Isaac’s other years stretch as he continued to live honestly and quietly with God. He did not record the lessons he learned. He did not speak to his people, not even his sons, about his insights and the power honesty and brought him. These things just weren’t done in these days. Men talked with their peers, and Isaac only knew family and servants. Families often play the politics of their time. Father-kings, mother-queens, child-servants defined these times. It was brutal and efficient, perhaps even rational given what they had.
Isaac grew older. He moved around less. He lost his sight indoors, and soon even full daytime became a blur of colors.
Jacob started to notice the aging. His father was no longer the immortal being . His father will be taken by God some day and that day draws near. This didn’t seem important before, but he also began to realize Esau would become man of the house. What would happen then? The fellow was strong, but that’s all he was. He didn’t know the first thing about breeding stock or market prices or anything to run the family business. Jacob would be damned before that idiotic brute took over.
Preparation for the Afterlife
Isaac was rich for a herdsman, very rich thanks to his father and friends, but Esau would decide how much Jacob could get, and he certainly forgot that childhood bet. The fate of second sons was usually war, criminality, or education, and the first two were unpleasant, the last one required going to Egypt, Babylon, or some other brutal kingdom built on war. There were good reasons Abram left them and sought land that was too poor for empires. The reasons weren’t necessarily wise, but they were rational, and that’s all Jacob cared about.
His father would probably give the ritual blessing of inheritance before too long. Even though it was only a ritual, and thus pointless to Jacob, he knew his father’s single-minded dedication to the truth would mean he would never take the blessing back, and then Esau would have to honor the bet, out of respect for Father at least, since Jacob believed him to be otherwise without honor.
Jacob planned out the perfect disguise to play off his father’s blindness. He had sleeves made with goat hair, and a patch to cover his neck. Closing his eyes, touching his sleeves, it felt like a hairy arm, close enough anyway. The sleeves and patch get tucked under his bed.
Then, Jacob waits.
Jacob the Thief
Years passed, all life grew older. One day, Isaac sent for Esau. He asked for some fresh meat for a special, private feast.
This was it, the offering for the ritual. Of course, Esau would want to show off his hunting skills, so Jacob had time to do his final preparations. He commanded a servant butcher a dog. Now, eating dog was not unknown, but they were too valuable in the desert to kill except when necessary, so the servants had more qualms than Jacob seemed to.
Jacob tried a taste, and it seemed right. He suddenly realized: “I smell too good to pass for Esau.” He barked at a servant to bring the meat and the dog’s skin to Jacob’s room.
After putting on his disguise, he rubs himself with the dog’s skin (the servant managed to escape the task without a beating) and he laughed how much it did smell like his awful brother.
Jacob entered his Father’s room, stomping his feet like a brute. With his voice lowered and made more gruff, like Esau’s, he said: “I am here, Father! I have this meal from the finest game I caught with my own bow.”
Isaac’s mind was still sharp. He also knew Esau often hunted hunted longer than this. “Is that really you? How did you get the game and cook it in such short time?”
Jacob was ready and said easily, as if he had been there: “I went to the western ridge, with the great view to plan my hunt. Just as I had my course for the day planned, right in front of me the most unusual creature came out from behind a rock, as if offered to me by God himself.”
Isaac found no trace of lying hesitation, but Jacob or any of his daughters could have made up the story and the sound of his voice was still off. No one felt like Esau, however. “Come on, give your old man a hug and kiss before I eat and bless you.”
Jacob moved in and hugged his Father. Isaac felt his arms, then put a hand on his neck. Isaac’s doubts still thrashed, but who else could it be? None of the family was as hairy as Esau, a servant could be put to death for this, and a stranger would have been caught before getting this far.
Isaac decided that it must be old-age taking more of his senses. He blessed Jacob, granting him the inheritance of the first born, long life, and the blessings of his grandfather, Abraham.
“May God grant you fertile fields
I give my word as one of God’s children!”
Cursed and Foiled
A few hours after, someone was at Isaac’s door. He said: “Father, I have returned. I went deep into the forest and found a regal buck, worthy of you!”
Isaac’s heart grew cold and confused. This sounded just like his firstborn, Esau. Was it more tricks of his old ears? He asked: “And who are you?”
“Esau! Your first born son. You asked me this morning to hunt for you.”
Isaac shook with rage, realizing that his suspicions had been correct. Immediately, he knew Jacob had took advantage of them both. “You took too long. Your brother stole your blessing!”
Esau nearly dropped the meal, but set it on his father’s table before kneeling as his feet, placing his forehead on his toes. “Have you only one blessing? Surely, my brother, the liar and thief, can’t get away with this?”
Isaac was overcome with rage, Esau was begging him like a child, and now he saw them fighting forever after his death. “I gave my word! Shall you make me a liar to the Most High God? Or do you think I can trade God’s blessings like grain?! Come to me, now.”
Isaac put a hand on Esau’s forehead:
“When you wander far from cities and towns,
The arrow and sword will feed you.
When you live among men,
They will envy your strength of self,
And they will enslave you to harness it,
And it will curse you both.”
Esau left his father, barely mumbling a good-bye or thanks for this curse disguised as a blessing. He shouted his rage once he was far from his father: “I WILL KILL JACOB!”
Many servants heard Esau, and they heard the outrage, and they knew Esau to be be a deadly huntsman. Eventually, word reached Jacob’s mother, exaggerated and made even more dire from retelling and imagination.
Rebekah figured Jacob would not be safe here. She would need Isaac, her Lord and Master and Owner in these times, to make the decision. She had a plan for that.
She said to her Husband: “I really think Jacob needs to live closer to a city for a while. One of my sisters has became wife to a herdsman some time ago, a man who lives well just outside Haran. If Jacob leaves soon, he will be able to meet their lovely daughters her husband gives them all to someone else.”
Isaac grumbled, not wanting to think about either of his sons: “It’s not a terrible idea. At least he would marry a cousin instead of a half-sibling like my father’s traditions. Send him to me in the morning.”
The next morning, Jacob was called to speak with his Father.