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“Jacob answered his mother Rebekah, “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man and I am a smooth man.  “Perhaps my father will feel me, then I will be as a deceiver in his sight, and I will bring upon myself a curse and not a blessing.” But his mother said to him, “Your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.””  – Gen. 27:11-13

Rebekah has just laid out her plan to assist Jacob in obtaining the blessing instead of Esau.  Jacob does not appear to be opposed to this plan at all, surprisingly, but rather, as I mentioned in my previous post, his main concerns are not getting caught, and tarnishing his reputation with his father Isaac, if he is found out.  Rashi points out that the sages teach that their voices were similar (they are, after all, twins) which may explain why Jacob’s main concern is not the obvious – that his voice would give him away.

This scene, together with the scene regarding the birthright, shows us that Jacob vehemently desired the favored and sacred position of firstborn in the family, and was even willing to do questionable things to attain this.

Rebekeh’s response is likewise fascinating.  Now that she knows Jacob understands her plan, and is on board with it aside from these reservations, she appeases her son by stating she will take the blame, even the curse, if they are caught.  In essence, Jacob would be guilty of ‘obeying his mother’s voice’ – which in itself is an honorable thing to do.

The oracle concerning her sons’ birth – that the older will serve the younger – may have given Rebekah the confidence to move forward with this plan.  Though, Everett Fox points out that after this chapter, Rebekah eerily disappears from the narrative, and her death is not specifically mentioned in the scriptures.  We may have a small inkling as to her death, as when her nurse, Deborah, dies in Genesis 35:8, and it refers to her being buried underneath an oak tree which was referred to as the ‘tree of weepings’ (plural).  Some scholars believe that Rebekah was buried at the same time as Deborah.

“Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to his son Esau.  So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game to bring home, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Behold, I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, saying, ‘Bring me some game and prepare a savory dish for me, that I may eat, and bless you in the presence of the LORD before my death.’  “Now therefore, my son, listen to me as I command you.  “Go now to the flock and bring me two choice young goats from there, that I may prepare them as a savory dish for your father, such as he loves. “Then you shall bring it to your father, that he may eat, so that he may bless you before his death.””  Gen. 27:5-10

When read closely, Genesis 27 reveals many near-truths and half-lies.  Familiarity with the story causes this to go almost completely unnoticed, but as with many passages in scripture, careful attention is warranted for us to get a full picture of the personalities of those involved.  In this passage, several neutral or ambiguous statements are made and it is up to the hearer to understand what the motive is.   First we see this with Rebekah, and later with Jacob.

When you read the verses above, Rebekah does not actually say anything indicating a deceitful plan.  Read plainly, the narrative simply states:

Your father just asked your brother Esau to go hunt some food to prepare a meal for him, so your father can bless him before he dies.  Go get me two goats, and I will cook them up.  Then you can give them to your father, so he can [also] bless you before he dies.

In saying these things, she likely hoped Jacob would obey her without question; it is up to Jacob to infer the ramifications of what she intends to do.  She even began her request with “my son, listen to me as I command you.” (v. 8)

Jacob, however, has shown himself to be more shrewd than what we originally learn of him (Gen. 25:27) such as in the case with commandeering the birthright (25:31).  Jacob knows that Esau was technically the firstborn, and that he would be first in line for the blessing; Jacob also knows that Esau is favored by Isaac, whereas Jacob is favored by Rebekah (25:28)  This causes Jacob to know his mother is up to something.

The very next words Jacob utters indicate not only that he understands the full extent of the plan his mother has concocted, but also that he is all-in.  Surprisingly, his only concern is getting caught, and what that would cause his father to think of him.

“When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents.”  Gen. 24:27

This is one of many verses in scripture where what is being conveyed is missed if we do not think about what the words imply.  It is plain enough to understand that Jacob is ‘peaceful’, which in the original Hebrew means simple, wholesome, without blemish (like a sacrifice).  For Esau however, it seems we are told more about what he does than we are of his nature:  He is a skillful hunter.  However, ultimately this reveals his nature to us; to be a skillful hunter, you need to be able to deceive animals – to trap them.  A Hebrew translation may read “one who knows trapping.”  There are also several rabbinical stories about Esau’s deceit.  And so what is being illustrated to the reader is a contrast between the twins.  This is a continuation of the previous verses where we see that although they are twins, they do not look alike.

The contrast continues.  Esau is a man of the field, he is active, probably more comfortable outside than in.  With Jacob however the scripture tells us he “lives in tents”.  This may sound obvious to the reader, as where else would he live?  And wouldn’t Esau live in a tent as well?  The physical abode is not what is being discussed here, but rather this is a reference to the “tents of Shem” from Genesis 9:27:

“And let him dwell in the tents of Shem”

The tents of Shem in long-standing rabbinical tradition is where the teaching of God was taught, a prerequisite of theological seminary of sorts. (Bereishis Rabbah 63:10, also, Rashi)  On the surface the contrast is that Esau is more prone to be outside, and Jacob inside, and this appears to hold true to their personalities as well, as we see a litany of action verbs peppered throughout the story with regard to Esau, not so much with Jacob. (Alter) Esau is also a man of careless words, not thinking before he speaks.

As the next verses unfold however, we see the reader, too, is deceived by all outward appearances, for it is Jacob who ends up being the deceiver.

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