This is a lesson plan for Gospel Doctrine Lesson 10 “Birthright Blessings; Marriage in the Covenant” covering the story of Rebekah and Isaac and Jacob and Esau.
Great lesson today. We are going to cover Genesis 24 – 33, which is a lot. We don’t have time to cover everything thoroughly, so I hope everyone is reading along. These stories are so old and sometimes confusing, but also in a way they are so fascinating, and I think by reading and seeking the Holy Ghost, little nuggets of wisdom will come to us, and the experience will be very rewarding.
In Chapter 24, Abraham is getting old, and he instructs Isaac to marry within the covenant. This lesson teaches us to stress the importance of marrying within the covenant and especially temple marriage.
Something studying this lesson made me think about is how our temple marriage affects generations. These people thought about their actions in terms of generations. Birthright was critical because it meant who would manage the family’s affairs long into the future. Salvation was not an individual thing. They were thinking about salvation in terms of generations. Their children and their children’s children.
In Chapter 24 verse 13,14 Abraham’s servant goes to the well to ask the young women there for a drink to see their reaction to look for potential brides for Isaac.
In verse 15 we are introduced to Rebekah. And from here on out, we have the Isaac and Jacob and Esau story told with Rebekah as the main character. We’re going to tell the story through her eyes.
I read a Mormon blog that called Rebekah a great feminist role model. I’m not going women’s lib on you, don’t worry. My sweet, meek, perfect child <name redacted> is introducing me to feminism. It’s not that women want power or to degrade men or in a church setting are demanding the priesthood or whatever. It is simply the desire to be recognized as equals and advocacy for awareness and change in areas where women are mistreated.
In verse 17, the servant asks Rebekah for a drink. After giving him a drink v. 18, she then in v. 19 and 20 offers to draw water to give drink to all his camels.
This is to show here Christlike charity and work ethic, going the extra mile.
After some time, the servant proposes marriage for Issac, despite most likely feeling a little afraid and more than a little sad to leave her family to marry Isaac, she says verse 58 “I will go.” Sounds strong and courageous and committed like Nephi.
She is a woman of action. The word go is used with her 7 times.
While she was pregnant, she received a revelation from God.
22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to ainquire of the LORD.
23 And the LORD said unto her, aTwo nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the belder shall serve the younger.
Bruce R. McConkie said:
Now note it well. She did not say “Isaac, will you inquire of the Lord? You are the patriarch; you are the head of the house,” which he was. She went to inquire of the Lord and she gained the answer.
So it was revealed to her that Jacob the younger should have the birthright.
24 ¶ And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.
25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.
26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.
Esau is born. All hairy like baby <name redacted cute baby in the ward with thick black hair> but with red hair.
We have the story where Esau sells his birthright. We’ll come back to that.
In Chapter 27, Isaac’s dying, he’s going to give a blessing, and Rebekah takes action again.
She gives Jacob the plan. Esau leaves to go hunt. They’re going to kill a goat, Rebekah, will cook it up, Jacob will put the fake hair on his arms and face, and then receive the blessing from Isaac.
Rebekah knows this is right. We can assume we probably don’t know exactly the whole story. There’s probably a lot of symbolic elements here, and a lot left out. It appears that Rebekah is acting unethically, but we don’t understand it that way.
I liked this explanation:
Rebekah, understanding the patriarchy system, and working within in it the best way possible, took the action required of her by God.
I love the strength and courage she offers her son when he’s scared about going through with the plan.
13 And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them.
Obey my words and draw upon my strength. But go and act.
So Isaac blesses Jacob. It all works out right. But Esau comes back and he’s furious. He threatens to kill Jacob. And it’s Rebekah that takes the final action here, sending Jacob to live with her brother Laban in a far away land.
What a marvelous example Rebekah has set for all the women of the Church. Not only did she pray and get personal revelation when she needed it, but she so influenced her husband and her son that they did what was necessary so that Jacob married in the Church and, with his beloved Rachel, gained eternal life as a result.
Rebekah is a great woman example. But most of all she’s a great example. Period.
Jesus had a perfect combination of love, empathy, and charity. With Rebekah demonstrated. But he also had a strong justice component. He wasn’t going to sit around and not take action when there was injustice. He decried the injustices of the Pharisees and Saduccees and took action and demanded his followers took action. Rebekah took action when she needed to.
She was meek and submissive and charitable but at the same time active, courageous and defiant.
One more interesting note about the great matriarchs of Genesis. In Chapter 25, Abraham takes another wife Keturah and has several children through her. And what we see in this is that we think of the great patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, and the priesthood line that was passed through them. But they each actually had multiple children through multiple wives. But it was the great matriarchs Sara, Rebekah, and Rachel that dictated through which bloodline the birthright and the Abrahamic covenant blessings went.
Back to the story of Jacob and Esau.
29 ¶ And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:
30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called aEdom.
31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy abirthright.
32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.
34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.
Like so many of these stories, this seems a little off, like there’s more to the context or this is meant to be understood symbolically. But I think a great lesson here is how to manage our appetites.
We can do a lot of harm for ourselves and loved ones if we don’t learn to manage our appetites, whether it be appetite for food, lust, anger, power, attention, drugs or alcohol, laziness.
OK, so back to Jacob. He’s forced to leave home.
What I love so much about this lesson are these two encounters Jacob has with God. The first one he has in the desert as he’s left his homeland and traveling to his uncle Laban.
He lays down to sleep and has a dream, and we know this story as Jacob’s Ladder.
12 And he adreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the bangels of God ascending and descending on it.
13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
This is Jacob’s conversion. God is introducing himself almost as a stranger. I’m the God your father and grandfather have always talked about. And God blesses him.
14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15 And, behold, aI am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bbring thee again into this cland; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
16 ¶ And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.
Jacob becomes familiar with God for the first time. He realizes God had been in this place, which he never knew. He’s here in this place. He’s around us if we seek him. And Jacob in v. 20 and 21 makes a vow that he will make the LORD (Jehovah/Yahweh) his God.
So now Jacob arrives with Laban. He lives there 20 years. We have the great story where he works for seven years for Rachel and is tricked by Laban into marrying the other daughter Leah. Then works seven more years for Rachel. And then is there six more years working for Laban and accumulating wealth until he’s ready to go back home.
He’s crossing to go back into Canaan. And what happens. One of his men comes to give him a message. Esau with all his men are waiting for him. Uh oh. He’s waited for this moment for 20 years. He’s in a panic. Chapter 32 v. 5 he sends cattle and servants as gifts to appease Esau. Then in a desperate move in v. 7 and 8, he sends half of his family and possessions one way and half the other way, in case Esau was to kill everyone he’d at least maybe be able to save half.
And then he does what we do after we’ve done all we can. He prays. Starting in v9
“O aGod of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD” (skip to 11)
11 aDeliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.
Then Jacob has the second encounter with God. And before we get to that story, by the way, it all works out. In Chapter 33 Jacob faces Esau.
3 And he passed over before them, and abowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.
Beautiful. Esau says what’s all this stuff you’re trying to give me. Jacob says this is to find grace in your eyes. Esau says in v. 9 “I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.”
Back to the night before. Jacob is praying to God, and this becomes a wrestle. I want to read a different translation of this story. It’s good sometimes to read the Bible with different translations. The King James Version we use is poetic and beautiful and we believe it is inspired, but there are other translations that are more modern that help understand the meaning sometimes. The version we’ll read is called the Message. It’s purpose is to translate the Bible into modern English in a way that preserves the emotion and the impact. So it sometimes sounds a little goofy, but it has heart.
Gen 32:25-31 the Message Translation
-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.
26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”
Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”
27 The man said, “What’s your name?”
He answered, “Jacob.”
28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”
29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”
The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”
31-32 The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip.
This encounter is so different than the first. Do you feel the difference. The first one is a conversion. He had never known God. God introduces himself as the God his father and grandfather are always talking about. This is a story of a mature Jacob that’s known God for many years. The encounter reflects that.
I’m very touched by this story. And there’s a lot of interpretations, but this is what came to me. Here Jacob is. He doesn’t feel like he’s lived up to expectations. He stole his brother’s birthright. His life has been full of this trickery and deceit. Even that 20 year time period with Laban is one act of trickery after another it seems. He’s not sure where he stands with God. He’s facing a crisis that could end up destroying his family. Has his entire life been a sham? Was it all for naught? All this time I’ve felt you walking with me, talking to me, leading me. Was it even real? Are these blessings he thinks God has promised him all just a big joke?
Jacob literally means holding onto heal. He was born grabbing onto his brother’s heel. And it has meaning of someone who deceives.
He’s spent his life worrying about this day he’s going to come home and face his brother and now the time is here, and his brother’s threatening to destroy him and his family.
He wrestles God. And he comes out with a draw. He won’t quit until God gives him a blessing. And the blessing God gives him is a new name. Beautiful. The new name is Israel, meaning “wrestles with God”. What a beautiful name for a nation of people. This story is representative of Israel’s entire history and struggle. They’re being put in captivity and being freed over and over. But they struggle with God and don’t give up.
I think about myself in Jacob’s shoes. I’m now at an age I would have called old as a kid. I had a vision of myself at this age. And it’s not this. I’m not rich. I’m not famous. I still do dumb things I thought I’d eliminate from my life a long time ago. I haven’t accomplished what I thought I would. I’m starting to think I may never. I battle to manage my emotions that hurt myself and my loved ones at times. I thought my stature and influence would be so great, I’d be able to set all my children up with an easy life. I’m just not who I thought I would be. You could say I’m not winning.
Hell if I’m going to lose.
You can break my hip. You can throw everything at me and the kitchen sink. I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to go to a dark place. I will keep faith and hope alive. I’m going to keep picking myself up and coming back to God. I’m going to keep repenting. I’m going to face my inadequacies and my sins head on with honesty, and keep battling. I’m going to keep trying to do the things to love and protect and care for for my wife and children. I’m going to continue to live with meaning and purpose and trust it’s the right path. I may not win, but I WILL NOT lose.
I will wrestle with God and come away with a draw.