Everybody Loves Jacob
With this post it will become apparent that my writings are incredibly misguided. I say that because I am about to skip over some very important theological teachings just so I can make fun of Jacob and Esau. I never claimed to be particularly pious and I never claimed my ‘blog would be approved devotional reading. So … sue me. What you get is a freestyle stream of consciousness as I read. It’s for better or for worse.
I guess what happens is, over the years, as you read the Scriptures and become more and more familiar with them different things start to stick out. At first, your eyes are newly opened and you find yourself absolutely in awe of the elementary tenets of true Biblical faith. “God loves me so much He gave His Son for me!” “God has a plan for everything!” “Even though there is evil in the world, the bad guys will get punished and the good guys win.” As you read through for your tenth or eleventh time, you start wondering “Why is that guy only wearing a sheet when Jesus is arrested?” and “Why did King David need a virgin to lay on his cold feet when he was old? Wouldn’t a dog work better?.” That is why I love reading it — it’s always something new and it never gets old.
And speaking of dogs — as a complete aside — do you think God intended them to be man’s best friend? I often wonder if He looks down at Dexter (our faithful four-legged companion) lying between me and Ami and thinks “Man, I can’t believe you SLEEP with that thing!” Dogs are unclean animals but we certainly love them.
So, this portion of Genesis introduces us to some very important people. In accordance with Yahweh’s promise, Sarah births Isaac in her old age, finally leaving Abraham a proper heir. God then commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. He takes Isaac up on the mountaintop to do so. Now, it’s always been my opinion, because of the way it is written, that Abraham never believed he would have to sacrifice Isaac. He knew God was testing Him. That was where his test of faith came in. I should really speak more about this, as this incident is a BEAUTIFUL foreshadowing of Yeshua’s (Jesus’) sacrifice. (Abraham was commanded to give his only son … the son had to carry his own lumber for his execution … Abraham was confident that ‘God will provide for Himself the sacrifice’ … the ram dies in Isaac’s place … all really beautiful allegory.) That would make this far too educational, though, and nobody wants that.
We see that Isaac lives a relatively peaceful and prosperous life (aside from picking up his father’s strange habit of telling people that his wife is his sister … seriously, what is up with that?!?) and eventually sires two twin boys. Any time someone tells me that they belief the Bible is fake and just a collection of fairy tales, I point out that the great heroes of antiquity were always godlike supermen and without flaw. The Bible, on the other hand, seems to go out of its way to make its heroes look bad. Seriously, aside from Messiah, Himself, most of the heroes of Scripture come off looking like dorks, idiots, or assholes. I think that validates their authenticity. Most real people are dorks, idiots, or assholes to varying degrees.
And, boy, the story of Jacob and Esau delivers those qualities in spades. This is actually one of my favorite portions of Genesis because the brothers remind me of Ray Romano and Brad Garrett from Everybody Love Raymond. Jacob is a whiner, manipulator, and momma’s boy. He seems to be a bit of a sissy. Esau, on the other hand, is a big hairy oaf and comes across as astonishingly stupid. And he was hungry … oh, so hungry.
Here is where I would different from most Bible teachers. “In this passage we see that Esau did not properly esteem his birthright. When we sin, we are not properly esteeming our birthright through Jesus … yadda yadda yadda.” And, yes, those spiritual applications are often correct. However, I tend to consider the fact that, though God certainly wants us to learn from the accounts written in Scripture, they aren’t fables. These are actual events that happened to real people. Yes, we can squeeze a sermon out of Esau’s actions … but Esau didn’t do what he did so we would have an example for our Sunday School lessons. He didn’t think “Wow, in four thousand years people are really going to get a good message out of this.” No … he REALLY sold his birthright for a bowl of soup because he was REALLY, REALLY hungry. And that’s so hysterical to me.
And that’s my job. To show you things you may have missed in Church or the synagogue.
So, what are the highlights? We’re told that Jacob was cooking stew at home, hopefully wearing an apron and comically oversized chef’s hat. Esau rushes in, exhausted and hungry. He demands “Give me some of that red stuff — THE RED STUFF!” (My Complete Jewish Bible by Dr. Stern specifies that Esau repeats himself, in all caps.) Jacob demands Esau’s birthright in return. “Whatever, man, I’m HUNGRY … gimme some!” (paraphrase mine) And thus, Esau sold his inheritance for a bowl of soup. And it doesn’t even sound like good soup … it’s just “red stuff.” You can get whatever message or lesson out of that you please, but what I get out of it was that Esau was a moron and Jacob was a swindler.
Later on, Isaac is about to die and must pass his blessing on to his oldest son. While Esau is out hunting, Jacob and Rebekah hatch a plan that involved wrapping Jacob in goat hair to trick the blind Isaac into blessing him, instead. (Remember — Jacob is Mommy’s favorite and Esau is hairy.) It works. Jacob gets the special blessing of his father and Esau sobs uncontrollably. Tell me this doesn’t sound like a sitcom. At one point, Rebekah declares “I’M SICK TO DEATH OF THESE HITTITE WOMEN!!!” so Esau goes and marries, like, fifty of them out of spite. That’s good stuff.
In a turn of poetic justice, Jacob falls victim to a scam, himself, when he is tricked into marrying the wrong girl. All he ever wanted was the sweet touch of the beautiful Rachel, but instead he end up marrying her butterfaced older sister, Leah. This leads to an epic baby-war that involves the two sisters and their handmaidens as they rack up twelve boys and an unspecified number of girls. Jacob, at one point, even wrestles with God. Not figuratively. He actually grapples God. And God cripples him. Oh, and Jacob’s daughter gets raped so his sons trick the offending tribe into all getting circumcised so they can kill them while they recover. Don’t ever let anyone tell you the Bible is boring.