Wednesday July 4
Genesis Chapter 27
Here’s another deceptively familiar tale: Jacob takes a blessing from Isaac: deceit and deception, initiated, aided and abetted by Rebekah. Esau the elder was due the blessing from Isaac, but the old guy is blind enough and deaf enough to fall for the trickster’s charade in place of his brother.
Sure, we recognize the human nature exhibited in each character’s role – but none are models of morality. This is worse than heel-grabbing at birth, or trading a pot of red stew for the birthright. What kind of father, or divinity, honours a blessing obtained by such tricksters?
Did it help to read this as a legend of peoples, not persons? Esau stands for Edom, straddling the trade routes south. Those peoples are closer than Ishmael’s Arab peoples, less distinct that Egyptian and Sudanese nations and empires. Millennia of trade disputes ring more familiar this summer, perhaps.
Marriages then are less an issue of incest than of clan and ethnic loyalties, in the face of threatened assimilation. Egyptian, Hittite wives are particularly threatening as signs of African alliances of Edom, in tension with Asia Minor alliances with Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey north of Israel.
Esau gets a consolation prize, exiled from good land to martial freedom – the identity of Edom the nation south of Israel. Esau won’t kill his brother pending mourning for their father, and Rebekah uses the time to orchestrate Jacob’s flight to Haran, away to the old country, like Michael Corleone hiding out in Sicily, to avoid the consequences of his deception.
In our affluence and privilege in the world, our subculture has trouble hearing these tales. Our racism is inextricable from our estimation of gangs or ‘ethnic’ affiliation in racialized communities who feel the existential threat of assimilation of economic and social exclusion from our mainline.
This biblical pattern of God’s election of the younger, not necessarily more meritorious son, rather than the expected primogeniture, is subversive. That’s good news for the underdog – what’s the message for you this time? With whom did you identify most, or least, in this chapter?
When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called his elder son Esau and said to him, ‘My son’; and he answered, ‘Here I am.’ 2He said, ‘See, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. 3Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me. 4Then prepare for me savoury food, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may bless you before I die.’
5 Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, 6Rebekah said to her son Jacob, ‘I heard your father say to your brother Esau, 7“Bring me game, and prepare for me savoury food to eat, that I may bless you before the Lord before I die.” 8Now therefore, my son, obey my word as I command you. 9Go to the flock, and get me two choice kids, so that I may prepare from them savoury food for your father, such as he likes; 10and you shall take it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.’
11But Jacob said to his mother Rebekah, ‘Look, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a man of smooth skin. 12Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him, and bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.’
13His mother said to him, ‘Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my word, and go, get them for me.’14So he went and got them and brought them to his mother; and his mother prepared savoury food, such as his father loved. 15Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob; 16and she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17Then she handed the savoury food, and the bread that she had prepared, to her son Jacob.
18 So he went in to his father, and said, ‘My father’; and he said, ‘Here I am; who are you, my son?’ 19Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, so that you may bless me.’
20But Isaac said to his son, ‘How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?’ He answered, ‘Because the Lord your God granted me success.’
21Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.’ 22So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him and said, ‘The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.’ 23He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him.
24He said, ‘Are you really my son Esau?’ He answered, ‘I am.’ 25Then he said, ‘Bring it to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.’ So he brought it to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. 2
6Then his father Isaac said to him, ‘Come near and kiss me, my son.’ 27So he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said,
‘Ah, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed.
28 May God give you of the dew of heaven,
and of the fatness of the earth,
and plenty of grain and wine.
29 Let peoples serve you,
and nations bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
and blessed be everyone who blesses you!’
30 As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of his father Isaac, his brother Esau came in from his hunting. 31He also prepared savoury food, and brought it to his father. And he said to his father, ‘Let my father sit up and eat of his son’s game, so that you may bless me.’
32His father Isaac said to him, ‘Who are you?’ He answered, ‘I am your firstborn son, Esau.’ 33Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, ‘Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him?—yes, and blessed he shall be!’
34When Esau heard his father’s words, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, ‘Bless me, me also, father!’ 35But he said, ‘Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.’ 36Esau said, ‘Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright; and look, now he has taken away my blessing.’ Then he said, ‘Have you not reserved a blessing for me?’
37Isaac answered Esau, ‘I have already made him your lord, and I have given him all his brothers as servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?’ 38Esau said to his father, ‘Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me, me also, father!’ And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.
39 Then his father Isaac answered him:
‘See, away from the fatness of the earth shall your home be,
and away from the dew of heaven on high.
40 By your sword you shall live,
and you shall serve your brother;
but when you break loose,
you shall break his yoke from your neck.’
41 Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’
42But the words of her elder son Esau were told to Rebekah; so she sent and called her younger son Jacob and said to him, ‘Your brother Esau is consoling himself by planning to kill you. 43Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran, 44and stay with him for a while, until your brother’s fury turns away— 45until your brother’s anger against you turns away, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send, and bring you back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?’
46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I am weary of my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women such as these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?’