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    The account of Jacob and Esau and the question of whose was the birthright is one of the most generally misunderstood parts of Genesis. The usual interpretation depicts Jacob as the deceitful villain and Esau as the wronged victim. Such an explanation is a distortion because it omits essential evidence which, while it does not exactly clear Jacob of all blame, certainly places his conduct in a much more favorable light than is generally understood. Here, as elsewhere in Genesis because it is the book of "beginnings", it is highly important that we get the clearest possible representation of what actually happened, for these happenings are the embryos from which both history and current events have developed. The struggle that goes on in Palestine at this very hour began in Rebecca's womb and has continued ever since, with varying intensity. But as the end of the age approaches events are being accelerated.

    The failure, thus far, of any prominent diplomat, either within or without the UN, to propose a satisfactory workable and lasting settlement of the Palestine fighting is the inevitable result of failure to recognize the connection between the Jewish-Arabic quarrel and the embryo from which it grew; and failure properly to evaluate the significant march of current events as it is related to the faithful promises and unchanging will of Yahweh. Because of ignorance and evil in high places it appears that the world must still await an unnecessarily violent and bloody settlement. In Genesis 25 we read:

"And the boys grew; and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents."

The noted historian, Flavius Josephus, in his "Antiquities of the Jews" describes Esau as "one taking upon himself the authority and pretending to have dominion". In other words Esau was an obnoxious bully. From the biblical record we gather that he was wild and irresponsible, that he occupied his time with hunting and worldly pursuits. We know also that he cared very little for his parents' wishes, that his harem of negroid wives was a source of great sorrow and distress to Isaac and Rebecca (Genesis 96:34; 27:46; 28:8), and that he scorned spiritual things.

    Jacob on the other hand was obedient and remained at his parents' home tending flocks, and this apparently gave him time to meditate on eternal values. Although he was a schemer and a sharp dealer, he had enough spiritual insight to realize the value of Yahweh's promises. At this stage of Jacob's development he was still a "natural man" and had not yet experienced a change of heart, or as we would say today: he had not been "converted". In Genesis 25:29 we find that Esau had been on a hunting trip and came in ravenously hungry, just as Jacob was preparing lentil soup. When Esau asked for some, his brother saw his opportunity. Knowing that he cared little or nothing for spiritual things, Jacob attempted to Strike a shrewd bargain. The value of a hot bowl of soup was little, but Esau's valuation of his birthright was even less.

    The "birthright" carried with it the spiritual inheritance of Yahweh's promises to Abraham, whereas the "blessing" referred to the material, earthly inheritance of Isaac's property. As far as Esau was concerned, he preferred something which he could see and enjoy then and there; no doubt he considered the birthright a myth or a fantasy of his parents' imagination. In Genesis 25:32 Esau's contempt for Yahweh's promises is contrasted with the high value he places on gratifying his appetite. He says,

"I am going to die, and what profit shall this birthright do to me?"

    Jacob seeing his opportunity and having intuitively sensed the true value of the birthright, pressed his brother for a sworn statement which was in effect a Deed, and Esau took an oath to bind it.

"Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright." (Genesis 25:34)

    It appears that Isaac was ignorant of the transaction between his sons.

"And it came to pass that when Isaac was old and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son and he said unto him, Behold here I am. And he said, Behold now I am old, I know not the day of my death: Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison; And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die." (Genesis 27:1-4)

    Having despised the birthright himself, Esau had not enlightened his father on the subject, and now saw a chance to deprive Jacob of that which had become his by right of purchase, sealed by an oath. Some commentators and Bible students have been prone to charge Jacob with stealing the birthright. In doing so they are careless in examining the evidence. If Esau had been honest and had told his father the truth there would have been no occasion for Rebecca to encourage the deception. We hear a great deal about Jacob's deceit but nothing about Esau's downright dishonesty which led his father to believe he was still the rightful heir to the birthright.

    By no means does this justify either Jacob's or his mother's conduct. Even though they sought to avoid a miscarriage of justice, the means they chose were wrong and no good could come of it. Once again we observe the same type of error that Abraham and Sarah made when seeking a son by Hagar. In both cases human intervention in Yahweh's plan without His confirmation or consent, resulted in unnecessary complications and strife. The Bible repeatedly teaches the important principle that a worthy end never justifies an unworthy means of attaining it. No doubt Rebecca remembered the answer to her prayer before her sons were born,

"Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger." (Genesis 25:23)

    Rebecca had heard from the lips of Eliezar and from Abraham the promises which Yahweh had made of a marvelous posterity. In her own experience she had seen the confirmation of the promises to Isaac. She had treasured up in her heart and mind the explanation given for the children's struggle in her womb: that the elder (Esau) should serve the younger (Jacob) and that two nations with distinctive characteristics were to spring from these sons. With this knowledge and revelation constantly in her mind, she saw Esau's infidelity to his parents and to Yahweh; she noted his unregenerate life, misspent in riotous living, his time divided between the Canaanite women and hunting wild game, all of which caused her grief of heart.

    As Isaac grew older and more senile, he became oblivious to the acts of Esau who played upon the old man's fondness for venison in order to stay in his good graces. When Rebecca heard the words of Isaac telling Esau to get the venison and receive the birthright, her faith was weakened and she undertook to do something to bring about the fulfillment of the promises of Yahweh, hoping that He would sanction her efforts because of her motives. With this in her mind she called Jacob and instructed him in what he should do, overriding the scruples of his conscience. (Genesis 27:6-13)

    Jacob, aided and abetted by his mother, went to the flock and took two kids which his mother cooked in a savoury dish to simulate venison. Isaac having eaten and having drunk the wine which Jacob had brought him, now set about to bless him, and said

"See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which Yahweh hath blessed: therefore Yahweh give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be ruler over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be he that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee." (Genesis 27:27-30)

Isaac had finished pronouncing the blessing upon Jacob, and Jacob was scarcely out of his father's presence, when Esau walked in from the hunt, bringing the desired venison. Having prepared it to suit his father's taste, he brought it before him, saying,

"Let my father arise and eat of his son's venison, that thy soul may bless me." (Genesis 27:31)

When Isaac heard the voice of his son Esau, he trembled exceedingly and said,

"Who? Where is he that hath taken venison and brought it to me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? Yea, and he shall be blessed." (Genesis 27:33)

    When Esau heard that the birthright and blessing were already disposed of, and that the rightful owner (by right of purchase) had already obtained it, he cried with an exceedingly great cry, and said unto his father,

"Bless me, even me also, O my father." (Genesis 27:34)

Paul says, speaking of Esau,

"For ye know how that afterward, when he (Esau) would have inherited the blessings, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentence, though he sought it carefully with tears." (Hebrews 12 :17)

He found no place of repentence. The margin says, "No way to change his mind." In other words, having made the bargain with Jacob, Yahweh held him to it. and He would not let him change it. When Esau realized that not only the birthright but the blessing was involved in the primogeniture, he said,

"Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?" (Genesis 27:36)

    For the first time Esau realized that the birthright and the blessing are inseparable and that in despising the one, he forfeited the other. Now he begged for an additional blessing. But his father answered,

 "Behold, I have made him (Jacob) thy ruler. and all his brethren I have given to him for servants, and with corn and wine have I sustained him; and what shall I do now unto thee, my son?"

And Esau said unto his father,

"Hast thou but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father."

And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. And Isaac his father said unto him,

"Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; and by thy sword shalt thou live and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck." (Genesis 27:37-40)

    The second clause in this blessing,

"And by thy sword shalt thou live and shalt serve thy brother.'

has been literally fulfilled. The Arab descendants of Esau, the Edomites, or Temanites, as they are called in Scriptures, are the rovers of the desert. Only a small minority of this people are inclined to pastoral or agricultural pursuits. They truly live by the sword.

    In Genesis 27:41 we read,

"And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, the days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob."

    The struggle has continued, having started before their birth; the feud lasted all during their lifetime and is still perpetuated in their descendants. Esau's desire to break the yoke of his brother from off his neck is ever present. The desire to possess the land willed to Jacob has become an obsession. Yahweh guaranteed the title to Israel and assigned it for the time being to Judah. The descendants of Esau are therefore bound to lose their fight finally. They can never regain and keep what their forefather despised. This is the background of the present controversy in Palestine. The final issue was decided long ago. (For more on this subject read the following Scriptures: Obad. 1; Ezek. 25:3-14; Jer. 49:7-22; Amos 1:11-12; Isa. 34:5-8; Ps.137:7; Joel 3:19-20 Amos 9:12)




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