lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)
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In Sunday's episode, we saw Esau promising Isaac and Rebecca that he will maintain good relations with Jacob after their deaths, and respect the transfer of birthright to Jacob. So far, so good, but you kind of expect the story's not going to have a good outcome, and indeed it doesn't:

Chapter 37

On the day that Isaac the father of Jacob and Esau died, the sons of Esau heard that Isaac had given the portion of the elder to his younger son Jacob and they were very angry. They strove with their father, saying 'Why has your father given Jacob the portion of the elder and passed over you, though you are the elder and Jacob the younger?'
When Esau tells them why, and of the oath he swore to keep the peace with Jacob, they reply:
"We won't listen to you to make peace with him! Our strength is greater than his strength, and we are more powerful than him; we will go against him and slay him, and destroy him and his sons. And if you won't go along with us, we shall do hurt to you too!"

They come up with a plan of hiring Aramean, Philistine, Moabite and Ammonite mercenaries; when Esau tells them not to lest they be slain, they say "Well, this is just typical of you!" (as the modern translation puts it).

When the mercenaries arrive:

They said unto their father: "Go forth with them and lead them, or we shall kill you!"

He was filled with wrath and indignation on seeing that his sons were forcing him to go before (them) to lead them against Jacob his brother. But afterward he remembered all the evil which lay hidden in his heart against Jacob his brother; and he did not remember the oath he had sworn to his father and mother not to devise any evil all his days against Jacob his brother.

Notwithstanding all this, Jacob did not know that they were coming against him in battle, and he continued mourning for Leah, his wife, until they approached very near to the tower with four thousand warriors and chosen men of war.

The Hebronites sent to him saying, "Your brother has come against you, to fight you with four thousand armed with swords, and they carry shields and weapons," for they loved Jacob more than Esau. So they told him; for Jacob was a more liberal and merciful man than Esau. But Jacob would not believe until they came very near to the tower.

Closing the gates of the tower, he stood on the battlements and spoke to his brother Esau, saying, "Noble is the comfort with which you have come to comfort me for the death of my wife. Is this the oath you swore to your father and again to your mother before they died? You have broken the oath, and at the moment that you swore to your father you were condemned!'

Esau answered and said to him, "Neither the children of men nor the beasts of the earth have any oath of righteousness which in swearing they have sworn (an oath valid) for ever; but every day they devise evil one against another, and how each may slay his adversary and foe. You hate me and my children for ever, so there is no tie of brotherhood to be observed with you!

"Hear these words I declare to you: If the boar can change its skin and make its bristles as soft as wool, or if it can cause horns to sprout forth on its head like the horns of a stag or of a sheep, Then will I observe the tie of brotherhood with you."

He continues in this vein for a while (it's reminiscent of "Scarborough Fair"!) until eventually Jacob see it's pointless arguing with him, and tells his sons and his servants to attack him.

Chapter 38

Judah exhorts Jacob to shoot him down with an arrow, saying, "We will not kill your brother! Since he is like you, let us give him (this) honour." Jacob takes his bow and shoots Esau dead (this is, of course, a completely different story of the death of Esau from the one you may have come across in the Midrash), then his sons (and some of their sons) go out from the tower and between them kill four hundred of the mercenaries; the reamining six hundred, along with four of Esau's sons, flee, leaving their father's body behind, which Jacob buries "on the hill which is in Aduram".

Jacob's sons pursue Esau's to the Seir mountain range,

and bowed their necks so that they became servants of the sons of Jacob. They sent to their father (to inquire) whether they should make peace with them or slay them. Jacob sent word to his sons that they should make peace, and they made peace with them, and placed the yoke of servitude upon them, so that they paid tribute to Jacob and to his sons always. They continued to pay tribute to Jacob until the day that he went down into Egypt. And the sons of Edom have not got quit of the yoke of servitude which the twelve sons of Jacob had imposed on them until this day.

...though how they continued under the yoke of servitude when their overlords were slaves in Egypt is not explained. Possibly it's making an anachronistic reference to the fact the Edomites spent the first part of the First Temple period under Israelite subjugation (and indeed, after the Book of Jubilees was written the Hasmoneans would conquer Idumaea and subjugate them once again).

[Dead Sea Scroll of Jubilees] Jubilees posts                     Jewish learning notes index

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Lethargic Man (anag.)

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