Design By Humans

Genesis 27. Of Smooth and Hairy Men.

Genesis 27.

1 And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I.

    Do we have any idea of how old he is?

2 And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death:
    I assume the implication is that the say of his death draws near, the statement itself however is as true for being old as for being young. Who knows the day of their death? I guess those on death row do, but even that is by no means certain.

3 Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison;

    Isaac always did like Esau's venison, a fitting last meal.

4 And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.

    It's a fair request.

5 And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it.

    Right you are.

6 And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau thy brother, saying,

    ...

7 Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless thee before the LORD before my death.

    He did say that.

8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command thee.

    Go on...

9 Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth:

    Treachery is afoot!

10 And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death.

    Rebekah looks to steal the blessing due for Esau and have it bestowed on Jacob. What is the content of a blessing anyway? What tangible benefit can be extracted from it? Is a blessing worth some prime meat?

11 And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man:

    Jacob notes that his brother Esau has the appearance of an orangutan while he is decidedly more human looking...

12 My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing.

    ...and rightly recognises that this could be problematic in deceiving his father. His complaint however is that he will appear as a deceiver, he doesn't seem to recognise that in this endeavour he is actually a deceiver, neither Rebekah nor he seem to acknowledge that there is anything at all wrong with this deception besides the possibility of being caught. This is yet another example of the Abrahamic lineage using lies to their advantage (if a blessing is indeed an advantage).

13 And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them.

    Rebekah tells him to get on with it.

14 And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savoury meat, such as his father loved.

    Just like she said she would.

15 And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son:

    Rebekah then 'borrows' some of Esau's best clothes in order to disguise Jacob.

16 And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck:

    What a wonderful plan! Esau must really be an hairy fellow if Rebekah thinks that the best tactile comparison to his hands and neck are the hides of goats. DO they really consider that this will work? Let's see.

17 And she gave the savoury meat and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.

    His goat skin covered hands. Could it be said that he is handling the savoury meat with kid gloves (Ba-dum-tish)?

18 And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son?

    He hasn't lied so far, he seems to be being quite careful, he might be able to pull this one off on a technicality. I mean, if he doesn't actually say he is Esau, he hasn't actually lied. Right?

19 And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me.

    Nope, he just plain jumps in with the lie. It occurs to me that they must be using some fairly heavy spices if they expect Issac not to be able to tell the difference between goat and venison.

20 And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the LORD thy God brought it to me.

    Oh, that's brilliant, He's implicated the LORD in his lie, I think the lord will be cool with it, he supported Abraham's lies more than once.

21 And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not.

    Isaac is sceptical.

22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.

    Isaac confirms that Esau's hair is so dense as to be indistinguishable from a goat.

23 And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau's hands: so he blessed him.

    Deception complete. Jacob has received the blessing due for Esau, but what does it mean?

24 And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am.

    He asks again after the blessing has been given, this might perhaps be a little redundant.   

25 And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son's venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank.

    OK, so the goat meat fooled him. Well done Rebekah, your cooking skills are beyond compare.

26 And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son.

    OK.

27 And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed:
    The washing of clothes mustn't have yet become a social convention, either way the smell of Esau's clothes has sealed the con.

28 Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:

    Can Isaac command the LORD what to give his son? If so, in what sense is God all powerful?

29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.
    OK. More promises are bestowed upon Jacob in the form of this blessing, how can Jacob believe that his father has the power to give him all of these things? Another thing of interest, how many sons does his mother have? Are they all by Isaac and if not is polyandry acceptable along with polygyny?

30 And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting.
    Uh-Oh!

31 And he also had made savoury meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son's venison, that thy soul may bless me.

    So Esau, having missed his brother Jacob trick Isaac has turned up with meat to claim his blessing.

32 And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said, I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau.

    Isaac is rightly confused.

33 And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? yea, and he shall be blessed.

    Isaac is angry that he has been tricked but the last bit is what interests me. What is the tangibility of a blessing such that it cannot be rescinded? Did he speak some magic words that granted all of the things he told Jacob that he'd have? Does Isaac actually have the power to grant all of these promises to Jacob or are they merely wishes? If the former why does he not have the power to rescind the blessing and if the latter, what difference does it make? I really need to get a handle on what these blessings actually constitute, how they work and who has the power to give them or take them away.

34 And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father.

    Esau begs his father for the same blessing. I can't actually think of a reason that he shouldn't be able to do this.

35 And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing.
    The suggestion here is that dishonesty and trickery can be equated with subtlety, the serpent in Eden was also described as 'subtil' however he didn't trick anyone he just told it as it was. Is the lesson of this whole story, nay this whole book of Genesis, that if you lie, there is entirely nothing wrong with it if you are successful?

36 And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?
    Indeed, Jacob has been a scheming blaggard and has profited well from it. I still can't see why Isaac can't equally bless Esau though.

37 And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son?

    Another reference to all of his brethren. How many children has Rebekah bore and to whom?

38 And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept.
    Esau begs again, crying this time, I'm sure that'll work.

39 And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above;
    OK, good start, not enormously substantial though.

40 And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.

    OK, so the blessing here is, you will live as a slave to your brother but one day you'll break free. Not so much a blessing as a prediction. I can see no reason why Esau should take this seriously, there is absolutely no reason why he should live by these rules.

41 And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.
    Good man, he has effectively decided to take matters into his own hands, when he's done mourning his father, he'll murder his brother. I'm not certain murder is entirely necessary, I'm sure he could live a good life without either being a slave to his brother or being his killer. There has to be a middle way.

42 And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee.

    Oh dear. Jacob via Rebekah gets wind of his brother's plan.

43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran;

    ...

44 And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother's fury turn away;

    Rebekah instructs Jacob to flee to her home town of Haran and stay with her brother for a few days until Esau's rage blows over. A few days? If that's all it takes this can't really be that serious can it?

45 Until thy brother's anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?

    Rebekah will send for Jacob when Esau calms down.

46 And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?

    This verse seems a bit incongruous however, we know Heth is a son of Canaan and so the daughters of Heth are Canaanite and we know what Abraham thought of Canaanite women. I guess what this verse is saying is that now that Rebekah has sent Jacob to Haran, there is a risk that he might marry a Canaanite woman and that if he does then the bloodline will be tainted and Rebekah will be shamed. Why are Abraham's tribe so racist?

So, a new story at last, but what has it told us?

  • Lying is the best policy if you can get away with it and if the rewards are good enough. A good man should never pass up the opportunity to cheat even his brother out of anything he fancies.
  • There is something tangible about blessings, I don't know what it is but it seems that once issued, they can not be retracted. Are they some kind of magic spell? How do they effect a change to the world? Can one simply bless someone with wealth and they'll get it? hopefully we'll learn more about the nature of blessings later on.
  • Esau is hairy enough that the hair on his hands and neck are indistinguishable to the touch from goat hide.
  • Rebekah has more than just these two children, are they also Issac's children? why are they not mentioned? Is polyandry OK?
  • The racism of Isaac has lived on through another generation.
  • God was notably absent from this chapter. I wonder what he's up to.

Next Genesis 28.

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GENESIS

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