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             While Rebekah was pregnant with twins, the babies inside her struggled with each other. Rebekah prayed to the Lord and said, "Why is this happening to me?"

            The Lord said to Rebekah, "Two nations are in your body. The rulers of two families will be born from you. And they will be divided. One son will be stronger than the other. The older son will serve the younger." 

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            Isaac was sixty years old when his wife Rebekah gave birth to twin boys. The first baby was red. His skin was like a hairy robe, so he was named Esau, meaning "hairy." When the second baby was born, he was holding tightly to Esau's heel. So that baby was named Jacob, meaning "heel grabber." The name Jacob also means "tricky."

            When the boys grew up, Esau became a very great hunter. He loved to be in the fields. Jacob was a quiet man who stayed in his tent. Isaac loved Esau because he liked to eat the animals Esau killed. But Rebekah loved Jacob. 

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             One time Esau came back from hunting. He was tired and weak from hunger. Jacob was boiling a pot of lentils.

            Esau said to Jacob, "I am weak with hunger. Let me have some of those red beans."

            Jacob replied, "You must sell me your rights as the firstborn son today."

            Esau said, "I am almost dead with hunger. If I die, all my father's wealth will not help me. So I will give you my share."

            Jacob said, "First, promise me that you will give your share to me." (As the oldest son, Esau would receive a double share of his father's property and would become the leader of the family when Isaac died.) So Esau made a promise. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and food. Esau ate and drank and then left. So Esau showed that he did not care about his rights as the firstborn son. 

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             When Isaac was old, his eyes were not good. Isaac could not see clearly. One day he called Esau to him. Isaac said, "Son!" Esau answered, "Here I am."

            Isaac said, "I am old. Maybe I will die soon! So take your bow and arrows and go hunting. Kill an animal for me to eat. Prepare the food that I love. Bring it to me, and I will eat. Then I will bless you before I die." So Esau went hunting.

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            Rebekah was listening when Isaac told those things to his son Esau. Rebekah called her son Jacob and told him what she had heard. Rebekah said to Jacob, "Listen son, and do what I tell you. Go out to our flock and bring me two young goats. I will prepare them the way your father loves them. Then you will carry the food to your father, and he will bless you before he dies."

            Jacob did as his mother said. Rebekah cooked the goats in the special way that Isaac loved. Then Rebekah took the clothes that Esau loved to wear and put those clothes on the younger son Jacob. Rebekah took the skins of the goats and put them on Jacob's hands and on his neck. Then Rebekah got the food that she had cooked and gave it to Jacob. 

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            Jacob went in to his father and said, "Father."

            His father said, "Yes, son. Who are you?"

            Jacob said, "I am Esau, your first son. I have done the things you told me. Now sit up and eat the animals that I hunted for you. Then you can bless me."

            Isaac said, "Come near to me so that I can feel you, then I will know if you are really my son Esau."

            So Jacob went to Isaac his father. Isaac felt him and said, "Your voice sounds like Jacob's voice, but your arms are hairy like the arms of Esau."

            Then Isaac said, "Son, come near and kiss me." So Jacob went to his father and kissed him. Isaac smelled Esau's clothes and blessed him saying, "May the Lord give you plenty of rain so that you will have great harvests. May nations bow down to you. Your mother's sons will bow down and obey you." 

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             When Esau came home from hunting and found out what had happened, he became very angry and bitter. Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing and decided to kill him. So Jacob left Beersheba and went to Haran.

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            While Jacob was traveling, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Jacob found a rock and laid his head on it to sleep. During the night Jacob dreamed there was a ladder that reached from heaven to earth. Jacob saw the angels of God going up and down the ladder. And then he saw the Lord standing by the ladder. The Lord said, "I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham. I am the God of Isaac. I will give this land to you and to your children. You will have many, many descendants, like the many pieces of dust on earth. All the families on earth will be blessed because of you and your descendants." 

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             Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, "I know that the Lord is in this place. This is the house of God. This is the gate to heaven."

            Jacob rose very early in the morning. Jacob took the rock he had slept on and set it up on its edge. Then he poured oil on the rock. In this way, he made the rock a memorial to God. Then Jacob named that place Bethel, meaning "house of God."

            Jacob made an agreement with God that day. God promised Jacob, "I will be with you, and I will protect you every place you go. And I will bring you back to this land."  

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             Jacob continued his trip. Finally, he came to Haran in Mesopotamia. There, Jacob met his Uncle Laban's daughter Rachel and fell in love with her. So Jacob stayed with Laban a month.

            One day Laban said to Jacob, "It is not right for you to continue working for me without pay. You are a relative, not a slave. What should I pay you?"

            Laban had two daughters. The older was Leah and the younger was Rachel. Rachel was beautiful, and Jacob loved her. Jacob said to Laban, "I will work seven years for you if you will allow me to marry your daughter Rachel."

            Laban said, "It would be better for her to marry you than someone else. So stay with me."

            So Jacob worked for Laban seven years. But it seemed like a very short time because he loved Rachel very much.

            After seven years Jacob said to Laban, "Give me Rachel so that I can marry her. My time of work for you is finished." 

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             So Laban gave a party for all the people in that place. That night, Laban tricked Jacob and brought his daughter Leah to Jacob. Jacob and Leah had sexual relations together. In the morning Jacob saw that it was Leah he had slept with. Jacob said to Laban, "You have tricked me. I worked hard for you so that I could marry Rachel. Why did you trick me?"

            Laban said, "In our country we do not allow the younger daughter to marry before the older daughter. But continue for the full week of the marriage ceremony, and I will also give you Rachel to marry. But you must serve me another seven years."

            So Jacob did this and finished the week. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel, and Jacob had sexual relations with Rachel also. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah.

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             In all, Jacob worked fourteen years to pay for his wives Leah and Rachel. Then Jacob worked six more years for hire. During this time Jacob had eleven sons and one daughter by his two wives and their maids Zilpah and Bilhah. His sons' names were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, and Joseph. The daughter's name was Dinah.

            After living in Haran twenty years, Jacob took his family and all his wealth and returned to the land of Canaan. There, God met him beside the Jabbok River. God struggled with Jacob during the night and changed his name to Israel, meaning "one who fights with God."

            Upon arriving at Ephrath (Bethlehem), Rachel died while giving birth to Benjamin. Rachel was buried there, and Jacob put a special rock on her grave to honor her. Each of Jacob's sons became the head of a very large family. After a period of time, these families became the nation of Israel.

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 1.            God has the right to rule. Before Jacob and Esau were born, and before they had done either good or bad, God chose Jacob over Esau. God is able to look ahead and see the future. Perhaps that is why God chose Jacob. He could see that Esau would be more concerned about his hunger than about spiritual matters. We don't know why God favored Jacob over Esau. We only know that God has the right to do whatever he wants to do. He is the potter and we are the clay. The clay does not say to the potter, "Why have you molded me like this?" 

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2.                  People can change. Jacob had some very bad faults. He lied. He cheated. He stole things that belonged to others. More than once he deceived members of his own family.

            But Jacob changed. Jacob learned what it is like to be tricked. Jacob suffered heartaches and disappointments within his own family, and these painful experiences helped him grow. Slowly God worked through every tragedy to change Jacob into a better person. And Jacob developed a relationship with God.

            When you look into the mirror, what do you see? Do you see someone with very bad faults? Someone who lies, cheats, steals, and deceives others? If so, don't despair. Don't give up on yourself. God is not through with you. The God who worked on Jacob is also working on us. Although Jacob was tricky when he was young, God was able to change him into a better person. The God who changed Jacob's name to "Israel" can also change us.

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            3. God points ahead to a Savior. In the Garden of Eden, God predicted that a descendant of Eve would crush Satan's head. Then, God promised that all families on earth would be blessed by a descendant of Abraham. Then God made an agreement with Isaac and Jacob and promised that the world would be blessed through them.

            Step by step God has pointed more clearly to the coming of that special Someone. The coming One would defeat Satan and bless the world. He would be a descendant of woman, of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. God's picture of the coming One will become even clearer as his plan of salvation continues to unfold.

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            Scripture References: Genesis 25-35; Romans 9:6-21.

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