By this time in Genesis, we’ve seen different phases in Jacob’s life. He started out as the quiet man who obeyed his mother to steal Esau’s blessing. When he moves to Paddan-aram, and is double crossed by his father-in-law, he increases his abilities as a conniver to increase his wealth.
But something happens to him when he runs from Laban. Though he is obeying the Lord to return home, he does it in fear of Laban. He has a brief time of faith after wresting with God and after being renamed Israel, he meets his brother, Esau.
He expresses a lack of trust in the Lord when dealing with Shechem’ rape of his daughter, Dinah, even reproving his sons for their action. Yet God faithfully caused the cities to be in fear of him. The Lord also blessed him with the promise given to Abraham and Isaac. He is again renamed Israel, and this name is used of him for a short time.
However, Scripture again calls him Jacob when dealing unfairly with his sons and favoring Joseph. At the report of Joseph’s apparent death, Jacob will not let his family comfort him but insists he will mourn until he dies (Gen 37:35).
Now, Jacob favors Benjamin and won’t let him go to Egypt to buy food. The other ten brothers go and return without Simeon. Jacob’s reaction is to blame them all for the loss of Joseph and Simeon and even wanting to kill Benjamin also (Gen: 42:36). He pulls the whining manipulative trait that he has developed and refuses to let his sons return Egypt to free Simeon. He complains that he will die if he loses Benjamin (Gen 42:38).
He enforces his oh-poor-me attitude on the bothers even though he asks the Lord to give them mercy when they must return to Egypt to buy food (Gen 43:14). The manipulation works as Judah begs Joseph to let Benjamin go in place of himself (Gen 44:18-34). Judah is sure that Jacob will die if Benjamin doesn’t return.
Manipulators often use this threat of death to lock people into relationships or otherwise get others to do what they wouldn’t normally do. The manipulator doesn’t trust God to work things out the way he knows best. The victim doesn’t trust God either. The manipulator plays a blame game to get what he wants. “You will cause me to kill myself.” Through guilt, the victim take on responsibility for another person’s choices.
Neither one is doing as Joseph did when he stated that it was God’s plan to send him to Egypt for a greater purpose (Gen 45:7-8). Until we have a view of God’s sovereignty as clearly as Joseph did, we can become manipulative whiners to get our own way or we can be victims. We do have choice to be neither but that means trusting God.