When the time came for her to give birth, there were indeed two babies
her womb. The first was ruddy-complexioned with much red hair. They named
him Esau. His brother then emerged and his hand was gripping Esau's
heel. Isaac named him Jacob. Isaac was 60 years old when Rebecca gave
birth to the twins.
The boys grew up and
while they were small, there was no great difference between them. But
when they reached 13, the differences in their disposition began to
show. Esau became a skilled trapper, a man of the field. Jacob was a
scholarly man who remained with the tents. Isaac enjoyed eating Esau's
game and favored him, but Rebecca favored Jacob.
Jacob was simmering a stew
one day when Esau came home exhausted from the field and faint with
hunger and thirst. Esau said to Jacob, "Give me some of that red, red pottage! I'm
"First, sell me
your birthright" replied Jacob. (A birthright is the portion and
privilege that would automatically be inherited by the firstborn.)
"Here I am about to
die!" exclaimed Esau. "What good is my birthright to me?"
"Make an oath to me
right now," replied Jacob.
He made the oath, and
so sold his birthright to Jacob. Jacob gave him some bread and some
lentil stew. Esau ate, drank and got up and left, thus rejecting his
Isaac and the
There came a famine in
the land, aside from the first famine in the time of Abraham. Isaac
went to Abimelekh, King of the Philistines in Gerar,
(probably to ask
permission to go to Egypt).
HaShem appeared to
Isaac and said, "Do not go down to Egypt. You were
consecrated as a sacrifice to HaShem, therefore you must not leave the
Holy Land. Dwell in the land I will tell you of, set up your
shepherd's tents and do not fear for the lack of pasture. I will be with you and bless you,
for unto you and your descendants I will give all these lands.
Thus will I keep the
oath that I made to your father, Abraham. I will make your descendants as
numerous as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these lands. All
the nations of the earth shall be blessed through your descendants. All
this because Abraham obeyed My voice, kept My charge (believed
in Me as the only God and sought to teach this belief to others),
My commandments (including that he leave his home, sacrifice
his son, expel Hagar, etc.), My decrees (to be gracious
and merciful, to do justice and righteousness and command his children
to do likewise), and My laws (such as circumcision and
the prohibition of swine's flesh)."
And so Isaac came to
settle in Gerar. When the local men asked about Rebecca, his wife, he told them that she
was his sister. He was afraid to say that she was his wife because Rebecca
was beautiful and Isaac feared the local men would kill him to get her.
Once, after Isaac
had been there a long time, Abimelekh, king of the Philistines,
was looking out the window, he saw Isaac enjoying himself with his
wife Rebecca. Abimelekh summoned Isaac. "Clearly, she is your
wife, how could you have said she was your sister?"
"I was afraid that I
would die because of her" Isaac replied.
"What have you done
to us?" demanded Abimelekh. "One of the people could have
easily slept with her! You would have made us commit a terrible
Abimelekh issued a
decree: "Who ever touches this man or his wife shall surely be put
Isaac farmed in
the area. That year he harvested a hundred times as much as he
planted, because HaShem had blessed him. This was the beginning of his
prosperity. He continued to prosper and grew very rich. He had flocks
of sheep, herds of cattle, and a large household of servants.
became jealous of him. They plugged up all the wells that his father's
servants had dug while Abraham was still alive, and they filled them
Abimelekh said to
Isaac "Go away from us. You have become more powerful than we
Isaac left the
area and camped in the Gerar Valley, intending to settle there. He
redug the wells that had been dug in the days of his father Abraham,
which had been plugged up by the Philistines after Abraham's death. He
gave them the same names as his father had given them.
then dug in the valley, and found a new well, brimming over with fresh
water. The shepherds of Gerar disputed with Isaac's shepherds,
claiming that the water was theirs. Isaac named the well Challenge (Esek),
because they had challenged him.
Isaac's servants dug another
well, and it was also disputed. Isaac named it Accusation (Sitnah).
He then moved away
from there and dug another well. This time it was not disputed, so he
named it Wide Spaces (Rehoboth). "Now HaShem has made room for us
and will grant us wide open spaces, and we will be fruitful in the
From there Isaac
went to Beer-Sheba. HaShem appeared to him that night and said,
"I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am
with you. I will bless you and grant you very many decedents because
of my covenant with Abraham."
Isaac built an
altar there and called upon the name of the Lord. He set up his tents there and
his servants dug a well in the area.
Abimelekh came to
Isaac from Gerar, along with a group of friends and his general, Pikhol.
"Why have you come to me?" asked Isaac, "You hate me and drove
me away from you!"
"We have seen that
HaShem is with you" they replied. "We propose that there be a
dread oath between you and us. Let us make a treaty with you, that
even as we did not touch you, you will do us no harm. We did only good
to let you leave in peace. Now you are the one who is blessed by
Isaac prepared a
feast for them and they ate and drank. They got up early and made a
mutual oath. Isaac then bid them farewell and they left in peace.
On that very day,
Isaac's servants came and told him about the well they had been
digging. "We have found water!" they announced. Isaac named
the well Shibah. The city was therefore called Beer-Sheba, and is to this
When Esau was forty
years old, he married Judith, daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and
Basemath, daughter of Elon the Hittite. His wives became a source of
spiritual bitterness to Isaac and Rebecca, for they were rebellious
and worshipped idols.
Isaac had grown
old and his eyesight was fading. He summoned his elder son, Esau.
"My son," Isaac
"Yes, I am here,"
"I am old and
have no idea when I will die. Now take your weapons--your quiver and
your bow--go out into the field and trap me some game. Make it the
way I like it and bring it to me to eat. My soul will then bless you
before I die."
listening outside of the tent. Esau went to trap some game.
Rebecca told her
son Jacob, "I just heard your father speaking to your brother. He
said 'bring me some game and prepare it into something tasty. I will
eat it and bless you in HaShem's presence before I die.' Now my
son, listen to me and follow my instructions carefully: go to the
sheep and take two young choice kids. I will prepare them with a tasty
recipe, just the way your father likes them. You must bring it to your
father , so he will eat it and bless you before he dies."
"But mother, Esau is
a hairy man," replied Jacob, "and I am so smooth-skinned.
Suppose father touches me? He will realize that I am an imposter! I
will gain a curse instead of a blessing!"
"Let the curse be on
me, my son," said his mother. "Go bring the things I asked
Jacob did as his mother had asked. She prepared
the meal, and then Rebecca took Esau's best clothing which she had in her keeping
and dressed Jacob in them. She also placed young goat's skins on his
arms and his neck.
Rebecca handed her
son Jacob the delicacy and the bread she had made. He went to his
"Who are you
"It is I, Esau, your
first-born," said Jacob. "I have done as you asked. Sit up and
eat the game I trapped, so your soul will bless me."
"How did you
find it so quickly?"
Lord was with me."
to me, let me touch you. Are you really Esau my son? The voice is
Jacob's, but the hands are the hands of Esau. Are you really my son
"I am," Jacob
me the food and my soul will bless you." Isaac
ate and Jacob brought him wine and he drank.
"Come closer my son,
so I may kiss you." As Jacob bent to kiss his father, Isaac smelled
the fragrance of his clothing.
"See," Isaac said,
"my son's fragrance is like the perfume of the field blessed by
HaShem. So HaShem grant you the dew of heaven and the fat of the
earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and
governments bow down to you. You shall be lord over your brethren,
your mother's children will prostrate themselves before you. Those who
curse you are cursed, those who bless you are blessed."
Isaac had finished
blessing Jacob, and Jacob had just left his father's tent, when his
brother Esau came back from the hunt. "Let my father get up and
eat his son's venison," he said, "so that your soul may bless
"Who are you?" his
"I am your
Isaac was seized
with a violent fit of trembling "Who .. Where .. is the one who
trapped the game and just served it to me? I ate it all before you
came and I blessed him. The blessing will remain his."
When Esau heard
his father's words, he let out the most loud and bitter scream.
"Bless me too father," he pleaded.
came with guile and he has taken away your
blessing," said Isaac.
truly named Jacob (Ya'akov)? He went behind my back (akav) twice.
First he took my birthright and now he took my blessing. Couldn't you have
saved a blessing for me?"
replied, "It is true I have made him lord of you; all his brothers
I have given to him as servants. The corn and wine, too, I have given
him--what then shall I do for you, my son? The fat places of the earth
can still be your dwelling, and you still have the dew of heaven. But
you shall live by the sword. You may have to serve your brother, but
there will come a time when you shall break loose, and you will throw
his yoke off your neck."
Esau hated Jacob
because of the blessing. "The days of mourning for my father will
be here soon," Esau said, "and then I will be able to kill my
Her older son's
plans were reported to Rebecca. She summoned her son, Jacob. "Your
brother is consoling himself by planning to kill you. Now, my son,
listen to me. Set out and flee to my brother Laban in Charan. Remain
with him awhile until your brother's anger has subsided. When your
brother has calmed down from his rage against you, and has forgotten
what you have done to him, I will send word and summon you home. Why should I
risk losing both of you on the same day?"
Rebecca went to
Isaac and said, "I am disgusted with life because of those Hittite
women (Esau's wives).
If Jacob marries such a Hittite girl, from the daughters of this land,
why should I go on living?"
So Isaac summoned
Jacob and gave him a blessing and a charge. "Do not marry a
Canaanite girl. Go to Padan Aram, to the house of your maternal grandfather Bethuel. Marry a daughter
of your uncle Leban, and HaShem will bless you, make you fruitful and increase your numbers.
You will become an assembly of nations. He will grant Abraham's
blessing to you and your descendants, so that you may take over the land
which HaShem gave to Abraham, where you previously lived only as a
Isaac then sent
Jacob on his way. Jacob headed to Padan Aram, to Leban, son of Bethuel
the Aramaean, the brother of Rebecca, Jacob and Esau's mother.
Esau saw that
Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him to Padan Aram to find a wife; he
also knew that Jacob would obey his father's charge not to marry a
Canaanite girl because they displeased his father.
(In an effort
to please his father,) Esau
went to see Abraham's son, Ishmael and he married Ishmael's daughter, Machlath,
who was also the sister of Nebayoth.
Parsha : VaYetze
Hosea 12.13-14.10 (Optional addition: Micah 7.18)
(Sephardi Tradition: Hosea 11.7-12.12)