Christian Scientists, as many before them, have enjoyed gleaning the helpful lessons which are to be found in the story of Jacob and Esau. It has been the common view that Jacob was the more worthy of the two brothers because of his readier appreciation of the value of the birthright; and Esau's dullness on this point has attached to his name a condemnation as of a permanent unworthiness. This view may be somewhat unfair to Esau, especially in the light of Christian Science, which shows that all manner of evil can be and eventually will be abandoned.
Although Jacob was aware of the worth of the birthright and the blessing, he nevertheless viewed them from a material standpoint. He therefore sought to gain the first by preying on the weakness of his brother; and later, urged by, and responsive to, the duplicity of his mother, he falsely obtained from Isaac the blessing intended for his brother. His discernment of the worth of these things was rewarded, but not until his character had been much changed. An awakened desire to return to his homeland, whence his error had driven him, led him onward to that memorable struggle by the Jabbok ford where the essential nature of the birthright and the blessing was revealed in the light of spiritual sense. This subdued belief in materiality and made of him a new man, the Israel who as prince had power with God and with men, and had prevailed. This unfoldment had covered a period of years, involving changing views and troublous experiences, wherein was being wrought out a state of mind from which could be dissolved the duplicity and the greed which had obstructed the right sense of brotherhood and home.
But what of Esau during the same period? That he was not wholly unmindful of the worth of the birthright is evidenced by certain incidents. He had sufficiently awakened from his heedlessness at least to desire the blessing which, according to custom, was to be bestowed upon him by Isaac. And when he found that here again his brother, through subtlety, had deprived him of what was his by right, he sincerely besought his father: "Bless me, even me also, O my father.... Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? ... Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father." And Isaac said unto him, "Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above ... and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck."
Here indeed was a marvelous thing. Despite his faults "dominion" was to be his; he was to earn it. He was to prove his worth and then should the yoke, the burden of duplicity, greed, selfishness, dishonesty, be removed from him; his apparent necessity to bear it or to submit to it was to be ended. He was to overcome the indolence, the indifference, the slowness—those mental conditions through which deceit, greed, cheating, had entered into his affairs and robbed him. He was to gain dominion over the sense of having been wronged. Esau's history is but scantily recorded, as compared with that of Jacob, the brother who had committed an active evil, a positive wrong. Jacob, therefore, had actively to retrace his steps all the way back to Jabbok, where he was to be roused from false ambitions and materiality, and to see himself and his brother aright.
Meantime, Esau, whose fault had been at least in part a negative heedlessness of true values, had to build up for himself a better sense of freedom from what, to him, was an unjust usurpation, and a better sense of independence, industry, and supply. This he apparently did in a manner suited to his character, and became what in his time was a wealthy tribesman; while Jacob was still earning his way out of service to Laban. At the time of the mental wrestling at Jabbok ford, Esau came to meet his brother. There is nothing in the record to indicate that he came with evil intent toward Jacob. But Jacob, not yet wholly free from the consciousness of guilt, feared his brother whom he had wronged. When the light dawned upon him, Jacob saw his brother as though he had seen "the face of God." There must have been some qualities gained by Esau which were responsive to good, which it was possible to behold as good. Jacob even "to find grace in the sight of my lord," indicating a recognition of his brother's position. Esau generously said, "I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself." But Jacob urged, "If now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand ... because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough." Esau offered hospitality to his brother, but once again Jacob showed the fear which was not yet wholly subdued, and declined the invitation.
On the night that Jacob reached Jabbok he had yet before him that vigil in which he was to gain the higher, the true spiritual dominion. How much was he helped in the making of his demonstration by the releasing from bondage which Esau had wrought is his own experience? We cannot know. We can only gain from the story of these brothers the helpful lesson that Esau gained "the dominion" necessary to free himself from the yoke of duplicity which had cheated him of his rights in his earlier years; and he was freed from hate and resentment.
When we are feeling the weight of unjust treatment, of the robberies of mortal mind, can we not to advantage remember Isaac's blessing to Esau, "When thou shalt have the dominion, ...thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck"? We too have been heedless of spiritual values. Through evil belief we have been cheated and robbed of our good by the falsity of mortal mind. Afterward we have aroused ourselves sufficiently to recognize our need for "a blessing" and sincerely to pray for it; and then has come before us the prospect of liberation from bondage. "When thou shalt have the dominion"! Our working of our way out of materiality through right striving is illustrated in the experience of both these brothers; for they may be taken as types of human nature as it flows onward through the intricacies of the temporal toward the eternal. The greed of mortal mind that would, if it were possible, hold spiritual things in matter, and the indolence toward spiritual things that would choose pottage before birthright—thoughts which have been somewhat freed from these must yet meet by Jabbok ford and there surrender to spiritual reality, wherein is found the very essence of birthright and blessing.
Nothing mortal is good. All phases of evil belief must yield to the spiritual fact and disappear. Both Jacob and Esau desired the blessing. While Jacob more readily perceived the desirability of the birthright, he mistakenly looked upon it as material, as something to be gained materially; and through the evil pretense of materiality he obtained the blessing, and for the time being lost sight of both. In eagerly desiring and accepting even a secondary blessing Esau was enabled to go forward toward at least a better sense of dominion, gained through his abandonment of hatred and in independent industry. This won for him the mental freedom that equipped him to go as a friendly chieftain to meet his brother at that momentous hour when the brother was deeply to strive and so win his own liberation in a still higher sense of dominion.
On page 308 of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" Mrs. Eddy says of the patriarch's struggle at Peniel, "Jacob was alone, wrestling with error,—struggling with a mortal sense of life, substance, and intelligence as existent in matter with its false pleasures and pains,—when an angel, a message from Truth and Love, appeared to him and smote the sinew, or strength, of his error, till he saw its unreality; and Truth being thereby understood, gave him spiritual strength in this Peniel of divine Science." And of the outcome of this experience she says on the following page: "He had conquered material error with the understanding of Spirit and of spiritual power. This changed the man."
Is not the world today peopled with mental wrestlers, typified by Jacob, who admit that there is a greatly desirable birthright, as well as a blessing, yet over and over again attempt to gain spiritual things in matter, with the result that these precious things are lost sight of until the false sense of life and substance in matter is corrected in the Jabbok vision? And are there not those who, little interested in spiritual realities, even as was Esau, yet long for the blessing of good? And through their desire for the blessing, even if they are not wholly alert to the meaning of the birthright, are they not being led onward toward a better human sense of freedom until, at length, they are ready to meet in brotherly affection those who, like Jacob, may be struggling to lay aside a false sense and reaching forth for the still higher realization of true selfhood?
All mankind must eventually be awakened from the entire dream of existence apart from God, from the greed, the deceit of mortal mind, the materiality, the indifference to spirituality. As men move onward in the current of human experience, all the improving conditions of thought that express friendliness and brotherliness may be recognized as foreshadowing an eventually complete spiritual awakening. Isaiah declared, "The Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord."
When indifference to spirituality is roused to a better desire, when the greed which would capture good through selfish means gives place to truer vision, the Esaus of humanity may see fulfilled the blessing, "When thou shalt have the dominion,... thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck;" and then brother shall see the face of brother as though each has seen "the face of God." The spiritual alone is permanent. "There was never a moment in which evil was real. This great fact concerning all error brings with it another and more glorious truth, that good is supreme." Thus on page 24 of "No and Yes" does our Leader give us great encouragement.