Genesis 28:1-22


Genesis chapters 28-37 is the story of Jacob, how God blessed him and how he returned to the land of Canaan.


Verse 1-5, And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. {2} Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother. {3} And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; {4} And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham. {5} And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padanaram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob's and Esau's mother.

I.    It seemed a good thing for Isaac to listen to Rebekah.

A.  It's a good thing for husbands to listen to their wives.

1.   The "feminists" movement pictures men as owners of their "slave" wives.

2.   In a truly "Christian" marriage, the man and woman become one, not only in body, but also in mind and purpose.

3.   The husband that won't listen to his wife is missing the advice of the one person in the world that has his best interest at her heart.

B.   If husbands would treat their wives like they ought to, the home life would be better and there would be no "feminists" movement.


II.   Sending Jacob away.

A.  Is a sham.

1.      Rebekah lies to Isaac about the reasons.

2.   She says the reason for sending Jacob away is to get a wife from their families, but in reality, she wants Jacob to leave so Esau won't have the opportunity of seeing Jacob often, and renewing his anger toward him for the thief of the birthright.

3.      Note the following sequence of events.

a.   Gen. 26:34 - Esau marries 31 years ago to two Gentile women.

b.   Gen. 27:46 - It is not until after Jacob steals the birthright that Rebekah gets tired of her daughters in law, the sons of Heth.

B.   This is always a difficult thing to do.

1.      Especially with Isaac because he believes he shall die soon.  (Gen. 27:2).

a.   Isaac is 137 years old and believes he hasn't long to live, in truth he will live another 43 years!

b.   He lives to be 180 years old: Gen. 35:28,29.

c.   The Bible states he is still alive when Jacob returns to Canaan: Gen. 35:27-29.

2.   He doesn't expect to see Jacob again.

3.      They had no "immediate" communication like we have (telephone, telegraph, postal service).

4.      This shows us how important Isaac thought it was for Jacob to take the right wife.

5.      There is no Bible reference that Isaac knew of Esau's plan to kill Jacob, although we can suppose he had heard.

C.            Compare how Jacob goes for a wife and how Isaac gets his wife.

1.      Jacob must go for himself; a servant goes for Isaac.

2.      Jacob flees for fear of his life: Isaac didn't fear for his life.

3.      Jacob was rebellious against his dad and brother, following his mother; Isaac was continually submissive to his parents.

4.      Jacob must leave in order to:

a.   Gen. 29:25 - learn how it feels to be tricked.

b.   Gen. 32:30-32 - Learn that the grace of God is sufficient.

5.      That he might truly obtain the blessing; Isaac obtained the blessing without all the trouble Jacob faced because he was submissive.

D.  Isaiah 55:8 - God's ways seem backward to us.

1.      Gen. 37:1 - Jacob is a stranger in the promised land, but he must go into exile in an alien land (Egypt) in order to come back and possess the land of Canaan.

2.      David is anointed king, yet lived in exile while he learned obedience by suffering.  When he was made king, he asked God if he should go up to Jerusalem, or if he should remain in Hebron.

3.      Jacob was blessed with plenty of corn and wine (27:28), yet left the inheritance of his father and had to work for his possessions (30:37-43, 31:38-42).

4.      Jacob was promised Esau would bow down to him, but he was compelled to bow down to his brother (33:3) not once, but 7 times.  (Seven is the Bible number for completion.)

E.   Was this "sending away" chastisement?

1.   If it was, Jacob certainly learned from it.

2.      Heb. 12:11 - Jacob's experiences fit.

F.   This also teaches us that we shouldn't expect to receive the blessings of God without persecution.

1.      John 16:33 - The world will give us tribulation, he will give us peace.

2.   II Tim. 2:11,12 - If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He will deny us.


III. Padanaram.

A.  This is a general region "between two rivers".

1.   The river Euphrates and the Tigris.

2.   The city of Haran is located in the southern area of this region.

B.   Genesis 31,32.

1.      When Abraham received the call of God to leave the idolatry of Ur, his dad, Terah, also left that land, traveling to Haran.

2.      There is no mention of why they stopped at Haran, but we do know that Terah was not a part of the promise of God any more than Lot was.

C.   It seems all of Abraham's family stayed in Haran except Abraham, Sarai, Lot, Mrs. Lot and their respective children.

1.      Haran is the place Abraham sent his servant to get a bride for Isaac.

2.      Haran is also the place Isaac sends Jacob to get a bride for himself.


IV. The blessing.  Verse 3, and 4.

A.  In essence, this is the same blessing as in Gen. 27:28,29.

B.   Before the blessing was obtained by trickery, this blessing is obtained face to face with full knowledge of all, even Esau (28:6).


Verse 6-9, When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padanaram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan; {7} And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padanaram; {8} And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father; {9} Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham's son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.

I.    Esau's observations.

A.  Gen. 27:28,29 - Isaac blessed Jacob.

B.   Gen. 28:1,2 - Sent Jacob to Padanaram to take a wife.

1.   As Isaac gave the blessing, he also gave a charge not to take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.

2.      Jacob obeyed his father and mother and has gone to Padanaram.

C.   Esau's wives do not please Isaac and Rebekah.

1.      Esau didn't understand exactly why his wives didn't please his father and mother.

2.   He knew they were of the wrong family, but he didn't understand the spiritual implications of marrying outside the family of God.

3.      Therefore, he took wives of the daughters of Ishmael, the son of Abraham according to works.

4.      Jacob will take his wife of the descendants of Abraham according to promise.


II.   Esau's reactions.

A.  It's amazing it took Esau 31 years to realize his wives did not please Isaac and Rebekah.

1.   The 31 years is reached by subtracting Esau's age when he married (26:34, 40 years old) from Esau's age (71 years old - see notes on 27:1).

2.   The more mature we get, the more we ought to be aware of our actions and their affect on others.

B.   Esau wants to please his parents.

1.   He sees how Jacob pleases his parents, even though Esau has hatred in his heart toward Jacob.

a.   Verse 6 - Esau saw how Isaac blessed Jacob with the inheritance he had given away.

b.   Verse 6 - Esau saw how Isaac gave Jacob instructions for taking a wife.

c.   Verse 7 - Esau saw how Jacob obeyed and thus pleased his parents.

2.      Esau wants to please his parents also.

a.   It doesn't make any difference that Esau is a man in his own right with two wives and his own household.

b.   It doesn't make any difference that Esau is 71 years old.

c.   It doesn't make any difference how old a person gets, they still want the blessings of their parents.

d.   This principle applies not only to saved people, but also to lost people.

e.   This is why grown up children often have trouble with the divorce of their aged parents, or why grown up children often have trouble (when the situation calls for it) assuming the role of a parent to their parents.

3.      There is a good chance that Esau is more aware of his parents displeasure, and he has a greater desire to please them because he sees Jacob receiving the best blessing.

C.   Took Mahalath as a third wife.

1.   The name means "stringed instrument."

a.   If the name is typical of the person, she was what would be considered the perfect woman.

b.   She would be the type of person who could get along well with everybody, and had the knack of calming down an explosive situation.

2.      This is Ishmael's daughter, the sister of Nebajoth.  Nebajoth is Ishmael's oldest son. Gen. 25:13.

3.   In Genesis 36:3,4,10,13, and 17, this woman is not mentioned by this name but has the name of Bashemath.

a.   The name Bashemath means "perfume," or "fragrance."

b.   This name coincides with the meaning of Mahalath, and continues the thought that this woman is very pleasant to be around.

4.   In Gen. 25:12-16 - a daughter is not mentioned in the generations of Ishmael.

a.   This is not unusual because the generations are counted by the male, not the female.

b.   This is not a slam against women, it shows who God considers the head of the household to be.

c.   When the household begins to be run by the wife and husbands are not aware of family values, (actively engaged in the raising of children, the keeping of the house, so forth) it tends to cause a degeneration of that society.

d.   This is very evident in the black population of our society, and is gaining a foothold in white communities.

5.      Mahalath is either another name for Bashemath or Mahalath dies leaving no offspring and is replaced by another daughter of Ishmael (Bashemath), who does leave children to Esau.

6.      Ishmael has two wives with the name Bashemath.

a.   26:34 - Bashemath, the daughter of Elon the Hittite.

b.   36:3 - Bashemath, the daughter of Ishmael, the sister of Nebajoth.

D.  There is some who believe Esau has 6 wives.

1.      They are:

a.   Gen. 26:34 - Bashemath, the daughter of Elon the Hittite.

b.   Gen. 26:34 - Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite.

c.   Gen. 28:9 - Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael, the sister of Nebajoth.

d.   Gen. 36:2 - Adah, the daughter of Elon the Hittite.

e.   Gen. 36:2 - Aholibamah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite.

f.    Gen. 36:3 - Bashemath, the daughter of Ishmael, the sister of Nebajoth.

2.   It seems more likely to me, however that he had 3 wives, since the Bible mentions he has children by only three women.

a.   Gen. 36:2 - Adah, the daughter of Elon the Hittite.

b.   Gen. 36:2 - Aholibamah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite.

c.   Gen. 36:3 - Bashemath, the daughter of Ishmael, the sister of Nebajoth.

E.   Goes to Ishmael.

1.      This passage doesn't mean that Esau went and talked to Ishmael, and that Ishmael gave him a wife.

2.      Ishmael had died some 13 or 14 years previous to this.

3.   The passage means Esau went to the descendants of Ishmael.

4.   The fact is that Esau was seeking to please his parents by obeying in the only way he knew how.

5.   It is also interesting to note that Jacob and Esau were 15 years old when Abraham died.

F.   The reasoning of the natural mind is alienated to the reasoning of God.

1.      John 6:37,65 - A lost man is unable to go the right way.

2.      Instead of going by the way of the cross, Ishmael (using his intellect) goes by the way of works - the law (Gal. 4:22-26).


III. The errors of Esau in taking this third wife.

A.  This doesn't please Isaac and Rebekah.

B.   It shows them more and more how alienated his mind is against the principles of God.

1.   He is going against scripture in having the two wives he already has, not counting getting another wife.

2.   He goes to Ishmael, the son of the bonds woman, who was cast out.

3.   He marries this woman, not to please God, but to please his parents.

4.      There is no repentance for disobedience in any of his marriages.

5.      There is no repentance, nor recognition of, selling the birthright to Jacob.

6.   He is attempting to make reconciliation by good works, not by seeking forgiveness.

7.      There is nothing to even remotely show that he is sorry for any of his wickedness, selfishness, or spiritual deadness.

8.      There is no record to show that he talked with either of his parents before he took this third wife.


IV. A look at Esau 20 years later.

A.  See my comments on Genesis 36:7.

B.   Time has a way of dulling the sharpness of our anger.


Verse 10, And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.

Some general observations concerning verses 10-22.

1.   God will continue to work with His elect, even though they are sinners.  He won't accept their sin although He does accept their persons.

2.   You can't run fast enough or far enough to get out of God's sight.

3.   Jacob is heading toward fulfilling the promises of God by going toward Haran, whether he knows it or not.  This is also happening in your life.


I.    It seems Jacob traveled alone.

A.  There is no record of anybody traveling with him at this point.

1.      There would be some danger of being attacked by lawbreakers.

2.   God would protect him from all these dangers.

3.   It is good for us to remember that God can do a better job of protecting us than all the people in the world that travel with us.

B.   It is approximately 440 miles from Beersheba to Haran, as the "crow flies."

1.   If a person walked 3 miles an hour for 8 hours he would travel 24 miles a day.

a.   At this rate, it would take him 18.3 days to reach Haran.

b.   There would have to be time taken out of walking for preparing food, eating, resting, so forth.

2.   It is approximately 40 miles from Beersheba to Bethel.

a.   This first day, Jacob traveled as far as he could as fast as he could.

b.   He was fleeing from his brother Esau, Gen. 35:1.

c.   If Jacob walked 4 miles an hour, he would have traveled 40 miles the first day, which is traveling pretty fast.

d.   He didn't quit traveling until after the sun had gone down.

C.   Jacob is heading toward Haran.

1.      Refer to Genesis 11:31,32 to discover the genealogy of Terah's family that is in that place.

2.      These people have left Ur of the Chaldees in an attempt to follow Abraham as he obeys the commands of God.

3.      They do not get to be a part of the promise, but they go as far as they can.

4.   In going this far, God graciously allows some of their children to be a part of the promise, supplying mates for those that He has chosen to fulfill His will.


II.   This is his first time away from home, as far as the Bible is concerned.

A.            Sometimes we can get more blessings away from home than we can get at home.

B.   We must be where God wants us to be, not where we want to be.


Verse 11, And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

I.    As far as Jacob is concerned, this place is not special.  It will be special before the night is over.

A.  Gen. 12:8 - This is the first place Abraham settled in when he left Ur of the Chaldees.

1.   The name Bethel means "house of God."

2.      Jacob would consider it a "coincidence" that he happened upon this place, but God predetermined it.

3.   We should always remember that God is in total control of our lives, nothing happens by accident or chance.

B.   A hard, cold place to sleep, but rest comes easy because of hard work.

1.      Prov. 4:14-16 - Wicked people can't sleep until they have thought up some meanness to do to somebody.

2.      Eccl. 5:12 - The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, because of hard work.


II.   How much stuff did Jacob take with him?

A.  There are some who believe Jacob only had the clothes on his back.

1.   I don't believe this is so because Isaac and Rebekah know it is more than 400 miles to Haran.

2.   A mother and dad wouldn't let their child leave home on a trip like that with nothing but the clothes on his back.

3.      They would probably want to load him down with food, but one person can only carry so much.

4.   I would imagine Jacob would at least have an animal with him to carry necessary supplies.

5.   I would also imagine that Jacob would have some money with him.

B.   On the other hand, there is only so much one person could carry and make any time at all.

1.   I think is clear from the passage before us that Jacob didn't have a lot of supplies in his possession.

2.   It is likely that he had some sort of shelter and some food, but how much is hard to tell.

3.   If I was going to take a trip of that sort, I would want to carry some kind of tent (Abraham and Isaac both lived in tents) just in case it rained.


Verse 12, And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

I.    This is the first of seven dreams or communication with God.

A.  The list is:

1.      Gen. 28:12-15 - The dream of the ladder.

2.      Gen. 31:3 - Twenty years later, God appears to Jacob, commanding him to return to Canaan.

3.      Gen. 32:1,2 - The angels of God meet Jacob at Mahanaim as he return to Canaan.

4.      Gen. 32:24-30 - Jacob wrestles with God.

5.      Gen. 35:1 - After Jacob returns to Canaan, God commands him to return to Bethel.

6.      Gen. 35:9-13 - God appears to Jacob at Bethel, changing his name to Israel, and confirming the promise of Abraham and Isaac.

7.      Gen. 46:1-4 - God appears to Jacob, assuring him that it is His will for him to go to Egypt.

B.   I think it is interesting to note that God doesn't appear to Jacob until he gets out on his own.

1.   As long as Jacob was living in his fathers house, God would deal with Isaac because he is the head of the house.

2.      When Jacob is living at home, he will obey his father and not have to think about what God wants him to do.

3.      When he gets away from home and the authority of his dad, he will have to consider God's will for his life.


II.   The meaning of the ladder and angels.

A.  The ladder.

1.      This is the only time the word "ladder" appears in the Bible.

2.   The word comes from a root word meaning to lift up, or to cast up, or to exalt or esteem highly.

3.   A ladder is one way to get from a lower place to a higher place.

4.   It seems to be a symbol of the constant communication between heaven and earth.

5.      This communication goes on day and night, whether we are awake or asleep.

6.      This ladder represents the fact that God initiates communication and does not rely upon man to keep it going.

B.   There is only one ladder, or means of communication with God.

1.      This ladder is not prayer because prayer is initiated by man.

2.      Jacob didn't initiate this ladder because he didn't even realize God was in this place.

3.   Our lives are in the hand of God, and we must completely depend upon Him to communicate with us.

C.   The angels are the messengers of God.

1.   The angels are going up and down the ladder showing they are receiving orders from God, which they bring to the earth to fulfill.

2.   It seems God is here showing Jacob that He is going to fulfill the promise He gave to Abraham and Isaac.

3.   As far as Jacob is concerned, God isn't doing anything.

4.      After all, Jacob is 71 years old and doesn't even have a wife.

5.      How can all these promises be fulfilled when there is no physical evidence that they ever will.

6.   The fact is that God is busy working through many circumstances to bring all the promises to pass.

7.   If angels have wings, why aren't they flying between heaven and earth?

D.  God is standing above the ladder.

1.   God is not on the ladder, and God is not the ladder.

2.   God is directing the flow of information and events, and is completely in control of all the details.


Verse 13-15, 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; {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, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

I.    This is a confirmation of the promise God gave to Abraham and Isaac that will be fulfilled in Jacob.

A.  The promise to Abraham.

1.      Gen. 12:2,3 - This is probably at least the second time Abraham has heard these promises from God.

2.      Gen. 15 - God reaffirms His promises and gives greater detail about the future of the nation of Israel until they come out of Egypt.

3.      Gen. 17 - God appears once again to Abram, changing his name to Abraham and commanding circumcision.

B.   The promise to Isaac.

1.      There is no record that God ever spoke to Isaac concerning these promises.

2.      There is ample evidence that God blessed Isaac and moved in his life.

C.   The promise to Jacob.

1.   For a list of the times God appeared to Jacob see my comments on verse 12.

2.   God appears a total of seven times to Jacob, the Bible number for completeness.


II.   God is most often with his people in personal visits when all other comforts are lost.

A.  It is absolutely necessary to begin your life by claiming the promises of God.

1.      There are many hardships along the way, some that we can't anticipate.

2.   God can anticipate them, and help us avoid them, or work through them.

B.   All of God's children want to feel His presence, but very few are willing to suffer what it takes.

1.   II Tim. 2:11,12 - If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.  If we deny Him, He will also deny us.

C.   The more afflictions men put upon us, the closer our Savior becomes to us.


III. The encouraging vision represents:

A.            Constant correspondence between heaven and earth.

1.      God's will being done in earth and in heaven.

2.      Angels are ministering spirits.

3.   Ps. 91:11 - Angels protect us.

B.   Christ is our mediator.

1.      John 1:51 - Jacob's ladder vision alluded to the promises fulfilled in Christ.


IV. The encouraging word.

A.  The promise of his fathers repeated to him.

1.   The land whereon you lie shall be yours.

2.      Your seed shall be many and prosperous.

3.   The Messiah will come from you.

B.   The New promises made to him.

1.      You are going to have to leave the promised land, but I will be with you and bring you back.

2.   I am with thee.

3.   I will keep thee.

4.   I will do all that I have said.

5.      Note: Like us, Jacob failed to trust the promise of God.  When he came back (20 years later) to face Esau, he had a great struggle.


V.  Verse 15 - God is not saying that He will leave Jacob when He fulfills all His promises to him.  Heb. 13:5 declares that God has said He will never leave us, nor forsake us.  He is saying that Jacob doesn't have to worry along the way that God is working in his life.  Sometimes it might seem that things aren't working out, and God wants Jacob to know that He is working all things out.


Verse 16-22, And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.

I.    Jacob awakened out of his sleep in the middle of the night.  God would not allow him to continue sleeping, thus increasing the possibility that he would not remember the dream the following morning. 


II.   This verse shows the immaturity of Jacob concerning where God is.

A.  Often times immature Christians believe God is more likely to help them if they ask from one place than if they ask from another place.

1.      This is seen when "Christians" act one way in the church building and another way outside the church building.

2.      They are placing undue influence in the things done in a church building, perhaps not realizing that God is fully able to answer their prayers when they are outside the church building.

3.   God sees them everyday, not just on Sunday when they are in the church building.

B.   I remember one time a hunter shot another hunter.

1.   He immediately ran to the building where his "church" met and began to pray.

2.   He was religious, but he didn't realize God could have heard his prayer out in the woods, or as he was trying to get help for his wounded friend.


Verse 17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

I.    Although Jacob was afraid, there is indication that he went back to sleep, arising early in the morning, building the pillar, worshipping God, making the promise to God, then continuing his trip to Haran.


Verse 18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

I.    There is a pillow that will turn into a pillar.  Often times the place we find to rest is the place that turns into a bulwark of our stability.



Verse 19, And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.

I.    Bethel is on a major north-south travel route through the hill country.  It is normal and natural that Jacob would use this route to go from Beersheba to Haran.  It is often in the most common areas that God appears, seemingly out of nowhere, to touch and change our lives.


II.   Joshua 16:2 seems to distinguish between Bethel and Luz, Bethel perhaps being the worship place and Luz the city. Bethel would then be Burj Beitin and Luz, Beitin.  The two seem to be so close together that they are often considered one.


Verse 20-22, And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, {21} So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: {22} And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

The result of the vision upon Jacob.

I.    A surprise that God had blessed him.

A.  Why didn't Jacob take the vision as a "happenstance"?

1.   The Holy Spirit taught him God had shown him.

2.   A personal experience unknown to others.

3.      Blessing from god comes as a personal experience from God, not because of some external evidence or power.

B.            Sometimes we think we are ready to meet God and we aren't.  Sometimes we meet God when we don't' think we are ready.

1.   We should remember that God is always with us.



God is always with us.

II.   His awe at meeting God. (verse 17)

III. How he preserved the memory (verse 18,19)

IV. His vow. (verse 20-22)



Place is probably Mamre (close of chapter 14 and opening of chapter 18)


V 1.

1.   This whole thing is looking for the promises of a Savior.

2.            Described in Gal. 4:21-31.

a.      Ishmael - Son of the flesh - Arabians - law at Mt. Sinai.

b.      Isaac - Son of the promise - Jerusalem - grace of God.

3.   God takes a sin (an unjust thought or deed) and uses that for His own glory and honor - an example of the wondrous grace of salvation.

a.      This was not what Sarah and Abraham intended.

b.      Could we have a better example of the two ways of salvation?

1.   Salvation by works (flesh).

2.   Salvation by promise (grace).