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

Welling up

Isaac farmed a piece of land in that country, reaping a hundredfold the very same year. His sheep and livestock were so great in number, and his household had multiplied such that the Philistines were once again jealous of a foreigner’s wealth and success. (In the days of Abraham, they had clogged all the wells dug by his father’s servants to deter him from success.)

So Abimelech said, “You’re too mighty. You have to leave.”

Isaac left Gerar proper and settled in the valley. Isaac dug out the wells that had been filled in by the Philistines in his father’s day, and he restored the names his father had given them.

Isaac’s servants discovered a particular well in the valley, and the shepherds contested its ownership. He named the well Esek, “Strife.” Isaac’s servants dug another well, and again the local herders fought with him. He named that one Sitnah, “Hatred.”

Finally, Isaac dug another one that wasn’t such a point of contention. “Now this area is big enough for the both of us,” he said. “We’ll be prosperous here.” He called the well Rehoboth, “Wide, Open.”

After this, he went to Beersheeba, where his father and Abimelech had made their promise to one another. The first night he arrived there, God appeared to him, saying, “I’m the God of your father. Don’t be afraid because I’m with you, and I’ll bless you. I’ll make your descendants multiply for your father’s sake.”

Isaac built an altar, called on the name of God, and settled there. Isaac’s servants dug a well at that spot.

Abimelech paid Isaac a visit with his adviser Ahuzzath and his army commander Phicol.

“Why are you here?” Isaac asked. “You’ve made it clear you hate me by sending me away.”

Abimelech said, “It’s obvious that God is with you, so let’s promise we won’t harm each other in any way. We’ve never touched you, and we sent you away in peace.”

Isaac prepared a great feast that night, and they dined. In the morning the king and his entourage left in peace. That same day, Isaac’s servants reported that they found water while digging yet another well.

Isaac called it Shibah, “Oath,” and that city was named Beersheba as well.

Inspiration: Genesis 26

Like father

Another food shortage occurred, but God told Isaac not to go to Egypt as his father had done. “Instead,” God said, “settle in the land I will show you.” And God echoed the details of the promise he had given to Abraham.

Isaac took his family and settled in Gerar. When the men noticed the alluring Rebekah, Isaac lied for the same reason his father had before him. “She’s my sister,” he’d say.

When Isaac had been living there for a long time as an alien, Abimelech, the Philistine king who had been deceived by Abraham in the past, was peering through his window when he saw Isaac caressing Rebekah. He called for Isaac and said, “Obviously, Rebekah is your wife. Why’d you tell everyone she was your sister?”

“I thought I’d be killed, so someone else could have her.”

“What have you done? One of my citizens could have easily taken her into his bed, and you would have forced guilt on us!”

Abimelech remembered the oath of loyalty he had made with Abraham, so he made a blanket decree: “Anyone who touches Isaac or his wife Rebekah, will be executed.”

Inspiration: Genesis 26

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

New home

Abraham’s faithful servant and his men had their fill of food and wine, and in the morning they prepared to leave. Laban and the girl’s mother said, “Let Rebekah wait at least ten days. Then she can go to meet Isaac.”

“Don’t make me wait,” the man said. “God has made my journey a success, and now I must get back.”

“Let’s call Rebekah in,” Laban replied, “and ask what she wants to do.”

Rebekah said she was ready and willing to go, so they gave their blessing. “May you become thousands upon thousands of people, and may your descendants conquer the world!”

Rebekah, her maids, and her nurse all mounted their camels and followed Abraham’s servant with his men toward the horizon.

Isaac had recently returned to his home in the Negev from Beerlahairoi and was meditating in the field one evening. Looking up, he noticed a caravan of camels approaching.

When Rebekah looked up and saw Isaac, she hurriedly dismounted and said to the servant of Abraham, “Who is that man coming toward us?”

The servant answered, “It’s my master’s son.”

Rebekah veiled her face upon Isaac’s approach, and the servant relayed to him everything that had transpired in his absence.

Isaac brought Rebekah into his deceased mother’s tent, and they were married. Isaac was forty years old at this time, and he found comfort in Rebekah’s arms.

In the meantime, Abraham married Keturah and had several children by her. Although he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines, he sent them all away toward the east. To Isaac, he gave everything he owned.

Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him with his wife Sarah in the cave that he had purchased from Ephron.

After Abraham died, God blessed Isaac, who settled in Beerlahairoi.

Inspiration: Genesis 24, 25