Esau and Jacob

Today, I want to summarize some information from Jasher 26-32 and Genesis 25-33.  I won’t cover all of the details today so we can come back and explore more of it on another day.  What simply amazes me is how old Esau and Jacob were at different points in their lives.  What seemed to occur quickly in the Bible was spread out over a much larger span of time than we have previously understood.   Finally, the animosity that was birthed between Esau and Jacob will eventually lead to God’s judgment of Esau’s descendants.

If you recall, Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah.  The writer of Jasher says Rebekah was 10 years old at that time (Jasher 24:40).  For many years Rebekah was barren but after seeking and pleading with the Lord, fraternal twins named Esau and Jacob were born when Isaac was 60 years old.  This means Rebekah was 30 years old when she finally gave birth to them.

Abraham died at 175 years old and was buried by Isaac and Ishmael.  Since Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old, Jacob and Esau were 15 years old when Abraham died. 

The book of Jasher tells us that Esau went hunting frequently after Abraham’s death.  Nimrod (Amraphel) observed him at this time because he was jealous of him.  Nimrod was also considered a mighty hunter so he may have been jealous of Esau’s hunting skills.  It’s hard to know for sure the exact reason for his jealousy but it’s could have been related to the prophecy that was given around Abraham’s birth.  If you recall from a previous post, Nimrod’s star gazers saw a shooting star that swallowed up stars from the four corners of the heavens and prophesied that Abraham and his descendants would kill the kings of the earth and inherit their lands forever (Jasher 8:1-11). 

On one of these hunting trips, Esau killed Nimrod by cutting off his head with his sword.  Esau also killed the 2 men who were with him and took Nimrod’s valuable garments that Cush had given him and hid them at his house.  These garments may be the same ones that God originally made for Adam, that had been passed down to Noah, stolen by Ham, and passed to Nimrod through Cush (Jasher 7:24-29; 27:10).  After Esau murdered Nimrod and his 2 men, he ran to his father’s house exhausted and hungry.  This is when he asked his brother Jacob to give him some red stew.  The writer of Jasher said Esau sold his birthright and his portion of the cave at Machpelah to Jacob because this was of the Lord, although most people assume it was because Jacob was simply being deceitful.  According to the book of Jasher, Jacob wrote this transaction in a book and had it witnessed.  Once Nimrod died, his kingdom was restored to its many rightful kings.

Famine was in the land after Abraham died.  Isaac planned to go to Egypt but God instructed him to go to Gerar until the famine was over.  At first, Isaac said Rebekah was his sister while they were in Gerar but after 3 years, Abimelech saw Isaac caressing Rebekah.  This is most likely the son of the original Abimelech who had been known as Benmalich.   Abimelech soon had them paraded before the people and warned everyone not to harm them.   

Fortunately, Isaac found favor in Abimelech’ sight who remembered the covenant between his father and Abraham.  According to Jasher 28:13-16, Abimelech told Isaac, “Behold the whole earth is before thee; dwell wherever it may seem good in thy sight until thou shalt return to thy land; and Abimelech gave Isaac fields and vineyards and the best part of the land of Gerar, to sow and reap and eat the fruits of the ground until the days of the famine should have passed by. 14 And Isaac sowed in that land, and received a hundred-fold in the same year, and the Lord blessed him. 15 And the man waxed great, and he had possession of flocks and possession of herds and great store of servants.  16 And when the days of the famine had passed away the Lord appeared to Isaac and said unto him, Rise up, go forth from this place and return to thy land, to the land of Canaan; and Isaac rose up and returned to Hebron which is in the land of Canaan, he and all belonging to him as the Lord commanded him.”  

Esau and Jacob were at least 18 years old at when they returned from Gerar to Canaan.  Isaac then sent Jacob to Shem and Eber for 32 years to learn the instructions of the Lord after which he returned to his father’s home.  Esau was not willing to go with Jacob to Eber’s but remained in his father’s house in Canaan.   Esau was deceitful; he continued to hunt beast as far as the field of Seir (Edom) and hunted the hearts of men by winning them over through flattery.

Esau took Jehudith [Judith] the daughter of Beeri, son of Epher from the families of Heth the son of Canaan when he was 40 years old (Jasher 28:22-23; Gen. 26:34).  Genesis says Esau also took Bosmath [Basemath], the daughter of Elon, the Hittite as his wife when he was 40 but Jasher says he did so after Jacob stole his blessing (Jasher 29:12).  

Jacob returned to his father in Hebron in Canaan when Noah’s son, Shem died at the age of 600 years.  Since Isaac was 110 years old at that time, Jacob and Esau were 50 years old.  If the years given in Jasher are correct, it seems there was a period of time between the age of 40 and 50 when Jacob had left Eber but didn’t live with his father in Hebron.    

When Jacob was 56 years old, Rebekah was told Laban’s wife and handmaids were barren.  The Lord remembered Laban’s wife, Adinah and she bore twin daughters – Leah and Rachel.  Rebecca was glad to hear this news (Jasher 28:28).

Years later, Issac sent Esau to hunt and get venison and planned to bless him when he returned.  Rebecca heard and called Jacob and told him to bring her 2 goats that she would prepare so Jacob could deceive Isaac and get Esau’s blessing.

Esau was very angry when he heard what his brother had done.  Since Jacob was afraid of Esau, he went to Eber, the son of Shem.  He was 63 years old when he went to Eber’s.  He stayed there 14 years and learned the ways of the Lord and his commandments (Jasher 29:11).

Esau took his first wife, Judith and went to Seir and took Bosmath [Basemath], the daughter of Elon the Hittite as his wife but he called her Adah.  Six months after leaving his parents, he returned to them with his wives who committed idolatry by worshipping the Baalim.  This greatly bothered Isaac and Rebekah.  Esau’s wife, Adah bore a son named Eliphaz when he was 65 years old.

After Jacob had lived with Eber for 14 years, he returned to his parents.  While Jacob had been gone, Esau had forgotten what Jacob had done to him but quickly remembered when he saw him and desired to kill him.  Rebecca heard about his plans and warned Jacob to flee to Laban’s place in Haran.  Jacob told Isaac not to take a wife from Canaan but to go to Laban in Haran.  Isaac warned Jacob not to forsake the Lord while he was there and to find a wife that was good and upright in the ways of the Lord.  He blessed him and sent him on his way.  Based on my calculations, Jacob was 77 years old when he went to Laban’s in Padan-aram and Rachel and Leah would have been 21 years old. 

Esau sent his 13 year old son, Eliphaz to pursue and kill Jacob and bring back his things.  Jacob convinced Eliphaz and his men not to kill him but to take all his things instead.  Esau was not happy with that but when he heard his parents didn’t want Jacob to marry a Canaanite, he married Ishmael’s daughter, Machlath [Mahalath] (Gen. 28:9; Jasher 29:43).

Jacob came to Mt. Moriah near Luz.  The Lord promised him many descendants, his enemies to fall before him, and to bring his back to Canaan with children and riches.  He named the place Bethel.

After finally arriving in Padan-aram, Jacob told Laban what Esau and Eliphaz had done to him.  After one month, Jacob said he would work 7 years for Rachel.  In the 2nd year he was in Haran, Jacob mourned when he heard about the death of Eber.  In the 3rd year, Esau and Bosmath [Basemath] had a son named Reuel.  In the 4th year, Laban’s wife gave birth to 3 sons because of Joseph.  In the 5th year, Esau’s wife Jehudith [Judith] died.  After she died, Esau went to hunt as usual in Seir.  In the 6th year, Esau took another wife, Ahlibamah [Aholibamah] and they had 3 sons.  Esau’s herdsmen quarreled with the inhabitants of Canaan because his cattle and goods were too abundant so he took his family and possessions and moved to Seir.  In the 7th year, Jacob married Leah and worked 7 more years for Rachel. 

Jacob was/would have been:

  • 79 years old when Eber died (Jasher 30:15).
  • 85 years old in the 7th year.
  • 91 years old when Joseph was born (Jasher 31:21).
  • 92 years old in the 14th year.
  • 98 years old when the Lord told him to go home after serving Laban his final 6 years.
  • 108 years old when Joseph went to Egypt because Joseph was 17 when he was sold into Egypt (Gen. 37:2).
  • 121 years old when his son, Joseph stood before Pharaoh.  Joseph was 30 at that time (Gen. 41:46; Jasher 49:38).
  • 130 years old when he came to Egypt during the famine (Gen. 47:9).
  • 147 years old when he died (Gen. 47:28; Jasher 56:1).

As Jacob’s family prepared to go to Canaan, Rebecca took the household gods so Laban couldn’t know where they had gone but Laban ended up inquiring of their whereabouts from some other images before pursuing them (Jasher 31:44-45).  After seeing his daughters and grandchildren and sending them away, Laban sent word to Esau that Jacob was returning home.  Esau was angry at the news and got ready to take revenge.  Laban’s messengers went ahead to Rebekah and Isaac to tell them Esau was getting ready to go against Jacob.  Rebecca quickly sent messengers to warn Jacob that Esau was coming and recommend that he conceal nothing from Esau and honor him with gifts.  In addition, the Lord sent 3 angels to come against Esau and his men in order to turn Esau’s anger to kindness. 

We tend to think this was a happy ending to the saga of Jacob and Esau but those who’ve read the book of Obadiah know there is more of the story.  Obadiah begins with a vision in which a messenger was being sent among the nations to attack the proud people of Edom (Esau’s descendants) to deceive and set a trap for them.  Obadiah 10 says this will be done to Edom for the violence that was done to their kinsman, Jacob and that they would be cut off forever because they failed to help when lots were cast for Jerusalem and strangers took their treasure and foreigners entered their gates.  Instead of helping the descendants of Jacob, they handed over their survivors to their enemies.  This passage parallels Jeremiah 49:14-22.   If you carefully read the surrounding chapters of Jeremiah, you will notice that this is part of God’s plan for the future judgment of the nations in the latter days.

When the Day of the Lord’s return comes, there will be a remnant of Jacob that will repossess their rightful inheritance.  The house of Jacob will be a flame that will completely consume the stubble of the house of Esau and the Lord will be King.

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5 thoughts on “Esau and Jacob

  1. I am not sure that the Book of Jasher has an accurate account of what occurred. Jacob spent 40 years with Laban if my understanding of the Genesis account is true. He was also much younger when he went to Laban’s tents/home as instructed to find a wife there. He love Rachel but initially dispised Leah because she had weak eyes like his father Isaac. Rachel was buried on the way to Ephrapt when she died giving birth to Benjamin. Leah though was laid to rest within the cave at Hebron where Sarah and Abraham had also been laid to rest. From the time Jacob returned to his father to the time that he went down to Egypt another two descentant generations had to be born after Judah had already married off his first two sons to Tamar and then had laid with her as well. Tamar fell pregnant to Judah and Perez was born and Perez then had Hezron who was listed as part of Jacob’s family that went down with him to Egypt.

    This was revealed to me while I only studied the Book of Genesis. Later I read the Book of Jasher and it provided details that helped to flesh out what I had already come to understand from my study of the Book of Genesis.

    I would suggest that some of the above post does not line up with the record from the Book of Genesis even though Genesis is silent on a lot of the details that the Book of Jasher seems to provide.

    Shalom

    Jay

    • Well, in Genesis 31:41 Jacob spoke to Laban when he was leaving and said, “Thus I have been in your house twenty years; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times.”

  2. Yes Genesis 31:41 is as you have quoted it and the time span spoken of adds up to 40 years. Dinah was the last child born to Leah and she would have been born up to 9 to 12 years after Reuben, Leah’s first child who was born no earlier than in the eight year of Jacob’s time with Laban. Given that if we add 8+9+6 to the time that Jacob sent working for Laban then we have a minimum of 23 years as Joseph was conceived and born after Dinah had been born and Jacob worked for another six years for his wages after Joseph was born before he left.

    Another consideration is the age of Dinah when she went to the “fair” in Shechem and she was taken by the prince who then had his way with her.

    The Jewish tradition of 20 years does not make any sense and does not allow enough time for all of Jacob’s sons to be born within this time frame. Other oral accounts move further away from the Genesis account to force a fit with the 20 years period which I find as being unreliable.

    Your response with Genesis 30:41 does not prove the story you have told as being justified. I believe that Jacob went to his uncle’s place much earlier.

    Shalom

    Jay

    • A friend of mine says that Rabinnical sources are also in disagreement with this time frame. They can’t come to a consensus and can’t justify it. I have only compared and presented the two accounts as they are in the written texts to see if they could mesh together. It was not my goal to justify them. I’m working on several projects at the moment and turning my attention back to this would require more time than I am able to do right now. Would you like to share your own time-line or those from other sources for other readers to consider?

  3. I just found this page for the first time today and I did the figuring on my own years ago, using ONLY the Bible (I’ve never even looked at Jasher), and the author’s figures are correct and agree with my examination of Scripture from some years back. Where Jay errs is adding together the 20 years AND the 14 + 6, which was simply a breaking down of the 20, and it’s very odd that he seems to have forced that understanding which seems obviously wrong. After the first seven years, when Jacob found that Laban had deceived him and given him a wife that he DID NOT WANT, it seems extremely odd that Jacob would hang around an extra 20 years. When was this time? For Jacob loved Rachel from the moment he saw her, which requires the 20 extra years to come AFTER Jacob worked for Laban, which just doesn’t work considering the distrust between Jacob and Laban and the contempt of Laban’s sons for Jacob. It’s absurd to think Jacob is going to hang around for 20 more years in that environment.

    It seems that Jay did it only to justify his wanting Jacob to be at Laban’s at an earlier age than he was. Perhaps he doesn’t like a 77 year-old man marrying 21 year-old girls.

    “The Jewish tradition of 20 years does not make any sense and does not allow enough time for all of Jacob’s sons to be born within this time frame.”

    That’s just nonsense. The 12 sons and 1 daughter were born to FOUR different women (not one) with Leah bearing the most (four sons and one daughter). There was ample time for all the children to be born in just five or six years!

    The problem that arises there is that it’s clear that Jacob was 91 when Joseph was born because Joseph was 39 (maybe just turned 40) when Jacob appeared before Pharaoh at 130. That requires backtracking to establish the time (using the Bible only and ignoring Jasher [which is consistent with the Scriptures, btw]) of the other children’s births in alignment with the times given by Jacob in his talk with Laban.

    40 years simply doesn’t fit any way or anywhere unless one forces the odd understanding of Jacob adding the years together instead of what is obvious to the vast majority of people that he simply gave a breakdown of the 20 years in his conversation with Laban.

    Having Jacob leave home with a blind, dying (Isaac thought so anyway) father (who would have been 137 at the time of Jacob’s departure [the age of his uncle Ishmael at his death] and yet 43 years away from his actual death) at 77 fits the Biblical timeline just fine and is confirmed by Jasher (which doesn’t mean that much to me since it’s not in the Canon) and Jewish tradition.

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