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  • Sunday ,20 March 2011

Jacob the Patriarch

Pope Shenouda III

Pope Shenouda Article


Sunday ,20 March 2011

Jacob the Patriarch
 Jacob succeeded in obtaining the blessing of his father, a great treasure sought by the sons at that time.
   Blessings throughout human history came directly from God, from Him alone.
   He blessed Adam and Eve (Gen 1: 28), Noah and his children (Gen 9: 1), and our father Abraham (Gen 12), the first to whom God said, "You shall be a blessing" (Gen 12: 2).
   The fathers therefore became a source of blessing.
   They were not only natural fathers, but also spiritual fathers to their children. At those times, the father was the priest of the family. That is why our father Noah offered burnt offerings to the Lord (Gen 8: 20), and our father Abraham built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord (Gen 26: 25).
   Those father priests offered burnt offerings on the altar, and gave blessing and curses as well!
   Those whom they blessed became blessed, and those whom they cursed became cursed. Our father Noah did that, he cursed Canaan, and Canaan became cursed (Gen 9: 25- 27). Isaac then was not a mere natural father to Esau and Jacob, but also a spiritual father to them, a priest with authority, and able to give blessing as God's steward on the earth. Therefore, each of them sought with all means to get his blessing.
   Jacob sought the blessing through fraud and deceit.
   He obeyed the counsel of his mother, or rather the desires of his own heart that conformed to that counsel! Strange indeed that his mother offered him the means not as a counsel but as a command, saying, "My son, obey my voice according to what I command you." (Gen 27: 8)
   Jacob on the other hand did not refuse firmly to deceive his father and scorn his weak eyes, but the only thing that worried him was fear that his deceit be discovered. He was not brave as Solomon who for respect to his dead father refused his mother's request to give Abishag the Shunammite to Adonijah his brother as wife. (1 Kgs 2: 17- 25)
   On the contrary, Jacob deceived his father, committing many sins and uttering many lies, for he said, "I am Esau your firstborn; I have done just as you told me; please arise, sit and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me." (Gen 27: 19) He was not his son, nor did he cook the food or even hunt it!
   This made Jacob suspect, so he felt him to make sure that he was his son Esau. Rebekah was intelligent; she not only cooked the food, but also planned the whole matter. The devil compiled it, while she and Jacob produced it, and deceived Isaac.
   Was Jacob's heart afraid and disturbed?
   How strange that such a weak person acquired strength at that time! He was able to stand firm facing his father's suspect, answering him, and kissing him! (Gen 27: 21- 27)
   In short, receiving the blessing by deceit, Jacob had to suffer the consequences. The first consequence was the discovery of that deceit by the return of his brother Esau …
   Undoubtedly Rebekah and Jacob were aware that the deceit would be discovered, but they also were sure that once he received the blessing it will not be withdrawn, "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Rom 11: 29) Even, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful." (2 Tim 2: 13) Nevertheless, God's word since the conception was to be fulfilled, that, "The older shall serve the younger." (Gen 25: 23)
   Even without deceit from Rebekah or her human means, God was able to turn everything to fulfill His holy purpose, and the consequences of the wrongdoings to good. 
   Judas Iscariot did wrong and delivered his Master for thirty pieces of silver; the Sanhedrin Did wrong when they judged Christ unjustly, using false witnesses (Mt 26: 60); Pilate likewise did wrong when he delivered Him to the Jews to crucify Him, but all that turned to the fulfillment of God's purpose of Redemption! Nevertheless, the wrongdoing has its consequence and condemnation.
   When Esau came asking for the blessing and discovered that he had been deceived when Jacob came cunningly and received the blessing, he trembled exceedingly (Gen 27: 23, 33)
   How could that happen? Could it be that God permits giving the blessing to someone undeservedly? If so, can the blessing be of any benefit? Yes, course. How is that?
   At that moment Isaac began to recall God's words which he had forgotten in his old age: "Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger." (Gen 25: 23)
   He was about to give the blessing to Esau, but God corrected him and did not allow him to fall in such a fault, for the blessing was meant to Jacob, so Isaac said, "and indeed he shall be blessed." (Gen 27: 33)
   Here we present an important fact: 
   Esau was not honest, neither to himself, nor his brother, nor to God.
   He was not honest to himself, because he sold his birthright for a cheap price, for stew of lentils! (Gen 25: 34) He disdained the birthright and sold the spiritual thing for a material thing.
   He was not honest to God when he sold his birthright.
   The reason is that the birthright at that time implied the blessing of priesthood, of ministering to God and His altar. More important is that it implied the possibility of having Christ from the offspring of the firstborn, in whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. How could Esau sell all this for stew of lentils? Did he think that he was going to die without receiving the blessing?
   Esau was not honest to his brother.  
   How, after selling his birthright, did he break his promise, reveal the sale to his father, and ask for the blessing, saying, "I am your son, your firstborn, Esau." (Gen 27: 33) It would be more suitable if he said to his father, 'I do not deserve the birthright, because I sold it and swore to my brother.' (Gen 25: 33) By swearing, he brought God as witness, so he became undeserving for it.
   When he knew that his father gave the blessing to his brother Jacob, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, saying, "Have you not reserved a blessing for me?" "Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me also, O my father!" (Gen 27: 34, 38)
   His father replied, saying, "What shall I do now for you, my son?" "Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing … Indeed I have made him your master, and all his brethren I have given to him as servants; with grain and wine I have sustained him. (Gen 27: 37) Was Isaac cruel? No, but Esau misunderstood the blessing and the birthright, that Christ was to come from the offspring of the firstborn. He therefore wondered if his father had one blessing only. Actually, having given that blessing to Jacob, Isaac could not give it again to Esau, for it is impossible that Christ come from the offspring of both. Esau ought to have bowed down before his brother asking for his brother's blessing, instead of the birthright, but Esau lifted up his voice and wept, for no avail!
   Truly said by St. Paul the Apostle about Esau, "When he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears." (Heb 12: 17)
   The request came very late after the door was shut, as happened to the five foolish virgins, when they said, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!' but he answered them saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.' (Mt 25: 10- 12)
   The tears of Esau were not for repentance, but out of fury, sorrow, and hatred; tears for losing something not to be restored, without contrition or humility. The Scriptures says about this weeping man, that he hated Jacob and said in his heart, "The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob." (Gen 27: 41) Of course, a person who bears such hatred against his brother and wants to kill him is not repentant.
   When he wept and asked his father to give him blessing, his father said, "Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, 
  and of the dew of heaven from above. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; and it shall come to pass, when you become restless, that you shall break his yoke from your neck." (Gen 27: 39- 40) Esau, hearing this, with such bad feelings within, he said to himself, 'Well, with my sword I shall live, and let him not live. I will kill my brother Jacob.'
   The first consequence of the deceit of Jacob was the discovery of his deceit when Esau returned from hunting. The second consequence was the intent of Esau to kill him. This made his mother say to him, "M y son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran … until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him … Why should I be bereaved also of you both in one day?" (Gen 27: 42- 45)
   Being very intelligent, Rebekah could convince him of going to stay with her brother Laban in Haran. How could she do that?
       She touched on a sensitive point that Esau took as wives two of he daughters of the Hittites, and they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 26: 34, 35). She said to her husband, "I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife of the daughters of Heth, like these who are the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?" (Gen 27: 46)
   These words of his wife had their impact on him, so he called Jacob and blessed him, and said to him, "You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother." (Gen 28: 1, 2)
   Here Isaac blessed Jacob once more, this time from his heart not like the first time, which was through deceit.
    Remembering the divine promise, Isaac did not blame him for the deceit, nor did he punish him for the deceit. He rather blessed him, saying, "May God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you …and give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your descendants with you." (Gen 28: 3, 4)
Jacob therefore fled from the face of his brother, away from his father's house and his mother's kindness. Next week – God willing - we shall see what happened to him.