“The way a book is read — which is to say, the qualities a reader brings to a book — can have as much to do with its worth as anything the author puts into it…. Anyone who can read can learn how to read deeply and thus live more fully.”
~Norman Cousins

Writing is where we truly learn. Join the Journey.

I read from my scriptures (book), but you can find scripture reference here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Plain Man, Genesis 25:27 by Ann Y.

"And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents." Genesis 25:27

How appropriate that my wonderful and beautiful friend Linda should write about being perfect. You see, I too had thought much about perfection in the past few weeks. While reading 2 Nephi (I confess that I don't remember which verse right now) I had been directed through reading the footnotes, to turn to the story in Genesis regarding Esau and his brother Jacob (read your footnotes, people. There's good stuff in there!).

I confess that the story of Jacob and Esau is one of those Bible stories that irritated me, simply because it did not seem to make sense. Most people are aware of the outline of the story, but for those in need a refresher, it goes something like this: twins are born to a righteous woman and man after many years of trying to conceive. Esau is born first, and Jacob follows after. Each parent picks their favorite child. The father, Isaac, loves Esau the most, and the mother, Rebekah, loves Jacob. Throughout the story, it appears at first glance that Jacob is a deceitful man. He first tricks his brother Esau out of his birthright, and then (through his mother, Rebekah's, instruction) sneaks in and steals Esau's blessing by deceiving his father. Jacob doesn't sound at all like a future prophet, and I was sincerely bothered by this. So, as in every other time that I have been disturbed by the scriptures, I sought out my Father in prayer and then read the story again...and again, until it made sense.

I realized eventually that the explanation for this story is to be found in Genesis 25:27. It explains that Esau is a cunning hunter. Let's begin with this. The word "cunning" of course means clever, but the connotation of the word "cunning" is usually negative in the scriptures. I don't know of one scripture that refers to a prophet by the word "cunning" (of course, there may be one or two--I won't swear to it). The word "cunning" is most often used to imply, if not to state outright, that a person is deceitful and full of trickery. The next word that describes Esau is the word "hunter." That's an interesting word choice. Why?--because there were no supermarkets during this time; everyone was a hunter. Even those who were shepherds or farmers occasionally engaged in the hunting of wild game to feed their families. Now, if you work under the assumption that everything in the scriptures is there for a reason, you wonder why the writer bothers to mention that Esau was a hunter.

Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. That means he wrote all of Genesis. There is one other place in Genesis where a man is described by the term, "hunter." That man is Nimrod. Nimrod was the man who developed the scheme of building the Tower of Babel. Why was he described as a hunter?

I heard a rabbi explain once that Nimrod was described as a "hunter" not because he was a hunter of beasts (because so was everyone else), but because he was a hunter of men. He used flattery and deceit to collect followers, to collect men. Because Esau is also described as a hunter is at least suggestive that he was not an honest and straightforward man. And this implication is reinforced by the contrasting description of his brother Jacob. Jacob is described as "a plain man." This description in itself is not very helpful. It seems to imply that Jacob was simply not a very interesting person. But the real story is told in the footnotes. The footnotes elaborate the word "plain" with the words: "whole," "complete," "simple," and "perfect." This matches wonderfully with Linda's definition of "perfect" (the Lord works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform!). Therefore, in contrast to his brother, Esau, who is a cunning deceiver--a man who does not walk with God, Jacob stands as a simple man who is whole and complete. He walks with God.

The next verse reinforces this still further by saying that "Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison..." To me, that says that Esau had purchased his father's love--with good food, and (perhaps?) with flattery? It does not say that Isaac loved his son because his son was a good man. It says he loved Esau because of the things Esau gave him. Suggestive, no?

The last piece of the puzzle for me comes near the end of the story. Isaac has given away Esau's blessing by mistake. He has been tricked. When Esau arrives to claim his blessing, Isaac realizes his mistake. He trembles. And then he declares to his favorite son that he has already blessed Jacob, and then he says something interesting. He says, in chapter 27, verse 33, that [he has] blessed him, yea, and he shall be blessed. I believe it was at that moment that Isaac realized the whole truth of what had taken place. He knows the nature of the priesthood and the spirit of God. He must know that even though he himself had been deceived, in no way was God or the spirit of God deceived. Therefore, if the blessing was given to Jacob, in spite of his deceit, the blessing must have been meant for Jacob all along.

It is important to remember here that in chapter 25, verse 23, the Lord had informed Rebekah before the boys' birth, that she would have twins, and "the elder shall serve the younger." Therefore, we know that Isaac had known, or should have known that the blessing he had offered Esau had been reserved for Jacob since before the boys were born.

Isaac trembles at this point because (I believe) he suddenly realizes not that he had been deceived not by Jacob's trickery, but by Esau's. He had been deceived during Esau's whole life by Esau's flattery. He had been bought with venison. And Isaac knows in his heart that a prophet of God should not be for sale. And we know all of this from Isaac's last words regarding the affair--"yea, and he shall be blessed." Isaac has come to terms with the fact that the Lord and the priesthood has triumphed over even Isaac's own fatherly bias.

The Lord works with what he has been given. The Lord knew that Isaac, in his old age, had lost his ability to make good judgments. And the Lord put his trust and his mission in the hands of a righteous woman to make things right. Rebekah was not deceived by her son. She knew the true nature of each of her progeny. She knew which son was perfect.

1 comment:

  1. I loved your insight on this. And I didn't know about the definition of hunters. Thanks Anne. I had read this and wondered. I like your view.


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