Summary: God confirms the promise to Jacob and makes the eternal covenant personal to him.
The main characters of Genesis so far have been Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Isaac. Adam started his life in the garden as the first man in creation. He had the privilege of naming the animals and he walked with God. He was given a wife created from his rib, but he followed her into sin by breaking God’s one law at the time: “Don’t eat from this tree.” This sin got them cast out of the garden, but more importantly introduced sin into the world.
Several generations later we’re introduced to Noah. Sin was so rampant that God destroyed the whole rest of the world. Noah found favor in God’s eyes, so he build an ark with seven of his family members and they were saved. God established his covenant with Noah using the rainbow as a sign that he would never again flood the earth.
After several more generations we come to Abraham. He gets the most attention and is considered one of the most important figures in Jewish history. He started out as an idolater but God called him and made a covenant with him. “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” He had many ups and downs in his faith, but by the end of his life he was said to be “satisfied.”
Abraham’s son, Isaac, leaves a different legacy. We’re never really shown that Isaac grew into the same spiritual maturity as his father. Hebrews shows that he believed unto righteousness, but when Isaac was too old to see, he tried to usurp God by giving the blessing to Esau. The satisfaction that marked Abraham’s life seems vacant in Isaac’s.
Jacob begins his life much in the same way, and this serves as an important reminder of the definition of grace. None of these men were holy on their own; God called them and that’s more than enough. Jacob was a bit of a trickster as he “stole” the birthright and the blessing from Esau and this is where we pick up now:
And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob. 42And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee. 43Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran; 44And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother’s fury turn away; 45Until thy brother’s anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day? 46And 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?
So Jacob plans to escape Esau’s wrath under the pretense of looking for a wife. This adventure, as we’ll see, will hold much more than that, but this is the initial reason.