Letter to Jacob: Striving for Vanity
It’s a pleasure to write you. Your thoughts, motives and actions have been fodder for much religious exegesis and I have so many questions for you. But I’m here to discuss just one of them and I really appreciate this opportunity.
You see, a while ago I was discussing your story at a fellowship. You were a blessed man and scripture is replete with affirmations of your divine blessedness. You were born the beloved of your mother and the favoured of the celestial. You were a man who dared deceive his kin and still was named a Prince Genesis 32:28 and became the Father of Israel. A double portion of your father’s blessing, you extracted with cunning; 12 sons and a mighty nation birthed from the fruit of your loins. To every eye, you had it all. What more could a man want?
I ask because, you are the same man who described your life as the very opposite when talking with Pharaoh. After being reunited with your son Joseph, whose life now consisted of leading a nation and dining with royalty, you said “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” Genesis 47:9
The divine was always close to you regardless of what you did. A Prince you were called and a blessing you were made.
Few, I can concede when compared with many who lived before you, but evil?!??! Your life was anything but. A life, which we’ve been taught in years of Sunday School and pulpit proclamations, that was blessed by God, was to the one who lived it evil and unprofitable. Again, how could it be? What more could you want?
Well, I have a theory on this which I would love to share with you.
Let’s start your story from the very beginning. No, not at birth but from when you, as a young lad was able to make a distinction between right and wrong, between good and evil. Let’s start at your decision to keep food away from your older brother in exchange for his birthright. Yes, the infamous porridge tale. It may surprise you that I know about this, but we all do. There’s a book we have called the Bible that is a record of acts and sayings of God and of the ancients, such as yourself. You see, we know that you chose to trade porridge for what rightfully belonged to Esau. An indication of two possible scenarios (a) that you weren’t satisfied with your lot in life and would do anything to get what you wanted or (b) you were just mean spirited.
Neither option paints a flattering picture but somehow, I don’t think you cared. You might find it interesting to know that you have some staunch apologists. Seriously. Much of Christianity hears an argument from the pulpit that denigrates Esau for being hungry enough to agree to your suggestion and sell his birthright for a mere meal. Unfortunately, I’m not of that ilk and instead put myself in Esau’s shoes for a moment. I could see how he didn’t take your inane request seriously. Firstly, because the birthright was dictated by culture and not for anyone to give away or trade and secondly, because he was talking to his twin brother; from whom all he wanted was a meal.
I believe these events, whichever one we chose to start with, set the scene for the many other evil and difficult experiences you had in your life.
One may argue that this story was not a true reflection of your character but was merely innocent sibling rivalry – as such we shouldn’t start here. I take that on the chin, and I’ll try another starting point. How about ‘the great deception’? Shall we start there instead? Apologies, if I make things sound dramatic, but I’ve been told that I have a way with words.
In Genesis 27:1-23 we are told of an event where you and your mother contrived a plot to deceive your blind father into blessing you with your brother’s birthright. It would seem that you were pretty obsessed with Esau’s birthright, and you weren’t the only one! You couldn’t bear it that this birthright you had paid good steaming porridge for was about to slip through your grasp, and you went along with your mother’s plan to claw it back, regardless of what it took to do so. Selfishness, check. Deception, check. Greed, check. Covetousness, check. Theft, check. You stole something you didn’t work for and weren’t entitled to and ran away for fear of your life. I think that’s a befitting start, don’t you? This is because I believe these events, whichever one we chose to start with, set the scene for the many other evil and difficult experiences you had in your life.
From then on, deception seemed to haunt you and mete itself out to you in great measure. As you eagerly tricked your brother and deceived your father, you too were deceived by Laban into marrying a wife you hadn’t been interested in and were tricked by Leah who went along with her father’s plan. That wasn’t all, because you were also manipulated into working 14 years to marry the woman you wanted, even though you had bargained and agreed to do so for 7 years.
What am I getting at then, you might ask? It’s simple. The life you led that was evil and short was the product of your own doing. You sowed wickedness and strife and you reaped wickedness and strife. Not a complex scenario. What you did to your brother and your father was done to you, many times over and regardless of your past experiences the thought to change your ways didn’t cross your mind. You even went a step further and repeated the mistakes of your parents in your home by showing clear favouritism for one wife and her children. A problem that was the root of the issues in your upbringing and which shaped the person you became.
Sadly, you were a man who seemed to lack the capacity for reflection, and you were unable to see the patterns that developed in your life. To some extent, I can see how easily that could have happened. Let me explain. Although you were a deeply flawed man, your flaws did not hinder a relationship with the divine. Heck, while on the run from your brother after stealing his blessings, you were met by an angel and blessed! And that seemed to be the story of your life. The divine was always close to you regardless of what you did. A Prince you were called and a blessing you were made. There was no outright or express metaphysical response to or reprimand for your negative actions and with that came the thinking that what you had done was acceptable. If the heavens had no problem with you and could still come bless you after many a heinous activity, then surely no line was crossed. All was fair in love, war and in your case, inheritance.
We can see, through your experiences, that the lack of a divine outburst at our every unrighteous action, does not imply divine approval.
Unfortunately, you were wrong. the blessing and the divine communion you enjoyed did not absolve you from the effects of your actions. Scripture says in Galatians 6:7 that what a man sows, he will reap, and this natural law takes effect regardless of who you are, creed you profess or kingdom you belong. When Samson succumbed to Delilah’s seductive wiles, he suffered the effect of his decision, the loss of the source of his power. Yet he remained God’s anointed and was used to bring down the Philistines. When David slept with Bathsheba and killed her husband, he lost the child born of that relationship, but still remained an anointed of God and a man after His heart. So, you see, God loved you, divinity communed with you, but neither could save you from yourself.
I’m not here to judge, although it may seem so. No, I’m not. I’m here because your life offers me and many like me an opportunity to reflect on our lives and our decisions. We can see, through your experiences, that the lack of a divine outburst at our every unrighteous action, does not imply divine approval. Neither is it a free pass to keep on doing the wrong thing. Your story teaches that regardless of how much God may love us, He seldom saves us from bearing the consequences of our actions.
Yours in Yahweh,