Israel’s God

Jacob caught up with his family just in time to see a retinue of men coming toward him. Quickly he divided his children up with their respective mothers and lined them in groups. The maids and their children made up the front of the line, Leah and her children were in the middle, and Rachel and Joseph were at the back.

Then he went on ahead of them all, alone and unarmed. As he approached Esau, he bowed low to the ground seven times.

When Esau recognized his brother, he ran to him and hugged him. Together they both cried. Esau saw the approaching caravan. “Who’s with you?” he asked.

“These are my children, given to your servant by a gracious God.”

As each group drew near, they bowed before Esau. He regarded each of them with a nod and turned again to Jacob.

“What’s the meaning of the endless train of livestock that came before you?” Esau asked.

Jacob took a knee. “To find favor in your eyes, master,” he answered.

Esau offered his hand to his brother and lifted him up. “I’ve got more than enough, brother. Keep your property.”

“No, master,” Jacob pleaded. “If we’re at peace, accept what I offer as a sign. Seeing you after these many years is like seeing God face to face, especially since you receive me with such kindness.”

Esau accepted Jacob’s gift and said, “Let’s go home together.”

But Jacob hesitated. “Master, you know my children are small, as well as the suckling young of my flocks and herds. Please go on ahead, and I’ll travel at a slower pace for their safety. I’ll meet you in Seir.”

Very well,” Esau agreed. “But let me leave some of my people with you.”

“You’re too kind,” Jacob said, “but no, I cannot accept.”

“Very well,” Esau again relented. “See you soon.” And Esau went south and returned home to Seir.

Jacob, on the other hand, traveled west and built a little house with stables for his livestock. That place was named “Succoth,” Stables. Then moving across the Jordan River, he settled outside Shechem in Canaan. He bought a piece of land with a hundred pieces of silver and pitched his tent.

Then he built an altar to God and called it “El-Elohe-Israel,” God, the God of Israel.

Inspiration: Genesis 33

Twice bitten

No sooner had Isaac finished blessing his son Jacob, that Esau returned from hunting game for his father. Jacob slipped out the back way while his older brother prepared a hearty meal of roasted ibex and bread, just the way his father liked it.

Bringing the hot dish to his father’s side table, Esau said, “Sit up, Father, and eat. Afterward, you can give me your blessing.”

Isaac, already sitting up, suddenly had a perplexed look on his face. “Who are you?” he asked.

I’m your firstborn, Esau.”

Isaac began to shake. “To whom did I just give my blessing?” he asked. “To whom offered me a meal of meat, fresh from the field? Who watched me as I ate every bite?”

Isaac bowed his head and sighed. His son stood in confusion. “Whoever he was, he’ll be blessed indeed.”

Esau grabbed his father’s lapel violently and wailed, “Bless me too, Father!”

Isaac’s head remained bowed, unflinching. His words were calm and evenly paced. “Your brother deceived me and has taken away your blessing.”

Esau slowly released his grip from his father’s bedclothes. “My brother is aptly named ‘Jacob’… Supplanter.” Esau grimaced and backed away from the bed. “Twice he has nipped at my heel, taking what is mine. First, my birthright, and now my blessing.”

A lamp flickered in the corner of the room, and Esau could see that his father was just as distressed by Jacob’s betrayal as he was. For a few minutes, neither said a word.

Then Esau asked, “Have you not reserved any blessing for your other son?”

Isaac lifted his head, his eyes in a dead stare at whoever was facing him. “I’ve already given Jacob lordship over you, and all his brothers will be his servants. My granaries, herds, flocks, and vineyard are now his. There’s nothing left.”

“Are you telling me you can only bless one of us?” Esau asked. “Bless me, too!” he said. “Please, Father!” Then Esau began to cry.

Isaac raised a hand and said, “Your existence will be desolate and barren. You’ll live in perpetual conflict, a servant to Jacob. But you’ll eventually break free, destroying the bonds that hold you to your brother.”

Esau left his father and wandered into the dark night.

Inspiration: Genesis 27

Stolen blessing

Esau was forty when he married Judith and Adah. Neither Isaac nor Rebekah were impressed with his taste in women, mainly because they were Hittites.

When Isaac was close to death and had all but lost his vision, he called for Esau. “My time here is short, son,” he said, “and one of the last things on my bucket list is a meal of fresh game from my favorite son’s bow.  Go. I want to give you my blessing before I die.”

Rebekah overheard their conversation, so when Esau took to the field with his quiver and bow, she pulled Jacob aside and said, “Get the best two kids from the flock so I can prepare delicious cutlets for your father. After you serve him the meal pretending to be Esau, he’ll bless you.”

But Jacob answered, “Esau is a hairy fellow, and I’m as slick as an eel. What if Father reaches out and literally feels the betrayal? He’ll curse me as well as my future children.”

“No, he’ll curse me,” his mother assured him. “Now, go.”

Jacob brought in the meats, and his mother made Isaac a meal fit for a king. Then she disguised Jacob in some of Esau’s clothes and attached the hides of the freshly skinned goats to Jacob’s hands and neck.

“Now,” she smiled satisfactorily, handing Jacob a bowl and some bread, “serve your father this food, so he will bless you.”

Jacob went in, and his father asked, “Who are you, my son?”

“I’m Esau,” Jacob rasped, then cleared his throat. “I’m your firstborn. I’ve come back from hunting, and I’ve prepared some food the way you like it. Sit up and eat so you can bless me.”

“That was quick,” his father answered, sitting up and leaning on his banister.

“God brought me success.”

“Come over here, son,” Isaac said, “so I can touch you and confirm that you’re really Esau.”

Jacob approached his father, his heart pounding, and he placed the dish of food onto his father’s side table.

“You are Esau, aren’t you?” he asked, after feeling his son’s arms.

“Yes, Father,” Jacob said with a sigh of relief.

“Bring me my food,” Isaac concluded, so I may eat of your game and bless you.”

Jacob moved the table close to his father’s bed and served him the prepared goat cutlets. Isaac enjoyed every bite of his meal and chased it down with some wine.

Then Isaac said, “Come and give me a kiss, son.”

Jacob came close and kissed his father. Isaac recognized the scent of Esau on the clothes Jacob was wearing, so Isaac blessed him right then and there.

“The scent of my son is like a field blessed of God. May God grant you the best of heaven and earth. Let other nations serve you, and may your brothers submit to you in your dominion. Those who curse you are themselves cursed. Those who bless you are blessed indeed.”

Inspiration: Genesis 26-27

Rebekah’s home

After the camels had had their fill, Abraham’s servant took a gold nose ring and two gold bracelets from his satchel and gave them to Rebekah. “Who’s your father?”

“Bethuel, son of Nahor, born of Milcah,” the girl answered.

“Is there room in his house to spend the night?” he asked.

“We have plenty of room and provisions for you and your camels.”

The man bowed and said, “Blessed be the God of Abraham. For the love of my master, he led me straight to Abraham’s family!”

Rebekah ran ahead and told her mother and their household what had happened at the well. Rebekah’s brother, Laban, listened intently, his eyes regarding the exquisite nose ring and bracelets adorning his sister’s body. When Rebekah finished her story, Laban ran out to meet the visitor and his camels at the well. Sure enough, the man was standing as if waiting for another sign.

“You, there, blessed of God,” Laban shouted. “Why are you standing out here while we’ve prepared our home for you and your animals?”

The servant went to the home of Bethuel, and Laban gave the camels straw and fodder for the night. The household welcomed their guest and his men, giving them water for their feet and food to eat.

After washing his feet, the servant said, “I won’t eat until I’ve shared with you the purpose of my visit here.”

“Go ahead then,” Laban said.

“I call from Abram, now called Abraham,” he said. “God’s been good to my master, giving him flocks, herds, gold, silver, slaves, camels, and donkeys.”

The man stood up. “Abraham’s wife, Sarah, bore him a son in her old age, and my master has lavished everything on him. He made me promise that I wouldn’t choose a wife for him among the Canaanites. Instead, he told me to go to his old country to find a suitable wife.”

The man walked over to where Rebekah was sitting and turned to her. “I asked my master, ‘What if she won’t follow me.’ Abraham said, ‘God will send a guiding angel who’ll lead you to success. If she doesn’t follow you, I free you from your promise.’”

Rebekah smiled.

“Today I came to the well and prayed that whomever I ask for a drink, his chosen one would offer me water along with my animals. Before I finished my prayer, Rebekah approached with her water pitcher.”

As the man recounted the events of the day, the household listened with great interest, especially Laban, who couldn’t keep his eyes off of the gold jewelry adorning his sister. The man finished, saying, “If all this pleases you, let me know. Otherwise, I must continue my search for Isaac’s bride.”

Bethuel answered, “If you’re with God, who are we to argue? Here’s Rebekah to take with you as God wills it.”

The visitor bowed to the ground. Then he went back to his satchel and brought out more jewelry of both gold and silver. Laban watched, wide-eyed, as the servant handed them to Rebekah along with several quality garments. Then he brought out costly gifts for Laban and their mother.

Inspiration: Genesis 24

Sister wife

From Mamre Oaks, Abraham set out toward the Negev. He and his wife established tents in Gerar, between Kadesh and Shur. Since they were new to the area, Abraham feared for his life. Just as he did in Egypt, he told everyone, “Sarah’s my sister.”

Abimelech, King of Gerar, brought Sarah into his household to take as a wife, but God visited him in a dream.

“You’re going to die,” God said, “because Sarah is married already.”

Abimelech had not yet taken Sarah into his bed. Nevertheless, God had shut up the wombs of every female in Abimelech’s house. He reasoned with God, saying, “Master, will you punish the innocent? Both Abraham and Sarah lied to me. I had no idea they were married.”

“I know you’re innocent,” God answered in the dream, “and I alone prevented you from sin. Return Sarah to Abraham, because he’s a prophet. He’ll pray for you, and you’ll live. Otherwise, you and your family will all die.”

Abimelech got up early from a sleepless night and brought his servants in for a meeting. Telling them about the vision, everyone was afraid for their lives. Then the king called Abraham and said, “What did I do to be deceived in my own house? You’ve disrespected me and my domain. What were you thinking?”

Abraham confessed that he didn’t trust a kingdom who didn’t fear God. “Besides,” he added, “she actually is my half-sister. Sarah and I share the same father. When God called me out of our father’s house, we agreed that she would play the role of sister any time we settled in a new place.”

Abimelech brought Sarah back, along with sheep, oxen, slaves of both sexes, and a thousand silver pieces. He handed them all over to Abraham and said, “Survey my land and settle wherever you like.” Then he turned to Sarah and said, “I have paid your brother with silver as a sign of your vindication.”

Abraham prayed to God, and as promised, Abimelech and his household were healed. The king’s wife and female slaves could bear children again.

Inspiration: Genesis 20