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Authors: Gilbert Morris

Tags: #FIC042030, #FIC042000, #FIC026000

The Gate of Heaven (4 page)

BOOK: The Gate of Heaven
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“But he makes
me
feel bad all the time! He beats me at everything else. He's stronger and faster and wrestles better than any boy in the camp.”

“Yes, I know. But I think your brother feels bad because you're so much cleverer than he is.”

“Why, I can't help that!”

“I know, but you don't have to beat him so badly at games like that.”

“You mean I should
let
him win?”

“What would it hurt to let him win a game now and then? It might make him feel better.”

Jacob had stopped skipping and was now walking alongside the tall man, trying to keep pace with his steps as he pondered his grandfather's suggestion. He finally sighed and said, “I suppose I could do that.”

“Good,” Abraham smiled and put his hand on the boy's head. “There's my good grandson. Now let's go find Esau. I want him to see the new lambs too.”

Jacob's heart sank. He liked having his grandfather all to himself, but he also knew that the old man was very careful not to favor either grandson.

“Oh, all right,” Jacob said, wanting to please his grandfather. “He's probably with the other boys.”

When they found Esau, the boy came willingly, as he too enjoyed his grandfather's company above that of his companions. The boys walked on either side of Abraham, each one stealing glances at the other. Esau seemed rather stiff to Jacob, who was uncomfortable that his brother kept glaring at him.
I suppose he's wondering if I told Grandfather on him,
Jacob thought.

When the three reached the flock, they were met by Hezbod, the master shepherd of all the flocks and herds. A tall, bronzed man with odd-looking yellowish eyes, he was tough as leather and could walk the legs off of any other man in the tribe. Now he greeted them with a friendly smile.

“Good morning, Hezbod,” Abraham called out.

“Good morning, sir. You've brought the boys to see the lambs?”

“Yes, indeed. I understand we have some healthy ones.”

“The best ever.” Hezbod winked at Jacob. “I'll venture you have a lot of questions.”

“I like to know things,” Jacob replied, grinning up at the man. He looked around at the grazing animals with fondness. Every type of animal fascinated him, and he had shown an uncanny ability to handle them. Young as he was, he had even successfully trained a dog to help herd the sheep.

“This young fellow is going to be a great herdsman, master.”

Abraham smiled. “Both of them will be, I hope.”

“No, I want to be a warrior,” Esau protested. “I get tired of these smelly old sheep.”

Abraham stared at Esau in dismay. “Our people have always been shepherds,” he said. “When I was your age, I was already learning to tend to the animals.”

Esau did not argue, but the look on his face made it clear he was not thrilled with the idea of becoming a shepherd.

“All right, Hezbod, show us the lambs,” Abraham said, putting his hands on the boys' shoulders. He studied his grandsons as they walked along, listening to Hezbod.
These boys are so different! I can't imagine how they'll get along when they grow up
.

Isaac was busy watching over the new lambs and their mothers when he looked up and saw the trio approaching. His heart raced with delight. Nothing pleased him more than to see the boys out with their grandfather, soaking up his wisdom and learning of the wonderful stories he had to tell. He hastily gathered up a special gift he had for each of them.

Seeing their father, both boys broke into a run, and Esau cried out, “Look, Father's got us each a bow and arrows!”

“Yes,” Isaac said, nodding and holding out two bows, each with a quiver of arrows. “I bought them from a traveling merchant. I've been saving them for a present. Do you think you deserve them?”

“Yes, indeed!” Esau cried, his eyes bright at the pleasure of owning a new weapon. “Which one is mine?”

“You're the firstborn, so you have the first choice,” Isaac said, smiling, “but they are about the same as far as I can tell.”

Esau carefully chose his bow, and Isaac gave the remaining one to Jacob. Esau set about stringing his, which he did easily, but Jacob struggled, not having the strength to pull the string taut.

“Here, I'll help you with that, son,” Isaac said. But seeing the dejection in Jacob's face, he was quick to add, “Don't worry. You'll be able to string it when you get a little older and stronger.”


I
can do it now!” Esau crowed. He picked up an arrow, nocked it on the string, and aiming, drew it back easily.

“Don't shoot that goat!” Abraham cried out sharply.

“I wasn't going to shoot it, Grandfather. I was just aiming at it.”

“Well, come along. We'll get away from the animals before you kill one of them.”

Moments later the boys were shooting at an acceptable target—a rag on a bush. With little practice, Esau was able to pierce the rag with his arrows on almost every shot, but Jacob could not fully draw back the bow, and his arrows continued to fall far short of the target. He quickly tired of being bested and threw down his bow, while Esau grinned at him. “A bit harder than playing that dumb game, isn't it?” With that, he sent another arrow clean through the rag and shouted, “I did it again! You see, Father?”

“Yes, I saw. You're a fine shot, son.”

Abraham stood back, watching Jacob, who was now sitting on the ground nursing his sore fingers. “That's enough archery for the day,” he announced. Esau protested, but Abraham shook his head.

“Come on over here,” Isaac said to the boys. “I brought something to drink.” He gave them each a drink from his water flask, which was filled with a sweet herbal concoction he liked to make by brewing wild flowers and honey. In the heat of the day, it tasted cool and refreshing. He turned to Abraham and said, “Now, Father, why don't you tell us more about our family.”

The four sat down under the sparse shade of a scrub tree and shared the drink from the goat-skin flask. Abraham looked down at the two boys seated at his feet. “What do you want to hear?” he asked.

“Tell us about Noah and the flood,” Jacob piped up. He never tired of hearing the old stories of his family, even though he had memorized most of them.

“All right. I'll tell you about Noah,” Abraham began.

Jacob sat in rapt attention while his grandfather related the story—Abraham having learned it from his own grandfather Nahor—of the godly patriarch whose family had been spared from the worldwide destruction. The boy was full of questions. “How did they get all the animals on the ark? Did they go out and catch them?”

“No,” Abraham patiently explained. “God himself brought them.”

“Why didn't the larger animals eat the smaller ones?”

“I never asked my grandfather about that,” Abraham said, smiling. “I expect they kept them separated.”

While Jacob and Isaac listened with interest, Esau fidgeted and drew in the dirt with a stick. He liked to hear stories of battles, not family genealogies—unlike Jacob, who could recite the family tree all the way back to Adam.

When Abraham had finished, Jacob said, “Show us the lion again, Grandfather.”

Abraham smiled and pulled out the gold medallion he wore on a leather cord around his neck. He held it out for the boys to see, and Jacob ran his fingers over the carved surface. “What does the lion mean?”

“I don't know, my boy.”

Jacob turned the medallion over and studied the other side. “This lamb looks so real! What does it mean?”

“I don't know that either, Jacob.”

Isaac and his sons had heard the story of the medallion many times before, but they listened again as Abraham explained. “When my grandfather gave this to me, he said it had been passed down from our ancestors, possibly all the way from Adam.”

“Who will get it when you die?” Esau asked bluntly.

“I don't know, Esau. My father told me that someday God himself will reveal the next person I'm to give this to—and that it will be someone in our family.”

Esau frowned. “I don't like things I don't understand.”

Jacob, however, was anxious to hear more. “Tell us what you
think
it might mean, Grandfather.”

Abraham fell silent, then said thoughtfully, “I think it means that God is doing something wonderful for the whole world through our family.”

“Like what?” Jacob demanded, his eyes bright with anticipation.

Abraham studied the faces of his son and grandsons before answering. “I believe that God is going to send a man into the world who will bring peace and joy to every person on earth.”

“I don't see how one man could do that,” Esau muttered, his lower lip protruding.

“He won't be just any man, Esau. He will be very special. Even our first ancestor, Adam, had a word from God about this man. Do you remember how God told him that the seed of a woman would crush the serpent's head?”

“Yes, but I don't get it,” Esau grumbled.

Jacob turned to his brother and explained. “The serpent is the enemy, Esau. Don't you remember?”

Esau shrugged, tired of a discussion that centered on unexplained mysteries and riddles. What did he care what would happen in the future anyway? He was anxious to get back to his new bow and arrow.

“But what's the lion for, Grandfather—and the lamb?” Jacob persisted.

Abraham shook his head. “I don't think that's for us to know right now. In due time God will reveal what they mean.” He leaned against the tree and slipped the medallion back under his garment, his eyes unfocused, staring off into the distance. “Someday God will send One who will make all things right.”

A silence fell over the group as they waited for him to say more. Then Abraham slapped his thigh and stood up. “Well, that's enough for today. Let's go home and have some of that stew your mother's been preparing!”

Chapter 3

“I wonder how many times we've moved,” Jacob grunted, lowering the heavy basket he was carrying and setting it on the floor of the tent. Noticing how tired his mother looked, the young man went to her and put his arms around her. “Why don't you sit down and let me move the rest of the things in, Mother?”

Rebekah shook her head, but Jacob insisted until she relented, allowing him to help her sit down on a pile of sleeping mats. She smiled gratefully and shook her head. “I wish everyone were as thoughtful as you, son.”

Jacob shrugged his shoulders, then began to unload the baskets he had brought in. He too was exhausted by the move, made more so because of his disappointment at having to leave Beersheba. He had loved it there and had many fond memories, having grown to manhood in the pleasant hills and valleys. But with the drought encroaching on their pasturelands, the family had had no choice but to travel deeper into Philistine territory, where the grass was greener and the water more abundant.

Jacob removed items and set them in piles around the tent, then stopped and held something in his hands. “Why, this goes in
my
tent.”

“What is it, son?”

“Oh, nothing.”

Rebekah stretched up to see what Jacob was holding. “Why, it's your old game of Hounds and Jackals. Here you are thirty years old and still hanging on to your toys!”

Jacob ran his hand over the beautifully fashioned board. “I could never get rid of this. It reminds me of Grandfather. I remember we played a game the day before he died.”

Rebekah's eyes grew tender. She rose and put her arm around Jacob. “You still miss him a great deal, don't you?”

“Yes, I do. I've never known anybody like him.”

Jacob grew quiet, remembering his grandfather's final days and the time they had spent together. Jacob had stayed by the dying man's bedside, hanging on every precious word Abraham spoke to him.

He smiled as he thought of the medallion his grandfather had given him the day before he died. He could feel its weight on his chest as it hung under his tunic. He fingered it under the coarse cloth but did not pull it out, for Abraham had made him promise that he would keep the gift a secret. It was to be between him and God. Jacob did not understand the meaning of the medallion—the carved lion with the jeweled eyes on one side and the lamb on the other—but he knew he would always cherish it. That his grandfather had chosen to give it to him, the younger brother, was a mystery. It was hard for him to understand, but it made him proud. In the distant future, God would reveal the person whom Jacob should pass the medallion on to.

“We all miss him.” Rebekah's words brought Jacob back to the present, and he looked into her eyes, seeing the tenderness and love there that she had for him.

Rebekah had been watching Jacob while he remained deep in thought, his hand over his heart, his eyes watering with the memories. She kept her arm around him, proudly noting her son's attractive features. He was of medium height and build, still a head shorter than his brother but well-knit and strong. His brown hair had a hint of reddish gold in it that caught the sun at times, and his beard was neatly trimmed along a strong jawline. He could boast of perfect vision from his deep-set eyes and was able to see farther than anyone else among their people. His hands were delicately fashioned, with long, tapered fingers, well-suited for skillfully playing the harp. Even though he still enjoyed solitary pursuits, he had also become a fine herdsman. No other man in the tribe knew more than Jacob about protecting, breeding, and raising livestock. Rebekah had never been able to conceal her favoritism for Jacob over Esau. It made her feel better to tell herself that Isaac had made a favorite of Esau, so it was only right that she should favor Jacob.

BOOK: The Gate of Heaven
10.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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