Toldedot–Jacob (Alternate Version)

Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him,”You shall not marry one of the Canaanite women.  Go at once to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father; and take as wife from there one of the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother.  May El Shaddai bless you, make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become an assembly of peoples.  May he give to you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your seed as well, so that you may take hold of the land where you sojourn, which God granted to Abraham.”  (Gen. 28:1-4)

Modern scholars see this as a different, “alternate” version of Isaac’s blessing and Jacob’s departure (from the “Priestly” source).  Here, Jacob does not flee for his life from a brother he has swindled; rather, he dutifully follows the family tradition of finding a wife from within the clan, rather than intermarrying, as Esau had done.   Isaac, for his part, does not have to be (self) deceived in order to bless Jacob; his blessing is a natural expression of his intent grounded in the tradition of his father.

This is a far smoother version of the tale, and consequently far less rich.  For all the difficulties and ambiguities created by the story of Jacob’s deception, I can’t imagine his story otherwise.  Its consequences resonate throughout the rest of Jacob’s life.

But perhaps this other version is here as a reminder that the deceit accomplished nothing, at least from the standpoint of the divine purpose.  God was going to bless Jacob anyway.

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