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September 29th, 2010
04:44 PM ET

UK political drama follows biblical pattern

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.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Bible • Britain • Europe • Judaism • United Kingdom

soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Androus

    @justina – Read the content of what is being discussed here as i do not know where i have blamed anything on arabs. Why must blame be aportioned? who said this discussion is about who to blame. this is not about blame, its about history and facts. And i will tell you again the book of Obadiah does not exist in the Bible, maybe the catholic bible but not the Anglican bible. so please get your facts right

    September 30, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
    • Justina

      Androus, Obadiah is the 31st book in the Old Testament Bible. The Bible Catholics use has some extra books, but those extra books carry no theological significance. I'm sure you just missed the name in the table of contents. I'm sorry for my misunderstanding on your intention. It's not very preferable to be called Edomites, unless Arabs and Muslims are ignoring altogether what is recorded in the Bible. Aren't you mixed up Esau with Ishmael?

      September 30, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
  2. Mark

    I am surprised that this treads don’t have any insults because topic to contentious. But I am having some confidence that this “brothers” clever in politics with is not easy and theirs “Britishness” have nothing to do with their “Jewishness”. They will do well for people.

    September 30, 2010 at 10:55 am |
  3. Reality

    But did Jacob even exist? Ditto for Esau?

    origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-u-ment.

    September 30, 2010 at 10:20 am |
  4. Bunny

    Wow what a hilarious debate. God, Allah, Budda (and any other deity that wants to join in) forbid that anyone bother saying anything objective or intelligent. There's nothing like a basic (and unexciting) experiment in comparisons to start off a religious slanging match.

    September 30, 2010 at 9:06 am |
    • Justina

      Bunny, there is only one God. The Arabic word "Allah" is "God" in English. Bhudda is not God. Don't be care-free about the knowledge of God, it's more important than anything in your life. Read the Bible and find the vital Truth.

      September 30, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
  5. Androus

    Obadiah which regious text is that its not in the bible? Anyone i was merely pointing out that Esaus decendents exist today in the form of the arabs

    September 30, 2010 at 8:45 am |
    • Justina

      Androus, read the table of contents in the Old Testament!! And don't blame everything on Arabs, please.

      September 30, 2010 at 8:56 am |
  6. Androus

    Contrary to what you said Esau does not disappear from History, you will find that he became a great nation himself as the father of Arabs and his offsprings are muslims.

    September 30, 2010 at 6:52 am |
    • Justina

      Read the Book of Obadiah. Most Edomites( the descendants of Esau) were destroyed for their pride and the cowardly evil deeds against Israel. It's a lesson for all of us telling what happens if we betray our friends who are in trouble.

      September 30, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  7. Mark Staves

    Was this story written by a twelve year old with nothing better to do. It is a ridiculous comparison and the whole event of the leadership race of this sinking party was of practically no interest whatsoever to the general public.

    Nice try at promoting the Jewish agenda though.

    Pathetic.

    September 30, 2010 at 6:42 am |
  8. Cambriani

    Both cant be athiest or jews. Logically they should be catholic christians thus they can enjoy a pleasureful life full of all types of sins as according to catholic religion Jesus Christ(peace be upon him) has given his life for all types of sins of their followers.

    September 30, 2010 at 5:57 am |
    • Justina

      Cambriani, don't rant ignorance on Christianity. Continuing to sin knowingly brings guaranteed eternal damnation. Read the Book of Hebrew and the Book of John in the New Testament Bible. You are doomed without having faith in the Divine Savior Jesus Christ because you are NEVER clean in God's sight without accepting His atonement.

      September 30, 2010 at 8:18 am |
  9. Wake

    Nice story. If the Arabs and moslems had the upper hand in the Israeli question no one will be saying anything internationally. Consider what gift Islam has bestowed on humanity?????? A religion of peace they call it.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:48 am |
  10. Mel

    The English are not now, nor have they ever been, a Christian nation, so your using a Bible story to illustrate a point about them is a little irrespectful of their religious tradition (or the lack thereof). Why don't you take a story of their own mythology, like Charles Darwin's theory of evolution? You could say something like this is a good example of the survival of the fittest bla bla bla. In that way you wouldn't be offending them.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:25 am |
    • Frank

      "The English are not now, nor have they ever been, a Christian nation"

      Explain!

      September 30, 2010 at 4:30 am |
    • greg

      I am English, and have to agree with you that very few people in this country believe in god. It tends to just be just immigrants and the elderly.

      September 30, 2010 at 7:59 am |
    • cranky

      The head of the British Government (the Monarch, good ole Queen Elizabeth II) is also head of the Church of England, which is still technically the state religion even if only in name.

      It is also wrong to read to deeply into this article which most people seem to be doing. The bible, and every other holy book, is full of stories that are meant to be relatable. The author here with some success and some failure does this; he relates two stories. The END!

      September 30, 2010 at 8:08 am |
    • cranky

      sorry, I should have pointed out that the Church of England is a christian church

      September 30, 2010 at 8:09 am |
    • Justina

      Mel and Greg, I heard atheists could not disprove God in the field of science so they started to twist the history on the Western Civilization. A futile, pathetic attempt. The reason why your grandparents were respected by outsiders, but not you guys.

      September 30, 2010 at 8:11 am |
  11. salayem

    So israel in the bible was created by cheating? I didn't know that, now I understand what is meant by history repeating it self.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:00 am |
    • Muhammad Cheese Sandwich

      Are you claiming that when Muhammad spoke so highly about the Jewish people in the Qur'an, he was also lying? I've always thought so, and I welcome you to the fold of the unbelieving Kuffirs. 🙂

      September 30, 2010 at 4:16 am |
    • Justina

      Salayem, no. It means God bestows mercy on repentant humans because every man and woman cheats others, after all.

      September 30, 2010 at 8:04 am |
    • Justina

      Salayem, Eve is the mother of all. She's well-known for enticing her man to do wrong. Lessons here: Man must listen to God rather than woman if there is a conflict. Man must put the will of God first and then the opinion or request of others. If the order is reversed, everybody ends up being a total loser, including the woman he loves.

      September 30, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  12. deepwater805

    Ok, If there's so much of a biblical comparison...then which ones Eve?

    September 30, 2010 at 3:57 am |
    • Justina

      Deepwater805, my reply to your comment regarding Eve is under Salayem's comment just underneath yours.

      September 30, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
  13. Baher

    You say "Jacob, meanwhile, becomes father to a great nation: Israel."
    If great you meant "violent, barbaric, warmongering," then I must agree with you. And that goes both for ancient and modern Israel. Hoepefully those same ugly values that lead Israel to commit genocide and war crimes, then and now, will not infect modern UK.

    September 30, 2010 at 3:39 am |
    • Justina

      Baher, Israel is less guilty than any other nation on earth. Your ugly descriptions fit into all the stupid nations who try to destroy her.

      September 30, 2010 at 7:59 am |
  14. Insan Mukmin

    I am not voting for Labour with a pair of Jews at its helm because I know that they will be even more supportive of Israel than ever.

    September 30, 2010 at 2:41 am |
    • Moe Says

      Some of Israel's worst enemies happen to be Jewish, like the Ultra-orthodox, And isn't it interesting that not only that Neo-Nazi in Poland "found out" just now that he was a Jew, but even the children of Russian "Jewish" immigrants are also turning Nazis, attacking Jewish cemeteries and synagogues even inside Israel?

      September 30, 2010 at 4:39 am |
  15. Justina

    Read the Bible correctly. Esau was not starving but just hungry. He despised the Divine providence and fell from the grace. Both could have achieved much better lives if they didn't exercise unbelief or deception. The Bible story is a mirror of us humanity. Jacob received mercy because of God's sovereignty and his part in having faith.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:36 am |
    • Hmmmm

      Amen... at least 1 person here has some idea of the historical story and not trying to use it out of context.

      September 30, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
  16. Arun George

    Looks like CNN has run out of ideas. How dare you compare biblical characters with these high school fails?

    September 30, 2010 at 1:22 am |
    • greg

      Ridiculous to compare these very real brothers with fictional characters from the bible.

      September 30, 2010 at 7:56 am |
    • Justina

      Greg, your personal opinion is a pathetic fiction.

      September 30, 2010 at 8:42 am |
  17. CNN=Dumb

    What a stupid comparison.

    September 30, 2010 at 12:31 am |
  18. paradisso

    Very childish and naiive story

    September 30, 2010 at 12:11 am |
    • Hmmmm

      EXACTLY! This story is an attempted Jedi mind trick to get relgious people feel at easy with these "useful idiots".

      September 30, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  19. zave

    It's ironic since they are both atheists.

    September 29, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
    • peace2all

      @zave

      Really....? Interesting..... Hmmm.......

      Peace...

      September 29, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
    • Mac Heath

      I was about to write the exact same thing but thankfully saw that you beat me to it.

      September 30, 2010 at 12:11 am |
    • Hmmmm

      EXACTLY! This story is an attempted Jedi mind trick to get relgious people feel at easy with these children of "useful idiots".

      September 30, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
  20. peace2all

    I went into a 'somnambulistic trance' reading this 'political-(biblical)' ....analogy.... Somehow played out in real life...?

    Peace...

    September 29, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
    • guest

      so the younger brother cheated the older brother out of his birthright, what a poor (but telling) inheritance for his progeny

      October 4, 2010 at 3:01 am |
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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.