Today’s reading: Genesis 24-35, Psalm 5-6
A central figure in today’s reading is Jacob. From our introduction to him when he is still in the womb, we learn that he will strive to overcome any obstacle in his way. Perseverance is a core characteristic of the “heel-grabber.” What is remarkable in these chapters of Genesis is how God shapes that characteristic for good over time, and for the purposes of the covenant.
The way Jacob swindles his brother Esau out of both birthright and blessing, with a little help from Mom, offends our sense of how family is supposed to treat each other (and there will be several other examples of that today!) But it also reveals Jacob’s desire to “go places” and the ease with which Esau would sacrifice the family’s future–over a bowl of soup. God sees through Jacob’s deception to a heart that has the strength and endurance needed for the future of a people who, only two generations later, will find themselves enslaved.
So, as Jacob is on his way to the house of Laban, he has an encounter with God that is life-changing. He names the place Bethel (God’s House). Years later, after persevering through the treatment he receives from his uncle Laban and journeying home to face his brother and come to terms with his past, Jacob returns to Bethel. There God gives him a new name that will not only be his, but an entire nation’s: Israel.