The Bible is silent regarding the death of Esau, Jacob's brother, but Second Temple and rabbinic literature filled the lacuna. Although similar in their basic narrative, these versions differ in significant details, most notably the circumstances of and the person responsible for Esau's death. This paper examines the extent to which these accounts not only present different views of the fraternal relationship but also reflect divergent attitudes towards Jewish relations with the non-Jewish world that are dictated by the time and place of their authorship. Reflecting its diasporan setting, the version in the Babylonian Talmud, it is shown, employs a particularly complex tactic of message encryption.
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