Genesis 36 – March 22
- Esau’s Epilogue
In Genesis 35:28, we see that Esau came to assist with the funeral of Isaac. If we just left the story here, Esau would probably come off looking like a good guy. He forgave Jacob. He is a hard worker. He helped bury his father. But, Esau is not a good guy. Esau is the epitome of a worldly-minded man. He has no care for God, and no fear of God before his eyes. The opening half of chapter 36 chronicles his worldliness. The phrase “Esau is Edom” was written by Moses to indicate something very important. Edom is not the friend of Israel. In fact, they will always be the enemies of Israel until they are eventually destroyed. There are multiple prophecies that we don’t have time to explore. For example, the entire book of Obadiah is a prophetic oracle of judgment against Edom. Esau may look like a good person, but he is an enemy of God. The person who lives a decent, comparatively moral life, but rejects God is an enemy of God. Your really friendly neighbor, that co-worker that is fun and funny and makes your job bearable, that sweet old lady who is always nice to your children, they are all sinners before a holy God. God was not pleased with Esau, nor will he be pleased with the nominally good, God-ignoring, worldly people.
- Jacob’s Epilogue
It is well worth noting that in the chapter about the defiling of Dinah we see Jacob at his most cowardly. We see him back down from his responsibility to care for and protect his family. And most of all, we see him fail to trust in God as he is filled with fear. It is also worth noting that the name of God is completely absent from that chapter. He is never mentioned by anyone. It seems as though Jacob has completely forgotten God during those trials. And that is why Jacob acks fearfully and cowardly. But Genesis 35-36 is just the opposite in many ways. Now we see Jacob taking control of the spiritual direction of his family. We see him bury the false gods. We see him lead his family out as they traveled through the lands of the very people that he was so afraid of in the previous chapter. And most significantly, God is all over these chapters. The name of God is mentioned a total of 22 times. 10 times directly, 11 times in the names that Jacob gives to different places (Such as Beth -El - which means the house of God). And one time God speaks his own name. But, as we will see, he does not use the generic name of God, but a special name, which helps us to understand exactly what God is doing in this passage.
When God told Jacob to leave Paddan Aram and leave the house of Laban, he told Jacob to come to this place and complete his vow. But this time, it is not Jacob who is trying to make a deal with God. He has been humbled. He sees that God has done exceedingly and abundantly more to bless him than he had ever imagined. He was not merely sustained, but he was blessed with flocks and herds and family in abundance.
But did Jacob complete his vow? It doesn’t say that he sacrifices thousands of animals, which would have constituted a tenth of his wealth. Instead, he makes a simple drink offering. This has led some scholars to say that Jacob never fulfilled his vow. Others argue that Jacob probably did, but it simply isn’t listed.
However, I think I would agree with those scholars who see Jacob as fulfilling his vow by finally understanding that God is not just worthy of 10% of his goods. Instead, Jacob now dedicates everything to God. A 100% living sacrifice. He will no longer attempt to claim anything. He never again makes any attempt to expand his wealth. He seems to finally transition from a man who is concerned about things to a man who has understood the greater treasure that is to be found in God alone.