Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The story of Jacob and Esau

After God's test of Abraham in the sacrifice of Isaac, Sarah dies, Isaac marries Rebekah, and Abraham dies. Following these events comes the story of Jacob and Esau. The story almost ignores Isaac's life as an adult, and skips on to his sons Jacob and Esau. 

Jacob and Esau were twins born to Rebekah. Esau was the first twin to emerge, and therefore the rightful heir to Isaac. But Jacob was born holding the heel of Esau, which has become a symbol of the stealing of a birthright. Later, Jacob actually steals Esau's birthright as well as Esau's blessing from Isaac. 

Jacob was a mamma's boy. He lived in the tents. What he did there is a mystery that is not explained in the Bible, other than that he was a quiet man. Esau, on the other hand, was a hunter. Isaac preferred Esau, because Isaac liked himself some game. 

At one point in the story, Esau returns from hunting famished, to find Jacob cooking a stew. Esau asks for some of the stew (which seems fair, but maybe this is meant to portray that Esau wasn't successful in his hunting whereas Jacob was successfully providing food for the family). Jacob refuses to give any stew to Esau unless Esau gives up his birthright. Esau is very hungry and readily gives up his birthright. 

Then Isaac wants to give Esau his blessing as the firstborn and favorite of the twins. He asks Esau to bring some game and prepare it the way Isaac likes. Rebekah, who favors Jacob, encourages him to take advantage of his father's blindness and feebleness and to steal the blessing. She tells him to bring her a goat and she would prepare them as Isaac likes. Then she gave Jacob Esau's clothes (that smelled like Esau) and put fur on Jacob's hands so that he felt hairy like Esau. Jacob lied more than once to Isaac, who recognized Jacob's voice but was fooled by the food, the smell, and the fur. He thus blessed Jacob. 

When Esau returned from hunting and discovered Jacob's deception, he threatened to kill Jacob. So, with the encouragement of God, who told Jacob where to flee to, Jacob ran away from Esau. 

Jacob was a mamma's boy and lived in tents. I wonder what the ancient Hebrews thought of men who lived in tents and did not have an occupation. Were the Hebrews approving of mamma's boys? 

What are we supposed to think of Esau selling his birthright? Of course, it seems that Esau didn't appreciate the gift given to him by God - being the firstborn. He treasured corporal things such as food. But on the other hand, what are we supposed to think of Jacob manipulating Esau into giving up his the birthright? It didn't seem honest or fair. I'm not a fan of the behavior of either of the brothers. This story is yet another example of the imperfections of people in the Bible. 

Another character flaw that comes up in the Bible is that Jacob and Rebekah are so willing to take advantage of Isaac's feebleness and to steal Esau's blessing. Jacob isn't even the one who prepares the goats for Isaac. He lets his mother do the hard work. He outwardly lies to his father. Then he appears cowardly when he runs from Esau instead of facing the consequences of his actions. 

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