Bible Snaps: Episode 11 … The Great Dread

Thrillers, Chillers, & Sci-Fi Killers. Whether or not you believe the bible is true, it contains stories that trigger imagination.

 The Great Dread

 I hear Jacob’s voice outside the tent. Quickly, I stuff the idols between the stacks. I unfold one of the sheepskins to cover the entire heap. The tent door opens, and my husband appears.

There’s something in his eyes I’ve never seen. He moans unintelligible words and begins to pace the length of the tent, occasionally stopping to hold clasped hands to the ceiling as if pleading with the invisible.

I grab him by the arm. “Stop it. You’re scaring me. What’s wrong with you?” I speak in low tones and point to Joseph who remains asleep on his pallet on the floor.

“My greatest dread is upon me.” His whisper is so soft, I almost cannot hear.

“What are you saying?”

“Esau is on his way with 400 men.”

“What does that mean for us?”

“I beg God for mercy.”

I turn my face, but Jacob is too quick.

“No, Rachel. I need you. I’m ashamed for my fear. You must help me. You’ve lived with your great dread for so long. What do I do?”

I wait to speak, because I don’t want to say the hard truth. Prayers to god for mercy often go unanswered.

“Rachel, please. Tell me something I can do. I can’t let the others see me like this.”

I pull him to the bed and begin to massage the knots in his shoulder. “Listen to me. Nothing has changed. You sent the messengers to tell Esau of your return. You were confident because of the two armies you met. You did see them, didn’t you? It wasn’t a dream.”

He nods. “Yes. I saw them. The captain who spoke to me was like no man I’ve ever met.”

“Then it is your sign. God is with us.”

“Yes, God is with us.” He speaks as if in a trance and turns to kiss me. When he pulls asway, he whispers, “You’re my life.” Then he picks up his cloak and heads to the door.

“Wait. Where are you going?

“I must get ready. We will bring gifts.”

The next day I overhear several servant’s anxious discussion. Many are wondering if the gifts will be enough.

I know from experience that no gift that could ever appease my bitterness. Jacob tried many times. The evidence of his favor still sits all around me, but what I wanted most, he could not give. Only God can give a child, and only women who are favored by God receive such priceless treasure.

“Mommy are you listening to me? I said …. are we going to die?” My priceless treasure repeats his question with solemn candor.

“Of course not, pet. Papa would never allow it.” I finish sweeping while Joseph collects my jewelry and places the pieces back in the chest.

Then he climbs into bed, and we snuggle close for a nap. “Simeon said we’re all going to die because Uncle Esau is angry with Papa, and God is too. Is he?”

“Hush, Jojo. You know Simeon likes to trick you. He’s not telling the truth. Go to sleep now.” In repetitious pattern, I lightly trace the length of his arm, and soon his wiggling body grows still.

My son is my life. The meaning of his name, “May God add another,” is the constant message of my plea.

It’s been six years, and I still do not conceive. In the twenty years of marriage to Jacob, Leah has birthed seven, and I have birthed one.

Maybe it’s true. God is angry with us, or at least me.

Jacob prospers by Leah and the servants and all that he does, but I do not.

Many times a day, I wonder why this is so. What wrong have I done to displease this god? Jacob says he’s the only god, but father says there are others and that we should try to please as many as we can to have good fortune.

That’s why I took the statues. They are my insurance. If I pay tribute to all the gods, then maybe I’ll conceive.

Father will get more images, but Jacob would never agree to such a thing.

He doesn’t understand. He and I do not dread the same thing.

I get up and separate the animal skins to uncover the idols. Perhaps there’s room in my cloth basket. Jacob would never find them there. The lighter load is for the maids to carry, but the men help with the heavier sheepskin bundles.

I wrap the images one by one in the cloth and place them under the special material we are weaving to make Joseph’s robe. At the bottom of the basket is his baby swaddle. I lift the soft material to my nose and breath. Please god, hear my prayer.

Everyone else sees a man of confident action as Jacob divides up our people, flocks, herds and camels into two groups and sends them away in droves explaining “If Esau comes to one group and kills them, then the other group that is left can escape.”

Of course, those going first are not eager to start their journey, but Jacob repeats encouragingly, “God is with us.”

Joseph knows something is wrong. “Isn’t papa afraid, mommy? Maybe Simeon is right. We’re going to die. Will it hurt?”

“No. We will not die. God is with us.” I lie because I do not know what else to say.

Joseph agrees and repeats my words. “God is with us.”

The task to organize the groups and send them on their way takes all day. When night comes, we fall exhausted into bed, and I ask Jacob, “What about us? All that remains in the camp are mothers and children.”.

“Sons. My sons are not children, but still we’re going last so that if some ahead of us return from escaping Esau’s wrath, we will learn of it before we reach him. Then we will also have time to escape.”

“You really believe we could escape from Esau and 400 men?”

“God is with us.”

I ask the obvious question. “What if Esau tricks you? Payback time. Wouldn’t it be easy for him to let you think he’s appeased, and then when you come close, he kills you?”

“Mommy you said no we’re not going to die.” Joseph’s head pokes out of the covers where I thought he was asleep.

I rush to console him. “No my pet. You’re right. We’re not going to die.”

After this, none of us can fall asleep, so Jacob gets us all up.

The moon is full and the boys treat the whole thing as a grand adventure. They work together with their father to get everyone and our belongings over the ford of Jabbok. When it’s time for Jacob to make the final cross, Rueben returns to our camp with the message that Jacob will stay on the other side till morning.

I know what he’s doing. He’s praying. Begging his god for mercy. As I wait for sleep to come, I rest my hand on the cloth bundle that contains my assurance. I pray to any god who will hear me.

Morning comes, and the birds are loud.

I’m still resting with my eyes shut when he startles me. “Wake, my love. I’ve had an amazing night.”

“Yes, yes, we all have,” I say grumpily. “Moving four women and eleven sons across a river in the moonlight is the great amazement I’m still recovering from.”

Joseph stirs beside me and yawns sleepily. We become motionless, but it’s too late. Joseph’s eyes pop open, and when he sees his father, he reaches for him and hugs his neck. “Papa you are safe.”

“Yes, my boy. Do you want to hear a story about what happened to me after you and mommy crossed the river?”

“Is it a good one or a bad one?” Joseph looks worried.

Jacob laughs. “All good. Very good.”

Then Jacob proceeds to tell us about a man who came upon him and wrestled with him until the sun came up.

Jacob’s ease about the whole thing is strange. I become the one who is afraid. “Was he one of Esau’s men?”

“No. Not at all. He was….he is….” Jacob’s voice grows hushed.

Bracing for bad news, I sit. Maybe father sent someone to follow us.

“I know how you feel, Rachel, about god, but it was him. He came to me. I didn’t know at first it was he, and we wrestled.” Jacob touches his thigh by his hip. “In fact he wounded me.”

I jump to my feet. “What are you saying? You’re hurt, and god is the one who caused it when you wrestled him? You speak impossible words. It must be a warrior of Esau.”

“Really papa? Was he strong?” Joseph is on his knees punching at the air.

“Rachel, he’s real.” Jacobs stands too and catches my hand. “He’s not just my father’s god. He’s real. He asked me my name as if he didn’t know it, and when I answered, he told me I was no longer going to be called Jacob, but Israel, because I have contended and have power with him and men. He says I’ve prevailed.”

I don’t know what to say. A god who wrestles, hurts, and then blesses all on the same night of a moonlit trek we take to meet Esau is too much god for me to swallow.

Except I do. I manage to swallow the whole story when I see what happens next.

About an hour after we resume our journey, a man with a great multitude of men in his company suddenly comes rushing toward us.

Before he reaches us, Jacob stands in front of us and bows seven times.

It’s Esau.

He gets to Jacob so fast, no one could have saved his life.

None of us are prepared for what came after that.

Esau embraces Jacob and falls on his neck and kisses him, and they weep.

We all do.

And God smiles because a rift between brothers is healed.

Later, when others aren’t looking, I throw my father’s stolen idols into the river.

There’s only one Great Dread.

He’s not the wrath of a brother or the shame of childlessness.

He’s Him, and His mercy makes everything new.


(This fictionalized account of Jacob and Esau was inspired by Genesis chapters 27-33.)


My new blog series, Bible Snaps are short fictionalized accounts of the more chilling stories in the Bible. There may even be a few “science fiction” type stories that reference biblical disasters that seem to conflict with the laws of nature. 

If you follow along, there’s a couple things you should know.

My “Bible Snaps” aren’t an attempt to settle the question, “is the bible true?” Each person must decide that on their own. My goal is to jump into the head of bible characters and try to imagine living the experience described in the story and then use fresh and personal words to tell it.

My other goal is to keep these posts “snappy” quick. In doing this, I might only “snap” a portion of the bible story to tell, but I’ll always give you the bible reference so you can read the actual bible text that inspired me.

There are also other reading options on my website.

If you don’t like my Bible Snaps Stories, then check out “Five,” my medical Sci-Fi supernatural thriller story. All 67 episodes (blog posts) are now available, and if you read them from beginning to end, you’ll have read the entire book and will be ready for my sequel, “Six.”

If you don’t like “Five”, then read my other short stories on this blog- (search word, “un-proverbial”) or Psalms blog posts. All of these were posted before January 2015.

Just read me. I’d be honored to have YOU in my audience!

One final thought.

Why do I re-tell the “bad” or chilling parts of the Bible?

We live in rough times. Many people suffer under injustice. It’s good to see how the Bible, an old book that many value as true, contains many helpful stories of people who were oppressed yet managed to live, survive, and thrive.

Don’t take my word or anyone else’s word about the Bible. Give it a read for YOURSELF. You may be surprised by what you find.



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