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Jacob's Follies

In Genesis 25 we witness the death of Abraham, at the grand old age of 175 and we also see his son Isaac become an old man. There's not much said about Isaac as an individual, apart from his partiality to eating choice young goats, but his son Jacob more than makes up for it.

Jacob had a brother called Esau. They were twins but were hardly bosom buddies. They even fought in the womb. God offered an explanation for this, describing how their futures and the future of their descendants were going to be very different.

"... Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger." (Genesis 25:23)

God makes it clear, as He did earlier with Isaac and Ishmael, that Jacob was to be the covenant child. Esau became the manly one, the older and the stronger, a hunter by profession. Jacob, the younger by a few minutes, was the clever, craftier one. He was quiet and preferred to hang around at home with mother. But he was a good cook and, interestingly, it was through his excellent red stew that the above prophecy would start to come to pass. A starving Esau, after a hard day's hunting, sold his precious birthright to Jacob for a bowl of this stew, followed by some bread, then another stew of lentils. It obviously meant little to him, but it meant more to Jacob, who took this to the next stage when Isaac, their father, thought he was coming to the end of his life.

Urged on by his scheming mother, Jacob tricked Isaac into giving him the blessing due to Esau as the first born. You'll have to read the account yourself in Genesis 27 to find out what happened, but, needless to say, food was involved, as before. This is a curious episode as Esau had already forfeited the rights to this blessing in the earlier incident, so all Jacob was doing was claiming what was rightfully his, even if it was bought for the price of a bowl of stew!

This was the blessing that Isaac gave to Jacob: "May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed." (Genesis 27:29)

And so the prophecy over the womb was fulfilled. We shall see a little later how this all panned out, historically speaking.

Jacob then left home, fearful at what Esau might do to him for taking the blessing. He escaped to his uncle Laban, but on the way there had an encounter with God, at a place called Bethel. There he dreamt of the stairway to heaven and God spoke to him, repeating all of the promises made to his grandfather Abraham and father Isaac. It was a clear sign that the Lord God was blessing him and was with him, even though he was now in exile from the land of his fathers.

Nevertheless, he was a flawed character and decided to set his own conditions on his relationship with God, although God's promises to him were entirely unconditional. The gist of it was this.

OK, God. If you stay with me and if you look after me on this journey and if you give me food to eat and if you give me clothes to wear then ... you can be my God.

God must have chuckled at the cheek of it, but had the last laugh when Jacob managed to subsequently dig himself into a hole and stayed there for fourteen years.

More of this next week ...

Steve Maltz
July 2013

(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation)

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