September 29th, 2010
04:44 PM ET
CNN's Richard Allen Greene posts from London:
Today's dramatic announcement by British politician David Miliband - once widely expected to succeed Gordon Brown as leader of the Labour Party - that he is stepping back from front-line politics completes a chapter in a political psycho-drama that has transfixed the British political classes for months.
You see, it's not just any upstart who beat David Miliband (pictured, right) to the leadership post. It's his younger brother, Ed (pictured, left).
Commentators here have been dragging out parallels of other brothers as they struggle to explain what happened, but they seem to have missed the obvious comparison: Jacob and Esau.
Like Esau in the book of Genesis, David is the elder brother.
Esau, a hunter, was beloved by his father, while David is popular with Labour lawmakers and party members. In the complicated voting system for electing a Labour party leader, David did better among both groups than Ed did.
But Jacob, the younger brother, was his mother's favorite. Ed, for his part, was the preferred candidate among union members, the movement that birthed the Labour Party. He won enough votes among them to overcome David's lead in the other groups.
In the Bible, Jacob persuades his starving older brother to sell him his birthright in exchange for a meal. With his mother's help, Jacob tricks his blind father into blessing him - the younger son - rather than Esau, the firstborn.
To be sure, there's no indication that David "despised his birthright" or that Ed tricked him out of anything.
But Ed may be hoping that the rest of the Miliband story follows the biblical pattern.
Jacob flees from his brother's wrath, but he remains the main character in the story, ultimately building up wealth and a large family, then assuaging his brother's anger with gifts when he returns home.
Esau forgives him and they ultimately bury their father Isaac together.
Esau then essentially disappears from history. Jacob, meanwhile, becomes father to a great nation: Israel.
The Miliband brothers, as it happens, are Jewish. Either one would have been the first Jewish leader of the Labour party.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.