Assumption Or Presumption


When the messengers returned, they told Jacob, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is heading this way with four hundred men.”

~Genesis 32:6, CEV


Assumption is the mother of all mistakes.

~Eugene Lewis Fordsworthe

What is the difference between assumption and presumption? The connotative distinction between these words is that presumptions are based more on evidence, reason and authority: whereas assumptions are usually more hypothetical. Presumptions may lead to decisions, while assumptions typically don’t. When Jacobs older sons showed him Joseph’s bloody tunic, Jacob presumed Joseph was dead when in reality, he was not. Jacob had some evidence, the bloody tunic, the word of his sons, and the absence of Joseph but he jumped to a false conclusion. When Jacob is returning to the land of Promise after being in Syria for twenty years, he sends messengers ahead to contact Esau. They return with this word: “He is headed your way with four hundred men.” Esau was on his way with a small army and this frightened Jacob. Let’s look at the evidence: Jacob cheated his brother Esau out of his blessing and birthright. Upon the recommendation of his mother, Jacob fled to Syria to escape Esau’s violent wrath because Esau was a belligerent man. So what was Jacob to think? Being human, he assumed the worse–Esau is coming to get even. Jacob thought: He will kill us all including women and children. I suppose Jacob was presuming rather than assuming because he came up with a plan. First, he sent gifts ahead to soften his brothers wrath. Jacobs sent more than one gift but he arranged it so that Esau got one gift at a time. So plan A–assault Esau with gifts. Secondly, Jacob divided his property and family. There is no wonder Jacobs sons had hard feeling toward each other; I don’t see how it could be otherwise. Jacob put the slave women [Bilhah and Zilpah] and their children [Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher] out front so that they would be the first killed in the event of an attack. They were Jacob’s guinea pigs. Don’t you know this gave them a warm and fuzzy feeling about their father’s love for them. Then he put Leah and her children [Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun] behind the slave women so that they would be second to face the wrath of Esau. Of course Jacobs hope is that this will buy him time to get Rachel and Joseph to safety. In other words, Jacob was not subtle: he made it very clear that Rachel and Joseph were his most cherished.

Now for the rest of the story. Esau is not angry and he has no intention of doing Jacob harm. Rather than a fight, we have two brothers hugging and crying. There is one big problem. How do you heal the emotional wounds of the slave women, Leah and the ten brothers? Do you think they just shook it off and forgot about the whole incident? I don’t think so. This may have been the beginning of their hatred for Joseph which cost Joseph his freedom and Jacob twenty years of grief. We have to be very careful about presuming. It is as natural as breathing for we humans but it can get us into trouble. Many years ago, I either read or heard this statement and it stuck in my brain: “Don’t jump to conclusions because more times than not you will land on a lie.” Its a good rule to follow with gossip or counseling. I’ve had people come to me and tell me what someone else said about me. I learned not to believe them; not to assume they were telling the truth. The same is true in counseling. People tell you only what they want you to know, rarely do they tell you the whole truth. They will give you just enough information to jump to the wrong conclusion. The only time you can believe a person is counseling is when they incriminate themselves. It doesn’t happen much but I remember two occasions, both men, where I believed them.

One man said, “Bro. Jack, it is all my fault, she told me a dozen times that she was going to leave me if I didn’t start helping her with the kids. I just didn’t think she would follow through and I was wrong. I don’t think I can get her back but I want to try.” I was fully convinced that he was telling the truth but this doesn’t happen often. Be safe, make it a rule not to jump to conclusions.

Well we are not back to normal but we are getting closer. I am posting the blog from my office building because my home office is being remodeled. We will get back to late night posting eventually, I think. June is making progress daily and I am trying to prepare for Sunday and get the floors fixed in the house. I will be attending Tyler Jolley’s COLS today, LORD willing. Norman and Ann are good friends and I certainly want to give them my sympathy and support during this trying hour. One of my fun memories of Tyler took place in Falkville at a Pee Wee football game. It is half-time and Glen goes out to the team meeting and grabs Tyler’s face mask and pulled his eyes toward him and proceeds to chew Tyler out for not hustling. When Glen finished with his tirade, Tyler simply said, “Hey, dad, would you get me a gator aid?” Glen just shook his head in disbelief.

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