Jacob & Esau in Genesis 25: 19-34
Genesis Chapter 25
Abraham became the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram[a] and sister of Laban the Aramean.
21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.
23 The Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.”
24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. 26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.
27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)
31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”
32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.
Our family background and physical features are out of our control, but they shape our character. They may decide what kind of life we experience, but they don’t decide who we are. The two boys found their own life passion, skills, taste, domain, and developed their personal identities from them. Esau developed his identity as a hunter in the open country, which gradually replaced his true God-given identity.
Was Jacob evil in ‘stealing’ his brother’s birthright?
He didn’t steal it. He simply offered a deal, and it was accepted.
Did Jacob trick and take advantage of Esau to manipulate him into selling his birthright?
"I'm about to die!" (v.32)
What made Esau accept the deal? Was Esau really about to die?
See v.34: He ate and drank, then got up and left.
There is also no sign in the passage that suggests there’s any poverty or starvation in the family.
So why did Esau feel he's about to die?
“What good is the birthright to me?”
Good question…so what good is it?
Why would any one despise his birthright? What would make a man trade his birthright for a bowl of soup?
Esau doesn’t need to do anything to earn his blessings. It was a gift, an identity given by God, not an achievement.
He doesn’t need to look for his blessings. He is the firstborn.
He doesn’t need to do anything to maintain this blessings. It is his calling.
All he needs is to fulfil this calling, to simply be the person he’s created to be.
This calling is ‘to be’ (being), not ‘to do’ (doing).
Often we look for God’s calling for us regarding what to do in our life. Yet God is calling us to Himself. We are the response to this calling. But we need to know who we are in relation to God and His greater purpose. We know this by knowing God and looking at what He's doing in our lives.
Hunting in the outdoors is a good and useful vocation, but it’s not an identity in God. Esau allows it to become his own calling and identity.
Once we lose our identity, we trade our eternal blessings for a short-term pleasure.
Esau defined himself by what he did, not by who he was in God’s Kingdom.
But what about Jacob?
notice one thing Jacob is similar to Esau is that they both whole-heartedly strived for something in their lives.
You can read how the author highlights this while introducing the two brothers. Esau is consumed by hunting. Jacob is grasping for something from the moment he was born. Aren't we all like that? We are all hunting for something and grasping for something in our lives.
While Esau strive to be a great hunter outdoors, Jacob strived to take the birthright and waited for the opportunity and did whatever he could to get it.
The story emphasizes Jacob's name means 'hold on to'. What is he holding onto?
The birthright! The inheritance that God has promised for mankind, the privilege to carry on God’s covenant!
Jacob values what God values. Although he has committed many wrong in his life and suffered as a consequence, God chose Jacob because his heart was after what was in God's heart. He was grasping what God wants us to grasp—an everlasting relationship with Him.
What could be the 'hunting' and the 'stew' in your life today? How close can you be to selling your birthright in God for a 'stew'?
a self-given identity that drives you and consumes you.
a short-term fix that prompts you to give up your eternal blessings)
What is the one thing you are trying to ‘grasp’ in your life? Are you ‘grasping’ something eternal?