Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Genesis 25:27--Esau and Jacob

Genesis 25:27 (CSB): "When the boys grew up, Esau became an expert hunter, an outdoorsman,[a] but Jacob was a quiet man who stayed at home."

a. 25:27 Lit a man of the field
b. 25:27 Lit man living in tents

NWT 2013: "As the boys got bigger, Eʹsau became a skilled hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a blameless man, dwelling in tents."

I've always wondered about the connection between blamelessness and living in tents versus roaming in the wild and hunting for game. Of course, we know that other verses reveal Esau was not a spiritual person, but 25:27 implies Esau's hunting was diverting his attention from the more important things.

NET Bible: "When the boys grew up, Esau became a skilled 42 hunter, a man of the open fields, but Jacob was an even-tempered man, living in tents. 43"

42 tn Heb “knowing.”

43 tn The disjunctive clause juxtaposes Jacob with Esau and draws attention to the striking contrasts. In contrast to Esau, a man of the field, Jacob was civilized, as the phrase “living in tents” signifies. Whereas Esau was a skillful hunter, Jacob was calm and even-tempered (תָּם, tam), which normally has the idea of “blameless.”

LXX: ηὐξήθησαν δὲ οἱ νεανίσκοι καὶ ἦν Ησαυ ἄνθρωπος εἰδὼς κυνηγεῗν ἄγροικος Ιακωβ δὲ ἦν ἄνθρωπος ἄπλαστος οἰκῶν οἰκίαν

Targum Jonathan: "And the lads grew; and Esau was a man of idleness to catch birds and beasts, a man going forth into the field to kill lives, as Nimrod had killed, and Hanok his son. But Jakob was a man peaceful in his words, a minister of the instruction-house of Eber, seeking instruction before the Lord."

E. A. Speiser Commentary: The description of the two boys is clearly antithetical. The last parts of the comparison are self-evident: Esau is a man of the outdoors (field, steppe), whereas Jacob prefers the quieter life indoors (literally in the “tents,” the plural being used in the abstract; “in the house” would be too urban for the purpose); note the semantically identical Akk. phrase asibuti/u kultari “dwellers in tents,” which in Assyrian king lists (JNES 13 [1954], 210 f., lines 8f.) summarizes the background of the first seventeen rulers; it was no longer primitive, like Enkidu’s (see Comment), yet not urban, but pastoral-rural. The first parts of the comparison, however, are less transparent. Esau is given to hunting (literally "experienced in, privy to,” cf. Isa liii 3 “familiar with illness”), as opposed to Jacob who is (is) tdm, something like “of simple tastes, quiet, retiring.” The over-all contrast, then, is between the aggressive hunter and the reflective semi-nomad.

See the Anchor Bible Commentary, page 195.

G. J. Wenham: But as the boys grow up, the different characters already suggested at birth begin to emerge. Esau, the rough and hairy child, becomes the great hunter, the man of the open spaces, whereas Jacob is the quiet stay-at-home. The word translated “quiet” ( ) is most problematic. Usually it means “perfect” and is a term of highest moral approbation (e.g., Job 1:1, 8; 2:3; cf. Gen 6:9). However, such a moral sense is inappropriate here, but it is not obvious in what way Jacob is perfect. Perhaps the sense is suggested by the cognate verb “to complete”; Jacob, unlike his outgoing activist brother, is a self-contained, detached personality complete in himself, hence “quiet.” “Who lived in tents” contrasts him with his wild hunting brother and may well suggest he would become a herdsman (cf. 4:20) like his father and grandfather (cf. 13:5).

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