To mask: To disguise, conceal, hide…
In the Code of the District of Columbia in Title 22-3312.03. Wearing hoods or masks, it states:
(a) No person or persons over 16 years of age, while wearing any mask, hood, or device whereby any portion of the face is hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer, shall: (1) Enter upon, be, or appear upon any lane, walk, alley, street, road highway, or other public way in the District of Columbia; (2) Enter upon, be, or appear upon or within the public property of the District of Columbia; or (3) Hold any manner of meeting or demonstration.
Why in the world would Washington DC have such a rule? Simply put, because, generally speaking a mask is something used to conceal or disguise one’s identity. Under some circumstances, a mask goes hand-in-hand with doing something that is unlawful and potentially harmful to others.
Washington, DC is the seat of our federal government, and it’s not beyond belief that one or more persons might have plans or desires to do one or more government officials harm. Thus, the reason for the added caution.
As implied in the DC Code, masks worn in certain situations are generally used to conceal a person’s facial identity, but in the book of Genesis chapter 27 we see a mask being used to conceal the identity of a person, but it was their arms not their face.
The person attempting to conceal his identity was Isaac’s youngest son Jacob.
Jacob was a twin and even before birth, he had an interesting relationship brewing with his brother Esau. It says in Genesis chapter 25 verse 22 that, “The babies jostled each other within her.” So even before birth, the boys were going at it.
Based on the passage, it appears that their conception demanded some special effort as well. The Bible says in verse 20, “Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife.” Verse 21 says, “Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren.” Rebekah was unable to conceive and Isaac “pleaded with the Lord.” The nature of the situation and Isaac’s response indicates that he recognized the God of the Bible as God, and that he understood that this same God desired a personal relationship with him. Thus, when things did not go as desired, Isaac humbled himself before God and “pleaded” with Him on behalf of his wife.
After Rebekah became pregnant, when she felt the boys wrestling within, it troubled her. Perhaps she thought she was having a miscarriage. Like her husband, she too sought the face of this personal God. In doing so, the Lord response was special indeed.
The Lord said in verse 23, “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.”
Rebekah’s fear was quieted. The Lord promised that she would give birth to twins, but contrary to custom, Esau the older would serve Jacob the younger.
Genesis chapter 25 goes on to point out regarding the birth in verses 25 and 26, “the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob.”
The names of the twins are relevant as it relates to their unique set of circumstances. It is believed that the name Esau meant “hairy.” We see in Genesis chapter 25 verse 25, “the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over.” Thus, they called him Esau or hairy.
Jacob’s name on the other hand means “heel-catcher” as in “supplanter.” A supplanter is one who displaces another. Genesis chapter 25 verse 26 says of Jacob, “his hand took hold of Esau’s heel.”
Esau’s name describes a bodily feature. Jacob’s name depicts a personal characteristic. Both Esau’s body feature and Jacob’s personal characteristic be highlighted later in life.
We see in verses 27 and 28 of Genesis chapter 25 additional details of importance. There it says, “Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”
Esau was a man’s, man. He hunted game, and in turn won the heart of his father Isaac. Jacob on the other hand was “mild” in nature and preferred hanging out in “tents” rather than hunting and thus his mild nature won the heart of his mother.
This division was no small thing as we see in Genesis 27. In verse 4 of that chapter, Isaac sought to bless his favorite son before he died. Isaac asked Esau to hunt fresh game and make him a “savory” meal. Once he finished eating Isaac planned to bless Esau in a significant way.
Rebekah overheard the conversation and devised a scheme that would deliver the blessing to her favorite son Jacob.
The scheme involved Jacob quickly whipping up a meal, and masking his identity to cause his father to believe he was Esau.
Genesis chapter 27 verses 15 through 16 says, “Then Rebekah took the choice clothes of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. 16 And she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck.”
Lest one question if Jacob had a problem with his mother’s scheme, one need only recall an earlier scheme Jacob devised to rob his brother of his birth right.
Jacob cared only about Jacob. When his mother proposed the deception, Jacob had only one thing on his mind—getting caught and cursed. In Genesis chapter 27 verses 11 through 12 we see Jacob’s response to his mother’s scheme. There he says to his mother, “Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man. 12 Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.”
If Jacob was an honest. God fearing man he would have challenged his mother on the propriety of such a thing and refused to take part, but he didn’t. Jacob’s only concern was getting caught by his father and potentially suffering harm.
When his mother said in verse 13, “Let your curse be on me, my son,” rather than refusing to allow his mother to compromise herself, Jacob moved ahead with the plan.
Jacob had little problem with deceiving his father, jeopardizing his mother’s welfare, and stealing his brother’s blessing. Clearly, Jacob was a self-centered man who was willing to do whatever he had to do to achieve worldly success.
The plan worked flawlessly. The theft was sealed when Isaac, who could no longer see well asked Jacob in Genesis chapter 27 verse 24, “’Are you really my son Esau?’ He said, ‘I am.’” Jacob stood there before his father and told a bold-faced lie to seal the deal.
Jacob, with his mother’s help, masked his identity by wearing his brother’s clothing and placing “skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck” (Genesis 27:16). When his father asked him to confirm his true identity, he lied and pretended to be his brother Esau.
How sad and tragic a moment this was. Isaac was nearing the end of his life and rather than dying in peace, Jacob and his mother troubled his soul. His dishonorable deeds validated his role as supplanter.
Jacob’s decision to rob his brother of his blessing would force him to flee his homeland for many years. Genesis chapter 27 verse 41 says, “So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, ‘The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’”
Esau wanted revenge on his brother for stealing his blessing and making him the fool.
Realizing Esau’s desire to kill Jacob, Rebekah devised a plan to get Jacob out of the land until his brother’s wrath faded.
What can we learn from this tragic story?
First, Isaac and Rebekah looked to and trusted God for the miraculous conception and birth of their sons, Jacob and Esau. When it came to the impossible, they looked to the God of possibilities.
Secondly, rather than continuing to look to and trust this same God, when it came to working out the details of how Jacob would gain the blessing God promised Rebekah that he would receive, Rebekah usurped God’s authority and devised her own scheme to assure Jacob receive the promised blessing.
Thirdly, as is generally the case, when we step outside of God’s will for our lives, bad things are often the byproduct. The entire family paid a high price for the scheming that took place by Jacob and his mother. The family would be split for many years. Feelings of hatred between brothers would develop. Esau would rebel against his parents and embrace a dishonorable life. All because Jacob and his mother sought to work things out on their own, rather than follow God’s lead.
And what about Jacob’s exile? They were years of hard labor and strife for Jacob.
Genesis chapter 31 verses 41 through 42 outlines the feelings of a man who had been repeatedly cheated by his father-in-law Laban. After secretly fleeing Laban’s land with his family and livestock, Laban runs Jacob down and defiantly Jacob tells Laban why he fled saying, “I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed.”
Jacob raises two important points. The first is that he served Laban for fourteen years to obtain the right to marry his daughter Rachel.
Why Is this important? Jacob agreed to work for Laban for seven years for Rachel’s hand. After seven years of hard labor, the night came for Jacob and Rachel to consummate their marriage. Without Jacob’s knowledge, in the dark of night, Laban swapped daughters on Jacob. When daylight came Jacob awoke to Leah.
Jacob was shocked and very angry over the deception. Thus, he confronted Laban saying in Genesis chapter 29 verse 25 “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”
Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah, and found himself forced to add another seven years of hard labor onto his service to Laban.
Jacob goes on to add in Genesis chapter 31 verse 41, “you changed my wages ten times.”
Notice how Jacob kept record of the wrongs directed toward him by Laban. Interestingly, we don’t see much in the way of remorse by Jacob over the wrongs committed by him toward his father, mother and brother.
Fourthly, the wrongs Jacob committed did not go unnoticed by God. God allowed Jacob to have a taste of his own medicine. God likewise rubbed it in his face as well.
In Genesis chapter 32 verses 24 through 28 it says, “So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Notice in verse 27 God said, “What is your name?” The source of this multi-year calamity began when Jacob deceived his father. Remember in Genesis chapter 27 verse 19 Jacob lied to his father saying, “I am Esau your firstborn” and in verse 24 when Isaac sought to validate the identity of the one he would soon bless, Isaac said, “Are you really my son Esau?” and Jacob replied, “I am.”
When God wrestled with Jacob in verse 27 God points back to that which got the ball rolling, “What is your name?” This time, Jacob did not respond with Esau, but Jacob.
Fifthly, those who have suppressed their conscience may not have a problem with deceiving and stealing from others, but they sure don’t like it when they are on the receiving end of the sting. Jacob had not problem deceiving and stealing from his family, but when Laban did it to him he was very offended and hurt.
Jacob went so far as to display a self-righteous attitude toward Laban as if he had never wronged anyone. It’s sort of comical.
In Genesis chapter 29 verse 25 Jacob says to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”
I can’t help but believe that God was looking on and thinking, “And your point is?” Jacob was the last person in the world who should have taken offense given he had offended so many.
Lastly, these passages remind us that God is loving, merciful and forgiving. For who else would choose a guy like Jacob to have as one of the patriarchs of your people but one who is full of mercy, grace and forgiveness? Likewise, God is in control. He created each of us with the ability to choose Him and His way, or to work it out ourselves. Jacob and his mother help us understand why coming up with our own plan isn’t always the best idea.
As we make our way down the path of life, each of us have many opportunities to look to God or ourselves for direction. The Lord grants each of us the opportunity to walk with Him, or walk alone. We may patiently wait on Him, or go off on our own and suffer the consequences. The choice is up to you. Choose wisely.
Code of the District of Columbia
22–3312.03. Wearing hoods or masks.