Authors: Gilbert Morris
Tags: #FIC042030, #FIC042000, #FIC026000
In the days that followed Hazor's visit, Jacob was continually watchful. He was nervous, as were his parents, but as the days passed and the Philistine did not return, they all grew more confident that they would not be troubled.
The grass was green, and the cattle were doing well. Jacob, however, was disappointed by his father's lie about Rebekah. In his mind, he went over and over what had happened. He had always revered his father. He knew Isaac was not the man his grandfather Abraham had been, but he had at least always been truthfulâor so Jacob believed.
Why did he have to lie to Hazor?
Jacob often asked himself. It troubled him so much that one day, while he was with Rebekah, he brought up the subject. This was not unusual for him, for he was very close to his mother and told her most things that were on his heart. His mother was preparing supper, and as usual, Jacob was helping her.
“Mother,” he said, “I've been thinking about what Father said to Hazor.”
“What about it, son?”
“Well, he lied. That's wrong, isn't it?”
Rebekah turned quickly and studied Jacob. He was a man who thought a great deal about what went on around him. He was highly intelligent and had a mind and temperament that would not allow him to put anything aside.
“It was something your father had to do, son.”
“But Grandfather wouldn't have done it, would he?”
“As a matter of fact, he did
Jacob stared at his mother. “He did what?”
“When he was in Egypt, the pharaoh took your grandmother into his harem. Your grandfather had no choice but to lie. He was a stranger in a strange land, and the pharaoh would have killed him instantly had he told the truth. So he told the pharaoh that Sarah was his sister, not his wife. Then he did the same thing again with King Abimelech.”
Jacob fell silent, and tears welled up in Rebekah's eyes. She loved this son with all of her heart and hated to see him hurt. Putting her arm around him, she said quietly, “Son, sometimes a person has to do
things in order to make other things go
. If your grandfather hadn't lied, he would have been killed, and that would have been the end of our tribe. And your father had the same choice to make. I don't like it, but it's the way the world is.”
“So you're saying it's all right to do wrong if it's good for us?” Jacob's tone betrayed the bitterness and confusion he felt. He shook his head. “I wish I didn't have to know these things.”
“You have to know them because that's the way life is. Now, put it out of your mind and help me with these beans.”
Despite his mother's viewpoint on the matter, Jacob worried constantly over his father's lie to Hazor, especially when Hazor summoned his father to the palace. On Isaac's return to camp, he told his family that the king had asked about his lie, and he was so shaken he had confessed his duplicity.
Esau demanded to know what the king was going to do, but their father only looked dazed and said, “Nothing. He said I shouldn't have liedâand he's right.”
Esau laughed. “Well, it all came out all right, so what's one little lie? I tell more than that every day!”
The seasons changed several times, and spring was upon them again. The new crops were springing up almost like magic, and the animals continued to bear and increase in a manner that none of them had ever witnessed before. It was a time of untold prosperity.
Jacob watched all this with a mixture of gratitude and doubt. He was not able to shake off his worries over his father's lie and his concern over how God would fulfill his mother's prophetic vision. As the family continued to prosper, he counted the livestock and watched the grain pile up so high that there was even plenty to sell to the neighboring Philistines. It was as if God had drawn a circle around the camp and prospered Isaac and his people beyond any others.
But for what reason?
Unlike Jacob, Esau never questioned any of it. He reveled in the wealth that was rolling in, and well he might, for as the firstborn, it would all be his one day. He spent little time with the flocks, but he was a skillful hunter and brought in enough game that they never needed to kill any of the livestock for food.
Many times Jacob wished he could look at the matter as Esau did. He prayed fervently, but God never spoke to him. Finally he whispered in despair, “I guess it doesn't matter what a man does. God just blesses whomever He pleases.”
His conclusion did not satisfy him, however, and he continued to carefully watch the growth of the flocksâwaiting, perhaps, for God to strike down Isaac because of the lie he had told. But nothing ever happened, and Jacob finally succeeded in shoving it to the back of his mind, where he rarely had to think of it.
One day, as he frequently did, Jacob set about preparing the evening meal. His mother was feeling poorly, but he was so used to helping her that he had become almost as good a cook as she was. He had put several handfuls of wild lentils from a nearby field into a large clay pot, adding wild onions, water, and spices, and had built a fine fire of dry wood. When the embers were hot, he had placed the pot on them, and the stew had by now cooked slowly for many hours. Aware that his father was approaching, he dipped in a wooden spoon and tasted it.
“Come taste the stew, Father,” he said. “I think you'll like it.”
Isaac groped his way forward, allowing Jacob to guide him to sit by the fire, and Jacob dipped out a spoonful, saying, “Be careful. It's bubbling hot.”
Jacob smiled as his father blew on the stew, then carefully tasted it. “It's good,” he said. “What's the meat in there?”
“It's part of the venison Esau brought in day before yesterday.”
“Well, it makes a fine stew.”
Isaac listened as Jacob reported on the state of the herds. He couldn't see very well now and could not help with the cattle, but he loved to hear all that was going on.
Jacob's thoughts turned again to the matter of the birthright. He knew that tribal custom dictated that the oldest son should inherit everything, andâalthough an exception had been made in the case of his grandfather AbrahamâIsaac had told Jacob many times that he would keep to the family custom unless God himself told him otherwise.
As he considered the tradition, great bitterness rose in Jacob, and he clamped his lips together. He wanted to say to his father “But Esau doesn't care about these things. All he cares about is hunting. I'm the one who's interested in the family and the tribe and in God.” He wanted desperately to tell his father of God's promise to Rebekah, of Abraham's gift to him of the medallionâ¦but he had promised to keep silent. How could his father know that God was choosing him if he could not tell him? He felt a great agony of spirit, feeling that he was caught in an impossible situation. There was no sense in arguing with Isaac when he wasn't able to reveal what he knew. All such argument would be useless, and wearily he put his hopes away. But he could not keep them from festering inside him.
Some days later, while fixing a meal, Jacob noticed that Esau had returned to camp. His bitterness against his brother seized his innards as he watched Esau stop long enough to grab one of the young unmarried women of the tribe and kiss her. She shoved him away but was laughing. Jacob heard her say, “You have no manners, Esau. Why can't you be more like Jacob?”
“That baby!” Esau bellowed. “He's not a real man. He can't even
without asking our mother!”
At that moment, as mild-mannered as Jacob was, white rage welled up in him. He would have thrown himself against Esau, but he knew it would be senseless. No man could stand against his brother in one-on-one combat! He managed to keep his face straight and watched as Esau strolled up. Esau was indeed a massive man. His red hair caught the sunlight, and over his back he wore the powerful double-convex bow that no other man in the tribe could draw. The quiver full of wooden-shafted arrows with heads chipped from flint poked up at the sky, and Esau's massive power seemed to flow out of him despite his weariness.
“Oh, brother, am I ever exhausted!” he said, dumping his bow and arrows at the doorway of the tent.
“I'm starving to death. What have you got in there?”
“It's a stew. I'm making it for Father.”
“Give me some of it before I starve!”
Ordinarily Jacob would have complied with Esau's demand, but his anger was now deep and burning. How could he be left out of the inheritanceâthe wealth that he had almost single-handedly acquired for the familyâand watch it be given to this crude hunter who had no concept of life other than hunting and women and living for himself? “You can't have any of it,” Jacob muttered.
Esau's expression was almost comical. He blinked with shock, for never before had Jacob refused him anything. “What's that you say?” he demanded.
Jacob faced him. “I said you can't have any of this stew. Is something wrong with your hearing?”
“Oh, little brother, you're in a mean mood today!” Esau was more amused than angered. He towered over Jacob, and the humor of the situation struck him. “You know, I could just take it if I wanted to.”
“Well, take it, then. If you're willing to kill your brother over stew, that shows what kind of a man you are.”
Then, seeing the look in Jacob's eyes, Esau sobered. Deep down he had an affection, of sorts, for his brother. He felt Jacob was a weak man and had determined that when he became head of the tribe he would see to it that Jacob was provided for. He had told his friends, “Jacob would never be able to make it in the world if he didn't have a strong man to look out for him, but I'll never let him down.” Now Esau was puzzled. “I'm really hungry,” he said.
“I can't help that. How hungry are you?”
Esau was indeed famished. He had eaten nothing for two days, for surprisingly, the hunt had been unsuccessful. He swallowed as the aroma of the stew enticed him. “I'd give anything for all I could eat of that soup.”