There are many boys-to-men stories that include even hatred between brothers.
Here too, there is typical "family life!" in the line of the seed destined to bless all the nations of the earth. The family life here is ... what? There are the same-o-same-o murderous hatreds (Gen 27:41), manipulation of one's father (27:24), even using a father's religious God language (27:20). The weakness of old age is also in view, in the father who also brings God into the picture, but completely unaware of reality and not knowing what he's doing (27:28)!
So here you have a family that's all messed up: sons murderous or manipulative, parents out of touch or manipulative, invoking God falsely or mistakenly, mothers trying to help yet very exasperated with life because of some of their children's choices, especially in marriage (27:46).
Yet, when it comes time for Jacob to get on with life, and find a wife, etc., as Gen 28 opens up, Isaac his father passes on the family's "culture," i.e., 28:3-5. Like many fathers, Isaac prefers his son get a wife "like I did," in some way.
Esau is pictured in the story figuring out things family-wise, but the text leaves it up in the air as to whether the adjustment in question does any good (28:9).
Meanwhile ... God intercepts, again: this time, Jacob, who, at this point, we're not sure what he's up to. He's just going off in the general direction of a long road trip (hundreds of miles), "toward Haran."
What do you do with a dysfunctional family member from a dysfunctional family? What God does here, is that He is not deterred at all! He sticks with what He promised (28:13-15). In a way, what is said in that passage is even louder in our ears, because we've just gone through that family life. And there is God, saying the exact same thing that He said, making unconditional unilateral promises (28:15).
The picture here is, as they said in the military, a SNAFU. Everybody's what we sadly see them to be: preoccupied with questions of rivalry, hostility, manipulation, angling for an advantage, bringing God into the service of family, family tradition and 'the way we do things.' : all the various types of disarray.... And not all the family tradition is bad! Then Jacob has his dream (28:10-15).
This communication of God to Jacob is interesting in that Jacob's reaction (28:16-22) is "so Jacob." We know about him from the previous family stories! He's thinking about ancillary stuff, commenting on his new knowledge (28:16), and on the environment (28:17), but not on any of the content of what God had said. He'd "heard all that" from his father (28:4), and right now ... he's not even married! But it was quite an unusual event, this dream. And so, "Jacob made a vow" (28:20): in typical "so Jacob" fashion, he sets a little, ad hoc, 'somekinda agreement' between himself and God, and reacts to what we might call the immediate situation: 'God says my kids are gonna be around here in every direction someday [28:14]? OK, first things first: if he gets me food, shelter, and back home safe, THEN I'll be fair with Him.' How many of these deals has God heard from us? Jacob wants pay-as-you-go with God. Haven't we thought of Him the same way?
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