Life-Study of Genesis, by Witness Lee

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After Jacob set up the third pillar, he "journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Eder" (35:21). In Hebrew Eder means "flock." In Micah 4:8 the same Hebrew phrase is rendered "tower of the flock." Here at the tower of Eder something defiling, shameful, and immoral happened to Jacob: his son Reuben committed adultery with Jacob’s concubine. This did not take place at the pillar, but at the tower.

I believe that the tower of Eder, the tower of flocks, indicates the ease of life. Jacob had many flocks. As he passed by the tower of Eder, he might have considered it a good place to rest. Instead of proceeding to Hebron, his destination, he stayed by the tower of Eder. This indicates that Jacob had come to a place where he could enjoy an easy life. As he was enjoying this easy life, something sinful occurred. Sin, especially the sin of adultery, always comes in when we are at ease. The fact that Reuben committed adultery with Jacob’s concubine at that place was an indication that Jacob should not have stayed there. He should have journeyed on directly to Hebron. If he had not spread his tent by the tower of Eder, probably this evil thing would not have occurred.

Although Jacob set up three pillars, there was no need for him to build the tower of Eder because it was already standing there as a snare. As you are on your way following the Lord, there will always be a tower nearby to snare you. The way to escape this trap is not to stop or even look at it. Instead of spreading your tent by the tower of Eder, you must pass it by. No matter what stage of the Christian life we are in, there is always a tower to snare us. The ease of life is always a temptation to the followers of the Lord Jesus. Every follower of the Lord realizes that his final destination is a long way off. Because the journey is so long, you expect to find a place of rest along the way. But whenever you come to a tower of flocks, you should not think of it as a place of rest—it is a snare. Pass it by and go on. No matter how exhausted you are in following the Lord, you must say, "Lord, help me. I don’t want to rest at any tower. Whenever I come to a tower, I will flee from it. I will never take it as a place of rest." If you do this, you will be protected and saved from the snare.

The desire of Jacob’s heart was to take Rachel as his wife. If God had not intervened through Laban, Jacob would immediately have taken Rachel as his wife. Then whomever Rachel brought forth would have been Jacob’s firstborn. However, God came in and, in a sense, forced Jacob to take Leah as his wife. Thus, Reuben was actually the firstborn son, and the birthright went to him. This, however, was contrary to the desire of Jacob’s heart. Furthermore, it did not seem fair. While Jacob was enjoying the ease of life at the tower of Eder, Reuben committed adultery with his father’s concubine. This evil deed caused him to lose the birthright (49:3-4). First Chronicles 5:1 and 2 clearly indicate that the birthright was given to Joseph. Here we see God’s sovereign adjustment of the birthright. Reuben lost the birthright because of his defilement, and Joseph gained it because of his purity (39:7-12). When Potiphar’s wife tempted Joseph to commit adultery with her, he refused. Because Joseph kept himself pure, he gained the birthright Reuben had lost due to his defilement at the tower of Eder. Therefore, even Jacob’s mistake was used by God to adjust the birthright. Praise the Lord for the mistake that brought about the adjustment of the birthright! But never use this fact as an excuse to say, "Let us do evil that good may come." Rather, we must bow down and worship God for His sovereignty.

The sovereign God, being fair and just, did not give all three parts of the birthright to Joseph. He gave Joseph the enjoyment of the double portion of the land, but He gave the priesthood to Leah’s third son, Levi, and the kingship to her fourth son, Judah (49:10; 1 Chron. 5:2; Deut. 33:8-10). Levi received the priesthood because of his faithfulness to God (Deut. 33:9), and Judah obtained the kingship because of his love toward his brothers and his care toward his father (37:26; 43:8-9; 44:14-34). In this we see the sovereignty of God. He is behind everything and everyone. When we see this picture and how everything in it fits together, we must worship God. Hallelujah, we are under God’s hand!

Jacob’s biography is our history. In Jacob’s life there were three pillars and one tower. We also shall have the three pillars and the one tower. I can testify that I have experienced all these things. I believe that as the years go by many of us will remember this message. Thank the Lord for the three pillars and for the one tower.

(Life-Study of Genesis, Chapter 91, by Witness Lee)