© Jeff Stacey | Last updated: 4 November 2016
4B29. God responded to them:
In grace, God still assured them that His Covenantal declarations and promises would be fulfilled, but how that then happened also had some negative aspects
4B29(a) Terah and his household were affected negatively by going with Abraham
There is no mention of God’s responses to Terah’s decision to go with Abraham and then settle in Harran. Later Abraham did leave him behind and continue on to Canaan Gen 12:4,5. Terah eventually died in Harran aged 205 Gen 11:32. So Terah had lived on at Harran for about another 60 years after Abraham left Gen 11:26, 12:4b.
It can be assumed that Terah and his household would have been isolated at Harran after Abraham and Lot departed. He was left separated from his own relatives 1000km to the south-east at Ur and from Abraham 500km to the south-west in Canaan.
So Abraham’s partial obedience in not leaving his father’s household, then not going all the way to Canaan, had resulted in some negative outcomes for his father Terah.
4B29(b) In grace, God forebodingly reaffirmed to Abraham His Covenantal promise of possession of the Land of Canaan
Abraham had asked “How can I know…?” Gen 15:8. Then at sunset, sleep and dreadful gloom descended upon him Gen 15:12. God firstly replied “Know for certain…” Gen 15:13a. He told Abraham that his chosen descendants would actually spend 400 years as slaves in another land! Gen 15:13b. Yet He confirmed that He would eventually bring them back to Canaan with great possessions and would punish their oppressors Gen 15:14,16. He also told Abraham that he would die in peace at a great age Gen 15:15.
Then for a fourth time, God repeated His promise to give the Land of Canaan to Abraham’s chosen descendants, even defining its boundaries specifically Gen 15:18b-21. He confirmed this promise by declaring it in the form of a covenant with Abraham [4A8(b)(ii)] Gen 15:18a. This covenant confirmation was formally prepared by Abraham with some difficulty Gen 15:9,10-11. Then God miraculously, dramatically and frighteningly sealed it! Gen 15:17.
So God’s further reaffirming of His promise of Canaan as a declaration was now mixed with a declaration of coming extended slavery. It was also conveyed in dark, foreboding and difficult settings. This all suggested a mixed response by God that reflected Abraham’s own mixture of faith and doubt. God appeared to be both assuring and admonishing Abraham concerning his wavering belief in God’s promise to give him the Land of Canaan.
4B29(c) God again affirmed His Covenantal promise to Abraham of countless descendants even through Ishmael! But in his case it would have negative consequences
When Hagar had conceived she then despised Sarah, who mistreated Hagar and she fled Gen 16:4b,6b. Yet the Angel of Yahweh found Hagar near a spring in the desert and sent her back to Sarah Gen 16:7-8,9. He told her to call her son Ishmael (meaning “God hears”) Gen 16:11 and promised that he too would have countless descendants Gen 16:10.
So God’s promise to Abraham of countless descendants was going to be fulfilled even through Ishmael! God later repeated to Abraham this promise concerning Ishmael Gen 17:20. But there were going to be seriously negative consequences resulting from what Abraham and Sarah had done. God was NOT going to make Himself known positively THROUGH Ishmael Gen 16:12.
4B29(d) God upheld the blessing given to Jacob by Isaac, but with much associated trouble
God later upheld the blessings given by Isaac to Jacob. He appeared to Jacob at Bethel and applied the Covenantal promises specifically to him Gen 28:12-15. This confirmed the exclusion of Esau from his Covenantal inheritance. Yet the ways in which God’s promises to Jacob began to be fulfilled had many negative aspects for both Jacob and Rebekah.
4B29(e) Jacob was guided to find Laban’s people and Rachel
Despite Jacob’s conditional vow to God, it is implied that God led him to find Rachel and then the whole family of her father Laban Gen 29:2-8. They greeted each other joyfully! Gen 29:9-14. But sadly the subsequent story of Jacob and Rachel was not all joyful…
4B29(f) God began blessing Jacob with sons. But God also brought an ironically just retribution upon Jacob for his previous scheming and deception
God immediately began to fulfil His promise to Jacob of many descendants, although not by Rachel Gen 29:31b. Leah soon bore him four sons! Gen 29:32-35. Then despite various domestic conflicts, Leah and the two handmaidens bore him six more sons and one daughter!! Gen 30:1-13,17-21.
There was a grim irony in all this. By scheming, Jacob had bought cheaply the earnestly valued eldest son’s birthright from his older brother Esau. Later, in response to his mother Rebekah’s instructions he had by deception deprived Esau of his father’s blessing.
But in due course, by the scheming and deception of Laban (Rebekah’s own brother!) Jacob suffered parallel fates. Very expensively he became lumbered with the eldest daughter’s birthright that he earnestly did not value!! And he was also deprived of the blessing of Rachel bearing children.
So although Laban did not intend it, his deception can be seen as a just retribution that God brought upon Jacob for his past sins. It was as though God made “divided” responses to Jacob’s previous divided-heart responses. Yet at the same time God was fulfilling His promises to Jacob and forwarding His purposes.
4B29(g) Did God indicate that Jacob was still inclined to rely on scheming?
After Jacob had been renamed Israel by God Gen 32:28, 35:10 the Genesis narrative continued to use the name “Jacob” (69 times) as well as “Israel” (27 times)! Three times Jacob referred to himself (in parallelisms) as both Jacob and Israel Gen 49:2,7,24. Even God later addressed him once as Jacob! Gen 46:2.
This suggests that God was again confronting Jacob’s further divided commitment to Him, and Jacob was acknowledging this.
4B29(h) God seemed to ignore Jacob’s act of worship at Shechem
There is no mention of God making any response to Jacob’s land purchase, altar-building and naming at Shechem. This could suggest that Jacob’s settling and altar at Shechem had been defective before God in some way. Probably this was at least due to his not keeping his vow to give God a tenth of all his possessions.