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My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

Hosea 4:6

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In last week’s article, we learned that accurate biblical exegesis takes culture, context, language, history, and geography into consideration before drawing a final conclusion. This week’s article will focus on the aspects of culture, context, and language embedded within Genesis 27:11, which reads, “And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, ‘Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man’….”

Robyn J. Whitaker, author of the article, “God Made the Rainbow: Why the Bible Welcomes a Gender Spectrum” writes:

“Queer and feminist scholars have highlighted other moments of gender subversion in the biblical text. For instance, Jacob is “smooth” and “stays in the tent” – traditional female attributes in the ancient world. Yet he is chosen over his hairy, hunter brother to lead God’s people. Rabbi Jay Michaelson describes Jacob as ‘gender non-conforming.’”

The Hebrew word translated smooth in the English is the word chalaq (חָלָק) and it has a double meaning (as it does in modern English as well). It can either mean, in a literal sense, smooth-skinned, or in a figurative sense, a smooth talker.

However, according to the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges commentary, the use of the word chalaq in Genesis 27:11 was not so much an observation regarding Jacob’s body hair (or lack thereof) as it was of his character.

“A plain man] i.e., as R.V. marg., quiet or harmless, Lat. integer. “Plain,” in Old English, is used for “simple,” “honest”: cf. “For he [Antonius] was a plaine man, without subletie” (North’s Plutarch, Antonius, p. 979); “Plaine, faithful, true, and enimy of shame” (Spenser, F. Q., i. 6, § 20). The meaning seems to be that of a solid, simple, home-abiding man. LXX ἄπλαστος, Lat. simplex. Cf. the German from dwelling in tents] Cf. Genesis 4:20. The life of Jacob, the herdsman and the shepherd, is contrasted with that of the fierce and roving huntsman. The ideal patriarchal habit of life seems to be pastoral.”

Other commentaries that support this view include (but are not limited to): Elliot’s Commentary for English Readers, MacLaren’s Expositions, Pulpit Commentary, Benson Commentary, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, Matthew Poole’s Commentary, Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, and the Geneva Study Bible.

Furthermore, regarding the second half of the phrase, that Jacob “stays in the tent,” we know from other passages of Scripture (Genesis 29:15, 20, Genesis 30:16, 25-43, Genesis 46:33-34) that Jacob was not only a hard- working laborer, but he was also very industrious. The idea that he “stayed in the tent” does mean, “This momma’s boy sat around all day playing X-Box in the basement,” nor does it mean Jacob stayed inside cooking and sewing all day with the womenfolk, because we see elsewhere in Scripture that he was a shepherd and spent long days out in the fields.

“Staying in the tent” is simply an idiom that means Jacob was home for supper every night after work; unlike his adventurous brother who would leave town for days and weeks at a time on swash-buckling hunting ventures. Rather than pitting Jacob and Esau against one another in some misconstrued “waxed and manicured metrosexual” vs.”hairy, sweaty WWE wrestler” analogy, the context is rather pointing toward the idea that Jacob was a somewhat predictable 9:00 am – 5:00 pm blue collar worker; while his brother was an unpredictable, entrepreneurial risk-taker. 

Why Must I be Surrounded by Friggin’ Idioms?!

Whitaker is not merely taking an ancient Hebrew word and applying a modern English meaning to it. The word “smooth” in ancient Hebrew means exactly what it means in today’s modern English. What is happening here is the ancient Hebrew idiomatic meaning of the word (which is “plain”) is being substituted for one (of the many) modern English idiomatic meanings of the word (which is “soft” in the effeminate sense).

However, even this is identio-centric (yeah, I just made that word up). If I say to a room full of people, “Jacob was smooth—explain.” A person who identifies as an LGBTQ might say, as Whitaker and Rabbi Jay Michaelson contend, that this means Jacob is gender non-conforming. While a person born with Alopecia might say, “Cool! I wonder if Jacob had Alopecia!” A Jewish person (fluent and familiar with the Hebrew language and culture) might simply shrug and say, “Jacob was a homebody.” Whereas, a young person from the hood might say, “Ah! That Jacob was a player!”

Interestingly, the modern idiomatic definitions of the word smooth are as diverse as the people who have adopted the word into their vernacular. An LGBTQ automatically reads effeminate behavior into the word smooth; while, on the other hand, a group of youngsters from the inner city may automatically assume a man who is “smooth” is a smooth-talker—a player—a ladies’ man. In one case, we have a group that thinks smooth means, “This man must appeal to gay men!” While the other group thinks the same word means, “This man must appeal to the ladies!” Who’s right?

Answer—neither.

Because Jacob was a Semitic man living in a middle eastern culture thousands of years removed from the modern lifestyles and worldviews of western-thinking, 21st-century, English-speaking Americans. And I highly doubt such a virile, hard-working man, who had four wives and sired twelve children—most of whom grew up to be fierce warriors—would have self-identified as anything close to our modern conception of effeminate.


Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Furthermore, because of a little thing called genetics, it is not at all unusual to come across grown men who do not have hairy chests, or who are unable to grow a Z. Z. Topp-esque beard. As previously mentioned, men with Alopecia, by nature of that disorder, will not have any body hair. But while body hair is tied to testosterone levels, this does not mean it should be used as a litmus test to determine whether a man is gender non-conforming or not. (Just as it would be equally as narrow minded and biggoted to assume that a hairy chested man with a thick beard, sporting a red flannel shirt, driving a pickup truck with a loaded gun rack could not possibly be gay.)

He’s the G.O.A.T.

Whenever a text is contrasting two things, it is incomplete, sloppy exegesis to study only half the verse. The world has a phrase for this type of work. It starts with half and ends with donkey. You will not fully understand why a contrast even exists if you study one and not the other.

Genesis 27:11 does not simply tell us that Jacob is smooth. It also tells us that Esau is hairy. If the word smooth is of such vital importance that literary theorists, scholars, and theologians can glean an entire doctrine of gender non-conformity from that one word—then, couldn’t a study of the word hairy likewise uncover a wealth of information?

Well, I did just that and, fascinatingly, the word in Genesis 27:11 translated, hairy, is sa’iyr (שָׂעִיר). The Hebrew Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines sa’iyr as:

“Or sabir {saw-eer’}; from sa’ar; shaggy; as noun, a he-goat; by analogy, a faun — devil, goat, hairy, kid, rough, satyr.”

If Jacob is “gender non-conforming” solely based upon the fact that his skin was smooth; then we must also define the contrasting brother, Esau, using the same hermeneutic logic; namely, by the sole word used to describe him—hairy; which contextually means he was reminiscent of some sort of cloven-hooved, talking faun.

If this is ridiculous to you and you are not willing to stand by the linguistic research and declare straight-faced that you believe Esau was some sort of hairy he-goat; then neither should you have the audacity to dogmatically declare Jacob was gender non-conforming simply because he wasn’t all that hairy of a guy.

There is No “I” in Narcissist…Oh, Wait…

The Word of God may reveal things about us, or things helpful to us, but it is not ultimately about us. In other words, we are “extras” in the background. We play a role, but we are by no means the main character.

The “Gospel” being preached in our era is the Gospel “of salvation.” And while I in absolutely no way deny that salvation is a critical piece of the Gospel story, it isn’t the whole story; and the part that is being left out is going to be the death of us all (even the elect, if that were possible!) Jesus didn’t just preach “the Gospel.” Nor did he preach the Gospel “of salvation.” Jesus preached the “Gospel of the kingdom of God.”

(See Mark 1:14-15, 1 Corinthians 15:49-54, Matthew 24:14, Colossians 1:13, Matthew 13:10-11, Luke 4:43, Matthew 4:23, Matthew 6:33, John 18:36-37, Acts 20:25, Acts 28:30-31, 1 Corinthians 15:22-24, Revelation 11:15, Matthew 3:2, Matthew 5:18-20, Matthew 9:35, Matthew 10:7, Luke 8:1, Acts 1:3, Acts 8:12).

There are two kingdoms presently at war: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world; and we have all been called to pick a side. When we receive Christ as our King and Messiah, we are “choosing a side”—we are transferring our citizenship from earth to Heaven. Our salvation is one tiny cog in the massive war machine.  The full Gospel is the overall understanding that two kingdoms are at war–fighting for authority over the human race. Our salvation is merely that one brief moment in time, during the war, that we declare who’s side we are on.

Here on earth, whether it be war or a sporting event—teams have names. In the Civil War, it was the “blue and the gray.” On the football field, it’s the “Vikings vs. the Steelers.” In the wild west, it was the “cowboys and the Indians.”  In Scripture, it is the “sheep and the goats.”

We get this analogy from Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-33, “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.”

But this idea of sheep being citizens of the kingdom of God and goats being citizens of the kingdom of this world is present in Scripture long before Jesus shows up on the scene. We also see it in the book of Daniel. In chapter 8, Daniel has an end times vision of the culminating war between the two kingdoms—and the kingdoms are represented by a ram (aka a male sheep) and a he-goat.

We even see these “mascots” play out in the Church and in the occult when Christians refer to the Messiah as the “Lamb of God;” and occultists, whose god is represented by the Baphomet; a half-human, half-animal creature with the head of a goat.

Likewise, Jacob and Esau are shadows and types of the two kingdoms. In Romans 9:13, Paul tells us that Yahweh declared, “…’Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” Jacob was chosen by Yahweh because he understood the supreme value of the birthright. Esau was rejected by Yahweh because he counted a bowl of stew of more value than his birthright.

When Moses tells us in Genesis 27:11 that Jacob was “smooth and stayed in the tent” and Esau was “hairy”—he is not sending out a smoke signal to future generations of homosexuals permitting them to enjoy an endless bounty of sexual liberties. Moses is using Jacob and Esau as metaphorical representations of the two kings presiding over the two kingdoms.  Jacob—a keeper of SHEEP likens unto Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd—ruler of the sheep; and Esau, the ruddy man bearing the resemblance of a he-goat likens unto the god of this world, the Baphomet—ruler of the goats.

And just as these two kingdoms have been striving against one another from the beginning of time until now, so did Jacob and Esau strive against one another from the womb until their deaths.

  • Jacob grabs Esau’s heel in the womb to be the first one born, Genesis 25:16
  • Jacob dupes Esau into pawning his birthright for a bowl of stew, Genesis 25:29-34
  • Jacob steals Esau’s blessing, Genesis 27
  • Esau seeks to kill Jacob after the death of their father, Genesis 27:41

To reduce the redemptive complexities of Genesis 27:11 down to a permission slip for gender bending gives us a devastating glimpse into the heart of man. Jacob and Esau are not metaphors for the dichotomy between heterosexual and homosexual men—this verse was laying a fundamental, theological metaphor (the sheep vs. the goats) for the coming Messiah who would one day come to earth and build his Gospel of the kingdom upon it’s foundations!

Conclusion

Remember that catchy little ditty from our Sunday school days—Be Careful Little Eyes What You See?  The song has 7 verses. It warns us to be careful with our eyes, ears, tongue, hands, feet, heart, and mind. In Matthew 18:3, Jesus warns us that unless we change and become like little children, we will not enter Christ’s kingdom. With that in mind, will you take the next 20 seconds—put down your smart phone, shut your laptop cover, quiet yourself before Yahweh, and preach to your own soul by singing aloud with the heart of a child:

O be careful little mind what you think
O be careful little mind what you think
For the Father up above
is looking down in love
So, be careful little mind what you think

Stay tuned next week for Part Three….

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