Childbirth is more admirable than conquest, more amazing than self-defense, and as courageous as either one.

–Gloria Steinem

Genesis, Chapter 25

A Quiet Way

The wheel of life turned, Abraham and Keturah passed out of life, as Rebekah and Isaac brought new life into the world.

One night, deep in pregnancy, Rebekah had a dream.

Two kings faced each other. One was large, covered in red hair and brown scars, a master of the land. The other was thin, with curious skin and pale eyes, a master of humans.

One army was a strong army, every one of ten thousand men his own free man, ready to die for a cause. The other army covered the horizon pouring out of the sky, every thousand of ten million men conscripted into a soldier’s life, ready to win status and power.

The army of ten thousand taunt and jeer louder than their fear, fierce passion in every holler. The army of ten million stand ready, stone faced, God removed from their hearts so they can kill. Against a setting sun, the shadows of ten million men rise onto ten thousand.

For each free man killed, he took a hundred hired soldiers with him. The nine million survivors made note of their dead, strangers and friends all, loot the enemy fallen, and march back home dreaming of starting new lives in peace. The dream ends as they march over land turned to ash.

Rebekah woke, pained from the thrashing in her womb. Isaac woke, and comforted her. Rebekah grunts: “I think they’re already fighting. It feels like a war inside me.”

Red and Grasp

Rebekah had twins.

Esau was born first, his name means Red, because he was born with red hair all over his body. The unusual color and amount made him very popular.

Jacob was born second, his name means One Who Is Grasping and rhymes with Ancient Hebrew for “ankle,” because he came out only seconds after his older brother by holding onto Esau’s ankle, they say.

The midwife swore that Jacob winked at her as he came out, head first, against all likelihood. He just might have.

Rebekah remembered that dream. She told everyone God sent a dream that predicted she would have twins. She usually stopped there, not wanting to recount the horror that may unfold. Surely, it was only a dream of nonsense.

The twins grew up very differently. Esau was always out in the fields. When he was not tending the herdsmen or overseeing his father’s slaves, he was catching game in the wilderness. Jacob was always indoors. When he wasn’t reading scrolls and holy writings, he was finding ways to trick others into doing his chores.

Jacob’s favorite target was his brother, Esau. It was much more enjoyable to trick his older brother than the slaves. The slaves weren’t allowed to get upset.

One afternoon when they were young boys, Esau came to the cook fires after working all morning in the fields. Unloading his weapons and tools, he asked: “Lunch ready yet?”

Jacob was nosing around the fires, looking over the cakes, alone after sending slaves away for more rare ingredients. He looked up and said: “This isn’t for you.”

Esau groaned: “Come on, Grasp. I’m hungry here! You’ve got stew ready, right there.”

Jacob said: “No doubt that’s true. I read that if you’re that hungry after working all morning, you could die if you don’t eat immediately! But this is for me, I’ve been working too. To put my life at risk like that, you would need to trade your birthright as first born son to me!”

Esau was wary. His brother did learn a lot from his studies, which he used to win every argument. This was one of those times where it made no sense, and may have been lies. However, knowledge was scarce and wild in those days, and Esau’s stomach did feel like it might tear him in two. He decided to play it safe and he agreed. Jacob laughed with glee inside, since he had recently eaten; this food was for the servants.

He imagined God smiling down upon him upon sealing the agreement, but he knew convincing his father would be required. He wasn’t sure how he could do it, but his father was young and healthy, so he just enjoyed besting his brother again.

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