Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Two Brothers: A Story of Forgiveness

       Jacob and Esau were the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. The two boys were very, different in looks and in character, and, as sometimes happens in families today, one was the favorite of his father, and the other the favorite of his mother. Esau, the elder, was a rough, hairy fellow who grew up to be a famous hunter, while Jacob was content to stay at home and take care of his father's flocks. Esau would go into the fields and kill deer, and then bring back to his father the delicious venison. But the homeloving Jacob was the favorite of his mother. In those days the eldest son was the most important of all the children. He received the greater share of the cattle and other property when the father died, and was favored above all the other sons. This special favor was called the birthright. As Esau was older than Jacob, he was entitled to the birthright, but he did not appreciate it as he should have done. One day, after he had been out hunting, he came home faint and hungry. Jacob had just cooked a savory vegetable food called pottage, and when his brother saw it he said, "Give me, I pray, the pottage to eat, for I am very faint." But Jacob said, "Sell me this day thy birthright." Now Esau thought only of satisfying his hunger, and he said to himself, "If I do not get food to eat at once I will die, and what good will my birthright be to me then?" Thus he weakly yielded to the temptation and sold his precious birthright.
Jacob receiving the blessing.
       As the years passed by Isaac became feeble and his sight grew very dim. One day he said to Esau, "Take thy bow and kill a deer, that I may taste again the venison that I love. Then I will give thee my farewell blessing." This special blessing was bestowed in those days, on the eldest son, and was one of the privileges of the birthright. Esau gladly departed to do his father's bidding. Rebekah, however, had overheard Isaac's words, and she was displeased that Esau should be placed above her favorite, Jacob. Therefore, as soon as Esau was out of sight, she told Jacob to bring to her two small goats from the herd. When he had done so she cooked the meat and made it taste like the venison of which Isaac was so fond. Then she had Jacob dress himself in Esau's clothes, and she put the skins of the goats on his hands and his neck, that he might seem to be a hairy man like his brother. When Jacob told her he feared that a curse would come upon him for deceiving his father, Rebekah replied, "Upon me be the curse, my son: only obey my voice." Then Jacob presented himself to Isaac, and the aged man felt of the hairy hands and believed that his eldest son was before him, though his voice was the voice of Jacob. When he had eaten of the meat which Rebekah had prepared, Isaac drew his son close to him, smelled of his garments, which had the smell of woods and fields, and gave him the prized blessing.
       On Esau's return from the hunt he prepared a savory piece of venison for his father, and offered it to him, begging for his blessing, as had been promised. Trembling and dismayed, the old man cried out, "Who art thou?" And when Esau told him that he was his first born son, Isaac knew that Jacob had stolen his brother's blessing. Exceedingly bitter was Esau's sorrow when he found out that he had been cheated, and in his anguish he cried, "Bless me, even me also, my father." Isaac was indeed glad to bless him, but he had promised the best things to Jacob, and he dared not revoke his solemn words. Esau could not control his feelings of disappointment and anger, and it was soon reported to Rebekah that he had threatened to kill his brother. Therefore the mother advised Jacob to go away to the home of her brother Laban, in another country. And in due time Jacob departed. So we see that his selfishness and greed sent him into exile and separated him from all that he loved.
       It was many years before the brothers met again. At the home of Laban Jacob received a kindly welcome, and he fell deeply in love with Rachel, the younger of his uncle's two daughters. Laban promised him that if he would serve him for seven years he could have Rachel for his wife, and so great was Jacob's love for her that the seven years of service seemed short, indeed. But when the time was up Laban consented to the marriage only when Jacob promised to serve him another seven years. As time passed by Jacob prospered greatly, and many sons were born to him. Then, at the end of twenty years, he decided to return to his own country. So he gathered together his flocks and herds, and departed with his family and servants.
       In all these years Jacob and Esau had never been reconciled, and as Jacob approached the place where his brother was living he sent men ahead with a friendly message, for he still feared his anger. The messengers told Esau of Jacob's prosperity during his sojourn with Laban, and of his hope that the past might be forgotten, but they returned with bad news. Instead of a message of friendship they came with a report that Esau was planning to meet his brother with four hundred men. That night Jacob prayed earnestly to God to save him from his brother's wrath, and the next day he sent his servants ahead of him with presents of goats and camels. When Jacob saw Esau approaching with the four hundred men he ran to meet him alone, and bowed down on the ground before him. All of Esau's anger melted away at sight of his brother, and he embraced him tenderly. Then they wept for joy that all was made right between them, and Jacob had his children come forward and greet their uncle. Esau asked about the droves and herds which had been sent ahead, and when Jacob told him they were gifts for him, he replied, "I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself." But Jacob insisted that he keep them, for he wanted his brother to know that the old spirit of greed had left his heart. The same day Esau departed to his own home, but Jacob journeyed on and came finally to Hebron, in Canaan, where his old father, still alive, was sojourning. The land of Canaan became his home once more, and there he reared twelve sons who became founders of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

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