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
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
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
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
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
Unless we discount the entire story of Jacob's travels, we have a bit of a
(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?
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
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
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. Jacobtakes 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
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.
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.