Jacob and Esau – Genesis 25

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 Bible, in the Old Testament. We see Abram, later called Abraham, being called out of his homeland to follow the path chosen by God, which allowed God to advance His plan of salvation for all mankind. 

Abraham waited twenty-five years for his promised son, Isaac.  Next in 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 might also be one of the last people we would select for such a position.  Often crafty, manipulative or outright deceptive in his youth, Jacob might be one we would want to shy away from.  But God saw the potential for great faith in his heart.  Jacob’s hard edges would be whittled down by another, even more cunning and deceitful than him, his uncle and future father-in-law Laban. Their relationship would prove to be a humbling challenge for Jacob, bringing him to the point where he must 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 long time, it looked 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 unable to have children, it would take another miracle for this genealogy to continue.  That seems to be God’s pattern. But eventually, after a season of prayer, Rebekah did conceive.

But this would not prove to be an easy pregnancy.  Rebekah was carrying twins and it felt as if they were battling one another.  Puzzled as to what was happening within her, she went to inquire 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 revealed to Rebekah what was going on with her children.  As she would see later, the firstborn, Esau, would be a strong outdoorsman.  He would go on to be the founder of Edom, a neighboring nation that would be a frequent thorn in Israel’s side.  The younger twin, 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 further the kingly line.  Jesus Christ is sometimes referred 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 the birthright. But clearly, Jacob did not consider his brother’s best interests in this.  As a result of the deception, Esau was livid and planned to kill Jacob as soon as his father Isaac died, perhaps to reclaim the birthright.  Rebekah learned of the plan, and Jacob was forced to flee for twenty years.

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

As the story 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?  A form of spiritual DNA?  We really don’t know.  God is sovereign and does not always explain why he does certain things.  But God 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 result in His people, Israel and their Messiah, Jesus Christ. Jesus brings the gift of eternal life to all in the world who respond in faith to Him. Have you sought Him today?

Reflection:

It was clear to Rebekah and Jacob that God intended the blessing to come to Jacob rather than to his older brother, Esau.  Yet, they schemed to come up with a deceptive plan when it looked like Isaac was about to give Esau the blessing.  Their plan worked, but with negative consequences.  Does God really need our help in carrying out his plans? 

Where in our lives might we be trying to “help God along” with the things that we want him to do?  What might we be holding back on doing that we already know He wants us to do?

After he and his mom’s deceptive plan, Jacob was to be on the receiving end of multiple deceptions in his own life.  In Galatians chapter 6, Paul writes that God is not mocked, and that a man will reap what he sows.  Did Rebekah and Jacob’s deception sow the seeds that would come back to haunt Jacob later in life?  God is very merciful and gracious to us, not holding our transgressions against us (Psalm 103), but at the same time, when it accomplishes His purposes, He may permit our own shortcomings to backfire to help reshape our character along the way.  God sometimes uses a chisel of trials and hardships to knock away the pieces of our hearts that do not reflect the goodness and love of God.  Can you think of an example in life where God used your own shortcoming to improve your character and to come closer to Him?

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