Sunday, December 1, 1996 at 6 p.m. (E.T.)|
(Check local listings.)
Rebecca and Jacob conspire to trick Isaac into blessing her favorite son, even
though he is the younger. Bill Moyers says: "It could be a Greek tragedy, or it could be a
prime-time soap opera. But this story is from a text sacred to great religions and the deceit
means that one son instead of the other becomes the founder of a great nation. The
mother justifies the trickery because she has learned from a prophecy that her favorite son
is the favorite of God, too, and she's determined to be the instrument by which the divine
plan unfolds, no matter what it means to her husband, her other son, or their family
Featuring Leon Kass, Stephen Mitchell, Elaine Pagels, Naomi H. Rosenblatt, Jean-Pierre
Ruiz, Marianne Meye Thompson, Robin Darling Young. See Biographies for more information about the participants.
Robin Darling Young
See more information on audio downloads or on obtaining a RealAudio player. For RealAudio, we recommend 2.0 or later.
Actress Alfre Woodard has lent her voice to the GENESIS television series as a storyteller. You may listen to the actual sound recording of this story either as RealAudio
or as a download.
Narrative written by Elizabeth Swados.
This is the story of the descendants of Isaac, Abraham's son. Isaac was forty years old when he
took Rebekah to be his wife. But Rebekah was barren, so Isaac prayed to the Lord and Rebekah
conceived twin sons. The children struggled and wrestled within her womb, and Rebekah cried to
the Lord, "If this is the way it is to be, why do I exist?"
And the Lord answered her: "Two nations are in your womb. One shall be stronger than the other.
The older one serving the younger."
So Rebekah gave birth to the twins. And the first to come out was named Esau because he was
ruddy and hairy all over. Then the brother emerged, holding onto Esau's heel. And they named
him Jacob -- the Heelholder.
Esau grew up to be a skillful hunter and a man of the fields while Jacob was a quiet man who
stayed near the tents. Isaac loved Esau because he brought him savory game to eat. But Rebekah
One day Esau came home famished and faint from working in the fields and Jacob convinced Esau
to sell him his birthright for a bowl of stew. "What good is a birthright," Esau said, "if I'm at the
point of dying?"
As time passed Isaac grew very old and his eyes too dim to see. He thought he was going to die.
He beckoned Esau and said, "Go out to the field and bring me a meal of savory game that I love,
so that I may bless you before I die." Rebekah overheard Isaac's words and repeated them to
Jacob. "Go fetch me two goats from the flock," she told her son, "and I will prepare the savory
meal your father loves. When you take it to him, he will give you his blessing."
"But Esau's a hairy man," Jacob said. "And I am smooth. Father will know I'm deceiving him
and bring a curse on me, not a blessing." But Rebekah said, "Your curse will be on me. Just do as
Now Rebekah dressed Jacob in Esau's clothes and put the skins of goats on his hands and neck.
Jacob went to his father and Isaac said, "Which son are you?" And Jacob said, "I am Esau, your
first born." "Let me touch you," Isaac said. "The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the
hands of Esau." And he blessed him.
Jacob had scarcely gone out, when Esau brought his meat to Isaac. Isaac began to tremble. "Who
then was the man who brought me my meal before you? I ate it before you came and blessed
And when Esau found out how Jacob had tricked them, he let out a bitter cry. "Oh, my father," he
said. "My brother Jacob has conspired against me twice. First he took my birthright and now my
blessing. "Don't you have one blessing, left? Just one? Bless me, too, oh my father." Isaac
answered, "You will dwell in the fatness of the earth, but Jacob will be the master." From that day
on Esau hated his brother Jacob and vowed to kill him. Rebekah told Jacob to go. "Flee from
your brother's fury," she said. "Run for your life."