Many remember the story of Isaac’s twin boys. They struggled in their mother’s womb, and Jacob came out holding the heel of his brother. I had heard many years ago in sermons how this was how Jacob got his name, which means ‘supplanter’. This term (supplanter) is not used so much anymore. Strong’s and other lexicons list it as ‘heel catcher’ or ‘one who catches the heel’. Unable to find more in the Ancient Hebrew lexicon than that, I went to an older version of Webster’s dictionary to see how to word this. Back when I was a kid, the preachers (many now probably have learned this, but still the term isn’t used that much) knew that someone who supplants another is one takes another’s place, usually by deceitful or nefarious practices. I’m no expert on Hebraic custom, but from what I remember, a ‘catching of the heel’ (which is what Jacob did to Esau at birth) was an expression for one who sought to overcome another as a supplanter.
Later on, Jacob (the supplanter) was making a soup, and Esau came in hungry. Yahweh’s law of love says to feed the hungry. Jacob (the ‘heel-catcher’) used this opportunity to vex Esau into releasing his birthright. Then when Isaac was to pass on the family blessing to Esau (being firstborn of the twins), Jacob (at his mother’s prompting) deceived his father into passing it on to Jacob himself. Esau issued an angry threat towards Jacob, and Jacob fled to his uncle. On the way to his uncle’s, God promised Jacob the blessing to be handed down from his grandfather Abraham. Jacob was cheated repeatedly by his uncle.
There is an important lesson in this. Though God knows the end from the beginning, and knew when Jacob was still in the womb that Jacob was to be His servant, Jacob began his life being a deceiver. While with his uncle, Jacob learned the vexation of spirit one causes on another when one deceives another. God chastens and scourges His children. Reminds me of the popular expression, “What goes around, comes around.” Better that it comes around in this life than the next, because the next life is forever.
Next God tells Jacob to return to the land that was promised him. I pick up the story in the Scriptures, and include both the Revised Standard Version and the Awful Scroll for comparison.
Genesis 32:6 And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, "We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men with him."
7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies, 8 thinking, "If Esau comes to the one company and destroys it, then the company which is left will escape."
9 And Jacob said, "O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who didst say to me, 'Return to your country and to your kindred, and I will do you good,' 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness which thou hast shown to thy servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies. 11 Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, lest he come and slay us all, the mothers with the children. 12 But thou didst say, 'I will do you good, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.'" (RSV)
(AS) Gen 32:6 The messengers were to turn back to Jacob, to the intent: We are to have come to your brother Esau, and he is to be coming to encounter you with hundreds of men.
7 Jacob was to greatly fear, and he was to be inhibitive. He was to divide his people, the small cattle, the large cattle, and the camels, into two camps. 8 He was to say: Was Esau to come into one company, and is to have struck it, the company remaining is to escape.
9 Jacob was to say: He of mighty ones of my father Abraham, and he of mighty ones of my father Isaac, Jehovah, he saying: Be turning back to your solid grounds, and to your kindred, and it was to be well with you! 10 I have been insignificant, for the honor and credit, that you is to have prepared for your servant, even with my staff, I have crossed over the Jordan with two camps. 11 Be rescuing me, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; I fearing that he was to come, and is to have struck, the mothers even over to the sons. 12 You is to have said: I was to make you gladdened a gladdening, and am to have set your seed as the sands of the sea - were they to be counted in their many? (AS)
Jacob knew that when he had fled from his brother it was in fear of his life. Now, as he follows Yahweh’s instruction to return, his brother is on his way to meet him with an apparent army. Jacob becomes terrified. Why should Jacob be afraid, as he had the promises of His Creator? Doesn’t this show a serious weakness in the faith of one who was to be the ancestor of God’s chosen people?
Give this some serious meditation- Was our Creator not aware from the beginning of the frailties of human nature? So when we recognize any weakness in our faith, do we not recognize the weakness in our character. In a way this can work for good if it reminds us to be humble. God loves us, in spite of our imperfections, but one thing He expects is for us to live lives in humility, recognizing our own unworthiness. He didn’t save us because we deserved to be saved. Even after being saved, we are still so far from being perfect as He. But He saved us because He loves us, and we came to Him for cleansing. Sometimes cleansing involves that chastening and scourging. As we consider His love for us, and our unworthiness of that love, if He could be so gracious to us, shouldn’t we learn to be gracious to others?
But don’t take my word for anything. Each must search and find his/her belief and faith within his/her own self. Me- sometimes I become angry and sometimes fearful over things that are inconsequential. So don’t hold me up as anyone’s example.