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Chapter 38.—Of Jacob’s Mission to Mesopotamia to Get a Wife, and of the Vision Which He Saw in a Dream by the Way, and of His Getting Four Women When He Sought One Wife.

Jacob was sent by his parents to Mesopotamia that he might take a wife there.  These were his father’s words on sending him:  “Thou shall not take a wife of the daughters of the Canaanites.  Arise, fly to Mesopotamia, 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.  And my God bless thee, and increase thee, and multiply thee; and thou shalt be an assembly of peoples; and give to thee the blessing of Abraham thy father, and to thy seed after thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou dwellest, which God gave unto Abraham.”960960    Gen. xxviii. 1–4.  Now we understand here that the seed of Jacob is separated from Isaac’s other seed which came through Esau.  For when it is said, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called,”961961    Gen. xxi. 12. by this seed is meant solely the city of God; so that from it is separated Abraham’s other seed, which was in the son of the bond woman, and which was to be in the sons of Keturah.  But until now it had been uncertain regarding Isaac’s twin-sons whether that blessing belonged to both or only to one of them; and if to one, which of them it was.  This is now declared when Jacob is 333 prophetically blessed by his father, and it is said to him, “And thou shalt be an assembly of peoples, and God give to thee the blessing of Abraham thy father.”

When Jacob was going to Mesopotamia, he received in a dream an oracle, of which it is thus written:  “And Jacob went out from the well of the oath,962962    Beer-sheba. and went to Haran.  And he came to a place, and slept there, for the sun was set; and he took of the stones of the place, and put them at his head, and slept in that place, and dreamed.  And behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and the angels of God ascended and descended by it.  And the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac; fear not:  the land whereon thou sleepest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth; and it shall be spread abroad to the sea, and to Africa, and to the north, and to the east:  and all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed in thee and in thy seed.  And, behold, I am with thee, to keep thee in all thy way wherever thou goest, and I will bring thee back into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done all which I have spoken to thee of.  And Jacob awoke out of his sleep, and said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.  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.  And Jacob arose, and took the stone that he had put under his head there, and set it up for a memorial, and poured oil upon the top of it.  And Jacob called the name of that place the house of God.”963963    Gen. xxviii. 10–19.  This is prophetic.  For Jacob did not pour oil on the stone in an idolatrous way, as if making it a god; neither did he adore that stone, or sacrifice to it.  But since the name of Christ comes from the chrism or anointing, something pertaining to the great mystery was certainly represented in this.  And the Saviour Himself is understood to bring this latter to remembrance in the gospel, when He says of Nathanael, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”964964    John i. 47, 51. because Israel who saw this vision is no other than Jacob.  And in the same place He says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”

Jacob went on to Mesopotamia to take a wife from thence.  And the divine Scripture points out how, without unlawfully desiring any of them, he came to have four women, of whom he begat twelve sons and one daughter; for he had come to take only one.  But when one was falsely given him in place of the other, he did not send her away after unwittingly using her in the night, lest he should seem to have put her to shame; but as at that time, in order to multiply posterity, no law forbade a plurality of wives, he took her also to whom alone he had promised marriage.  As she was barren, she gave her handmaid to her husband that she might have children by her; and her elder sister did the same thing in imitation of her, although she had borne, because she desired to multiply progeny.  We do not read that Jacob sought any but one, or that he used many, except for the purpose of begetting offspring, saving conjugal rights; and he would not have done this, had not his wives, who had legitimate power over their own husband’s body, urged him to do it.  So he begat twelve sons and one daughter by four women.  Then he entered into Egypt by his son Joseph, who was sold by his brethren for envy, and carried there, and who was there exalted.


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