Jacob and Esau – Genesis 25

The New Testament begins this way:

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.   Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.  Matthew 1:1-2 (ESV)

As we have seen, God began to reveal his plan for the genealogy of Jesus Christ back in Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament. We see Abram, later renamed Abraham by God, being called out of his homeland to follow the path chosen by the Lord to advance His plan of salvation for all people. 

Abraham then waited twenty-five years for his promised son, Isaac.  Next in the chosen line came Isaac’s son, Jacob.  Jacob is a critical member of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.  He is the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, including Judah, the one through whom Jesus would later appear. 

But Jacob was one of the last people we might select for such a position.  Often crafty, manipulative and outright deceptive in his youth, Jacob was one we would probably want to stay away from.  But God saw the potential for great faith in his heart.  Jacob’s hard edges would later be whittled down by another even more cunning and deceitful than himself, his uncle and future father-in-law, Laban. Their relationship would prove to be a humbling challenge for Jacob, bringing him to the point of surrender to a loving God for relief and deliverance.

20 Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.  Genesis 25:20-21 (ESV)

For a time, it seemed like Jacob might never be born.  But God made it clear that He was in the center of this situation.  As Isaac and Rebekah were initially unable to have children, it would take another miracle for the genealogy to continue.  This often seems to be God’s pattern, to show His miraculously role in our lives. Eventually, after a season of prayer, Rebekah conceived.

But this would not prove to be an easy pregnancy for her. Rebekah was carrying twins and it felt as if they were battling one another.  Puzzled as to what was happening, she inquired of the Lord.

23 And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” Genesis 25:23 (ESV)

God thus revealed to Rebekah the situation with her children.  The firstborn, Esau, would become a strong and rugged outdoorsman.  He would go on to be the founder of Edom, a neighboring nation to Israel that throughout their early history would be a thorn in their side.  The younger of the twins, Jacob, would be God’s choice to be father of the twelve tribes of Israel.  He would later be given the name Israel by God. Jacob’s son, Judah, would then further the regal line of kings leading to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who scripture refers to as the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5).

The relationship between twin brothers Esau and Jacob was very contentious.  While Esau was often out hunting and bringing back delicious meals for his father Isaac, Jacob stayed close to home and was a favorite of their mother Rebekah.  Over time, Esau came to hate Jacob.  He believed that Jacob “stole” two things from him, 1) his birthright as the first born and 2) their father Isaac’s spiritual blessing.  This blessing was a major event, and all the family members were aware of its reality and power in God.  God honored the blessing, even though it was acquired by Jacob through deceit rather than faith.

Esau had a decent case to make against Jacob.  In the first instance, though Jacob did not technically “steal” the birthright, he took advantage of Esau’s fatigue, hunger, ignorance, and impulsiveness to make an unfair deal for it, with Esau trading it away for a pot of stew.  In the second case, however, Jacob, at the urging of his mother, used outright deception to steal Isaac’s blessing from Esau.  Perhaps Jacob felt entitled to do so because he was now owner of Esau’s birthright, and the blessing was associated with it. But clearly, Jacob did not consider his brother’s best interest in the matter.  As a result of the deception, Esau was livid and planned to kill Jacob as soon as his father Isaac died, perhaps in part to reclaim the birthright.  Rebekah learned of the plan, and Jacob was forced to flee for what would turn out to be twenty years away from home.

Despite the deception, Isaac blessed Jacob once more before he left, sending him back north to Haran, to Rebekah’s family of origin, to seek a bride.  Esau became even more upset when he learned of Isaac’s second blessing to Jacob, In his resentment, he married two local Canaanite women who did not worship or regard God, which he knew would deeply grieve his parents.   

As the life of Jacob demonstrates, God chooses and uses imperfect people to accomplish His will.  Despite Jacob’s many flaws, God saw something in him that Esau apparently lacked – a potential for faith. The Lord had a plan to extend a blessing to Jacob, even before Jacob stole it. He was God’s choice in the kingly line which would lead to the birth of His people, Israel and the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Jesus brings the gift of eternal life to all in the world who will open their hearts to Him in faith. He is reaching out to all today, if we will invite Him in.


It was clear to Rebekah and Jacob that God intended to bless Jacob rather than his older brother, Esau.  Yet, they still schemed to come up with a deceptive plan when it looked like Isaac was about to give Esau the blessing.  Their plan might have worked, but it brought many negative consequences. 

Where in our lives are we unwisely trying to “help God along” with things that we want Him to do for us?

Father, we bring all of our faults, failures, and shortcomings to the cross of Christ for Your forgiveness and healing. Grant us the faith to trust in You and Your good plan for the things we are waiting for in our lives. Help us to walk with You, now and throughout all of eternity. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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