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hesitating doubt, “Upon me be thy curse, my son; only obey my voice, and go and fetch the kids for me. She was prepared for any emergency. The animals were killed, and a palatable meal, such as Isaac loved, was soon ready. Then she dressed her younger son in the festive garments of Esau, and to render the resemblance perfect, she covered his smooth neck and hands with the skins of the kids. She then put the meal into his hands, and sent him to his father.
The patriarch, aged and infirm, was reposing on his bed when Jacob appeared before him. Who art thou, my son?' asked the blind man. I am Esau, thy firstborn, I have done as thou badest me: rise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me.' At that voice, so unlike the voice he had anticipated, Isaac's suspicions were aroused, and he asked. “How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son ? Surprised by this unexpected question, Jacob in trembling haste added blasphemy to deceit, for he answered: Indeed the Lord thy God brought it in my way. But Isaac was far from satisfied. • Come near,' he said, “I pray thee, that I may feel thee whether thou art indeed my son Esau or not.' Then he touched him with his hand, and with a feeling of distrust still lingering in his mind, he exclaimed, The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are Esau's hands. How touching, how sad are the words of the poor blind father, as he put the last searching question to his treacherous child, · Art thou indeed my son Esau ?' And Jacob, unmoved and unabashed, answered firmly, 'I am.' Isaac could no longer cling to his suspicions and anxious forebodings; he ate of the meat and drank of the wine. Then he embraced Jacob, and bending over him, smelt the perfume of his garments, of the garments of his hunter son. Many parts of Arabia and Palestine exhale a most delicious odour ; after a refreshing rain especially, the air is perfumed with
a fragrance inexpressibly sweet; and the soil furrowed by the plough-share emits the balmy treasures hidden in its depths. Thus the garments of Esau, the man of the field, who roamed through hill and valley, were redolent of the scent of aromatic herbs; they called up in Isaac's mind the pictures of freshness, health, and abundance: his spirit, moved and struck, assumed a prophetic elevation as he began the blessing, “See, the odour of my son is like the odour of a field which the Lord has blessed.' And he continued :
• And may God give thee of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth, and abundance of corn and wine.
Nations will serve thee and peoples will prostrate themselves before thee.
• Be lord over thy brothers and let thy mother's sons prostrate themselves before thee.
• Cursed be those who curse thee, and blessed those who bless thee.'
It was the spirit of the Lord that put these words into the mouth of the patriarch, words that were literally fulfilled; for he promised to his son's descendants a land rich and beautiful, waving with cornfields and covered with vineyards, the holy land, the land of Palestine; he moreover gave him the pledge of complete dominion over the stranger, the Canaanite, and over the children of Esau, the Edomites. Jacob received this blessing and departed.
He had hardly gone out from his father's presence, when Esau appeared within the tent. He carried a dish of venison in his hand, and bringing it to Isaac, said : Let my father rise and eat of his son's venison, that thy soul may bless me.' Who art thou?' exclaimed Isaac, with a sad misgiving of evil. “I am thy son, thy first born Esau.' Then the unfortunate father was overwhelmed with grief, for he knew that the precious benefits he had bestowed could not be revoked; the voice of God had spoken within
him. I have blessed Jacob,' he said, and he shall certainly be blessed !' Esau, at these words of his father, burst into a cry of anguish, and he said : Bless me also, O my father.' His brother Jacob had twice deceived him ; he had taken away his birth-right and his blessing; and had not Isaac reserved words of comfort for him also ? Esau urged his request upon his father with all the vehement passion of his nature; he could not bear to think that those aged hands should not rest upon his head, that those revered lips should not open to bless him, the eldest child. Isaac answered and said : Behold, I have made Jacob thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants, and with corn and wine have I supported him, and what then shall I do to thee, my son ?' out envy, without animosity to his brother, but full of disappointment and genuine affection, Esau exclaimed in a burst of tears, · Hast thou but one blessing, my father?'
Then Isaac spoke again, spoke as the prophetic spirit urged him :
• Behold, without the fatness of the earth shall be thy dwelling, and without the dew of heaven from above.
And by thy sword shalt thou live; yet shalt thou serve thy brother.
• But when thou truly desirest it, thou shalt break his yoke from thy neck.'
These words clearly revealed Esau's future history. In striking contrast with the fair and fruitful land of promise, is the tract of country near mount Seir, which was to belong to the descendants of Esau, the Edomites. It is a rocky and barren region, one of the most desolate and sterile parts of the globe. Those valleys alone which are on the frontiers of Palestine are capable of tolerable cultivation. As the Ishmaelite was to live by his bow, so the Edomite was to subsist by his sword. The people of Edom, fierce and warlike, kept up a bitter and constant
feud with the Israelites. The conflict began before Palestine was conquered ; Saul marched into their territory; David carried on a sanguinary war against them, and stationed garrisons in their land, though, in Solomon's time, they attempted a revolution under the leadership of Hadad. After the division of the empire, they remained subject to Judah ; but under the reign of king Joram (B.C. 890), with a return of their old spirit of independence, they broke their yoke, proclaimed their own king, and remained free for a considerable time. Under Ahaz (741), they even invaded Judea, and enjoyed complete liberty, until they were at last subjected by the Chaldean conquerors. Thus the prophecy of Isaac was realised in the distant future, and Esau himself, the wild and impetuous man of nature, was a type of his descendants, the Edomites.
The grieved and wounded spirit of the elder brother now burnt with hatred against Jacob; in his passion he felt as if he could slay his brother, although he knew the agony which such a deed would cause his father. Rebekah heard with dismay the anger of Esau ; fearful for her favourite son, she bade him flee from Beer-sheba, and go to the home of her youth, to her brother Laban, who still lived in Haran. There he should remain in safety until Esau's wrath was calmed down. Then appealing to Isaac, she urged him to allow his son to depart ; for might he not, if he stayed in Canaan, marry a Hittite maiden, as Esau had done, and thus make her own life a burden? Isaac shared her apprehensions and her feelings on this point; he, therefore, readily consented, recommended his son to take a wife from the daughters of Laban, and dismissed him with a fervent and affectionate benediction : “And may God the Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest inherit the land of thy sojourn, which God
gave to Abraham.' So Jacob departed for Padan-aram. When Esau heard of the blessing of Isaac, and of the solemn injunction upon Jacob not to marry a Canaanite, he felt that his own two Hittite wives were offensive to his parents; and, desirous to please them, he chose another maiden, a daughter of Ishmael, one of his own kinswomen, and made her his third wife.
18. JACOB'S JOURNEY TO MESOPOTAMIA.
We have seen how Jacob, partially by cunning and skill, partially by more spiritual and higher yearnings, won for himself his brother's birth-right and his father's blessing. We now follow him on his journeys, as he goes forth armed with that prudence which never forsook him, and with that energy which enabled him to struggle against adversity and hardship. And yet, although Jacob had not the sublime faith of Abraham, nor the pious obedience of Isaac, he stood under the special protection of the Lord, because he was to be the propagator of the true faith. Jacob left the south of Palestine, and turned towards Mesopotamia, towards the land whence Abraham had emigrated. The day waned, and night found the wanderer in an open field before the town Luz, still within the territory of Canaan. Weary from his journey, he took stones for his pillow, and lay down to rest; and with the earth for his couch, and the bright starlit heavens for his canopy, he fell asleep. And in his rest he was favoured by a marvellous dream. A vast ladder seemed to rise beside him, whose foot rested upon the earth, and whose top reached to heaven. Up and down this ladder ascended and descended the angels of God. From above came the voice of the Lord, as it had