Advent 2010


Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons – Esau and Jacob. The two are a study in contrast. Esau is hairy and rugged; Jacob is notoriously beautiful and tricky. Esau is older, but Jacob manages to scam the birthright off him. Isaac favors Esau, but Jacob and his mother trick Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing.

To the grief of his parents, Esau marries several Canaanite wives: a Hittite, a Hivite, and Ishmael’s daughter, his cousin Basemath. Esau became integrated with the transient culture of Canaan while Jacob remains aloof.

Isaac sent Jacob back to Abraham’s hometown Haran, where Jacob married his cousins Leah and Rachel. Among the two sisters and their handmaidens Bilhah and Zilpah, Jacob eventually has twelve sons and one daughter.

The indication of the text is that while Jacob was in Haran, Esau moved southeast and traditionally is considered the father of the tribes of Edom. There he built up quite a substantial tribe, at one time having as many as 400 armed men in his service (Genesis 33:1), which means a household of substance in this time.

When Jacob returned to Palestine from Haran with a growing family, a huge flock (which he scammed off his father-in-law), he settled in Shechem and purchased a substantial piece of land from the Canaanite lord there (Gen 33:18) but ultimately had to relocate to Bethel and then to Hebron.

His beloved wife, Rachel, died in childbirth near Ephrath, which became Bethlehem, and he buried his father, Isaac, in the family tomb at Hebron. Esau was present as well (Genes 35:29) and Hebron seems to serve as a sort of border between the two.

Jacob did not die in Palestine. He and his tribe relocated to the Nile delta in Egypt at the end of his life. He died there at the age of 147 and was embalmed before being carried back to the family tomb at Hebron and being buried there.


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