(Verses quoted are from Genesis -- King James' Version -- unless otherwise noted.)

The Joseph Theory

7.     Jacob, the Mystery

"Jacob was not among his own people."

Rachel's burial at the side of the road seems to hint that there was unfinished business afoot in the life of Jacob. After all, it was the custom to bury the dead in tombs... with great respect. It makes no sense for him to bury the body of his most beloved wife where it might be trod upon, and then to have Leah... the antagonist... the deceiver... buried in Abraham's tomb with him. This peculiarity just might be telling us to notice something very obvious.

There are many things out of place in the story of Jacob. The facts we are given do not add up. There is something afoot indeed with this entire story. It is important to consider the likelihood that Jacob and Joseph are the authors of these stories in Genesis.

Rebecca, wife of Isaac, was having a worrisome pregnancy.

25:22 -- "And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the Lord. And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger."

Surely Rebecca told this to Isaac. We're reading it, so these words of God were no secret. And... being the "words of God"... it does not make sense for Isaac to not heed them. Before these fraternal twins were even born, Jacob, the second to be born (and the less aggressive...?) was named inheritor.

All in all, this seems to have been perfect. Esau loved to ride and hunt in the fields... a free spirit. Jacob loved staying among the tents... a studious sort, perhaps... business-minded... and inter-relating with his people. One might even believe that Jacob stayed close to his father, helping to tend to the business of the estate... to learn to make decisions... to tend to the care of the animals... to become chief like he had been designated to be by God. For it to be otherwise, would be totally ignoring what God had said.

We must wonder about the story of Esau selling his birthright for a pot of red stew... and being renamed Edom, meaning "red," because of it... because Esau was already associated with the color red. He was born covered with red hair, and as a man was still covered thickly with hair. In light of this, to be called "Edom" because he desired Jacob's red stew... seems rather strange.

25:24 -- "And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red, all over like a hairy garment; and they called his name Esau."

27:11 -- "And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man:"

25:29 -- "And Jacob [was making] pottage: and Esau came from the field and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? ...and he sold his birthright to Jacob."

Now... no one was starving around there. This was a family of wealth. Many herdsmen were needed to tend to the herds. Esau, as son of the chief of the tribe, could have asked for and received food from anyone. Perhaps he simply loved Jacob's recipe for red lentil stew, and had to have some. But, it seems odd that there would be nothing to eat but a pot of stew being cooked by Jacob... not by a woman or a cook... no nuts, bread, or dried meat... and that Esau would have had to beg to eat of it... even to selling his birthright for it.

To believe these stories as they are given to us about Jacob, Esau, Rebekah, and Isaac one would have to believe that everyone lied to Isaac... the patriarch of their tribe... or otherwise told him nothing whatsoever. That... Rebekah never told him what God had said about her sons. That neither Jacob nor Esau told him that Esau had sold his birthright. That... Rebekah lied to him in order to ensure that her favorite son, Jacob, inherited. That... Jacob lied to him to steal the blessing from Esau... dishonorably.

We must believe that this little family was disfunctional and conspiratory. That... Esau thought so little of his birthright that he sold it for a bowl of lentil stew. We have to believe that the sons bartered about what they would inherit, and that Esau would break his bargain with his only brother and decide that he really wanted his birthright... that his word meant nothing... and that he would now even kill in revenge for it.

You see... we discover, alas, that there wasn't just a "birthright"... there was also a "blessing." The birthright didn't matter a bit to Esau... but when Jacob received the blessing... well, we are supposed to believe that this was of such importance that Esau was ready to kill his brother over it. Logic tells us that the birthright and the blessing were one and the same... they were the inheritance of being chieftain. The wealth and the power went together.

We also have to believe that Esau and his parents were so out of touch that Esau never knew that Isaac and Rebekah could not endure his wives... women of Canaan. Only after Jacob had been sent away did Esau figure out that he needed to marry women that his parents liked better. And so... he married two more in an attempt to be obedient.

One would have to believe that this tribe was spiteful, hateful, and disrespectful of its own patriarch... while the servants and herdsmen... whom we might believe were born in the household of Abraham... watched and said nothing to protect their king. The legend of Jacob siezing power against Isaac's wish has sounded grand and authoritative... the man whom a nation was named for... but... this was not the way of this tribe, at all.

To believe this story as it is written requires us to believe many things that just could not be true. This version of the story sounds much more like Jacob's sons... the "brothers"... and their vengeance for the birthright. Jacob's story can be a reflection of Joseph's story... each superimposed on the other. Because, for both, there was... a problem with siblings... many years in slavery... separation from their ailing fathers... and the giving of a new name.

There is another "intermingling" of stories to be discovered. Isaac had told the Philistines that Rebekah was his sister to protect himself... just as Abraham had done in Egypt with Sarah... seeming almost like an error in the telling of these stories.12:13, and 26:7 But, the similarities point back and forth to each other. Can we not gather from these stories that... it is dangerous to have something that someone else may want... that one's life could be at stake?

If Isaac wanted Esau to inherit... wouldn't he have told him all the stories of Abraham?... and told him beforehand that the inheritor must marry from his own people? No. We get these stories through Jacob. Esau only learns of them by default. Did no one but the inheritor hear these stories? Are we perhaps missing something else?

What was Isaac doing when he chose to give his blessing to Esau... the aggressive one... against the specific instructions of God... if he, in fact, DID know what Rebekah had been told? With all these strikes against Esau... why is Isaac wanting to give the blessing to him? We must remember that... with this tribe... there ARE no rights of the firstborn.

27:1 -- "And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I. And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death: Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field and take me some venison; And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die."

In order to escape Esau's murderous anger, Jacob would be sent to the old country to find a wife from his own people. However, Esau knew all about this, because we are told that it is because of Jacob's leaving that he thought he needed to get a more suitable wife. Esau went to the tribe of Ishmael... and picked two more wives... in order to show obedience to Isaac. This, however, would break with tradition... and the marrying of but one wife. This, too, does not figure properly into the story.

Finding a wife from their own tribe follows what Abraham had decreed with Isaac. Isaac was not to marry from the tribes of Canaan. He was to marry from their own people. But, there was a difference. Abraham absolutely forbid Isaac's ever going to Mesopotamia. Instead, he had sent a trusted servant to fetch a wife on Isaac's behalf.

11:31 -- "And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there."

24:4 -- "But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.

And the servant said unto him, Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest?
And Abraham said unto him,

Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again. The Lord God of heaven, which took me from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence. And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again."

24:10 -- "And he arose and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor."

This direct order of Abraham was not a small thing. He emphasized it strongly. God had promised Canaan to them... and here they would stay. No one was to travel to Mesopotamia, not even to bring back a wife. This story had to be known to Jacob, or we wouldn't be reading it now.

There are some other important differences between Isaac finding a wife from their own kindred in Mesopotamia and the sending of Jacob to find a wife there. The trusted servant that was sent on behalf of Isaac... took men with him and ten camels laden with gifts in order to attract the chosen woman to return to Canaan to marry Isaac. 24:10 Jacob took nothing. From the story, it even appears as if he was walking. He was walking and did not even stay at an inn, but slept in the open... vulnerable to the dangers.

Chapter 28: Jacob has a strange journey. On the way he has a fearful vision of God. Then... he arrives... meets Rachel... bargains, for wages, to marry her... is tricked by her father... and ends up spending over fourteen years in servitude.

The oddest thing happens... no one seems to care that Jacob does not return. No one sends money or gifts to arrange for Jacob's return to Canaan. No one comes to fetch Jacob so that he can help his blind and ailing father tend to the estate. It's as if Jacob falls off of the face of the earth, and no one cares.

From the story we read, it doesn't seem that Jacob cares much either. He has been named chieftain because his father is ill, and yet he decides to work as a shepherd, and asks as his wages... a marriage to Rachel. Jacob has taken a job, and is negotiating his wages. Isaac is never mentioned. Taking care of the business of the estate is never mentioned.

Unless we discount the entire story of Jacob's travels, we have a bit of a mystery.
(1) Would the newly named chieftain be walking by himself to Mesopotamia?
(2) Did Jacob intend to procure a wife with no gifts or even proof of his stature?
(3) Why did no one come to retrieve Jacob to return him to his ailing father?
(4) Why did Jacob not return quickly to become chieftain on behalf of his father?

What happened?

29:13 -- "And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister's son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things.

And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month. And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldst thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be?

And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured. And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me.

And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.

And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid.

And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me? And Laban said, It must not be so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Fulfill her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.

And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also. And Laban gave Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid. And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years."

Some scholars say that such things were the practice in some regions... serving the father to buy the daughter. But, the only way Jacob's story makes sense... is if the people he was with did not know who he was... that he was a chieftain and an inheritor of great wealth. This means that it was not his mother's brother, Laban, who had become his master. Jacob had been enslaved by someone else altogether... a herder in the far reaches of Pandanaram... a slavemaster... who worshipped idols. Jacob was not in Ur... nor among his own people.

The reason that his story is told the way it is by the authors of Genesis... could be that this entire experience was traumatic and a great shame for him. And Jacob may well have sacrificed his true story... in order to prevent an un-ending war between his tribe and another. He may well have lied to ensure a future peace.

We must find those missing pieces that will complete this story.
This saga spans: 28:10~33:20:

Jacob's journey would begin in Beersheba (far southern Canaan) to what the scripture says was "Haran" or even "Padanaram." 31:18 This is understood to be Syria or the northern plains of Mesopotamia. But, his mother Rebekah's family was of Ur, or the region of "Nahor," of Mesopotamia, not Haran. Did Jacob indeed... end up at another destination than the one that was intended?

Whatever his intended destination, this would have been a long journey. He would not have been walking... and he would not have been alone. He would have traveled with a group of servants with animals laden with tents, gifts, and provisions for the long journey across the plains. If he had left so quickly that these could not be gathered, then he would have had to take money. However, Esau was aware Jacob was leaving, and so the scenerio of Jacob hurriedly escaping his anger doesn't fit.

Instead, we are given a picture of Jacob... all alone. The sun has set and he lays down near a well and makes a pillow of rocks. During the night he has a dream of angels going up and down on a ladder to heaven, and at the top of the ladder was a voice declaring that he was God and that "the land wherein thou liest, to thee will I give it and thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth."

28:10 -- "And Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said,

'I am the Lord God of Abraham, thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places wither thou goest, and bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken of.'

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.

And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee."

Bethel was mentioned in the story of Abraham's travels, 12:8, and so we may be seeing another town... unknown to Abraham or his tribe.

Something stands out here. Jacob was in a fearful predicament. He feels so fortunate to just be alive that he asked the Lord only for bread to eat and clothes to wear until he could return home again. Something has happened... something more than a visit from God. Jacob is destitute, and is being taken somewhere.

And so... consider this possible scenerio...

Jacob begins his journey away from the safety of his father's camp with a group of men... and donkeys or camels laden for a journey. They camp for the night near a Canaanite town. During the night, they are attacked and robbed. Jacob is struck on the head with a rock, and when he regains consciousness, he sees things going on as if in a dream.

From his vision... he appears to be in a pit. There was a ladder down into the pit, and he sees figures going up and down on it. Those may have been his men being taken away. At the top of the ladder... at the top of this pit... was a voice saying that he was now like Jacob's god... all that he was told to do he would do... that he could consider himself dead to his life... and that his children would be as dust, if he fought against him. Jacob was hog-tied and nearly killed, but became enslaved to save his life. He was, after all, a skilled shepherd. He might well have bargained for his life with these Syrians.

Jacob and his men were being taken to be slaves... far away from the land they were in. Jacob takes off his rings and any identifying items and buries them beneath some rocks, which he marks... to retrieve when he is freed again. He will not reveal who he is, nor will his servants betray him. He takes the name "Israel" to disguise his identity as a wealthy chieftain... to protect himself, his father, and the estate. He represents himself as merely a shepherd like the rest of the men.

All their belongings are gone. From this point on, he indeed would be walking. He would be walking to his new home as a slave shepherd in the middle of nowhere, Padanaram... a place where they worshipped idols. On arrival, he sees beautiful Rachel, and weeps. He loves her. He tells her that he is looking for his mother's brother, Laban... and a man appears saying that he, indeed, is the Laban Jacob is looking for. This "Laban" was not Abraham's brother-in-law, but... he seems to be a fair master. He offers to give Jacob wages for his service.

29:15 -- "And Laban said to Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be? 18 "and Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter."

If Jacob had truly landed at the home of his mother's brother... there would have been a discussion about other things than being a shepherd for his sheep, and what his wages would be. The work was the instigation of the request for Rachel... not the marriage to Rachel instigating the work. Jacob is playing along with all of Laban's deceits... in a dangerous game to save his own life... and Rachel's.

He serves for seven years before he is given Leah, in deceit, and then Rachel. He then set about having children at breakneck speed... eleven in seven years... in a concern, perhaps, that he himself would not survive, but that he would leave children. Or... he was being forced to breed children for his master... a slave farm. And to ensure that he would not run away?... "Laban" cut the tendons in his leg... perhaps when Jacob struggles to free himself in a long and hard-fought battle to escape. He cannot run far or fast now.

Jacob knew about cattle breeding. When he realized that Rachel's "father" would not free him, he devised a plan to free himself. He negotiated with Laban for only the spotted cattle as his wages. And, he began to breed only spotted cattle. These cattle would inevitably go to market, and the chance would be that they would end up in the herd of his father.

A spotted cow would provide a surrepticious place to hide a message... or a mark. Only when the hide was taken would the message be seen. He may well have gambled that his brother, Esau, would see his mark... trace the origin of the cattle... and come to save him.

31:19 -- "And Laban went to shear his sheep. And Rachel had stolen the images that were her fathers. And Jacob stole away, unawares to Laban, the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled. So he fled with all he had; and he rose up and passed over the river and set his face toward the mount Gilead. And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled."

In 32:19 the scripture speaks about how Jacob kept sending herds ahead of him as a sign to Esau... a sign of peace to him. He sent one herd... then another... then another. Finally Esau appears, and Jacob says that he looks like God to him.

Egyptian artifact- sale of spotted cattle
One of the artifacts found in the tombs of Egypt.
See this online.       And also here:

Jacob had fled for his life with his children and women... and took the herds that he had negotiated cleverly for... with him. "Laban" pursued Jacob all the way to Canaan. It is only with the arrival of Esau and his army of men that Jacob is assured of his own safety. And even then, Jacob prepares to defend himself. Esau does not attack Jacob, nor show any sign of enmity with him.

We see in this... that there is no enmity between these brothers. Esau willingly gives the fields of Isaac to Jacob and moves on toward Seir. Jacob's right to the inheritance is never questioned even after fourteen years. It even appears as though Esau, upon discovering that Jacob was still alive after all these years... came to his rescue as quickly as he could... running... with an army of 400 men.

But... now Jacob finds himself in another predicament of its own danger... coming from his own sons. He seems to tarry quite a bit getting back to his father's house. Rachel was obviously not pregnant when "Laban" searched her tent for stolen property... at the edge of Canaan..., for she claimed to be "in the way of women." And yet, they were still traveling when Rachel dies giving birth to Jacob's last son, Benjamin.

Nine months, even walking slowly, is a long time to take to get to Beersheba. Was Jacob taking his time to make sure that he was not the victim of another conspiracy? Was he making sure that his father's estate would be safe before he revealed to Leah that he was a king? We do know that it was not too long after settling in Hebron that Joseph was sold into slavery.

Chapter 8.   Jacob's Last Blessings


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