Thoughts gleaned from Genesis 27:
Am I right on this or does Isaac seem more of a placeholder than a factor in himself? Abraham & Jacob are good stuff. But Isaac slobbering over Esau, for the game he could bring in? He doesn’t really come across as all that spiritual as a character. Rebekah knows that once you put a good meal in his belly you can talk him into doing anything. That’s not to say he is non-spiritual—no. He is probably rock-solid. But it is not his strong suit—he is given with matters more ordinary.
Okay, okay, Jacob is a good guy. Got it. But let no one say he was not an opportunist. I mean, he certainly didn’t say of Esau: ‘My brother’s making a dumb move. I’d better see he comes to no harm because of it.’ Twice he chiseled the older brother out of a good deal: “At this he said: “Is he not rightly named Jacob, that he might supplant me these two times? My birthright he has already taken, and now he has taken my blessing!” Esau rages. (Gen 27:36)
I gave up long ago on trying to explain these guys or put them out there for everyone to emulate. There is not a one of them without dozens of skeletons in the closet. The ancient world is one strange place with customs and ways not easy to get one’s head around.
Even the idea of seeking a blessing from Dad—what’s that about? My Dad’s blessing was a hope that I would stay out of the hoosegow, which fortunately I have managed to do. The whole concept of firstborn falls pretty flat today in American culture, though it still holds sway in some places.
In the annoying moments of our people—though they are not so bad as many believers—they sanctify these characters after the fact, putting favorable spin on things that read pretty dubious straight off the page. In their absolute worst moments, they present them as modern-day JWs themselves but in an ancient setting, concerns intact about dress and grooming and such things.
But overall they say that, ‘Look, the Bible is history. Nobody is saying that because it is in the Bible, even as the deeds of one of the ‘good guys,’ it is the wonderful thing for you to copy. The Bible is human history—and where is the following quote made?—history of events when persons and nations worshiped Jehovah, history of events when they knew of Him but did not, and history of those peoples who never knew anything about him—and all the while, amidst this backdrop, the promised Seed is being developed and nurtured.’
I remember one ‘All in the Family’ scene in which someone reads some clearly sordid verse in the Bible. “That’s terrible!” Gloria exclaims, and Archie quickly intercedes with, “It’s beautiful—it’s in the Bible.” No, it’s really terrible. But as one modern brother put it, when the younger brothers started squabbling over something: “It’s amazing what Jehovah can do considering what he has to work with.” It is a better take than that of a more cynical brother—someone who did not remain faithful: “The truth is such a beautiful thing—it’s a shame God had to waste it on people” That doesn’t fly. You have to cultivate a love of people in order to survive.
Meantime, I entertain my own ideas of the basic nature of people, different constitutions of different areas of emphasis—most notably the ‘air—water—earth—fire’ pinwheels that people are said to fall on. The descriptions keep popping up in psychology, in ancient thinking, in diverse cultures—and they are not necessarily presented the same, but they can overlap. Carl Jung went big into this kind of thing, but the ideas far precede him. Those Myers-Briggs tests of 16 different personality types stem from the same undercurrents.
I like especially the contrast between air and earth. The ‘air’ personality is obsessed with ‘airy’ thoughts. Such persons are quick to entertain the spiritual—‘head in the clouds’—not practical at all at their worst—‘so spiritual that they are no earthly good’ is one blunt way to say it. At their very worst, they are so much of the air that their feet lose contact with the ground and they are lost in worlds of their own making.
The ‘earth’ person is just the opposite. Always grounded, always completely comfortable on earth. There is no way an earth person becomes seasick, or if they do, they either master it quickly or forevermore avoid the sea—“Not coming near that stuff, again!” they say, so disconcerting is it to have ‘earth’ interrupted. An earth person absolutely loves a good meal and will carry on about it forever—whereas an ‘air’ person barely notices it and practically begrudges the time it takes to prepare and consume. They are rock-solid, capable, practical, certainly capable of solid spirituality, but it is not their specialty, and at worst they can forget about it completely as they hone in on things physical.
There is also the ‘fire’ and the ‘water’ person, but these attributes seemed not to be so developed, or perhaps they did not resonate so much with me. They strike me as modifying influences on the ‘air’ and ‘ground’ but it may be they should be taken as orientations in themselves. ‘Fire’ is, not surprisingly, associated with impulsiveness, zeal, ‘hot-headedness.’ ‘Water’ is cooling, and is partly so by being flexible, able to quickly wrap around any situation and squelch trouble. It strikes me as these are probably persons who can bring opposing camps together—a task not always easy. When ideas are too far apart, by even explaining one side to the other you are accused of pushing that idea. No, it is not easy. But if there is anyone who can do it, it is a ‘water’ person.
Isaac was earth. Jacob was air. Esau was earth. It’s the way I look at it, anyway.