The Birth of Esau and Jacob

After Isaac and Rebecca were married for some time, Rebecca still didn't have any children. Isaac prayed to God for his wife and Adonai responded; Rebecca became pregnant with twins. But the children fought in her womb and she prayed to Adonai who answered and said, "Two nations are in your womb; two separate peoples will come out of you. One people will be mightier than the other, and the older shall serve the younger."

They named them Esau and Jacob; Esau was red and hairy. Jacob, which means both cheat and heel, came out holding Esau's heel. When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter; but Jacob was a delicate home body who stayed in the camp. Isaac liked Esau more because he liked game, but Rebecca liked Jacob best.

Jacob Gets the Birthright

Once, when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in starving.

Esau: Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am starving.
Jacob: First sell me your birthright.
Esau: I am at the point of death, so what use is my birthright to me?
Jacob: Swear to me first.
Esau: I swear.

So Esau swore to him, and sold his birthright. Jacob then gave Esau bread and stew; he ate and then went away. That is how Esau gave up his birthright.

Jacob Gets Isaac's Blessing

When Isaac was old, and his eyes were too dim to see, he called to his older son Esau.

Isaac: My son.
Esau: Here I am.
Isaac: I'm going to die soon. Go out and hunt some game. Make it the way I like it and I'll bless you before I die.

Rebecca overheard Isaac's words

Rebecca: (to Jacob) Go to the flock and fetch me two choice kids, and I will make them a dish for your father such as he likes. Then take it to your father to eat, in order that he may bless you before he dies.
Jacob: But my brother is a hairy man, and I am smooth-skinned. If my father touches me, I shall appear to him as a trickster and bring upon myself a curse, not a blessing.
Rebecca: Your curse, my son, shall be upon me. Just do as I say and go fetch them for me.

Rebecca then dressed up Jacob in Esau's clothes. She covered his hands with the skins of the kids. He went to his father.

Jacob: Father.
Isaac: Yes, which of my sons are you?
Jacob: I am Esau, your first-born. Sit up, eat, and give me your blessing.
Isaac: How did you succeed so quickly, my son?
Jacob: Adonai your God granted me good fortune.
Isaac: Let me touch you, my son, to see whether you are really Esau. The voice is the voice of Jacob, yet the hands are the hands of Esau.

He did not recognize him because his hands were hairy like the hands of his brother Esau, and so Isaac blessed Jacob.

Isaac: Are you really my son Esau?
Jacob: I am.
Isaac: Serve me your game and I will bless you. [Didn't he say that he already blessed him? Is this a second blessing?] May God give you of the dew of the heaven and the fat of the earth. Be master over your brothers. You will have grain and wine.

Esau's Blessing

No sooner had Jacob left the presence of his father than Esau came back from his hunt.

Esau: Sit up, eat my game, so that you may bless me.
Isaac: Who are you?
Esau: I am your son, Esau, your first-born.
Isaac: (violently trembling) Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it before you came! And I blessed him. Now he must remain blessed.
Esau: (bitter sobbing) Bless me too, Father.
Isaac: Your brother came with trickery and took away your blessing.
Esau: First Jacob took away my birthright, and now he has taken away my blessing. Don't you still have a blessing for me?
Isaac: I have made him master of you. I have given him grain and wine. What then can I still do for you, my son?
Esau: (weeping) Have you but one blessing, Father? Bless me too!
Isaac: Your home shall have wealth and joy, but you will have to go to war. You will serve your brother. But eventually you'll be able to break away from his hold on you.


Esau: After my father dies, I'm going to kill my brother Jacob.

When the words of Esau were reported to Rebecca, she sent for her Jacob

Rebecca: Your brother Esau is consoling himself by planning to kill you. Listen to me, run away at once to Haran to my brother Laban. Stay with him for a while until your brother isn't angry anymore and he forgets what you did to him. Let me not lose you both in one day. [Who do you think "both" refers to?]

Jacob Flees

Jacob left Bersheva and set out for Haran. He came upon a certain place and stopped there for the night. Taking one of the stones of that place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. He had a dream. A stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky, and angels of God were going up and down on it. And Adonai was standing beside him and said, "I am Adonai, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

Jacob: (upon awakening) Surely Adonai is present in this place, and I did not know it.

Early in the morning, Jacob took the stone that he had set under his head and set it up as a pillar, and he poured oil on top of it, and he named the place Beit El, House of God.

Many Years in Haran

Jacob spent many years in the land of Haran, serving his uncle Laban, who also became his father-in-law as he married Laban's daughters Rachel and Leah. He had thirteen children there and became a wealthy man, but by the end he wasn't getting along with his uncle and he wanted to go back to the land of Canaan. But he was still afraid that his brother Esau might be angry with him after all these years.

Return to Canaan

Jacob: (to a messenger) Go to Esau and deliver this message: I stayed with Laban for this long time. I now have cattle donkeys, sheep and slaves. I want to end our fight.


Messenger: (to Jacob) We came to your brother Esau. He himself is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him. [Do you think the intention of Esau's and his men is to hurt Esau? We read what is in Jacob's mind. But what do you think is in Esau's mind?

Jacob: (frightened) When my brother Esau meets you and asks you who sent you and where you are going, and who owns these animals, answer him, "They belong to Jacob. They are his gift to you, Esau. And Jacob himself is right behind us." (to himself) If I give him lots of presents, perhaps he will like me.

The Second Dream

That night Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. The man saw that he could not prevail, but he managed to injure Jacob's hip.

The Man: Let me go, for dawn is breaking.
Jacob: I will not let you go unless you bless me.
The Man: What is your name?
Jacob: Jacob (which means cheater or heel).
The Man: You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with divine and human, and have won.
Jacob: Tell me your name.
The Man: (leaving) You must not ask my name.
Jacob: (to himself) I have seen a divine being face to face, and survived.

The sun rose upon Jacob and he continued on, limping on his hip. That is why the children of Israel to this day do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the socket of the hip, since Jacob's hip socket was hurt.

Jacob and Esau's Reunion

The next day, Jacob went up ahead and saw Esau and bowed to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. Esau ran to greet him. He embraced him and kissed him, and then they cried together.