© Jeff Stacey | Last updated: 4 November 2016
4B26. Abraham and some of his chosen descendants responded with wholehearted commitment to God:
They fully believed God’s Covenantal declarations and promises and obeyed His Covenantal requirements, so were carrying out His Covenantal commission
4B26(a) Abraham obeyed God’s command and migrated to Canaan
Abraham then decided to obey God fully by leaving his father behind in Harran and migrating the further 500km to Canaan. Yet he still took Lot with him, along with their households, possessions and herds, and reached Canaan Gen 12:4,5. They then traveled through some of Canaan and initially settled at Shechem Gen 12:6a.
Abraham had now made a wholehearted response to God by fully obeying His command to migrate to Canaan.
4B26(b) Abraham initially believed God’s Covenantal promise that He would give him the Land of Canaan
When Abraham had first arrived in Canaan at Shechem, God had appeared to him and promised to give the Land of Canaan to him and his offspring Gen 12:6-7a [4B27(a)]. In response Abraham had built an altar to Yahweh there Gen 12:7b. After he again migrated to east of Bethel he built another altar and “called on the name of Yahweh” Gen 12:8.1
So despite his ongoing need to migrate within Canaan, Abraham continued to honour God wholeheartedly and express his belief in God’s promise of possession of Canaan.
4B26(c) Abraham’s further responses back in Canaan
After Abraham returned from Egypt he came to Bethel where he had first built an altar. There he again called on Yahweh Gen 13:3-4. Then to avoid conflict with Lot, Abraham decided that they should separate Gen 13:8-9a. He generously gave Lot first choice of where to settle Gen 13:9b.
This appeared to be an act of faith by Abraham. It implied that he did not try to grab the land from Lot but believed God’s promise that eventually the land of Canaan would be given to him and his offspring.
Abraham stayed in Canaan Gen 13:12a. He had responded by honoring God and believing Him wholeheartedly.
4B26(d) Abraham rescued Lot and honored God
Abraham forcibly rescued Lot Gen 14:13,14-15,16. As he returned, the king of Sodom came out to meet him Gen 14:17. Melchizedek king of Salem also met him. Melchizedek’s name meant “king of righteousness” and he was “priest of God Most High”. He brought Abraham food and drink and affirmed God’s blessing of him Gen 14:18-19. He also praised God for giving Abraham victory Gen 14:20a. Abraham honoured him by giving him a tenth of all his possessions Gen 14:20b.
Then the king of evil Sodom offered Abraham the spoils of war Gen 14:21. But Abraham refused because of his sworn commitment to “Yahweh, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth” Gen 14:22,23,24a. Apparently he was aware of the evils of Sodom Gen 13:13 and did not want to associate his victory in any way with them, but attribute it to God alone. Yet he justly permitted his allied kings to take their share of the spoils Gen 14:24b.
Abraham had again responded wholeheartedly to God by honourably acknowledging Him to these two kings.
4B26(e) Abraham believed God
Abraham believed God’s promises that he would father a son and heir who would indeed have countless descendants! Gen 15:6a. So by believing God he was again responding wholeheartedly to Him.
4B26(f) Abraham immediately obeyed God’s command to go to Moriah to sacrifice Isaac
Abraham set out early the next morning with Isaac, fully equipped to carry out God’s horrendous command Gen 22:3. After three days he reached Moriah, prepared for the sacrifice and raised his knife to kill Isaac! Gen 22:4-10. So Abraham had responded to this extreme test by obeying God wholeheartedly.
4B26(g) Isaac continued to pursue his agricultural efforts despite further opposition
Isaac relocated to another area of Gerar and re-opened some of Abraham’s old wells there that had also been filled in by the Philistines Gen 26:17,18. But when he dug two new wells they were claimed by the local herders Gen 26:19-20,21. Finally he dug another well and it was not disputed Gen 26:22a. So he expressed his belief that God had given him a stable place to live in Canaan and would bless him there! Gen 26:22b.
Then Isaac was surprised to be visited by Abimelech from Gerar, but not in hostility Gen 26:26-27. Instead Abimilech wanted to make a treaty of peace Gen 26:28b,29a because he acknowledged that God was with Isaac and blessed him! Gen 26:28a,29b. Isaac agreed to this and they sealed a treaty with an oath, then parted in peace Gen 26:30-31.
Isaac had carried out God’s Covenantal commission by his persevering faith in God’s promises Gen 26:2-3a.
4B26(h) Jacob immediately set out for Harran
4B26(j) Jacob continued to care for Laban’s livestock diligently
Despite Laban’s exploitation, Jacob remained diligent and honest in caring for Laban’s livestock. Jacob twice summarized this and the extent of Laban’s injustices Gen 31:6-7a,38-39,40-41. Yet Jacob acknowledged that it was God who had overruled in the whole situation, prospered him and prevented Laban from leaving him destitute! Gen 31:5,7,8-9,10-11,12,42.
Jacob had responded wholeheartedly to God in this matter. He did what was right and also acknowledged that God’s favour had been the reason for his prospering.
4B26(k) Jacob confronted Laban, then made a covenant with him and continued his journey back to Canaan
Jacob first admitted his fear that Laban would react violently Gen 31:31. Then he declared his innocence of stealing Laban’s gods, not knowing that Rachel had actually taken them Gen 31:32. He allowed Laban to search but Rachel successfully concealed them! Gen 31:33,34,35.
Jacob then angrily confronted Laban not only for his accusation about his gods Gen 31:36,37 but also for all his past injustices. He rebuked Laban for imposing these on him regardless of Jacob’s diligent and honest service Gen 31:38-41. Jacob declared that if God had not been with him Laban would have completely impoverished him Gen 31:42a. He said that this was why God had that night rebuked Laban! Gen 31:42b.
Laban was left without an answer Gen 31:43. So he proposed that they make a covenantal agreement between them Gen 31:44. This was intended to ensure the honour of his two daughters, Jacob’s wives Gen 31:50a and to set boundaries between the territories of Jacob and Laban Gen 31:52b. Jacob agreed to this and it was formalized before God as a “covenant of witness” by a pillar and heap of stones Gen 31:45-47,48,51-52a, vows, a sacrifice and shared meal Gen 31:49,50b,53,54. Then after Laban had blessed his daughters and grandchildren, they all left him behind and went on their way towards Canaan Gen 31:55 -32:1a.
Probably this was all rather pointless for Jacob. He was most unlikely to have had any intention of ever going back into Laban’s territory anyway! But as for honouring Laban’s daughters, Jacob had already greatly dishonoured and humiliated Leah by loving and favoring only Rachel.
Yet Jacob had been wholeheartedly committed to God in working diligently and dealing fairly with Laban despite all he had suffered. He had also obeyed God’s command to leave Harran and return to Canaan despite the likely hazards.
4B26(m) Jacob prepared for his showdown with Esau
Terrified, Jacob organized all his household and livestock defensively into two groups Gen 32:7-8. The leading group was divided into many separate sections, with flocks and herds to be presented to Esau as gifts with submissive greetings, in the hope of pacifying him Gen 32:13b-21. Jacob and his family were at the rear Gen 32:22. He even tried to at least preserve Rachel and Joseph by putting them behind the two maidservants and Leah and their children! Gen 33:1b,2.
Fearing he was about to lose everything, Jacob prayed earnestly to God for deliverance Gen 32:11. He addressed God by His “full title” Gen 32:9a and acknowledged His past favour despite his own unworthiness Gen 32:10. He reminded God that He had commanded him to return to Canaan and had promised him prosperity and countless descendants Gen 32:9b,12.
This prayer was highly significant because it showed that Jacob took God’s previous promises seriously and acknowledged that some of them had already been fulfilled. Yet in referring to his family he spoke of “the mother (singular in Hebrew) with the children” Gen 32:11b (NKJV) implying that he really was only deeply concerned about losing Rachel and Joseph!
Jacob’s earnest prayer for protection and expression of belief in God’s promises showed that he did primarily have a wholehearted commitment to God. Yet he was also looking to his own scheming for protection, especially to save Rachel and Joseph.
4B26(n) Jacob and his household moved to Bethel and he built an altar there
Jacob obeyed God’s command. He was in awe of Bethel as “the house of God” and “the gate of Heaven” Gen 28:16-19a, 35:7b. It was where God had first appeared to him and God now reminded him of this! Gen 35:1b. Jacob also testified to God’s faithfulness since then Gen 35:3b.
But before going to Bethel Jacob ordered all of his household to purify themselves by getting rid of the “foreign gods” they had with them! Gen 35:2. Jacob was apparently concerned that his whole household be pure before God prior to going to Bethel. He may also have been aware that this paganism was a reason why his altar at Shechem had been defective in God’s sight.
Although God had made no mention of this, Jacob was apparently only too aware of such evil in his household. For example, Rachel’s father Laban had used divination Gen 30:27 (see also Joshua 24:2). Rachel also had dared to steal his “gods” when leaving Harran. Presumably she too relied on them Gen 31:19,34-35. Previously she had superstitiously also resorted to using mandrakes to try and overcome her infertility Gen 30:14-15.
In response to Jacob’s command, all of his household revealed that they did have many “foreign gods” in their possession Gen 35:4. They gave their “gods” to him including earrings that must have been significant pagan items. Yet why did Jacob not destroy them instead of only burying them in an easy-to-find location “under the oak at Shechem”?!
Jacob then went to Bethel and built the altar as God had commanded Gen 35:6-7a. He called it el bethel, meaning “God of the house of God”. This recalled his first encounter with God at Bethel [4B27(h)].
Jacob had wholeheartedly obeyed God’s command.
4B26(p) Joseph maintained his integrity despite his dire circumstances in Egypt
# Joseph was diligent in his service under Potiphar and successful in all he did Gen 39:3-4
# Joseph repeatedly refused to yield to being seduced by Potiphar’s wife, telling her that this was due to his concern not to sin against God Gen 39:8-10
# Joseph continued to act responsibly in prison even though he had been put there unjustly Gen 39:20-22
# Two of Joseph’s fellow prisoners asked him for the meaning of their dreams Gen 40:5,8a,9-11,16-17. Joseph first acknowledged that interpretations of dreams come only from God Gen 40:8b. He then faithfully told them the interpretations even though one was a death sentence! Gen 40:12-13,18-19
# Despite being still a prisoner under Pharaoh’s authority, Joseph did not try to use his opportunity to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams for his own advantage. Instead he again repeatedly acknowledged that interpretation of dreams was actually only from God, not himself Gen 41:16,25b,28,32
# Although the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams included a prediction of severe drought, Joseph faithfully included this bad news in his reply to Pharaoh Gen 41:29-31
In all of these responses to his various acute heart-testing situations, Joseph acknowledged God and maintained his integrity. This indicated his whole-hearted commitment to God that caused him to keep God’s Covenantal requirements. He was carrying out God’s Covenantal commission.
4B26(q) Joseph continued to maintain his integrity after he became administrator of all Egypt
# Even Joseph’s steward acknowledged and honored God, presumably due to Joseph’s influence! Gen 43:23
As well as in his dealings with his brothers, Joseph was faithful to God in other ways, as follows,
# Joseph acted in completely confident belief that Pharoah’s dreams and their interpretation were from God. His vast promotion also did not corrupt him Gen 41:47-49
# Joseph acknowledged God in the naming of each of his sons Gen 41:50-52
In all of these responses to various acute heart-testing situations Joseph consistently showed his wholehearted commitment to God. This was by doing what was right, acknowledging God and believing His promises. He was carrying out God’s Covenantal commission.
4B26(r) Jacob honored God when he went from Canaan to Egypt
After Jacob had his sons’ full report about Joseph in Egypt his spirit revived and he resolved to go and see him Gen 45:27-28.
As Jacob crossed the southern border of Canaan at Beersheba he honored God by offering sacrifices to Him Gen 46:1. So Jacob expressed his wholehearted commitment to God.
1. This altar-building may have been not only as acts of worship but also as a kind of “staking claim to the territory”. See W.J.Dumbrell, Covenant and Creation, page 51.(Return to reading).