Focal Passage: Genesis
This story of Jacob and Esau
plays on the same theme as last week’s text. It shows a conniving Jacob pulling
the wool over his father’s eyes in order to obtain the family blessing. Last
week’s text showed Jacob taking advantage of Esau’s hunger to obtain the
family’s one and only birthright. This story tells about Jacob, under the
sinister guidance of his mother, stealing Esau’s blessing.
The tragedy, to modern
readers, is not only does Jacob steal Esau’s blessing, but there is no blessing
left at all for Esau. We’d like to think that Isaac could bestow another
blessing on the duped Esau.
Yet, according to the Hebrew
mindset, a blessing was like an arrow shot from a bow. Once the string is
released and the arrow shoots toward its target, there is no retrieving
What power did blessing
effect on the recipient?
For a father to bless a son
meant that son would experience fertility, well-being, and prosperity. It
guaranteed political power and preeminence. It created a hedge of protection
around the blessed son.
No wonder Jacob connived to
obtain it and Esau wanted to kill Jacob for having gotten it.
We live in different world today
when the power of spoken blessing seems less determinative.
But maybe we need to
reconsider the power of blessing on our children, and particularly the power of
the father’s blessing on his children.
It may sound sexist, but the
father has a power that is distinct from the mother’s.
The relationship of mother
and child is organic. The child lives as embryo in the womb.
She carries and nurtures the
The father, on the other
hand, is the outsider.
His relationship with the
child is necessarily psychological, not physical. It is this reason why the
blessing of the father is so crucial for the well-being of the child.
The child that doesn’t
receive this blessing hungers for it for a lifetime.
John Killinger, in his book
The God Name Hallowed, writes about a woman who left the country at an early
age because she didn’t feel her father loved her.
In her 30s, she suffered
from acute depression. She traveled back to the States, had a tearful reunion
with her father, and came back much elated at his assurance that he had always
“Still,” she said, “I will
never be the woman I might have been if I had only grown up with this
assurance. I am already marked for life.”
This story reminds us of the
power of blessing and the danger of failing to give it to our children.