As I have written elsewhere, scriptures of any sort often can become more meaningful when we view them as an invitation rather than as simple story or lesson. Thus, I have found it helpful, for example, to find myself in the various characters in the story of the Prodigal Son. Currently I find it an interesting exercise to find myself in Jacob and Esau.
This is a story not only about brothers but about achievement vs. contentment. Esau is the older of the two and therefore entitled to the inheritance of his father Isaac’s property and title. Jacob, however, wants this position and so tricks his own father by impersonating Esau! Flash forward several yeas and Jacob is now Israel, leader of the Jewish nation, and is headed for a meeting with Esau. Jacob fears the worst and tries to soften Esau with gifts. But, in a beautiful passage, Esau welcomes Jacob and gives Jacob gifts! What a marvelous story of forgiveness!
Let’s look further at these two men. Esau has long been viewed as a hairy oaf, kind of like a Biblical Bigfoot whose hirsute body provides the basis for Jacob’s trickery. All Esau ends up with is a bowl of lentils. Jacob is the achiever, the one who wants all the power, all the wealth, the most desirable wife and so on. Nothing seems to be enough for Jacob yet his brother Esau seems to have the capacity to be content.
Sadly, I find that I am more like Jacob than Esau. For me, at times an abundance has not been enough. The lure of power entices. Unlike Esau, I have also at times allowed myself to be consumed with fraternal resentment.
Esau, on the other hand, accepted his lot and built a good life for himself and his family. Clearly, he did not allow his brother’s trickery consume him with bitterness, not an easy accomplishment.
Jacob gets most of the attention. After all, he established the nation of Israel and thus is a spiritual ancestor of both Judaism and Christianity. But somehow I find myself longing to be more like Esau — simple, accepting of what life brings to him, and above all, blessed with a peaceful heart.
Reflection: Whom do you connect to? Jacob or Esau?