Jacob also repeats Here I am in two distinct and crucial moments. Jacob is a totally different figure than his grandfather Abraham. His fortune goes through a series of actions that are not always clear and free of any criticism. This is a clear sign, as will be the case for many others in Scripture, that the election of God doesn’t go through the choice of the best. The way of salvation is different for each of us. The election doesn’t have a meritocratic criterion. In this way the worst people often become astonishing tools in the hands of God. The most important thing is to be available to him.
The two Hinnenî – i.e. here I am – of Jacob are pronounced during two teofanies that takes place in a dream, such as the Betel manifestation. In Gen 31:11 God tells Jacob to return to Canaan. After that Jacob is asked to go to Egypt (Gen 46:2 ). All of this implies once again a radical change,two opposing movements, through which God’s plan continues to be fulfilled. The first concerns the return from an exile, caused by an escape following the episode with the brother Esau. The second leads to a new and definitive departure from Canaan, but with a reunion with his family. This last event poses the remote foundations for the multiplication of the children of Israel in Egypt. Therefore Jacob’s availability is a willingness to move. God wants Jacob to become Israel on a journey that implies the renunciation of personal stability and is a sign of the future history of the people of Israel, who will be named by him. Then there is the earth and the nation. In Gen 31:11, God confirms the indication on the land of promise, and he returns from exile; in Gen 46:2 the bases of the nation of Israel are laid, which will become numerical reality in Egypt and actual presence with the Exodus.
The two Here I am by Jacob come from two other Here I am, not pronounced by him, which are at the origin of the situations that will lead to his two responses. In Gen 27:1 Esau answers Here I am to Isaac. This is an event that will favor the deceit of Jacob and of Rebecca’s mother for the paternal blessing. This event will also cause Jacob’s escape. In Gen 37:13 Joseph speaks the Hinnenî to his father Jacob. Here Rashì inserts a comment that partially modifies what is expressed in Gen 22.1: Here I am indicates submission and zeal. Joseph was zealous in obeying his father’s command, despite knowing that his brothers hated him. The “readiness”, previously emphasized, thus becomes “zeal,” which is more than readiness. It is also the qine’ah of Elijah (1 Kings 19:10, 14), which also implies an inclination, a desire. It is a sort of sacrifice for love. In fact, Joseph declares his readiness to his father, knowing the hostility of the brothers and the dangers he would meet. All of this allows the development of a story that will mean salvation for Joseph and his family, and will lead to the second Here I am of Jacob, and the transfer of Israel to the land of Egypt.
One last consideration is to do with the Here I am of Genesis. It’s about those who did not answer. I refer in particular to Adam and Cain. They hid themselves, so much so that God himself had to look for them and ask them another question. Where are you? Where is your brother? There is a lack of availability and faith (in Adam) and responsibility (in Cain, as opposed to Joseph), and this poses obstacles to God’s plan and love. However, the path of salvation doesn’t stop. God finds others roads and other tools to lead the story towards its fulfillment. (To be continued).