Just adding details for clarity and interest.
Changing the way the Bible is written messes with the author's original intent. Single words add context and import and resolve ambiguity. But using those words to specify Joseph's biological relationship with his brothers introduces a potential distance between those brothers that reduces the impact of the fact that they were brothers. That is a potentially important change.
The Bible does not say where Reuben went, but as all his brothers were there trying to decide what to do with Joseph, someone had to be keeping an eye on the flock....the firstborn, I assume had more responsibility as the oldest. There is no hole really unless you want to fill it with imagination. Why make intrigue where there is none?
The story introduces this strange event. I think that the author and the original audience would naturally ask, "Where did Reuben go?" It suggests that Reuben isn't the protective brother after all but is distracted. I don't think this was a slip up of the author of Genesis but rather a subtle ambiguity meant to raise questions.
Why cover it up if it is what the Bible says?
The NWT attempts to give accuracy to the reading. Does the insertion of these words change the meaning of any of it....or does it simply clarify what is written? They were Joseph's "half brothers", since his only full sibling was at home with his father. Reuben was the "firstborn"....so why does it matter? Using the NIV gives us the same information.
It matters a great deal when read with the literary sensitivity that the author of Genesis demonstrates time and time again. In fact, the precision of wording in Genesis belies any criticism that the story might have been written with anything less than a profound attention to detail. To miss this is to miss the deep intelligence of the narrative.
Isaac had always been fond of Esau, because he was the outdoor type, a hunter and a man of the field, and this meant game in Isaac’s mouth. (Genesis 25:28) So, with failing eyesight and a feeling he did not have long to live, Isaac prepared to give Esau the firstborn’s blessing. (Genesis 27:1-4) Whether he was unaware that Esau had sold his birthright to his brother Jacob and whether he failed to remember the divine decree, given before the two boys’ were born, that “the older will serve the younger,” is not known. (Genesis 25:23; 29-34) Whatever the case, Jehovah remembered, and so did Rebekah, who quickly arranged things so that Jacob received the blessing. When Isaac learned of the ruse that had been used to accomplish this, he refused to change what was unmistakably Jehovah’s will in the matter. Isaac also prophesied that Esau and his descendants would reside far away from the fertile fields, would live by the sword, and would finally break the yoke of servitude to Jacob from off their necks. (Genesis 27:5-40; Romans 9:10-13)
You raise an interesting point in regards to Isaac's blessing to the real Esau. It is a bit peculiar and seems to uphold God's preference. I will consider that further.
Esau was only ticked off about the birthright when he realized what he had thrown away for a bowl of stew.
That makes more sense than that he was angry because of the blessing? Try reading Genesis 41 again.
As Genesis 25:34 stated..."Esau despised his birthright".
True...that is a good point. The way it shows up in the story is as a kind of conclusory statement as if the author had said, "and that is the story of how Esau gave up his birthright." It would be interesting to know if this is considered a later emendation from that of the rest of the story as it is unique so far as I can recall in Genesis. But even as it answers the questions raised in the story it raises its own question in my mind. Why not write the story to be more clear?
Jacob was no such thing. I think you are confusing Jacob with Joseph.
When did Joseph use a convenient meal to obtain a birthright?
You are completely departing from the truth of the story now. Why? It was clearly God's will that "the older would serve the younger" and that Jacob was God's choice to receive the right of firstborn. From the womb, God knew the personalities of the two brothers, and Esau was not a spiritual man...Jacob was God's choice.
I guess we will have to agree to disagree here. I read a story about a clever person causing another less clever person to give up something given as a birthright although in both cases it could be argued that the person giving up didn't understand or believe they were doing so. Cleverness, deception and its consequences is a story arc over the whole of Genesis from the serpent's deception through to the deception of Joseph's brothers that it seems well substantiated that it play out its role. Sometimes God is the author, but usually it is the human individuals practicing deceit.
You are reading this story only from a God's eye point of view, which no doubt you would approve of. However, you are not reading the story as if it was important to recognize the story itself as describing our truly human experience. You are jumping to the punchline without knowing the joke. This means you miss the point.
Are we the audience to be the judges here? I am happy to let God be the judge because Jacob was God's choice from the beginning.
Of course, hence this sacred story. The very point for the original audience of these stories was to discuss the stories, to bring up one's own assumptions and to attempt to resolve the ambiguities if possible. By doing this the audience contemplates this story as if they were living in it and attempts to relate to the outcome. That is how the Bible teaches the sole of its reader. If you just pick out all the "right answers" to each "problem" that is presented in story form but then forget about the problem (which is a problem that we all face), then you are not teaching your soul, just memorizing the "right answers".
Jacob, (in contrast to Esau who loved outdoor life and was a cunning hunter,) was an honest, harmless and innocent man who preferred to live in tents. Jacob appreciated spiritual things; his God was close and real to him, as can be seen by his vow and prayers. Without doubt Jacob noticed that Esau did not highly value his spiritual heritage, otherwise he would hardly have dared to suggest that Esau give it up for a mere bowl of stew. Had Esau truly appreciated his birthright, then, even though ravenously hungry, he would have rejected Jacob’s offer. But no, Esau was a materialistic, fleshly-minded man. Jacob did him no injustice in bargaining with him for the birthright. It was God's will.
Yes, Esau is what you have said and God has chosen Jacob...but you cut through all the scripture as if the story were a merely formality for presenting these conclusions.
Jacob is not innocent because he was deceitful. Sure Esau is a lunkhead who is impatient and insensitive to the more spiritual matters of life, but that doesn't justify Jacob's tease. Sure God told Rebekah that Jacob was preferred by him, but that doesn't excuse Jacob for his misbehavior.
What this teaches us is that God doesn't choose perfect people to do His will but He does see qualities in them that can be grown until their flaws are balanced out. If Jacob is merely innocent then the whole story of his experience with his tricksy uncle Laban looses its moral depth. Jacob learns not to trick his way through the world by becoming subject to years of practical servitude under the cleverness of his uncle. When Jacob returns he offers Esau much more than a convenient meal in atonement for his prior attitude that caused his long exile. This is not a story of innocence but of arrogance taught a lesson of humility. That Jacob would learn this lesson is why God chose him, not because Jacob was ideal or perfect. Jacob can learn, on a personal level, to transcend his original nature. This makes Jacob's story both human and divine.
If we read that whatever Jacob does is okay, then we ignore the obvious injustice that Jacob did. This is the same sort of immorality of those who justify any of their deeds saying that God approves. Since no one can speak for God, this is always a dubious claim at best.
I have enjoyed your thoughtful responses. Thanks!