Genesis 27-33

Studying the life of Jacob, there are quite a few incidents which really are quite perplexing. Take goats for example. In Gen 27, what would make anyone think that tying a piece of goat skin to one's hands and neck would fool anyone, much less his own father? And why two goats? Shouldn't one be enough for an old man's meal?

There are quite reasonable answers to some of these questions. As anyone who has eaten both will tell you, venison, antelope and goat taste very much alike. So for Rebekah to choose goat to fool Isaac makes sense. But that does nothing for the question of the goat skins or for why there were two goats in Gen 27.

Perhaps looking at the reunion between Jacob and Esau will shed some light on the problem. The story starts with Jacob dividing his household and then wrestling all night with 'a man'. During this match neither prevails until the man asks Jacob his name. (What's that all about?) The man then changes Jacob's name to Israel just as the sun is rising. Then we have the meeting of the twins, Jacob and Esau, after which one goes on to serve God and the other departs into his own land. Jacob's next stop after the meeting is Succoth.

Succoth? Doesn't that come after Yom Kippur? Indeed it does; so let's look at the above paragraph in light of the Day of Atonement.

Over twenty years after stealing the blessing from Esau, Jacob has become very much like his twin, a man of the field. As he comes back into the Land (returns to God), the wrestling match could very well be internal, Jacob struggling with who he was, who he is and who he will become. This struggle only ends when he is forced to call out his own name, Jacob - Supplanter. In other words, he can only go forward after he confesses who and what he is. This struggle, self examination and confession is very much in line with what goes on between sunset and dawn on Yom Kippur.

At dawn on Yom Kippur the priest chooses twin goats (not biological twins, but alike in every other way). One goat dies on the altar in the presence of God; the other dies alone in the wilderness. In other words, the goats separate, each going its own way.

So now we begin to understand Rebekah's choice of two goats. We also begin to understand the charade with the goat skins. In order for Jacob to get Esau's blessing, he must in some sense become Esau - alike in manner and appearance - a man of the field. We see the symbols and the shadows. What we do not yet see is what drives the process. That is for next time.