BLOGGER: Your family is made up of twelve sons and one daughter. There are many half-sibling relationships here. What about you, Jacob. Do you have siblings, or half-siblings?
JACOB: I have only one brother, my twin.
BLOGGER: A twin! Are you an identical twin? Who is older?
JACOB: No, we are not identical. My brother was born first, and the main difference everyone notices when they compare us is that he is very hairy and I am like this. He always was, and that’s even how he got his name, Esau. I was born second, and they named me Jacob, because I was holding Esau’s heel as we left our mother’s womb.
BLOGGER: I suppose it was a surprise to everyone that there were two of you?
JACOB: My mother — her name is Rebekah — told me that when she was carrying us, she suffered a lot. She thought it was one baby, but the Lord told her that it was twins. She heard, “Two nations are in your womb. Two peoples, born of you, shall be divided. The one shall be stronger than the other. The elder shall serve the younger.”
BLOGGER: Wow, and so that’s how she found out she was carrying twins?
JACOB: She knew that way.
BLOGGER: And then you were born holding your elder brother’s ankle?
JACOB: His heel.
BLOGGER: Right, his heel. So did you quarrel a lot when you were children? Was there discord right from the beginning?
JACOB: We had moments of disagreement, but probably it was no worse than what one would find between any siblings. We certainly had different personalities. Esau was always more outspoken and loud. I was quieter. And as we grew older, our interests diverged. Esau’s a hunter, and he’s good at it. I never liked hunting.
BLOGGER: Okay, anything else?
JACOB: I don’t remember anything outstanding or particularly memorable about the years of our youth.
JACOB: Until the time of the blessing.
BLOGGER: The blessing?
JACOB: Before he died, my father gave me the blessing of the elder son.
BLOGGER: But you’re the second-born right?
JACOB: I am.
BLOGGER: But he gave you the blessing for the elder?
JACOB: He did.
BLOGGER: He got mixed up?
JACOB: Yes — well, he got tricked.
BLOGGER: Your father got tricked? He thought you were your elder brother?
BLOGGER: How did that happen? You said you’re not identical twins.
JACOB: No, but he was blind by then.
BLOGGER: Your father was blind?
BLOGGER: So you stepped in to take your elder brother’s blessing?
JACOB: I did so only to make my mother happy. She’s the one who had this idea.
BLOGGER: Your mother wanted you to take your brother’s blessing?
BLOGGER: Wait. She wanted this? Why? She liked you better than your twin brother?
JACOB: I had a special bond with my mother. Our temperaments, you could say, were more similar.
BLOGGER: But what about Esau? She didn’t love Esau the same way?
JACOB: Of course she loved him, but Esau had our father.
BLOGGER: What do you mean? Don’t tell me that your father preferred Esau?
JACOB: Oh yes, yes, of course he did.
BLOGGER: He did? Are you sure? Why would he?
JACOB: I know this for sure, yes.
BLOGGER: But why?
JACOB: He liked the game — the meat that Esau could hunt and prepare.
BLOGGER: You must be kidding!
JACOB: I speak plainly.
BLOGGER: You’re saying that your father — what was his name?
JACOB: Isaac. His name was Isaac.
BLOGGER: You’re saying that your father preferred Esau because Esau was a hunter and brought your father meals made of the game he had hunted? And that meanwhile, your mother preferred you because you were more suited to her temperament?
JACOB: This is how it was.
BLOGGER: So then, back to the blessing, it was your mother’s idea to have you take the blessing which your father, Isaac, had intended for your twin brother?
JACOB: She said to me, “Jacob, listen to me. I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me game, and prepare for me savory food, that I may eat it, and bless you before the Lord before I die.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my word as I command you. Go to the flock, and fetch me two good young goats, that I may prepare from them savory food for your father, such as he loves; and you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.”
BLOGGER: So what did you say? I guess you agreed?
JACOB: Well, not at first. I said, “My brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him, and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing.” I was afraid.
BLOGGER: What did she say?
JACOB: She just insisted. She said, “Upon me be your curse, my son; only obey my word, and go, fetch them to me.”
BLOGGER: Then what?
JACOB: I did not argue with her. I did as she directed. I went and brought her the animals, and she prepared them.
BLOGGER: And then?
JACOB: And then I brought the food in to my father, and I asked for the blessing.
BLOGGER: And he gave you the blessing?
JACOB: Well, not at first. He said, “Who are you, my son?”
BLOGGER: And what did you say? I guess you told him that you were Esau?
JACOB: I did. I said, “I am Esau your first-born. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that you may bless me.”
BLOGGER: So did he?
JACOB: Well, not at first. He was suspicious because of my voice, and I guess because of how soon I had the food. He said, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?”
BLOGGER: What did you say?
JACOB: I said, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.”
BLOGGER: Is that a lie? So then what happened after that?
JACOB: Well, then it was worse, because he wanted to touch me to see if I really was Esau!
BLOGGER: Oh boy. Exactly what you had been worried about.
BLOGGER: So what happened?
JACOB: Well, he felt my arms, but he thought that I was Esau, because my mother had put onto me the skins of the young goats. She covered my hands and the back of my neck with them.
BLOGGER: So this is a complete deceit.
JACOB: My mother is very intelligent. She thought of everything.
BLOGGER: But your heart must have been pounding.
JACOB: I was certain I would be found out.
JACOB: But he didn’t know it. He only asked me one more time if I were Esau, and when I said “I am,” he just gave me the blessing.
BLOGGER: Do you remember the words of the blessing?
JACOB: Of course. They are engraved upon me now.
BLOGGER: What’s the blessing, if you don’t mind my asking?
JACOB: “See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed! May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be every one who curses you, and blessed be every one who blesses you!”
BLOGGER: So that’s the blessing which he had intended for Esau?
BLOGGER: In the blessing, he mentions how you smell. So he smelled you too?
JACOB: He said, “Come and kiss me,” and when I did, he smelled my garments.
BLOGGER: But how could you smell like Esau?
JACOB: My mother gave me Esau’s clothing to wear.
JACOB: Yes, his best clothing, actually.
BLOGGER: I must say, it’s almost as if your mother had been planning this for years.
JACOB: I don’t know, but she was probably remembering the words given to her by the Lord.
BLOGGER: You mean about the two nations at war in the womb?
JACOB: Yes, and: “The elder will serve the younger.”
BLOGGER: Oh, I missed that part. The prophesy was that the elder twin would serve the younger twin?
BLOGGER: So you think that her memory of those words may have influenced her actions in substituting you for the blessing?
JACOB: I don’t know. I cannot speak to this. I can only say what happened.
BLOGGER: And what about you? You went along with all of this. What did you think of this plan? Did you agree with it? Were you happy at the prospect of receiving the first born’s blessing?
JACOB: At first, I was confused at my mother’s directions, but then I thought it was good.
JACOB: Yes, and also just.
BLOGGER: Just? Really! In what way could it have been just?
JACOB: Esau didn’t care about his birthright. He had already sold it to me.
JACOB: He traded his birthright to me for a bowl of lentil stew.
BLOGGER: How could he have? When?
JACOB: It was several months before the day of the blessing, but I don’t remember exactly when. He had come in from hunting, and he was very, very hungry. He saw that I had just made some stew. It was ordinary stew, with lentils and vegetables, but he was famished. So he said to me, “Give me some of that stew.” I said to him, “I will give it to you in exchange for your birthright.”
BLOGGER: What did he say? I guess he agreed?
JACOB: He said, “What use is my birthright to me if I perish for lack of food?” So you see how little he valued his birthright.
BLOGGER: And so you felt that —
JACOB: That it was mine, yes.
BLOGGER: Because of that conversation?
JACOB: Yes, of course.
BLOGGER: Okay, let me think here. So you actually had no qualms about your mother’s plan, because you felt that the birthright already belonged to you.
BLOGGER: Wow. Okay.
JACOB: Esau could have refused to make the bargain.
BLOGGER: Right, but what about what your father wanted? Did your father ever find out that he gave the blessing to you, instead of Esau?
JACOB: He found out right away. Right after he had eaten the meal and the bread, right after he had drunk the wine, Esau came in with the meal that he had prepared, using the game he had hunted.
BLOGGER: Oh my.
JACOB: Yes. He went in to our father, and asked for his blessing.
BLOGGER: What happened? Did you see?
JACOB: No, I didn’t see, but I could hear the conversation from where I was. And my mother saw everything and told me later. She told me that Isaac my father began shaking terribly when he realized what had happened. He said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him?—yes, and he shall be blessed.”
BLOGGER: So it was too late to “undo” the blessing?
JACOB: Too late, of course. The blessing had been spoken.
BLOGGER: So then they were both upset? Both your father and Esau?
JACOB: They were both upset. Esau cried out very loudly, very bitterly. He said to our father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” And my father said, “Your brother came with guile, and he has taken away your blessing.”
BLOGGER: And then what?
JACOB: Then Esau said about me, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright; and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.”
BLOGGER: Indeed. Now did you not feel guilty in all of this?
JACOB: Guilty? I don’t know how I felt. I knew it was too late for Esau to take away the blessing I had received.
BLOGGER: So you felt like you succeeded?
JACOB: My mother’s plan had worked, yes.
BLOGGER: And so then Esau got nothing?
JACOB: My father initially said that he had nothing left to give. So you see, that would have been me, with nothing. In that sense, I do not regret it.
BLOGGER: You say, “initially,” so does that mean that he did find something left for Esau?
JACOB: Yes, he did. At first, when Esau asked him, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” my father said, “Behold, I have made him your lord, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?” But then, Esau asked him again. He said, “Is it the case that you have only one blessing that you can bestow?” He cried out so loudly, and he begged him, “Bless me, even me, also, O my father.” He was crying.
BLOGGER: And you really felt no guilt?
JACOB: I suppose I did, but it was tempered with the knowledge that he was standing in my own shoes.
BLOGGER: Alright, but your father Isaac did bless him?
JACOB: Yes. His blessing was that he would live by the sword, and that he would serve me. But it said that when he broke loose from me, he would be free.
BLOGGER: So the blessing spoke of a day when he would be free from your control.
BLOGGER: Wow, this is a lot to absorb.
BLOGGER: There are certainly a lot of parallels between your past and your present.
BLOGGER: Well, don’t you see it? You have been so angry about how your father-in-law put Leah in place of Rachel on the wedding day, so that you didn’t marry the woman you had wanted to marry, but you yourself stood in for your twin brother! And your disguise was far more elaborate than Leah’s! She wore a veil, and that’s normal on a wedding day, but who wears someone else’s entire outfit along with goat’s skin?
JACOB: It was my mother who supplied these! I would not have conceived of such a plan!
BLOGGER: Are you sure? After all, you asked Esau for the birthright at his weakest moment!
JACOB: But he didn’t have to agree!
BLOGGER: True, but you didn’t have to ask!
BLOGGER: But look, I understand that the situation was very imbalanced here. Your father prefers your brother, and all of this is very open. I think it would be painful for you.
JACOB: I knew it was that way.
BLOGGER: As in, you knew he preferred Esau?
BLOGGER: Right. And I want to bring that into the present, and into your approach to your relationships. You have a favouritism towards Rachel that persists even after she has died, and —
JACOB: Rachel has done nothing wrong! We cannot speak ill of her!
BLOGGER: I am not criticizing Rachel. I am saying that you need to reconsider your approach. Rachel is gone, and nothing can harm her. Leah is alive, and, as you said, has always been faithful to you. Leah can be hurt when you reject her.
JACOB: I am not rejecting her.
BLOGGER: Well, there are many forms of rejection. Your father’s behaviour was perhaps a form of rejection.
JACOB: I will not speak ill of my father.
BLOGGER: That’s nice. But it’s good for us to notice what happened before, because it seems to highlight what you are doing now. And we want to talk about the family dynamics that are occurring now, right?
JACOB: I guess that’s why we’re here.
BLOGGER: Yes. What I am thinking is this: your approach with your sons is also questionable. You say that you would give your life for any of them —
JACOB: I would!
BLOGGER: And I believe you, but my point is that you are engaging in a sort of exaggerated favouritism when it comes to Joseph, and probably Benjamin somewhat as well.
JACOB: What do you mean?
BLOGGER: I mean that your father neglected you, because he was so focused on Esau, and in the same way, you are neglecting your other sons, because you are so focused on Joseph.
JACOB: No, this is untrue! There is no neglect! When have I let them go hungry? When have they been without shelter? I have provided for their every need!
BLOGGER: But perhaps they have been, in a sense, without a father?
JACOB: I am their father! In every sense!
BLOGGER: Did you experience the love of your own father?
JACOB: Your question is now, what?
BLOGGER: Did you experience the love of your father?
JACOB: Did I experience the love of my father?
JACOB: What kind of question is that?
BLOGGER: I don’t know. Is it an unanswerable question?
JACOB: Look, this is not something I wondered. I did not say, “Does my father love me? Does my father not love me?” I am his son, and he is my father, and that was all.
BLOGGER: Did you experience the love of your mother?
JACOB: Of course! Of course I did! I still do!
BLOGGER: Oh! And you answer so readily!
JACOB: But this is a different question!
BLOGGER: It seems to be!
JACOB: She is a woman! It is entirely different! It is in her nature! A woman is tender, affectionate, and so on.
BLOGGER: But it is not in a father’s nature?
BLOGGER: But then what about Esau and your father? What about you and Joseph?
JACOB: I don’t know! I don’t know! You tell me! Who understands everything hidden? How can I know?
BLOGGER: It’s true. These things are mostly hidden, and when we want to understand, it’s difficult.
BLOGGER: But what I am concluding is that it seems there is a sinful behaviour that is repeating here. It’s not being addressed, and so the result is a pattern that’s going from generation to generation.
BLOGGER: Yes, don’t you think so?
JACOB: I see what you are doing, but nothing will be gained with such speculation and questions in the dark! Blind and pointless musings! No matter what my father did or did not do, I will not speak ill of him. I will not speak ill of my father.
BLOGGER: I guess we’re different like that.
JACOB: Pardon me?
BLOGGER: Ah, nothing.