Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

The Mess of Pottage

In answer to this fervent prayer, Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, soon saw the girls come out of the city with their great water jars; and when he asked them for a drink, Rebecca, the granddaughter of Nahor, gave him water and slaked the thirst of his camels also.

Eliezer felt sure that this was the maiden whom God intended for Isaac; so he now made known his errand, and offered her the trinkets which he had brought with him. Rebecca accepted them, and led him to her brother Laban, who gave his consent to the marriage, and on the next day Eliezer bore her away.

Isaac was out in the fields at eventide, when he saw the returning caravan. He went eagerly forward to welcome his unknown bride, and then led her unto Sarahís tent; and for the first time he felt comforted for his motherís loss. Isaac was about forty years of age when he married Rebecca, but Abraham was then still hale and hearty, and shortly after this he married a new wife called Keturah.



Abraham and Keturah had many children, but the father sent them all eastward, after giving them large flocks. He did not wish them to stay near his home, lest they should someday lay claim to the inheritance which was intended for Isaac only.

Ten years after Isaacís marriage, Shem, the son of Noah, died, and ten years after that Rebecca bore twin sons, Esau (the hairy) and Jacob (the supplanter). These two boys quarreled even during infancy, and this was the first sign of the enmity that was to exist between the two nations which sprang from them, the Israelites and the Edomites.

The twin brothers were as different in looks as in character. Esau was rough, hairy, and violent-tempered, and loved the excitement of the chase; but Jacob was handsome, smooth-faced, and gentle, and quietly watched his flocks of sheep.

The brothers were so unlike that it is no wonder they did not love each other; but their natural dislike was increased by their parents, who, instead of treating them alike, had each a favorite. Isaac loved Esau most, because he ate of this sonís venison, but Rebecca preferred the gentle Jacob.

The brothers' quarrels, however, were not very serious at first, and Isaac paid no heed to them. His attention was all taken up by his father, Abraham, who fell sick at about this time. Soon after, the old patriarch died at the age of one hundred and seventy-five, and was laid to rest in the cave of Machpelah by his two sons Isaac and Ishmael.

After Abrahamís death, Isaac was the head of the Chosen Race, and we read in the Bible that God blessed him.

Isaacís twin sons were about thirty-two years old, when Esau one day came back from the hunt almost famished, and found Jacob with a smoking dish of lentil pottage.

In those days it was not easy to get food at a momentís notice, and Esau was so hungry that he eagerly offered Jacob his birthright, or place as eldest son, in exchange for the pottage. Jacob accepted, and thus, although he was the younger son, he became his fatherís heir, and could claim as his share the promised blessing that "in his seed all families of the earth should be blessed."

Ever since then, when any one sells anything very precious for a mere trifle, people are apt to say, "He has sold his birthright for a mess of pottage." This is because they remember how Esau gave up the hope of being the ancestor of the promised Redeemer, simply that he might satisfy the cravings of his hunger.

At first Isaac knew nothing of this exchange, but Rebecca was well aware of it. Shortly after the bargain had been made, a famine came, and Isaac was forced to leave home, and to wander southward, into the territory of the Philistines.

He was about to go farther still, and even journey down into Egypt, when God appeared to him, bade him remain where he was, and solemnly renewed all the promises that he had made to Abraham.

While Isaac was dwelling here among the Philistines, he repeated the mistake twice made by his father. When asked who Rebecca was, he replied: "She is my sister." This falsehood was soon found out by the Philistine king, but he nevertheless allowed Isaac to stay in his land.

When the Philistines saw how very prosperous Isaac was, they became jealous of him and said: "Go from us, for thou art much mightier than we." Then, seeing that he did not depart, they tried to drive him away, by claiming in turn each new well that he dug. Isaac was almost in despair, but he finally made a treaty with them and thus obtained peace.