But Rebekah heard about Esau’s plans. So she sent for Jacob and told him, “Listen, Esau is consoling himself by plotting to kill you … Get ready and flee to my brother, Laban, in Haran. Stay there with him until your brother cools off. When he calms down and forgets what you have done to him, I will send for you to come back … ” Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m sick and tired of these local Hittite women! I would rather die than see Jacob marry one of them.”—Genesis 27:42-46, NLT
This passage contains two points of interest for immigrants. In the first place, the heir of God’s promise once again found himself in need of refuge. Jacob had shamelessly taken advantage of the hunger of Esau to take away his inheritance rights as the firstborn and afterward deceived him to bolster himself with the paternal blessing. Esau did not have great gifts of wisdom, but pride he did have; seeing himself despoiled of what was his, he reacted with threats of violence.
The second point of interest is the attitude of Rebecca toward the Hittite women. She hated them intensely for reasons we will never know—perhaps out of jealousy for her “mama’s boy,” or out of disgust for the local morality or culture, or simply out of an ugly xenophobia.
One general observation is that Jacob fled from two different enemies. He could not get along with his own family, nor with his neighbors. He trusted no one, and no one could trust him. Even his name meant “deceiver.”
People seek refuge at times because they are victims. Other people hide because their own evils and errors have resulted in threats. In many cases, the two go together. Jacob could have blamed his exile on his brother or on the bad character of the Hittite women. But the blame belonged to him and no one else.
Economic analysis has theorized that the wealth of nations depends on a phenomenon called “social capital.” That invisible resource springs from the confidence with which a society does business. In places where people suspect their neighbors of dishonesty, the economy cannot prosper. For that reason, sharp dealing turns out to be counterproductive. Mutual confidence creates more wealth than shrewd deception.
The same principle applies in personal life. If you trust in no one, no one can trust you. Trusting in God takes the best first step out of the vicious cycle.
Before his birth, Jacob and Rebecca had received a prophecy from God that he would prosper. When they tried to guarantee the promise through their own dirty maneuvers, they condemned Jacob to a life of constantly seeking refuge. Later on, Jacob would learn to trust God and his exile would end. What about yours?
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.