#48. Is Jacob’s motive for leaving Beersheba fear of Esau’s revenge OR Isaac’s insistence that Jacob take a wife from Paddan-Aram? (Gen 27:41-45 vs Gen 28:1-5)
#49. Does Jacob go to Haran OR Paddan-Aram? (Gen 27:43, 28:10 vs Gen 28:2, 28:7)

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Following what was said in #46-47, we now learn that the story of Jacob’s flight and the reason(s) why he leaves Beersheba are also variously given: to flee Esau’s wrath (Gen 27:41-45) and to find a suitable wife from among his own people (Gen 28:1-2). Additionally, the text also narrates Jacob’s departure twice and to two different locales: in Genesis 28:7 we are informed that he goes to Paddan-Aram, but then at Genesis 28:10 to Haran. Again, these contradictions are resolved once we realize that Genesis 27-28 is a composite of two once separate stories of Jacob’s departure, and that each textual tradition provided a distinctly different reason for the motivation behind his departure.

Genesis 27:1-40, from the Yahwist source, describes how Jacob usurps his older brother’s blessing through the means of a deceptive ploy wherein Jacob disguises himself as his brother Esau in order to steal Esau’s rightful blessing from their old, bed-ridden, and nearly blind father (#46-47). After this deception is revealed, Esau voices his bitterness and anger toward his brother:

And Esau despised Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart: “The days of mourning for my father will be soon, and then I’ll kill Jacob, my brother.” And the words of Esau, her older son, were told to Rebekah, and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him: “Here, Esau your brother consoles himself regarding you with the idea of killing you. And now, my son, listen to my voice and get up, flee to Laban my brother, at Haran, and live with him for a number of days until your brother’s fury will turn back, until your brother’s anger turns back from you and he forgets what you did to him. (Gen 23:41-44)

The reason for Jacob’s flight in this Yahwist version—Esau’s wrath—and the place to where, Haran, are clearly presented. As we have previously discussed (see #45), and will see in future passages, the animosity expressed in the Yahwist version between Jacob and Esau was used to explain the hostilities between Israel and Edom in the 9th and 8th centuries BC.

Yet contrary to the Yahwist’s presentation, the Priestly source relates another reason for Jacob’s departure, one which displays a major concern of this textual tradition, namely the prohibition against marrying the indigenous Canaanites—that is, practicing exogamy! This is even more clear when the Priestly text is reconstructed to its original form. In other words, removing the J narrative from P restores the original message of the Priestly writer. And as is visible below, it is a unified, coherent text with a clear and focused emphasis. The P passages are: 26:34 + 27:46 + 28:1-9.

26:34And Esau was forty years old, and he took a wife: Judith, daughter of Beeri, the Hittite, and Basemath, daughter of Elon the Hittite. And they were a bitterness of spirit to Isaac and Rebekah. 27:46And Rebekah said to Isaac: “I’m disgusted with my life because of the daughters of Heth! If Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of Heth like these daughters of the land, why do I have a life!” 28:1And Isaac called Jacob, and he blessed him and commanded him, and he said to him: “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. 2Get up. Go to Paddan Aram, to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and take a wife from there, from the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. 3And may El Shaddai bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, so you’ll become a community of peoples, 4and may he give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your seed with you, for you to possess the land of your residence, which God gives to Abraham.” 5And Isaac sent Jacob, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban, son of Bethuel, the Aramean, brother of Rebekah, mother of Jacob and Esau.

Restoring P’s narrative reveals the issues and concerns that the Priestly writer had: namely exogamous marriages as exemplified by Esau (and Ishmael) are not only to be condemned but they actually disqualify Esau (and Ishmael) from the blessings and covenantal promise of the land. Esau settles in Seir outside the promise-land. This is a theme and concern unique to the 6th century BC Priestly writer. Conversely, the Priestly writer is putting Jacob forward as an example to emulate for the post-exilic community, while using Esau as an example of what will happen to those who marry Canaanites! In fact, the Priestly writer drafts his new version of the story for the sole purpose of highlighting this central concern and to his specific 6th century BC audience.

There are other late post-exilic texts in the Hebrew Bible that also forbid the practice of exogamy. Both the books of Ezra and Nehemiah prohibit Israelites from marrying Canaanites. This was a specific “problem” for the post-exilic community, that is for those exiled Israelites who returned to the land of Canaan at the end of the 6th century BC. The Priestly writer’s reworking of the earlier Yahwist text, therefore, exhorts the post-exilic community now living on the promised land to return to Babylon to take wives from among their exiled kin, and not from among the indigenous Canaanites that occupied the land when they had returned from exile. So here again (see also #24, #28, #40) we see the Priestly writer “rewriting history” in order to address the concerns of the Priestly guild of the 6th century BC. Through these archaized narratives, the Priestly writer demonstrates that those who practice exogamy, like Esau, will be cut off from both the community of Yahweh’s people and the land! It is the same message that we saw the Priestly writer make with respect to his views on circumcision when he rewrote another Yahwist passage (#28).

When these two textual traditions were later stitched together, a new narrative with new interpretive questions and answers was created. In the words of David Carr, whose work I’ve often referred to:

In summary, the material in Genesis 26:34-28:9 encompasses three different pictures of the background to Jacob’s departure: a non-P [J] picture of his stealing of Isaac’s blessing and running from Esau’s wrath (Gen 27:1-45), a P-sanitized picture of Esau disqualifying himself by improper marriages and Jacob being blessed and sent to marry properly (Gen 26:34-35; 27:46-28:9), and a combined picture in which Jacob’s being sent to marry properly is but a pretext to get him away from Esau’s wrath (Gen 27:1-28:9). The distinctiveness of this combined picture of the background for Jacob’s departure from the perspective of both of its component parts is a major confirming indicator that this section was formed by joining originally separate sources.1

Footnotes    

  1. David Carr, Reading the Fractures of Genesis, 88.

6 thoughts on “#48. Is Jacob’s motive for leaving Beersheba fear of Esau’s revenge OR Isaac’s insistence that Jacob take a wife from Paddan-Aram? (Gen 27:41-45 vs Gen 28:1-5)
#49. Does Jacob go to Haran OR Paddan-Aram? (Gen 27:43, 28:10 vs Gen 28:2, 28:7)

  1. Rachael has another motive involved here as well. She knew, unlike her husband who needed to listen to her counsel but listened to his affections instead, that Jacob was to continue the spiritual destiny that he eldest son had eschewed. YHVH had already told her: “The elder shall serve the younger.”

  2. It appears you are going out of your way to find problems where they are not. The Genesis account is giving a clear record of what happened. Rachael wants her son to leave primarily for safety, but he can not just abandon the family. So she tells her husband the reason is so he will not marry a heathen wife. She is telling her husband what will get him to do what she wants. So Isaac accepts this reasoning and sends him off to find a wife. This same type of situation plays itself out countless times every day in our world. Every counselor deals with this. We even see it again in Acts 16:
    19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
    Notice, their concern is the lost money, but what they tell the magistrate is that they are upset by Paul and Silas religious teachings. The reason people give for something is often not the real reason. They are telling you what they think will get you to feel and act they way they want you to feel and act. That is all that is going on in this story.

    As for your second “contradiction,” one place probably refers to the area and one to the specific village or city. Just like today I could say to one person that I am going to Texas and another that I am going to Dallas and guess what, even though I have told them two different places -there is no contradiction. It seems you are trying to make things much more complicated than they are.

  3. Rebekah told Isaac that she wanted to send Jacob away because she was worried that he would marry a woman from Caanan but she was concealing the truth that she had heard Esau say he wanted to kill Jacob. She lied about the reason she was sending him away. You can’t read. LOL

    The city of Harran, where Abraham and his father Terah settled after leaving Ur of the Chaldees, while en route to Canaan, was located in Paddan Aram, that part of Aram Naharaim that lay along the Euphrates. Abraham sent his head-servant back to this place to find a wife for Isaac, Abraham’s son. The steward found Rebekah, who satisfied and exceeded the requirements set forth by Abraham.(Wikipedia)

  4. in #46-47 EGross in the comments made it more clear for me, as much as i wish you study is legit and true, i end up disappointed same as i’m now, where you cleary say “two different locales” after reading the comment from Bogan and saw the map + the wiki link that are more legit refference made it obviously. In the answer to EGross you sayd “Oh, and thanks for the qahal. I’m not sure where my edah come from.” i can tell you from where you “edah” came, from the purpose to misseald and fit you’re theory. I can’t link you study to any decent christian apologist or biblical scholar.

  5. Though Genesis 28:10 states that:

    Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran.

    that does not necessarily contradict Genesis 28:7:

    and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram.

    If Haran is a city in Paddan Aram, the two statements don't contradict one another. It would be like saying in an article "John went to California" and later, in the same article stating in regards to the same trip "John traveled to Los Angeles." The two statements would not be contradictory.

    The city of Harran, where Abraham and his father Terah settled after leaving Ur of the Chaldees, while en route to Canaan, according to the Genesis 11:31, was located in Paddan Aram, that part of Aram Naharaim that lay along the Euphrates.)

    Reference: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paddan_Aram

    I found another map http://www.islandsretreat.com/images/Paddan%20Aram.jpg that indicates Haran is in Paddan Aram, aka Padan-aram. Also bibleatlas.org/haran.htm one can see a map that shows Haran located in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aram-Naharaim.

    Aram-Naharaim is a region that is mentioned five times in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. It is commonly identified with Nahrima mentioned in three tablets of the Amarna correspondence as a geographical description of the kingdom of Mitanni. In Genesis, it is used somewhat interchangeably with the names Paddan Aram and Haran to denote the place where Abraham stayed briefly with his father Terah's family after leaving Ur of the Chaldees, while en route to Canaan (Gen. 11:31), and the place to which later patriarchs obtained wives, rather than marry daughters of Canaan. Paddan Aram refers to the part of Aram-Naharaim along the upper Euphrates, while Haran is mainly identified with the ancient city of Harran on the Balikh River. According to one rabbinical Jewish tradition, the birthplace of Abraham (Ur) was also situated in Aram-Naharaim

    1. Thanks for the clarifying addition. Yes, I’d agree. Technically speaking to go east to upper Mesopotamia and to go to a specific city in upper Mesopotamia are not necessarily contradictory statements. I’ve included it as part of the contradictions we’ve been examining in Genesis 27-28 ( #46-47) because the two place names, Haran and Paddan Aram neatly fall into one and the other textual tradition, that is Haran belongs to the Yahwist and Paddan Aram to the Priestly source (see also #24).

      Thus, we saw in #46-47 that the Yahwist presents Isaac as old and nearly blind and that Jacob disguises himself as Esau in order to steal Easu’s blessing from their father Isaac. Esau then expresses his anger and wish to kill Jacob, at which point Rebekah orders Jacob to flee to Haran, which he does. We can reconstruct the Yahwist text as it originally stood: Gen 27:42-45 + Gen 28:10

      And the words of Esau, her older son, were told to Rebekah, and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him: “Here, Esau your brother consoles himself regarding you with the idea of killing you. And now, my son, listen to my voice and get up, flee to Laban my brother, at Haran, and live with him for a number of days until your brother’s fury will turn back, until your brother’s anger turns back from you and he forgets what you did to him. And Jacob left Beersheba and went to Haran.

      None of these Yahwist traits or vocabulary are present in the Priestly version, Genesis 27:46-28:1-9 (reconstructed above). Additionally, at Genesis 28:10 (J), we are informed that Jacob left. But earlier in Genesis 28:7 (P) we were already informed that Jacob listened to his father and “had (already) gone ot Paddan Aram”! So the combined JP text as it now stands states that Jacob had gone to Paddan Aram and later states that Jacob leaves for Haran only because these two once separate textual traditions were later combined in the manner we now have them.

      Maybe next time this happens, I’ll just list the 1 contradiction and then write up a brief commentary on other textual differences and discrepancies, as I’ve done here.

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