JACOB--THE BIRTH OF ESAU AND JACOB--THE FAVORITE OF ABRAHAM--THE SALE OF THE BIRTHRIGHT--ISAAC WITH THE PHILISTINES--ISAAC BLESSES JACOB--ESAU'S TRUE CHARACTER REVEALED--JACOB LEAVES HIS FATHER'S HOUSE--JACOB PURSUED BY ELIPHAZ AND ESAU--THE DAY OF MIRACLES--JACOB WITH LABAN--THE MARRIAGE OF JACOB--THE BIRTH OF JACOB'S CHILDREN--JACOB FLEES BEFORE LABAN--THE COVENANT WITH LABAN--JACOB AND ESAU PREPARE TO MEET--JACOB WRESTLES WITH THE ANGEL--THE MEETING BETWEEN ESAU AND JACOB--THE OUTRAGE AT SHECHEM--A WAR FRUSTRATED--THE WAR WITH THE NINEVITES--THE WAR WITH THE AMORITES--ISAAC BLESSES LEVI AND JUDAH--JOY AND SORROW IN THE HOUSE OF JACOB--ESAU'S CAMPAIGN AGAINST JACOB--THE DESCENDANTS OF ESAU
JACOB--THE BIRTH OF ESAU AND JACOB
Isaac was the counterpart of his father in body and soul. He resembled him in every particular--"in beauty, wisdom, strength, wealth, and noble deeds." It was, therefore, as great an honor for Isaac to be called the son of his father as for Abraham to be called the father of his son, and though Abraham was the progenitor of thirty nations, he is always designated as the father of Isaac.
Despite his many excellent qualities, Isaac married late in life. God permitted him to meet the wife suitable to him only after he had successfully disproved the mocking charges of Ishmael, who was in the habit of taunting him with having been circumcised at the early age of eight days, while Ishmael had submitted himself voluntarily to the operation when be was thirteen years old. For this reason God demanded Isaac as a sacrifice when he had attained to full manhood, at the age of thirty-seven, and Isaac was ready to give up his life. Ishmael's jibes were thus robbed of their sting, and Isaac was permitted to marry. But another delay occurred before his marriage could take place. Directly after the sacrifice on Mount Moriah, his mother died, and he mourned her for three years. Finally he married Rebekah, who was then a maiden of fourteen.
Rebekah was "a rose between thorns." Her father was the Aramean Bethuel, and her brother was Laban, but she did not walk in their ways. Her piety was equal to Isaac's. Nevertheless their marriage was not entirely happy, for they lived together no less than twenty years without begetting children. Rebekah besought her husband to entreat God for the gift of children, as his father Abraham had done. At first Isaac would not do her bidding. God had promised Abraham a numerous progeny, and he thought their childlessness was probably Rebekah's fault, and it was her duty to supplicate God, and not his. But Rebekah would not desist, and husband and wife repaired to Mount Moriah together to pray to God there. And Isaac said: "O Lord God of heaven and earth, whose goodness and mercies fill the earth, Thou who didst take my father from his father's house and from his birthplace, and didst bring him unto this land, and didst say unto him, To thee and thy seed will I give the land, and didst promise him and declare unto him, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand of the sea, now may Thy words be verified which Thou didst speak unto my father. For Thou art the Lord our God, our eyes are toward Thee, to give us seed of men as Thou didst promise us, for Thou art the Lord our God, and our eyes are upon Thee." Isaac prayed furthermore that all children destined for him might be born unto him from this pious wife of his, and Rebekah made the same petition regarding her husband Isaac and the children destined for her.
Their united prayer was heard. Yet it was chiefly for the sake of Isaac that God gave them children. It is true, Rebekah's piety equalled her husband's, but the prayer of a pious man who is the son of a pious man is far more efficacious than the prayer of one who, though pious himself, is descended from a godless father.
The prayer wrought a great miracle, for Isaac's physique was such that he could not have been expected to beget children, and equally it was not in the course of nature that Rebekah should bear children.
When Rebekah had been pregnant seven months, she began to wish that the curse of childlessness had not been removed from her. She suffered torturous pain, because her twin sons began their lifelong quarrels in her womb. They strove to kill each other. If Rebekah walked in the vicinity of a temple erected to idols, Esau moved in her body, and if she passed a synagogue or a Bet ha-Midrash, Jacob essayed to break forth from her womb. The quarrels of the children turned upon such differences as these. Esau would insist that there was no life except the earthly life of material pleasures, and Jacob would reply: "My brother, there are two worlds before us, this world and the world to come. In this world, men eat and drink, and traffic and marry, and bring up sons and daughters, but all this does not take place in the world to come. If it please thee, do thou take this world, and I will take the other." Esau had Samael as his ally, who desired to slay Jacob in his mother's womb. But the archangel Michael hastened to Jacob's aid. He tried to burn Samael, and the Lord saw it was necessary to constitute a heavenly court for the purpose of arbitrating the case of Michael and Samael. Even the quarrel between the two brothers regarding the birthright had its beginning before they emerged from the womb of their mother. Each desired to be the first to come into the world. It was only when Esau threatened to carry his point at the expense of his mother's life that Jacob gave way.
Rebekah asked other women whether they, too, had suffered such pain during their pregnancy, and when they told her they had not heard of a case like hers, except the pregnancy of Nimrod's mother, she betook herself to Mount Moriah, whereon Shem and Eber had their Bet ha-Midrash. She requested them as well as Abraham to inquire of God what the cause of her dire suffering was. And Shem replied: "My daughter, I confide a secret to thee. See to it that none finds it out. Two nations are in thy womb, and how should thy body contain them, seeing that the whole world will not be large enough for them to exist in it together peaceably? Two nations they are, each owning a world of its own, the one the Torah, the other sin. From the one will spring Solomon, the builder of the Temple, from the other Vespasian, the destroyer thereof. These two are what are needed to raise the number of nations to seventy. They will never be in the same estate. Esau will vaunt lords, while Jacob will bring forth prophets, and if Esau has princes, Jacob will have kings. They, Israel and Rome, are the two nations destined to be hated by all the world. One will exceed the other in strength. First Esau will subjugate the whole world, but in the end Jacob will rule over all. The older of the two will serve the younger, provided this one is pure of heart, otherwise the younger will be enslaved by the older."
The circumstances connected with the birth of her twin sons were as remarkable as those during the period of Rebekah's pregnancy. Esau was the first to see the light, and with him all impurity came from the womb; Jacob was born clean and sweet of body. Esau was brought forth with hair, beard, and teeth, both front and back, and he was blood-red, a sign of his future sanguinary nature. On account of his ruddy appearance he remained uncircumcised. Isaac, his father, feared that it was due to poor circulation of the blood, and he hesitated to perform the circumcision. He decided to wait until Esau should attain his thirteenth year, the age at which Ishmael had received the sign of the covenant. But when Esau grew up, he refused to give heed to his father's wish, and so he was left uncircumcised. The opposite of his brother in this as in all respects, Jacob was born with the sign of the covenant upon his body, a rare distinction. But Esau also bore a mark upon him at birth, the figure of a serpent, the symbol of all that is wicked and hated of God.
The names conferred upon the brothers are pregnant with meaning. The older was called Esau, because he was 'Asui, fully developed when he was born, and the name of the younger was given to him by God, to point to some important events in the future of Israel by the numerical value of each letter. The first letter in Ya'akob, Yod, with the value of ten, stands for the decalogue; the second, 'Ayin, equal to seventy, for the seventy elders, the leaders of Israel; the third, Kof, a hundred, for the Temple, a hundred ells in height; and the last, Bet, for the two tables of stone.
THE FAVORITE OF ABRAHAM
While Esau and Jacob were little, their characters could not be judged properly. They were like the myrtle and the thorn-bush, which look alike in the early stages of their growth. After they have attained full size, the myrtle is known by its fragrance, and the thorn-bush by its thorns.
In their childhood, both brothers went to school, but when they reached their thirteenth year, and were of age, their ways parted. Jacob continued his studies in the Bet ha Midrash of Shem and Eber, and Esau abandoned himself to idolatry and an immoral life. Both were hunters of men, Esau tried to capture them in order to turn them away from God, and Jacob, to turn them toward God. In spite of his impious deeds, Esau possessed the art of winning his father's love. His hypocritical conduct made Isaac believe that his first-born son was extremely pious. "Father," he would ask Isaac, "what is the tithe on straw and salt?" The question made him appear God-fearing in the eyes of his father, because these two products are the very ones that are exempt from tithing. Isaac failed to notice, too, that his older son gave him forbidden food to eat. What he took for the flesh of young goats was dog's meat.
Rebekah was more clear-sighted. She knew her sons as they really were, and therefore her love for Jacob was exceeding great. The oftener she heard his voice, the deeper grew her affection for him. Abraham agreed with her. He also loved his grandson Jacob, for he knew that in him his name and his seed would be called. And he said unto Rebekah, "My daughter, watch over my son Jacob, for he shall be in my stead on the earth and for a blessing in the midst of the children of men, and for the glory of the whole seed of Shem." Having admonished Rebekah thus to keep guard over Jacob, who was destined to be the bearer of the blessing given to Abraham by God, he called for his grandson, and in the presence of Rebekah he blessed him, and said: "Jacob, my beloved son, whom my soul loveth, may God bless thee from above the firmament, and may He give thee all the blessing wherewith He blessed Adam, and Enoch, and Noah, and Shem, and all the things of which He told me, and all the things which He promised to give me may He cause to cleave to thee and to thy seed forever, according to the days of the heavens above the earth. And the spirit of Mastema shall not rule over thee or over thy seed, to turn thee from the Lord, who is thy God from henceforth and forever. And may the Lord God be a father to thee, and mayest thou be His first-born son, and may He be a father to thy people always. Go in peace, my son."
And Abraham had good reason to be particularly fond of Jacob, for it was due to the merits of his grandson that he had been rescued from the fiery furnace.
Isaac and Rebekah, knowing of Abraham's love for their young son, sent their father a meal by Jacob on the last Feast of Pentecost which Abraham was permitted to celebrate on earth, that he might eat and bless the Creator of all things before he died. Abraham knew that his end was approaching, and he thanked the Lord for all the good He had granted him during the days of his life, and blessed Jacob and bade him walk in the ways of the Lord, and especially he was not to marry a daughter of the Canaanites. Then Abraham prepared for death. He placed two of Jacob's fingers upon his eyes, and thus holding them closed he fell into his eternal sleep, while Jacob lay beside him on the bed. The lad did not know of his grandfather's death, until he called him, on awakening next morning, "Father, father," and received no answer.
THE SALE OF THE BIRTHRIGHT
Though Abraham reached a good old age, beyond the limit of years vouchsafed later generations, he yet died five years before his allotted time. The intention was to let him live to be one hundred and eighty years old, the same age as Isaac's at his death, but on account of Esau God brought his life to an abrupt close. For some time Esau had been pursuing his evil inclinations in secret. Finally he dropped his mask, and on the day of Abraham's death he was guilty of five crimes: he ravished a betrothed maiden, committed murder, doubted the resurrection of the dead, scorned the birthright, and denied God. Then the Lord said: "I promised Abraham that he should go to his fathers in peace. Can I now permit him to be a witness of his grandson's rebellion against God, his violation of the laws of chastity, and his shedding of blood? It is better for him to die now in peace."
The men slain by Esau on this day were Nimrod and two of his adjutants. A long-standing feud had existed between Esau and Nimrod, because the mighty hunter before the Lord was jealous of Esau, who also devoted himself assiduously to the chase. Once when he was hunting it happened that Nimrod was separated from his people, only two men were with him. Esau, who lay in ambush, noticed his isolation, and waited until he should pass his covert. Then he threw himself upon Nimrod suddenly, and felled him and his two companions, who hastened to his succor. The outcries of the latter brought the attendants of Nimrod to the spot where he lay dead, but not before Esau had stripped him of his garments, and fled to the city with them.
These garments of Nimrod had an extraordinary effect upon cattle, beasts, and birds. Of their own accord they would come and prostrate themselves before him who was arrayed in them. Thus Nimrod and Esau after him were able to rule over men and beasts.
After slaying Nimrod, Esau hastened cityward in great fear of his victim's followers. Tired and exhausted he arrived at home to find Jacob busy preparing a dish of lentils. Numerous male and female slaves were in Isaac's household. Nevertheless Jacob was so simple and modest in his demeanor that, if he came home late from the Bet ha-Midrash, he would disturb none to prepare his meal, but would do it himself. On this occasion he was cooking lentils for his father, to serve to him as his mourner's meal after the death of Abraham. Adam and Eve had eaten lentils after the murder of Abel, and so had the parents of Haran, when he perished in the fiery furnace. The reason they are used for the mourner's meal is that the round lentil symbolizes death: as the lentil rolls, so death, sorrow, and mourning constantly roll about among men, from one to the other.
Esau accosted Jacob thus, "Why art thou preparing lentils?"
Jacob: "Because our grandfather passed away; they shall be a sign of my grief and mourning, that he may love me in the days to come."
Esau: "Thou fool! Dost thou really think it possible that man should come to life again after he has been dead and has mouldered in the grave?" He continued to taunt Jacob. "Why dost thou give thyself so much trouble?" he said. "Lift up thine eyes, and thou wilt see that all men eat whatever comes to hand--fish, creeping and crawling creatures, swine's flesh, and all sorts of things like these, and thou vexest thyself about a dish of lentils."
Jacob: "If we act like other men, what shall we do on the day of the Lord, the day on which the pious will receive their reward, when a herald will proclaim: Where is He that weigheth the deeds of men, where is He that counteth?"
Esau: "Is there a future world? Or will the dead be called back to life? If it were so, why hath not Adam returned? Hast thou heard that Noah, through whom the world was raised anew, hath reappeared? Yea, Abraham, the friend of God, more beloved of Him than any man, hath he come to life again?"
Jacob: "If thou art of opinion that there is no future world, and that the dead do not rise to new life, then why dost thou want thy birthright? Sell it to me, now, while it is yet possible to do so. Once the Torah is revealed, it cannot be done. Verily, there is a future world, in which the righteous receive their reward. I tell thee this, lest thou say later I deceived thee."
Jacob was little concerned about the double share of the inheritance that went with the birthright. What he thought of was the priestly service, which was the prerogative of the first-born in ancient times, and Jacob was loth to have his impious brother Esau play the priest, he who despised all Divine service.
The scorn manifested by Esau for the resurrection of the dead he felt also for the promise of God to give the Holy Land to the seed of Abraham. He did not believe in it, and therefore he was willing to cede his birthright and the blessing attached thereto in exchange for a mess of pottage. In addition, Jacob paid him in coin, and, besides, he gave him what was more than money, the wonderful sword of Methuselah, which Isaac had inherited from Abraham and bestowed upon Jacob.
Esau made game of Jacob. He invited his associates to feast at his brother's table, saying, "Know ye what I did to this Jacob? I ate his lentils, drank his wine, amused myself at his expense, and sold my birthright to him." All that Jacob replied was, "Eat and may it do thee good!" But the Lord said, "Thou despisest the birthright, therefore I shall make thee despised in all generations." And by way of punishment for denying God and the resurrection of the dead, the descendants of Esau were cut off from the world.
As naught was holy to Esau, Jacob made him swear, concerning the birthright, by the life of their father, for he knew Esau's love for Isaac, that it was strong. Nor did he fail to have a document made out, duly signed by witnesses, setting forth that Esau had sold him the birthright together with his claim upon a place in the Cave of Machpelah.
Though no blame can attach to Jacob for all this, yet he secured the birthright from him by cunning, and therefore the descendants of Jacob had to serve the descendants of Esau.
ISAAC WITH THE PHILISTINES
The life of Isaac was a faithful reflex of the life of his father. Abraham had to leave his birthplace; so also Isaac. Abraham was exposed to the risk of losing his wife; so also Isaac. The Philistines were envious of Abraham; so also of Isaac. Abraham long remained childless; so also Isaac. Abraham begot one pious son and one wicked son; so also Isaac. And, finally, as in the time of Abraham, so also in the time of Isaac, a famine came upon the land.
At first Isaac intended to follow the example of his father and remove to Egypt, but God appeared unto him, and spake: "Thou art a perfect sacrifice, without a blemish, and as a burnt offering is made unfit if it is taken outside of the sanctuary, so thou wouldst be profaned if thou shouldst happen outside of the Holy Land. Remain in the land, and endeavor to cultivate it. In this land dwells the Shekinah, and in days to come I will give unto thy children the realms possessed by mighty rulers, first a part thereof, and the whole in the Messianic time."
Isaac obeyed the command of God, and he settled in Gerar. When he noticed that the inhabitants of the place began to have designs upon his wife, he followed the example of Abraham, and pretended she was his sister. The report of Rebekah's beauty reached the king himself, but he was mindful of the great danger to which he had once exposed himself on a similar occasion, and he left Isaac and his wife unmolested. After they had been in Gerar for three months, Abimelech noticed that the manner of Isaac, who lived in the outer court of the royal palace, was that of a husband toward Rebekah. He called him to account, saying, "It might have happened to the king himself to take the woman thou didst call thy sister." Indeed, Isaac lay under the suspicion of having illicit intercourse with Rebekah, for at first the people of the place would not believe that she was his wife. When Isaac persisted in his statement, Abimelech sent his grandees for them, ordered them to be arrayed in royal vestments, and had it proclaimed before them, as they rode through the city: "These two are man and wife. He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death."
Thereafter the king invited Isaac to settle in his domains, and he assigned fields and vineyards to him for cultivation, the best the land afforded. But Isaac was not self-interested. The tithe of all he possessed he gave to the poor of Gerar. Thus he was the first to introduce the law of tithing for the poor, as his father Abraham had been the first to separate the priests' portion from his fortune. Isaac was rewarded by abundant harvests; the land yielded a hundred times more than was expected, though the soil was barren and the year unfruitful. He grew so rich that people wished to have "the dung from Isaac's she-mules rather than Abimelech's gold and silver." But his wealth called forth the envy of the Philistines, for it is characteristic of the wicked that they begrudge their fellow-men the good, and rejoice when they see evil descend upon them, and envy brings hatred in its wake, and so the Philistines first envied Isaac, and then hated him. In their enmity toward him, they stopped the wells which Abraham had had his servants dig. Thus they broke their covenant with Abraham and were faithless, and they have only themselves to blame if they were exterminated later on by the Israelites.
Isaac departed from Gerar, and began to dig again the wells of water which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father, and which the Philistines had stopped. His reverence for his father was so great that he even restored the names by which Abraham had called the wells. To reward him for his filial respect, the Lord left the name of Isaac unchanged, while his father and his son had to submit to new names.
After four attempts to secure water, Isaac was successful; he found the well of water that followed the Patriarchs. Abraham had obtained it after three diggings. Hence the name of the well, Beer-sheba, "the well of seven diggings," the same well that will supply water to Jerusalem and its environs in the Messianic time.
Isaac's success with his wells but served to increase the envy of the Philistines, for he had come upon water in a most unlikely spot and, besides, in a year of drouth. But "the Lord fulfils the desire of them that fear Him." As Isaac executed the will of his Creator, so God accomplished his desire. And Abimelech, the king of Gerar, speedily came to see that God was on the side of Isaac, for, to chastise him for having instigated Isaac's removal from Gerar, his house was ravaged by robbers in the night, and he himself was stricken with leprosy. The wells of the Philistines ran dry as soon as Isaac left Gerar, and also the trees failed to yield their fruit. None could be in doubt but that these things were the castigation for their unkindness.
Now Abimelech entreated his friends, especially the administrator of his kingdom, to accompany him to Isaac and help him win back his friendship. Abimelech and the Philistines spake thus to Isaac: "We have convinced ourselves that the Shekinah is with thee, and therefore we desire thee to renew the covenant which thy father made with us, that thou wilt do us no hurt, as we also did not touch thee." Isaac consented. It illustrates the character of the Philistines strikingly that they took credit unto themselves for having done him no hurt. It shows that they would have been glad to inflict harm upon him, for "the soul of the wicked desireth evil."
The place in which the covenant was made between Isaac and the Philistines was called Shib'ah, for two reasons, because an oath was "sworn" there, and as a memorial of the fact that even the heathen are bound to observe the "seven" Noachian laws.
For all the wonders executed by God for Isaac, and all the good he enjoyed throughout his life, he is indebted to the merits of his father. For his own merits he will be rewarded in future. On the great day of judgment it will be Isaac who will redeem his descendants from Gehenna. On that day the Lord will speak to Abraham, "Thy children have sinned," and Abraham will make reply, "Then let them be wiped out, that Thy Name be sanctified." The Lord will turn to Jacob, thinking that he who had suffered so much in bringing his sons to manhood's estate would display more love for his posterity. But Jacob will give the same answer as Abraham. Then God will say: "The old have no understanding, and the young no counsel. I will now go to Isaac. Isaac," God will address him, "thy children have sinned," and Isaac will reply: "O Lord of the world, sayest Thou my children, and not THINE? When they stood at Mount Sinai and declared themselves ready to execute all Thy bidding before even they heard it, Thou didst call Israel 'My first-born,' and now they are MY children, and not THINE! Let us consider. The years of a man are seventy. From these twenty are to be deducted, for Thou inflictest no punishment upon those under twenty. Of the fifty years that are left, one-half are to be deducted for the nights passed in sleep. There remain only twenty-five years, and these are to be diminished by twelve and a half, the time spent in praying, eating, and attending to other needs in life, during which men commit no sins. That leaves only twelve years and a half. If Thou wilt take these upon Thyself, well and good. If not, do Thou take one-half thereof, and I will take the other half." The descendants of Isaac will then say, "Verily, thou art our true father!" But he will point to God, and admonish them, "Nay, give not your praises to me, but to God alone," and Israel, with eyes directed heavenward, will say, "Thou, O Lord, art our Father; our Redeemer from everlasting is Thy name."
It was Isaac, or, as he is sometimes called, Elihu the son of Barachel, who revealed the wonderful mysteries of nature in his arguments with Job.
At the end of the years of famine, God appeared unto Isaac, and bade him return to Canaan. Isaac did as he was commanded, and he settled in Hebron. At this time he sent his younger son Jacob to the Bet ha-Midrash of Shem and Eber, to study the law of the Lord. Jacob remained there thirty-two years. As for Esau, he refused to learn, and he remained in the house of his father. The chase was his only occupation, and as he pursued beasts, so he pursued men, seeking to capture them with cunning and deceit.
On one of his hunting expeditions, Esau came to Mount Seir, where he became acquainted with Judith, of the family of Ham, and he took her unto himself as his wife, and brought her to his father at Hebron.
Ten years later, when Shem his teacher died, Jacob returned home, at the age of fifty. Another six years passed, and Rebekah received the joyful news that her sister-in-law 'Adinah, the wife of Laban, who, like all the women of his house, had been childless until then, had given birth to twin daughters, Leah and Rachel. Rebekah, weary of her life on account of the woman chosen by her older son, exhorted Jacob not to marry one of the daughters of Canaan, but a maiden of the family of Abraham. He assured his mother that the words of Abraham, bidding him to marry no woman of the Canaanites, were graven upon his memory, and for this reason he was still unmarried, though he had attained the age of sixty-two, and Esau had been urging him for twenty-two years past to follow his example and wed a daughter of the people of the land in which they lived. He had heard that his uncle Laban had daughters, and he was resolved to choose one of them as his wife. Deeply moved by the words of her son, Rebekah thanked him and gave praise unto God with the words: "Blessed be the Lord God, and may His Holy Name be blessed for ever and ever, who hath given me Jacob as a pure son and a holy seed; for he is Thine, and Thine shall his seed be continually and throughout all the generations for evermore. Bless him, O Lord, and place in my mouth the blessing of righteousness, that I may bless him."
And when the spirit of the Lord came over her, she laid her hands upon the head of Jacob and gave him her maternal blessing. It ended with the words, "May the Lord of the world love thee, as the heart of thy affectionate mother rejoices in thee, and may He bless thee."
ISAAC BLESSES JACOB
Esau's marriage with the daughters of the Canaanites was an abomination not only in the eyes of his mother, but also in the eyes of his father. He suffered even more than Rebekah through the idolatrous practices of his daughters in-law. It is the nature of man to oppose less resistance than woman to disagreeable circumstances. A bone is not harmed by a collision that would shiver an earthen pot in pieces. Man, who is created out of the dust of the ground, has not the endurance of woman formed out of bone. Isaac was made prematurely old by the conduct of his daughters-in-law, and he lost the sight of his eyes. Rebekah had been accustomed in the home of her childhood to the incense burnt before idols, and she could therefore bear it under her own roof-tree. Unlike her, Isaac had never had any such experience while he abode with his parents, and he was stung by the smoke arising from the sacrifices offered to their idols by his daughters-in-law in his own house. Isaac's eyes had suffered earlier in life, too. When he lay bound upon the altar, about to be sacrificed by his father, the angels wept, and their tears fell upon his eyes, and there they remained and weakened his sight.
At the same time he had brought the scourge of blindness down upon himself by his love for Esau. He justified the wicked for a bribe, the bribe of Esau's filial love, and loss of vision is the punishment that follows the taking of bribes. "A gift," it is said, "blinds the eyes of the wise."
Nevertheless his blindness proved a benefit for Isaac as well as Jacob. In consequence of his physical ailments, Isaac had to keep at home, and so he was spared the pain of being pointed out by the people as the father of the wicked Esau. And, again, if his power of vision had been unimpaired, he would not have blessed Jacob. As it was, God treated him as a physician treats a sick man who is forbidden to drink wine, for which, however, he has a strong desire. To placate him, the physician orders that warm water be given him in the dark, and he be told that it is wine.
When Isaac reached the age of one hundred and twenty three, and was thus approaching the years attained by his mother, he began to meditate upon his end. It is proper that a man should prepare for death when he comes close to the age at which either of his parents passed out of life. Isaac reflected that he did not know whether the age allotted to him was his mother's or his father's, and he therefore resolved to bestow his blessing upon his older son, Esau, before death should overtake him. He summoned Esau, and he said, "My son," and Esau replied, "Here am I," but the holy spirit interposed: "Though he disguises his voice and makes it sound sweet, put no confidence in him. There are seven abominations in his heart. He will destroy seven holy places--the Tabernacle, the sanctuaries at Gilgal, Shiloh, Nob, and Gibeon, and the first and the second Temple."
Gently though Esau continued to speak to his father, he yet longed for his end to come. But Isaac was stricken with spiritual as well as physical blindness. The holy spirit deserted him, and he could not discern the wickedness of his older son. He bade him sharpen his slaughtering knives and beware of bringing him the flesh of an animal that had died of itself, or had been torn by a beast, and he was to guard also against putting an animal before Isaac that had been stolen from its rightful owner. "Then," continued Isaac, "will I bless him who is worthy of being blessed."
This charge was laid upon Esau on the eve of the Passover, and Isaac said to him: "To-night the whole world will sing the Hallel unto God. It is the night when the storehouses of dew are unlocked. Therefore prepare dainties for me, that my soul may bless thee before I die." But the holy spirit interposed, "Eat not the bread of him that hath an evil eye." Isaac's longing for tidbits was due to his blindness. As the sightless cannot behold the food they eat, they do not enjoy it with full relish, and their appetite must be tempted with particularly palatable morsels.
Esau sallied forth to procure what his father desired, little recking the whence or how, whether by robbery or theft. To hinder the quick execution of his father's order, God sent Satan on the chase with Esau. He was to delay him as long as possible. Esau would catch a deer and leave him lying bound, while he pursued other game. Immediately Satan would come and liberate the deer, and when Esau returned to the spot, his victim was not to be found. This was repeated several times. Again and again the quarry was run down, and bound, and liberated, so that Jacob was able meanwhile to carry out the plan of Rebekah whereby he would be blessed instead of Esau.
Though Rebekah had not heard the words that had passed between Isaac and Esau, they nevertheless were revealed to her through the holy spirit, and she resolved to restrain her husband from taking a false step. She was not actuated by love for Jacob, but by the wish of keeping Isaac from committing a detestable act. Rebekah said to Jacob: "This night the storehouses of dew are unlocked; it is the night during which the celestial beings chant the Hallel unto God, the night set apart for the deliverance of thy children from Egypt, on which they, too, will sing the Hallel. Go now and prepare savory meat for thy father, that he may bless thee before his death. Do as I bid thee, obey me as thou art wont, for thou art my son whose children, every one, will be good and God-fearing--not one shall be graceless."
In spite of his great respect for his mother, Jacob refused at first to heed her command. He feared he might commit a sin, especially as he might thus bring his father's curse down upon him. As it was, Isaac might still have a blessing for him, after giving Esau his. But Rebekah allayed his anxieties, with the words: "When Adam was cursed, the malediction fell upon his mother, the earth, and so shall I, thy mother, bear the imprecation, if thy father curses thee. Moreover, if the worst comes to the worst, I am prepared to step before thy father and tell him, 'Esau is a villain, and Jacob is a righteous man.' "
Thus constrained by his mother, Jacob, in tears and with body bowed, went off to execute the plan made by Rebekah. As he was to provide a Passover meal, she bade him get two kids, one for the Passover sacrifice and one for the festival sacrifice. To soothe Jacob's conscience, she added that her marriage contract entitled her to two kids daily. "And," she continued, "these two kids will bring good unto thee, the blessing of thy father, and they will bring good unto thy children, for two kids will be the atoning sacrifice offered on the Day of Atonement."
Jacob's hesitation was not yet removed. His father, he feared, would touch him and convince himself that he was not hairy, and therefore not his son Esau. Accordingly, Rebekah tore the skins of the two kids into strips and sewed them together, for Jacob was so tall a giant that otherwise they would not have sufficed to cover his hands. To make Jacob's disguise complete, Rebekah felt justified in putting Esau's wonderful garments on him. They were the high priestly raiment in which God had clothed Adam, "the first-born of the world," for in the days before the erection of the Tabernacle all the first-born males officiated as priests. From Adam these garments descended to Noah, who transmitted them to Shem, and Shem bequeathed them to Abraham, and Abraham to his son Isaac, from whom they reached Esau as the older of his two sons. It was the opinion of Rebekah that as Jacob had bought the birthright from his brother, he had thereby come into possession of the garments as well. There was no need for her to go and fetch them from the house of Esau. He knew his wives far too well to entrust so precious a treasure to them; they were in the safe-keeping of his mother. Besides, he used them most frequently in the house of his parents. As a rule, he did not lay much stress upon decent apparel. He was willing to appear on the street clad in rags, but he considered it his duty to wait upon his father arrayed in his best. "My father," Esau was in the habit of saying, "is a king in my sight, and it would ill become me to serve before him in any thing but royal apparel." To the great respect he manifested toward his father, the descendants of Esau owe all their good fortune on earth. Thus doth God reward a good deed.
Rebekah led Jacob equipped and arrayed in this way to the door of Isaac's chamber. There she parted from him with the words, "Henceforward may thy Creator assist thee." Jacob entered, addressing Isaac with "Father," and receiving the response, "Here am I! Who art thou, my son?" he replied equivocally, "It is I, thy first-born son is Esau." He sought to avoid a falsehood, and yet not betray that he was Jacob. Isaac then said: "Thou art greatly in haste to secure thy blessing. Thy father Abraham was seventy-five years old when he was blessed, and thou art but sixty-three." Jacob replied awkwardly, "Because the Lord thy God sent me good speed." Isaac concluded at once that this was not Esau, for he would not have mentioned the name of God, and he made up his mind to feel the son before him and make sure who he was. Terror seized upon Jacob at the words of Isaac, "Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son." A cold sweat covered his body, and his heart melted like wax. Then God caused the archangels Michael and Gabriel to descend. The one seized his right hand, the other his left hand, while the Lord God Himself supported him, that his courage might not fail him. Isaac felt him, and, finding his hands hairy, he said, "The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau," words in which he conveyed the prophecy that so long as the voice of Jacob is heard in the houses of prayer and of learning, the hands of Esau will not be able to prevail against him. "Yes," he continued, "it is the voice of Jacob, the voice that imposes silence upon those on earth and in heaven," for even the angels may not raise their voices in praise of God until Israel has finished his prayers.
Isaac's scruples about blessing the son before him were not yet removed, for with his prophetical eye he foresaw that this one would have descendants who would vex the Lord. At the same time, it was revealed to him that even the sinners in Israel would turn penitents, and then he was ready to bless Jacob. He bade him come near and kiss him, to indicate that it would be Jacob who would imprint the last kiss upon Isaac before he was consigned to the grave- he and none other. When Jacob stood close to him, he discerned the fragrance of Paradise clinging to him, and he exclaimed, "See, the smell of my son is as the smell of the field which the Lord hath blessed."
The fragrance emanating from Jacob was not the only thing about him derived from Paradise. The archangel Michael had fetched thence the wine which Jacob gave his father to drink, that an exalted mood might descend upon him, for only when a man is joyously excited the Shekinah rests upon him. The holy spirit filled Isaac, and he gave Jacob his tenfold blessing: "God give thee of the dew of heaven," the celestial dew wherewith God will awaken the pious to new life in days to come; "and of the fatness of the earth," the goods of this world; "and plenty of corn and wine," the Torah and the commandments which bestow the same joy upon man as abundant harvests; "peoples shall serve thee," the Japhethites and the Hamites; "nations shall bow down to thee," the Shemite nations; "thou wilt be lord over thy brethren," the Ishmaelites and the descendants of Keturah; "thy mother's sons will bow down to thee," Esau and his princes; "cursed be every one that curseth thee," like Balaam; "and blessed be every one that blesseth thee," like Moses.
For each blessing invoked upon Jacob by his father Isaac, a similar blessing was bestowed upon him by God Himself in the same words. As Isaac blessed him with dew, so also God: "And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples as dew from the Lord." Isaac blessed him with the fatness of the earth, so also God: "And he shall give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the ground, and it shall be fat and plenteous." Isaac blessed him with plenty of corn and wine, so also God: "I will send you corn and wine." Isaac said, "Peoples shall serve thee," so also God: "Kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their faces to the earth, and lick the dust of thy feet." Isaac said, "Nations shall bow down to thee," so also God: "And He will make thee high above all nations which He hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honor."
To this double blessing his mother Rebekah joined hers: "For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy feet against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the serpent shalt thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he hath known my name."
The holy spirit added in turn: "He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation."
Jacob left the presence of his father crowned like a bridegroom, adorned like a bride, and bathed in celestial dew, which filled his bones with marrow, and transformed him into a hero and a giant.
Of a miracle done for him at that very moment Jacob himself was not aware. Had he tarried with his father an instant longer, Esau would have met him there, and would surely have slain him. It happened that exactly as Jacob was on the point of leaving the tent of his father, carrying in his hands the plates off which Isaac had eaten, he noticed Esau approaching, and he concealed himself behind the door. Fortunately, it was a revolving door, so that though he could see Esau, he could not be seen by him.
ESAU'S TRUE CHARACTER REVEALED
Esau arrived after a delay of four hours. In spite of all the efforts he had put forth, he had not succeeded in catching any game, and he was compelled to kill a dog and prepare its flesh for his father's meal. All this had made Esau ill-humored, and when he bade his father partake of the meal, the invitation sounded harsh. "Let my father arise," he said, "and eat of his son's venison." Jacob had spoken differently; he had said, "Arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison." The words of Esau terrified Isaac greatly. His fright exceeded that which he had felt when his father was about to offer him as a sacrifice, and he cried out, "Who then is he that hath been the mediator between me and the Lord, to make the blessing reach Jacob?"- words meant to imply that he suspected Rebekah of having instigated Jacob's act.
Isaac's alarm was caused by his seeing hell at the feet of Esau. Scarcely had he entered the house when the walls thereof began to get hot on account of the nearness of hell, which he brought along with him. Isaac could not but exclaim, "Who will be burnt down yonder, I or my son Jacob?" and the Lord answered him, "Neither thou nor Jacob, but the hunter."
Isaac told Esau that the meat set before him by Jacob had had marvellous qualities. Any savor that one desired it possessed, it was even endowed with the taste of the food that God will grant the pious in the world to come. "I know not," he said, "what the meat was. But I had only to wish for bread, and it tasted like bread, or fish, or locusts, or flesh of animals, in short, it had the taste of any dainty one could wish for." When Esau heard the word "flesh," he began to weep, and he said: "To me Jacob gave no more than a dish of lentils, and in payment for it he took my birthright. What must he have taken from thee for flesh of animals?" Hitherto Isaac had been in great anguish on account of the thought that he had committed a wrong in giving his blessing to his younger son instead of the firstborn, to whom it belonged by law and custom. But when he heard that Jacob had acquired the birthright from Esau, he said, "I gave my blessing to the right one!"
In his dismay, Isaac had had the intention of cursing Jacob for having wrested the blessing from him through cunning. God prevented him from carrying out his plan. He reminded him that he would but curse himself, seeing that his blessing contained the words, "Cursed be every one that curseth thee." But Isaac was not willing to acknowledge his blessing valid as applied to Jacob, until he was informed that his second son was the possessor of the birthright. Only then did he say, "Yea, he shall be blessed," whereat Esau cried with an exceeding great and bitter cry. By way of punishment for having been the cause of such distress, a descendant of Jacob, Mordecai, was also made to cry with a loud and bitter cry, and his grief was brought forth by the Amalekite Haman, the descendant of Esau. At the words of Isaac, "Thy brother came with wisdom, and hath taken away thy blessing," Esau spat out in vexation, and said, "He took away my birthright, and I kept silence, and now that he takes away my blessing, should I also keep silence? Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times."
Isaac continued to speak to Esau: "Behold, I have made him thy lord, he is thy king, and do what thou wilt, thy blessings will still belong to him; all his brethren have I given to him for slaves, and what slaves possess belongs to their owner. There is nothing for it, thou must be content that thou wilt receive thy bread baked from thy master." The Lord took it ill of Isaac that he cheered him with such kind words. "To Mine enemy," He reproached him, "thou sayest, 'What shall I do for thee, my son?' " Isaac replied, "O that he might find grace with Thee!" God: "He is a recreant." Isaac: "Doth he not act righteously when he honors his parents?" God: "In the land of uprightness will he deal wrongfully, he will stretch his hand forth in days to come against the Temple." Isaac: "Then let him enjoy much good in this world, that he may not behold the abiding-place of the Lord in the world to come."
When it became plain to Esau that he could not induce his father to annul the blessing bestowed upon Jacob, he tried to force a blessing for himself by an underhand trick. He said: "Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father, else it will be said thou hast but one blessing to bestow. Suppose both Jacob and I had been righteous men, had not then thy God had two blessings, one for each?" The Lord Himself made reply: "Silence! Jacob will bless the twelve tribes, and each blessing will be different from every other." But Isaac felt great pity for his older son, and he wanted to bless him, but the Shekinah forsook him, and he could not carry out what he purposed. Thereupon Esau began to weep. He shed three tears--one ran from his right eye, the second from his left eye, and the third remained hanging from his eyelash. God said, "This villain cries for his very life, and should I let him depart empty-handed?" and then He bade Isaac bless his older son.
The blessing of Isaac ran thus: "Behold, of the fat of the earth shall be thy dwelling," by which he meant Greater Greece, in Italy; "and of the dew of heaven from above," referring to Bet-Gubrin; "and by thy sword shalt thou live, and thou shalt serve thy brother," but when he casts off the yoke of the Lord, then shalt thou "shake his yoke from off thy neck," and thou wilt be his master.
The blessing which Isaac gave to his older son was bound to no condition whatsoever. Whether he deserved them or not, Esau was to enjoy the goods of this world. Jacob's blessing, however, depended upon his pious deeds; through them he would have a just claim upon earthly prosperity. Isaac thought: "Jacob is a righteous man, he will not murmur against God, though it should come to pass that suffering be inflicted upon him in spite of his upright life. But that reprobate Esau, if he should do a good deed, or pray to God and not be heard, he would say, 'As I pray to the idols for naught, so it is in vain to pray to God.' " For this reason did Isaac bestow an unconditional blessing upon Esau.
JACOB LEAVES HIS FATHER'S HOUSE
Esau hated his brother Jacob on account of the blessing that his father had given him, and Jacob was very much afraid of his brother Esau, and he fled to the house of Eber, the son of Shem, and he concealed himself there fourteen years on account of his brother Esau, and he continued there to learn the ways of the Lord and His commandments. When Esau saw that Jacob had fled and escaped from him, and Jacob had cunningly obtained the blessing, then Esau grieved exceedingly, and he was also vexed at his father and mother. He also rose up and took his wife, and went away from his father and mother to the land of Seir. There he married his second wife, Basemath, the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and he called her name Adah, saying that the blessing had in that time passed from him. After dwelling in Seir for six months, Esau returned to the land of Canaan, and placed his two wives in his father's house in Hebron. And the wives of Esau vexed and provoked Isaac and Rebekah with their works, for they walked not in the ways of the Lord, but served their fathers' gods of wood and stone, as their fathers had taught them, and they were more wicked than their fathers. They sacrificed and burnt incense to the Baalim, and Isaac and Rebekah became weary of them. And at the end of fourteen years of Jacob's residing in the house of Eber, Jacob desired to see his father and his mother, and he returned home. Esau had forgotten in those days what Jacob had done to him, in having taken the blessing from him, but when Esau saw Jacob returning to his parents, he remembered what Jacob had done to him, and he was greatly incensed against him, and he sought to slay him.
But Esau would not kill Jacob while his father was yet alive, lest Isaac beget another son. He wanted to be sure of being the only heir. However, his hatred against Jacob was so great that he determined to hasten the death of his father and then dispatch Jacob. Such murderous plans Esau cherished in his heart, though he denied that he was harboring them. But God spoke, "Probably thou knowest not that I examine the hearts of men, for I am the Lord that searcheth the heart." And not God alone knew the secret desires of Esau. Rebekah, like all the Mothers, was a prophetess, and she delayed not to warn Jacob of the danger that hung over him. "Thy brother," she said to him, "is as sure of accomplishing his wicked purpose as though thou wert dead. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother, to Haran, and tarry with him for seven years, until thy brother's fury turn away." In the goodness of her heart, Rebekah could not but believe that the anger of Esau was only a fleeting passion, and would disappear in the course of time. But she was mistaken, his hate persisted until the end of his life.
Courageous as he was, Jacob would not run away from danger. He said to his mother, "I am not afraid; if he wishes to kill me, I will kill him," to which she replied, "Let me not be bereaved of both my sons in one day." By words Rebekah again showed her prophetic gift. As she spoke, so it happened--when their time came, Esau was slain while the burial of Jacob was taking place.
And Jacob said to Rebekah: "Behold, thou knowest that my father has become old and does not see, and if I leave him and go away, he will be angry and will curse me. I will not go; if he sends me, only then will I go."
Accordingly, Rebekah went to Isaac, and amid tears she spoke to him thus: "If Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, what good shall my life do me?" And Isaac called Jacob, and charged him, and said unto him: "Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan, for thus did our father Abraham command us according to the word of the Lord, which He had commanded him, saying, 'Unto thy seed will I give the land; if thy children keep My covenant that I have made with thee, then will I also perform to thy children that which I have spoken unto thee, and I will not forsake them.' Now therefore, my son, hearken to my voice, to all that I shall command thee, and refrain from taking a wife from amongst the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Haran, to the house of Bethuel, thy mother's father, and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban, thy mother's brother. Take heed lest thou shouldst forget the Lord thy God and all His ways in the land to which thou goest, and shouldst join thyself to the people of the land, and pursue vanity, and forsake the Lord thy God. But when thou comest to the land, serve the Lord. Do not turn to the right or to the left from the way which I commanded thee, and which thou didst learn. And may the Almighty God grant thee favor before the people of the land, that thou mayest take a wife there according to thy choice, one who is good and upright in the way of the Lord. And may God give unto thee and thy seed the blessing of thy father Abraham and make thee fruitful and multiply thee, and mayest thou become a multitude of people in the land whither thou goest, and may God cause thee to return to thy land, the land of thy father's dwelling, with children and with great riches, with joy and with pleasure."
As the value of a document is attested by its concluding words, the signature of the witnesses, so Isaac confirmed the blessing he had bestowed upon Jacob. That none might say Jacob had secured it by intrigue and cunning, he blessed him again with three blessings, in these words, "In so far as I am endowed with the power of blessing, I bestow blessing upon thee. May God, with whom there is endless blessing, give thee His, and also the blessing wherewith Abraham desired to bless me, desisting only in order not to provoke the jealousy of Ishmael."
Seeing with his prophetic eye that the seed of Jacob would once be compelled to go into exile, Isaac offered up one more petition, that God would bring the exiles back again. He said, "He shall deliver thee in six troubles, and in the seventh there shall no evil touch thee." And also Rebekah prayed to God in behalf of Jacob: "O Lord of the world, let not the purpose prosper which Esau harbors against Jacob. Put a bridle upon him, that he accomplish not all he wills to do."
When Esau observed that even his father's love had passed from him to Jacob, he went away, to Ishmael, and he addressed him as follows: "Lo, as thy father gave all his possessions to thy brother Isaac, and dismissed thee with empty hands, so my father purposeth to do to me. Make thyself ready then, go forth and slay thy brother, and I will slay mine, and then we two shall divide the whole world between us." And Ishmael replied: "Why dost thou want me to slay thy father? thou canst do it thyself." Esau said: "It hath happened aforetime that a man killed his brother- Cain murdered Abel. But that a son should kill his father is unheard of."
Esau did not really shrink back from parricide, only it chanced not to fit the plan he had hatched. "If Ishmael slays my father," he said to himself, "I am the rightful redeemer, and I shall kill Ishmael to avenge my father, and if, then, I murder Jacob, too, everything will belong to me, as the heir of my father and my uncle." This shows that Esau's marriage with Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael and grandchild of Abraham, was not concluded out of regard for his parents, who were opposed to his two other wives, daughters of the Canaanites. All he desired was to enter into amicable relations with Ishmael in order to execute his devilish plan.
But Esau reckoned without his host. The night before his wedding with Mahalath Ishmael died, and Nebaioth, the son of Ishmael, stepped into his father's place, and gave away his sister. How little it had been in Esau's mind to make his parents happy by taking a granddaughter of Abraham to wife, appears from the fact that he kept his two other wives, the Canaanitish women. The daughter of Ishmael followed the example of her companions, and thus she but added to the grief caused the parents of Esau by their daughters-in-law. And the opportunity might have been a most favorable one for Esau to turn aside from his godless ways and amend his conduct, for the bridegroom is pardoned on his wedding day for all his sins committed in years gone by.
Scarcely had Jacob left his father's house, when Rebekah began to weep, for she was sorely distressed about him. Isaac comforted her, saying: "Weep not for Jacob! In peace doth he depart, and in peace will he return. The Lord, God Most High, will guard him against all evil and be with him. He will not forsake him all the days of his life. Have no fear for him, for he walketh on the right path, he is a perfect man, and he hath faith in God--he will not perish."
JACOB PURSUED BY ELIPHAZ AND ESAU
When Jacob went away to go to Haran, Esau called his son Eliphaz, and secretly spoke unto him, saying: "Now hasten, take thy sword in thy hand and pursue Jacob, and pass before him in the road, and lurk for him and slay him with thy sword in one of the mountains, and take all belonging unto him, and come back." And Eliphaz was dexterous and expert with the bow, as his father had taught him, and he was a noted hunter in the field and a valiant man. And Eliphaz did as his father had commanded him. And Eliphaz was at that time thirteen years old, and he arose and went and took ten of his mother's brothers with him, and pursued Jacob. And he followed Jacob closely, and when he overtook him, he lay in ambush for him on the borders of the land of Canaan, opposite to the city of Shechem. And Jacob saw Eliphaz and his men pursuing after him, and Jacob stood in the place in which he was going in order to know what it was, for he did not understand their purpose. Eliphaz drew his sword and went on advancing, he and his men, toward Jacob, and Jacob said unto them, "Wherefore have you come hither, and why do you pursue with your swords?" Eliphaz came near to Jacob, and answered as follows, "Thus did my father command me, and now therefore I will not deviate from the orders which my father gave me." And when Jacob saw that Esau had impressed his command urgently upon Eliphaz, he approached and supplicated Eliphaz and his men, saying, "Behold, all that I have, and that which my father and mother gave unto me, that take unto thee and go from me, and do not slay me, and may this thing that thou wilt do with me be accounted unto thee as righteousness." And the Lord caused Jacob to find favor in the sight of Eliphaz and his men, and they hearkened to the voice of Jacob, and they did not put him to death, but took all his belongings, together with the silver and gold that he had brought with him from Beer-sheba. They left him nothing. When Eliphaz and his men returned to Esau, and told him all that had happened to them with Jacob, he was wroth with his son Eliphaz and with his men, because they had not put Jacob to death. And they answered, and said unto Esau, "Because Jacob supplicated us in this matter, not to slay him, our pity was moved toward him, and we took all belonging to him, and we came back." Esau then took all the silver and gold which Eliphaz had taken from Jacob, and he put them by in his house.
Nevertheless Esau did not give up the hope of intercepting Jacob on his flight and slaying him. He pursued him, and with his men occupied the road along which he had to journey to Haran. There a great miracle happened to Jacob. When he observed what Esau's intention was, he turned off toward the Jordan river, and, with eyes directed to God, he cleft the waters with his wanderer's staff, and succeeded in crossing to the other side. But Esau was not to be deterred. He kept up the pursuit, and reached the hot springs at Baarus before his brother, who had to pass by there. Jacob, not knowing that Esau was on the watch for him, decided to bathe in the spring, saying, "I have neither bread nor other things needful, so I will at least warm my body in the waters of the well." While he was in the bath, Esau occupied every exit, and Jacob would surely have perished in the hot water, if the Lord had not caused a miracle to come to pass. A new opening formed of itself, and through it Jacob escaped. Thus were fulfilled the words, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt," for Jacob was saved from the waters of the Jordan and from the fire of the hot spring.
At the same time with Jacob, a rider, leaving his horse and his clothes on the shore, had stepped into the river to cool off, but he was overwhelmed by the waves, and he met his death. Jacob put on the dead man's clothes, mounted his horse, and went off. It was a lucky chance, for Eliphaz had stripped him of everything, even his clothes, and the miracle of the river had happened only that he might not be forced to appear naked among men.
Though Jacob was robbed of all his possessions, his courage did not fail him. He said: "Should I lose hope in my Creator? I set my eyes upon the merits of my fathers. For the sake of them the Lord will give me His aid." And God said: "Jacob, thou puttest thy trust in the merits of thy fathers, therefore I will not suffer thy foot to be moved; He that keepeth thee will not slumber. Yea, still more! While a keeper watcheth only by day as a rule, and sleepeth by night, I will guard thee day and night, for, behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord will keep thee from all evil, from Esau as well as Laban; He will keep thy soul, that the Angel of Death do thee no hurt; He will keep thy going out and thy coming in, He will support thee now thou art leaving Canaan, and when thou returnest to Canaan."
Jacob was reluctant to leave the Holy Land before he received direct permission from God. "My parents," he reflected, "bade me go forth and sojourn outside of the land, but who knows whether it be the will of God that I do as they say, and beget children outside of the Holy Land?" Accordingly, he betook himself to Beer-sheba. There, where the Lord had given permission to Isaac to depart from Canaan and go to Philistia, he would learn the will of the Lord concerning himself.
He did not follow the example of his father and grandfather and take refuge with Abimelech, because he feared the king might force also him into a covenant, and make it impossible for his descendants of many generations to take possession of the Philistine land. Nor could he stay at home, because of his fear that Esau might wrest the birthright and the blessing from him, and to that he would not and could not agree. He was as little disposed to take up the combat with Esau, for he knew the truth of the maxim, "He who courts danger will be overcome by it; he who avoids danger will overcome it." Both Abraham and Isaac had lived according to this rule. His grandfather had fled from Nimrod, and his father had gone away from the Philistines.
THE DAY OF MIRACLES
Jacob's journey to Haran was a succession of miracles. The first of the five that befell for his sake in the course of it was that the sun sank while Jacob was passing Mount Moriah, though it was high noon at the time. He was following the spring that appeared wherever the Patriarchs went or settled. It accompanied Jacob from Beer-sheba to Mount Moriah, a two days' journey. When he arrived at the holy hill, the Lord said to him: "Jacob, thou hast bread in thy wallet, and the spring of waters is near by to quench thy thirst. Thus thou hast food and drink, and here thou canst lodge for the night." But Jacob replied: "The sun has barely passed the fifth of its twelve day stages, why should I lie down to sleep at so unseemly an hour?" But then Jacob perceived that the sun was about to sink, and he prepared to make ready his bed. It was the Divine purpose not to let Jacob pass the site of the future Temple without stopping; he was to tarry there at least one night. Also, God desired to appear unto Jacob, and He shows Himself unto His faithful ones only at night. At the same time Jacob was saved from the pursuit of Esau, who had to desist on account of the premature darkness.
Jacob took twelve stones from the altar on which his father Isaac had lain bound as a sacrifice, and he said: "It was the purpose of God to let twelve tribes arise, but they have not been begotten by Abraham or Isaac. If, now, these twelve stones will unite into a single one, then shall I know for a certainty that I am destined to become the father of the twelve tribes." At this time the second miracle came to pass, the twelve stones joined themselves together and made one, which he put under his head, and at once it became soft and downy like a pillow. It was well that he had a comfortable couch. He was in great need of rest, for it was the first night in fourteen years that he did not keep vigils. During all those years, passed in Eber's house of learning, he had devoted the nights to study. And for twenty years to come he was not to sleep, for while he was with his uncle Laban, he spent all the night and every night reciting the Psalms.
On the whole it was a night of marvels. He dreamed a dream in which the course of the world's history was unfolded to him. On a ladder set up on the earth, with the top of it reaching to heaven, he beheld the two angels who had been sent to Sodom. For one hundred and thirty-eight years they had been banished from the celestial regions, because they had betrayed their secret mission to Lot. They had accompanied Jacob from his father's house thither, and now they were ascending heavenward. When they arrived there, he heard them call the other angels, and say, "Come ye and see the countenance of the pious Jacob, whose likeness appears on the Divine throne, ye who yearned long to see it," and then he beheld the angels descend from heaven to gaze upon him. He also saw the angels of the four kingdoms ascending the ladder. The angel of Babylon mounted seventy rounds, the angel of Media, fifty-two, that of Greece, one hundred and eighty, and that of Edom mounted very high, saying, "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High," and Jacob heard a voice remonstrating, "Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the uttermost parts of the pit." God Himself reproved Edom, saying, "Though thou mount on high as the eagle, and though thy nest be set among the stars, I will bring thee down from thence."
Furthermore, God showed unto Jacob the revelation at Mount Sinai, the translation of Elijah, the Temple in its glory and in its spoliation, Nebuchadnezzar's attempt to burn the three holy children in the fiery furnace, and Daniel's encounter with Bel.
In this, the first prophetic dream dreamed by Jacob, God made him the promise that the land upon which he was lying would be given to him, but the land he lay upon was the whole of Palestine, which God had folded together and put under him. "And," the promise continued, "thy seed will be like unto the dust of the earth. As the earth survives all things, so thy children will survive all the nations of the earth. But as the earth is trodden upon by all, so thy children, when they commit trespasses, will be trodden upon by the nations of the earth." And, furthermore, God promised that Jacob should spread out to the west and to the east, a greater promise than that given to his fathers Abraham and Isaac, to whom He had allotted a limited land. Jacob's was an unbounded possession.
From this wondrous dream Jacob awoke with a start of fright, on account of the vision he had had of the destruction of the Temple. He cried out, "How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, wherein is the gate of heaven through which prayer ascends to Him." He took the stone made out of the twelve, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it, which had flowed down from heaven for him, and God sank this anointed stone unto the abyss, to serve as the centre of the earth, the same stone, the Eben Shetiyah, that forms the centre of the sanctuary, whereon the Ineffable Name is graven, the knowledge of which makes a man master over nature, and over life and death.
Jacob cast himself down before the Eben Shetiyah, and entreated God to fulfil the promise He had given him, and also he prayed that God grant him honorable sustenance. For God had not mentioned bread to eat and raiment to put on, that Jacob might learn to have faith in the Lord. Then he vowed to give the tenth of all he owned unto God, if He would but grant his petition. Thus Jacob was the first to take a vow upon himself, and the first, too, to separate the tithe from his income.
God had promised him almost all that is desirable, but he feared he might forfeit the pledged blessings through his sinfulness, and again he prayed earnestly that God bring him back to his father's house unimpaired in body, possessions, and knowledge, and guard him, in the strange land whither he was going, against idolatry, an immoral life, and bloodshed.
His prayer at an end, Jacob set out on his way to Haran, and the third wonder happened. In the twinkling of an eye he arrived at his destination. The earth jumped from Mount Moriah to Haran. A wonder like this God has executed only four times in the whole course of history.
The first thing to meet his eye in Haran was the well whence the inhabitants drew their supply of water. Although it was a great city, Haran suffered from dearth of water, and therefore the well could not be used by the people free of charge. Jacob's sojourn in the city produced a change. By reason of his meritorious deeds the water springs were blessed, and the city had water enough for its needs.
Jacob saw a number of people by the well, and he questioned them, "My brethren, whence be ye?" He thus made himself a model for all to follow. A man should be companionable, and address others like brothers and friends, and not wait for them to greet him. Each one should strive to be the first to give the salutation of peace, that the angels of peace and compassion may come to meet him. When he was informed that the by-standers hailed from Haran, he made inquiry about the character and vocation of his uncle Laban, and whether they were on terms of friendly intercourse with him. They answered briefly: "There is peace between us, but if thou art desirous of inquiring further, here comes Rachel the daughter of Laban. From her thou canst learn all thou hast a mind to learn." They knew that women like to talk, wherefore they referred him to Rachel.
Jacob found it strange that so many should be standing idle by the well, and he questioned further: "Are you day laborers? then it is too early for you to put by your work. But if you are pasturing your own sheep, why do you not water your flocks and let them feed?" They told him they were waiting until all the shepherds brought their flocks thither, and together rolled the stone from the mouth of the well. While he was yet speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for Laban had no sons, and a pest having broken out shortly before among his cattle, so few sheep were left that a maiden like Rachel could easily tend them. Now, when Jacob saw the daughter of his mother's brother approaching, he rolled the great stone from the mouth of the well as easily as a cork is drawn from a bottle--the fourth wonder of this extraordinary day. Jacob's strength was equal to the strength of all the shepherds; with his two arms alone he accomplished what usually requires the united forces of a large assemblage of men. He had been divinely endowed with this supernatural strength on leaving the Holy Land. God had caused the dew of the resurrection to drop down upon him, and his physical strength was so great that even in a combat with the angels he was victorious.
The fifth and last wonder of the day was that the water rose from the depths of the well to the very top, there was no need to draw it up, and there it remained all the twenty years that Jacob abode in Haran.
JACOB WITH LABAN
Rachel's coming to the well at the moment when Jacob reached the territory belonging to Haran was an auspicious omen. To meet young maidens on first entering a city is a sure sign that fortune is favorable to one's undertakings. Experience proves this through Eliezer, Jacob, Moses, and Saul. They all encountered maidens when they approached a place new to them, and they all met with success.
Jacob treated Rachel at once as his cousin, which caused significant whispering among the by-standers. They censured Jacob for his demeanor toward her, for since God had sent the deluge upon the world, on account of the immoral life led by men, great chastity had prevailed, especially among the people of the east. The talk of the men reduced Jacob to tears. Scarcely had he kissed Rachel when he began to weep, for he repented of having done it.
There was reason enough for tears. Jacob could not but remember sadly that Eliezer, his grandfather's slave, had brought ten camels laden with presents with him to Haran, when he came to sue for a bride for Isaac, while he had not even a ring to give to Rachel. Moreover, he foresaw that his favorite wife Rachel would not lie beside him in the grave, and this, too, made him weep.
As soon as Rachel heard that Jacob was her cousin, she ran home to tell her father about his coming. Her mother was no longer among the living, else she would naturally have gone to her. In great haste Laban ran to receive Jacob. He reflected, if Eliezer, the bondman, had come with ten camels, what would not the favorite son of the family bring with him, and when he saw that Jacob was unattended, he concluded that he carried great sums of money in his girdle, and he threw his arms about his waist to find out whether his supposition was true. Disappointed in this, he yet did not give up hope that his nephew Jacob was a man of substance. Perhaps he concealed precious stones in his mouth, and he kissed him in order to find out whether he had guessed aright. But Jacob said to him: "Thou thinkest I have money. Nay, thou art mistaken, I have but words." Then he went on to tell him how it had come about that he stood before him empty-handed. He said that his father Isaac had sent him on his way provided with gold, silver, and money, but he had encountered Eliphaz, who had threatened to slay him. To this assailant Jacob had spoken thus: "Know that the descendants of Abraham have an obligation to meet, they will have to serve four hundred years in a land that is not theirs. If thou slayest me, then you, the seed of Esau, will have to pay the debt. It were better, therefore, to take all I have, and spare my life, so that what is owing may be paid by me. Hence," Jacob continued, "I stand before thee bare of all the substance carried off by Eliphaz."
This tale of his nephew's poverty filled Laban with dismay. "What," he exclaimed, "shall I have to give food and drink for a month or, perhaps, even a year to this fellow, who has come to me empty-handed!" He betook himself to his teraphim, to ask them for counsel upon the matter, and they admonished him, saying: "Beware of sending him away from thy house. His star and his constellation are so lucky that good fortune will attend all his undertakings, and for his sake the blessing of the Lord will rest upon all thou doest, in thy house or in thy field."
Laban was satisfied with the advice of the teraphim, but he was embarrassed as to the way in which he was to attach Jacob to his house. He did not venture to offer him service, lest Jacob's conditions be impossible of fulfilment. Again he resorted to the teraphim, and asked them with what reward to tempt his nephew, and they replied: "A wife is his wage; he will ask nothing else of thee but a wife. It is his nature to be attracted by women, and whenever he threatens to leave thee, do but offer him another wife, and he will not depart.
Laban went back to Jacob, and said, "Tell me, what shall thy wages be?" and he replied, "Thinkest thou I came hither to make money? I came only to get me a wife," for Jacob had no sooner beheld Rachel than he fell in love with her and made her a proposal of marriage. Rachel consented, but added the warning: "My father is cunning, and thou art not his match." Jacob: "I am his brother in cunning." Rachel: "But is deception becoming unto the pious?" Jacob: "Yes, 'with the righteous righteousness is seemly, and with the deceiver deception.' But," continued Jacob, "tell me wherein he may deal cunningly with me." Rachel: "I have an older sister, whom he desires to see married before me, and he will try to palm her off on thee instead of me." To be prepared for Laban's trickery, Jacob and Rachel agreed upon a sign by which he would recognize her in the nuptial night.
Thus warned to be on his guard against Laban, Jacob worded his agreement with him regarding his marriage to Rachel with such precision that no room was left for distortion or guile. Jacob said: "I know that the people of this place are knaves, therefore I desire to put the matter very clearly to thee. I will serve thee seven years for Rachel, hence not Leah; for thy daughter, that thou bringest me not some other woman likewise named Rachel; for the younger daughter, that thou exchangest not their names in the meantime."
Nothing of all this availed: "It profits not if a villain is cast into a sawmill"--neither force nor gentle words can circumvent a rascal. Laban deceived not only Jacob, but also the guests whom he invited to the wedding.
THE MARRIAGE OF JACOB
After Jacob had served Laban seven years, he said to his uncle: "The Lord destined me to be the father of twelve tribes. I am now eighty-four years old, and if I do not take thought of the matter now, when can I?" Thereupon Laban consented to let him have his daughter Rachel to wife, and he was married forty-four years after his brother Esau. The Lord often defers the happiness of the pious, while He permits the wicked to enjoy the fulfilment of their desires soon. Esau, however, had purposely chosen his fortieth year for his marriage; he had wanted to indicate that he was walking in the footsteps of his father Isaac, who had likewise married at forty years of age. Esau was like a swine that stretches out its feet when it lies down, to show that it is cloven-footed like the clean animals, though it is none the less one of the unclean animals. Until his fortieth year Esau made a practice of violating the wives of other men, and then at his marriage he acted as though he were following the example of his pious father. Accordingly, the woman he married was of his own kind, Judith, a daughter of Heth, for God said: "This one, who is designed for stubble, to be burnt by fire, shall take unto wife one of a people also destined for utter destruction." They, Esau and his wife, illustrated the saying, "Not for naught does the raven consort with the crow; they are birds of a feather."
Far different it was with Jacob. He married the two pious and lovely sisters, Leah and Rachel, for Leah, like her younger sister, was beautiful of countenance, form, and stature. She had but one defect, her eyes were weak, and this malady she had brought down upon herself, through her own action. Laban, who had two daughters, and Rebekah, his sister, who had two sons, had agreed by letter, while their children were still young, that the older son of the one was to marry the older daughter of the other, and the younger son the younger daughter. When Leah grew to maidenhood, and inquired about her future husband, all her tidings spoke of his villainous character, and she wept over her fate until her eyelashes dropped from their lids. But Rachel grew more and more beautiful day by day, for all who spoke of Jacob praised and extolled him, and "good tidings make the bones fat."
In view of the agreement between Laban and Rebekah, Jacob refused to marry the older daughter Leah. As it was, Esau was his mortal enemy, on account of what had happened regarding the birthright and the paternal blessing. If, now, Jacob married the maiden appointed for him, Esau would never forgive his younger brother. Therefore Jacob resolved to take to wife Rachel, the younger daughter of his uncle.
Laban was of another mind. He purposed to marry of his older daughter first, for he knew that Jacob would consent to serve him a second period of seven years for love of Rachel. On the day of the wedding he assembled the inhabitants of Haran, and addressed them as follows: "Ye know well that we used to suffer from lack of water, and as soon as this pious man Jacob came to dwell among us, we had water in abundance." "What hast thou in mind to do?" they asked Laban. He replied: "If ye have naught to say against it, I will deceive him and give him Leah to wife. He loves Rachel with an exceeding great love, and for her sake he will tarry with us yet seven other years." "Do as it pleaseth thee," his friends said. "Well, then," said Laban, "let each one of you give me a pledge that ye will not betray my purpose."
With the pledges they left with him, Laban bought wine, oil, and meat for the wedding feast, and he set a meal before them which they had themselves paid for. Because he deceived his fellow-citizens thus, Laban is called Arami, "the deceiver." They feasted all day long, until late at night, and when Jacob expressed his astonishment at the attention shown him, they said to him: "Through thy piety thou didst a great service of lovingkindness unto us, our supply of water was increased unto abundance, and we desire to show our gratitude therefor." And, indeed, they tried to give him a hint of Laban's purpose. In the marriage ode which they sang they used the refrain "Halia," in the hope that he would understand it as Ha Leah, "This is Leah." But Jacob was unsuspicious and noticed nothing.
When the bride was led into the nuptial chamber, the guests extinguished all the candles, much to Jacob's amazement. But their explanation satisfied him. "Thinkest thou," they said, "we have as little sense of decency as thy countrymen?" Jacob therefore did not discover the deception practiced upon him until morning. During the night Leah responded whenever he called Rachel, for which he reproached her bitterly when daylight came. "O thou deceiver, daughter of a deceiver, why didst thou answer me when I called Rachel's name?" "Is there a teacher without a pupil?" asked Leah, in return. "I but profited by thy instruction. When thy father called thee Esau, didst thou not say, Here am I?"
Jacob was greatly enraged against Laban, and he said to him: "Why didst thou deal treacherously with me? Take back thy daughter, and let me depart, seeing thou didst act wickedly toward me." Laban pacified him, however, saying, "It is not so done in our place, to give the younger before the first-born," and Jacob agreed to serve yet seven other years for Rachel, and after the seven days of the feast of Leah's wedding were fulfilled, he married Rachel.
With Leah and Rachel, Jacob received the handmaids Zilpah and Bilhah, two other daughters of Laban, whom his concubines had borne unto him.
THE BIRTH OF JACOB'S CHILDREN
The ways of God are not like unto the ways of men. A man clings close to his friend while he has riches, and forsakes him when he falls into poverty. But when God sees a mortal unsteady and faltering, He reaches a hand out to him, and raises him up. Thus it happened with Leah. She was hated by Jacob, and God visited her in mercy. Jacob's aversion to Leah began the very morning after their wedding, when his wife taunted him with not being wholly free from cunning and craft himself. Then God said, "Help can come to Leah only if she gives birth to a child; then the love of her husband will return to her." God remembered the tears she had shed when she prayed that her doom, chaining her to that recreant Esau, be averted from her, and so wondrous are the uses of prayer that Leah, besides turning aside the impending decree, was permitted to marry Jacob before her sister and be the first to bear him a child. There was another reason why the Lord was compassionately inclined toward Leah. She had gotten herself talked about. The sailors on the sea, the travellers along the highways, the women at their looms, they all gossiped about Leah, saying, "She is not within what her seeming is without. She appears to be pious, but if she were, she would not have deceived her sister." To put an end to all this tattle, God granted her the distinction of bearing a son at the end of seven months after her marriage. He was one of a pair of twins, the other child being a daughter. So it was with eleven of the sons of Jacob, all of them except Joseph were born twins with a girl, and the twin sister and brother married later on. Altogether it was an extraordinary childbirth, for Leah was barren, not formed by nature to bear children.
She called her first-born son Reuben, which means "See the normal man," for he was neither big nor little, neither dark nor fair, but exactly normal. In calling her oldest child Reuben, "See the son," Leah indicated his future character. "Behold the difference," the name implied, "between my first-born son and the first-born son of my father in-law. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob of his own free will, and yet he hated him. As for my first-born son, although his birthright was taken from him without his consent, and given to Joseph, it was nevertheless he who rescued Joseph from the hands of his brethren."
Leah called her second son Shime'on, "Yonder is sin," for one of his descendants was that Zimri who was guilty of vile trespasses with the daughters of Moab.
The name of her third son, Levi, was given him by God Himself, not by his mother. The Lord summoned him through the angel Gabriel, and bestowed the name upon him as one who is "crowned" with the twenty-four gifts that are the tribute due to the priests.
At the birth of her fourth son, Leah returned thanks to God for a special reason. She knew that Jacob would beget twelve sons, and if they were distributed equally among his four wives, each would bear three. But now it appeared that she had one more than her due share, and she called him Jehudah, "thanks unto God." She was thus the first since the creation of the world to give thanks to God, and her example was followed by David and Daniel, the descendants of her son Judah.
When Rachel saw that her sister had borne Jacob four sons, she envied Leah. Not that she begrudged her the good fortune she enjoyed, she only envied her for her piety, saying to herself that it was to her righteous conduct that she owed the blessing of many children. Then she besought Jacob: "Pray unto God for me, that He grant me children, else my life is no life. Verily, there are four that may be regarded as though they were dead, the blind, the leper, the childless, and he who was once rich and has lost his fortune." Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said: "It were better thou shouldst address thy petition to God, and not to me, for am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?" God was displeased with this answer that Jacob made to his sad wife. He rebuked him with the words: "Is it thus thou wouldst comfort a grief-stricken heart? As thou livest, the day will come when thy children will stand before the son of Rachel, and he will use the same words thou hast but now used, saying, 'Am I in the place of the Lord?' "
Rachel also made reply to Jacob, saying: "Did not thy father, too, entreat God for thy mother with earnest words, beseeching Him to remove her barrenness?" Jacob: "It is true, but Isaac had no children, and I have several." Rachel: "Remember thy grandfather Abraham, thou canst not deny that he had children when he supplicated God in behalf of Sarah!" Jacob: "Wouldst thou do for me what Sarah did for my grandfather?" Rachel: "Pray, what did she?" Jacob: "She herself brought a rival into her house." Rachel: "If that is all that is necessary, I am ready to follow the example of Sarah, and I pray that as she was granted a child for having invited a rival, so may I be blessed, too." Thereupon Rachel gave Jacob Bilhah, her freed handmaid, to wife, and she bore him a son, whom Rachel called Dan, saying, "As the Lord was gracious unto me and gave me a son according to my petition, so He will permit Samson, the descendant of Dan, to judge his people, that it fall not into the hands of the Philistines." Bilhah's second son Rachel named Naphtali, saying, "Mine is the bond that binds Jacob to this place, for it was for my sake that he came to Laban." At the same time she wanted to convey by this name that the Torah, which is as sweet as Nofet, "honeycomb," would be taught in the territory of Naphtali. And the name had still a third meaning: "As God hath heard my fervent prayer for a son, so He will hearken unto the fervent prayer of the Naphtalites when they are beset by their enemies."
Leah, seeing that she had left bearing, while Bilhah, her sister's handmaid, bore Jacob two sons, concluded that it was Jacob's destiny to have four wives, her sister and herself, and their half-sisters Bilhah and Zilpah. Therefore she also gave him her handmaid to wife. Zilpah was the youngest of the four women. It was the custom of that time to give the older daughter the older handmaid, and the younger daughter the younger handmaid, as their dowry, when they got married. Now, in order to make Jacob believe that his wife was the younger daughter he had served for, Laban had given Leah the younger handmaid as her marriage portion. This Zilpah was so young that her body betrayed no outward signs of pregnancy, and nothing was known of her condition until her son was born. Leah called the boy Gad, which means "fortune," or it may mean "the cutter," for from Gad was descended the prophet Elijah, who brings good fortune to Israel, and he also cuts down the heathen world. Leah had other reasons, too, for choosing this name of double meaning. The tribe of Gad had the good fortune of entering into possession of its allotment in the Holy Land before any of the others, and, also, Gad the son of Jacob was born circumcised.
To Zilpah's second son Leah gave the name of Asher, "praise," for, she said, "Unto me all manner of praise is due, for I brought my handmaid into the house of my husband as wife. Sarah did likewise, but only because she had no children, and so it was also with Rachel. But as for me, I had children, and nevertheless I subdued my passion, and without jealousy I gave my handmaid to my husband for wife. Verily, all will praise and extol me." Furthermore she spoke: "As the women will praise me, so the sons of Asher will in time to come praise God for their fruitful possession in the Holy Land."
The next son born unto Jacob was Issachar, "a reward," and once more it was Leah who was permitted to bring forth the child, as a reward from God for her pious desire to have the twelve tribes come into the world. To secure this result, she left no means untried.
It happened once that her oldest son Reuben was tending his father's ass during the harvest, and he bound him to a root of dudaim, and went his way. On returning, he found the dudaim torn out of the ground, and the ass lying dead beside it. The beast had uprooted it in trying to get loose, and the plant has a peculiar quality, whoever tears it up must die. As it was the time of the harvest, when it is permitted for any one to take a plant from a field, and as dudaim is, besides, a plant which the owner of a field esteems lightly, Reuben carried it home. Being a good son, he did not keep it for himself, but gave it to his mother. Rachel desired the dudaim, and she asked the plant of Leah, who parted with it to her sister, but on the condition that Jacob, when he returned from work in the evening, should tarry with her for a while. It was altogether unbecoming conduct in Rachel to dispose thus of her husband. She gained the dudaim, but she lost two tribes. If she had acted otherwise, she would have borne four sons instead of two. And she suffered another punishment, her body was not permitted to rest in the grave beside her husband's.
Jacob came home from the field after night had fallen, for he observed the law obliging a day laborer to work until darkness sets in, and Jacob's zeal in the affairs of Laban was as great in the last seven years, after his marriage, as in the first seven, while he was serving for the hand of Rachel. When Leah heard the braying of Jacob's ass, she ran to meet her husband, and without giving him time to wash his feet, she insisted upon his turning aside into her tent. At first Jacob refused to go, but God compelled him to enter, for unto God it was known that Leah acted from pure, disinterested motives. Her dudaim secured two sons for her, Issachar, the father of the tribe that devotes itself to the study of the Torah, whence his name meaning "reward," and Zebulon, whose descendants carried on commerce, using their profits to enable their brethren of Issachar to keep at their studies. Leah called this last-born son of hers Zebulon, "dwelling-place," for she said, "Now will my husband dwell with me, seeing that I have borne him six sons, and, also, the sons of Zebulon will have a goodly dwelling-place in the Holy Land."
Leah bore once more, and this last time it was a daughter, a man child turned into a woman by her prayer. When she conceived for the seventh time, she spake as follows: "God promised Jacob twelve sons. I bore him six, and each of the two handmaids has borne him two. If, now, I were to bring forth another son, my sister Rachel would not be equal even unto the handmaids." Therefore she prayed to God to change the male embryo in her womb into a female, and God hearkened unto her prayer.
Now all the wives of Jacob, Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah, united their prayers with the prayer of Jacob, and together they besought God to remove the curse of barrenness from Rachel. On New Year's Day, the day whereon God sits in judgment upon the inhabitants of the earth, He remembered Rachel, and granted her a son. And Rachel spake, "God hath taken away my reproach," for all the people had said that she was not a pious woman, else had she borne children, and now that God had hearkened to her, and opened her womb, such idle talk no longer had any reason.
By bearing a son, she had escaped another disgrace. She had said to herself: "Jacob hath a mind to return to the land of his birth, and my father will not be able to hinder his daughters who have borne him children from following their husband thither with their children. But he will not let me, the childless wife, go, too, and he will keep me here and marry me to one of the uncircumcised." She said furthermore, "As my son hath removed my reproach, so Joshua, his descendant, will roll away a reproach from the Israelites, when he circumcises them beyond Jordan."
Rachel called her son Joseph, "increase," saying, "God will give me an additional son." Prophetess as she was, she foresaw she would have a second son. But an increase added on by God is larger than the original capital itself. Benjamin, the second son, whom Rachel regarded merely as a supplement, had ten sons, while Joseph begot only two. These twelve together may be considered the twelve tribes borne by Rachel. Had Rachel not used the form of expression, "The Lord add to me another son," she herself would have begotten twelve tribes with Jacob.
JACOB FLEES BEFORE LABAN
Jacob had only been waiting for Joseph to be born to begin preparations for his journey home. The holy spirit had revealed to him that the house of Joseph would work the destruction of the house of Esau, and, therefore, Jacob exclaimed at the birth of Joseph, "Now I need not fear Esau or his legions.
About this time, Rebekah sent her nurse Deborah, the daughter of Uz, accompanied by two of Isaac's servants, to Jacob, to urge him to return to his father's house, now that his fourteen years of service had come to an end. Then Jacob approached Laban, and spoke, "Give me my wives and my children, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country, for my mother has sent messengers unto me, bidding me to return to my father's house." Laban answered, saying, "O that I might find favor in thine eyes! By a sign it was made known unto me that God blesseth me for thy sake." What Laban had in mind was the treasure he had found on the day Jacob came to him, and he considered that a token of his beneficent powers. Indeed, God had wrought many a thing in the house of Laban that testified to the blessings spread abroad by the pious. Shortly before Jacob came, a pest had broken out among Laban's cattle, and with his arrival it ceased. And Laban had had no son, but during Jacob's sojourn in Haran sons were born unto him.
All the hire he asked in return for his labor and for the blessings he had brought Laban was the speckled and spotted among the goats of his herd, and the black among the sheep. Laban assented to his conditions, saying, "Behold, I would it might be according to thy word." The arch-villain Laban, whose tongue wagged in all directions, and who made all sorts of promises that were never kept, judged others by himself, and therefore suspected Jacob of wanting to deceive him. And yet, in the end, it was Laban himself who broke his word. No less than a hundred times he changed the agreement between them. Nevertheless his unrighteous conduct was of no avail. Though a three days' journey had been set betwixt Laban's flocks and Jacob's, the angels were wont to bring the sheep belonging to Laban down to Jacob's sheep, and Jacob's droves grew constantly larger and better. Laban had given only the feeble and sick to Jacob, yet the young of the flock, raised under Jacob's tendance, were so excellent in quality that people bought them at a heavy price. And Jacob had no need to resort to the peeled rods. He had but to speak, and the flocks bare according to his desire. What Laban deserved was utter ruin, for having permitted the pious Jacob to work for him without hire, and after his wages had been changed ten times, and ten times Laban had tried to overreach him, God rewarded him in this way. But his good luck with the flocks was only what Jacob deserved. Every faithful laborer is rewarded by God in this world, quite regardless of what awaits him in the world to come. With empty hands Jacob had come to Laban, and he left him with herds numbering six hundred thousand. Their increase had been marvellous, an increase that will be equalled only in the Messianic time.
The wealth and good fortune of Jacob called forth the envy of Laban and his sons, and they could not hide their vexation in their intercourse with him. And the Lord said unto Jacob, "Thy father-in-law's countenance is not toward thee as beforetime, and yet thou tarriest with him? Do thou rather return unto the land of thy fathers, and there I will let My Shekinah rest upon thee, for I cannot permit the Shekinah to reside outside of the Holy Land." Immediately Jacob sent the fleet messenger Naphtali to Rachel and Leah to summon them to a consultation, and he chose as the place of meeting the open field, where none could overhear what was said.
His two wives approved the plan of returning to his home, and Jacob resolved at once to go away with all his substance, without as much as acquainting Laban with his intention. Laban was gone to shear his sheep, and so Jacob could execute his plan without delay.
That her father might not learn about their flight from his teraphim, Rachel stole them, and she took them and concealed them upon the camel upon which she sat, and she went on. And this is the manner they used to make the images: They took a man who was the first-born, slew him and took the hair off his head, then salted the head, and anointed it with oil, then they wrote "the Name" upon a small tablet of copper or gold, and placed it under his tongue. The head with the tablet under the tongue was then put in a house where lights were lighted before it, and at the time when they bowed down to it, it spoke to them on all matters that they asked of it, and that was due to the power of the Name which was written upon it.
THE COVENANT WITH LABAN
Jacob departed and crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward Gilead, for the holy spirit revealed to him that God would bring help there to his children in the days of Jephthah. Meantime the shepherds of Haran observed that the well, which had been filled to overflowing since the arrival of Jacob in their place, ran dry suddenly. For three days they watched and waited, in the hope that the waters would return in the same abundance as before. Disappointed, they finally told Laban of the misfortune, and he divined at once that Jacob had departed thence, for he knew that the blessing had been conferred upon Haran only for the sake of his son-in-law's merits.
On the morrow Laban rose early, assembled all the people of the city, and pursued Jacob with the intention of killing him when he overtook him. But the archangel Michael appeared unto him, and bade him take heed unto himself, that he do not the least unto Jacob, else would he suffer death himself. This message from heaven came to Laban during the night, for when, in extraordinary cases, God finds it necessary to reveal Himself unto the heathen, He does it only in the dark, clandestinely as it were, while He shows Himself to the prophets of the Jews openly, during daylight.
Laban accomplished the journey in one day for which Jacob had taken seven, and he overtook him at the mountain of Gilead. When he came upon Jacob, he found him in the act of praying and giving praise unto God. Immediately Laban fell to remonstrating with his son-in-law for having stolen away unawares to him. He showed his true character when he said, "It is in the power of my hand to do thee hurt, but the God of thy father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take heed to thyself that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad." That is the way of the wicked, they boast of the evil they can do. Laban wanted to let Jacob know that only the dream warning him against doing aught that was harmful to Jacob prevented him from carrying out the wicked design he had formed against him.
Laban continued to take Jacob to task, and he concluded with the words, "And now, though thou wouldst needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?" When he pronounced the last words, his grandchildren interrupted him, saying, "We are ashamed of thee, grandfather, that in thy old age thou shouldst use such words as 'my gods.' " Laban searched all the tents for his idols, going first to the tent of Jacob, which was Rachel's at the same time, for Jacob always dwelt with his favorite wife. Finding nothing, he went thence to Leah's tent, and to the tents of the two handmaids, and, noticing that Rachel was feeling about here and there, his suspicions were aroused, and he entered her tent a second time. He would now have found what he was looking for, if a miracle had not come to pass. The teraphim were transformed into drinking vessels, and Laban had to desist from his fruitless search.
Now Jacob, who did not know that Rachel had stolen her father's teraphim in order to turn him aside from his idolatrous ways, was wroth with Laban, and began to chide with him. In the quarrel between them, Jacob's noble character manifested itself. Notwithstanding his excitement, he did not suffer a single unbecoming word to escape him. He only reminded Laban of the loyalty and devotion with which he had served him, doing for him what none other would or could have done. He said: "I dealt wrongfully with the lion, for God had appointed of Laban's sheep for the lion's daily sustenance, and I deprived him thereof. Could another shepherd have done thus? Yes, the people abused me, calling me robber and sneak thief, for they thought that only by stealing by day and stealing by night could I replace the animals torn by wild beasts. And as to my honesty," he continued, "is it likely there is another son-in-law who, having lived with his father-in-law, hath not taken some little thing from the household of his father-in-law, a knife, or other trifle? But thou hast felt about all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff? Not so much as a needle or a nail."
In his indignation, and conscious of his innocence, Jacob exclaimed, "With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, he shall not live," words which contained a curse--the thief was cursed with premature death, and therefore Rachel had to die in giving birth to Benjamin. Indeed, the curse would have taken effect at once, had it not been the wish of God that Rachel should bear Jacob his youngest son.
After the quarrel, the two men made a treaty, and with his gigantic strength Jacob set up a huge rock as a memorial, and a heap of stones as a sign of their covenant. In this matter Jacob followed the example of his fathers, who likewise had covenanted with heathen nations, Abraham with the Jebusites, and Isaac with the Philistines. Therefore Jacob did not hesitate to make a treaty with the Arameans. Jacob summoned his sons, calling them brethren, for they were his peers in piety and strength, and he bade them cast up heaps of stones. Thereupon he swore unto his father-in-law that he would take no wives beside his four daughters, either while they were alive or after their death, and Laban, on his part, swore that he would not pass over the heaps or over the pillar unto Jacob with hostile intent, and he took the oath by the God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, while Jacob made mention of the Fear of Isaac. He refrained from using the term "the God of Isaac," because God never unites His name with that of a living person, for the reason that so long as a man has not ended his years, no trust may be put in him, lest he be seduced by the evil inclination. It is true, when He appeared unto Jacob at Beth-el, God called Himself "the God of Isaac." There was a reason for the unusual phrase. Being blind, Isaac led a retired life, within his tent, and the evil inclination had no power over him any more. But though God had full confidence in Isaac, yet Jacob could not venture to couple the name of God with the name of a living man, wherefore he took his oath by "the Fear of Isaac."
Early in the morning after the day of covenanting, Laban rose up, and kissed his grandchildren and his daughters, and blessed them. But these acts and words of his did not come from the heart; in his innermost thoughts he regretted that Jacob and his family and his substance had escaped him. His true feelings he betrayed in the message which he sent to Esau at once upon his return to Haran, by the hand of his son Beor and ten companions of his son. The message read: "Hast thou heard what Jacob thy brother has done unto me, who first came to me naked and bare, and I went to meet him, and took him to my house with honor, and brought him up, and gave him my two daughters for wives, and also two of my maids? And God blessed him on my account, and he increased abundantly, and had sons and daughters and maidservants, and also an uncommon stock of flocks and herds, camels and asses, also silver and gold in abundance. But when he saw that his wealth increased, he left me while I went to shear my sheep, and he rose up and fled in secrecy. And he put his wives and children upon camels, and he led away all his cattle and substance which he acquired in my land, and he resolved to go to his father Isaac, to the land of Canaan. And he did not suffer me to kiss my sons and daughters, and he carried away my daughters as captives of the sword, and he also stole my gods, and he fled. And now I have left him in the mountain of the brook of Jabbok, he and all belonging to him, not a jot of his substance is lacking. If it be thy wish to go to him, go, and there wilt thou find him, and thou canst do unto him as thy soul desireth."
Jacob had no need to fear either Laban or Esau, for on his journey he was accompanied by two angel hosts, one going with him from Haran to the borders of the Holy Land, where he was received by the other host, the angels of Palestine. Each of these hosts consisted of no less than six hundred thousand angels, and when he beheld them, Jacob said: "Ye belong neither to the host of Esau, who is preparing to go out to war against me, nor the host of Laban, who is about to pursue me again. Ye are the hosts of the holy angels sent by the Lord." And he gave the name Mahanaim, Double-Host, to the spot on which the second army relieved the first.
JACOB AND ESAU PREPARE TO MEET
The message of Laban awakened Esau's old hatred toward Jacob with increased fury, and he assembled his household, consisting of sixty men. With them and three hundred and forty inhabitants of Seir, he went forth to do battle with Jacob and kill him. He divided his warriors into seven cohorts, giving to his son Eliphaz his own division of sixty, and putting the other six divisions under as many of the Horites.
While Esau was hastening onward to meet Jacob, the messengers which Laban had sent to Esau came to Rebekah and told her that Esau and his four hundred men were about to make war upon Jacob, with the purpose of slaying him and taking possession of all he had. Anxious lest Esau should execute his plan while yet Jacob was on the journey, she hastily dispatched seventy-two of the retainers of Isaac's household, to give him help. Jacob, tarrying on the banks of the brook Jabbok, rejoiced at the sight of these men, and he greeted them with the words, "This is God's helping host," wherefore he called the place of their meeting Mahanaim, Host.
After the warriors sent by Rebekah had satisfied his questions regarding the welfare of his parents, they delivered his mother's message unto him, thus: "I have heard, my son, that thy brother Esau hath gone forth against thee on the road, with men of the children of Seir the Horite, and therefore, my son, hearken to my voice, and take counsel with thyself what thou wilt do, and when he cometh up to thee, supplicate him, and do not speak roughly to him, and give him a present from what thou possessest, and from what God has favored thee with. And when he asketh thee concerning thy affairs, conceal nothing from him, perhaps he may turn from his anger against thee, and thou wilt thereby save thy soul, thou and all belonging to thee, for it is thy duty to honor him, since he is thy elder brother."
And when Jacob heard the words of his mother which the messengers had spoken to him, he lifted up his voice and wept bitterly, and did as his mother commanded him.
He sent messengers to Esau to placate him, and they said unto him: "Thus speaketh thy servant Jacob: My lord, think not that the blessing which my father bestowed upon me profited me. Twenty years I served Laban, and he deceived me, and changed my hire ten times, as thou well knowest. Yet did I labor sorely in his house, and God saw my affliction, my labor, and the work of my hands, and afterward He caused me to find grace and favor in the sight of Laban. And through God's great mercy and kindness, I acquired oxen and asses and cattle and men-servants and maid servants. And now I am coming to my country and to my home, to my father and mother, who are in the land of Canaan. And I have sent to let my lord know all this in order to find favor in the eyes of my lord, so that he may not imagine that I have become a man of substance, or that the blessing with which my father blessed me has benefited me."
Furthermore spake the messengers: "Why dost thou envy me in respect to the blessing wherewith my father blessed me? Is it that the sun shineth in my land, and not in thine? Or doth the dew and the rain fall only upon my land, and not upon thine? If my father blessed me with the dew of heaven, he blessed thee with the fatness of the earth, and if he spoke to me, Peoples will serve thee, he hath said unto thee, By thy sword shalt thou live. How long, then, wilt thou continue to envy me? Come, now, let us set up a covenant between us, that we will share equally all the vexations that may occur."
Esau would not agree to this proposal, his friends dissuaded him therefrom, saying, "Accept not these conditions, for God hath said to Abraham, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve the people thereof, and the aliens shall afflict them four hundred years. Wait, therefore, until Jacob and his family go down into Egypt to pay off this debt."
Jacob also sent word to Esau, saying: "Though I dwelt with that heathen of the heathen, Laban, yet have I not forgotten my God, but I fulfil the six hundred and thirteen commandments of the Torah. If thy mind be set upon peace, thou wilt find me ready for peace. But if thy desire be war, thou wilt find me ready for war. I have with me men of valor and strength, they have but to utter a word, and God fulfils it. I tarried with Laban until Joseph should be born, he who is destined to subdue thee. And though my descendants be held in bondage in this world, yet a day will come when they will rule over their rulers."
In reply to all these gentle words, Esau spoke with arrogance: "Surely I have heard, and truly it has been told unto me what Jacob has been to Laban, who brought him up in his house, and gave him his daughters for wives, and he begot sons and daughters, and abundantly increased in wealth and riches in Laban's house and with his help. And when he saw that his wealth was abundant and his riches were great, he fled with all belonging to him from Laban's house, and he carried away Laban's daughters from their father as captives of the sword, without telling him of it. And not only to Laban hath Jacob done thus, but also unto me hath he done so, and he hath twice supplanted me, and shall I be silent? Now, I have this day come with my camp to meet him, and I will do unto him according to the desire of my heart."
The messengers dispatched by Jacob now returned to him, and reported these words of Esau unto him. They also told him that his brother was advancing against him with an army consisting of four hundred crowned heads, each leading a host of four hundred men. "It is true, thou art his brother, and thou treatest him as a brother should," they said to Jacob, "but he is an Esau, thou must be made aware of his villainy."
Jacob bore in mind the promise of God, that He would bring him back to his father's house in peace, yet the report about his brother's purpose alarmed him greatly. A pious man may never depend upon promises of earthly good. God does not keep the promise if he is guilty of the smallest conceivable trespass, and Jacob feared that he might have forfeited happiness by reason of a sin committed by him. Moreover, he was anxious lest Esau be the one favored by God, inasmuch as he had these twenty years been fulfilling two Divine commands that Jacob had had to disregard. Esau had been living in the Holy Land, Jacob outside of it; the former had been in attendance upon his parents, the latter dwelling at a distance from them. And much as he feared defeat, Jacob also feared the reverse, that he might be victorious over Esau, or might even slay his brother, which would be as bad as to be slain by him. And he was depressed by another apprehension, that his father had died, for he reasoned that Esau would not take such warlike steps against his own brother, were his father still alive.
When his wives saw the anxiety that possessed Jacob, they began to quarrel with him, and reproach him for having taken them away from their father's house, though he knew that such danger threatened from Esau. Then Jacob determined to apply the three means that might save him from the fate impending: he would cry to God for help, appease Esau's wrath with presents, and hold himself in readiness for war if the worst came to the worst.
He prayed to God: "O Thou God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, God of all who walk in the ways of the pious and do like unto them! I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant. O Lord of the world, as Thou didst not suffer Laban to execute his evil designs against me, so also bring to naught the purpose of Esau, who desireth to slay me. O Lord of the world, in Thy Torah which Thou wilt give us on Mount Sinai it is written, And whether it be cow or ewe, ye shall not kill it and her young both in one day. If this wretch should come and murder my children and their mothers at the same time, who would then desire to read Thy Torah which Thou wilt give us on Mount Sinai? And yet Thou didst speak, For the sake of thy merits and for the merits of thy fathers I will do good unto thee, and in the future world thy children shall be as numerous as the sand of the sea."
As Jacob prayed for his own deliverance, so also he prayed for the salvation of his descendants, that they might not be annihilated by the descendants of Esau.
Such was the prayer of Jacob when he saw Esau approaching from afar, and God heard his petition and looked upon his tears, and He gave him the assurance that for his sake his descendants, too, would be redeemed from all distress.
Then the Lord sent three angels, and they went before Esau, and they appeared unto Esau and his people as hundreds and thousands of men riding upon horses. They were furnished with all sorts of weapons, and divided into four columns. And one division went on, and they found Esau coming with four hundred men, and the division ran toward them, and terrified them. Esau fell off his horse in alarm, and all his men separated from him in great fear, while the approaching column shouted after them, "Verily, we are the servants of Jacob, the servant of God, and who can stand against us?" Esau then said unto them, "O, then my lord and brother Jacob is your lord, whom I have not seen these twenty years, and now that I have this day come to see him, do you treat me in this manner?" The angels answered, "As the Lord liveth, were not Jacob thy brother, we had not left one remaining of thee and thy people, but on account of Jacob we will do nothing to thee." This division passed from Esau, and when he had gone from there about a league, the second division came toward him, and they also did unto Esau and his men as the first had done to them, and when they permitted him to go on, the third came and did like the first, and when the third had passed also, and Esau still continued with his men on the road to Jacob, the fourth division came and did to them as the others had done. And Esau was greatly afraid of his brother, because he thought that the four columns of the army which he had encountered were the servants of Jacob.
After Jacob had made an end of praying, he divided all that journeyed with him into two companies, and he set over them Damesek and Alinus, the two sons of Eliezer, the bondman of Abraham, and their sons. Jacob's example teaches us not to conceal the whole of our fortune in one hiding-place, else we run the danger of losing everything at one stroke.
Of his cattle he sent a part to Esau as a present, first dividing it into three droves in order to impress his brother more. When Esau received the first drove, he would think he had the whole gift that had been sent to him, and suddenly he would be astonished by the appearance of the second portion, and again by the third. Jacob knew his brother's avarice only too well.
The men who were the bearers of Jacob's present to Esau were charged with the following message, "This is an offering to my lord Esau from his slave Jacob." But God took these words of Jacob in ill part, saying, "Thou profanest what is holy when thou callest Esau lord." Jacob excused himself; he was but flattering the wicked in order to escape death at his hands.
JACOB WRESTLES WITH THE ANGEL
The servants of Jacob went before him with the present for Esau, and he followed with his wives and his children. As he was about to pass over the ford of Jabbok, he observed a shepherd, who likewise had sheep and camels. The stranger approached Jacob and proposed that they should ford the stream together, and help each other move their cattle over, and Jacob assented, on the condition that his possessions should be put across first. In the twinkling of an eye Jacob's sheep were transferred to the other side of the stream by the shepherd. Then the flocks of the shepherd were to be moved by Jacob, but no matter how many he took over to the opposite bank, always there remained some on the hither shore. There was no end to the cattle, though Jacob labored all the night through. At last he lost patience, and he fell upon the shepherd and caught him by the throat, crying out, "O thou wizard, thou wizard, at night no enchantment succeeds!" The angel thought, "Very well, let him know once for all with whom he has had dealings," and with his finger he touched the earth, whence fire burst forth. But Jacob said, "What! thou thinkest thus to affright me, who am made wholly of fire?"
The shepherd was no less a personage than the archangel Michael, and in his combat with Jacob he was assisted by the whole host of angels under his command. He was on the point of inflicting a dangerous wound upon Jacob, when God appeared, and all the angels, even Michael himself, felt their strength ooze away. Seeing that he could not prevail against Jacob, the archangel touched the hollow of his thigh, and injured him, and God rebuked him, saying, "Dost thou act as is seemly, when thou causest a blemish in My priest Jacob?" Michael said in astonishment, "Why, it is I who am Thy priest!" But God said, "Thou art My priest in heaven, and he is My priest on earth." Thereupon Michael summoned the archangel Raphael, saying, "My comrade, I pray thee, help me out of my distress, for thou art charged with the healing of all disease," and Raphael cured Jacob of the injury Michael had inflicted.
The Lord continued to reproach Michael, saying, "Why didst thou do harm unto My first-born son?" and the archangel answered, "I did it only to glorify Thee," and then God appointed Michael as the guardian angel of Jacob and his seed unto the end of all generations, with these words: "Thou art a fire, and so is Jacob a fire; thou art the head of the angels, and he is the head of the nations; thou art supreme over all the angels, and he is supreme over all the peoples. Therefore he who is supreme over all the angels shall be appointed unto him who is supreme over all the peoples, that he may entreat mercy for him from the Supreme One over all."
Then Michael said unto Jacob, "How is it possible that thou who couldst prevail against me, the most distinguished of the angels, art afraid of Esau?"
When the day broke, Michael said to Jacob, "Let me go, for the day breaketh," but Jacob held him back, saying, "Art thou a thief, or a gambler with dice, that thou fearest the daylight?" At that moment appeared many different hosts of angels, and they called unto Michael: "Ascend, O Michael, the time of song hath come, and if thou art not in heaven to lead the choir, none will sing." And Michael entreated Jacob with supplications to let him go, for he feared the angels of 'Arabot would consume him with fire, if he were not there to start the songs of praise at the proper time. Jacob said, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me," whereto Michael made reply: "Who is greater, the servant or the son? I am the servant, and thou art the son. Why, then, cravest thou my blessing?" Jacob urged as an argument, "The angels that visited Abraham did not leave without blessing him," but Michael held, "They were sent by God for that very purpose, and I was not." Yet Jacob insisted upon his demand, and Michael pleaded with him, saying, "The angels that betrayed a heavenly secret were banished from their place for one hundred and thirty eight years. Dost thou desire that I should acquaint thee with what would cause my banishment likewise?" In the end the angel nevertheless had to yield; Jacob could not be moved, and Michael took counsel with himself thus: "I will reveal a secret to him, and if God demands to know why I revealed it, I will make answer, Thy children stand upon their wishes with Thee, and Thou dost yield to them. How, then, could I have left Jacob's wish unfulfilled?"
Then Michael spoke to Jacob, saying: "A day will come when God will reveal Himself unto thee, and He will change thy name, and I shall be present when He changeth it. Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel, for happy thou, of woman born, who didst enter the heavenly palace, and didst escape thence with thy life." And Michael blessed Jacob with the words, "May it be the will of God that thy descendants be as pious as thou art."
At the same time the archangel reminded Jacob that he had promised to give a tithe of his possessions unto God, and at once Jacob separated five hundred and fifty head of cattle from his herds, which counted fifty-five hundred. Then Michael went on, "But thou hast sons, and of them thou hast not set apart the tenth." Jacob proceeded to pass his sons in review: Reuben, Joseph, Dan, and Gad being the first-born, each of his mother, were exempt, and there remained but eight sons, and when he had named them, down to Benjamin, he had to go back and begin over again with Simon, the ninth, and finish with Levi as the tenth.
Michael took Levi with him into heaven, and presented him before God, saying, "O Lord of the world, this one is Thy lot, and the tenth belonging unto Thee," and God stretched forth His hand and blessed Levi with the blessing that his children should be the servants of God on earth as the angels were His servants on high. Michael spoke again, "Doth not a king provide for the sustenance of his servants?" whereupon God appointed for the Levites all that was holy unto the Lord.
Then Jacob spoke to the angel: "My father conferred the blessing upon me that was intended for Esau, and now I desire to know whether thou wilt acknowledge the blessing as mine, or wilt bring charges against me on account of it." And the angel said: "I acknowledge the blessing to be thine by right. Thou didst not gain it by craft and cunning, and I and all the heavenly powers recognize it to be valid, for thou hast shown thyself master over the mighty powers of the heavens as over Esau and his legions."
And even then Jacob would not let the angel depart, he had to reveal his name to him first, and the angel made known to him that it was Israel, the same name that Jacob would once bear.
At last the angel departed, after Jacob had blessed him, and Jacob called the place of wrestling Penuel, the same place to which before he had given the name Mahanaim, for both words have but one meaning, the place of encounter with angels.
THE MEETING BETWEEN ESAU AND JACOB
At the break of day the angel left off from wrestling with Jacob. The dawn on that day was of particularly short duration. The sun rose two hours before his time, by way of compensation for having set early, on the day on which Jacob passed Mount Moriah on his journey to Haran, to induce him to turn aside and lodge for a night on the future Temple place. Indeed, the power of the sun on this same day was altogether remarkable. He shone with the brilliance and ardor with which he was invested during the six days of the creation, and as he will shine at the end of days, to make whole the halt and the blind among the Jews and to consume the heathen. This same healing and devastating property he had on that day, too, for Jacob was cured, while Esau and his princes were all but burnt up by his terrible heat.
Jacob was in dire need of healing lotions for the injury he had sustained in the encounter with the angel. The combat between them had been grim, the dust whirled up by the scuffle rose to the very throne of God. Though Jacob prevailed against his huge opponent, as big as one-third of the whole world, throwing him to the ground and keeping him pinned down, yet the angel had injured him by clutching at the sinew of the hip which is upon the hollow of the thigh, so that it was dislocated, and Jacob halted upon his thigh. The healing power of the sun restored him, nevertheless his children took it upon themselves not to eat the sinew of the hip which is upon the hollow of the thigh, for they reproached themselves with having been the cause of his mishap, they should not have left him alone in that night.
Now, although Jacob had prepared for the worst, for open hostilities even, yet when he saw Esau and his men, he thought it discreet to make separate divisions of the households of Leah, Rachel, and the handmaids, and divide the children unto each of them. And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost. It was the stratagem which the fox used with the lion. Once upon a time the king of beasts was wroth with his subjects, and they looked hither and thither for a spokesman who mastered the art of appeasing their ruler. The fox offered himself for the undertaking, saying, "I know three hundred fables which will allay his fury." His offer was accepted with joy. On the way to the lion, the fox suddenly stood still, and in reply to the questions put to him, he said, "I have forgotten one hundred of the three hundred fables." "Never mind," said those accompanying him, "two hundred will serve the purpose." A little way further on the fox again stopped suddenly, and, questioned again, he confessed that he had forgotten half of the two hundred remaining fables. The animals with him still consoled him that the hundred he knew would suffice. But the fox halted a third time, and then he admitted that his memory had failed him entirely, and he had forgotten all the fables he knew, and he advised that every animal approach the king on his own account and endeavor to appease his anger. At first Jacob had had courage enough to enter the lists with Esau in behalf of all with him. Now he came to the conclusion to let each one try to do what he could for himself.
However, Jacob was too fond a father to expose his family to the first brunt of the danger. He himself passed over before all the rest, saying, "It is better that they attack me than my children." After him came the handmaids and their children. His reason for placing them there was that, if Esau should be overcome by passion for the women, and try to violate them, he would thus meet the handmaids first, and in the meantime Jacob would have the chance of preparing for more determined resistance in the defense of the honor of his wives. Joseph and Rachel came last, and Joseph walked in front of his mother, though Jacob had ordered the reverse. But the son knew both the beauty of his mother and the lustfulness of his uncle, and therefore he tried to hide Rachel from the sight of Esau.
In the vehemence of his rage against Jacob, Esau vowed that he would not slay him with bow and arrow, but would bite him dead with his mouth, and suck his blood. But he was doomed to bitter disappointment, for Jacob's neck turned as hard as ivory, and in his helpless fury Esau could but gnash his teeth. The two brothers were like the ram and the wolf. A wolf wanted to tear a ram in pieces, and the ram defended himself with his horns, striking them deep into the flesh of the wolf. Both began to howl, the wolf because he could not secure his prey, and the ram from fear that the wolf renew his attacks. Esau bawled because his teeth were hurt by the ivory-like flesh of Jacob's neck, and Jacob feared that his brother would make a second attempt to bite him.
Esau addressed a question to his brother. "Tell me," he said, "what was the army I met?" for on his march against Jacob he had had a most peculiar experience with a great host of forty thousand warriors. It consisted of various kinds of troops, armor-clad soldiers walking on foot, mounted on horses, and seated in chariots, and they all threw themselves upon Esau when they met. He demanded to know whence they came, and the strange soldiers hardly interrupted their savage onslaught to reply that they belonged to Jacob. Only when Esau told them that Jacob was his brother did they leave off, saying, "Woe to us if our master hears that we did thee harm." This was the army and the encounter Esau inquired about as soon as he met his brother. But the army was a host of angels, who had the appearance of warriors to Esau and his men. Also the messengers sent by Jacob to Esau had been angels, for no mere human being could be induced to go forth and face the recreant.
Jacob now gave Esau the presents intended for him, a tenth of all his cattle, and also pearls and precious stones, and, besides, a falcon for the chase. But even the animals refused to give up their gentle master Jacob and become the property of the villain Esau. They all ran away when Jacob wanted to hand them over to his brother, and the result was that the only ones that reached Esau were the feeble and the lame, all that could not make good their escape.
At first Esau declined the presents offered to him. Naturally, that was a mere pretense. While refusing the gifts with words, he held his hand outstretched ready to receive them. Jacob took the hint, and insisted that he accept them, saying: "Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand, forasmuch as I have seen thy face, as I have seen the face of angels, and thou art pleased with me." The closing words were chosen with well-calculated purpose. Jacob wanted Esau to derive the meaning that he had intercourse with angels, and to be inspired with awe. Jacob was like the man invited to a banquet by his mortal enemy who has been seeking an opportunity to slay him. When the guest divines the purpose for which he has been brought thither, he says to the host: "What a magnificent and delicious meal this is! But once before in my life did I partake of one like it, and that was when I was bidden by the king to his table"--enough to drive terror to the heart of the would-be slayer. He takes good care not to harm a man on such intimate terms with the king as to be invited to his table!
Jacob had valid reason for recalling his encounter with the angel, for it was the angel of Esau who had measured his strength with Jacob's, and had been overcome.
As Esau accepted the presents of Jacob willingly on this first occasion, so he continued to accept them for a whole year; daily Jacob gave him presents as on the day of their meeting, for, he said, " 'A gift doth blind the eyes of the wise,' and how much more doth it blind the wicked! Therefore will I give him presents upon presents, perhaps he will let me alone." Besides, he did not attach much value to the possessions he had acquired outside of the Holy Land. Such possessions are not a blessing, and he did not hesitate to part with them.
Beside the presents which Jacob gave Esau, he also paid out a large sum of money to him for the Cave of Machpelah. Immediately upon his arrival in the Holy Land he sold all he had brought with him from Haran, and a pile of gold was the proceeds of the sale. He spoke to Esau, saying: "Like me thou hast a share in the Cave of Machpelah, wilt thou take this pile of gold for thy portion therein?" "What care I for the Cave?" returned Esau. "Gold is what I want," and for his share in Machpelah he took the gold realized from the sale of the possessions Jacob had accumulated outside of the Holy Land. But God "filled the vacuum without delay," and Jacob was as rich as before.
Wealth was not an object of desire to Jacob. He would have been well content, in his own behalf and in behalf of his family, to resign all earthly treasures in favor of Esau and his family. He said to Esau: "I foresee that in future days suffering will be inflicted by thy children upon mine. But I do not demur, thou mayest exercise thy dominion and wear thy crown until the time when the Messiah springs from my loins, and receives the rule from thee." These words spoken by Jacob will be realized in days to come, when all the nations will rise up against the kingdom of Edom, and take away one city after another from him, one realm after another, until they reach Bet-Gubrin, and then the Messiah will appear and assume his kingship. The angel of Edom will flee for refuge to Bozrah, but God will appear there, and slay him, for though Bozrah is one of the cities of refuge, yet will the Lord exercise the right of the avenger therein. He will seize the angel by his hair, and Elijah will slaughter him, letting the blood spatter the garments of God. All this Jacob had in mind when he said to Esau, "Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant, until I come unto my lord unto Seir." Jacob himself never went to Seir. What he meant was the Messianic time when Israel shall go to Seir, and take possession thereof.
Jacob tarried in Succoth a whole year, and he opened a house of learning there. Then he journeyed on to Shechem, while Esau betook himself to Seir, saying to himself, "How long shall I be a burden to my brother?" for it was during Jacob's sojourn at Succoth that Esau received daily presents from Jacob.
And Jacob, after abiding these many years in a strange land, came to Shechem in peace, unimpaired in mind and body. He had forgotten none of the knowledge he had acquired before; the gifts he gave to Esau did not encroach upon his wealth; the injury inflicted by the angel that wrestled with him had been healed, and likewise his children were sound and healthy.
Jacob entered Shechem on a Friday, late in the afternoon, and his first concern was to lay out the boundaries of the city, that the laws of the Sabbath might not be transgressed. As soon as he was settled in the place, he sent presents to the notables. A man must be grateful to a city from which he derives benefits. No less did the common people enjoy his bounty. For them he opened a market where he sold all wares at low prices.
Also he lost no time in buying a parcel of ground, for it is the duty of every man of substance who comes to the Holy Land from outside to make himself the possessor of land there. He gave a hundred lambs for his estate, a hundred yearling sheep, and a hundred pieces of money, and received in return a bill of sale, to which he attached his signature, using the letters Yod-He for it. And then he erected an altar to God upon his land, and he said, "Thou art the Lord of all celestial things, and I am the lord of all earthly things." But God said, "Not even the overseer of the synagogue arrogates privileges in the synagogue, and thou assumest lordship with a high hand? Forsooth, on the morrow thy daughter will go abroad, and she shall be humbled."
THE OUTRAGE AT SHECHEM
While Jacob and his sons were sitting in the house of learning, occupied with the study of the Torah, Dinah went abroad to see the dancing and singing women, whom Shechem had hired to dance and play in the streets in order to entice her forth. Had she remained at home, nothing would have happened to her. But she was a woman, and all women like to show themselves in the street. When Shechem caught sight of her, he seized her by main force, young though she was, and violated her in beastly fashion.
This misfortune befell Jacob as a punishment for his excessive self-confidence. In his negotiations with Laban, he had used the expression, "My righteousness shall answer for me hereafter." Besides, on his return to Palestine, when he was preparing to meet his brother, he concealed his daughter Dinah in a chest, lest Esau desire to have her for wife, and he be obliged to give her to him. God spoke to him, saying: "Herein hast thou acted unkindly toward thy brother, and therefore Dinah will have to marry Job, one that is neither circumcised nor a proselyte. Thou didst refuse to give her to one that is circumcised, and one that is uncircumcised will take her. Thou didst refuse to give her to Esau in lawful wedlock, and now she will fall a victim to the ravisher's illicit passion."
When Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled his daughter, he sent twelve servants to fetch Dinah from Shechem's house, but Shechem went out to them with his men, and drove them from his house, and he would not suffer them to come unto Dinah, and he kissed and embraced her before their eyes. Jacob then sent two maidens of his servants' daughters to remain with Dinah in the house of Shechem. Shechem bade three of his friends go to his father Hamor, the son of Haddakum, the son of Pered, and say, "Get me this damsel to wife." Hamor tried at first to persuade his son not to take a Hebrew woman to wife, but when Shechem persisted in his request, he did according to the word of his son, and went forth to communicate with Jacob concerning the matter. In the meanwhile the sons of Jacob returned from the field, and, kindled with wrath, they spoke unto their father, saying, "Surely death is due to this man and his household, because the Lord God of the whole earth commanded Noah and his children that man shall never rob nor commit adultery. Now, behold, Shechem has ravaged and committed fornication with our sister, and not one of all the people of the city spake a word to him." And whilst they were speaking, Hamor came to speak to Jacob the words of his son concerning Dinah, and after he ceased to speak, Shechem himself came to Jacob and repeated the request made by his father. Simon and Levi answered Hamor and Shechem deceitfully, saying: "All you have spoken unto us we will do. And, behold, our sister is in your house, but keep away from her until we send to our father Isaac concerning this matter, for we can do nothing without his counsel. He knows the ways of our father Abraham, and whatever he saith unto us we will tell you, we will conceal nothing from you."
Shechem and his father went home thereafter, satisfied with the result achieved, and when they had gone, the sons of Jacob asked him to seek counsel and pretext in order to kill all the inhabitants of the city, who had deserved this punishment on account of their wickedness. Then Simon said to them: "I have good counsel to give you. Bid them be circumcised. If they consent not, we shall take our daughter from them, and go away. And if they consent to do this, then, when they are in pain, we shall attack them and slay them." The next morning Shechem and his father came again to Jacob, to speak concerning Dinah, and the sons of Jacob spoke deceitfully to them, saying: "We told our father Isaac all your words, and your words pleased him, but he said, that thus did Abraham his father command him from God, that any man that is not of his descendants, who desireth to take one of his daughters to wife, shall cause every male belonging to him to be circumcised."
Shechem and his father hastened to do the wishes of the sons of Jacob, and they persuaded also the men of the city to do likewise, for they were greatly esteemed by them, being the princes of the land.
On the next day, Shechem and his father rose up early in the morning, and they assembled all the men of the city, and they called for the sons of Jacob, and they circumcised Shechem, his father, his five brothers, and all the males in the city, six hundred and forty-five men and two hundred and seventy-six lads. Haddakum, the grandfather of Shechem, and his six brothers would not be circumcised, and they were greatly incensed against the people of the city for submitting to the wishes of the sons of Jacob.
In the evening of the second day, Shechem and his father sent to have eight little children whom their mothers had concealed brought to them to be circumcised. Haddakum and his six brothers sprang at the messengers, and sought to slay them, and sought to slay also Shechem, Hamor, and Dinah. They chided Shechem and his father for doing a thing that their fathers had never done, which would raise the ire of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan against them, as well as the ire of all the children of Ham, and that on account of a Hebrew woman. Haddakum and his brothers finished by saying: "Behold, to-morrow we will go and assemble our Canaanitish brethren, and we will come and smite you and all in whom you trust, that there shall not be a remnant left of you or them."
When Hamor and his son Shechem and all the people of the city heard this, they were sore afraid, and they repented what they had done, and Shechem and his father answered Haddakum and his brothers: "Because we saw that the Hebrews would not accede to our wishes concerning their daughter, we did this thing, but when we shall have obtained our request from them, we will then do unto them that which is in your hearts and in ours, as soon as we shall become strong."
Dinah, who heard their words, hastened and dispatched one of her maidens whom her father had sent to take care of her in Shechem's house, and informed Jacob and his sons of the conspiracy plotted against them. When the sons of Jacob heard this, they were filled with wrath, and Simon and Levi swore, and said, "As the Lord liveth, by to-morrow there shall not be a remnant left In the whole city."
They began the extermination by killing eighteen of the twenty young men who had concealed themselves and were not circumcised, and two of them fled and escaped to some lime pits that were in the city. Then Simon and Levi slew all the city, not leaving a male over, and while they were looking for spoils outside of the city, three hundred women rose against them and threw stones and dust upon them, but Simon single-handed slew them all, and returned to the city, where he joined Levi. Then they took away from the people outside of the city their sheep, their oxen, their cattle, and also the women and the little children, and they led all these away, and took them to the city to their father Jacob. The number of women whom they did not slay, but only took captive, was eighty-five virgins, among them a young damsel of great beauty by the name of Bunah, whom Simon took to wife. The number of the males which they took captive and did not slay was forty-seven, and all these men and women were servants to the sons of Jacob, and to their children after them, until the day they left Egypt.
A WAR FRUSTRATED
When Simon and Levi had gone from the city, the two young men who had concealed themselves in the lime pits, and were not slain amongst the people of the city, rose up, and they found the city desolate, without a man, only weeping women, and they cried out, saying, "Behold, this is the evil which the sons of Jacob did who destroyed one of the Canaanite cities, and were not afraid of all the land of Canaan."
They left the city and went to Tappuah, and told the inhabitants all that the sons of Jacob had done to the city of Shechem. Jashub, the king of Tappuah, sent to Shechem to see whether these young men told the truth, for he did not believe them, saying, "How could two men destroy a large city like Shechem?" The messengers of Jashub returned, and they reported, "The city is destroyed, not a man is left there, only weeping women, neither are there flocks and cattle there, for all that was in the city was taken away by the sons of Jacob."
Jashub wondered thereat, for the like had not been heard from the days of Nimrod, and not even from the remotest times, that two men should be able to destroy so large a city, and he decided to go to war against the Hebrews, and avenge the cause of the people of Shechem. His counsellors said to him: "If two of them laid waste a whole city, surely if thou goest against them, they all will rise up against us, and destroy us. Therefore, send to the kings round about, that we all together fight against the sons of Jacob, and prevail against them."
The seven kings of the Amorites, when they heard the evil that the sons of Jacob had done to the city of Shechem, assembled together, with all their armies, ten thousand men, with drawn swords, and they came to fight against the sons of Jacob. And Jacob was greatly afraid, and he said to Simon and Levi, "Why have you brought such evil upon me? I was at rest, and you provoked the inhabitants of the land against me by your acts."
Then Judah spoke to his father: "Was it for naught that Simon and Levi killed the inhabitants of Shechem? Verily, it was because Shechem dishonored our sister, and transgressed the command of our God to Noah and his children, and not one of the inhabitants of the city interfered in the matter. Now, why art thou afraid, and why art thou displeased at my brethren? Surely, our God, who delivered the city of Shechem and its people into their hand, He will also deliver into our hands all the Canaanitish kings who are coming against us. Now cast away thy fears, and pray to God to assist us and deliver us."
Judah then addressed his brethren, saying: "The Lord our God is with us! Fear naught, then! Stand ye forth, each man girt with his weapons of war, his bow and his sword, and we will go and fight against the uncircumcised. The Lord is our God, He will save us."
Jacob, his eleven sons, and one hundred servants belonging to Isaac, who had come to their assistance, marched forward to meet the Amorites, a people exceedingly numerous, like unto the sand upon the sea-shore. The sons of Jacob sent unto their grandfather Isaac, at Hebron, requesting him to pray unto the Lord to protect them from the hand of the Canaanites, and he prayed as follows: "O Lord God, Thou didst promise my father, saying, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and also me Thou didst promise that Thou wouldst establish Thy word to my father. Now, O Lord, God of the whole world, pervert, I pray Thee, the counsel of these kings, that they may not fight against my sons, and impress the hearts of their kings and their people with the terror of my sons, and bring down their pride that they turn away from my sons. Deliver my sons and their servants from them with Thy strong hand and outstretched arm, for power and might are in Thy hands to do all this."
Jacob also prayed unto God, and said: "O Lord God, powerful and exalted God, who hast reigned from days of old, from then until now and forever! Thou art He who stirreth up wars and causeth them to cease. In Thy hand are power and might to exalt and to bring low. O may my prayer be acceptable unto Thee, that Thou mayest turn to me with Thy mercies, to impress the hearts of these kings and their people with the terror of my sons, and terrify them and their camps, and with Thy great kindness deliver all those that trust in Thee, for Thou art He who subdues the peoples under us, and the nations under our feet."
God heard the prayers of Isaac and Jacob, and He filled the hearts of all the advisers of the Canaanite kings with great fear and terror, and when the kings, who were undecided whether to undertake a campaign against the sons of Jacob, consulted them, they said: "Are you silly, or is there no understanding in you, that you propose to fight with the Hebrews? Why do you take delight in your own destruction this day? Behold, two of them came to the city of Shechem without fear or terror, and they put all the inhabitants of the city to the sword, no man stood up against them, and how will you be able to fight with them all?"
The royal counsellors then proceeded to enumerate all the mighty things God had done for Abraham, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob, such as had not been done from days of old and by any of the gods of the nations. When the kings heard all the words of their advisers, they were afraid of the sons of Jacob, and they would not fight against them. They turned back with their armies on that day, each to his own city. But the sons of Jacob kept their station that day till evening, and seeing that the kings did not advance to do battle with them in order to avenge the inhabitants of Shechem whom they had killed, they returned home.
The wrath of the Lord descended upon the inhabitants of Shechem to the uttermost on account of their wickedness. For they had sought to do unto Sarah and Rebekah as they did unto Dinah, but the Lord had prevented them. Also they had persecuted Abraham when he was a stranger, and they had vexed his flocks when they were big with young, and Eblaen, one born in his house, they had handled most shamefully. And thus they did to all strangers, taking away their wives by force.
THE WAR WITH THE NINEVITES
The destruction of Shechem by Simon and Levi terrified the heathen all around. If two sons of Jacob had succeeded in ruining a great city like Shechem, they argued, what would Jacob and all his sons accomplish acting together? Jacob meanwhile left Shechem, hindered by none, and with all his possessions he set out, to betake himself to his father Isaac. But after an eight days' march he encountered a powerful army, which had been dispatched from Nineveh to levy tribute upon the whole world and subjugate it. On coming in the vicinity of Shechem, this army heard to what the city had been exposed at the hands of the sons of Jacob, and fury seized the men, and they resolved to make war upon Jacob.
But Jacob said to his sons: "Fear not, God will be your helper, and He will fight for you against your enemies. Only you must put away from you the strange gods in your possession, and you must purify yourselves, and wash your garments clean."
Girt with his sword, Jacob advanced against the enemy, and in the first onslaught he slew twelve thousand of the weak in the army. Then Judah spake to him, and said, "Father, thou art tired and exhausted, let me fight the enemy alone." And Jacob replied, saying, "Judah, my son, I know thy strength and thy bravery, that they are exceeding great, so that none in the world is like unto thee therein." His countenance like a lion's and inflamed with wrath, Judah attacked the army, and slew twelve myriads of tried and famous warriors. The battle raged hot in front and in the rear, and Levi his brother hastened to his aid, and together they won a victory over the Ninevites. Judah alone slew five thousand more soldiers, and Levi dealt blows right and left with such vigor that the men of the enemy's army fell like grain under the scythe of the reaper.
Alarmed about their fate, the people of Nineveh said: "How long shall we fight with these devils? Let us return to our land, lest they exterminate us root and branch, without leaving a remnant." But their king desired to restrain them, and he said: "O ye heroes, ye men of might and valor, have you lost your senses that you ask to return to your land? Is this your bravery? After you have subdued many kingdoms and countries, ye are not able to hold out against twelve men? If the nations and the kings whom we have made tributary to ourselves hear of this, they will rise up against us as a man, and make a laughing-stock of us, and do with us according to their desire. Take courage, ye men of the great city of Nineveh, that your honor and your name be exalted, and you become not a mockery in the mouth of your enemies."
These words of their king inspired the warriors to continue the campaign. They sent messengers to all the lands to ask for help, and, reinforced by their allies, the Ninevites assaulted Jacob a second time. He spoke to his sons, saying, "Take courage and be men, fight against your enemies." His twelve sons then took up their stand in twelve different places, leaving considerable intervals between one and another, and Jacob, a sword in his right hand and a bow in his left, advanced to the combat. It was a desperate encounter for him. He had to ward off the enemy to the right and the left. Nevertheless he inflicted a severe blow, and when a band of two thousand men beset him, he leapt up in the air and over them and vanished from their sight. Twenty-two myriads he slew on this day, and when evening came he planned to flee under cover of darkness. But suddenly ninety thousand men appeared, and he was compelled to continue the fight. He rushed at them with his sword, but it broke, and he had to defend himself by grinding huge rocks into lime powder, and this he threw at the enemy and blinded them so that they could see nothing. Luckily, darkness was about to fall, and he could permit himself to take rest for the night.
In the morning, Judah said to Jacob, "Father, thou didst fight the whole of yesterday, and thou art weary and exhausted. Let me fight this day." When the warriors caught sight of Judah's lion face and his lion teeth, and heard his lion voice, they were greatly afraid. Judah hopped and jumped over the army like a flea, from one warrior to the next, raining blows down upon them incessantly, and by evening he had slain eighty thousand and ninety-six men, armed with swords and bows. But fatigue overcame him, and Zebulon took up his station at his brother's left hand, and mowed down eighty thousand of the enemy. Meantime Judah regained some of his strength, and, rising up in wrath and fury, and gnashing his teeth with a noise like unto thunder claps in midsummer, he put the army to flight. It ran a distance of eighteen miles, and Judah could enjoy a respite that night.
But the army reappeared on the morrow, ready for battle again, to take revenge on Jacob and his children. They blew their trumpets, whereupon Jacob spake to his sons, "Go forth and fight with your enemies." Issachar and Gad said that this day they would take the combat upon themselves, and their father bade them do it while their brothers kept guard and held themselves in readiness to aid and relieve the two combatants when they showed signs of weariness and exhaustion.
The leaders of the day slew forty-eight thousand warriors, and put to flight twelve myriads more, who concealed themselves in a cave. Issachar and Gad fetched trees from the woods, piled the trunks up in front of the opening of the cave, and set fire to them. When the fire blazed with a fierce flame, the warriors spoke, saying: "Why should we stay in this cave and perish with the smoke and the heat? Rather will we go forth and fight with our enemies, then we may have a chance of saving ourselves." They left the cave, going through openings at the side, and they attacked Issachar and Gad in front and behind. Dan and Naphtali saw the plight of their brothers and ran to their assistance. They laid about with their swords, hewing a way for themselves to Issachar and Gad, and, united with them, they, too, opposed the foe.
It was the third day of the conflict, and the Ninevites were reinforced by an army as numerous as the sand on the sea-shore. All the sons of Jacob united to oppose it, and they routed the host. But when they pursued after the enemy, the fugitives faced about and resumed the battle, saying: "Why should we run away? Let us rather fight them, perhaps we may be victorious, now they are weary." A stubborn combat ensued, and when Jacob saw the vehement attack upon his children, he himself sprang into the thick of the battle and dealt blows right and left. Nevertheless the heathen were victorious, and succeeded in separating Judah from his brethren. As soon as Jacob was aware of the peril of his son, he whistled, and Judah responded, and his brethren hastened to his aid. Judah was fatigued and parched with thirst, and there was no water for him to drink, but he dug his finger into the ground with such force that water gushed out in the sight of the whole army. Then said one warrior to another, "I will flee before these devils, for God fights on their side," and he and all the army fled precipitately, pursued by the sons of Jacob. Soldiers without number they slew, and then they went back to their tents. On their return they noticed that Joseph was missing, and they feared he had been killed or taken captive. Naphtali ran after the retreating enemy, to make search for Joseph, and he found him still fighting against the Ninevite army. He joined Joseph, and killed countless soldiers, and of the fugitives many drowned, and the men that were besetting Joseph ran off and left him in safety.
At the end of the war Jacob continued his journey, unhindered, to his father Isaac.
THE WAR WITH THE AMORITES
At first the people that lived round about Shechem made no attempt to molest Jacob, who had returned thither after a while, together with his household, to take up his abode there and establish himself. But at the end of seven years the heathen began to harass him. The kings of the Amorites assembled together against the sons of Jacob to slay them in the Valley of Shechem. "Is it not enough," they said, "that they have slain all the men of Shechem? Should they be permitted now to take possession of their land, too?" and they advanced to render battle.
Judah leapt into the midst of the ranks of the foot soldiers of the allied kings, and slew first of all Jashub, the king of Tappuah, who was clad in iron and brass from top to toe. The king was mounted, and from his horse he cast his spears downward with both hands, in front of him and in back, without ever missing his aim, for he was a mighty warrior, and he could throw javelins with one hand or the other. Nevertheless Judah feared neither him nor his prowess. He ran toward him, snatching a stone of sixty sela'im from the ground and hurling it at him. Jashub was at a distance of one hundred and seventy-seven ells and one-third of an ell, and, protected with iron armor and throwing spears, he moved forward upon Judah. But Judah struck him on his shield with the stone, and unhorsed him. When the king attempted to rise, Judah hastened to his side to slay him before he could get on his feet. But Jashub was nimble, he stood ready to attack Judah, shield to shield, and he drew his sword to cut off Judah's head. Quickly Judah raised his shield to catch the blow upon it, but it broke in pieces. What did Judah now? He wrested the shield of his opponent away from him, and swung his sword against Jashub's feet, cutting them off above the ankles. The king fell prostrate, his sword slipped from his grasp, and Judah hastened to him and severed his head from his body.
While Judah was removing the armor of his slain adversary, nine of Jashub's followers appeared. Judah slung a stone against the head of the first of them that approached him, with such force that he dropped his shield, which Judah snatched from the ground and used to defend himself against his eight assailants. His brother Levi came and stood next to him, and shot off an arrow that killed Elon, king of Gaash, and then Judah killed the eight men. And his father Jacob came and killed Zerori king of Shiloh. None of the heathen could prevail against these sons of Jacob, they had not the courage to stand up before them, but took to flight, and the sons of Jacob pursued after them, and each slew a thousand men of the Amorites on that day, before the going down of the sun. And the other sons of Jacob set forth from the Hill of Shechem, where they had taken up their stand, and they also pursued after them as far as Hazor. Before this city they had another severe encounter with the enemy, more severe than that in the Valley of Shechem. Jacob let his arrows fly, and slew Pirathon king of Hazor, and then Pasusi king of Sartan, Laban king of Aram, and Shebir king of Mahanaim.
Judah was the first to mount the walls of Hazor. As he approached the top, four warriors attacked him, but he slew them without stopping in his ascent, and before his brother Naphtali could bring him succor. Naphtali followed him, and the two stood upon the wall, Judah to the right and Naphtali to the left, and thence they dealt out death to the warriors. The other sons of Jacob followed their two brothers in turn, and made an end of exterminating the heathen host on that day. They subjugated Hazor, slew the warriors thereof, let no man escape with his life, and despoiled the city of all therein.
On the day following they went to Sartan, and again a bloody battle took place. Sartan was situated upon high land, and the hill before the city was likewise very high, so that none could come near unto it, and also none could come near unto the citadel, because the wall thereof was high. Nevertheless they made themselves masters of the city. They scaled the walls of the citadel, Judah on the east side being the first to ascend, then Gad on the west side, Simon and Levi on the north, and Reuben and Dan on the south, and Naphtali and Issachar set fire to the hinges upon which the gates of the city were hung.
In the same way the sons of Jacob subdued five other cities, Tappuah, Arbel, Shiloh, Mahanaim, and Gaash, making an end of all of them in five days. On the sixth day all the Amorites assembled, and they came to Jacob and his sons unarmed, bowed down before them, and sued for peace. And the sons of Jacob made peace with the heathen, who ceded Timna to them, and all the land of Harariah. In that day also Jacob concluded peace with them, and they made restitution to the sons of Jacob for all the cattle they had taken, two head for one, and they restored all the spoil they had carried off. And Jacob turned to go to Timna, and Judah went to Arbel, and thenceforth the Amorites troubled them no more.
ISAAC BLESSES LEVI AND JUDAH
If a man voweth a vow, and he does not fulfil it in good time, he will stumble through three grave sins, idolatry, unchastity, and bloodshed. Jacob had been guilty of not accomplishing promptly the vow he had taken upon himself at Beth-el, and therefore punishment overtook him--his daughter was dishonored, his sons slew men, and they kept the idols found among the spoils of Shechem. Therefore, when Jacob prostrated himself before God after the bloody outrage at Shechem, He bade him arise, and go to Beth-el and accomplish the vow he had vowed there. Before Jacob set out for the holy place to do the bidding of God, he took the idols which were in the possession of his sons, and the teraphim which Rachel had stolen from her father, and he shivered them in pieces, and buried the bits under an oak upon Mount Gerizim, uprooting the tree with one hand, concealing the remains of the idols in the hollow left in the earth, and planting the oak again with one hand.
Among the destroyed idols was one in the form of a dove, and this the Samaritans dug up later and worshipped.
On reaching Beth-el he erected an altar to the Lord, and on a pillar he set up the stone whereon he had rested his head during the night which he had passed there on his journey to Haran. Then he bade his parents come to Beth-el and take part in his sacrifice. But Isaac sent him a message, saying, "O my son Jacob, that I might see thee before I die," whereupon Jacob hastened to his parents, taking Levi and Judah with him. When his grandchildren stepped before Isaac, the darkness that shrouded his eyes dropped away, and he said, "My son, are these thy children, for they resemble thee?" And the spirit of prophecy entered his mouth, and he grasped Levi with his right hand and Judah with his left in order to bless them, and he spoke these words to Levi: "May the Lord bring thee and thy seed nigh unto Him before all flesh, that ye serve in His sanctuary like the Angel of the Face and the Holy Angels. Princes, judges, and rulers shall they be unto all the seed of the children of Jacob. The word of God they will proclaim in righteousness, and all His judgments they will execute in justice, and they will make manifest His ways unto the children of Jacob, and unto Israel His paths." And unto Judah he spake, saying: "Be ye princes, thou and one of thy sons, over the sons of Jacob. In thee shall be the help of Jacob, and the salvation of Israel shall be found in thee. And when thou sittest upon the throne of the glory of thy justice, perfect peace shall reign over all the seed of the children of my beloved Abraham."
On the morrow, Isaac told his son that he would not accompany him to Beth-el on account of his great age, but he bade him not delay longer to fulfil his vow, and gave him permission to take his mother Rebekah with him to the holy place. And Rebekah and her nurse Deborah went to Beth-el with Jacob.
JOY AND SORROW IN THE HOUSE OF JACOB
Deborah, the nurse of Rebekah, and some of the servants of Isaac had been sent to Jacob by his mother, while he still abode with Laban, to summon him home at the end of his fourteen years' term of service. As Jacob did not at once obey his mother's behest, the two servants of Isaac returned to their master, but Deborah remained with Jacob then and always. Therefore, when Deborah died in Beth-el, Jacob mourned for her, and he buried her below Beth-el under the palm-tree, the same under which the prophetess Deborah sat later, when the children of Israel came to her for judgment.
But a short time elapsed after the death of the nurse Deborah, and Rebekah died, too. Her passing away was not made the occasion for public mourning. The reason was that, as Abraham was dead, Isaac blind, and Jacob away from home, there remained Esau as the only mourner to appear in public and represent her family, and beholding that villain, it was feared, might tempt a looker-on to cry out, "Accursed be the breasts that gave thee suck." To avoid this, the burial of Rebekah took place at night.
God appeared unto Jacob to comfort him in his grief, and with Him appeared the heavenly family. It was a sign of grace, for all the while the sons of Jacob had been carrying idols with them the Lord had not revealed Himself to Jacob. At this time God announced to Jacob the birth of Benjamin soon to occur, and the birth of Manasseh and Ephraim, who also were to be founders of tribes, and furthermore He told him that these three would count kings among their descendants, Saul and Ish-bosheth, of the seed of Benjamin, Jeroboam the Ephraimite, and Jehu of the tribe of Manasseh. In this vision, God confirmed the change of his name from Jacob to Israel, promised him by the angel with whom he had wrestled on entering the Holy Land, and finally God revealed to him that he would be the last of the three with whose names the Name of God would appear united, for God is called only the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and never the God of any one else.
In token of this revelation from God, Jacob set up a pillar of stone, and he poured out a drink offering thereon, as in a later day the priests were to offer libations in the Temple on the Feast of Tabernacles, and the libation brought by Jacob at Beth-el was as much as all the waters in the Sea of Tiberias.
At the time when Deborah and Rebekah died, occurred also the death of Rachel, at the age of thirty-six, but not before her prayer was heard, that she bear Jacob a second son, for she died in giving birth to Benjamin. Twelve years she had borne no child, then she fasted twelve days, and her petition was granted her. She brought forth the youngest son of Jacob, whom he called Benjamin, the son of days, because he was born in his father's old age, and with him a twin sister was born.
Rachel was buried in the way to Ephrath, because Jacob, gifted with prophetic spirit, foresaw that the exiles would pass this place on their march to Babylon, and as they passed, Rachel would entreat God's mercy for the poor outcasts.
Jacob journeyed on to Jerusalem.
During Rachel's lifetime, her couch had always stood in the tent of Jacob. After her death, he ordered the couch of her handmaid Bilhah to be carried thither. Reuben was sorely vexed thereat, and he said, "Not enough that Rachel alive curtailed the rights of my mother, she must needs give her annoyance also after death!" He went and took the couch of his mother Leah and placed it in Jacob's tent instead of Bilhah's couch. Reuben's brothers learned of his disrespectful act from Asher. He had found it out in one way or another, and had told it to his brethren, who ruptured their relations with him, for they would have nothing to do with an informer, and they did not become reconciled with Asher until Reuben himself confessed his transgression. For it was not long before Reuben recognized that he had acted reprehensibly toward his father, and he fasted and put on sackcloth, and repented of his misdeed. He was the first among men to do penance, and therefore God said to him: "Since the beginning of the world it hath not happened that a man hath sinned and then repented thereof. Thou art the first to do penance, and as thou livest, a prophet of thy seed, Hosea, shall be the first to proclaim, 'O Israel, return.'"
ESAU'S CAMPAIGN AGAINST JACOB
When Isaac felt his end approaching, he called his two sons to him, and charged them with his last wish and will, and gave them his blessing. He said: "I adjure you by the exalted Name, the praised, honored, glorious, immutable, and mighty One, who hath made heaven and earth and all things together, that ye fear Him, and serve Him, and each shall love his brother in mercy and justice, and none wish evil unto the other, now and henceforth unto all eternity, all the days of your life, that ye may enjoy good fortune in all your undertakings, and that ye perish not."
Furthermore he commanded them to bury him in the Cave of Machpelah, by the side of his father Abraham, in the grave which he had dug for himself with his own hands. Then he divided his possessions between his two sons, giving Esau the larger portion, and Jacob the smaller. But Esau said, "I sold my birthright to Jacob, and I ceded it to him, and it belongs unto him." Isaac rejoiced greatly that Esau acknowledged the rights of Jacob of his own accord, and he closed his eyes in peace.
The funeral of Isaac was not disturbed by any unseemly act, for Esau was sure of his heritage in accordance with the last wishes expressed by his father. But when the time came to divide Isaac's possessions between the two brothers, Esau said to Jacob, "Divide the property of our father into two portions, but I as the elder claim the right of choosing the portion I desire." What did Jacob do? He knew well that "the eye of the wicked never beholds treasures enough to satisfy it," so he divided their common heritage in the following way: all the material possessions of his father formed one portion, and the other consisted of Isaac's claim upon the Holy Land, together with the Cave of Machpelah, the tomb of Abraham and Isaac. Esau chose the money and the other things belonging to Isaac for his inheritance, and to Jacob were left the Cave and the title to the Holy Land. An agreement to this effect was drawn up in writing in due form, and on the strength of the document Jacob insisted upon Esau's leaving Palestine. Esau acquiesced, and he and his wives and his sons and daughters journeyed to Mount Seir, where they took up their abode.
Though Esau gave way before Jacob for the nonce, he returned to the land to make war upon his brother. Leah had just died, and Jacob and the sons borne by Leah were mourning for her, and the rest of his sons, borne unto him by his other wives, were trying to comfort them, when Esau came upon them with a powerful host of four thousand men, well equipped for war, clad in armor of iron and brass, all furnished with bucklers, bows, and swords. They surrounded the citadel wherein Jacob and his sons dwelt at that time with their servants and children and households, for they had all assembled to console Jacob for the death of Leah, and they sat there unconcerned, none entertained a suspicion that an assault upon them was meditated by any man. And the great army had already encircled their castle, and still none within suspected any harm, neither Jacob and his children nor the two hundred servants. Now when Jacob saw that Esau presumed to make war upon them, and sought to slay them in the citadel, and was shooting darts at them, he ascended the wall of the citadel and spake words of peace and friendship and brotherly love to Esau. He said: "Is this the consolation which thou hast come to bring me, to comfort me for my wife, who hath been taken by death? Is this in accordance with the oath thou didst swear twice unto thy father and thy mother before they died? Thou hast violated thy oath, and in the hour when thou didst swear unto thy father, thou wast judged." But Esau made reply: "Neither the children of men nor the beasts of the field swear an oath to keep it unto all eternity, but on every day they devise evil against one another, when it is directed against an enemy, or when they seek to slay an adversary. If the boar will change his skin and make his bristles as soft as wool, or if he can cause horns to sprout forth on his head like the horns of a stag or a ram, then shall I observe the tie of brotherhood with thee."
Then spoke Judah to his father Jacob, saying: "How long wilt thou stand yet wasting words of peace and friendship upon him? And he attacks us unawares, like an enemy, with his mail-clad warriors, seeking to slay us." Hearing these words, Jacob grasped his bow and killed Adoram the Edomite, and a second time he bent his bow, and the arrow struck Esau upon the right thigh. The wound was mortal, and his sons lifted Esau up and put him upon his ass, and he came to Adora, and there he died.
Judah made a sally to the south of the citadel, and with him were Naphtali and Gad, aided by fifty of Jacob's servants; to the east Levi and Dan went forth with fifty servants; Reuben, Issachar, and Zebulon with fifty servants, to the north; and Simon, Benjamin, and Enoch, the last the son of Reuben, with fifty servants, to the west. Judah was exceedingly brave in battle. Together with Naphtali and Gad he pressed forward into the ranks of the enemy, and captured one of their iron towers. On their bucklers they caught the sharp missiles hurled against them in such numbers that the light of the sun was darkened by reason of the rocks and darts and stones. Judah was the first to break the ranks of the enemy, of whom he killed six valiant men, and he was accompanied on the right by Naphtali and by Gad on the left. They also hewed down two soldiers each, while their troop of servants killed one man each. Nevertheless they did not succeed in forcing the army away from the south of the citadel, not even when all together, Judah and his brethren, made an united attack upon the enemy, each of them picking out a victim and slaying him. And they were still unsuccessful in a third combined attack, though this time each killed two men.
When Judah saw now that the enemy remained in possession of the field, and it was impossible to dislodge them, he girded himself with strength, and an heroic spirit animated him. Judah, Naphtali, and Gad united, and together they pierced the ranks of the enemy, Judah slaying ten of them, and his brothers each eight. Seeing this, the servants took courage, and they joined their leaders and fought at their side. Judah laid about him to right and to left, always aided by Naphtali and Gad, and so they succeeded in forcing the enemy one ris further to the south, away from the citadel. But the hostile army recovered itself, and maintained a brave stand against all the sons of Jacob, who were faint from the hardships of the combat, and could not continue to fight. Thereupon Judah turned to God in prayer, and God hearkened unto his petition, and He helped them. He set loose a storm from one of His treasure chambers, and it blew into the faces of the enemy, and filled their eyes with darkness, and they could not see how to fight. But Judah and his brothers could see clearly, for the wind blew upon their backs. Now Judah and his two brothers wrought havoc among them, they hewed the enemy down as the reaper mows down the stalks of grain and heaps them up for sheaves.
After they had routed the division of the army assigned to them on the south, they hastened to the aid of their brothers, who were defending the east, north, and west of the citadel with three companies. On each side the wind blew into the faces of the enemy, and so the sons of Jacob succeeded in annihilating their army. Four hundred were slain in battle, and six hundred fled, among the latter Esau's four sons, Reuel, Jeush, Lotan, and Korah. The oldest of his sons, Eliphaz, took no part in the war, because he was a disciple of Jacob, and therefore would not bear arms against him.
The sons of Jacob pursued after the fleeing remnant of the army as far as Adora. There the sons of Esau abandoned the body of their father, and continued their flight to Mount Seir. But the sons of Jacob remained in Adora over night, and out of respect for their father they buried the remains of his brother Esau. In the morning they went on in pursuit of the enemy, and besieged them on Mount Seir. Now the sons of Esau and all the other fugitives came and fell down before them, bowed down, and entreated them without cease, until they concluded peace with them. But the sons of Jacob exacted tribute from them.
THE DESCENDANTS OF ESAU
The worthiest among the sons of Esau was his first-born Eliphaz. He had been raised under the eyes of his grandfather Isaac, from whom he had learnt the pious way of life. The Lord had even found him worthy of being endowed with the spirit of prophecy, for Eliphaz the son of Esau is none other than the prophet Eliphaz, the friend of Job. It was from the life of the Patriarchs that he drew the admonitions which he gave unto Job in his disputes with him. Eliphaz spake: "Thou didst ween thyself the equal of Abraham, and thou didst marvel, therefore, that God should deal with thee as with the generation of the confusion of tongues. But Abraham stood the test of ten temptations, and thou faintest when but one toucheth thee. When any that was not whole came to thee, thou wouldst console him. To the blind thou wouldst say, If thou didst build thyself a house, thou wouldst surely put windows in it, and if God hath denied thee light, it is but that He may be glorified through thee in the day when 'the eyes of the blind shall be opened.' To the deaf thou wouldst say, If thou didst fashion a water pitcher, thou wouldst surely not forget to make ears for it, and if God created thee without hearing, it is but that He may be glorified through thee in the day when 'the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.' In such wise thou didst endeavor to console the feeble and the maimed. But now it is come unto thee, and thou art troubled. Thou sayest, I am an upright man, why doth He chastise me? But who, I pray thee, ever perished, being innocent? Noah was saved from the flood, Abraham from the fiery furnace, Isaac from the slaughtering knife, Jacob from angels, Moses from the sword of Pharaoh, and Israel from the Egyptians that were drowned in the Sea. Thus shall all the wicked fare."
Job answered Eliphaz, and said, "Look at thy father Esau!"
But Eliphaz returned: "I have nothing to do with him, the son should not bear the iniquity of the father. Esau will be destroyed, because he executed no good deeds, and likewise his dukes will perish. But as for me, I am a prophet, and my message is not unto Esau, but unto thee, to make thee render account of thyself." But God rebuked Eliphaz, and said: "Thou didst speak harsh words unto My servant Job. Therefore shall Obadiah, one of thy descendants, utter a prophecy of denunciation against thy father's house, the Edomites."
The concubine of Eliphaz was Timna, a princess of royal blood, who had asked to be received into the faith of Abraham and his family, but they all, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had rejected her, and she said, "Rather will I be a maid servant unto the dregs of this nation, than mistress of another nation," and so she was willing to be concubine to Eliphaz. To punish the Patriarchs for the affront they had offered her, she was made the mother of Amalek, who inflicted great injury upon Israel.
Another one of Esau's descendants, Anah, had a most unusual experience. Once when he was pasturing his father's asses in the wilderness, he led them to one of the deserts on the shores of the Red Sea, opposite the wilderness of the nations, and while he was feeding the beasts, a very heavy storm came from the other side of the sea, and the asses could not move. Then about one hundred and twenty great and terrible animals came out from the wilderness at the other side of the sea, and they all came to the place where the asses were, and they placed themselves there. From the middle down, these animals were in the shape of a man, and from the middle up some had the likeness of bears, some of apes, and they all had tails behind them like the tail of the dukipat, from between their shoulders reaching down to the earth. The animals mounted the asses, and they rode away with them, and unto this day no eye hath seen them. One of them approached Anah, and smote him with its tail, and then ran off.
When Anah saw all this, he was exceedingly afraid on account of his life, and he fled to the city, where he related all that had happened to him. Many sallied forth to seek the asses, but none could find them. Anah and his brothers went no more to the same place from that day forth, for they were greatly afraid on account of their lives.
This Anah was the offspring of an incestuous marriage; his mother was at the same time the mother of his father Zibeon. And as he was born of an unnatural union, so he tried to bring about unnatural unions among animals. He was the first to mix the breed of the horse and the ass and produce the mule. As a punishment, God crossed the snake and the lizard, and they brought forth the habarbar, whose bite is certain death, like the bite of the white she-mule.
The descendants of Esau had eight kings before there reigned any king over the descendants of Jacob. But a time came when the Jews had eight kings during whose reign the Edomites had none and were subject to the Jewish kings. This was the time that intervened between Saul, the first Israelitish king, who ruled over Edom, and Jehoshaphat, for Edom did not make itself independent of Jewish rule until the time of Joram, the son of Jehoshaphat. There was a difference between the kings of Esau's seed and the kings of Jacob's seed. The Jewish people always produced their kings from their own midst, while the Edomites had to go to alien peoples to secure theirs. The first Edomite king was the Aramean Balaam, called Bela in his capacity as ruler of Edom. His successor Job, called Jobab also, came from Bozrah, and for furnishing Edom with a king this city will be chastised in time to come. When God sits in judgment on Edom, Bozrah will be the first to suffer punishment.
The rule of Edom was of short duration, while the rule of Israel will be unto all times, for the standard of the Messiah shall wave forever and ever.
Next: Title Page