Everybody knows of the infamous biblical feud between the Jewish patriarch Jacob and his brother Esau. This isn’t a story about that. That would be boring. No, this is a story about the early years, before there was any animosity between the brothers: before the hate, before the jealousy; before the trickery. This a story of when they were both young and innocent, and loved each other as much as any brothers could. But something critical happened to Jacob during those years when he was a boy - and it is something all the scholars and priests and rabbis never learned. It is the tale of Jacob, Esau, God, and a luckily misplaced rock….
About the time that Jacob and Esau were both 10 (they were twins), God was faced with a dilemma. He already knew that the Jews were going to be his every religion, and that Jacob was going to be the father of this chosen race. This was not his problem. His problem was that he had no way to tell Jacob’s offspring, his Chosen people, from the rest of his children. It posed quite a problem – if there was not some defining mark about the Jews, then it would be greatly more difficult for God invade the dreams of the right person, perform the right miracles, etc. – it would make it much harder for God to do his job. And being God is by no means easy work. So God had a problem, and, for once, even God was stumped.
It was at this precise moment that Jacob and his brother Esau were playing happily in a field, unaware of what God had in store for them within the next 20 years. They were playing a game they had invented – it involved a rock, a stick, and skinned faces of idol worshippers their father, Isaac, had killed. Esau would throw the ball at Jacob and Jacob would hit it with his stick and then try to run to each other four idols before Esau could get to the ball and tag him. If he got to all four faces he scored a point. If he didn’t, Jacob lost and they switched. They called it faceball.
Anyway, Jacob and Esau were having quite a good time. They had been playing all afternoon, and it was just about time to go in for dinner. The score was 7-7, and Jacob was up to bat.
“Tell you what,” said Esau. “If you hit this pitch you win. If you don’t I win. I’m hungry.”
“Okay,” replied Jacob, whose stomach was practically garrote itself in hunger. Playing faceball was tough work.
So Esau threw the rock they were playing with – and hit Jacob square in the shoulder.
They were young. They were on good terms. But that didn’t mean Jacob and Esau didn’t fight every once in a while. This was one of those whiles. Upon being hit in the shoulder (by a rock, no less) Jacob went into a mad rage. and picked up a rock and threw it at Esau. It caught Esau unawares and caught him square in the stomach. Then Esau, who didn’t appreciate being hit in the stomach, got exceedingly angry and threw a stone back at Jacob. Jacob, who by that time had his wits about him, dodged, picked up another rock, hurled it and missed Esau.
When one is young, anger is quickly forgotten and replaced by gratification. So it was with Jacob and Esau. Soon they were excited and laughing, euphorically throwing stones at one another, basking in the grandeur of their newfound game.
God had been watching all of this take place. He hadn’t really paid much heed to it – he was still thoroughly distracted with his making Jacob distinguisgable. Yet suddenly an idea dawned on God. A somewhat evil one, yes, but hey, he was desperate. He could kill two birds with one stone – start the feud between Jacob and Esau and at the same time leave his mark upon Jacob and his children.
Esau and Jacob were at this point behind separate trees, still very much engrossed in throwing rocks at each other. Esau wound up and threw one and Jacob took cover behind his respective tree. However, through divine influence (and the invention of the curveball) the rock curbed around the side of the tree and hit Jacob square in the proboscis.
We have much better technology than we had then. Medical science has advanced by leaps and bounds. There was no such thing as chemotherapy, marijuana, or a stethoscope during biblical times. But being hit in the face with a rock hurts just as much now as it did then.
Jacob painfully learned this dreary fact. He lay down on the ground and began to sob, his nose angularly protruding in an unnatural position and bleeding profusely. Esau quickly ran and tried to find his parents, Isaac and Rifkah. They were quick to arrive on the scene, but the damage was done. Jacob’s nose had swelled up to an enormous size. It never did get quite back to normal, leaving Jacob with an uncomfortable immense nose for the remainder of his days. And Jacob never forgave Esau either. Thus the sordid strife between Jacob and Esau began, the game of dodgeball invented, and the Jews obtained their vast, distinguished noses all on the same afternoon. From the heights of heaven, God smiled.