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eTeacherBiblical Official Newsletter
Issue #115 - 10/12
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The blessing and the birthright

If you wish to deepen your understanding of the Old Testament, the stories of Jacob and Esau are a good place to start. Today we shall encounter the two brothers in three junctions in their lives as twins. It's amazing how the understanding of basic words in Biblical Hebrew can make the meetings with the characters easier.  

The first meeting with Esau and Jacob is at their birth as we can read in Genesis 25:20-26-
 
" וַיְהִי יִצְחָק, בֶּן-אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה, בְּקַחְתּוֹ אֶת-רִבְקָה בַּת-בְּתוּאֵל הָאֲרַמִּי, מִפַּדַּן אֲרָם--אֲחוֹת לָבָן הָאֲרַמִּי, לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה.  וַיֶּעְתַּר יִצְחָק לַיהוָה לְנֹכַח אִשְׁתּוֹ, כִּי עֲקָרָה הִוא; וַיֵּעָתֶר לוֹ יְהוָה, וַתַּהַר רִבְקָה אִשְׁתּוֹ.  וַיִּתְרֹצְצוּ הַבָּנִים, בְּקִרְבָּהּ, וַתֹּאמֶר אִם-כֵּן, לָמָּה זֶּה אָנֹכִי; וַתֵּלֶךְ, לִדְרֹשׁ אֶת-יְהוָה.  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה לָהּ, שְׁנֵי גֹיִים בְּבִטְנֵךְ, וּשְׁנֵי לְאֻמִּים, מִמֵּעַיִךְ יִפָּרֵדוּ; וּלְאֹם מִלְאֹם יֶאֱמָץ, וְרַב יַעֲבֹד צָעִיר.  וַיִּמְלְאוּ יָמֶיהָ, לָלֶדֶת; וְהִנֵּה תוֹמִם, בְּבִטְנָהּ.  וַיֵּצֵא הָרִאשׁוֹן אַדְמוֹנִי, כֻּלּוֹ כְּאַדֶּרֶת שֵׂעָר; וַיִּקְרְאוּ שְׁמוֹ, עֵשָׂו.  וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן יָצָא אָחִיו, וְיָדוֹ אֹחֶזֶת בַּעֲקֵב עֵשָׂו, וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ, יַעֲקֹב; וְיִצְחָק בֶּן-שִׁשִּׁים שָׁנָה, בְּלֶדֶת אֹתָם."
 
"And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.” When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them."
 
The birth of the twins in the old ages and actually until today is not a thing that is easy for the mother. Most of the births end with Caesarean section. In the birth that we have read about above the twins are not identical. First of all, Rebecca knew that they are going to be different because one is going to serve the other. And if we want to be clear, the older will serve the younger as in most of the stories in the Bible where the firstborn is not getting what he deserves. Another thing that was described to me in one of the Biblical Hebrew Webinars is that Esau is mentioned for his hair and his body and Jacob was mentioned only by grabbing the heel (Hebrew: עָקֵב) of Esau, as he is about to do all his life.
The next meeting with them is when we learn about their professions and the parent who loves them. At the end of the meeting Jacob is taking advantage of his brothers' tiredness and steals his birthright, as you can read:
 
" וַיִּגְדְּלוּ, הַנְּעָרִים, וַיְהִי עֵשָׂו אִישׁ יֹדֵעַ צַיִד, אִישׁ שָׂדֶה; וְיַעֲקֹב אִישׁ תָּם, יֹשֵׁב אֹהָלִים.  וַיֶּאֱהַב יִצְחָק אֶת-עֵשָׂו, כִּי-צַיִד בְּפִיו; וְרִבְקָה, אֹהֶבֶת אֶת-יַעֲקֹב.  כט וַיָּזֶד יַעֲקֹב, נָזִיד; וַיָּבֹא עֵשָׂו מִן-הַשָּׂדֶה, וְהוּא עָיֵף.  וַיֹּאמֶר עֵשָׂו אֶל-יַעֲקֹב, הַלְעִיטֵנִי נָא מִן-הָאָדֹם הָאָדֹם הַזֶּה--כִּי עָיֵף, אָנֹכִי; עַל-כֵּן קָרָא-שְׁמוֹ, אֱדוֹם.  וַיֹּאמֶר, יַעֲקֹב:  מִכְרָה כַיּוֹם אֶת-בְּכֹרָתְךָ, לִי.  וַיֹּאמֶר עֵשָׂו, הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי הוֹלֵךְ לָמוּת; וְלָמָּה-זֶּה לִי, בְּכֹרָה.  וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב, הִשָּׁבְעָה לִּי כַּיּוֹם, וַיִּשָּׁבַע, לוֹ; וַיִּמְכֹּר אֶת-בְּכֹרָתוֹ, לְיַעֲקֹב.  לד וְיַעֲקֹב נָתַן לְעֵשָׂו, לֶחֶם וּנְזִיד עֲדָשִׁים, וַיֹּאכַל וַיֵּשְׁתְּ, וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלַךְ; וַיִּבֶז עֵשָׂו, אֶת-הַבְּכֹרָה"
 
 "When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright."(Genesis 25:27-34)
 
In this story Esau is not the person; he is the nation who lost the birthright of nations to Jacob, soon to be Israel. This story could be dangerous if people will use it politically to declare that they are the chosen and the rest of the world is less important, as some people with different beliefs unfortunately do.
So how does the birthright relate to the blessing? The next story with those two brothers is the story when Jacob with the help of his loving mother was stealing the blessing from his older brother. For one who didn't start his Hebrew learning this passage could be emotional. However, one must pay attention to the function of the Hebrew in the passage when Esau figured out that he lost his birthright and the first blessings of his father as written: 
Jacob is blessed by Isaac
 
" וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ יִצְחָק אָבִיו, מִי-אָתָּה; וַיֹּאמֶר, אֲנִי בִּנְךָ בְכֹרְךָ עֵשָׂו.  וַיֶּחֱרַד יִצְחָק חֲרָדָה, גְּדֹלָה עַד-מְאֹד, וַיֹּאמֶר מִי-אֵפוֹא הוּא הַצָּד-צַיִד וַיָּבֵא לִי וָאֹכַל מִכֹּל בְּטֶרֶם תָּבוֹא, וָאֲבָרְכֵהוּ; גַּם-בָּרוּךְ, יִהְיֶה.  כִּשְׁמֹעַ עֵשָׂו, אֶת-דִּבְרֵי אָבִיו, וַיִּצְעַק צְעָקָה, גְּדֹלָה וּמָרָה עַד-מְאֹד; וַיֹּאמֶר לְאָבִיו, בָּרְכֵנִי גַם-אָנִי אָבִי.  וַיֹּאמֶר, בָּא אָחִיךָ בְּמִרְמָה; וַיִּקַּח, בִּרְכָתֶךָ.  וַיֹּאמֶר הֲכִי קָרָא שְׁמוֹ יַעֲקֹב, וַיַּעְקְבֵנִי זֶה פַעֲמַיִם--אֶת-בְּכֹרָתִי לָקָח, וְהִנֵּה עַתָּה לָקַח בִּרְכָתִי; וַיֹּאמַר, הֲלֹא-אָצַלְתָּ לִּי בְּרָכָה."
 
 "Isaac his father said to him, “Who are you?” And he said, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, “Who was he then that hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate of all of it before you came, and blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.” When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” And he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing.” Then he said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?"(Genesis 27:32-36)
The pun with the word blessing in Hebrew (Be-rachah) and the word birthright (Be-chorah) can show us how Hebrew Learning is another step, a very important one in understanding the words of The Lord.
And one more thing that is really important that people seem to forget. When the brothers meet after more than twenty years of hatred and bad emotions the end is with a kiss, as written in Genesis 33:4-
Esau and his family
 
" וַיָּרָץ עֵשָׂו לִקְרָאתוֹ וַיְחַבְּקֵהוּ, וַיִּפֹּל עַל-צַוָּארָו וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ; וַיִּבְכּוּ."
 
"Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept."
This should be the end of every disagreement in our world!
Eli
 
Main phrases of the post + transcription + translation

 

Hebrew

Transcription

Translation

עֵשָׂו

'ēśāv

Esau

וַיִּשָּׁקֵהוּ

wayyiššāqehu

And he kissed him

בִּרְכָתִי

birkātî

My blessing

בְּכֹרָתִי

bəchōrātî

My Birthright

אָדֹם

'ādōm

Red

יַעֲקֹב

Ya'ăqōv

Jacob

יִצְחָק

yitschāk

Isaac

 
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