A Bible Favorite: Jacob

When Tony Trigilio introduced author and professor Aviya Kushner (The Grammar of Godduring a reading series event hosted by Columbia College Chicago’s Department of Creative Writing in the fall, he recalled a question she’d once asked him.

Who’s your favorite prophet?”  

Trigilio, the Chair of the Department of Creative Writing, said he was amazed by the question.  Kushner talked about prophets the way many of us talk about celebrities.  For him it was refreshingly new, her excitement palpable.  He then went on to further discuss Kushner’s avant garde attitude toward writing about spiritual journey.

Sitting there at the reading, I thought briefly about it too.  Then forgot about it.  Until recently, when I read the story of Jacob.

So far, he’s my favorite prophet patriarch.  (I think there may be a difference???)

Is it wrong that I like him so much because his family is so dysfunctional?

It felt like reading an episode-by-episode recap of some reality TV show — basically nothing but drama!!  Jacob was always looking for a come-up.  He came out of the womb holding his brother’s heel (think “pulling his leg” or trying to pull).  His name in Hebrew may even mean “deceiver” — he was basically the embodiment of deception.  Tricked his brother out of his birthright, then stole his brother’s blessing by pretending to be him. Later told his father-in-law everything was good while secretly preparing to run away, taking his wives and kids.  One of his wives even stole something from the her father and when his father came looking for it, hid the item under herself and pretended she was PMSing too bad to help him look.

With Jacob we also see vividly how the parents actions affect kids.  Some of his kids were equally willing to deceive.  When his older sons sell his favorite son, Joseph, into slavery, they lie and say an animal ate him.  Joseph also later deceives them.  When they come to ask Pharoah’s commander for assistance during the famine, he doesn’t immediately reveal to them that he is that brother they sold.

Like I said: DRAMA.

Why do I like this man and his jacked up family?

I think it’s because Jacob reassures me that God can take and use anyone.  Jacob’s story is also unique in that he literally fought all night for his blessing.  He was that invested in having a relationship — he didn’t give up until he’d received what he asked for.  And, then too, he also makes me feel better about my own family.  But seriously, we don’t have anywhere near that amount of drama he had.

jacob israel

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