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the order of his decrees. But with this necessary exception there was not a single point in which evil did not follow her deceit as a natural and iminediate consequence. Esau felt his disappointment too acutely not to be angry with its cause, and to obviate the effects of his merited, though excessive wrath, Jacob was obliged to be sent forth from his father's house, and never more did his mother behold him again. With the injured Esau was she compelled reluctantly to dwell, and from him she had no right to expect the affection of a child, or the sympathies of friendship. Fearful of the future she had yet none to whom she could communicate her fears, nor any to whom she could turn for counsel or for aid. In the multitude of her sorrows there was no one near her to comfort her, and if she wept at all, it must have been unpitied and alone. Thus did her calamities arise directly from her sin. Thus did even the success which she seemed to have obtained, become, as it were, unsuccessful in her hands, and for a future blessing she was made subject to a present curse. The rejected Esau, she beheld rejoicing, as if accepted, under the countenance of his father's favour, the heir of his substance, and the ruler over his house; whilst the accepted Jacob was cast forth, as if rejected, a fagitive and a wanderer in a distant land, the servant instead of the lord over his brethren.
3. Let us 'turn then, in the third place, to examine the judgement which overtook this supplanter of his brother, and contrast it with that supplanted brother's fate.
Now the prevailing character which runs through the incidents of Jacob's life is this, that his misfortunes were uniformly calculated to bring back to his recollection the picture as well as the punishment of his fault. By subtilty had he imposed upon Isaac, and by sabtilty did Laban impose upon him. He had betrayed his father into the acceptance of the less, instead of the more beloved son; and by a father was he himself betrayed into the acceptance of the less, instead of the more beloved daughter. He had wounded the affections of another; and his own were deeply wounded in return. Isaac supposed it had been Esau, and be blessed him; but behold it was Jacob, and he was constrained to confirm the blessing: Jacob supposed it had been Rachel, and he married her; but behold it was Leah, and he was constrained to confirm the unwilling choice. Late was Rachel gained, and early was she lost, and as he had caused his father to grieve at beholding the promise descend to Jacob's, and not to Esau's seed, so was he also grieved in beholding the same promise continued in Leah's, and not in Rachel's
line :—for to Judah and not to Joseph was the sceptre given. Jacob had brought dissension into his father's family, and made him to see his sons at variance with each other, and the elder about to shed the younger’s blood. So also was dissension brought into his own house, and hatred and variance and strife the bitter portion of his parental days. He had removed from his mother, for years, the son of her especial love; and Joseph the son of his own love, was for years to him as one dead. Instead of plenty of corn and wine, there was “famine in the land of Canaan," and "the famine was sore in the land,” and Jacob was reduced to depend upon one of his own children for the very food which he did eat. Instead of being lord over his brethren, he saluted his brother as his lord ; and instead of his mother's sons bowing down before him, the fulfilment of the promise was deferred to some yet distant generations, and in his own person he bowed down before his mother's son. To pursue him through every other sorrow of his days, and to observe each grief by which he was successively afflicted, may be left to the private hours of the believer. It is only necessary to remark in addition, that Jacob was deeply affected by the misfortunes he endured, and has borne a pathetic testimony to the melancholy colour of his life. Pharaoli
questioned bim only as to the number of his days; but he could not refrain from mentioning their misery also, and declared that evil, as well as few, had the days of the years of his pilgrimage been, and had fallen incomparably short of the days of the years of his father's, both in their duration and their excellence.
A punishment so appropriate and characteristic of his fault, scarce needed the contrast of the injured Esau’s prosperity and greatness to increase its weight. Yet this also was added to the positive afflictions of Jacob's life. For whilst he was flying in fear from the protection of his father's roof, and passed over Jordan with his staff alone for his possession and his stay ; Esau remained in the plenty and presence of Isaac, the son of his love and the inheritor of his substance. Not one portion of his father's worldly goods seems ever to have fallen to Jacob's lot. If the Lord had not dealt graciously with his servant in his exile from the promised land, he would have returned as poor and as powerless as he left it. Even with all the mercies which had been shewn to him by his God, he still felt his inferiority to Esau, and trembled before his might, under the natural apprehension that he would remember his former injuries, and give way to his present opportunities of ven
geance. " Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed",” and confessing the sin of which he had been guilty, and his unworthiness of the least of the mercies which he had received, prayed unto the Lord that he would deliver him “from the hand of his brother, from the hand of Esau, for he feared him." In that prayer of penitence and humiliation he was heard and answered. The mother and the children were not smitten from the earth, because God had unequivocally promised that his seed should be “as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude." But with that limitation alone, the blessing which his subtilty had extorted from Isaac, was for the present, both in its letter and in its spirit reversed. A fulfilment of what Isaac had prophetically been empowered to utter there must needs be; but the fulfilment was finally removed from his person to his posterity, and he was honoured only with the knowledge that he had not altogether forfeited the privileges of which, in Abraham, he was the heir, but that at some period or other “all the families of the earth should still be blessed in his seed.”
But why, it may be said, was he not really and altogether made to forfeit those privileges ?
a Gen. xxxii. 7, 11.
b Gen. xxxii. 12.