30 April 2015

Jacob was also righteous in his youth

Many exegetes suggest that Jacob (יַעֲקֹב) was not a good person in his youth. It has been proposed that his name is associated with עָקֵב, heel, or taking hold of the heel. To this I have no qualms with. But I have always resented the insinuations that Jacob’s true name was also linked with deceit, such as the word supplanter and others associated with this great prophet. 

Of course there have been great prophets who have repented of their immoral youthful ways as was Alma the younger. But I have always felt that Jacob is unfairly judged. In one of my lexicons I find that עקב also means “‘may (God) protect’ or ‘(God) protected’” (HAL). The voice against Jacob is a voice of calumny—the same voice we so often hear against Abraham in the matter of Sarai—by those who do not see the hand of God in it. Lest I would write something opposite to what the Brethren have said, I just looked up information on this topic and feel to rejoice to find, from Elder Erastus Snow: 

“Now we will pass by the places in the Bible which speak of this birthright until we come to Isaac, the son of Abraham, and to Jacob, the son of Isaac, who bought the birthright of his brother Esau. From the story that is told of Rebekah helping her son Jacob to get the first blessing from his father Isaac, on purpose to secure the birthright from his brother Esau, many would be inclined to think that deceit, dishonesty and unrighteous means were employed to secure it, and they perhaps wonder why it should be so. This was really not the case; it is only made to appear so in the eyes of those who do not understand the dealings of God with man, and the workings of the Holy Spirit to bring about His purposes. There was neither unrighteousness in Rebekah nor in Jacob in this matter; but on the contrary, there was the wisdom of the Almighty, showing forth his providences in guiding them in such a manner as to bring about his purposes, in influencing Esau to transfer his birthright to Jacob, that He might ratify and confirm it upon the head of Jacob; knowing as He did that Jacob and his seed were, and would be, more deserving of the birthright, and would magnify it in its true spirit. While Esau did not sense nor appreciate his condition and birthright; he did not respect it as he should have done, neither did he hearken to the counsels of his father and mother. On the contrary, he went his own way with a stubborn will, and followed his own passions and inclinations and took to wife one of the daughters of the Canaanites whom the Lord had not blessed; and he therefore rendered himself unacceptable to God and to his father and mother. He gave himself to wild pursuits—to hunting, and to following the ways of the Canaanites, and displeased the Lord and his parents, and was not worthy of this right of seniority. The Lord therefore saw fit to take it from him, and the mother was moved upon to help the younger son to bring about the purpose of the Lord, in securing to himself the blessing through the legitimate channel of the Priesthood. And as you know, his father was induced to bless him and confirm this blessing upon him.”[1]

Finally, lest I be misunderstood, none of what I have said here means that God did not have an important role for Esau and his descendants to play.  

[1] Snow, Elder Erastus. Talk found under “The Order and Duties of the Priesthood, Etc.” Discourse by President John Taylor and Elder Erastus Snow, delivered at Paris, Bear Lake, Sunday Morning, August 8, 1880. Reported By: Geo. F. Gibbs. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 21, No. 40, pp. 358–372. This section of the talk was given by Elder Erastus Snow, in the presence of President Taylor.

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