eMeditation on the Bible
Story (part 1 of 2 parts): Human Disharmony Continues (Genesis 25-33)
Abrahamís son Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob. Esau was born first. In ancient West Asia, the oldest son had the highest status among the children. Before a father died, he gave the oldest son the ďbirthrightĒ blessing. After the fatherís death, the birthright son received most of the family inheritance. One day, Esau returned home from hunting and saw Jacob sitting alone cooking bean soup. Esau was very hungry. He asked Jacob for a bowl of the soup. Jacob said, ďIíll give you soup if you give me your birthright.Ē Esau was so weak that he agreed to the deal. When Isaac became very old and blind and Esau was away hunting, Jacob deceived Isaac by pretending to be Esau and obtained the birthright blessing from him. When Esau returned and learned what Jacob had done, he became very angry. Jacob feared Esau would kill him; so, he escaped to the homeland of his grandfather Abraham. There he met a family with two unmarried daughters. He fell in love with the younger one, Rachel. In this culture, the honor of the family required that the older daughters be married before younger daughters. But when Jacob asked the father, Laban, to marry Rachel, the father required Jacob to first work seven years as his servant. Jacob agreed. Seven years later, the older daughter, Leah, was still unmarried; yet Laban hosted a wedding for Jacob. In this culture, bridesí faces were covered during the ceremony. When Jacob went to the bed after the ceremony, he saw Laban had tricked him into marrying Leah. Jacob agreed to work 7 more years for Laban to marry Rachel. Seven years later, they were married. After this, Jacob wanted to return to his fatherís homeland. But Laban refused to give Jacob permission to leave. But Jacob left secretly with his family. Laban was angry and pursued Jacob. As Jacob traveled, he sent messengers to Esau to tell him he was returning home. They came back to Jacob saying Esau had gathered 400 men to meet him. Jacob became afraid that Esau planned to kill him and his family. Now, Jacob was in big trouble. His angry father-in-law was coming from the rear and an angry brother was in front of him, waiting to kill him.
The Bible is very honest about human nature. It does not make the human family look better or worse than it is. It teaches us that we are a combination of two different realities: (1) the potential for harmony with God through loving others, serving needy people and taking care of the earth; and (2) personal flaws and faults that cause disharmony by self-centered greed, competition, and exploitation. As we read about Abraham, Jacob and the descendants of Abraham known as the Israelites, we learn about Godís relationship with humanity as a whole and ourselves as individuals. Creating harmony has been the biggest challenge for God's relationship with the human family because God never overpowers human freedom. Jacobís story teaches us about Godís judgment, which consists of experiencing the consequences of one's own behavior. Jacob treated others selfishly, unfairly and deceitfully for his own benefit. He experienced the consequences of: (1) a broken relationship with his brother; (2) the possibility of never being able to return home again; and (3) the anger of his father-in-law. His judgment also included being treated like he had treated others. For example, Jacob had deceived his father to get the birthright blessing; then he was deceived by his father-in-law in the first wedding.
No one is perfect and behaviors have consequences. The consequence of refusing to end our separation from God is the separation itself, which becomes eternal after death. But God loves and forgives our faults when we begin a relationship with God and faithfully live by God's wisdom, which was revealed most clearly in the life and teachings of Jesus.