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p. 179

Esau and his Sons wage War with Jacob (xxxvii. 1-25).

XXXVII. 1 And on the day that Isaac the father
2162 A.M.
of Jacob and Esau died, the sons of Esau heard that Isaac had given the portion of the elder to his younger son Jacob and they were very angry. 2. And they strove with their father, saying: "Why hath thy father given Jacob the portion of the elder and passed over thee, although thou art the elder and Jacob the younger?" 3. And he said unto them "Because I sold my birthright to Jacob for a small mess of lentils; and on the day my father sent me to hunt and catch and bring him something that he should eat and bless me, he came with guile and brought my father food and drink, and my father blessed him and put me under his hand. 4. And now our father hath caused us to swear, me and him, that we shall not mutually devise evil, either against his brother, and that we shall continue in love and in peace each with his brother and not make our ways corrupt." 2 5. And they said unto him, "We shall not hearken unto thee to make peace with him; for our strength is greater than his strength, and we are more powerful than he; we shall go against him and slay him, and destroy him and his sons. And if thou wilt not go with us, we shall do hurt to thee also. 6. And now hearken unto us: Let us send to Aram 3 and Philistia 4 and Moab

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and Ammon, 1 and let us choose for ourselves chosen men who are ardent for battle, and let us go against him and do battle with him, and let us exterminate him from the earth before he groweth strong." 7. And their father said unto them, "Do not go and do not make war with him lest ye fall before him." 8. And they said unto him, "This too, is exactly thy mode of action from thy youth until this day, and thou art putting thy neck under his yoke. We shall not hearken to these words." 9. And they sent to Aram, and to ’Adurâm 2 to the friend of their father, and they hired along with them one thousand fighting men, chosen men of war. 10. And there came to them from Moab and from the children of Ammon, those who were hired, one thousand chosen men, and from Philistia, one thousand chosen men of war, and from Edom 3 and from the Horites one thousand chosen fighting men, and from the Kittim 4 mighty men of war. 11. And they said unto their father: "Go forth with them and lead them, else we shall slay thee." 12. And he was filled with wrath and indignation on seeing that his sons were forcing him to go before (them) to lead them against Jacob his brother. 13. But afterward he remembered all the evil which lay hidden in his heart against Jacob his brother; and he remembered not the oath which he had sworn to his father and to his mother that he would devise no evil all his days against Jacob his brother. 14. And notwithstanding all this, Jacob knew not that they were coming against him to battle, and he was mourning for Leah, his wife, until they approached very near to the tower with four thousand warriors and chosen men of war. 15. And the men of Hebron sent to him saying, "Behold thy brother hath come against thee, to fight thee, with four thousand girt with the sword, and they carry shields and weapons"; for they loved Jacob more than Esau. So they told him; for Jacob was a more liberal and merciful man

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than Esau. 16. But Jacob would not believe until they came very near to the tower. 17. And he closed the gates of the tower; and he stood on the battlements and spake to his brother Esau and said, "Noble is the comfort wherewith thou hast come to comfort me for my wife who hath died. Is this the oath that thou didst swear to thy father and again to thy mother before they died? Thou hast broken the oath, and on the moment that thou didst swear to thy father wast thou condemned." 18. And then Esau answered and said unto him, "Neither the children of men nor the beasts of the earth have any oath of righteousness which in swearing they have sworn (an oath valid) for ever; but every day they devise evil one against another, and how each may slay his adversary and foe. 19. And thou dost hate me and my children for ever. And there is no observing the tie of brotherhood with thee. 20. Hear these words which I declare unto thee,

If the boar can change its skin and make its bristles as soft as wool,
Or if it can cause horns to sprout forth on its head like the horns of a stag or of a sheep,
Then shall I observe the tie of brotherhood with thee. 1
[And if the breasts separated themselves from their mother; for thou hast not been a brother to me.] 2
21. And if the wolves make peace with the lambs so as not to devour or do them violence,
And if their hearts are towards them for good,
Then there will be peace in my heart towards thee.
22. And if the lion becometh the friend of the ox and maketh peace with him, p. 182
And if he is bound under one yoke with him and plougheth with him,
Then shall I make peace with thee.
23. And when the raven becometh white as the râzâ, 1
Then know that -I have loved thee
And shall make peace with thee.
Thou shalt be rooted out,
And thy sons shall be rooted out,
And there shall be no peace for thee."

[paragraph continues] 24. And when Jacob saw that he was (so) evilly disposed towards him with his heart, and with all his soul as to slay him, and that he had come springing like the wild boar which cometh upon the spear that pierceth and killeth it, and recoileth not from it; 25. Then he spake to his own and to his servants that they should attack him and all his companions.


179:1 The legend of the wars between the sons of Jacob and Esau contained in chaps. xxxvii-xxxviii. here seems to be ancient. It is also found in Test. Judah ix. and in the Jewish Midrashic literature. Our text contains the oldest form.

179:2 This representation gives a favourable view of Esau's own attitude. In the later form of the legend (in the Yalḳut) this is altered to Esau's disadvantage.

179:3 The peoples mentioned here and in the context nearly all played a prominent part in the campaigns of the Maccabees. "Aram," i. e. Syria, was, of course, the suzerain power in their day, who sought to oppress the Jews, and whose yoke was ultimately entirely thrown off.

179:4 Cf. xxiv. 28 (note).

180:1 Cf. 1 Macc. v. 6-8.

180:2 An Aramaean; cf. xxxviii. 3.

180:3 Cf. 1 Macc. v. 3, 65 (also iv. 29, 61).

180:4 Cf. xxiv. 28.

181:1 For the construction of such sayings cf. the rebuke administered to Aḳiba (when the latter recognized Bar-Kokba as the Messiah) by Jochanan ben Torta: "Sooner shall grass grow from thy beard, Aḳiba, than that Messiah should appear." The "boar" may symbolize Esau.

181:2 Charles thinks the bracketed words may be out of place or corrupt.

182:1 "A large white bird which eats grasshoppers" (Isenberg, quoted by Charles).

Next: The War between Jacob and Esau at the Tower of Hebron. The Death of Esau and Overthrow of his Forces (xxxviii. 1-4)