How to Go Deeper in the Word
There are several intentional parallels between Isaac's story in Genesis 24-27 and Jacob's story in Genesis 28-29. God gave these records similar plot-lines, words, and grammar so that we would learn from careful comparison of the two. By examining these parallels, we gain a deeper insight into the meaning and application of these chapters.
Let's look at some of these similarities and see what God teaches through them.
First, consider two important parallels between Genesis 24 and Genesis 28-29:
1. Both stories begin with an aging father who wants his second-born son to marry a non-Canaanite wife. Abraham tells this to his servant in 24:1-4; Isaac tells this to Jacob in 28:1-4. Once we observe this fact, key differences emerge:
- Abraham sends the servant who is "the oldest of his household" to accomplish this important task (24:2)
- Abraham states that God's angel will personally assist him (24:7)
- Abraham prepared him with 10 camels and "all kinds of good things" necessary for the journey, a dowry payment, and a return with multiple new travelers (24:10)
- By contrast, Isaac merely "sent Jacob away", alone and unprepared (28:5a).
There are many reasons for Isaac's poor planning in comparison to his father: Isaac's preferential upbringing of Esau due to his love of wild game (25:28), his passive attitude toward his responsibilities at the end of his life (27:2, 4), and his desire to comply quickly with Rebekah's request to send him away (27:46-28:2).
What's the lesson here? Isaac's love was passive and selfish; Abraham's love was active and self-sacrificial. Isaac loved Esau because of what Esau could do for him; but Abraham loved Isaac because he was his son. That's how fathers should be. Like Abraham, all Christians need to realize that God placed us on earth to serve others, not to be be served by them (Matthew 23:11-12).
2. Both stories record someone making an extremely helpful gesture at a well. In Genesis 24, Rebekah selflessly volunteered to water 10 camels with no prior offer of any payment (24:19-21). While she did this, the wise servant "was gazing at her in silence, to know whether Yahweh had made his journey successful or not" (24:21).
By contrast, Jacob planned no similar test of Rachel's character prior to becoming infatuated with her. He prematurely rolled away the stone of the well for Rachel, watered Laban's sheep, kissed her, yelled, cried, and then announced he was her relative (29:10-11). Rather than testing Rachel's character in this first encounter, Jacob wasted the opportunity by trying to prove himself to her instead.
When we look back on chapter 24 through the lens of 29, we appreciate Abraham's servant's slow, careful assessment of Rebekah. His ability to reserve judgment until God fulfilled His plan enabled him to be willing to walk away from Bethuel's family if they were unwilling to send Rebekah away (24:49, 54, 56).
God gives us this contrast to show us the need to test someone's character before forming a close commitment. This same approach is what God requires for deacons in 1 Timothy 3:10 "And these men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach." When it comes to character, test it; don't assume the best.
Do you test before you trust like Abraham's servant? Or do you seek to please others at all costs like Jacob?
Genesis 24 is filled with many other instructive parallels in Genesis 29:
3. Who runs out to greet the traveller and welcome him into his home in Genesis 24:29-31 and 29:13? What are some differences between these two accounts?
4. What speeches do the different travelers give in Genesis 24:34-49 and Genesis 29:13? Was it wise for Jacob to tell Laban "all these things" (29:13b)?
5. In both stories, a deal was made and a dowry was paid. How is the deal in 24:51-59 different from the one in 29:15-20?
6. Both stories have an attempt made at double-dealing: in 24:55 and 29:21-30. Why does one attempt fail and the other succeed?
The parallels between chapter 27 and 29 are equally important. As you meditate on these two chapters, consider the following:
1. Both chapters contain a kiss made by someone who betrays the one he kisses. Who does the kissing? Does this foreshadow Judas kissing Jesus?
2. Both chapters contain a deceptive scheme engineered by a mother using her son. Who is the mother and who is the son in each chapter? What does this teach us about the importance of mothers in the process of childrearing?
3. Both chapters contain a plan to take advantage of a man's inability to see whether he is interacting with the firstborn or second-born child. And yet God's will is revealed in both deceptions. What does this teach us about God's providence and our sin?
4. Both men respond differently to learning that they were deceived. How did the two men respond differently (compare 27:33 and 29:25-28)? Which response was more godly? How can this help you develop a more godly thought-process when you learn someone has betrayed or deceived you?
5. Both chapters contain a loud yell of someone who is weeping. Compare 27:34 with 29:11. Can we make any comparison between the attitude of these two men? What does it teach about the spiritual cost of failing to keep our emotions in check in difficult times?
6. Both chapters show Jacob's willingness to trust and obey human authority rather than God. What moral dilemma does Jacob face in 27:10-13 and how is it similar to his dilemma in 29:27-28? In both cases, he bitterly complies with man's authority rather than God's. When have you had your loyalty to God tested by someone asking you to sin?
The Bible never ceases to amaze us in its depth. It wouldn't surprise me if you discover more parallels as you examine the ones in this article. If so, would you share them with me?
In the Bible, God gives us a highly compressed text that renders more and more useful information as we carefully unpack it. We honor God through careful study of the potent Word He has given us. And He honors us with His wisdom and deeper relationship as we study it.