Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jacob: The Chase Is On

Who was the man whose brother held onto his heel? Esau.

When we first see the patriarch Jacob in the Bible, he is grabbing his twin brother Esau’s heel (Genesis 25:26). What makes this anecdote highly abnormal is that this grasping is done whilst emerging from the birth canal. Is there any wonder his mother, Rebekah, was uncomfortable during her pregnancy (Genesis 25:22)?

In addition to demonstrating highly advanced motor skills (babies typically cannot pick up objects until four months and then only larger objects), the story is emblematic of Jacob’s character. In fact, he was named from this event as Jacob literally means “heel holder” and came to mean “supplanter”.

Some branches of psychology assert that what one knows of their own birth can have an impact on their own life. What do you know of your own birth? Has it had any impact on you?

Jacob would spend a great deal of his life chasing his older brother’s birthright and blessing. This had been prophesied as God had informed Rebekah before the twins were born that the older would serve the younger (Genesis 25:23).

If God had wished for Jacob to claim the birthright and blessing, why was he not born first in the first place?

The prophecy would be fulfilled and Jacob would eventually supplant his older brother using opportunistic and deceitful tactics (Genesis 25:29-34, 27:1-41). His name would eventually be changed to Israel (Genesis 32:28, 35:10) and this name would become the name of his descendants’ nation. In a role reversal, Jacob would spend much of his adult life on the lamb fleeing from the perceived pursuit of his vengeful older brother, Esau (Genesis 27:41-45).

Jacob’s pursuit of Esau was not triggered because he despised him but because he wanted what Esau had. It was not personal. It was business. Have you ever objectified someone and treated them as a means to an end?

“Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end.” - Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

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