Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day

Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy: “We support biblical families.”

Today’s Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day: Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27:1-40).

When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called his elder son Esau and said to him, “My son;” and he answered, “Here I am.” He said, “See, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and hunt game for me. Then prepare for me savory food, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may bless you before I die.”

Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me game, and prepare for me savory food to eat, that I may bless you before the Lord before I die.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my word as I command you. Go to the flock, and get me two choice kids, so that I may prepare from them savoury food for your father, such as he likes; and you shall take it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.”

But Jacob said to his mother Rebekah, “Look, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a man of smooth skin. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him, and bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.”

His mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my word, and go, get them for me.” So he went and got them and brought them to his mother; and his mother prepared savory food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob; and she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she handed the savory food, and the bread that she had prepared, to her son Jacob.

So he went in to his father, and said, “My father;” and he said, “Here I am; who are you, my son?”

Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, so that you may bless me.”

But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?”

He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.”

Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him.

He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” Then he said, “Bring it to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.” So he brought it to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” So he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his garments, and blessed him, and said,

“Ah, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a field that 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 everyone who curses you,
and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of his father Isaac, his brother Esau came in from his hunting. He also prepared savory food, and brought it to his father. And he said to his father, “Let my father sit up and eat of his son’s game, so that you may bless me.”

His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” He answered, “I am your firstborn son, Esau.”

Then Isaac trembled violently, and 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 blessed he shall be!”

When Esau heard his father’s words, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, me also, father!”

But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing.”

Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright; and look, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”

Isaac answered Esau, “I have already made him your lord, and I have given him all his brothers as servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?”

Esau said to his father, “Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me, me also, father!” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.

Then his father Isaac answered him:

“See, away from the fatness of the earth shall your home be,
and away from the dew of heaven on high.
By your sword you shall live,
and you shall serve your brother;
but when you break loose,
you shall break his yoke from your neck.”

 

  • Ouri Maler

    Yyyyeah, I know why this Christian guy I know refers to Jacob as “Jake the Snake”.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I always wondered how Jacob could live with himself after conning his entire family with the apparent connivance of his mother.

  • Jurgan

    It’s an interesting case- on the one hand, Jacob is kind of a selfish jerk.  On the other hand, it’s pretty impressive how a woman and a second-born son were able to subvert the patriarchy.

  • hidden_urchin

    There must have been a Black Friday deal on blessings. Limit: one per family.

    I kind of want to know how the conversation between Isaac and Rebekah went after that. Surely he was smart enough to figure it out. On the other hand, he was just fooled by goat hair even though the person had a different voice so I think the argument could be made for diminished capacity.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    The Bible, I’m told, has a habit of favoring second borns and one theory is that this has to do with propaganda when there was a divided kingdom and the people writing the books were in the one that claimed fealty to/decent from/something or other, a second born.  (Where the other part followed the first born.)

    Or something like that, it’s been a while since I heard the theory.

    So we get things like, “Cain, first born, is a murderer and cursed.  Abel, second born, is awesome but was murdered by that rat bastard Cain.”  And Jacob, the wily one, gets the blessing.  And so on.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     The Bible, I’m told, has a habit of favoring second borns and one theory
    is that this has to do with propaganda when there was a divided kingdom
    and the people writing the books were in the one that claimed fealty
    to/decent from/something or other, a second born.  (Where the other part
    followed the first born.)

    That would actually make quite a bit of sense.  The Bible as we know it mostly comes from records from the time of the so-called Kingdom of Judah, which was a southern breakaway from Israel that still included Jerusalem.  It was largely lands that were traditionally considered those of the tribe of Judah and one of the sub-tribes of Joseph (wh0 had two half-tribes for some reason).  Ephraim, if I recall.  And, yes, I’m doing this all from memory, so…y’know.

    The Israel/Judah split is pretty explicit in the later histories and the prophets.  But if you pay attention while reading the stories that come before it’s pretty obvious that Judah was the bestest tribe ever.  Really, the only four tribes that get much press at all are Judah, Benjamin, Levi, and the Joseph ones.  You never hear much about, say, Naphtali or Gad.

    It’s hard not to conclude that there’s some amount of propagandizing going down, up to and including the notion that there was never any sort of “Twelve Tribes of Israel,” but possibly a loose confederation of nomadic tribes who came together under a warlord and then created a national epic of some sort…

  • Evan Hunt

    The story always makes me wonder if “blessing” is translated from a word that means something entirely other than what we mean by it.  Something about which it isn’t bizarre to imagine that a person could just… run out of them.  (“Achoo!” “Blech you.  Bleep you.  Burp you.  What the hey?!”)

    A story like this makes sense to me if the elderly character is dressed like Dumbledore and is casting a spell to enact a binding magical contract which can only ever be cast once and can never be undone because magic.  But it doesn’t make sense if it’s some old guy in a tent deciding which son inherits his land.  If ancient Hebrews liked their stories to make sense, then I suppose there must have been some background context they had that I don’t.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Well, what we mean by “blessing” also varies.

    I generally understand blessings in an Old Testament context to mean something that God puts in the mouths of his prophets when they consent to be a vehicle for Their blessing, rather than something the prophets themselves choose to say or not say. There are modern usages of the word that are consistent with this, but the reflexive “Bless you” after a sneeze isn’t one of them.

    I also generally understand stories like this to be post-facto “explanations” for why the world is as it is, so I’ve generally assumed that there was some counterintuitive fact about how land was allocated among the tribes at the time that was being “explained” by this origin-myth about their canonical founders Isaac and Esau.

  • Carstonio

    Decades ago I read that modern Jews are descended from the Judah and Israel tribes, who had been captured and enslaved by the Babylonians and freed by the Persians. The other 10 tribes had been captured and enslaved by the Assyrians and lost to history. Am I misreading the Jacob/Esau story as Judah and Israel claiming fealty or descent with the hairy brother? 

  • Nicanthiel

    Per the biblical tradition, the Kingdom of Judah was comprised of two of Jacob’s favored sons – Judah (who got the largest blessing of the children who weren’t Rachel’s), and Benjamin. The territory also included the traditional tribal lands of Simeon, whose tribe was cursed and scattered as a result of the Rape of Dinah.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t know how accurate the rest is, but ‘Israel’ is the name Jacob got after wrestling an angel. The tribes are named after his sons, or in a couple cases grandsons; there is no tribe of Israel because Israel is the whole lot of them (or was until a couple tribes broke off to become the nation of Judah). I suspect this of being retconning–the tribes that had those names all claimed descent from Jacob, so the tribes must have been named after immediate descendants of his, and ‘Jacob’ is an absurd name for a nation and also not what they were already calling their collection of tribes.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     Per the biblical tradition, the Kingdom of Judah was comprised of two of
    Jacob’s favored sons – Judah (who got the largest blessing of the
    children who weren’t Rachel’s), and Benjamin. The territory also
    included the traditional tribal lands of Simeon, whose tribe was cursed
    and scattered as a result of the Rape of Dinah.

    Yeah…that sounds better.  The problem was that I had Ephraim and Manasseh on the brain for whatever reason and initially mis-remembered those as sub-tribes of Benjamin.  The brain plays funny tricks sometimes.

  • Nicanthiel

    Mostly right, but the other tribes you mention are actually Israel, specifically the Kingdom of Israel. The only ones captured by the Babylonians were those from the Kingdom of Judah, which as I mentioned above, were the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, a greatly diffused/degraded Simeon, and those of the Levites who remained in Jerusalem and surrounding places of worshup (the Israel-affiliated Levites were, obviously, lost to the Assyrians.)

    Supposedly the Jacob/Esau story, including their eventual reconciliation, was to explain the relationship of the Hebrews with the Edomites (kind of a love-hate, with Edom at times vassal and other times bitter enemy)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    What I never understood was why old man Isaac couldn’t just call his sons back into the tent and take back the agreement with Jacob! It was, after all, garnered under false pretenses in the first place.

    And even back then I’m sure the concept of people changing their minds about inheritances did exist.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    Decades ago I read that modern Jews are descended from the Judah and
    Israel tribes, who had been captured and enslaved by the Babylonians and
    freed by the Persians. The other 10 tribes had been captured and
    enslaved by the Assyrians and lost to history. Would it be a mistake to
    read the Jacob/Esau story as Judah and Israel claiming fealty or descent
    with the hairy brother?

    Probably not, since the other big issues that come into play are the Babylonian Captivity and the Maccabean War.  The Jewish Bible as we have it today was largely set down during the latter event from stories, traditions, and books that came before, many of which existed during the split kingdom period.

    During the Babylonian Captivity there were still Hebrews living in the area that had been Israel.  They had their own set of traditions and beliefs that evolved over time as they intermarried with other groups and whatnot.  They eventually even had their own holy place that wasn’t in Jerusalem.

    When the former Babylonian Jews started coming back after Cyrus the Great gave them leave to rebuild the temple these supposedly half-breed Jews were firmly entrenched in Israel.  They were known as Samaritans.  And they didn’t take took kindly to the idea of being supplanted.

    So it’s interesting that we get all of these second son stories (Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob) and even a few second wife/daughter stories (Jacob married Rachel second and the only two sons she gave birth to were Joseph and Benjamin, the last two.  Joseph saved the family in the Egypt thing and the first king, Saul, was of the tribe of Benjamin).  Also, too, the greatest king of the narrative was David, who was the youngest son and also of the Tribe of Judah.

  • Carstonio

    Thanks – I had forgotten that Israel applied to the other tribes. The encyclopedia entry I had read explained that the 12 tribes eventually grouped into two larger groups, Israel and Judah. Now I’m wondering if the notion of 12 tribes each descended from Jacob’s sons was actually a retcon after these formed alliances.

  • Evan Hunt

    I also generally understand stories like this to be post-facto “explanations” for why the world is as it is

    Yes, I agree.  But just-so-story explanations still need to make sense.  If the answer to why this leads the questioner to ask why that (i.e., why didn’t Isaac just take back the blessing and give it to Esau?), then it hasn’t explained anything.  So maybe the listeners knew the reason why a blessing can’t be taken back, and I don’t, so the story made sense to them.

    (On the other hand, maybe Isaac planned to shaft Esau all along and was too much of a coward to admit it to him.  “Awwww, shoot!  Esau, that no-good ding-diddly brother of yours just got your blessing, and now you’re going to have to go live in the wilderness and struggle for everything. Gum by dern, ain’t that a kick in the tunic.  Well, see ya.”)

  • Vermic

    You know, it so happens that Dan Cathy has two sons.  When he starts getting on in years, things could get very entertaining in the Chik-fil-A empire.

  • Lori

     I don’t think putting this guy first in line instead of that guy really counts as “subverting the patriarchy”.

  • flat

    The ironic thing about this story is that Esau got what Jacob wanted: He became powerful, rich, had much cattle, while Jacob was fleeing from him.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     > But just-so-story explanations still need to make sense.

    Not in my experience. They just need to provide a comfortable story that concludes “…and that’s why this is the way it is.”

    I mean, I frequently see people engaging in motivated cognition that allows them to endorse any argument that supports a conclusion they endorse, whether it makes sense or not. And we still tell each other absurd cultural origin myths today (e.g., George Washington’s cherry tree).

    I don’t particularly expect that our distant ancestors millenia ago were significantly better critical thinkers than we are when it came to evaluating their cultural origin myths.

  • AnonymousSam

    The best part of this is that in the end, God hated Esau, so apparently Esau is the bad guy.

    Most likely because Esau married outside the tribe.

  • Lori

     

    And we still tell each other absurd cultural origin myths today (e.g., George Washington’s cherry tree).  

    Does anyone (other than maybe Right wing homeschoolers) actually talk about George and the cherry tree as a supposedly true story any more? I didn’t learn it as a true story even back when I was in school and I’m old. Discussing the story in a meta way is not the same thing as telling it as if it actually happened.

    There are certainly still things taught about US history that are either not true or seriously incomplete, but is this old myth really one of them?

  • Carstonio

    Now I imagine a modern retelling where Esau shaves his arms and face as an act of counter-deception.

  • Carstonio

    The cherry tree story probably hasn’t been taught for decades, except by some individual parents. It’s possible that even Washington Irving didn’t mean for it to be believed as literal history. But I’ve encountered older folks who still believe that the world was held to be flat before Columbus. Uh, no.

  • Aiwhelan

     I’m 28 and I was taught this (in elementary school, but still)

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Well, I remember being taught about it when I was a kid in school in a way that made me think it was something that happened, but then I also remember believing K’Tonton (sort of a Jewish Tom Thumb) was real at that age, so perhaps I was just an unusually suggestible kid, or perhaps my memories of that age are unreliable.

    I’m not sure what to say about the truth of stories, here.

    I mean, sure, I agree that there’s a difference between the way we tell each other different kinds of stories. When we tell the cherry tree story, we’re not committed to it as historical truth the way we are, say, to the story of Lincoln’s assassination (though we’re not necessarily committed to its falsehood the way we are to, say, the story of Santa Claus… and even that we sometimes talk about as though it were true, even though we’re all in on the joke).

    But… well, we know that ancient Hebrews told each other the story of Jacob blessing Isaac and Esau, because the story is passed along in the accounts we’ve received of them. But did they tell the story like we tell the story of Washington chopping down the cherry tree? Or like we tell the story of Booth shooting Lincoln? Or like we tell the story of Santa Claus? Or something else?

    I don’t know, and I’m not sure how one could know.

  • Leum

    The local rabbi thinks that all of the firstborn getting the short end of the stick is an attempt to justify Solomon becoming king after David.

  • Carstonio

    I was suggesting that the story hadn’t been taught as historically factual in decades. Aiwhelan and others might have been taught the story as apocryphal.

  • Jurgan

    There was also the woman who managed to override her husband’s wishes.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     I understand, and agree.

  • Lori

     

    I don’t know, and I’m not sure how one could know.   

    I don’t think we can know, and I really have no opinion about it’s truthfulness. My default assumption about Bible stories is that they’re just stories.

  • Lori

    Eh, I don’t think that scheming to get one’s way automatically constitutes “subverting the patriarchy” just because the schemer is a woman and the schemed against is a man. It’s not like she was actually fighting against the system. She was just manipulating to get stuff for her son (who was apparently a total momma’s boy in a not good way). Her actions fit right in with misogynist stereotypes about women—-bitches man, you can’t trust ‘em.

  • Makabit

    There’s a midrash that actually says that Jacob’s daughter Dina was supposed to marry Esau. Jacob wouldn’t allow it, and therefore Esau doesn’t get saved by the love of a good woman.

  • Makabit

    Does the younger-usurping-the-older motif show up in other ancient Near Eastern literature? It is very striking in the Bible, but Solomon’s not one of a dyadic pair, he’s simply the surviving son of the baddest bitch in the harem. (Batsheva will excuse me for the bluntness, I think the description is accurate.) One gets the impression the succession was a bit of a free-for-all, with no specific expectation of primogeniture.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Pfft. He was satisfied with the wives he had already.

    Then again, I am apparently his patron saint. I may be biased.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Primogeniture as the law-of-the-land rather than just a frequent local custom wasn’t really a thing until the Hundred Years’ War started due to the disputed succession of the Capetian dynasty in France.


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