I invite you to come hear my paper, “Replaying the Fool: Esau vs Jacob and YHWH in Gen 32-33.” I present third in a session that begins at 1:30, meaning that I actually present at 2:30.
Here is the abstract for the piece:
The Jacob narratives in Genesis are among the most troubling theological texts in the Hebrew Bible for the way in which they portray characters actively engaging in deception, often of one’s own family. Esau arguably suffers most, losing not only the right of the firstborn (Gen 25:27-34) but also the paternal blessing (Gen 27:1-45) to Jacob’s clever and calculating ways. The response of Esau is clear: he plots to kill his scheming brother. Later in the narrative, however, in the reconciliation scene between the two brothers, Esau’s murderous anger is conspicuously absent and instead replaced with a seemingly affable, forgiving demeanor. Scholarship has traditionally noted that Jacob’s worry at the impending reunion is in vain and highlights all the more his problematic character, especially in light of the nocturnal wrestling match he has with God. It is this contest with the divine that traditional readings of the Jacob cycle will argue leads to a change for the better in Jacob’s character. Such a reading, however, cannot be sustained against a close scrutiny of the text.
This study is part of a larger project looking at the role and function of God in Jacob’s deceptions. Here specifically I will argue that Jacob by no means repents of his deceptive ways but rather continues with them, at the expense of his brother yet again. Jacob’s encounter with his besmirched brother will be read in parallel with 25:27-34. Esau again plays the fool, just as he did with the right of the firstborn, on a variety of levels: he accepts Jacob’s ambiguous offer of the “blessing” (33:11, cf. 32:29) and he ends up separated from his brother yet again by means of Jacob’s trickery (33:15-20). God is deeply connected with these deceptions (Gen 32:22-32), and a close literary reading of the text will offer new interpretive possibilities for understanding not only the Jacob and Esau dynamic but also the Jacob and God dynamic. I have dubbed this a theology of deception.
I am not sure what form the piece will take; I am currently finishing up the chapter of the dissertation that will include this smaller piece, so I need to do some writing (and then some heavy trimming) to figure out precisely what I will present.
If you are able to and/or plan to come, leave a note. And please, do introduce yourself.
EDIT: In writing this piece, I have decided NOT to argue that Gen 33 mirrors 25 and 27 as tightly as I suggest in the abstract above. I am, however, arguing vociferously that Gen 33 is a scene rife with deception, which scholarship has not adequately acknowledged.