I did the Sunday school lesson this morning and thought I'd share. Since the main lesson was only a few verses, and not a lot happened, I thought I'd start with a review of the story up to now. The whole thing covers Genesis 25-35.
The Story so far:
The day had finally arrived! Isaac and Rebekah had been waiting for this day for many years, and at last they were about to have twins! The first one came out, and they noticed he had red hair all over. So what to name him? Hairy (or Esau in Hebrew)! The second boy wasn’t far behind. In fact, he was holding onto his brother’s heel. So naturally, why not name him “He Grasps the Heel”? Too complicated? OK, let’s translate “he grasps the heel” into Hebrew: Jacob! As Hairy and Heel-Grasper got older, they developed a rivalry. Isaac liked his older son Esau better, but Rebekah preferred the younger son, Jacob. One day, Esau was out working, while Jacob stayed home and made some stew. When Esau got home, he was all tired out and starving, and all he could think of that he needed to eat something now! As he got near the house, he smelled something cooking, and he got even hungrier. Jacob was sneaky, though. He could see that his big brother was desperate to eat, and he would give anything…like, say, his birthright!
A while later, Isaac realized he wasn’t getting any younger, and he needed to pass on the blessing to his firstborn son, so he told Esau to go hunt for food to bring to him so he could bless him. But while he was gone, Rebekah made some food and helped Jacob to pretend to be Esau and get his father’s blessing. When Esau came back and found out that Jacob had tricked him again, he was steaming mad! So mad that he wanted to kill his brother.
So Jacob ran for his life. On the way, he stopped for the night. He found a nice comfy rock to use for a pillow and laid down on the ground. That night, he dreamed that he saw a stairway going from the ground up into heaven, with angels going up and down it. At the top of the stairway, he saw God. In the dream, God promised him that He would take care of him, that Jacob would be the father of a great nation, and that He would bring him back home one day. In the morning, Jacob got up and named the place Bethel, or House of God. He put the stone he had used as a pillow and set it there as a reminder of this promise. He promised God that he would serve Him.
When Jacob got to his uncle’s house, he fell in love with his cousin Rachel, and he worked for his Uncle Laban seven years so that he could marry her. But sneakiness ran in the family. After the wedding, Jacob discovered that he had actually married Rachel’s sister Leah. So he had to work another seven years to marry Rachel. So it was that Jacob had eleven sons and a daughter during the time he lived there. (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Dinah, Joseph. Benjamin wasn’t born yet.)
Finally the time came to leave, and Jacob took his wives and children and livestock and left. But on the way home, he found out that his brother Esau was coming to meet him. The last time he’d seen Esau, he had been threatening to kill him! While he was on the way to meet his brother, God met him and wrestled with him. When that happened, God gave him a new name: “He Wrestles with God” (or Israel)! When Esau saw his brother Israel, he ran to him, and they hugged. They were friends again. Then Jacob and his family settled in the city of Shechem.
Now we pick up the story where we left off…
One day, God commanded Jacob to go back to Bethel and build an altar. So Jacob obeyed. But before he left, he told everyone in his family that they were about to go worship God. He told them about how God had always helped him when he needed help, and had taken care of him. Now they needed to get rid of their idols and earrings. At the time, the earrings some of them were wearing were used as charms to worship false gods. Jacob took the idols and earrings and buried them under a big oak tree.
The whole big family then set out for Bethel. When they got there, Jacob obeyed God and built an altar. God met him and reminded him about his new name. He was no longer Jacob, but Israel. God promised him again that he would be the father of a great nation. Not only would he have thousands of descendents, but some of them would even be kings! He also promised him to give him this land as He had done for Jacob’s father Isaac and grandfather Abraham.
To mark the occasion, Jacob set up a stone pillar to remember the promise. Once again, he called the place Bethel, or House of God.