Jacob and Grounding (Part 1)

This new series will tie together a number of themes from the previous four series which alternated back and forth from Hebrew to Christian scriptures. The main theme in this series is grounding. Just as loose electricity needs to get grounded out in order to prevent any harm, so it is with conflicts that sustain emotional charge from past to present. Due to states of friction, first between people and secondly within people’s memories, any amount of excess negative charge can hamper the quality of life. At some point, that loose energy needs to be put to rest.

Jacob is an interesting case-study of a person who generated excess emotional charge. Most of the Genesis narratives that cover the first half of Jacob’s life highlight the way he did things to create more relational tension. This was not just tension between him and others; it was also tension in him and in others. In fact, his very name in Hebrew means “the one who grasps the heel,” as the word for ‘heel’ sounds very close to Jacob. Genesis 25 describes how Jacob and his twin brother Esau “jostled each other” within Rebekah’s womb. Esau came out first, but Jacob had seized his heel. True to his name, Jacob continued to find ways to seize various situations in order to get the upper hand in life.

If you have ever seen one of those wind-up flashlights that build up static electricity to power a bulb, you have a picture of an aspect of Jacob’s life. When two sides rub closely against each other, the balance of negative and positive particles gets thrown off. As excess particles have to ‘jump’ or ‘arc’ somewhere, they create a conduit of electrical current. Lightning, of course, involves the same dynamic on a macro level. When Jacob manipulated Esau to barter off his rightful birthright, it was an exchange that was full of rubbing and friction. At that time no one got ‘zapped’ or hurt, but that episode built up a supply of electrical charge that got stored away as in a battery.

By the time Rebekah conspires with Jacob to manipulate Isaac to give his final blessing to Jacob, one senses from the dramatic narrative that the emotional rivalry between the twins had been escalating over time. Read Genesis 27 to review the story. When Esau finally returns from the hunt and learns of the trickery, he cries out, “Bless me — me too, my father!” But it is too late. Isaac bluntly states that Jacob “came deceitfully and took your blessing.” Tellingly, Esau says, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times.” Again, Esau pleas for any remaining fraction of a blessing, and weeps aloud. Isaac delivers only a grim word of non-blessing for Esau’s future. The reader can feel the intense build-up of negative electrical charge in the air.

“Isn’t he rightly named Jacob?”

Understandably, Esau held a serious grudge against Jacob and inwardly determined to kill his brother (vs. 41). From his perspective, it seemed perfectly fine for both brothers to get a blessing. Why not a ‘win-win’ for both? But between Jacob’s deception and Isaac’s lack of empathy, Esau is left stewing with the pain of indignity and loss. In fact, he ends up purposefully marrying wives that would displease his parents because he had learned of their wishes for Jacob to marry within the clan. Readers of the Bible usually do not think of Esau as being impacted within his family system since the entire story-cycle revolves around Jacob as the protagonist. Nevertheless, just as Hagar received special attention in the previous generation, so Esau will be honored in Genesis. An entire chapter is devoted to his descendants (ch. 36). Both Hagar and Esau can be understood as victims of dysfunctional family systems, and yet obviously they have their own imperfections, too.

Rebekah, more than Jacob, picks up on the negative energy that is both loose and thick in the air. The text is punctuated with references to emotional charge (vs. 41-45). From Esau’s “grudge” to his being “consoled by the thought of killing (Jacob)” to the prospect of his “fury subsiding,” the reader is reminded that this electricity will have to go somewhere. Rebekah suggests that time itself will take care of the emotions. If Jacob travels far away to the land of her relatives, Rebekah will then send word to him when Esau “is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him.” But will time alone be sufficient to resolve the depth of the problem?

Jacob, no less, also carries a portion of this emotional charge within himself as he leaves his homeland. In the series to come, we will explore how he learns to deal with his own patterns of grasping and rubbing, indeed, of trying to secure things for himself. Eventually he returns, knowing all along he would have to encounter Esau before he could settle back in his homeland. But first he must undergo a wresting match with a divine being. Again, more rubbing. The ultimate question will be: how will the negative emotional energy that has its source in the past get grounded out so that it will no longer have a determinative force over the present and the future?

Contacting Ted Lewis

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