I wonder why it was so important to Rebekah that Jacob have Esau’s birthright and blessing? I think it might be yet another case of taking one’s destiny into one’s hands. God told her (in Genesis 25:23 if you want a reference) that of the two babies, the younger one would be greater. Perhaps Rebekah decided to help hurry it along. No doubt her character flaws only fueled Jacob’s own manipulative nature.
I wonder how old they were when Esau sold Jacob his birthright for stew? As firstborn, surely Isaac would have pressed upon Esau the importance of his future role in the family. But during this encounter with his brother, it seems like Esau doesn’t even care. I’m wondering if he was still a teenager, and simply didn’t understand yet. Caring more about food seems a little bit more like something a teenager would do, while an adult (by today’s standards) would have a better grasp of his duty. Of course, it could also be that Esau simply didn’t care much for his birthright. He did, after all, go off and marry a Hittite, which was a tribe of colored “infidels.” He seems like a brash, impetuous sort of fellow. I don’t think we’d get along very well.
It makes sense that Jacob wouldn’t have told Isaac that he had bought Esau’s birthright. It also seems logical to assume that Isaac never knew about it. Even if Esau had wanted to use it as ammunition against his brother were they ever to get into a fight (as I’m sure they did, given their differing personalities), it would have been embarrassing for him to explain to his father how he had sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. I don’t see Esau as the kind to think ahead, so maybe he didn’t think of this and keep it to himself. But it’s possible that he did, and Isaac was left blissfully in the dark about the situation.
Rebekah’s confidence in her dastardly scheme to trick Isaac into giving Jacob his blessing is almost frightening. But it appears she was more manipulative than she looked when Abraham’s servant first found her and she watered his camels for him. She used her knowledge of her husband’s physical state (his level of blindness, his age-dulled taste buds, and his use of touch and scent to “see”), and her power over her favored son (whom she had doted upon and manipulated throughout his life until he would do whatever she asked) to her advantage. She timed the moment precisely, prepared the meal in a way that Isaac wouldn’t even begin to suspect that she had cooked a domesticated goat rather than Esau cooking a wild animal, and she waved away Jacob’s worries about the plan without a hint of concern. She was so confident, in fact, that she told Jacob she would take all the blame were they to be discovered. Of course, Jacob was pretty quick on his feet too. She taught him well. She was truly the mother of all deception.
It’s hilarious to me how Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Leah instead of Rachel. Here Jacob was, long a trickster and manipulator himself, and he does a little honest work for one and then turns around and BAM! Hoodwinked by his own uncle! Serves him right! Maybe after that moment he realized how Esau must have felt and turned away from his pride and deceptive ways.
Leah’s dedication is something to be admired, really. It had to have been incredibly hard for her to watch her husband love her sister more than her. And yet she never stopped being as great a wife as she could be for Jacob. She may not have even wanted to marry Jacob, but she was probably getting desperate. She wouldn’t want to disgrace her father by not marrying, right? All she wanted was to be loved. And in her marriage to Jacob, she fell in love with him – a good thing. But he didn’t reciprocate – an agonizing reality for her. And yet her resolve to gain his love never faltered. She waged war on her sister to prove she was the better wife, and she fought that war with unwavering focus.
It’s interesting to see the change in the two sons of Isaac over time. Jacob grew out of his trickster’s ways, learned to live honestly, and found peace with his large family. Esau, while probably an intimidating spectacle of a man, learned forgiveness and the value of brotherhood, both which he imparted upon Jacob when they were reunited. His is a good picture of one who was terribly wronged, and yet joyously forgave and welcomed him back into his life. It looks a little like the familiar story of the Prodigal Son, doesn’t it?
Okay, I can see how Jacob may have been a bit emotionally frazzled at the time, but still, getting into a brawl with some stranger in the wilderness someplace seems a bit unnecessary, don’t you think? The Bible doesn’t say that they said anything to each other before the fight began. Maybe there was something in the stranger’s stance that bugged Jacob. But still, it’s a little rude to just leap into fisticuffs without having a good sound conversation beforehand to establish some reasoning.
The story of Simeon and Levi’s massacre of the Hivites after Sichem fell in love with their sister Dinah gives me a thought, specifically about Levi. Here he is, driven by anger to murder masses of innocent people, and later he becomes the father of the tribe chosen by God to be his priests and holy men. If Levi fell so far and was forgiven so much, what makes us think we can’t be?