animals into his pay.
The return to Canaan was filled with stress and life-changing events for this father. His fears about Esau proved to be totally ungrounded. Several deaths made him take stock in his own life. I’m sure.
His mom died while he was gone. The woman who helped raise him died in his company, as did his first-love Rachel while giving birth to son number 12. Finally, dad died shortly after he returned home. But, not before Reuben, the firstborn of his line, had sex with his step-mom; and Simeon and Levi wiped out an entire town of its men to avenge their sister.
God knew these series of events would profoundly alter the man who relied on deception to get ahead in life. That’s why He changed Jacob’s name to Israel, the name his descendants still used today.
Joseph already had a special place in dad’s heart because of his birth in the man’s old age. The fact he was the first-born of Israel’s first-love gave the advancement of the family birthright to Joseph after Reuben’s indiscretion with Bilhah.
I’m convinced Jacob/Israel took stock of his life during this time of turmoil. Now that he took on the role of family patriarch he saw his failure of being a good dad to his elder sons. So he poured himself into Joseph like nobody’s business.
The name change by God gave him the incentive to begin fresh with this boy in amazing ways.
I’m convinced Israel put Deuteronomy 6:6-7 into practice long before Moses ever wrote it. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
Family stories were passed down orally at that time. I’m sure Joseph heard them multiple times in his youth. He learned of the God of his dad often, his brothers didn’t. The adult results speak for themselves.
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Would you rather leave the legacy of Jacob, or of Israel?
I’ll see you later. Wade