A new Look at Jacob Part 2

The cunning one?

Esau the cunning hunter had been, as we used to say, skunked. He had failed to bring home food from the hunt. He had failed to live up to his reputation. What does Scripture say?

25:27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.

Now it is interesting that, at Esau’s naming, his ruddy complexion was ignored but in verse 30 it is brought out. Jacob’s soup was reddish in color. Esau was faint with hunger and asked for some of Jacob’s soup and so he was called Edom which means red? What is the connection here? Was he red because he was naturally ruddy or faint? Or was he red because of humiliation at coming to his brother to give him food—this cunning hunter and man of the field.

25:29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:
25:30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.

Maybe Esau was embarrassed at his failure! What does it mean, “that same red pottage”? Could it be that he was red-faced? Could it be that his empty-handed return and “faintness” made his redness so obvious that he was afterwards called Edom? One who is very arrogant and fails is subject to far worse scorn and ridicule than one who is humble. How long was this nickname Edom to stick? He founded the nation of Edom! Don’t forget that this was a very wealthy family with many herds, flocks and menservants and maidservants. Esau could have gone to any of them and demanded food. Perhaps he thought to keep his failure as quiet as possible. Perhaps he thought he could just demand of Jacob as he had so many times before and Jacob would just acquiesce as he had so many times before to his older, stronger, more cunning, brother. But Jacob wasn’t having it this time.

25:33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he swear unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.
25:34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.

When Esau said that the birthright would be of no use if he died of hunger, he was showing his disregard for the position of patriarch and lack of concern for the responsibilities associated with it in this very wealthy family. He showed that his concern was for himself alone. Notice that after he was filled and no longer “faint” that he “rose up, and went his way” not even bothering to rebuke Jacob for taking advantage of his “weakened condition”. He showed no remorse for having given away his birthright for virtually nothing, a bowl of soup, and he had picked up a new name, Edom.

Rebekah’s understanding of the prophecy seems to be shown as immediate. That is that Esau would have to serve Jacob and for that to happen Jacob would have to become patriarch of the family in place of Esau. Her plot to set up Jacob to obtain the blessing must have been based upon that assumption. In fulfillment, however, it was Edom that served Israel. Jacob never served as patriarch of the clan of Isaac. He was sent away to the house of Laban so Esau would not carry out his threat to kill him.

Scripture describes Esau as a cunning hunter and man of the field, and Jacob as a plain man dwelling in tents—a shepherd. The sale of the birthright by Esau was an act of arrogant selfishness. Trickery by Jacob had nothing to do with it, no matter what a bitter Esau said later. If the trickery and theft idea is taken out of Jacob’s acquisition of the birthright, which Esau is shown to have despised anyway, the whole concept of his character as a con-man, trickster and thief is called into question.

Jacob means supplanter. The dictionary gives two main definitions: 1. To take the place of; replace and 2. To take the place of by treachery or trickery. Now we have already seen the prophecy: The elder shall serve the younger. And we have seen that Esau gladly sold his birthright for a meal with no trickery involved—a straight up business deal.

Let’s look closely at the circumstances surrounding how Jacob obtained the blessing Isaac intended for Esau: Rebekah overheard Isaac send Esau out for venison to prepare a meal over which he would confer the blessing. She told Jacob what was going on and told him to “obey my voice according to that which I command thee.” She told him to bring two kid goats that she could prepare a savory meal for Jacob to take to Isaac. But Jacob was reluctant; concerned about this deception that it could backfire and bring a curse instead of a blessing. She told him that if that happened “Upon me be the curse.” So in carrying out the deception of Isaac, Jacob was obeying the command of his mother who certainly thought that God needed her help in fulfilling the prophecy. In any case the deception was not Jacob’s idea. He was not even a wholehearted participant. He was afraid he would be found out. Here is the Scripture:

27:1 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 am I.
27:2 And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death:
27:3 Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison;
27:4 And make me savory meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.
27:5 And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it.
27:6 And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying,
27:7 Bring me venison, and make me savory meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the LORD before my death.
27:8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee.
27:9 Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savory meat for thy father, such as he loveth:
27:10 And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death.
27:11 And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man:
27:12 My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing.
27:13 And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them.
27:14 And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savory meat, such as his father loved.
27:15 And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son:
27:16 And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck:
27:17 And she gave the savory meat and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
27:18 And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son?
27:19 And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy first born; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me.
27:20 And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the LORD thy God brought it to me.
27:21 And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not.
27:22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.
27:23 And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands: so he blessed him.
27:24 And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am.
27:25 And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine and he drank.
27:26 And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son.
27:27 And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed:

From here through verse 30, Isaac proceeds with the blessing.

Now hear the difference in approach between Jacob and Esau in bringing the meal over which the blessing was to be conferred. First Jacob:

27:18 And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son?
27:19 And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy first born; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me.

Jacob cannot hide his character. He addressed his father and waited for him to respond. He said please sit and eat. His approach was mindful of the ill health of his father which was the very reason for the occasion of conferring the blessing. When Isaac asks who he is, Jacob answers “I am Esau thy first born;” Here is Esau:

27:31 And he also had made savory meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s venison, that thy soul may bless me.
27:32 And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau.

Esau didn’t think of his father’s condition. He came in and said let my father arise and eat of thy son’s venison that thy soul may bless me! Said as if the reason for the blessing was his successful hunt and well prepared meal. He had sold his birthright for a bowl of soup, showing open contempt for the responsibility that wealth brought, and yet thought the blessing was his by right. When Isaac asked who he was his response was, “I am thy son…” as if he was the only son that mattered.

He as firstborn should have heeded the tradition of returning to Padanaram when he took a wife. He not only didn’t do that, he took two Canaanite women as wives and later when he “found out” that they displeased his mother, he married a daughter of the tribe of Ishmael. Even though he knew that Jacob was being sent specifically to Laban’s house to get a wife that would be acceptable to Rebekah. Could he have sent a servant there to get a wife as Abraham did for Isaac? Of course! Would he? Of course not! He was the hunter! No one was going to pick his wife or wives, but him! Or, tell him where to find them!

This is more reason to see Esau as arrogant and spoiled. He assumed that his choices would please his parents because they pleased him, not because he knew or even sought to know their desires. His desires came first. They should be pleased with his desires because he was the firstborn son.

(Continued in part 3)

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