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Abraham’s Legacy

Genesis 24-27

In his search for the truth Abraham found a covenant with God. He therefore has a legacy to pass on. It consists of the awareness of a single, incorporeal God of all humanity, who is directly involved in human affairs. This is the great legacy that Abraham’s descendants, all the way through the Prophets and Jesus, as well as those who wrote the scriptures, have worked hard to preserve. If all the nations of the earth are to be blessed on account of Abraham, they must receive his message.

And so Abraham is very concerned about finding the right wife for his son Isaac. It must not be someone from the Canaanites among whom he was dwelling - they did not believe in the God Abraham found; they had their own tribal gods and would not have passed on his message. So Abraham directs his servant to go back to the land of his kinsfolk and find an appropriate woman - not just any woman, but one who specifically possesses the quality of compassion.

The servant finds such a woman: Rebekah, the daughter of Abraham’s nephew. It was love at first sight, and Rebekah became a comfort to Isaac after the death of his mother Sarah.

They have two children, Jacob and Esau. They are twins, but technically Esau is the eldest, and this proves signicant. The two could hardly have been more different, Esau the ruddy outdoorsman and Jacob the peaceable tent-dweller.

But Jacob also had a crafty side. With the collusion of his mother he deceives Isaac, by now blind and close to death, into bestowing upon him the special blessing meant only for the first-born son.

When Esau discovers that his brother cheated him, he becomes enraged and swears revenge. Rebekah finds Jacob first and tells him to flee.

How much sympathy should we feel for Jacob? Did he not bring his fate upon himself by deceiving his brother and cheating him out of what was rightfully his?

We need to remember that the transmission of Abraham’s legacy is more important than the interests of any one individual. Esau had already shown himself unfit for this transmission by taking Canaanite wives, which became a source of grief to his parents, and by his contempt for tradition, his willingness to sell his birthright for a pot of soup. Only Jacob showed any interest in the God of his father and grandfather, and so the true heir had to be Jacob.

Yet Jacob did act deceitfully, and still must pay the price.

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