Robert Crumb’s The Book of Genesis Illustrated requires numerous judgment calls as to exactly how the stories and events are depicted, especially considering the text’s canonical nature. One point of particular interest occurs near the beginning of chapter 26 in which Isaac looks over his land and in the foreground is Isaac and his flock and slaves, but in the middle ground there are 3 rocks present, two prominent, and one more subtly presented. These large, boulder-like rocks, as well as the wells that they often cover reappear throughout the book, making the choice to include them a critical one.
As mentioned previously, in the scene Isaac overlooks his great success brought forth by God’s support including a multitude of sheep and slaves, but also a great field with 3 relatively large rocks. These rocks appear without any real textual support. There is no mention of these rocks in the immediate text, however when considered in conjunction with later events, the inclusion of the boulders’ is quite clever.
Rocks are a reoccurring motif. They appear most prominently in chapters 28 and 29. In 28, Jacob uses a rock as a pillow, and then God visits in his dreams. Jacob then uses a rock to mark the place as a house of God. Furthermore, in chapter 29 Jacob journeys to the land of the Easterners where he eventually meets his wives. Its well and the large boulder that covers it, which Jacob eventually moves to water the sheep, define this land. Thus, it becomes apparent from the text that boulders, large rocks, and wells represent divine lands, lands provided by God for the sake of Abraham.
With this in mind, it makes Crumb’s inclusion of the Rocks in Isaac’s land a touchstone. By placing the three rocks there, Crumb takes the textual representation of Isaac’s God given land, and marks that land with those rocks. Given this development, this has a massive implication on the rest of the book. Boulders, something that seems ordinary and commonplace, are now glaring signposts designating the land of Abraham’s heirs as given by God. In addition, the use of rocks as a symbol of divinity or holiness raises a number of questions. How else do rocks appear in the Abrahamic religions? How do they appear in other religions, and how does that translate to this interpretation? These are questions that I look forward to exploring in a more research-based piece.