The fear of Isaac

When Isaac’s son, Jacob left his father-in-law, Laban’s house, for whom he had worked twenty years, to return to the land of his father, Laban pursued and stopped him. Jacob told Laban that if it had not been for the God of Abraham and the fear of Isaac, he would been sent to return empty by Laban (Genesis 31:42).

The phrase “fear of Isaac” is intriguing. Why did Jacob not just refer to the God of Abraham as the God of Isaac as well? It is believed that the phrase fear of Isaac is to say, the God whom Isaac feared or dreaded. Some suggest that it was to instill fear in Laban that Jacob used that expression. However, from the statement that “if the fear of Isaac had not been with me”, we can infer that Jacob was referring to a person and not an emotion.

Many centuries later, the prophet Isaiah would write a call to trust in the Lord – the Lord of hosts (heaven’s armies) and sanctify him (set him holy). The prophet would warn that the Lord of hosts must be your fear, and let him be your dread (Isaiah 8:13), who will keep you safe as your sanctuary (Isaiah 8:14). God’s people were not to fear or dread the arising Assyrian army that would invade them.

Who is the Lord of hosts? Who is the commander and chief of heaven’s armies? Revelation 19:11-21 reveals to us that the Lord of hosts is Jesus Christ, the rider on the white horse.

In other words, the fear of Isaac, mentioned only in the first book of the Bible (Genesis),  who is to be feared and dreaded is revealed to be the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in the last book of the Bible (Revelation).

Points to ponder:
Just like Isaac, the father of Jacob, who feared the Lord of hosts, so also must we set Jesus Christ, the Lord of hosts to be holy in our lives and only him must we fear and dread, for only he can keep us safe – safe from death – spiritual death. After all, to fear God and keep his commandments is the sole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Is the fear of Isaac (Jesus Christ) your God?

Genesis 31:42 (KJV)
42 Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.

Isaiah 8:13 (KJV)
13 Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
14 And he shall be for a sanctuary;

Hidden Idols

When Jacob flees from his father-in-law, Laban’s home with his wives and possessions, unbeknownst to him, his wife Rachel, stole some of her father’s idols (images) and took them with her. When Laban confronted Jacob of this thievery, Jacob impulsively responds that whoever is found to have stolen Laban’s gods would be punishable by death. In other words, he had unknowingly declared the death sentence on his wife. When Laban’s started to search the tents for his gods, before Laban entered Rachel’s tent, she took the idols and hid them in her camels furniture and sat on top of them. She avoided getting caught by using her monthly period as to reason to not have to get up. 

The Bible does not tell us the reason as to why Rachel had stolen her father’s idols and hidden them and trying to come up with reasons would be nothing more than conjecture. 

However, what is important to recognize is that the hidden idols could have led to death – Rachel’s death. 

Points to Ponder:
The Bible is very clear that we should have no other gods before the Lord God and that we should not make any idols and those who do will face the judgment of God for he will not tolerate our affection to any other god or idol (Exodus 20:3-5) He will blot them out of his book (Exodus 32:33).

Idols are anything that take the place of God – they are those that take priority and preeminence in our lives. In today’s context, an idol could be anything – power, position, popularity, prestige, pleasure, possessions.

Hiding idols in our lives is akin to declaring a (spiritual) death sentence on ourselves. What are the idols that we hide and sit on? 

Genesis 31:19-20, 30, 32-35 (KJV)
19 And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father’s.
20 And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled.

30 And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father’s house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?

32 With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them.
33 And Laban went into Jacob’s tent, and into Leah’s tent, and into the two maidservants’ tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah’s tent, and entered into Rachel’s tent.
34 Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel’s furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not.
35 And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched but found not the images.

Fear of men vs.

Genesis chapter 31 verses 17 and 18,  verses from 21 to 29 and verse 31 gives the account of Jacob fleeing from the house of Laban, his father-in-law with his family (wives and children) and possessions (camels, cattle, and all his goods) to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan. The Bible says that Jacob fled with all that he had.

When Laban his father-in-law found out about Jacob’s fleeing, he pursued him for seven days and caught up with Jacob. But God divinely intervened in a dream and came to Laban in the night and warned him to be even keel with Jacob. When Laban confronted Jacob, he expressed that he had the power to hurt Jacob but because the God of Isaac (God of Jacob’s father) had appeared to Laban and warned him, he restrained himself from hurting Jacob. Laban questioned Jacob as to why he had fled in secret and told Jacob that he had acted foolishly.

To this Jacob responded that he was afraid – afraid that Laban would take his wives (Laban’s daughters) away from him by force.

Jacob fear is evident because he feared man instead of fully trusting in the Lord God who had promised him that he would be with him (Genesis 31:3). Had Jacob trusted completely that God was with him as he said he would, he would not have had to flee in secret.

Points to ponder:
Before we go about passing judgment on Jacob, let us realize that many a times, we also fear men, because we fail to take and trust God at his word.

The opposite of fear is not courage but instead it is faith in God. When the disciples feared for their lives in the storm, Jesus did not question them by asking them “Where is your courage?”. Instead, he asked, “Why they were so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith? (Mark 4:40) Faith that is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). By faith, we can see the protecting and providing invisible hand of God in all of life situations and that is all that is needed to dispel fear – the fear of man and not act foolishly.  Fear of men vs. Faith in God.

Jesus said, to all who are in his flock, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20) and we can take him at his word. This is what will make us bold to be able to say, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4) for God (Jesus) is with me, (as he promised he would), always.

Genesis 31:17-18, (KJV)
17 Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels;
18 And he carried away all his cattle, and all his goods which he had gotten, the cattle of his getting, which he had gotten in Padanaram, for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan.

So he fled with all that he had; and he rose up, and passed over the river, and set his face toward the mount Gilead.
22 And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled.
23 And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days’ journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.
24 And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.
25 Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead.
26 And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword?
27 Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp?
28 And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.
29 It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.

31 And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me.

Genesis 31:3 (KJV)
And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.

Family Consultation (for Confirmation)

Jacob told his wives, Rachel and Leah, that God had asked him to return to the land of his fathers and his kindred – meaning that they would need to leave theirs father’s place. He consults with his family.

Rachel and Leah, both in unison, expressed their grievances against their father, Laban, in whose home, they felt that they were treated as strangers, as a commodity who had been sold. They then told Jacob to do whatever God has asked him to.

From this account, we can see that through family consultation, Jacob gets confirmation of God’s word to him – to do whatever God has instructed him to do.

Points to ponder:
When it comes to divine matters, one resource that the Lord God has given to us is our families. Families can confirm what God wants us to do and reaffirm what God’s will is for our lives.

Genesis 31:14-16 (KJV)

14. And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house?
15. Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.
16. For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours, and our children’s: now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do

Seeing God in life’s situations, for God sees you

Genesis 31:4-13 gives account of what Jacob told his wives, Rachel and Leah, after God asked him to leave his uncle and father-in-law, Laban’s house and return to the land of his family to his relatives.

He called Rachel and Leah to the field where he was looking after the flock and told them, “I have noticed that your father’s attitude toward me has changed, but the God of my father has been with me.”

He then told them, how hard he had worked for their father, and yet Laban had cheated him by changing his wages, not once but ten times, but God had not allowed Laban to do him any harm. He said, that God had taken what was their fathers and had given it to Jacob, because whatever was agreed upon between Jacob and Laban is what God made to happen, in Jacob’s favor. If the speckled animals of Laban was to be Jacob’s wages, then the whole flock began to produce speckled young and if Laban changed his mind and said, the striped animals will be your wages, the the whole flock produce striped young.

This he said was revealed to Jacob, in a dream, by the angel of God, who called to Jacob and when Jacob responded, “Yes, here I am.”, the angel of God told him to “Look up, and see that the male goats were mating with only the females that were streaked, speckled and spotted”, the produce of which were streaked, speckled or spotted, hence belonging to Jacob and not Laban. Why?, because God had seen how Laban had unfairly treated Jacob.

The angel of God is a theophany of the pre-incarnate Christ, for the angel of God identifies himself as the God who appeared to Jacob in Bethel (meaning House of God), the place where Jacob anointed the pillar of stone and made a vow to him. Jacob then told his wives, that God had told him to get ready right away and leave the country that they were in and return to the land of his birth. 

Lessons we can learn from Jacob’s conversation with Rachel and Leah are:
1. God was with him.
2. God did not allow any harm to come to him.
3. God took what was justly his and gave it to him by divinely intervening.
4. God saw his mistreatment.
5. God called him by name and waited for him to respond.
6. God asked him to “Look up and see”

Points to ponder:
God is with his people and will not allow any harm to come to them. God is Just and will restore unto those who have been unfairly treated, for God watches over the affairs of man. God calls his people by name and wants us to respond to him. God wants us to “Look up” and focus on his miracles and provisions, even when life situations may make us downcast. When God calls you, will you respond as Jacob did – “Yes, Here am I.”?

Genesis 31:4-13 (KJV)
And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock,
And said unto them, I see your father’s countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me.
And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.
And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.
If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstraked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstraked.
Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.
10 And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ringstraked, speckled, and grisled.
11 And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I.
12 And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstraked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee.
13 I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.

Man’s attitudes, God’s advice and assurance

When Jacob increased exceedingly, amassing cattle, servants (men and women), and livestocks, in the house of Laban, because the Lord God was with him, Laban’s sons started to grumble against him and accused him of robbing their father of everything. They said that Jacob had gained all his wealth at their father’s expense, when in fact, the contrary was true, for God had blessed the house of Laban because of Jacob. Jacob was perceptive and notice the change in Laban’s attitude towards him.

Interesting to note is that when Jacob learns of his cousin’s grumbling and Laban’s unfavorable attitude towards him, the Bible records that the Lord advised Jacob to return to the land of Isaac (his father) and Abraham (his grandfather) and to his relatives there. Esau, the brother that Jacob had wronged was still alive and it is likely that the Lord’s command for Jacob could return could have caused some fear in Jacob, but the Lord  beautifully assures that “God will be with him.”

Points to ponder:
Man’s attitude toward us may change with the times, for reasons that are baseless and completely incorrect, and while it is is important for us to be perceptive of people’s attitudes towards us, it is even more important for us to hear and heed the Lord’s advice for us and be strengthened by the fact that where he leads, he will guide and be with us. Are you and I listening to God’s advice for us? Are you assured that God is with you? 

Genesis 31:1-3 (KJV)
And he heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, Jacob hath taken away all that was our father’s; and of that which was our father’s hath he gotten all this glory.
And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before.
And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.

God Selection (not Natural Selection)

Genesis 30:31-43 gives a fascinating account of an agreement, a deception, and God’s sovereignty, and intervention in ensuring that justice was met, even when it may have seemed implausible.

The agreement was between Jacob and his uncle Laban. When Laban asked Jacob as to what he could give Jacob as wages for his service of tending to Laban’s cattle for over a decade, Jacob responded that Laban did not give him anything. Instead, he struck a deal with Laban that any speckled and spotted cattle, and any brown sheep, and spotted and speckled goats should be his wages (Genesis 30:33). Laban agreed to this (Genesis 30:34)

But the shrewd and cunning Laban, that very day, went out and removed all the male goats that were speckled and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted or had white patches and all black sheep and gave them to his sons, who took them away, as far as a three day journey from where Jacob was.  This was Laban’s deception, but the Bible records that Jacob stayed and cared for the rest of Laban’s flock (Genesis 30:35,36).

Jacob then took some fresh branches from the green poplar, hazel (almond) and chestnut (plane) trees, peeling off strips of bark, making white streaks on them. He then placed these peeled branches in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink and mate. When the flocks mated in front of the white-streaked branches, they gave birth to young one that were streaked, speckled, and spotted. Whenever the stronger females were ready to mate, Jacob would place the peeled branches in the watering troughs in front of them, but he did not do the same for he weaker ones and the stronger ones belonged to Jacob while the weaker ones belonged to Laban. Consequently, Jacob became exceedingly wealthy, with large flocks of sheep and goats, male and female servants and many camels and donkeys. 

Laban tried to deceive Jacob, for in his mind, without streaked, speckled, and spotted – male and female goats, and – male and female sheep, the likelihood of progeny that is speckled or spotted or streaked would be impossible, failing to recognize that not only was his scientifically incorrect, but spiritually a deceiver (Genesis 31:7). From our current understanding of Genetics, we now know that scientifically, Laban was incorrect since the recessive genes are passed on to progeny even if the physical traits are not observed. In this case, the recessive genes that control the streaked, speckled, and spotted, color of goats and sheeps would have been present in the white, non-streaked, non-speckled, and non-spotted animals – a design that our Almighty God has so beautiful created – so that all of creation has the chance to continue and it is not only the dominant that are selected for the continuation of life, debunking Darwinian Natural Selection theory.

But what is more important to recognize is that while our current knowledge of Genetics (dominant and recessive traits), can be leveraged to explain how some of the progeny of parent goats and sheep that were not streaked, speckled or spotted were themselves streaked, speckled or spotted, we see from Jacob’s account that God intervened and protected Jacob from suffering on account of his deceiving uncle. Jacob tells his wife, that the angel of God spoke to Jacob in a dream and revealed to him that he would receive his rightful share of cattle, because of what Laban tried to deceive and cheat him (Genesis 31:11; 5-13).

Now what does the  peeling of the bark of these tree to make them appear streaked, has to do in this account. Though it may seem as superstition, there has been scientific studies that demonstrate that some of children’s traits hinge upon what the parents eat. A study published in Molecular and Cellular Biology by Dr. Waterland and Duke’s Randy Jirtle showed that in a particular strain of mice, fortifying the pregnant and nursing mother’s diet with four nutrients shifted babies’ coat color from yellow to brown, and made the mice less obese. This was reported in the Dallas Morning news in 2003.  Some Biblical scholars speculate that that the tree branches were to restrict and facilitate selective breeding of only the strong cattle to produce speckled and spotted progeny.

Points to ponder:
Leaving all conjectures and speculations aside, through eyes of faith, we can see that God is sovereign and just and he prevails even when, what we with our limited understanding may find implausible and impossible. God’s master design is such that it is non-contradictory. When we are faithful in our service to God and people, despite man’s attempt to deceive, God will be on our side for he is just. It is God who gives the increase and not man. It is God’s selection and not natural selection, that prevails ultimately and that is the truth, no kid-ding.

Genesis 30:31-43 (KJV)
31 And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock.
32 I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire.
33 So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me.
34 And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word.
35 And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstraked and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons.
36 And he set three days’ journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.
37 And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods.
38 And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink.
39 And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.
40 And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban’s cattle.
41 And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods.
42 But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s.
43 And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.