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If my people, who are called by my Name, humble themselves and pray (Part One)

The text, for those who have trouble with a rather individual cursive, reads as follows: Scandal after Scandal. No institution safe....

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Isaac, Jacob, Esau and Yom Kippur.

For some months recently, I have been leading a Bible Study class in Genesis. Torah studies, without the Hebrew, for Christians! I have learned a great deal in the process of preparing the studies. A simple summation would be that Genesis is the DNA of the Bible. It is amazing how much is in Genesis. Some of it is hidden away in the genealogies, some is explicit in prophecy, some implied  by repeated patterns of events. When I say that Genesis is the DNA of the Bible, I don't just mean the Torah or the Tenach. I mean the New Testament as well.

It's a bit late for The Day of Atonement, but before I look at Succoth, I want to look at the Divine appointment that precedes it. We've already considered Yom Teruah here.

I am indebted to David J. Zucker's fascinating article in the Jewish Quarterly for a radical insight that opens the eyes to what was really happening when Jacob apparently deceived Isaac. That's right - apparently.

From his work and my studies, I constructed a series of questions to help someone new to this understanding and this depth of study to understand the complexity of the deceit that was being practiced - on Jacob!

This is copied from the Bible Study. For the sake of the lazy - and my argument, I have put in some of the answers.

The Christian interpretation is mine and not David Zucker's.

Genesis 27

It is generally thought that Jacob and Rebekah wickedly deceived a blind, old man. This is because people do not read the Bible carefully.

1. Genesis 25:23. Whom does the LORD choose? Do think that Isaac would be ignorant of the LORD’s words to Rebekah?
 Jacob.  No.

2. In Genesis 25:27 what do we learn about Jacob’s character? Translations may vary.
 Quiet man.

Isaac and Rebekah have a problem. How do they give the birthright of the firstborn son to the second-born? Jacob has already established that it was his by a trade-off but that has not been confirmed by Isaac.

3. Whose life is made bitter by the actions of Esau? Gen 26:35

4. Compare what Isaac says to Esau 27:2 – 4 with what Rebekah reports to Jacob 27:7. What is, the very important, difference? Who is being deceived here?
 The use of the NAME of the LORD. Jacob

At this stage we have to wonder, is Isaac disobeying God by seeking to bless Esau or is something else going on? We know that Isaac and Rebekah loved each other. Gen. 25:67 and 26:8.

5. Esau is dispatched to hunt game (27:3). Rebekah prepares goat kids (27:9). Since when does venison taste like goat? The word venison used to mean ‘anything hunted’. The Hebrew word in the account means ‘anything hunted’. Is Rebekah’s cooking clever enough to make fresh kid goat taste like game? Can this be done? How many goats? This will be important.
She'd be an amazing cook.  Several of my Bible Study group are used to cooking goat. They didn't think it could be done.   Two.

6. Jacob doesn’t protest at his mother’s plan. He thinks that the blessing is about to go astray. He sees a flaw in the plan and fears a curse. He does not want to be seen as mocking his father. What does Rebekah use to simulate Esau’s hairy arms and neck? 27:16  The kidskins.

Really? Do you believe that would work? Do you know any man whose arms are hairy as a goat. Be serious.

7. Gen 27:13. Rebekah is not afraid of the curse. Why not? There is more than one possible answer. She knows God has chosen Jacob. Isaac is in on the deception

8. Gen 27:18 Isaac asks for identification when he hears a voice. But in Gen 27:22 he clearly is able to identify the voice. It’s not Alzheimer’s. Why does he want Jacob to identify himself? To implicate himself in the deceit.

9. Six times Isaac challenges Jacob. (vs. 18, 20, 21, 22, 24, 26). Is he really that unsure and is he really that gullible? If Isaac is party to a ruse, what is he trying to do?
He's seeing if Jacob is strong enough to go on and also he is getting him deeper into the deception

10. vs. 20. Jacob reflects what he thinks Isaac said to Esau. It also shows that Jacob knows where the blessing originates. What does the phrasing tell us about Jacob’s relationship with God? Your God ( and not yet my God). No real relationship.

11. 27:27 The smell of Esau’s garments appear to do the trick, but look at what Isaac says and what he does not say. What’s missing? He says 'my son' and not 'Esau'.

12. Vs. 23 states that Isaac did not recognise Joseph on the basis of his ‘hairy hands’. This seems to rule out a ruse by Isaac. However, see Exodus 36: 14 – 28 and Leviticus 16:3 – 10. What do the goats signify?  The tabernacle and the goats for Yom Kippur. Atonement. Covenant.

In addition to its use for tents, this cloth of goats' hair was also, probably, what is called sackcloth: "The sun became black as sackcloth of hair" (Rev. 6: 12). This was used in mourning and afflicting the soul, as in repentance: "They would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes" (Matt. 11: 21). But Jacob was still wrong to do what he did. Zech. 13:4.

13. What does the garment signify? What should it NOT be used for?
 A prophet's garment of hair. Deception.

14. Esau arrives, prepares savoury food and presents himself before Isaac vss. 32 – 33. What is different between this account and vss.18 ff? Note particularly the behaviour of Isaac. One question only.

15. Why does Isaac tremble?

Is he afraid of Esau?
Is he afraid of God? (Seeking to bless Esau instead of Jacob)
Is he acting in order to fool Esau?                                                                                              

Is he angry at being deceived?
Is he full of conflicting emotions?
Is the Holy Spirit causing him to say, “Yes and he shall be blessed”?
All of the above?
And your reasons are...?
Work this one out for yourselves.

The Hebrew for ‘did not recognise’ is complex – as far as I can tell. Sometimes it can mean almost the exact opposite e.g. pretending you are someone else. It also sounds like the Hebrew word for being made lame; see Gen 32:25. This is where I need a rabbi! (To help with the Hebrew)

16. Esau’s reaction. Look at Hebrews 12 and especially vs 17. Sometimes we can go too far.
First he cries, then he begs and finally he accepts Isaac’s explanation and puts all the blame on Jacob. What is the one thing he never does? Blame himself.

17. Isaac’s blessing for Esau is more of a prophecy and translation is important here. It is worth looking at vs.39 in the KJV (AV). Isaac is deliberately ambiguous, but what understanding did Esau have of it? How do we know? He doesn't like it and he plans to break the yoke sooner rather than later. Murder.

Esau has gone from blame to hate to planning murder. However, Rebekah intends to defuse the situation. She will send Jacob to her brother. She never sees Jacob again but she does succeed in her aim of, eventually, reconciling the brothers. She also has a plan for Jacob vs. 46.

18. Does anyone come out of this whole affair without reproach?

If you need the answer for this, you haven't been paying attention. 

 © G. I. Goodson 09.12.2012


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