Not to be a liberal at 20 is proof of want of heart; to be one at 30 is proof of want of head. — Francois Guizot

Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber




Jacob's Return Home

As we have seen, Rachel was the only one of Jacobís wives who had no children. She was much grieved to have no son, because every Jewish woman was anxious to have one, as he might be the Redeemer promised in the Garden of Eden. Rachel mourned greatly, but it was only when the second term of Jacobís servitude was near its end that she became the mother of Joseph.

As this son was the child of his favorite wife, Jacob loved him more than all the others; and, immediately after his birth, the father tried to leave Laban, and become his own master once more. But Laban would not let him go, and promised that if he would only serve for a third term of seven years, he should receive a certain part of the produce of the flocks.

Jacob consented, and during these seven years his herds prospered remarkably well. The time was nearly at an end, when he was favored by a vision, in which he was told to go back to the place where he was born, with his wives, children, and all the wealth that he had won.

As he feared that Laban would again try to detain him, Jacob got ready in secret, and stole away during the night. Thus, twenty years after he had left his father, he again crossed the desert, and came to the Holy Land.

Laban was very much displeased when he found that Jacob was gone. In his anger he set out to pursue his son-in-law, and soon overtook him. Then he reproached Jacob for going away without taking leave of him, and asked him to give back the household gods, which Rachel had carried off.

Although Laban was at first so angry, he parted peacefully with Jacob, because God warned him not to do his servant any harm. While still on the homeward journey, Jacob had another vision, and saw the angels camping around him, to keep him from all harm.

As he drew near home, his memory of the past grew clearer, and he remembered that he had parted from his brother Esau in anger. He now began to fear that his brother might still wish to kill him, and, hoping to disarm Esauís wrath, he sent a messenger to say that he was coming.

This man soon came back and said that Esau was coming to meet his brother, with an escort of four hundred fighting men. Jacob was terrified when he heard this. In his distress he called to God for help, and then, knowing that a man who wishes aid should exert himself, he got ready to meet the coming danger.

First, he sent a princely present of fine cattle to Esau; and then he placed his caravan so that Rachel and his best-loved child should be in the rear, and thus run less risk in case he was obliged to fight. Thus the caravan slowly passed over the ford of a little river; and Jacob, after seeing the people all cross in safety, staid near the edge of the stream.

Here he met a stranger, who fell upon him and wrestled with him all night. It was only near morning that Jacob found out that his opponent was an angel; for the stranger touched the sinews of one of Jacobís thighs and lamed him for life.

In spite of this bodily injury, Jacob clung fast to the angel, crying: "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." Thanks to his perseverance, he obtained the blessing he wanted, and the angel told him that he would henceforth be called Israel, or soldier of God.

Limping onward, Jacob soon overtook the caravan. Then, hastening to the head of it, he ran forward to meet his brother, Esau, whose anger he hoped to dispel by falling down upon his face before him, and begging his pardon.

Esau, however, had entirely forgotten his wrath. He put his arms around his brotherís neck, kissed him, and proposed that they should always live side by side. Jacob was very glad to be on good terms with Esau once more, but he refused this kind offer, because he knew that their servants would never agree.

This meeting over, Jacob continued his journey, passed over the Jordan, and came to Shechem, where he bought a piece of land. Here he pitched his tents, and built an altar to God, and here his daughter Dinah was carried off by the Shechemites.

Simeon and Levi, two of Jacobís sons, were anxious to punish these men for robbing them of their only sister. In doing so, however, they behaved so cruelly that Jacob was angry with them, and said that they had forfeited their right to inherit the blessing which he had received from his father Isaac.