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The Blessing for Jacob

Submitted by on Saturday, 4 July 2009No Comment


NAB HomepageToday’s Reading

We begin reading the story of Jacob. And the story begins with Jacob claiming the paternal blessing intended for Esau as his own. The story somehow follows a pattern: of younger sons receiving blessing instead of the first-born. We’ve seen it in the case of Cain and Abel; we will see it again in the case of Ephraim and Manasseh at the end of Joseph’s story. In Genesis 27:1-5.15-29, however, we find deception in the way Jacob gets the blessing intended for the first-born Esau. What the liturgical reading does not show are other episodes that explains and somehow justifies this “reversal” of fate.

Esau and Jacob were born twins, but Esau came out first with Jacob following behind gripping the elder brother’s heel. Their rivalry started in the mother’s womb (25:22) and their life together was already explained in a message Rebekkah received from the Lord:

Two nations
are in your womb,
two peoples are quarelling
while still within you
But the one
shall surpass the other
and the older
shall serve the younger. (25:23)

Thus, in Gen. 27 we find Rebekkah the mother makiing sure that the Lord’s word does become a reality as she orchestrates a strategy that would make Jacob the recipient of the blessing for the first-born.

The second episode somehow justifies the fact that Esau is not worthy of his birth-right. Esau, hungry after hunting, discovers his younger brother preparing lentil stew. He wanted so much to eat that when Jacob asked that Esau give his birth-right to him in exchange for the stew, the first born readily gave it. The narrator’s comment at the end of the story reveals to us how little Esau regarded his birthright: “Esau cared little for his birthright” (25:34)

These two episodes prepare the reader for what happens in Gen. 27. Under the instigation of the mother, Jacob deceives blind Isaac into giviing to him the first-born’s blessing, thus bringing to fulfillment the Lord’s word to his mother. In Hebrew mentality, a word — whether a curse or a blessing — is realized once it is uttered. It cannot be taken back. Whatever success Jacob will have later on in animal husbandry and agriculture in his lifetime will be a realization of Isaac’s blessing. But there is more: Isaac’s blessing will also cover the blessings that the tribes of Israel, Jacob’s sons, will receive in the desert and in the Promised Land.

May God give to you
of the dew of the heavens
and of the fertility of the earth
abundance of grain and wine.  (25:28)

In these lines, one not only finds the reference to the manna they the Israelites will eat in their desert wandering, but also the fertility that they will find in the land of the Canaanites that they will possess many years after Jacob the patriarch receives the blessing from Isaac. The last lines of the blessing confirm what the Lord has first said to the mother: that Jacob will surpass his older brother. It also gives us a hint of the kind of nation Israel will become during the time of David and Solomon.

Let  peoples serve you
and nations pay you homage;
Be master of your brothers
and may your mother's sons bow down to you.
Cursed by those who curse you
and blessed be those who bless you.

This last line also confirms the continuity between the promise given to Abraham and the one given to Jacob (see Genesis 17:5-8).

Genesis 27:1-5
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
1Now Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, and he could not see: and he called Esau, his elder son, and said to him: My son? And he answered: Here I am.
2And his father said to him: Thou seest that I am old, and know not the day of my death.
3Take thy arms, thy quiver, and bow, and go abroad: and when thou hast taken some thing by hunting,
4Make me savoury meat thereof, as thou knowest I like, and bring it, that I may eat: and my soul may bless thee before I die.
5And when Rebecca had heard this, and he was gone into the field to fulfill his father's commandment,
Genesis 17:5-8
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
5Neither shall thy name be called any more Abram: but thou shalt be called Abraham: because I have made thee a father of many nations.
6And I will make thee increase, exceedingly, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
7And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and between thy seed after thee in their generations, by a perpetual covenant: to be a God to thee, and to thy seed after thee.
8And I will give to thee, and to thy seed, the land of thy sojournment, all the land of Chanaan for a perpetual possession, and I will be their God.

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