Posts Tagged ‘Jacob’

Genesis 37:1-14 DIARY OF DREAMER  

I imagine that this is the extended diary Jacob kept about the story of his son, Joseph, extrapolated from the Biblical narrative with my reflections. 

Favouritism or Favour? 

Diary of Joseph: I am here for a higher purpose. A calling. My destiny. I had my 17th birthday yesterday but the atmosphere at the special meal that was prepared with the family was strained.  

Leadership 

My father insists on thrusting me into leadership positions with my brothers and they resent it. He presented me with a coat of many colours recently, indicating that he has chosen me to bear the family blessing before he dies. This means – a double portion of the inheritance, management of the family business and spiritual leadership in carrying forward the promises God has given our family. Quite an honour which I will carry willingly and with a sense of responsibility. 

Is this favouritism from my father or favour from God? I am the firstborn son of Rachel but not the oldest son of our family.  

My brothers say my father shows me favouritism. Does life favour those with beautiful coats? Do the sons of Rachel get an unfair advantage in life because of the family line?   

My family carries the promises of God for blessing. We are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and my father Jacob, but still we are terribly dysfunctional, stumbling over our faith and relationships with eachother, morally questionable, and in need of saving. We have no unfair advantages because of the family tree. We don’t have exclusive rights to achieving anything of worth. 

I refuse to live below my potential. My brothers may think it is because I am the favourite son but I can choose to be squashed by their negativity or stand firm on my beliefs. I choose to embrace the favour of God, even above the favour of my family. 

Contrasts 

Strange. I am loved and favoured by my father, but hated and dishonoured by my brothers to the point where of late, they refuse to even greet me. When they do speak, they remind me that I am only 17 years old. They are all adults, rough men with little faith in God and they do not respect my father for his lack of leadership back in Shechem. They are consumed with what has happened in the past. 

Shechem  

Yes, my sister was raped and my father did nothing. He even managed to entertain the idea of marrying her off to the perpetrator. Yes, my brothers stepped in and overreacted dreadfully, murdering every man in the town of Shechem, and then looting and enslaving every woman and child.  

My father was shocked and bitterly disappointed by their actions. I think they were too. They really needed and wanted some form of discipline for their criminal activity and to be encouraged to repent. Their guilt tracks them like a hungry bear and they long to get it off their trail. Their corrupted past pollutes their present and ultimately their future. 

Elusive Forgiveness 

Sin eats away at my brothers from the inside and they have not been encouraged to repent. They have become lawless with a gang mentally. I have become a target of their inward hostility. They are so continually looking for circumstances and other people to blame for life that they have no time to pursue God’s purposes. 

With my older brothers becoming too unpredictable and untrustworthy, my father insists on reports of their activities every day. No wonder I am regarded as a spy. 

My Dream 

In the middle of all this tension, during the last few nights I have had a dream from God and then another to confirm it. It was a remarkable dream: me and my brothers were out in a field binding sheaves of grain. Suddenly my sheaf stood up and the sheaves of my brothers gathered around my sheaf and bowed down to it. Then the Sun and Moon and 11 stars bowed low before me (Genesis 37:7,9). Leadership is obviously my inheritance. I claim it. I will not surrender to the negativity of my family’s dysfunctional attitudes. 

Life is not dependant on a father’s favouritism or a fancy coat but on the favour I already have with God. I will co-operate with the dreams I have from Him. Here I stand.  

Surprisingly, when I shared my dreams with my brothers, they did not see that God was speaking at all, but somehow thought I had concocted a story to rub salt into their wounds. Such bitterness. 

I expected my father to confirm my dreams speaking about leadership in the family. Instead, he rebuked me strongly, much to the delight of my brothers. This only caters to my brother’s animosity.  

Serving My Brothers

This is obviously not going to be easy. It seems that I may need to approach this in another way. I know that the greatest leaders are there not to serve themselves but to be a servant to others.  It seems that those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:11-12).  

I guess if God wants me to lead, then I will lead in His time and in His way and with a desire to serve my brothers. But I refuse to bring my belief in the favour of God down to the level of the negativity of my brothers. I choose to lift my experiences to the level of my belief in the dreams God has given to me. 

Diary of Jacob: I have pondered on Joseph’s dreams ever since he left to find my other sons. He was so willing to go to his brothers and serve them despite their dislike of him. Have I done the right thing in sending him? 

TO BE CONTINUED …

Pastor Ross  

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Joseph © Image by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 37:1-13 – DIARY OF A DYSFUNCTIONAL FATHER – Part 2 

I imagine that this is the extended diary Jacob kept about the story of his son, Joseph, extrapolated from the Biblical narrative. 

Jacob: I love who Joseph is becoming. He has already grown to be a young man of bearing, wise in his decisions and honest, often blatantly honest. I can’t say that this has come from me.  

Needless to say, I have chosen this firstborn son of Rachel to lead the family business. I know that Rachel would have been proud of him. I can honour her memory in this way. He is the child Rachel and I longed for and had almost given up hoping for. He has her eyes, her poise but most of all, he honours God. 

O Lord, how I miss Rachel. I loved her so much. Leah and my other wives may not be pleased with Joseph leading the family business, but their sons are wild and undisciplined. They love me, but I fear they do not respect me.  

I know I have not been the best of Fathers. They can see how I showed very little fatherly love and protection for Dinah, my daughter. I have not held them accountable for their violence in Shechem so I can hardly reward them by giving them leadership positions. I can tell that they do not like the way I treat Joseph and resent his natural talents and his trust in God.  

Surely, I can give the first-born rights to any son I want.  Perhaps they think I am showing too much love and protection for Joseph. Joseph keeps an eye on everything that is happening with my flocks, servants and property and he reports back to me about anything that is not going well. His intuitive ability for business has made him invaluable, but his brothers think he is spying on them. They are feeding the flocks in pastures much farther away to avoid interaction with Joseph. 

Joseph says his brothers hate him. I’m sure this is an exaggeration. Hate is a strong emotion for brothers to feel. But today they refused to even greet him with the traditional greeting of blessing, “Shalom”.  

I must speak to my sons about how they are treating Joseph. Not greeting a person is not only discourteous, but it is also a sign of hostility, not only a proof that they do not wish him well, but they give the impression that if they have an opportunity, they will do him an injury. I will not tolerate such lack of good manners and implied malice to the one who will eventually take over the family business. 

I could not attend the morning meeting today, so I gave Joseph the responsibility to hand out the tasks for the day, mainly binding the corn in sheaves. I gave him a gift, the coat of many colours, the coat that signifies leadership and distinction, to make it clear that he was in charge.  

His brothers gave him a hard time. Reuben came to complain later and told me that Joseph shared a dream. Apparently Joseph had said,   

“Listen to this dream, we were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!”  

His brothers responded badly to this dream, “So you think you will be our king, do you? Do you actually think you will reign over us?”  

I was a little embarrassed by this dream. Was he trying to assert his leadership ambitions? Was this dream from God? To soften the blatant message of the dream a little, the next day, I spoke to my sons of my intentions to give the firstborn rights to Joseph but that it would not happen until I died. In the meantime, he would be learning the ropes. I could tell that Joseph’s dream and my announcement did not go down all that well. 

To make things worse, Joseph blurted out another dream. I suppose he thought he was helping. He said, 

 “Listen, I have had another dreamThe sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!”  

I could see his brothers were jealous of Joseph, so I scolded him this time. “What kind of dream is that?” I said, “Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground before you?”  

His brothers were grateful for my words, but I have wondered since what these dreams mean. Strange that the dream should be about sheaves which speak of God’s promise of provision and stars when God has promised that my family will one day be numerous like the stars of heaven.  

I don’t want Joseph to think of himself more highly than he should think. It is only by grace that God gives leadership. I want him to think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of gifting and faith to each one. 

I am a bit concerned. My 11 other sons told me they would be pasturing the flocks on our land near Shechem. This doesn’t seem to be a good idea, given that our family is not well-liked in that area. They have been gone sometime now and I am sending Joseph to see how things are going and he can come back with a report. No doubt time away from him has mended their jealousy of him.  

TO BE CONTINUED 

Pastor Ross 

Hey! That’s me in that story!

Genesis 37:1-13 – DIARY OF A DYSFUNCTIONAL FATHER

I imagine that this is the extended diary Jacob kept about the story of his son, Joseph, extrapolated from the Biblical narrative. 

Jacob: We are moving back to Bethlehem, in Hebron. Abraham my grandfather lived here. This is the place where my family nurtured a relationship with God. This perhaps is where I will find peace and die. 

Will I die without seeing the promises of God fulfilled in my life? 

I am now one hundred and eight years old and God has promised me this land of Canaan, but we are still essentially squatters. How God will fulfil His promise is still a mystery to me as it has been to my grandfather and father before me. All I know is that I can trust in the promises of God. I will not let go. 

What do I know about faith? 

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. I hope that through my faith I will be a good example to my descendants. It is impossible to please God without faith.  

It was by faith that my grandfather Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did my father Isaac and now I have inherited the same promise.  

By faith, my grandfather’s wife, Sarah, was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation will come from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them. They died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it.  

How can I have faith when my family is so dysfunctional? 

I have been an absent father in many respects, uninvolved in the lives of my children. I was shocked by the events in Shechem, with the rape of my daughter, Dinah, but I was selfish and afraid and even entertained the thought I could somehow trade and intermarry my daughter with the prince of Shechem, a wicked man. My sons took control and wreaked a heavy vengeance upon the town of Shechem. I still cannot believe that they slaughtered all the men of the village of Shechem and took the women and children into captivity.  

I have lost control and respect, yet God somehow protected my dysfunctional family. Deception, vengeance and murder, slavery and adultery! Why does he continue to care about us? It seems once I expressed faith in Him, He continues to show that He is faithful to me, despite my many flaws. With such faithfulness, I can only ask Him, “What can I do to change things? 

I grew up in a dysfunctional household myself, with constant tensions between me and my twin brother, Esau. I deceived my brother into giving me his birthright and my father into giving me the family blessing.  

Is there any hope for a future? 

I have no idea of how to father my children. Out of all my sons, I see promise particularly in my firstborn from Rachel. He is not my oldest child, since I have 4 wives and children before him, but I have decided that he is the only one I can trust, apart from Benjamin, my youngest, perhaps. I have been trying my best to train up Joseph to take over the leadership of the family when I die.  

I know this creates tensions between my wives and my others sons? I fear further rebellion from my sons so I have instructed Joseph to keep a careful watch of what is happening in the family. I then discuss leadership issues with Joseph to help him. 

Joseph doesn’t have any authority as yet. He is only 17 years old and his other brothers are much older. Reuben is 29, Benjamin is 8. The others between 18-29  

I have Joseph working for his half brothers Gad, Asher, Dan and Naphtali, my sons from Bilhah and Zilpah, looking after my sheep. I could never have him work with Leah’s sons who were so ruthless in Shechem.  

Joseph seems to have a strong sense of discernment, knowing what is right and wrong. Most of all, he has a faith in God. I desire so much for him to have integrity and wisdom, characteristics I have lacked in my lifetime. Unfortunately, my mistakes are evident in the rebellious attitudes of my other sons.  

Who can I entrust my family to when I die? 

I intend to give Joseph the family blessing and double inheritance of my wealth. He is the only one who shows that he can take up the leadership and priesthood of our family. I doubt if he’ll gain their respect immediately, but I leave that in God’s hands. 

Reuben has desecrated his right to the leadership of our family business. God isn’t impressed with the firstborn sons who have no respect for marriage. He thought he could usurp my authority by sleeping with one of my concubines. My outrage is lasting. 

Just because you are born into a family whose parents have faith in God doesn’t make you automatically a believer. It requires a personal decision. What hope does my family have unless they respond to the invitation of God and have their own personal encounter with God. 

TO BE CONTINUED…

Pastor Ross

Emails from Moses – Postscript. Image created by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 36 – EMAILS FROM MOSES – Postscript 

To your majesty, King Hadar, 

Recently I have been searching the NET (National Edomite Transcripts) to find references to the history of the kings of Edom. I came across a few letters and e-mails between Jacob and Esau describing the beginnings of the fascinating history of your nation, but it mentions only clan leaders, not the kings.  

With your permission, I was wondering, since we have a common Ancestor in Abraham, if you or your secretaries would be able to help me find out what happened after Esau’s grandchildren died and specifically about the kings of Edom.  

As you know Israel has no kings, but Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were promised by God that kings would come from their descendants. It hasn’t happened yet for Jacob’s descendants, but I understand your nation has had kings for many years. 

Yours ancestrally, 

Moses,  

Servant of God most high, 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Dear Moses, leader of the hordes of Israel, 

I am not compelled in any way to share anything with you, Moses. You and your God are nothing to us. But since we have a common ancestor in Abraham and Isaac, I will share briefly some the historical information of our great nation.  

In summary, there are 7 kings. Firstly, Bela, Jobab, and Husham.  

Then there’s Hadad (not me). You wouldn’t like this Hadad much. He killed Midian in the field of Moab, son of our common ancestor, Abraham, by his wife Keturah. I understand you have some Midianite connections also.  

Then there’s Samlah, Shaul, Baal-hanan and now I, king Hadad, am king. All kings ruled from different cities in Edom and I rule from the city of Pau. 

Yours historically, 

Hadad, King of Edom, 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Your Royal Highness, King Hadad, 

Your information has been helpful. Thankyou so much for the list of your kings. This allows me the opportunity to record the family tree of our common ancestors, Abraham and Isaac, through Esau.  

Yes, I had heard of the other King Hadad who killed Midian. His passing was grieved by Abraham and his wife, no doubt, and all the Midianites then and since. I lived in the district of Midian for 40 years after I left Egypt. Jethro, my father-in-law is also a Midianite priest to God most highHis daughter, my wife, is Zipporah.  

I am fascinated by your kings ruling from different cities. I thought each son would rule from their father’s city. I have never heard of this practice. Is there a reason for why this happens? 

Yours with curiosity, 

Moses,  

friend of God. 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Dear Moses,  

I think you have misunderstood me in thinking that our Edomite kings come from a family dynasty of rulers. This is not so. 

Many years ago, Esau wrote into the very fabric of our society that none of us can presume clan leadership on the basis of birthright or a father’s blessing. Each leader must earn his leadership by power of force and strategy 

There are no favorites in Edomite rulership, no family dynasties, no kings anointed by God in our clans. We fight for the right of the throne and keep it by the power of the sword, knowing that our sons will not be the next kings. 

6 kings have come and gone, all from different families and now I am king. No-one will usurp my kingdom, though there have been those who have tried 

The leaders of clans give their names to their districts. Those leaders are governed by my rulershipSome kings, including me, have had cities of our own but we have no capital cities. They are merely places to live, fortresses, some built into the very rocks of Petra. Edom is a country of narrow canyons and is easily defended.  

By the way, we don’t allow strangers into our lands and, despite our common ancestors, we are not allies. Jacob gave up that right when he stole Esau’s blessing. Esau we have loved and Jacob we have hated. Think twice before planning to travel this way into Canaan.  

Yours militarily, 

Hadad,  

High king of Edom 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

To Your Highness, King Hadad, King of all Edom, 

God has certainly been good to your people, putting you in possession of your land much sooner than us Israelites. Although you have made it clear that you do not regard us as allies, be assured that we are not a threat to your kingdom.  

God has made it clear that to us that you feel threatened by our presence in your territory, so we will be careful not to bother you, for we understand that He has given you all the hill country around Mount Seir as your property, and we do not want even one square foot of your land.  

If we need food to eat or water to drink, we will pay you for it. God has been with us in our journey from Egypt and each step through this great wilderness. We have lacked nothing. We will avoid the road through the Arabah Valley that comes up from Elath and Ezion-geber (Deuteronomy 2:2-8).  

We will bypass your territory because we respect you as the descendants of Esau.  

One day we will see kings over our people. From our descendants, we will see the Messiah, King of all kings. The promise to Abraham that all the nations of the world will be blessed through him will be fulfilled (Genesis 12:1-3). 

You have said that you have hated Jacob and love Esau. Be careful that one day God does not say of you, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” (Malachi 1:2-3) 

Yours respectfully, 

Moses,  

Friend and servant of God most high 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Dake reminds me that “the rock-hewn city, Petra, later the capital of Edom, was an ancient stronghold. The temples and houses cut in the sides of the mountains surrounding Petra still exist and look freshly made.  

Edom had everything in wealth and power but no real faith in God and only the prospect of judgment to realize (Obadiah 1). In contrast, Israel had little in material wealth and power, but a struggling faith in God and all of God’s promises yet to be realised in the coming Christ.  

Christ followers are invited to live by faith not by sight, (2 Corinthians 5:7) just as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived (Hebrews 11).  

Pastor Ross 

Genesis 36 – EMAILS TO ESAU – Part 3 

Hi Esau, 

Thanks for all the information about your grandsons. You really have got quite a crowd to lead.  

Tell me, how did you originally come to live in Mt Seir? I’ve heard of an old hillbilly named Seir who pioneered that region and settled there.  

He was still around when we were young. The stories go that he had 7 sons who were prominent clan leaders called the Horites? Dad always told us to keep away from them. They had a reputation of being mercenaries, thugs and thieves. So how did you end up in Seir which you now call Edom? 

Jacob 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

We ended up in Mt Seir because I have an even greater group of mercenaries, thugs and thieves than Seirs seven sons. We dispossessed them of everything and occupied their land. They were a bunch of cave dwellers, used to living rough, but they were a pretty wiley bunch and good fighters. They weren’t expecting to be routed, but they are actually better off now than they were.  

We took some of their women to be our wives. My wife Oholibamah is the daughter of one of Seir’s sons, Anah. My son Eliphaz has a Horite concubine named Timna. She is the last daughter of Seir. He was pretty old when she was born, but she is still older than Eliphaz. Eliphaz gained some points with the Horites when he married her. 

Esau 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

So do I choose quick results of material gain and power or learn to be patient and believe in the promises of God? Esau’s philosophy: Who needs to depend on God for things when you can take care of it yourself? Pursue the self-centered advantage. Jacobs philosophy: Struggle with obeying God, but learn eventually to patiently wait for His promises to be fulfilled.   

God humbles those like Jacob, while others, like Esau, gain the whole world. … But lose their own soul. 

Pastor Ross 

Genesis 36 – EMAILS TO ESAU – Part 2 

Emails to Esau 2 © Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Dear Jacob, 

Happy birthday to us! 120! Can you believe another decade has past. A lot of water under the bridge and bridges burned (I hope). I hope you have a great day. 

Your homeland sounds fascinating. I guess the name Edom will always remind me of our past also, and if you don’t mind, I won’t inflame enmity by attempting to come. I hope we can still keep in contact, however.  

I can’t say I have particularly represented God very well over the years, yet at significant times in my life, He has spoken clearly to me. I have struggled with Him. But He has always been with me. I am sad to hear you have abandoned faith in Him. I hope it’s not because of me, but I fear I had a lot to do with it, although I cannot take final responsibility for your decisions. 

I am still interested in getting our family tree in order, as I now take over that responsibility from Dad. I have been married for over 40 years. You must have been married for around 80 years, so there must be quite a few children. 

Yours, 

Jacob 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Jacob, 

Thanks for the Birthday wishes. I had forgotten. You were the only one who remembered.  

Since you don’t look like you are going to stop with this family tree thing, I’ll give you some details. 

Like you, brother, I’m a polygamist. I have three wives:  First is Judith (now known as Aholibamah), the daughter of Beeri, the Hittite, a total heathen in your eyes, brother. And Bashemath (now known as Adah), the daughter of Elon the Hittite (Genesis 36:2). 

Mum and Dad were not too impressed with my choices of wives when I told them (Genesis 26:34), so to appease them, I married my cousin, another Bashemath (now known as Mahalath), the daughter of Ishmael. It didn’t make much difference. She doesn’t believe in your God either (Genesis 28:6-9).  

If you are wondering about the name changes, in Edomite culture we change the names of our women when they are married. 

My family has prospered greatly despite our rejection of God and despite living outside of Canaan. I now have many servants and cattle.  

I have broken free from the yoke, like Dad’s blessing said.  

Since it is only my sons that interest you for your records, you can list 5.  

Adah gave birth to Eliphaz. Eliphaz strangely enough believes in God (a bit of a disappointment really). Probably influenced by his friend Job. I have to admit he’s a good tribal leader, though 

Basemath gave birth to Reuel.  Reuel is also a tribal leader.  

Oholibamah gave birth to JeushJalam, and Korah. They were all born in Canaan (Genesis 36:2-3).  

I didn’t want my kids growing up with all the God talk of my parents. So I moved to Edom some time ago, but like you came back when I heard Dad was dying. I became quite wealthy while I was in Canaan, but I could not call this my home because it is promised to you, so I packed up for good. I have no desire to live in your shadow, Jacob (Genesis 36:6). There’s not enough land to support us both because of all our livestock and possessions anyway. 

Now Dad’s gone I have moved everything to Mt Seir in Edom. You don’t need to worry. I won’t get in your way. 

Esau 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Dear Esau, 

You and I are very different and so I guess your decision to move was wise. Nevertheless, it seems strange that your sons were born in Canaan only to move out. My sons were born out of Canaan only to move in. You acquired wealth in Canaan only to move to Edom. I acquired wealth in Padan-aram only to move to Canaan. I ran away from you after stealing your blessing. Now you move away from me in order for me to enter into that same blessing. What a strange set of circumstances. 

Tell me. Do you have any grandsons? 

Jacob 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Jacob, 

Let’s make one thing clear, brother. I didn’t move from Canaan because of my love for you. I moved because I already have a life and own my land, which is more than you can say about Canaan. All you have is a promise and promises don’t mean anything. Get real, Jacob.  

As for Grandsons. Yes, I have 10 grandsons. I am getting old. All of them now are clan leaders of around 1000 families. 

Eliphaz has 5 children. Teman is his eldest son. Teman is a great leader. He already has a district and town named after him in Edom.  

Eliphaz also lives in Teman. Great man of wisdom. Eliphaz the Temanite. Can’t tell him anything. The whole place gives me the creeps. They’re all a lot of philosophers and know-it-alls and all they do is sit around and talk and read. A bit too cerebral for me.  

 Eliphaz has other sons, Omar, ZephoGatam and Kenaz 

I suppose you need to add another son also. Eliphaz took a concubine, just to continue the family tradition, named Timna, a local girl, and they had a son called Amalek (Genesis 36:12). He’s a tough kid. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him. He’s not well accepted by the rest of the family. So he has moved his clan to the West of Edom. I don’t see him much 

Eliphaz also has a son-in-law, Korah, also a great leader.   

I don’t have time for other details, so here’s a quick rundown. My son Reuelm through my wife Basemath, has 4 sons: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah. (Genesis 36:12-13). 

I’m going on a 3 day hunting trip through the mountains so I’ll write to you again when I get time. Might even prepare some red stew when I get back. Pity you aren’t here to cook it.   

Esau. 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Esau is a very successful, wealthy, powerful man. Famous. The best example of a successful Atheist the world has to offer. Who says God won’t allow Atheists to succeed in life? But at what cost. Alienation from family and constant tension with the world around him. Arrogance with defying God.   

Pastor Ross 

Ancient E-mails to Esau © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 36 – E-MAILS TO ESAU – Part 1 

Hi Esau, 

It was great that you and I were there when our Dad died. So strange to think we won’t see him or Mum again. I feel a little like an orphan.  

I appreciated spending a bit of time with you after all these years, but I realised that I don’t have any real idea of who is in your family. You spoke of some of your children but I really don’t know much more. I have been compiling our family history and wondered if you would mind letting me know about your side. 

Your brother, 

Jacob (now Israel) 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Hi Jacob, 

So, you’ve changed your name. Sorry, but you’ll always be Jacob to me (the deceiver). I’m not really into family histories and you might not like my tribe. My parents certainly didn’t. I married Canaanite wives, outside the family of faith. 

I called our tribe the tribe of Edom, partly because of my red skin colour at birth (Genesis 25:25) and partly to never forget the pot of red stew that I exchanged for my birthright. After you stole my blessing from my father, the name Edom fed my desire to kill you if I ever saw you again. But then time got in the way and it didn’t matter anymore. 

Esau  

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Hi Esau, 

I’m glad that we were able to reconcile our differences. You have certainly done well for yourself. I was wondering if I could come and visit you and perhaps further heal old wounds and get this family tree thing in order. 

Jacob 

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Jacob, 

I wouldn’t come here to visit if I were you. It not exactly a safe area for strangers. But it’s your call.  

I call the country where we live Edom, South East of the Dead Sea. It’s a mountainous area, good for hunting and we are starting to build a rock hewn city, unlike any you have ever seen.  

Seriously, I wouldn’t attempt coming here any time soon. You wouldn’t be welcome. My people don’t like strangers. They think I should have killed you when you returned to Canaan. We are an independent people with no need for God. I am building a nation that doesn’t need birthrights or blessings to survive. 

Keep writing, however, brother, and when I have time, I’ll give you a rundown of the black sheep side of the family. Your side of the family tree must be the white goat side. Do you still like wearing goat skins on your arms and neck (just joking Jacob. Relax). 

Esau 

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Esau is the firstborn of twins, a hunter, Isaac’s favorite son. He sells his birthright to Jacob for a pot of red stew, loses his father’s blessing through Jacob’s deception, marries Canaanite women to the displeasure of his parents.

An independent man, Esau hated Jacob for a time but then reconciled after 20 years of being apart. He is proud and rejects God. His success is temporary. 

Genesis 36 invites me to choose long-term commitment to God and His purposes for my life over short-term gain without Him. There will be a cost, but it is the cost of choosing to be patient for the promises of God to be fulfilled.

Pastor Ross 

Genesis 35:16-28 – LETTERS TO JACOB – Part 5  

Letters to Jacob © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Dear Ross, 

I have devastating news. Rachel, my beloved wife, has died in childbirth. I am grief-stricken 

On leaving Bethel, the clan and I moved on toward Ephraththe region around Bethlehem. But Rachel went into labor while we were still some distance away. Her labor pains were intense. (Genesis 35:16 NLT) 

As you know, after so many years of not being able to conceive, Rachel gave birth to Joseph before we left Laban. She asked that God would give her another son. That was 15 years ago, but she continued to pray and now finally God has answered her prayer but sent such grief to my soul.  

My twelfth son was premature. The birth was incredibly difficult. After a very hard delivery, the midwife finally exclaimed, “Don’t be afraid—you have another son!”  

Rachel was about to die, but with her last breath she named the baby Ben-oni (which means “son of my sorrow”). Such a name would have been an unbearable burden for him and all of us to bear, so I called him Benjamin instead (which means “son of my right hand”).   

His name replaces the sorrow I feel at losing Rachel. No longer will he be associated with grief but with honour in our family. He is a blessing that issued forth from sadness.  

I buried Rachel on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). I set up a stone monument over her grave, a lasting tribute to her memory. (Genesis 35:17-20 NLT).  

Yours in grief once again, 

Jacob 

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Dear Jacob, 

 Rachel has shared with you the destiny God has woven into your life. Fruit from hard ground, my friend. I am so sorry for your loss and yet amazed by the promises of God which will be fulfilled through your sons. 

For you, Bethlehem is a place of loss. A memory of someone gone. An acknowledgement of a life of sorrow and joy.  Your monument leaves a legacy for future generations to wonder.  

You renamed your son from Benoni (Son of my sorrow) to Benjamin (Son of my right hand). Perhaps you will find some consolation in that your monument will also mark the place where the Messiah will be born who will also be known as both a man of sorrows and One who sits at the Right Hand of God in heaven.  

The love of your life was buried in the place where the Savior will be born. When He will be born, angels will announce “Good news of great Joy”. Your descendants will be the ancestors of the Son of God. 

The prophet Micah in Micah 5:2 says, “But you, O Bethlehem, Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.”  

I pray, Jacob, for you and for me, that with our last breath, let us not see the sorrow, but the grace of what the Lord has accomplished in our lives and the legacy He gives us to leave behind. 

Isaiah 41:10 (NLT) says, Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand. 

God’s strength, 

Ross. 

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Dear Ross, 

Thankyou for your words of encouragement and prophetic insight. At the moment however I am faced with yet a new challenge and great disappointment. 

After Rachel died, I travelled on to see my father. We camped beyond Migdal-eder, the watchtower of the shepherds near Jerusalem. While I was living there, I heard some disturbing reports. My eldest son, Reuben, had intercourse with Bilhah, Rachel’s maid (Genesis 35:21-22 NLT).  

You may not understand the significance of this in your culture, but in Canaan, this is seen as a way of showing disrespect for the leader of the tribe or family, a challenge to say that he is unfit. It is described as “making yourself strong”. I know I have not been there when my sons and daughter needed me the most, but I thought we had all made a new start. 

I deserve the scorn of my sons for my lack of leadership. I don’t really know what I will do, but Reuben will not be excused. He is my firstborn but he will never have the leadership of our family 

I have experienced more fear, grief, disappointment and heartache with my sons than ever before in my life. These ongoing attacks, however, have only served to strengthen my resolve to obey God.  

At present, I am taking no action against Reuben. I have twelve sons and God has promised that from my family will come the blessing given originally to Abraham, that through them all the nations of the world will be blessed. How He can use us to do that I really don’t know, but I trust Him. 

God alone can fulfil His promises to me. In the meantime, I am returning to my father, Isaac, in MamreIt is a place of rich historyIt is near Kiriath-arba (now called Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac both lived. Abraham and Isaac lived there as foreigners but this land was promised to them and to us as their family forever.  

My father is blind but meeting his grandsons may give him some pleasure in seeing God’s promises being unfolded before he dies. 

Still trusting in God’s promises, 

Jacob 

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Dear Jacob, 

Your letter reminds me that neither sin nor death can frustrate God’s purposes for His people. By faith, you have been blessed concerning things to come. 

Isaac must be well over 150 years old by now. He has lived an incredibly long life. (Genesis 35:28 NLT). I don’t want to live that long, but I do want my life to count for something. 

You have gone through so much of late, and you have overcome by your trust in God. You remind me that none of us are exempt from the trials of life; including the deaths of those we love, and the disappointments and stresses of family life.  

When the time comes for your father to die, you will be the great patriarch of the faith, the mantle of responsibility will be placed upon your shoulders to carry to the next generation. 

 Isaac will die in the faith, not having received the promises directlybut having seen it all from a distance and welcomed it. Abraham and Isaac were foreigners and nomads here on earth, looking forward to a country they could call their own. Like you, they have trusted in promises of God being fulfilled in generations to come. God is not ashamed to be called your God, and He has prepared you for a great purpose and blessing on the earth. You too, Jacob have received it by faith (Hebrews 11:13-20 NLT).  

In days to come at Migdal-eder, where you now reside, I prophesy that shepherds will hear of the Saviour who will come directly through your line.  

Thanks for being a friend, Jacob. I have to admit, there have been times when I have not particularly liked you or the way you have done things, but who I am to judge. I have equally not liked myself or my actions at times in my life. Nevertheless, you have always given me an example, especially of late, of someone who holds onto the promises of God in certain hope of seeing His purposes fulfilled. Only the gracious purposes of God will ensure the survival of our families during the perilous times in which we live. 

I will catch up with you again soon, my friend, 

Inspired to trust in the promises of God and His Word, 

Ross 

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Dear Ross, 

Much has happened since last I wrote to you and one day I will tell you about my son Joseph, but for now I am writing to let you know that my father, Isaac, breathed his last and died at a ripe old age, joining his ancestors in death. Esau and I buried him (Genesis 35:29 NLT). 

Once again Esau and I were reconciled, only this time in our grief. My grandfather, Abraham, bought the cave of Machpelah, near Mamrefrom Ephron the Hittite as a permanent burial site. Abraham buried his wife Sarah there and he was buried thereNow my father joins them. My mother, Rebekah, is also buried there. One day Leah and I will be buried there as well (Genesis 49:29-32 NLT). 

As you said in your last letter, I am now the patriarch of the family, heir of the promises and blessings of God, not only Isaac’s wealth. May the Lord help me to honour the heritage He has given me.  

May God be known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

Jacob 

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Pastor Ross

Genesis 35:11-16 – LETTERS TO JACOB – Part 4

Letters to Jacob
© Image created by Ross Cochrane

From Last letter,… 

Dear Jacob, 

… How incredible that God appeared to you personally! I have all sorts of questions however. How did God appear to you? In a dream? As a person? What other promises? This is so fascinating, but you left out all the details in your letter…. 

Ross 

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Dear Ross 

I am still getting my head around all that God said to me. Sorry if I didn’t tell you the full story. Let me fill in some details. 

I didn’t tell you that God said to me, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Be fruitful and multiply. You will become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants! (Genesis 35:11 NLT).   

I can’t help but think that I am a blessed man beyond what deserve. Not only has God assured me through my new name that He fights for mebut through His Name, He reveals more of Himself to meEl-Shaddai is a name that speaks His great provision and sufficiency.  

Apparently, kings will come from my descendants. How amazing is that? The Lord is omnipotent. Nothing is impossible for Him. He can turn someone like me into someone who is great, simply because He is great.  

My prayer is that He blesses my children and their children with the kind of greatness that comes from acknowledging that He is God Almighty in their lives. 

But God didn’t stop there. He spoke about the promises He made to my ancestors. He said, “I will give you the land I once gave to Abraham and Isaac. Yes, I will give it to you and your descendants after you” (Genesis 35:12 NLT). 

I trust Him to fulfil in me all that I am created for and that many people in the future will be blessed and that my descendants will be blessed. 

And that’s the full story. After that God went up from the place where He had spoken to me (Genesis 35:13 NLT). 

Your utterly amazed friend, 

Jacob 

P.S. Loved the quote you gave from Ephesians? (Sounds like a good book). 

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Dear Jacob, 

I am as utterly amazed as you are by your encounter with God. How incredible and awesome! 

2 Peter 1:4 (NLT2) says, “And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”  

You may not fully understand what I am going to say to you next, Jacob, but God has spoken to other servants also through His Word about you.  

Not only will kings come from your descendants but also the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords.  

1 Timothy 6:15 says, “For, at just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords.”  

Thankyou for sharing your amazing story, but Jacob, you are the master of understatement! … 

I am still dumbfounded that you wrapped up your last letter with the words that God “went up” from the place He had spoken to you. What does that mean?  Jacob, where you speaking to God in the form of a person? Was this a bodily presence? A visible person? Face to face with God? Was this a vision? A dream? Did you see Jesus, Himself, a Theophany of the Christ? Or was it just an impression? Please be more specific!  

Ross 

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Dear Ross, 

My apologies for not being specific. Let me tell you specifically. I saw God face to face, in bodily form. It was not a vision or a dream and He ascended into heaven after He spoke with me. This may well be a manifestation of the One you speak about in your letter as the King of kings and Lord of lords. 

The experience stirred my heart so much that I set up a stone pillar to mark the place where God had spoken to me. Then I poured wine over it as an offering to God and anointed the pillar with olive oil.  

This was the only way I knew to show my respect for the place where I had met with God, face to face.  This place will always be a very special place of worship to me. 

As you know I originally named the place Bethel (which means “house of God”), because God spoke to me there. (Genesis 35:14 NLT) 

Strange, when He met with me, I somehow felt that He was like the purest of lambs sacrificed for sin on the altar, and He was the drink offering I poured out before Him in worship. Bethel, the house of God cannot contain Him and although He went up from that place, He still remains with me. I am His house and I am overcome with worship within. I am filled with His presence even now. 

Tomorrow we are leaving Bethel and moving toward Ephrath (Genesis 35:16 NLT). From there we will travel to meet up with my Father. Where ever I tread, this land is my inheritance, promised from time immemorial to my ancestors, and now to me.  

Heir of promise, 

Jacob 

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Pastor Ross

Genesis 35:8-10 – LETTERS TO JACOB – Part 3

From the last letter… 

Letters to Jacob
© Image created by Ross Cochrane

Dear Jacob, 

…. Tell me, did your sons actually repent and turn from their sins and turn to God? Did they seek God’s forgiveness and worship Him alone? Did your daughter find the healing she needed from her traumatic experience? I know that you finally fulfilled your vow, but did it make a difference in their lives as well?  

Ross 

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Dear Ross, 

Your questions are a little personal and sensitive. I can’t answer for my sons or my daughter.  I cannot control the choices of my children. They know that God is central to my life. You will have to write to them to find your answers.

Soon after my last letter, My Mother’s old nurse, Deborah, died. She was buried beneath the oak tree in the valley below Bethel. Ever since, we have called the tree Allon-bacuth (which means “oak of weeping”) (Genesis 35:8 NLT). 

She helped my mother in raising me so many years ago. She had been staying with my father Isaac until she heard about my return. She gave me the news about my Mother’s death and stayed on to live with us until her own death. I grieve deeply over her loss. 

Deborah nursed me when my name was Jacob; thief of Esau’s blessing, and now I bury her as a new person; heir to God’s promises. I wrote a poem which I spoke over her grave. 

DEBORAH  

“Thou too, Deborah, whose indulgent cares 

Nursed great thief, and formed my tender years, 

Expiring here, an ever-honoured name! 

Adorn El-Bethel with immortal fame: 

Thy name survives, to prompt our pensive hearts; 

As sacred lessons grace to us imparts. 

Soon as thy funeral rites are fully paid, 

Beneath the oak in honour of the dead; 

The sins and tempests of the past now o’er, 

turn, as heir of paths yet to explore.  

(based on a poem by Virgil) 

The things of my past are falling away in so many ways and I have new spiritual pursuits.   

Yours in grief, 

Jacob 

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Dear Jacob, 

What a beautiful tribute in poetry in your last letter. In a time when things are beginning to be going so well for you, you have now experienced great grief. Christmas and the new year aren’t exempt from grief. Bethlehem experienced the rage of a tyrant and the deaths of innocents, but you don’t know about that yet. 

So sorry to hear about your Mum’s death and that of Deborah, your nurse. Tell me, did you ever meet up with your Mum again before she died? Deborah was obviously well-respected. I love the way you expressed your grief by naming the tree nearby, “the oak of weeping. 

May the Lord help you and me to grieve the losses of our past and bury them each with the thoughtful reflection you have given Deborah. 

God bless you as you grieve, 

Ross 

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Dear Ross, 

I’m sorry, but I can’t talk about losing my Mum. It’s all too painful. What I can tell you is that in the midst of all my grief, God appeared to me. 

I have come full circle. 20 years ago, I escaped to Paddan-aram and on the way God appeared to me at Bethel. Now I have returned from Paddan-aram, and God has appeared to me again at Bethel. God has blessed me. God has never given up on me. He said to me, “Your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on your name will be Israel.” So God renamed me Israel” (Genesis 35:9 NLT). This is very significant for me. 

Israel means either “the man who prevails with God” or “God prevails and rules over the man.” For me, both are true. The reason I limp is because I prevailed upon God to bless me and God has certainly prevailed over me in that I want to serve Him as my King.   

I may limp, but I am learning that blessing comes from cursing when you finally obey God. I feel as if I have finally entered into my destiny as the man God intended me to be, no longer Jacob the deceiver but Israel the authentic.  

My life has been anything but problem-free. I have experienced much pain, most of it brought about by my own actions, yet in my many fights with God, He has allowed me to prevail as Israel, to prevail not over God, but with Him, to enter into my destiny having grown through the ordeal. 

He also gave me a number of other promises for the future. 

Yours, limping but moving ahead, 

Jacob  

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Dear Jacob, 

I understand your reluctance to talk about your Mum. Sorry for asking.  

How incredible that God appeared to you personally! I have all sorts of questions however. How did God appear to you? In a dream? As a person? What other promises? This is so fascinating, but you left out all the details in your letter.  

Nevertheless, after reading your last, very moving letter, I found myself praying that God would continually return me to the place of promise and blessing, no matter what pain life may hold in getting there.  

I want Him to change any accoutrements of my past that suggest a lie, and to lead me into my destiny, and to fight for me to be authentic also. I want Him to help me not fight against Him but with Him.  

Thanks for all your inspiring letters this week. So pleased to be in correspondence and reading about your journey. 

Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) says “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” 

Ross 

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Pastor Ross