And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.
Genesis 25:27 (KJV)
Plain – In all my readings of Jacob as a young man, I am baffled at how he could possibly obtain the mercy of God and be found just and good. The Bible accounts of Jacob being deceptive (exactly what his name means) toward his older brother, and even to his father. He robbed Esau of his birthright, and later tricked Isaac to give him Esau’s blessing. He was fearful of the consequences of his deceit and fled to his uncle Laban’s house for a while until Esau’s anger subsided. And the King James Version would have us believe Jacob was “plain” and a homebody.
Definitely not the description of a man of God. But yet, through him are the tribes of Israel born. His name is revered as a forefather and used even to this day as a popular name for children. What am I missing? Where is the character of YHWH in this young man?
That answer can be found in the word “plain” which in Hebrew is tam. While the NIV skips this word completely, and other translations such as NKJV and ESV are quite similar to the KJV, the NASB comes rather close with the translation of a “peaceful” man. The Hebrew word tam actually means “perfect” and not so much as “simple” or “plain” as other translations read. In fact this word is used many times to describe Job as upright, or undefiled. And there’s the relation… there is the character of YHWH.
From this one verse we can gather that Jacob was upright, obedient unto YHWH. His homebody description now lends to the idea that he learned in the tent and studied Torah while living among a heathen nation. This is in contrast to his older brother who was a man of the field. Maybe Jacob gets a bad wrap from these English translations. Maybe his deceitfulness is an extension of his mother Rebekah who is Laban’s (a deceitful man himself) sister. Nevertheless, the Hebrew text is clear, Jacob was perfect and upright.
And so we take a look at the words of Paul to the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians he speaks of a simplicity in Christ. He worries for them that their minds not be corrupted as when the serpent deceived Eve. But rather that the Corinthians turn to the tam in Yeshua as their aspiration. Here is where we might draw a correlation, that there is perfection in plainness.
So who are you? Are you a plain, simple, albeit perfect man before YHWH through His Son Yeshua living in the tent of God? Or are you a man of the world, a hunter, living in strife, confliction, and aggression?