Jacob the Patriarch
Pope Shenouda III | 13 March 2011
Birthright was a great desirable thing in the days of our early fathers.
The firstborn before Aaron served as priest of the family after the decease of his father, as the Lord commanded Moses, "Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb … it is Mine." (Ex 13: 2) Christ was expected to come from the firstborn, according to the Lord's promise to our fathers Abraham and Isaac, "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed." (Gen 22: 18; 26: 4)
Jacob's desire for birthright was a holy desire, but the means was wrong or rather opportunist, completely void of love for his brother, and of the spirit of sacrifice. So strange was such a relationship between twins! Self-interest prevailed over the situation. Satan seized the opportunity and used two different ways for Esau and Jacob. He convinced Esau that the birthright is of no use to him, being about to die of hunger and fatigue! Esau obeyed and said the same (Gen 25: 32). Then Satan convinced Jacob to hold to the birthright and obtain it by any means, even by opportunism. This actually happened, for Jacob not being able to get it on his birth because Esau came out first, pursued Esau to get it many years later. The birthright however changed after Jacob, for Christ did not come from Jacob's firstborn Reuben, but from the offspring of Judah, and the priesthood of Aaron likewise came from Levi who was not the firstborn. There was no need then for wrestling over birthright after Jacob and Esau, for even Judah, from whose offspring Christ came, was the offspring of David, the youngest of Jesse's sons, not the firstborn! (1 Sam 16: 11)
There remains the blessing over which Jacob and Esau wrestled. The blessing is a holy thing, but it ought to be obtained by holy means, not by deceit and fraud. Jacob perhaps took as an excuse that the deceit was in obedience to his mother, but this is not an excuse, for obedience to the mother should be within the obedience to God, not for sinning and disobedience to God. Actually, his obedience to his mother was due to an inner desire to get his father's blessing. So, when she suggested to him to use deceit he considered it helpful for fulfilling his desire which had appeared before when he bought the birthright for some stew!
This reveals a family problem related to the different trends taken by the father and the mother. Isaac was a holy person, and Rebekah likewise, but their emotions were different. Rebekah loved Jacob, but Isaac loved Esau, because he was a hunter and brought him food (Gen 25: 28). He said to Esau, "Take your weapons … and go out to the field and hunt game for me. And make me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die." (Gen 27: 3, 4) Jacob, on the other hand, was the beloved of his mother. He dwelt in tents and learnt from his mother how to cook savory food, like the red stew which he sold to Esau for his birthright (Gen 25: 29- 34). He loved his mother and obeyed her counsel, to the extent of deceiving his father and fleeing to his uncle Laban to stay with him until his brother's fury turn away (Gen 27: 43, 44)!
Rebekah began her plan that Jacob hunts a game, cook it, and bring it to his father Jacob to get his blessing. Both Rebekah and Isaac had their spiritual motives.
For Isaac it was natural to give the blessing to Esau, being the elder. But Rebekah deemed it necessary to give the blessing to Jacob according to the Lord's will and dispensation declared before their birth, "Two nations are in your womb … one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger." (Gen 25: 23) However, the main fault of Rebekah was that she thought the Lord had delayed, so she did not wait and sought human ways to fulfill the Lord's will! She ought to have waited trusting God's promises, but she thought the time had come when Isaac sent Esau to bring him food to bless him. She could have reminded Isaac of God's promise to postpone giving the blessing to Esau until the matter becomes clear, but she began to use her intellect. She made Jacob purport to be Esau and deceive his father to get the blessing, by fraud and lying.
Jacob likewise did not refuse sin, but was merely afraid of the consequences, of the difficulty, and of being exposed. He did not say as his son Joseph said dozens of years afterwards, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Gen 39: 9) He rather said, "Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing." (Gen 27: 11, 12) So, when his mother explained to him the plan he agreed and did it. How dangerous it is when war comes from outside while the desire of sin lies within the heart! Rebekah heard Isaac's request to Esau and arranged for the situation, and Satan heard her talk with Jacob and offered her the plan. So, Rebekah took the choice clothes of her elder son Esau, and put them on Jacob her younger son, and put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Knowing the kind of food Isaac loved she made it and gave it to Jacob to offer to his father. The decisive moment soon came! When his father wondered how he could bring it so quickly, he said, "The Lord your God brought it to me." Isaac still doubted and felt him to make sure he really was his son Esau. Isaac did not recognize him, and said, "The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau," but Jacob asserted that he was Esau! Although he lied, deceived his father, and did not regard his weak eyes, and in spite of the doubts of his father, God in His kindness did not expose him! The holy man could not have imagined that his son deceive him. So he blessed him with so beautiful words, saying, "May God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine." (Gen 27: 28) The blessing was to have good things from heaven and from earth, from God and from people, spiritual things and material things, to find good things wherever he goes!
Indeed, a person who walks according to the Spirit will have the dew of heaven, that is, the work of the grace in him. The dew also may be the prayers and intercessions of the angels, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit from God. The fatness of the earth refers to the work of the Spirit within a person, because man is made of the dust of the earth, so the fatness is the response of that dust to the work of the Spirit. God gives tendency to repentance, acceptance of the grace, and submission to the work of the Holy Spirit, and gives the desire for doing good and love for God. The earth will not rebel against such a person, and the heaven shows kindness towards him. Cain and Adam experienced the opposite. God said to Cain, "When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you" And to Adam He said, "Cursed is the ground for your sake. In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you." We therefore need the blessing of heaven and of earth, and the work and purity of the grace. We need the spiritual as well as the material good things from God so that what we do may prosper. The meek and the humble in the spirit will have the kingdom of heaven and will inherit the earth. Poor is the person who does not get the blessing of the earth nor of the heaven!
Imagine how Isaac put his hands on Jacob and commanded heaven to give down dew on him, and the earth to give its fatness to him! Indeed, as the Lord Christ said, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." Isaac received the keys of heaven and earth as a steward in charge of the good things of God to distribute them as he wanted, and as a father, and they obeyed and gave the dew and fatness! What a blessing! On the contrary was the case for Esau, for the blessing was without the dew of heaven and the fatness of earth.
The grain and wine represent the Eucharist Sacrament of the New Testament. This means that Isaac gave Jacob the blessings of the Old Testament symbolizing the blessings of the New Testament. They also represent the priesthood of the New Testament. So, Isaac said to Esau about Jacob, "with grain and wine I have sustained him." (Gen 27: 37) Isaac moreover gave Jacob another blessing, saying, "Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you." (Gen 27: 29)
A person who walks in the way of the Lord receives from Him the gift of dominion, for God gives people from His own authority. When He created Adam, He made him master over all the earth and all creation, whether birds of the air, animals of the earth, or fish of the sea. When man sinned his dominion began to shake, and the creation began to rebel against him; the serpent began to bruise his heel, the earth bring forth thorns and thistles, the earth and the plants rebelled against man, and the man had dominion over the woman. In Jacob the blessing was restored; people bow down before him. What a strange thing that God permits it that people bow down before a person? Actually, they bow before God's steward on earth, God's representative or anointed. It is the gift of dominion and honor endowed God's children. Isaac also said to Jacob, "Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!" How comforting were those words to Jacob in his weakness and fear from his brother the valiant hunter Esau! Jacob was kneeling at his father's feet, while heaven's doors were open, bringing down gifts on his head, true and honest from his father's mouth and from God.
God says this to each of His children, even those who keep silent: You do not have to defend yourself. Keep your peace and I will defend you from heaven. Do not reiterate evil for evil, for any curse will return against those who curse you, and any blessing will go to those who bless you.