Trouble in the Family

KEY VERSE: “The LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shalt be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” —Genesis 25:23

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Genesis 25:19-34

AFTER SARAH DIED, a bride was found for Isaac. Her name was Rebekah. For twenty years after their marriage, Rebekah had no children, but eventually God blessed her and Isaac, and then spoke to her the prophetic words of our Key Verse.

When Rebekah gave birth to twin boys, the first one born was Esau, and the second born was Jacob. The twins were born so closely in proximity of time that as he was being delivered, Jacob held onto the heel of Esau. The ancient inheritance laws in Israel specified that the eldest child was the heir, and this particularly applied to the inheritance of the Abrahamic promise. This promise was passed down to Isaac from his father, Abraham. Now Esau, as the firstborn, inherited from Isaac, despite the fact that Jacob had been only minutes away from being the firstborn.

As the two boys grew, even as the prophecy had indicated, it became evident that they were very different in personality, preferences, and abilities. Esau was athletic, an outdoorsman, a skilled hunter, and was favored by Isaac. Jacob was a quiet man, staying close to home, always ready to help with the chores. He became a favorite of his mother, Rebekah.

One day something happened which eventually changed the status of the two as far as the birthright was concerned. Esau had been hunting for a long period of time unsuccessfully. He returned home famished and exhausted. He discovered that his brother Jacob was cooking pottage. Esau said to him, “Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint.” Jacob knew that Esau did not honor his birthright in the same way that he did. No doubt his mother had informed him of the prophecy spoken by God that the “elder shall serve the younger,” and so he took this opportunity to negotiate with Esau. He said, “Sell me this day thy birthright.” Esau’s answer indicated his lack of appreciation for his inheritance. Without weighing his loss, he replied: “Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?”—Gen. 25:32

Jacob said, “Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.” Paul comments upon this incident, calling Esau a “profane” person—one not concerned with religious matters even to defiling that which is holy.—Heb. 12:16

We are not surprised to read in Malachi 1:2,3 that God “loved” Jacob, but “hated [loved less]” Esau. Paul quoted from Malachi (Rom. 9:13), and said that even before the two boys were born, God had selected Jacob instead of Esau for favor. This no doubt was because he realized that Jacob would be far more worthy.

Paul points out that in a similar way, God has selected a ‘people for his name’ to be associated with his Son in the Messianic kingdom instead of the nation of Israel, who by promise possessed the inheritance, but forfeited it by rejecting Jesus as the Messiah. This ‘people for his name’ is made up of both Jews and Gentiles, who, like Jacob, would prove worthy of receiving such an honored birthright, “that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles.” (Rom. 9:23,24) The lives of Esau and Jacob were intended to illustrate this fact.

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |