Just as Sarah had been barren, yet gave birth to Isaac, so too was Isaac's wife Rebecca, who nevertheless gave birth to Jacob. Moreover, like his father Abraham before him, Isaac is not described in the Bible as having "gone in unto his wife" (i.e., having had sexual intercourse with her), but as having prayed for her conception instead. Thus, it is implied in Scripture that Jacob, like his father Isaac before him, was miraculously conceived (in Jacob's case, through prayer) rather than by carnal intercourse, as had been the case with Ishmael. As the Midrash states:
"Isaac prayed, 'Let the children You will give me be born by this righteous woman!' Rebecca prayed, 'Let the children you will give me be born from this Tzaddik!' Isaac's prayer was answered." (The Midrash Says, Vol. 1, p. 236)
So it was Isaac's prayer, and not Sarah's that was answered. And what was Sarah's prayer? It was that Isaac should be the father of her children. As she says, "Let the children you give me be born from this Tzaddik." But Isaac asked for no such thing -- he never prayed to be the father of his children, but only that Sarah should be their mother. And by whom? As it says, by prayer.
If, however, Jacob was miraculously conceived, then so too was his non-identical twin brother Esau. Why, then, are the descendants of Jacob (i.e., the Jews) elected to the Sonship of God and not those of Esau (the Gentiles)? Again, Jewish Oral Scripture provides an answer:
"Esau's complexion was ruddy. He seemed [even at birth] to possess the temperament of a murderer." (Ibid, p. 237)
That is, he was descended from the Side of Cain, the first murderer, who was the son of Nachash the Serpent and not Adam:
"Two beings had intercourse with Eve [the Serpent and Adam] and she conceived from both and bore two children [Cain and Abel]. Each followed one of the male parents, and their spirits parted, one to this side and one to the other, and similarly their characteristics. On the Side of Cain are all the haunts of the evil species.....From the Side of Abel comes a more merciful class, yet not wholly beneficial -- good wine mixed with bad. The right kind was not produced until Seth came, who is the ancestor of all the Generations of the Tzaddikim." (Zohar 1:36b)
As I discuss in my essay, Kabbalistic Genetics of the Holy Seed, this passage from the Zohar, and others like it, suggests that Jacob (eponymous father of the Jews) inherited his holy character from the Generations of the Righteous Tzaddikim through Seth, while Esau (eponymous father of the Gentiles) inherited his murderous character from the Haunts of the Evil Species through Cain. In this regard, another Midrash states:
"Even though Jacob and Esau, unborn in Rebecca's womb, did not yet possess minds of their own, their natural inclinations already manifested themselves even before birth.....Whenever Rebecca passed a [House of God] there was a jerk and inward motion in that direction from Jacob. When she came across a temple of idol worship, there was another movement, this time from Esau, towards that." (The Midrash Says, Vol. 1, p. 236)
Tormented by this struggle in her womb, Rebecca, according to the Oral Torah, visited Shem, the son of Noah who, we are also told in Oral Torah, was the high priest, Melchizedeck. (For example, see Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 32.a.1; Talmud, tr. Nedarim 32; and Rashi I:14:18). According to the Midrash, Shem received the following prophecy from God about the struggle in Rebecca's womb, which he shared with her:
"God says that you are carrying twins.....You carry them both together, yet once they are born, even the entire world will be too small to contain them together in peace.....The rise of one [Esau] will depend on the downfall of the other [Jacob]. They will continue to wrestle until the time of the Messiah, but in the end the older [Esau] will serve the younger [Jacob/Israel]." (Ibid, pp. 236-237)
For these reasons, the Prophet Malachi declares:
"The word of the Lord to Israel: I have loved you, says the Lord. Yet you say, 'Wherein have you loved us? Was not Esau [our persecutor] Jacob's brother?' The Lord replies, Yet I loved Jacob, but Esau I hated." (Mal. 1:1-3)
which is echoed in the Oral Scripture:
"[God] sowed a Seed of Holiness for the benefit of the universe. Therefore, the secret [of Israel] is: Her stock is a Holy Seed." (Zohar 1:15a)
So, in summary, we see on the evidence of Jewish Scripture, both written and oral, that Jacob emerges as a supernatural being, a product of Supernal Holiness who was, like his father before him, "begotten on the higher plane." It is by reason of this divine paternity that Jacob is "loved" by God, but his non-identical twin (who came from the side of Cain) is "hated." That is, Jacob inherits the Holy Seed of Adam which was sowed by God "for the benefit of the universe," but Esau inherits the Unholy Seed of the Serpent who brought death into the world, and whose murderous countenance we are told he resembled. In fact, as we shall see in the next installment of this discourse, this Serpent, the fallen angel Samael, was the guardian angel of Esau according to the Zohar, and it was he with whom Jacob wrestled the night before his fateful meeting with Esau at the river Jabbock.