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ANF05. Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novatian, Appendix
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III.

Quoted in Jerome, Epist. 36, ad Damasum, Num. xviii. (from Galland).

11911191    Jerome introduces this citation from the Commentary of Hippolytus on Genesis in these terms: “Since, then, we promised to add what that (concerning Isaac and Rebecca, Gen. xxvii.) signifies figuratively, we may adduce the words of the martyr Hippolytus, with whom our Victorinus very much agrees: not that he has made out everything quite fully, but that he may give the reader the means for a broader understanding of the passage.”Isaac conveys a figure of God the Father; Rebecca of the Holy Spirit; Esau of the first people and the devil; Jacob of the Church, or of Christ. That Isaac was old, points to the end of the world; that his eyes were dim, denotes that faith had perished from the world, and that the light of religion was neglected before him; that the elder son is called, expresses the Jews’ possession of the law; that the father loves his meat and venison, denotes the saving of men from error, whom every righteous man seeks to gain (lit. hunt for) by doctrine. The word of God here is the promise anew of the blessing and the hope of a kingdom to come, in which the saints shall reign with Christ, and keep the true Sabbath. Rebecca is full of the Holy Spirit, as understanding the word which she heard before she gave birth, “For the elder shall serve the younger.”11921192    Gen. xxv. 23. As a figure of the Holy Spirit, moreover, she cares for Jacob in preference. She says to her younger son, “Go to the flock and fetch me two kids,”11931193    Gen. xxvii. 9. prefiguring the Saviour’s advent in the flesh to work a mighty deliverance for them who were held liable to the punishment of sin; for indeed in all the Scriptures kids are taken for emblems of sinners. His being charged to bring “two,” denotes the reception of two peoples: by the “tender and good,” are meant teachable and innocent souls. The robe or raiment of Esau denotes the faith and Scriptures of the Hebrews, with which the people of the Gentiles were endowed. The skins which were put upon his arms are the sins of both peoples, which Christ, when His hands were stretched forth on the cross, fastened to it along with Himself. In that Isaac asks of Jacob why he came so soon,11941194    Gen. xxvii. 20. we take him as admiring the quick faith of them that believe. That savoury meats are offered, denotes an offering pleasing to God, the salvation of sinners. After the eating follows the blessing, and he delights in his smell. He announces with clear voice the perfection of the resurrection and the kingdom, and also how his brethren who believe in Israel adore him and serve him. Because iniquity is opposed to righteousness, Esau is excited to strife, and meditates death deceitfully, saying in his heart, “Let the days of the mourning for my father come on, and I will slay my brother Jacob.”11951195    Gen. xxvii. 41. The devil, who previously exhibited the fratricidal Jews by anticipation in Cain, makes the most manifest disclosure of them now in Esau, showing also the time of the murder: “Let the days,” says he, “of the mourning for my father come on, that I may slay my brother.” Wherefore Rebecca—that is, patience—told her husband of the brother’s plot: who, summoning Jacob, bade him go to Mesopotamia and thence take a wife of the family of Laban the Syrian, his mother’s brother. As therefore Jacob, to escape his brother’s evil designs, proceeds to Mesopotamia, so Christ, too, constrained by the unbelief of the Jews, goes into Galilee, to take from thence to Himself a bride from the Gentiles, His Church.


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