Authors: Roberta Kells Dorr
© 1995, 2014 by
ROBERTA KELLS DORR
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Edited by Barbara A. Lilland
Interior design: Ragont Design
Cover design: Brand Navigation, LLC
Cover image: © istockphotos LP: Desert scene / CRSHELARE; Sky / Lorado; Mom & Boys / marcelmooij; Texture / spxchrome; Isaac / Yuri-Arcurs;
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Dorr, Roberta Kells.
The sons of isaac / Roberta Kells Dorr.
Summary: “You will live the grand story of the descendants of Abraham in this capstone of the Roberta Kells Dorr biblical fiction series. This work is a new, previously unpublished title, of Abraham’s descendants featuring Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau, told with the same critical eye and careful study Dorr is known for. In it, faith keeps Abraham from accepting the king’s daughter as a wife for Isaac, but fear almost keeps Rebekah from leaving her home to become Isaac’s spouse. When God tells Rebekah that she will bear Isaac twin sons and the youngest will serve the older, Jacob is skeptical. But that revelation will mark the lives of Jacob and Esau and influence generations to come. This tale of family love, greed, jealousy, hope, manipulation, stubbornness, idol worship, famine, and faith in the one God, Elohim, is taken from the pages of biblical history but sounds like a headline from today’s magazines. It ends much like it begins, when Jacob blesses two of his grandsons, Manasseh and Ephraim, saying that the younger will become greater than the older, a theme that is seen throughout The Sons of Isaac.” -- Provided by publisher.
ISBN 978-0-8024-0959-1 (pbk.)
1. Bible. Old Testament--History of Biblical events--Fiction. I. Title.
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ld Nahor shuffled out of his room and squinted up at the sky that appeared as a bright, blue patch above the walled courtyard. “It’s a good day for a wedding,” he muttered. Then slowly with many yawns and a few hiccups, he made his way to the water jar, lifted the lid, and peered down. He could see nothing and so impulsively pulled back his sleeve and thrust his arm into the jar.
“Grandfather, what are you doing?”
Nahor groaned as he pulled his arm out of the jar and turned to face his laughing granddaughter. “There’s no water. They’ve used it all.”
“Of course, we’ve been cleaning and cooking. Have you forgotten? Laban is bringing his new bride home today.”
“Who could forget?” Nahor muttered as he pulled down his sleeve. “So her family’s rich. Truth is he’s getting nothing but an ugly, bucktoothed she goat of a woman.”
“Grandfather,” she said with a giggle, looking around guiltily. “If Laban heard you …” She lifted the heavy jar of water from her head and leaned it carefully against the wall. “I’ll help you over to the bench and then get whatever you want.”
She took his arm gently. He held back, grimaced, and looked at her. “My son named you wrong. You’re not a noose around his neck. I never understood.” His old voice cracked with emotion as he shook his head in bewilderment. Reluctantly he let her lead him over to the shaded area beneath the grape arbor.
She helped him ease onto the bench where he usually spent the day. “Father says he called me Rebekah, or noose,” she said, “because I was pretty enough to catch a rich husband.”
“Of course, of course, he’s always thinking of ways to get rich.”
“That’s just how he thinks,” she said. She noticed that in the effort he had lost one of his slippers. Snatching it up, she quickly knelt and helped him work his foot into it.
“Now sit here,” she said, “and I’ll bring you some fresh water.”
When she came back with a dipper overflowing with the clear, cool water, he was still muttering to himself about the name his son, Bethuel, had given his beautiful granddaughter.
“Grandfather, don’t worry. I’m his favorite and that’s all that really matters.”
“Favorite? Then why are dark secrets and bargains made with the clay gods under the stairs?” His eyes grew wild and he wiped his brow with a trembling hand.
For a moment Rebekah was afraid he was about to have another of his fainting fits. “Dark secrets and bargains?” she repeated as she tucked a throw of soft woven material around his shoulders.
He leaned toward her, cupping his hand around his mouth as he whispered, “They’ve greased the old goat-man’s bald head and made big promises if he finds a rich husband for you.”
Rebekah squatted beside him. She could hardly believe what she was hearing. “They’ve refused all the young men who’ve asked for me.”
“Of course, of course, they’re greedy. They want riches, gold, favors. And the old clay goat-man is to get it for them.”
Rebekah stood up. She knew Nahor had strange dreams and delusions at times. “Maybe you dreamed it,” she said.
“Go look, see for yourself.” He pointed in the direction of the stairs and then leaned back against the stone wall, exhausted, and closed his eyes. He would doze and forget, but Rebekah was disturbed. She knew her father, Bethuel, and her brother, Laban, put great store by the gods of clay and stone made by old Terah, her great-grandfather, before he left Ur. The god with the greatest powers was the one they called the old goat-man. He was a moon god and could control any situation for a price.
She started toward the pigeon houses fastened to the far wall but stopped when she came to the stairs that led to the roof. She stared at the crude, bolted door that opened to the space below the stairs. Behind this door were shelves on which sat the family gods. Except for the small fertility gods the women were allowed to have, all the gods were kept here. This was a forbidden area for the women. They were not allowed to even look on the gods. Bethuel and Laban carried out the secret rituals at night when everyone else was asleep.
“Go look and see,” her grandfather had said. The idea would never have occurred to her, but now she felt she had to know. She had to find out.
With trembling hands she slid the heavy bolt to one side and pulled the great wooden door out toward her. For a moment she was blinded by clouds of incense with their sickeningly sweet smell. She recognized the odor. It was Bethuel’s most valuable incense; he had given five sheep for one little jar of it. She waved the smoke away and to her horror saw that her grandfather had been right … the old goat-god’s bald head was glistening with freshly applied sacred oil.
“Rebekah, what are you doing!” Her mother’s voice vibrated with shock and horror. She had come to the edge of the roof and was leaning over the parapet.
Rebekah jumped back, letting the door slam shut.
“It’s true. What Grandfather said is true,” she stammered.
“What are you talking about?” her mother asked as she came hurrying down the narrow, uneven stairs.
With one swift movement Rebekah pushed the bolt into place and stood with her back to the door. “They’ve made a bargain with the old goat-man. He’s to find a rich husband for me.”
“And what’s so bad about that?” Her mother stood with her hands on her hips, a puzzled expression on her face.
“All they care about is their own gain and high position. I want something better than that.”
“What’s better than a rich husband? Laban understands these things. He’s even marrying an ugly wife for the gain it will bring him.”
“It’s his choice. She may not be beautiful but he can have other wives. I can have only one husband.”
Her mother brushed past her, muttering, “Your father has burned his prize incense, poured out his most expensive oil. He wants the very best for you and for the family.”
Rebekah said no more, but that night she sought out her beloved nurse, Deborah, in the vine-covered shelter on the roof. She told her everything and was comforted when the older woman held her in her arms. “It may not be so bad,” she said. “For your family it isn’t just the old goat-man god under the stairs but all the gods, even the Elohim of your uncle Abraham.”
“They always seem to be at odds with each other,” Rebekah said. “Who can we trust? Who is the strongest?”
Deborah drew back and looked at her for a long moment before answering. “All the gods are greedy,” she said. “They want gifts and make hard bargains. Your father and your brother are trusting the old goat-man. We’ll see what comes of it.”
Rebekah adjusted her headpiece and brushed back the coins that fell from it down each side of her face. They made a pleasant tinkling sound as she laughed. She bent over and hugged her nurse. “Then I’ll ask the Elohim of my uncle Abraham to find me a husband, and we will see who wins.”
* * *
Rebekah had never seen her uncle Abraham or her aunt Sarah. They had left the family long before she was born. She had heard very little of them, and what she had heard was usually carried on in whispers. Even this talk stopped when any of the children appeared. She had finally learned that Abraham and Sarah had no children. (News had reached them of a son born to them in their old age, but that was taken to be a rumor, as it was clearly impossible.) This seemed very strange since her grandfather, Nahor, the brother of Abraham, had eight sons by his wife Milcah and five by his concubine Reumah. Most of these sons were gone on trading trips or out herding their father’s sheep.
Rebekah and her brother, Laban, were the children of Bethuel, the youngest son of Nahor and Milcah. They still lived in the home of their grandparents, a large, sprawling house with several courtyards, large kitchens, and adequate space for quite a few animals when it was necessary to bring them inside.
On this particular day Laban was spending the afternoon with the men of his family at the public baths. His bride, Barida, had taken over the same facility with her maidens that very morning. The village of Haran had only one such nicety, which had to be shared. Three days of the week women and children took over the steamy, dark rooms with their warm stone floors and tepid pools, but the other days belonged to the men. If there was a wedding, as was the case on this day, the bride and the women of her family and friends had the morning and the groom with his male family members and friends the afternoon. The people of Haran considered themselves fortunate that the river Balikah flowed nearby and they had plenty of water for bathing and irrigation.