This and That …
I wanted to write about Jacob and Esau, hostile twin brothers from Genesis in the Old Testament. I wanted to look afresh at this ancient story which has always fascinated me. I wanted to look beyond what we hear on the news of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The Genesis story tells of Esau, the hunter, favoured son of Isaac; and Jacob the diligent student, favoured son of Rebekah. When Rebekah asked the Lord what was going on with all the jostling in her womb while she was pregnant, He replied: Genesis 25:23
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger”.
Esau came out first, red haired and ruddy, with Jacob holding onto his heel. Later, Esau sells his first born birthright to Jacob for a pottage when he comes in from the fields faint with hunger. Later, their mother Rebekah used deception to ensure Jacob’s ascension as leader of Israel by disguising him as Esau, the favoured son of Isaac, in order for her favoured son Jacob to receive his father’s blessing and thereby the covenant, as he lay dying.
And so, Esau went away and became the leader of 12 tribes of Edom, and Jacob went away and became the leader of 12 tribes of Israel. At war with each other for many a year until such time as they saw each other and embraced each other.
This is a hundred times less than the bare bones of this biblical story.
Ishmael, firstborn son of Abraham was born to Hagar, handmaiden to Sarah. Isaac was the second son of Abraham born to Sarah. It was Isaac who became father to Jacob & Esau. While there was rivalry and deception between the 2 mothers, their sons and brothers, Ishmael and Isaac lived in harmony. Again, 1000 times less than the bare bones of this story.
Why am I telling so much less than the skeleton of these stories?
There is a part of me that finds some comfort in the biblical narrative. Going back in order to go forward. Like looking in the rear view mirror. As in the Lilith myth of the Dark Feminine inter alia. As In the myth of Oedipus, Gilgamesh, Psyche and Amor, Demeter & Persephone and many others. Stories that tell of complex and conflicting relationships, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, conscious and unconscious agendas, betrayals, deceptions, displacement, dominance and subservience, identity crises, marginalisation and fear of ‘the other’, rejection and many more real ongoing psychological complexes and dynamics that are alive and active in today’s world and continue to play themselves out on the world stage.
I find some comfort in the story in that Jacob and Esau ultimately do find peace with each other, albeit after a very long while and were able to put their fractured history somewhat behind them. They embraced and wept with each other. And the earlier story of Abraham’s sons Ishmael & Isaac who became leaders of different nations, like Jacob & Esau, who lived in relative harmony in spite of their mother’s positioning for each of them.
The question of God’s covenant as to who would be the ‘light unto the nations’, is one that is still grappled with among all those with vested interests as well as those of Islamic and Israeli faith in pre-ordained fate and Palestinian faith in pre-ordained fate …
But the stories tell me of possible reconciliation, that God had or has a plan – I am leaning towards possibilities and potentialities that the divine order will be carried out and that nations can reconcile if they get beyond their tribal, cultural and historical influences – and vested interests – and that peace is possible. The healing of past wounds CAN be healed even though the task of uncovering them requires courage. Which is why I am telling this story right now, even though I’m barely doing it justice. I’m telling it in my maybe naive desire to *trust* in peace, ultimately, between nations and peoples and our shared planet and I’m sharing it –
There are many links to google if you care to in order to get the fuller story. Many of them are pretty well researched and debated, and endlessly analysed by rabbinical scholars, theologians, historians, Jungian analysts, depth psychologists and the like.
I remember some years ago being on radio about the murder of Abel by his brother Cain who were the sons of Adam & Eve. And God’s question to Abel – where is your brother? And Abel’s response: ”I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
I’m preparing to leave for Europe tomorrow 8th June with my husband for just over 3 weeks. We’ll be on our own in Paris for a few days, then flying down to Lisbon where we’ll find Sintra and meet up with my husband’s sister and family who live in California. 4 of us are celebrating our June birthdays. After a week in Sintra, my husband & I leave the others behind and take off for Zurich for a few nights before boarding a boat which will take us up the Rhine. We disembark a week later in Amsterdam and then fly home in early July.
It’s very cold up here on the highveld, though the skies are blue and the trees are green. In about 2 weeks it will be the solstices again, longest night here in South Africa, longest day in Europe. On the 20th we leave from Portugal for Switzerland … transitions everywhere. I’m hoping to see the Black Madonna in Einseideln, Zurich during the few days we’re there.
Thank you for reading! I hope this finds you well wherever you are, and may your centre continue to hold.