Skip to main content

Genesis 25: How to Win at Sibling Rivalry

Image result for genesis 25
Isaac Blessing Jacob - Govert Flinck, c. 1638

With his son Isaac married off, the old widower Abraham figured he might as well get around to getting himself married again.  This was easy to do, since Abraham had a lot of property and was very old, which is a combination that a certain kind of woman finds very appealing.  Keturah was one such woman.  She and Abraham had six kids together.  They lived to see their grandchildren and great-grandchildren be born.  Well, we know Abraham did.  After the mention of her bearing six children, Keturah disappears from the narrative, and there’s no telling what happened to her.  Abraham himself lived to be 175.  Odds are Abraham treated his second wife well, in light of the fact that he had been decent enough to set up the sons of his concubines with nice little nest eggs and sent them off to the east to get their lives going.  Anything Abraham had that didn’t go to his concubines’ sons (and, possibly, his widow,) was left to Isaac.

As Abraham died, his family gathered around him.  All living relations seem to have shown up—even Ishmael, whom Abraham sent off into the desert when he was still a boy, along with his mother.  It was a harsh, cold thing to do, but Ishmael and his siblings held no grudge: all of them turned up for the funeral, too!  There were probably some awkward conversations about who made whose mother strike out into the desert with only her young son in tow.  Bygones were bygones.  And soon Ishmael was gone, too.  Unlike his long-lived father, Ishmael lived to the slight age of 137.

Isaac, set up well for life, wanted to have children, but that wasn’t working out.  Nothing gets a woman to conceive better than prayer, so he tried that, and lo, Rebekah was pregnant—with twins!  The couple was happy until later in the pregnancy when the two fetuses starting pushing and shoving each other.  It made her miserable so it was Rebekah’s turn to pray.  “Why, o Lord, are my twins fighting each other before they’re even born?”  God, ever charming, replied with a little poem:

“You’ve got two nations in your womb,
Between which future conflicts loom.
One will dominate the other,
And the elder’s going to serve his brother.”

The first of the twins to emerge from her womb was hairy and reddish-colored.  This one they called Esau.  Jacob arrived right on his brother Esau’s heels—literally he was born holding Esau’s heel.  As they grew up, Esau became a hunter, while Jacob preferred to hang around the tent.  Isaac had a preference for Esau’s temperament, while Rebekah liked Jacob more.

One night the boys’ destinies were sealed.  Esau came to the tent, exhausted from a long day of hunting.  He asked Jacob for some of the stew he had made.  “I’m dying from hunger,” Esau said.  “At least a mouthful, please.”

Jacob considered this.  “It’s yours, brother—for your birthright.”  (This pattern of negotiation has been observed in numerous other pairs of siblings.)

“Jacob, I’m literally dying here.  Just gimme some of that lentil stew.”

“’Literally’?”

“Yes.  Now feed me.”

“Birthright.”

“I’m dying!  What good is a birthright if I die?”

It was obvious to Jacob that his brother wasn’t really dying, but he knew a sure thing when he saw one.  “Oath first.  Then I’ll give you some lentils.”

“Fine.”

Jacob gave Esau some lentil stew and threw in some bread, to boot.  Esau was okay with it.  In time, both brothers would fully understand just how good (or bad) the deal would be for them.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

43-Man Squamish: An Innovation in Athletics

For some people, one of the most tantalizing challenges is being told, explicitly or implicitly, that you can’t do something.  In 1965, MAD magazine writer Tom Koch laid down one such challenge.  He wrote an article laying out the rules of a sport he invented called 43-man squamish.  The article was illustrated by artist George Woodbridge, and judging by the mail MAD received from its readers, it was a huge hit.  Of course, Koch didn’t really intend the article to be a challenge.  His idea was to invent a sport that was complex, convoluted, absurd, and ultimately unplayable.  It featured the kind of text readers of MAD, not athletes, would expect.  It’s an uncommon sport that has instructions like, “The offensive team, upon receiving the Pritz, receives five Snivels in which to advance to the enemy goal.  If they do it on the ground, it’s a Woomik and counts as 17 points.  If they hit it across with their Frullips it’s a Dermish which only counts points.  Only the offensive Niblings a…

Kick the Football, Charlie Brown

For nearly the entire run of Charles Schulz's Peanuts comic strip, one running gag has been the football gag.  The gag is simple: Lucy Van Pelt kneels down on the grass, holding a football in place, and tells Charlie Brown to kick it.  Charlie Brown gets a good running start, ready to give it a good, solid kick, but at the last minute, Lucy pulls it away.  The final panel usually has a miserable Charlie Brown laying on the ground while Lucy looks over him, holding the football, telling him in one way or another that he obviously shouldn't have trusted her.
The gag first appeared on November 14, 1951, when the strip was just over a year old.  In the first occurrence, the football was not held by Lucy but by Violet Gray, another little girl in Charlie Brown’s neighborhood.  (Violet would later become a minor character in the strip, and Lucy would become a major one.Lucy wouldn’t appear in the strip until the following year.)  The first football gag is quite a bit different from w…