Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday Sermonette: Serious continuity error

Remember that Jacob stole Esau's birthright and his blessing, and has become very wealthy. He's a con artist and a pathological liar, who also screwed over his father-in-law. For some reason God loves him and doesn't like Esau. Viz Malachi 1. (Yeah, we're nowhere near there yet but it's relevant.)

A prophecy: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.[a]
“I have loved you,” says the Lord.
“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”
Anyway, I suppose it isn't surprising that Jacob expects Esau to be hostile.  What is not clear, under the circumstances, is why Jacob let Esau know that he was coming. Anyway, here is the rather surprising denoument.

Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. [i.e. sex slaves2 ]He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.
But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked.
Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.”
Then the female servants and their children approached and bowed down. Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down.
Esau asked, “What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?”
“To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said.
But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.”
10 “No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably. 11 Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.
12 Then Esau said, “Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.”
Now, this is completely contrary to everything we know about the relationship between these two characters.  Note that Jacob has in fact seen the face of God, so the meaning of "to see your face is like seeing the face of God" is unclear. Is God a hirsute redhead? Anyway, why does Jacob call Esau his lord, and himself Esau's servant? This is even more odd given that Jacob is the patriarch of the Jews, this is the Jewish Bible, and here he is making them subservient to a guy who God hates.
13 But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. 14 So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”
15 Esau said, “Then let me leave some of my men with you.”
“But why do that?” Jacob asked. “Just let me find favor in the eyes of my lord.”
16 So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. 17 Jacob, however, went to Sukkoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place is called Sukkoth.[a]
18 After Jacob came from Paddan Aram,[b] he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. 19 For a hundred pieces of silver,[c] he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. 20 There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.[d]

Okay, so after all this Jacob promises to follow Esau to Seir, but he doesn't do it after all, and apparently never gives Esau the livestock he promised. So what is the point of this story?


Don Quixote said...

I think that Jacob expected Esau to be red with fury, but instead was just grateful that, after everything he'd done to Esau, he was 1) filled with gratitude for a resolved relationship (as we get older, these mean more to us--unless we're sociopaths), and 2) relieved that there was peace instead of family problems and, worse, battle. So seeing Esau's face was like "seeing the face of G-d" because of the grace involved.

This is my only comment for today :-)

Cervantes said...

I suppose that makes sense, but Jacob still skips out on the deal. Esau gets all the moral credit in the story, but God still goes with Jacob, who is an asshole. That's what seems strange to me.

Don Quixote said...

Yes, Jacob is one of the "chosen people." That never sat right with me, as a Jewish person. People are people. I recall a night in Paris, over 20 years ago, when I had no money and no hotel and it was a Sunday night, and I would have been SOL had it not been for these really nice Yemeni guys who took me in and let me spend the night at their apartment. I'll never forget their generosity. People are just people, everywhere, and as much as I don't like to think about being almost identical genetically to Shitler, well ... I am. Ugh. But true.