It was during what was known as the Hellenistic period (a name applied in 19th century by J. G. Droysen as a way to define the spread of Greek culture into a non-Greek world) that a very important event occurred. While the Greeks as a whole cared very little about Jews, there were various scholars that were curious and desired to understand more of the Jewish history and religion. Therefore, in a Ptolemaic Egypt, this small group of Grecian scholars desired to obtain a copy of the Jewish scriptures to put in their library at Alexandria.
The translation is known today as the Septuagint (Gk. Septuaginta) which means seventy- for its number of translators. There are many who say that the seventy translators were Hebrew elders while others believe the translators were collection of various scholars, primarily of Grecian lineage and influence. While we cannot ascertain the actual authorship of this translation we do know that it was a watershed moment for the Hebrew nation. In that moment of time Hebrew religion entered into world religion and would affect the entire world of Biblical scholarship. It would forever impact Christianity and various other branches of religious ideology.
The word “Exodus” is a Latin word which comes almost directly out of a Greek word “Exodos” which means “Ex: out of,” and “hodos: the way.” It is from this that we received our English name for the second book of the bible.. The name used among the Jews is Shemot. Shemot is not to be confused with Sheimos (Genizah) which is a storage repository in the synagogue for books and other sacred items which can no longer be used but cannot be destroyed. This word is derived from the second Hebrew word in the Book of Exodus which translates as “names.”
Exodus 1:1 (KJV) 1 Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.
In the transition from Bereishit (Genesis) to Shemot (Exodus) we find some rather remarkable dynamics that must be pointed out. We all know the story of Joseph the dreamer who was betrayed by his brothers and eventually sold into slavery. Who sold them to Egypt? Quite interestingly it is none other than a group of people called Ishmaelite’s and other times a group called the Midianites. You will find that often in scripture Midianites and Ishmaelite’s seem to be interchangeable. In Genesis 25 both Midian and Ishmael are listed as children of Abraham.
Gen 37:25-28: As they [Joseph’s brothers] sat down to their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelite’s coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm, and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.  Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?  Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelite’s and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.  So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelite’s , who took him to Egypt.
Note in verse 37:36: “Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph…” and then in Genesis 39:1: “the Ishmaelite’s who had taken him (Joseph) there…” Then in Judges 8:22 and 24 you find that in verse 22 the Israelites tell Gideon that he has saved them from the “hand of Midian,” and verse 24 refers to the Midianites as “Ishmaelite’s.” It is then interesting that a distinguishing characteristic is pointed out in regards to this group of people called the Ishmaelite’s in Genesis 8:24: (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelite’s.)
It is obvious, due to the migratory movement of this group of people, that they were wandering nomads, more than likely dealing in trade with various nations. Yet, one must remember the origin of these Ishmaelite’s and their remarkable ties to the nation of Egypt. They are the result of the offspring of Abraham and Hagar. Hagar was an Egyptian handmaiden that Abraham obviously acquired on his first trip to Egypt when famine struck the land of promise. It was that unfortunate visit in Egypt that he masqueraded Sara as his half-sister.
Genesis 16:8-12 (KJV)
8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.
12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will beagainst every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.
I know that contrary to many ideologies and religious mindsets Ishmael is often cast aside as trivial and declared illegitimate and outside of the covenantal relationship that Abraham had received. Let’s see if this is true.
- Hagar was taken as a wife (Genesis 16:3) before Abraham went in to her and she conceived
- Genesis 17:17 gives us the declaration of the covenant which is given to Abraham’s seed
- Genesis 21:13 specifically includes Ishmael, the son of the bondservant, because he is Abraham’s seed
- God’s covenant is through circumcision and yet we find Ishmael was circumcised with all the household of Abraham ( Genesis 17:23.)
- Genesis 17:23 tells us that “Abraham took Ishmael HIS son…”
- When Abraham died both Ishmael and Isaac are there for his burial and both are called his sons (Genesis 25:8.)
When Ishmael and Hagar were cast out, Abraham does indeed attempt to intervene for Ishmael because he loved him. Ishmael was a teenager and had grown up under the concern and care of Abraham for many years. Ishmael had been circumcised by Abraham and thus included into the familial blessing. Where the clear distinction comes into play is found when God reveals that Isaac will be born and thus Abraham realizes that Ishmael will not be the one to receive the covenantal relationship with God.
This is important to note because before Sarah ever demands the removal of Hagar and Ishmael Abraham recognizes that the birth of a son through Sarah will compromise the inheritance of Ishmael. No matter how hard Abraham tried to make Ishmael the covenant child it was not in the will of God. Sara would be the one that would miraculously conceive in old age the seed that would carry on the covenant given to Abraham. When Abraham realized this he cried out “Oh that Ishmael may live before thee! (Genesis 17:18)
Genesis 17:19-21 (KJV) 19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant and with his seed after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.
This settles the account! Ishmael would be blessed because he was of the seed of Abraham but the covenant (everlasting covenant) would be established with Isaac and Isaac’s seed after him. One can understand the mixed feelings of a people who are true descendants of Abraham but the question to ask would not be if Abraham is our father but rather the important question would be, “Is Abraham, Isaac AND Jacob our fathers?” If the answer involves Abraham and Ishmael one is blessed but not a part of the covenant. If the answer is Abraham, Isaac and Esau (who was connected to Ishmael through marriage) the answer is again, you are blessed but not the receiver of the covenantal relationship.
To quickly pave the way towards the primary purpose of this treatise we will skip through the fairly short account of Isaac life and launch into the problematic nature of his children, Esau and Jacob. Once again we are presented with another duo of brothers that are not in sync with one another.
Before dealing with the two on a greater scale it is interesting to note the close similarities that Ishmael and Esau have in common.
- Both of them are replaced by a younger brother
- Both are placed “outside” the family primarily by a woman
- Both receive a blessing but lose firstborn right of birth
- Ishmael is an archer* while Esau is a hunter
- Both are men of the field (the wilderness of Ishmael is literally a pasture or open field.)
NOTE OF INTEREST: What is interesting is that prior to the account in which Esau loses the blessing of the firstborn he is seen as marrying outside of the family which greaves his mother and father. When the blessing is taken and Esau hears how the Canaanite wives did not please his father he goes and marries the next closest thing to the family and that is Ishmael’s daughter- probably in hopes of pleasing his father. (You can marry something that is close to covenant but that doesn’t put you within covenant.)
Suddenly you have the joining of two sons, Ishmael and Esau, men with many similarities who were both BLESSED but removed from firstborn right of inheritance. It is a union that is quite profound! Jacob would go and marry his mother’s niece and Esau would marry Isaac’s niece. Reminiscent of Ishmael’s prophetic blessing Esau would also live a life of conflict. There would be the constant reminder always of Jacob’s superiority over him. Esau, also called Edom, will go from this point forward to a land called Edom and eventually sire a group called the Edomites.
From the very beginning Esau and Jacob are pitted against each other. After intense struggle in her womb, Rebekah is given an oracle that explains the nature of the struggle. God tells her: “Two nations are in your womb, two separate peoples shall issue from your body; one people shall be mightier than the other, and the older shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23.) Competition and conflict will take up the vast majority of their story and yet interestingly enough they will come to meet on level terms with a mutual kindness toward one another and then Esau fades away into oblivion and we are given to take up the account of those called the Edomites who lived in Seir.
The struggle between Esau and Jacob, as far as scripture presents, is first presented in the womb and then scripture becomes rather silent about their relationship as twins growing up together. It isn’t until the blessing being stolen by Jacob that the hatred of Esau towards Jacob flares. Esau cannot believe that Jacob has taken not only his birthright but also his blessing!
There are many ideas about the deception of Rebekah and Jacob and the gullible Isaac. Was Isaac really deceived when Jacob came to him? Many of the Jewish sages don’t think so based upon one primary occurrence. When Isaac asked, “How did you get the venison so quickly?” Jacob, disguised as Esau, said, “The lord thy God hath brought it to me.” Hebrew scholars arrive at the conclusion that Esau would have never made such a statement and that Isaac would have known Jacob was the culprit standing there.
Regardless of IF Isaac knew, we are confronted with a rather real (or faked) shock when the real Esau arrives with his venison (Gen. 27:33.) Realizing what had been done Esau begged his father for just ONE BLESSING! He was weeping and shouting with a desperation to his father to bless him.
Genesis 27:38-40 (KJV)
38 And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept.
39 And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above;
40 And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.
At first glance the blessing given to Jacob seems startling close to the blessing given to Esau. Isaac essentially had two blessings. One blessing was for the physical goodness of the physical world. It was a blessing for the material benefits of THIS world. Remember that Abraham was never interested in this type of blessing as was seen when he returned to the King of Sodom all that had been taken in battle and declared, “I have lifted mine hands to the possessor of the heaven and the earth. (Gen. 14:22.) Scripture also reveals that Abraham was looking for a “city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10.) The other blessing that Isaac gave was truly spiritual and it was this blessing that really mattered. This was the blessing Isaac and obtained from his father Abraham.
Genesis 28:3-4 (KJV)
3 And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;
4 And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.
It could have been that Isaac had always planned on giving this second blessing to Jacob regardless of the deception. This second blessing was directly connected to the birthright which Esau had gladly exchanged for a bowl of red pottage. It was because of this that scripture tells us that Esau was hated by God; because he despised his birthright (Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:13.) The birthright of those born as firstborn under Abraham carries a much heavily connotation than the standard idea of birthright! This birthright has a SPIRITUAL connection which carries all the way back to Genesis 12. Esau cared only for the blessing of the physical and I will submit that Jacob was also concerned with this also!
Look at Jacob’s journey from this point forward. I don’t believe Jacob was expecting the second blessing that Isaac gave to him before parting to Padanaram. The blessing itself was initiated by the command of Isaac that Jacob not marry outside of the family. This is a drastically important prerequisite to the spiritual blessing! You cannot be unequally yoked!
Immediately, with his bags packed, Jacob leaves Beersheba and stops by a place that was known as Luz. It is here that Jacob has an amazing experience that I doubt he yet even understood.
Genesis 28:10-16 (KJV)
10 And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.
11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.
The moment Jacob wakes up he recognizes that the place where he was is a very significant place. He declares, “Surely the LORD is in THIS place!” He then declares the place dreadful (in the idea of terribly reverent) and makes the picture stronger by declaring it to be the “house of God” and the “gate of heaven.” He then erects the stone he had used as a pillow and makes it a pillar and anoints it with oil and declares the place Bethel (house of God.) The next portion of scripture I submit reveals his lack of understanding the second blessing and practically proves his concept of birthright was the same as Esau’s.
Genesis 28:20-22 (KJV)
20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
Jacob is focused on bread to eat and clothing to wear and protection (probably from Esau.) Jacob practically fleeces God. “If these things are done then You will be my God.” Jacob then goes forward thinking in monetary terms and promises that the pillar will be the house of God and all that “thou shalt give me” I will surely give the tenth unto thee. Obviously Jacob does not understand the second blessing as Abraham and Isaac did! Jacob is focused on the first blessing he had received which involved the “fatness of the earth and the dew of the heaven.”
Jacob then moves into the household of Laban, falls in love with Rachel the second born (second born attracted to another second born) and yet is deceived with Leah the firstborn. Laban’s response is quite shocking and more-than-likely Laban knew what had happened between Esau and Jacob.
Genesis 29:25-26 (KJV)
25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?
26 And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.
Look closely at the wording of Laban. Maybe he has a sneer on his face and an antagonistic tone when he declares, “Unlike some places, around here it isn’t OUR custom to give the younger before the firstborn.” In Jacob’s case the YOUNGER was GIVEN the blessing before the firstborn! Perhaps now it makes more sense why Jacob shut his mouth, probably feeling the sting of the rebuke and remembering the enmity between him and Esau.
Time does not allow us to present another firstborn and second born dynamic, this time between Leah and Rachel. Ultimately it is the second born Rachel that will birth the child that will continue the succession of the birthright promise. Finally, after many years with Laban and the first blessing (fatness of the earth and dew of heaven) that is being honored, Jacob leaves the household of Laban with 12 children (11 boys and 1 girl), handmaids, a nurse and livestock.
Knowing that he will need to pass through Seir, Jacob then sends messengers into Esau’s territory to request safe passage. This is an extremely brazen act for Jacob and probably one that he did not desire to do. Nevertheless, it is done, and the messengers come back telling Jacob they message had been received and Esau was actually coming to meet Jacob but with 400 men.
Since Esau has left Beersheba, he is obviously successful and wealthy, but not without fulfilling the part of the prophecy his father had given him that declared “by the sword you shall live.” When Esau went into the land of Seir it was occupied by a group called the Horites, which Esau managed to destroy and possess the land for himself (Deut. 2:22.)
When Jacob hears this word he is terrified and separates his camp into two parties, hoping that in the attack one will escape. It is here at the Brook Jabbok that Jacob petitions God for deliverance and suddenly becomes very spiritual and brings up the second blessing he had received.
Genesis 32:9-12 (KJV)
9 And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:
10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
11 Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.
12 And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.
Jacob then sends everything he owned other than his family members ahead to Esau as a gift. Everything he had worked so hard to receive. It almost seems like for the first time in Jacob’s life the physical blessing is far less important to him than the spiritual blessing. Jacob knows what Esau wanted in the past and probably figures this would be the same Esau wanted today! Then, after sending his family over, Jacob standing there all alone encounters the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac that has yet to truly become his God.
Genesis 32:24-30 (KJV)
24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
That night Jacob came face to face with himself. It was there that Jacob began to realize his desperate need for God. It was a wrestling match between God and the will of Jacob who had done everything his way instead of God’s way. Up to that point he had not been concerned with fulfilling the second blessing but was so focused on the first. Now, Jacob knows the reality of the blessing. It was there that Jacob would receive a change of name and his journey would slowly shift toward fulfilling the second rather than the first.
However, it is a slow shift indeed. Immediately from this point in the account, Jacob and Esau are reconciled and Esau goes his way and Jacob his. Jacob would eventually move into a region of Canaan and pitch his tent in Shalem, a region in Shechem. Pitching his tent before Shechem he purchased a parcel of land and erects his first altar in the record of his life. The altar he would name “the mighty God of Israel.” (God will remind him of a very important detail later.)
Because Jacob doesn’t quite get it and probably thinks he has reached the pinnacle of the call of God based upon one experience with God, he sets up shop on the border of a Canaanite city called Shechem. This is not a smart move because his daughter, Dina, decides she wants to take a look at it. This action of Dinah’s would “loose a stone that would cause a landslide” (Bible Knowledge Commentary of Genesis 34:2.)
Long story short, Shechem the prince of the country raped her, yet falls in love with her and desires to marry her. Shechem tells the king Hamor that he loves Dinah and asked that she be given to him. Jacob suddenly finds out that Dinah had been polluted (no longer would she probably be eligible for marriage among her own people) and he waits to say anything about it until his sons get home.
This is where the account gets interesting. Hamor and Jacob are in a meeting along with the sons of Jacob. Hamor is asking for whatever necessary so that his son can marry the girl he had raped. Jacob is unreasonably quiet through this whole encounter. Jacob’s son’s on the other hand come to a perfect solution. If all the Shechemites get circumcised then this marriage will be possible. It is very likely that they probably didn’t plan on them actually agreeing to this! The rest is history!
Genesis 34:25-31 (KJV)
25 And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males.
26 And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out.
27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister.
28 They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field,
29 And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.
30 And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.
31 And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?
For this action Simeon and Levi would be passed over in Jacob’s blessing (Gen. 49:5-7) but their instincts would prove to not be far from wrong (Deut. 20:16-18.) What was their answer to Jacob who was terrified of the news getting out of the slaughter of the Shechmites? “He shouldn’t have treated our sister like a prostitute.”
Remember at this point Jacob is terrified of the repercussions of Simeon and Levi’s actions. His situation mirrors very closely his terror of Esau who had come to meet him with 400 men. Suddenly God shows up and speaks to Jacob giving some very revealing statements and requests.
Genesis 35:1-5 (KJV)
1 And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.
2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:
3 And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.
4 And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.
5 And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.
Jacob never should have purchased land, pitched his tent, and built an altar before the city of Shechem. That was not the place God desired for Jacob! Jacob should have remembered where the “house of God” and the “gate of heaven” was! And so, in light of Jacob’s terror, God tells him to get up and get to Bethel and build an alter there. Notice the connection to the terror of Esau then vs. the terror of the Canaanites now.
What is interesting is Jacob’s response to this word from God. Immediately he turns to his household and says, “Ok…we are going back to Bethel. Get rid of the strange gods, clean up, and change your clothes.” What is happening here is so easily missed. Because they lived so close to the Canaanites and had become so close to the world they had adopted the gods, pollution and clothing of the world. His household knew what this entailed because they gave all there strange gods to Jacob and earrings that were in their ears.
Jacob takes all of this junk and takes it to a oak tree and buries them. (In order to get back to these things of the world one must go through a tree. Think about Calvary!) Then Jacob and his household begin their journey back to Bethel and instead of Jacob being terrified of the nations and cities it is the other way around.
It isn’t until Genesis 35 after the return to Bethel that Rachel will die on the journey in a place called Ephrath while giving birth to the twelfth son of Jacob’s who we know as Benjamin. Death seems to plague Jacob in a series starting with Deborah the nurse of Rachel’s, then Rachel and then Isaac. The entire chapter of Genesis 36 is devoted to the offspring and lineage of Esau and then in chapter 37 we find Jacob settled down in the Valley of Hebron, a location of Canaan.