In a parallel to Sarah, we see that Rebekah is barren until Isaac prays to the Lord and she is granted a child. But like Sarah (and Hagar) it’s not all quite as simple as it seems, for the two children in her womb struggle, for they will become two nations divided.
I can’t imagine that made for a very fun pregnancy either.
So Jacob and Esau are born, one hairy and one smooth, the younger brother holding the heel of his twin. And Esau is the hunter, Jacob more settled. Interesting that the father favors the hunter, while the mother the child at home; not an unusual idea but also reflective of the shift from a nomadic hunting culture to one based on agriculture and domestication of animals. The latter (younger) culture must of course supplant the older. Naturally, this culture is quickly established as brighter, as Jacob easily tricks his brother into giving up his birthright.
Then we go back to Rebekah and Isaac, and yet another journey to settle in a land as directed by God. Off they go and Isaac, who apparently learned nothing from his father, claims that Rebekah is his sister and not his wife. This comes to the attention of King Abimelech, chastises Isaac for possibly bringing guilt onto someone by lying about his relationship with Rebekah. Message-wise, I think this probably translates into something about not leading other people to do wrong by withholding pertinent information, which is an interesting thing to ponder considering that our current culture doesn’t seem to consider a lie by omission to be any kind of lie at all. (See: politics. Also, Wall St.) We tend to push the burden back on the guilty — you should have done more diligence, done more research. Caveat emptor.
Which raises certain questions of ethics; I understand that Isaac, like Abraham, lied because he feared for his own skin. That he feared those who would wish to take his wife would kill him to do so; better to pretend she is his sister. Yet, what about the responsibility, that those who might wish to take his wife then do harm unknowingly? It may be unknowing but harm is still done. So where does the responsibility lie? With the one who did harm, or the one who put him in the position by concealing the truth?
Related: if I were King Abimelech, I’d be getting right sick of this nonsense by now.
Then we return again to Jacob and Esau. Side note: I was a fan of Lost, and so Jacob and Esau makes me think of the storyline of Jacob and the Man in Black. (Which is, obviously, based on Jacob and Esau. Leading us in a nice little circle.) Which also means that I imagine Jacob as played by Mark Pellegrino, and keep thinking he’s hot. Which feels slightly blasphemous. Oops?
By this point Esau has taken two wives, and Isaac and Rebekah don’t seem especially thrilled with their daughters-in-law but not much is said about that. Then Isaac is dying and wants to bestow a blessing onto his son. But Rebekah and Jacob trick him, disguising Jacob and receiving a blessing that nations bow down to him, people serve him, his brothers too. That those who bless him are blessed and those who curse him, cursed. A bit of karma there, that which is sent out will come back to those who send it.
Except that karma doesn’t apply to Jacob or Esau, since Jacob receives his blessing through trickery and poor Esau is left without. Isaac has little left to give his other son. Esau only wants one blessing, even just the one — and this is where I start to feel the rooting-for-the-underdog part of my personality pull at my heartstrings — and weeps. So Isaac gives him a blessing that he shall live by his sword and serve his brother until he breaks free and breaks the yoke from his neck. Not so much a blessing as a curse, really. Esau naturally is not pleased and decides the best way to break that yoke is to kill his brother, so Rebekah sends Jacob away.
It’s interesting; Esau is the villain here, yet it’s Jacob the hero who behaves in much worse ways. He’s the one who achieves his means through trickery. Now, you can argue that it’s justifiable, with Esau not really being the brightest fellow you’ll ever meet and surely not equipped for such a position, but it’s still a pretty crappy thing to do to your twin. And Esau, well, I can’t help feel for him. He’s a simple man, from what is written, and he’s not only deprived of what was rightfully his but of everything — asking his father if he hasn’t even one blessing left. Only then does he want to kill his brother, before that he seems to bear him no ill will. And really, can you blame him?