The entire book of Genesis emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the wisdom of His “delays.” The struggles that Jacob and Esau face, as described in retrospect in Genesis, reveal God’s plan rising to the surface against the odds.” –Layman’s Bible Commentary
Victory is especially sweet when the odds are pitted against us. Isaac and Rebekah would attest to this.
Isaac—now approaching sixty—has inherited everything from his deceased father, Abraham, including God’s promise of making his descendants into a great nation. But twenty years have passed since Isaac and Rebekah married. Similar to his parents’ circumstance—despite God’s promise—Rebekah is unable to give her husband what this ancient culture deems significant: a baby.
You may read Genesis 25:19-34 here: Bible Gateway.
Isaac, who modeled a life of submitting to God’s will, prayed on behalf of his wife. The word used to depict Isaac’s prayer does not suggest a simple formality of prayer, but rather a fervent plea (25:21).
God answers his plea by enabling Rebekah to become pregnant.
Jacob and Esau
I’m guessing it wasn’t long before Rebekah surmised she was the carrier of twins. Her joy of becoming pregnant must have been challenged with pain and anxiety as her babies jostled inside her.
The words describing the struggle of the twins in Rebekah’s womb carry the idea that they smashed themselves inside her. In retrospect, this struggle of the children foreshadows the fact that these twins would father conflicting nations.” –Layman’s Bible Commentary
“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.” – God (vs. 23)
Jacob and Esau’s differences are obvious at birth. Esau—red and hairy—comes out first. His name reflects his appearance and means “hairy one.” Jacob comes next grasping Esau’s heel. The term “heel holder” is connected with a wrestling term, but also indicates a scoundrel. Unlike Esau’s name, Jacob’s name reflects his future character: “God will protect.”
As the boys grow older, Esau—Isaac’s favorite—becomes an avid outdoorsman. As a skilled hunter he loves roaming the countryside. While quiet Jacob—Rebekah’s favorite—prefers the more ordered life around the tents (vs. 27-28).
Esau Trades His Birthright
A birthright was traditionally given as an honor to the firstborn son. It not only included a double portion of the family inheritance, but also the privilege of being the future family leader. In this family’s case the birthright would also include a spiritual blessing, the promise God gave Abraham: the covenant of a land, a nation, and the Messiah.
After romping outdoors, Esau felt the cruel gnaw of hunger pains. From the waft of Jacob’s homemade stew Esau exclaimed: “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he is also called Edom, which means red –vs. 30.)
Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright” (vs. 31).
“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob (vs. 33).
By caving into the pressure of instant gratification, Esau threw away the spiritual blessings that would have been his. And “so Esau despised his birthright (vs 34).”
Unlike Esau’s compulsive act, Jacob’s response suggests premeditation. Jacob doesn’t hesitate to capitalize on his brother’s weakness as he secures Esau’s birthright for himself.
The song “I Want It All” by Queen summarizes the mindset that comes way too easy for us: “I want it all! And I want it now!” But this trap of instant gratification often clouds our view of long-term consequences. The wrecking ball of caving to immediate pleasure surrounds us: broken relationships, marriages and families. The list could go on and on.
Jesus endured all kinds of temptations, but never gave way. He is more than able to help us in the face of temptation. We would do well to model Isaac’s fervent prayer life. For God alone has the power to enable the believer to push through any pressurized moment. And although sin results in pain, Christ also has the power to restore joy and wholeness to broken lives.
Have a great week!