Authors: Gilbert Morris
Tags: #FIC042030, #FIC042000, #FIC026000
“All right, then. Sell me your birthright.”
Esau laughed at his brother. “I can't sell you something that comes to me because I'm the firstborn, little brother! Now, be serious.” But the gleam in Jacob's eye said that he was clearly serious.
Esau slapped his brother on the back and shook his head. What was the harm of playing along with this little game? he thought. It was worth a bowl of that hearty soup just now! He actually had no concept of the importance of the birthright. As far as he was concerned, he was the firstborn and that settled it. He knew there were some rules governing this sort of thing, but he had utter confidence that what was his was his and no word spoken in private could change that. “All right. You can have the birthright if that's what you want, but give me something to eat before I die.”
“Good!” Jacob said, as he served up a bowl of stew. “Sit down and I'll serve you. But you must swear I have the birthright.”
“Yes, yes,” Esau muttered as he took the steaming bowl. “It won't do me any good if I'm dead!”
Jacob's heart sprang up. He knew the value of the birthrightâGod's blessingâeven if Esau did not. He filled the bowl four times for his brother, who devoured the food like an animal. Esau finally arose, saying, “That was good. Youâ”
Jacob interrupted him. “Don't forget. The birthright is now mine.”
“All right, little brother, you can have the silly thing. I'll take everything else.” Esau laughed and turned away. He stopped long enough to flirt with another young woman and then shuffled off to his tent to sleep, sated as he was with his brother's cooking.
Jacob stared down into the stew pot. “The fool!” he said triumphantly. “He doesn't even know what he's given away. Now I have something that's of great valueâand I know that God himself wants me to have it!”
Isaac was furious with Esau when Jacob told him what had happened. He immediately demanded that Esau come see him. “What's this I hear about you selling your birthright for a bowl of soup?”
Esau shrugged. “Four bowlsâI was hungry, Father.” Esau's bulk towered over the old man, yet somehow he was intimidated. “What's the big deal? A few wordsâ¦it didn't mean anything.”
“For all your size you're like a childâa simpleton! The birthrightâthe
! You sold God's blessing for a simple meal?”
Esau listened as his father berated him but could not understand why he was so upset. “I'll buy it back from him. It's just a word anyhow. I'm the firstborn. He can't change that.”
“Yes, you're the firstborn, but Jacob now has the birthright. Because you gave it away! Son, son, how foolish you are!”
Isaac drew close to his son in order to see his face. He had to look up, and he searched Esau's eyes and features. Whatever it was he was looking for, he did not seem to find it. He shook his head and murmured, “Go away, son. You've been very foolish.”
Esau stared at his father, then whirled and left the tent. Anger seethed inside of him, for he realized now that he had been outwitted. He still did not understand the import of his action, but if nothing else, he had lost his father's respect. “That Jacob! That usurper! He has indeed lived up to his name! I'll beat him until he gives it back!” Violence was the only response Esau could think of. In matters of cunning, he knew he was no match for Jacob. “I'll never let him trick me again!” He spat out a stream of expletives, then stopped himself and shrugged. “But what does that old man know? It doesn't mean anything. It's just a word.”
Isaac buried his face in his hands and wept. He could not believe that his favorite son would despise his own birthright and give up God's blessing for a bowl of soup! In his anger, he pleaded with God to intervene, but he didn't know that God would even hear such prayers. Then in the midst of his anguish, Isaac had a startling thought. He slowly raised his head, his weak eyes staring into the murky darkness of the tent.
“I do not have to accept this,” he murmured slowly. His confusion cleared like so many cobwebs breaking apart in the wind. “This matter is too important for two foolish sons to decide.” Tradition declared that the father's blessing was needed before the birthright was actually passed onânothing happened without that final seal of God's approval.
Who says I must give my blessing to the wrong son because of this impulsive transaction.
Isaac struggled to his feet and began to pace as hope rose in him that all was not lost. “I am the father,” he said. “I will say who receives my blessing and who doesn't. And I say that Esau will still receive my blessing when I am ready to give it.”
With his decision made, he stepped out of the tent with a lighter heart, shielding his eyes from the painful sunlight, and made his way to find Rebekah. He would tell her first. He was certain she somehow had a hand in this mess. The family needed to know that he was still in chargeâhe was still the head of the family, and
would pass the blessing on to the son of
Hezbod gnawed at the last shreds of meat on a sheep bone, licked it thoroughly, and then tossed it aside. “That was good,” he grunted. “Now, how about some wine, woman?”
Bethez stared at him with disgust. “You're going to get drunk again, old man.”
Hezbod belched loudly and held out the cup. “A man's got a right to a little pleasure after runnin' with those sheep and goats all day long. Now, fill my cup and hush.”
Bethez snorted with disgust but obeyed her husband's command. They had lived together for so long there were no surprises left for either of them, and lifelong habits were deeply ingrained. True enough Hezbod did drink too much, but by the same token, Bethez was prone to nagging. Many a time Hezbod had said, “You give up nagging, I'll give up drinking.” But both of them knew they would never relinquish their chief preoccupations and pleasures.
The camp was quiet now except for the loud argument going on in Esau's tent. Hezbod turned and shook his head with disgust. “Esau should have never married them two Hittite women. He should have known better.”
“Well, for once you're right.”
“For once? I'm
right! Isaac should have told him to lay off them Canaanite women. They ain't nothin' but trouble.” He grinned slyly and added, “But then all women is trouble, I expect.”
Bethez sniffed, then lifted her head at the screams now issuing from Esau's tent. “Both of those women deserve a good beatin'. But you're wrong about one thing, husband. The master did try to talk sense to Esau. He just didn't have any luck.”
“Nobody ever had any luck trying to talk sense to that man. I'm glad he's out huntin' most of the time. Jacob's a much easier master. Works hard, just like the rest of us. Quiet, soft-spoken. But that Esauâhe's always fighting or shouting or causing trouble.”
Bethez picked up one of her husband's robes and began to mend a tear in it. Even though her old fingers were stiff now, she worked steadily. Finally the screaming and shouting reached a crescendo and then was cut off as if with a sword. “I wonder if he killed 'em,” she remarked. “Wouldn't surprise me none if he did.”
“Me neither. He's got a bad streak in him.”
Bethez pulled the needle through the cloth, then looked over at her husband. “I remember the night those two boys were born. They were no sooner out of the womb than Esau began actin' like he does now. He was big and shouted and kicked just like he's been doing ever since.”
“What about Jacob?”
“Oh, he was a quiet one. I told you how he came out holding on to his brother's heel.”
“Not more than a hundred times, I guess.”
. Now those boys are forty years old, and poor Jacob has to put up with everything Esau hands him. I don't know what'll become of him when the master dies.”
“That won't be too long, I wouldn't think. He's doin' poorly, ain't he?”
“Yes, he is. Almost blind now, but Jacob's got his mama. They've always been close.”
“It'd be better if Jacob and Isaac were close, I'm thinkin'. We'd all be better off if he was the one to inherit,” Hezbod grunted.
Bethez shook her head. “Will never happen, though. That silly old man still thinks the world of Esau. He's always been fooled by that boyâexpecting great things, but he's the only one who does.”
“Give me some more of that wine,” Hezbod said moodily. “I ain't drunk enough yetâ¦.”
Jacob had been sitting with his parents when Esau's wives burst in. Basemath was shouting so loudly that Jacob leaned back. She was a short, chunky woman with brown hair tied up by a thong, and her nose was bleeding.
“What happened, Basemath?” Rebekah asked.
“You know what happened. That son of yours hit me. Why didn't you raise him right?”
Judith, Esau's first wife, spoke up. She was a tall woman, strongly built, and with an arrogant look on her face. “I told you to leave him alone, Basemath. You knew what would happen when you started picking at him.”
“I'll wait until he's asleep, and then I'll pour boiling water on him, that's what I'll do!” Basemath screamed.
“Now, just a minute. You can't do that,” Rebekah said. “What brought the argument on?”
“I asked him to take me to town, and he said he wouldn't do it. Look at these clothes. He could buy me something decent to wear, but he won't. And it's all your fault, Rebekah.”
Jacob reached over and put his hand on his father's shoulder. Isaac had dropped his head in anguish, and Jacob knew that he was a sick man and wanted nothing but peace and quiet. Jacob squeezed his shoulder and whispered, “I'll get rid of them.”
Getting to his feet, Jacob said, “Father's not feeling well. Come along. I'll listen to your complaints.”
“You!” Basemath snorted. “What can
Jacob's voice flared in anger. “I can explain to you what good manners are! Evidently your parents forgot that part of your upbringing.” He dragged her out of the tent as she screamed and clawed at him. Jacob was not the powerful man his brother was, but he was still stronger than most. He clamped his hand down onto Basemath's arm until she began to whimper. “Now, stop this! There's nothing my mother can do, and certainly nothing my father can do. Go back to your tent and behave yourself.”
Judith was following beside them. “You ought to know better than to cross him, Basemath. Come on. I told you it wouldn't do any good to come here.”
Jacob was glad to see the two stalk off, and he went back into the tent. For some time he spoke with his father, who was shaking badly from the uproar. Jacob finally got him calmed down, and Rebekah led him off to help him into bed. When she had him settled, she came back and shook her head. With misery in every line of her face, she said, “Your father and I told Esau he shouldn't marry those Hittite girls.”