God Choosing a Cheat…!?

Light of truth

Jacob Chanikuzhy

God’s choosing of Jacob to continue the line of election baffles many. The book of Genesis does not picture Jacob as an ideal character. Rather than carpeting the dark sides of the personality of Jacob, Genesis vividly portrays the flaws in the character of Jacob. What the readers of the bible readily remembers about Jacob is his disguising as his brother Esau and thereby cheating his father and procuring the blessing intended for his twin brother (Genesis 27). How can God choose such a cheat as his favourite? May be we are asking a wrong question. It is probably not God choosing a cheat, rather, the chosen one choosing to cheat.

When we try to understand the dynamics of the story, we cannot paint Jacob simply as a callous trickster. Actually he was complying with his mother. It was her idea to trick Isaac into blessing Jacob. She had her own reasons to “fool” her husband. The most important reason why he wanted Jacob to receive his father’s blessing must have been the divine oracle given to her. God had revealed to her that, “The older will serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). Since Jacob was God’s chosen one, Rebekah wanted to do her bit to enable Jacob to actualize the divine plan. She believed that since Jacob was marked for divine blessings, he should also receive his father’s blessing. Second reason should have been the character of Esau himself. He had proved himself to be very unfit for having anything worthy and valuable. He depreciated even his birth right and considered it less valuable than a cup of soup. How can he be trusted with more important things when he is unfaithful to less important things? A third reason is Esau’s marital life. Though his father married a girl from his own family in Haran, Esau did not consider the faith and culture of his family important, and married two gentile (Canaanite) women and these had made troubles for Isaac and Rebekah. So Rebekah did not want to make Esau’s family flourish with the blessings of his father. Yet another reason that prompted Rebekah to “cheat.” Isaac could have been his evident partiality towards Esau. Scripture explicitly states that Isaac loved Esau (Genesis 25:28).

Now, the question is why Rebekah resorted to an unfair means to ensure the blessings for Jacob. One wonders why she did not reveal the divine oracle to Isaac and persuade him to bless Jacob rather than Esau. We do not know what or whether Rebekah thought about this option. But one can imagine that Rebekah feared that in a patriarchal culture her opinions and desires would not be respected. In an unfair power structure where legitimate rights are disrespected and ignored sometimes people have to take recourse to ingenious means to get things done. While all these reasons can explain why Rebekah did what she did, they cannot, however, justify her actions.

One cannot consider Isaac as an old innocent victim of the machinations of his wife and son either. The intention of Isaac to bless Easu alone is surprising. Normally a father calls all his children and bless all of them appropriately. Here, Isaac seems to have intended to bless Esau alone which appears to be unfair.

Isaac, tries his level best to ensure that Esau himself receives his blessings. As his eyesight was very weak, he heavily depended on all other sensory faculties to identify the person who receives his blessings. Thus, he used his sense of taste (he tasted the meat because he knew the cooking style of Esau); the sense of touch (Esau was a hairy man and Jacob not), sense of smell (He smelled the clothes and he knew that the smell of both his children differed) and the sense of hearing (he asks questions to hear the voice of the responder).

It is remarkable that though Jacob “deceived” Isaac and received the blessing, Isaac never scolded Jacob when he knew about that. Moreover, Isaac later reaffirmed the blessings he had given to Jacob. The blessings, however, were not magical words. The blessing did not turn Jacob into a king. He had rather become a refugee. Due to the blessings he had to flee from his home and land. The blessings caused conflict with his brother and brought threats to his life. Jacob had to struggle hard to realize his paternal blessings. The blessings do not exempt one from hardships, struggles, anxieties and sufferings. It offers new challenges, tasks and opportunities and opens up new roads to greatness.

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