In my case, reading Robert Alter's translation of Genesis what hits me are the details we're given about Esau. He's slow and simple, as we are shown, but darn it, he tries so hard to do what his parents want. And then he's always done down by his own mother as well as his twin.
I already was feeling this, pondering Jacob's theft of the birthright while knowing that at the end of their "twin" saga it is Esau who welcomes his brother home generously. It's one of the unexpected bits of the story that I love most — Esau's welcome home.
Then reading about Jacob going off to find a wife, I noticed for the first time that little insertion of Esau overhearing his mother's dislike of Hittite wives (which he's got two of) and how he went and got a wife from the tribe of Abraham.
And Esau was forty years old and he took as wife Judith the daughter of beeri the Hittite and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. And they were a provocation to Isaac and to Rebekah. ...Darn it. Just made me feel worse for him.
And Rebekah said to Isaac, "I loathe my life because of the Hittite women! If Jacob takes a wife from Hittite women like these, from the native girls, what good to me is life?" ...
And Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him off to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there when he blessed him and commanded him, sayng, "You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan." ... And Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan were evil in the eyes of Isaac his father. And Esau went to Ishmael and he took Mahalath daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to his wives, as a wife.
Genesis 26:34-35; 27:46; 28:6, 8-9, Robert Alter transl.
It is proof that there is always more in Scripture than we can absorb in just a reading or two. Slow reading allows time to ponder and for it to come truly alive. I have a real fondness for Esau that I'd never have thought possible before.
|Peter Paul Rubens, The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau, 1624.|