Following Abraham’s line, everything is based on lineage and inheritance, of faith and of God’s blessings, based on the covenant between Abraham and God. Jacob grows up knowing that he is the second son and has no guarantee of the blessings of God and will watch his stronger older brother inherit everything. To get around this, Jacob takes the first opportunity he can to break this line, because he wants to be blessed too. We watch in Genesis 25:27-34, as Jacob makes Esau promise his birthright to him for a single meal. Esau agrees, thinking that one measly agreement won’t change his rightful status as the first born son.
When Isaac knows that he is old in age and will likely die soon, he asks Esau to bring him a fresh and perfect meal which must be hunted as Esau could only do. For this, Isaac will give him the Lord’s blessing and the inheritance which is owed to him. Rebekah and Jacob trick a blind and aging Isaac into blessing the wrong son, while Esau is away. However, this blessing which has been rightfully passed down among Abraham’s line continues to Jacob knowing that Jacob has sinned. Isaac finds out, and God knows the whole time. Yet, Jacob is indeed blessed and rewarded for his sin.
Isaac at this moment, knowing that the blessing has been passed down to the wrong son, even ensures that Jacob knows how to use that blessing to protect himself. He sends him away to Rebekah’s brother, Laban, in order to save him from Esau and tells him to have all of the blessings of Abraham’s line. God later sends him a vision, not to condemn Jacob for his trickery and theft but to confirm his blessing. Jacob sets up a pillar and pours oil over it, vowing that only if God was with him and protects him, returning him to his father’s house, that then he will give God one-tenth of what he was provided.
Laban too is a deceiver and and changed Jacob’s wages ten times, trying to cheat him out of money of which Jacob was owed. Instead, God protects him from the theft against him by marking the sheep that he is entitled to for wages with spots and other markings. In this, Jacob’s wealth grows to the point that Laban’s children begin to have issue with how rich Jacob is getting. God’s blessing of Jacob with wealth is through Jacob stealing the animals that God says he is entitled to from Laban. God gives him children and cattle and blesses him thoroughly, with no tenth being yet paid to God.
Laban feels that Jacob has stolen his daughters and their children from him when Jacob runs away, taking his animals as well. However, Laban knows that he can not fight to keep his children, he agrees that there will be no war between the two men and they make an agreement. They offer up a sacrifice, each of them to their own God to complete the agreement. Jacob had years of God’s protection promised to him and fulfilled, but still he was fearful of rumors that Esau was coming with a band of 400 men. He separates himself from his household, sending them ahead, in case of a fight. That night wrestles with a man, demanding after the struggle that he will not let the man go unless he blesses him. The man injures Jacob’s hip to mark him and tells him that he is to be named Israel because he has overcome both God and man.
Esau welcomes Jacob as family and tries to refuse the offers of cattle from Jacob in accepting him back. Jacob gives thanks to God for protecting from him from a potential fight with his brother and builds an altar to God to praise him. Jacob is later called out for his stubbornness in not using the name that God has given him of Israel and for idols and false gods in his lands. Jacob makes another promise and another altar, receiving blessings and promises of land and fruitful offspring with God’s continued help to the line of Abraham, saying kings will come from his line.
From Abraham to Isaac, we have two of the most faithful and obedient men in the Old Testament to model after, and Jacob undercuts all of it. Jacob cheats his way into blessings, steals what is owed to him, and fights God for his blessings, when God has only asked for faith to bless Abraham’s lineage. Even following his promises, being protected by God away from his family and land, Jacob never pays the tenth to God that he trades for protection. Jacob was taken care of as completely as Isaac and Abraham, but no payment was ever issued to God. God cared for him and protected him without a single tithe, because when he said he would bless Jacob, his word was enough.