Jacob and Esau – part 2

So Jacob headed back to the land of Canaan, which today would be modern day Israel, Jordan and parts of Syria and Lebanon. But he was afraid of his brother, Esau, and what he might do. It was twenty years ago but, after all, he did cheat Esau out of his birthright and blessing. He thought Esau might be out for blood.

By now Jacob has accumulated a ton of wealth himself. Besides his wives and children he’d gotten male and female servants, huge flocks of sheep and goats, camels, donkeys, cows and bulls, all of which he was herding down to Canaan. This was essentially like an old fashioned cattle drive like you see in the old Western movies. Most everybody was walking and, with over 600 miles to cover, it took awhile.

Somewhere along the way Jacob met up with some ‘angels of God’. Not much is said about them but, since we already know an angel is a messenger, it’s likely these guys showed up to impart some important information. About Esau perhaps?

Whatever it was, we’ll never know because soon after, Jacob learned Esau was coming to meet him. And he has four hundred men with him.

Jacob was totally spooked. He split up his company and, hoping to buy some time, sent herds and flocks out ahead of the main group as a gift to Esau.

An interesting thing happened the night before Jacob and Esau met up. Literally, the Bible says Jacob ‘wrestled with a man’ all night long. Interestingly, later on this ‘man’ is referred to as God. So Jacob wrestled with God and actually got the better of him. Not bad for a 70 year old man.

This whole narrative makes no sense at all until you find out, in the original Aramaic phraseology, this whole wrestling with a man thing actually refers to an emotional and spiritual act rather than anything physical 1. What really happened was that Jacob was up all night agonizing over his decision to go home. Was it the right thing to do? Should he go on? Should he turn tail and run back to Laban? Eventually he ‘prevails against the man’, overcomes his doubts, trusts God, and decides to push on.

This is just one of many instances where, if we try to take a translation literally, we completely lose the meaning.2

But it turned out Esau had done very well on his own and no longer had any problem with Jacob. After all, he’d stayed home and basically taken over Issac’s entire estate. He was doing okay and held no grudge.

So they met up, made up, and went their separate ways.

Jacob ended up being the patriarch of Israel and Esau, the patriarch or Edom. As time went on the two countries ended up being sworn enemies. Imagine that, another family feud.

1 https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2014/09/hebrew-word-study-wrestling-match/

2 The ever-present trap of literal translation.

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