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Esau and Jacob Presented to Isaac

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One of the main problems I have with the Bible is how much it jumps around.  Think of a decent book you have read – fiction or not – and unless the book is something experimental, it will have a beginning, middle and end.  Each will tie together and all the things the author wants you to know will be linked and easy to follow.  I don’t regularly read the Bible and so, as it has been a month since I last posted on this, I had no idea what was going on in Chapter 26.  Esau and Jacob do not feature for a big chunk of it.  Now, if you recall, Jacob has just forced Esau to give up his birthright.  So, in a normal book, the next chapter would deal with this or with the aftermath – right?

Chapter 26. Back to Isaac. Firstly, there is another famine and so Isaac goes to see King Abimelech in Gerar – Abimelech is King of the Philistines.  Which does not mean that he likes Thomas Kincaid paintings; the people the Philistines.  Now for the lack of logical order.  If we follow the writing, Isaac decides to go to Gerar and then God tells him not to go to Egypt, but to go to Gerar.  The first verse may be an introduction and the rest put in to explain the reason, but the writing is poor.  Following God’s order (go to Gerar, live there and I’ll make you rich and powerful), Isaac moves to Gerar.  He follows the example laid down by the supreme Pimp Daddy, Abraham, and tells everyone that his wife Rebekah is in fact his sister.

Clearly not as dedicated to his con-merchantry, Isaac is spotted “sporting” with Rebekah and Isaac is called to the King.  The King gets Isaac to admit that Rebekah is his wife and says that Isaac put them all at risk because someone may have “lain with her”.  First thought here: was there a lot of rape in Philistine lands?  Surely Rebekah could have just said no and put no one at risk?  Unless the King has first dibs on all unmarried women of course.  In which case, being King sounds like a cool job to have.

Isaac prospers and the King sends him away, because Isaac has become “much mightier than we” (verse 16) and I assume that the King feared a coup.  There follows a lot of manual labour and naming of sites – it seems that Abraham dug a load of wells and the Philistines closed them up.  Isaac digs them again and they have water in them and it makes Isaac even more prosperous.  Anyway, Isaac finally builds an altar and King Abimelech, Captain of the Army Phichol and the King’s friend Ahuzzath go to see Isaac.  King Abimelech and Isaac swear a pact of non-aggression on the grounds that, despite Isaac being a dick, Abimelech did him no harm.

Verses 34 and 35 say

34And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:

35Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.

Which makes no sense as Esau has not featured in this chapter at all. Poor writing, you see.

So, with the end of Chapter 26, how do you think 27 will begin?  Take a few minutes.  OK here we go.

You are wrong.  It begins with Isaac being old and near death.  Why were Isaac and Rebekah aggrieved at Esau’s marriages?  We may never know.  Esau was the favourite of Isaac and Jacob the favourite of Rebekah.  So Isaac says to Esau

2And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death:

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

4And 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.

Rebekah, hearing this, sends Jacob off to grab some goats to make savoury meat before Esau comes back. The plan seems to be to have Jacob pass himself off as Esau and receive the blessing of Isaac.  But Jacob says, hang on, Esau is all hairy and I am not so won’t Isaac spot the difference? Rebekah puts kid (goat) skin on him so that he is disguised as a hairy man.  Cunning but weird.  Wouldn’t a goat owner know the difference between goat and human skin?

And now it gets really odd.  So Jacob now has both Esau’s birthright and his blessing and is supposed to rule over Jacob.  But Isaac tells Esau to bide his time and kill his brother when he is powerful enough.  So Rebekah sends Jacob to his uncle

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

Because a couple of days is all you need to forget something like this, right?

How is this “The Greatest Story Ever Told”?  The writing is poor, the motivations are weak or non-existent and even the bits without God intervening are utterly unbelievable.  If I told you this story set today and made out that it was true, would you think I was telling the truth or lying badly?

Out of the 22 verses that make up Chapter 28, the important bit is

11And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

12And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

13And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

14And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

15And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

16And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.

Yes, “Jacob’s Ladder” is one line and is a dream sequence.  Just as with all the other supposedly important bits in the Old Testament, the Ladder bit is short and easy to miss.  Stay tuned for Chapter 29, where (spoiler alert) Jacob travels to Haran!!

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Posted on 8 May, 2010, in The Bible-Readalong and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. The bible has some good principles but I for sure read it as fiction. It makes for much more believeable stories for most of the book, but it does jump around a bit

  2. It just shows that the Bible was a rush job. Not only these, but some of the stories are the exact same thing with different characters–Remember how that one dude tried to protect the visitor in the Sodom and Gomorrah saga by offering his daughters to the hungry mob instead? This exact same thing happens again in Judges 19–except the daughters were replaced with a concubine and the visitor is now a priest.
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  3. This exact same thing happens again in Judges 19–except the daughters were replaced with a concubine and the visitor is now a priest.

  4. If you think the Bible jumps around, try Kabblah.

    On the other hand, this stuff was from a different time and place and the criteria used to judge things were very different as well. Much of the material was coded to ward off persecution.

    I am the first to admit of my ignorance in more things than I know.

    Anyone read David Berlinski out there?
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    • Care to elaborate? Ray spent quite some time writing this article and you answer with that? I'm sure that you can do better, considering the amount that you have written on your own blog.

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