March 16, 2016
“There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s.
But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29, 30)
Have you ever pondered those verses in thinking of what it means to be chastised by the Lord? Our Wednesday readings this week are an in-depth study of the story of Jacob and Esau, twin brothers who were both chastened by Love. Perhaps you already know the story of Jacob who left his house, his father, his mother, his brother; then met with many persecutions by mere mortals and many chastisements by powerful angels; and then received his brother Esau hundredfold more glorious than before, as if he had seen the “face of God.”
This Wednesday we will also be focusing on Esau’s side of the story. Esau was chastised for disregarding his birthright for an attractive morsel of food (reminding me of Adam with a similar cursing consequence); and Jacob was chastised for cheating his brother and in turn, being tricked by his own uncle. Both brothers eventually “broke the yoke” of having a dual nature — foolish and wise, his-son versus her-son, hunter and tent-dweller, good and bad, deceitful and honest — when they earned their “dominion” (Gen. 27:40), until the New Testament’s yoke of grace in Christ.
It should be noted that most commentaries have determined that the word “away” is missing from Esau’s “blessing” in Genesis 27:39 in the King James Version. According to Dummelow’s Commentary on the King James Bible (online):
39. Shall be the fatness] rather, ‘Shall be away from the fatness.’ Read thus, the prophecy is in agreement with the general barrenness of Edom or Seir, where the descendants of Esau dwelt.
It should also be noted that the book of Genesis is a compilation of several different documents, which explains the contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2. Similarly, the blessing given to Jacob by a misty-eyed and feeble Isaac in Genesis 27:29 is not part of the blessing given by Isaac (who is not described as dim-sighted or dying) in Genesis 28:3,4. If there is only one true blessing (as there is only one true creation in Genesis 1), then what happens to the historic animosity between the nations of Judah and Edom which many trace back to the trickster story in Genesis 27?
It became apparent (at least to me) that Esau’s choice of wives added an interesting twist to his parents’ opinion of him that perhaps we don’t see when we only read part of the story. Here’s the pertinent chronology:
Gen 24:4 – According to Abraham, Isaac’s wife (Rebekah) must come from Abraham’s original country.
Gen 25:34 – Esau trades his birthright for bread and lentil stew. The birthright was the special privileges of being the first-born son, such as being the religious and judicial authority in the family as well as inheriting a double-portion of the paternal inheritance (Easton’s Bible Dictionary).
Gen 26:34,35 – Esau marries Canaanite wives, which grieved Isaac and Rebekah.
Gen 27:27 – Isaac blesses Jacob with the fatness of the earth, and people serving him. Deathbed blessings were “believed to irrevocably release a tangible power that determined the character and destiny of the recipient” (Oxford Annotated Bible).
Gen 27:38 – Isaac “blesses” Esau “away” from the fatness of the earth, living by the sword, and serving his brother. But, when Esau has “dominion,” he shall break Jacob’s yoke from off his neck. Other Bible translations of dominion are “gain your freedom” (God’s Word); “break loose” (JPS TANAKH); “grow restless” (NIV).
Gen 27:46 – Rebekah tells Isaac that it “wearied” her for Jacob to marry one of the local women.
Gen 28:1 Isaac blesses Jacob and sends him to Rebekah’s family for a wife.
Gen 28:7-10 Esau sees that Jacob obeyed his parents and did not take a Canaanite wife, so Esau married an Ishmaelite this time.
Hmm… I wonder if Esau’s first marriage wasn’t the “planned arrangement” for an heir which might have added to the family plotting to benefit Jacob? The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes that Gen. 28 is a Priestly parallel where: “Isaac was not tricked into blessing Jacob, but intended from the outset to bless him in the process of sending him away to find a proper wife.”
How interesting that the Christ seed appeared to develop in the nurturing environment of certain chosen women, whether it was Sarah (instead of Hagar), or Jacob’s wives from Abraham’s country who produced the 12 children of Israel (instead of Esau’s Canaanite and Ishmaelite wives). And how interesting that the mothers, Sarah and Rebekah, both wanted such pure environments for their sons that they felt led to take such drastic measures. However, after years of wrestling, both Jacob and Esau claimed their birthright of infinite Love instead of continuing to believe in a pre-existing condition of favoritism and hate from birth. The brothers finally saw the glory of God in each other, much like when Jesus healed another man blind from birth (John 9). Seeing the real man is an ongoing struggle in the Bible; and what a pleasure it is to read other Bible stories in the Old Testament, and especially in the New Testament about Jesus’ stand (and eventually the disciples’ and Paul’s stand) for unity amongst Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles, and all people due to their joint inheritance from their true Father-Mother God.
If you are still wondering what the story of Jacob and Esau has to do with today, here is a testimony from a Sentinel article:
A woman suffering from a severe pain in her neck and shoulder, which made it impossible for her to move her head or lift her arms, called upon a student of Christian Science for help. Turning prayerfully to the Bible for inspiration, the student opened to the book of Genesis where she read the account of Jacob and Esau. The account relates that when Esau learned that his father’s blessing had been fraudulently obtained by his younger brother, Jacob, Esau “lifted up his voice, and wept” (Gen. 27:38).
Esau had accepted evil’s claim of finity, the belief that there is not enough good to go around. Then his father, Isaac, answered him in these words: “It shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.” Did Isaac recognize the error in Esau’s thought which needed correcting? It is true that only by gaining dominion over a false sense of man can the yoke of mortal mind be broken. As long as Esau hated Jacob and entertained the belief that his younger brother could deprive him of his birthright of good, Esau was burdened with a yoke of limitation and deprivation.
When Jacob repented during his experience at Peniel, Esau’s thought also was changed, and the yoke of limitation and resentment was lifted from him. When Jacob offered him a gift, Esau could say (Gen. 33:9), “I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.” (“Man’s Birthright of Dominion” by Ila Ramage from the June 11, 1955 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel)
What a powerful angel Jacob wrestled with in order to understand the one man because not only was Jacob healed, but his brother as well! And pondering the lessons in this Bible story brought healing to the woman in the above article centuries later, which is a testament to the eternal living Word.