Numbers 22.18 (actually Genesis)

Brent Emery brent.lynn.emery at
Mon Dec 3 18:37:57 EST 2001

Bill I think you have some good insights here. Tell me what you think about
this although it was not original with me. In a 1988 BR snippet William
Propp argues for the following. In the context of waiting, Isaac is
expecting for Esau to return and share a meal together before he blesses
him. In the intervening time Jacob comes in forgetting (on not thinking
about) that Isaac is expecting Esau. The first question from Isaac is "who
are you". While this may sound like a straitforward question, Propp argues
that the question "who are you" can idiomatically mean "how did things go ie
so tell me what happened". The phrase "who are you" can also literally mean
"identify yourself". Why would Isaac who is expecting Esau ask him to
identity himself? What if the question he is posing is "so how did things go
on the hunt?" When Jacob fails to understand the question idiomatically and
says "I am Esau your son" I think this tips Isaac off to something gone
awry. The example Propp gives to show the idiomatic usage for "who are you"
comes from the book of Ruth. In Ruth chapter 3, Ruth goes to Boaz at night
and he awakens asking "who are you"? She replies by giving her name and
status. Later after Ruth returns to Naomi, Naomi asks "who are you". After
travelling from Moab to Bethlehem and living together one would think that
Naomi is not asking for Ruth's identity but idiomatically "so how did things
go last night"? Applying this to the Genesis narrative Isaac asked who are
you idiomatically and got a literal answer from Jacob (one that he
presumably would not have gotten from Esau)tipping him off to someone else
being present. Would love to hear your feedback. shalom, brent emery

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Rea [mailto:cctr114 at]
Sent: Monday, December 03, 2001 12:18 PM
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: Re: Numbers 22.18 (actually Genesis)

Dave wrote:-

>Looking at the way Isaac handles all this, and the fact that he is so
>shaken when Esau lets him know what Jacob has done, I wonder if
>Isaac wasn't a bit senile?  He seems to have trouble keeping track
>of what is going on from one moment to the next.  So could it be
>that Isaac was just confused by the contradiction between the
>hands and the voice?  And if his capacity is a bit diminished, when
>Jacob says "I'm Esau, your son" his mind shifts into "Esau mode"
>(for lack of a better term) and he goes with it.  This is just a
>suggestion, of course, but it might be worth exploring a little.

Another possibility is the conflict between Isaac natural love
for his first born son against God's choice of Jacob. In the
story we have a clear split of loyalties. Isaac loves Esau the
hunter, while Jacob, the one who stays in camp, is loved by his
mother. But Isaac must recognise that Esau isn't the one to carry
on the covenant made with Abraham. Not only is there the prophesy
to Rebecca, but in Gen 27:20 we have `But Isaac said
to his son, ``How have you found game so quickly, my son?'' So he
replied, ``Because YHWH your God made it happen to me.'' '
That answer could never have fallen from the lips of Esau. The
story teller never puts the name of God in Esau's mouth. So though
Isaac loves Esau over Jacob, he knows God has chosen the son he doesn't
love. Hence there is internal turmoil in Isaac when faced with giving
his blessing to Jacob. As I wrote yesterday he gave his blessing to
Jacob in two pieces, offering Esau the chance to take the blessing
of Abraham if only he asked for it. But the blessing of Abraham wasn't
of value to Esau. In Gen 28 Isaac seems much more at peace with
himself and God and gives Jacob the blessing without any reservations.

Bill Rea, Information Technology Dept., Canterbury  University  \_
E-Mail b dot rea at it dot canterbury dot ac dot nz             </   New
Phone   64-3-364-2331, Fax     64-3-364-2332                   /)  Zealand
Unix Systems Administrator                                    (/'

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