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All his life Jacob would struggle for life, and life more abundantly. And this struggle would begin in the womb, when he jockeyed for pole position with his brother Esau. God would tell Rebecca why: "Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger."

Now Esau won that struggle, and emerged from Rebecca's womb first, but Jacob's persistence was seen in that he was gripping his brother's ankle on the way out, announcing from the first moment that he was a survivor. The twins Esau and Jacob were born in 2,057 B.C.E.

Just as Abraham's favorite was Ishmael, though the Blessing went to Isaac, so Isaac's favorite is Esau, though the Blessing went to Jacob. And this seems to be a pattern. God favored Abel's offering over his older brother Cain's offering.

And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. Esau was an extrovert, Jacob an introvert.

Esau derived his own Blessing, his own "life and life more abundantly" from the things of the world which he was able to obtain by his own efforts. Jacob, as the more interior man, would never be able to compete on those terms. Yet he was a survivor. He would contrive to obtain more life by tapping into a Divine Source. And the first step was to get the Birthright, which entitled the first-born son to a double-share of the inheritance.

They were twins but as things stood, Esau was the older man, by mere seconds. By some misfortune, Esau found he could not always depend on his own efforts and skills to maintain his life. He came in from the field famished, near death and begged Jacob for some food. Jacob provided some bread and lentil soup, but the price was that Esau assign his birthright to Jacob under oath. And Esau was more than willing to do it, so close to death was he.

As it turned out, Esau just needed a little help that one time, and for the rest of his life he would do well for himself. So he left Jacob with a full stomach, and almost convinced himself the Birthright was nothing much anyway.

We are now officially halfway through the Book of Genesis. Except for a brief foray in the next chapter where Isaac tries his father's tired old "she isn't my wife, she's my sister" schtick, the entire second half is the story of Jacob, from his birth to his death, plus the wacky adventures of some of his kids.

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Strangers In Paradise