Peace train

When Jacob had moved to Haran twenty years earlier, Esau had also moved away from his father’s house. He had taken his wives, children, livestock, and possessions, and settled in the hill country of Seir. Now, as Jacob and his entourage drew closer to his brother, he decided to dispatch couriers ahead of them to seek peace with Esau.

When the messengers arrived, they said to Esau, “Your servant Jacob has been living with your Uncle Laban until recently. He now has oxen, donkeys, sheep, and slaves, and he sent us in hopes that you’ll receive him on friendly terms.”

“Tell Jacob,” Esau answered, “that I’m coming to meet him with an army of four hundred.”

When they returned and told Jacob what Esau had said, Jacob was terrified. He split his camp into two companies and divided his livestock equally, so that half of his estate could still survive the wrath of Esau.

Then he prayed. “O God, O Master, you told me to go back home and said you’d be with me. I went to Haran with a shepherd’s crook and a father’s blessing, and I’m now a very rich man. I’m not worthy of your love and faithfulness, but I ask that you save me and my family from my brother. You said you’d make my offspring like the countless sands of the shore.”

Jacob continued to pray into the night until he fell asleep. The next morning, he brought out two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, gave them to a servant and said, “Deliver these goats to my brother and say, ‘These are a peace offering from your servant Jacob, and he is coming behind us.’”

Then he took two hundred ewes and twenty rams from his flock. He gave them to another servant and told him the same thing he told the first servant, adding, “Keep space between you and my servant ahead of you.”

Next, he took thirty milking camels and their young, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. Again he gave each species of animal to a servant and had him form the next drove in a long line of gifts for his brother. “Tell him your servant Jacob comes behind us,” he told each one, “but keep a distance between the drove ahead of you.”

Jacob hoped that by the time he met his brother Esau, his anger would have subsided. In the meantime, he waited for each drove to take its turn toward Esau and continued to sleep unsettled for another night.

Inspiration: Genesis 32, 36

Selecting wives

Esau hated Jacob for his wholesale robbery of their father’s blessing, and he was often heard grumbling about future plot points of revenge.

“After Dad dies and I’ve mourned his passing, I’ll kill that thief while he sleeps and take what’s rightfully mine.”

Rebekah heard Esau’s venomous pronouncements, so she warned Jacob. “Run to your uncle Laban’s house in Haran,” she said, “and stay there until Esau’s anger has subsided. When your offense is no more than a distant memory, I’ll send a messenger for your return. If you don’t do as I say, I’ll have to mourn the loss of my husband and my beloved son in the same season.”

Then Rebekah conspired for Isaac to have a heart to heart with their younger son about a wife.

“These Hittite women make me want to die,” she complained. “If Jacob marries one, I see no reason to live.”

So Isaac sat Jacob down and said bluntly, “Don’t marry a Canaanite. Instead, go to your Grandpa Bethuel’s house and find a wife among Laban’s daughters. God’ll give you the family blessing, numberless descendants and all the real estate you could want.”

After hearing from both of his parents, and seeing they were in agreement for once, Jacob left for Haran to find his uncle Laban.

In the meantime, after having overheard the part of the conversation about not marrying a Canaanite, and realizing his wives disgraced his parents, Esau went to visit his uncle Ishmael. While there, he took Ishmael’s daughter Mahalath, also called Basemath, as a wife in addition to his foreign wives, Judith, Adah, and Oholibamah.

Inspiration: Genesis 27-28

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 steaming dish to his father’s side table, Esau said, “Sit up, Dad, 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 as his son stood in confusion. “Whomever it was, he will be blessed indeed.”

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

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 whomever 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, Dad!” 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 throughout the 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, particularly 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 freshly roasted wild game from my favorite son’s bow.  Go. Happy hunting. I want to give you my blessing before I expire.”

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 delectable 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 slick as an eel. What if Dad reaches out and literally feels the betrayal? He’ll curse me and 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 grinned satisfactorily, handing Jacob a bowl and some bread, “go 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 bannister.

“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, Dad,” 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 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

Esau’s birthright

Isaac prayed for his wife Rebekah, and she conceived twins. The pregnancy was excruciatingly difficult, and in agony she prayed, “If it’s going to be this way, I’d rather die.”

“Two nations grow inside of you,” God said. “Enemies. The older will be stronger, but he will serve the younger.

Isaac was sixty years old when his sons were born. The first came out with red hair all over his body, so they named him “Esau,” Rough. He was also nicknamed “Edom,” Red. His twin grabbed Esau by the heel during birth, so they named him “Jacob,” He Supplants.

As they developed into young men, Esau became a rugged outdoorsman while Jacob was gentle and domestic. Isaac favored Esau, because he also loved a good hunt. Rebekah favored Jacob.

One day, Jacob was busy cooking stew on the hearth when Esau came in, famished from hunting in the wilds of Beerlahairoi. He said, “Give me some of that stew!”

Jacob answered, “Give me your birthright.”

Esau seemed annoyed. “I’m dying of hunger,” he said. “What good is a birthright to a dead man?”

“Promise me,” Jacob said.

“I promise,” Esau grunted, and he sold his birthright to him for bread and lentils.

After washing it down with some wine, left the tent in a huff and said, “The price of that soup was inflated.” From that moment on, Esau loathed his birthright.

Inspiration: Genesis 25