WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
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(Jacob and Esau)
Here begins the history of the family of Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah. When Isaac was 40 years old he married Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and they all lived in Padan-aram before she was brought to Beersheba by Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, approximately 37 years before Abraham died.
Rebekah is one of several women in Scripture who were unable to bear children until GOD miraculously intervened. Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth, and the unnamed mother of Samson, were all mothers, who experienced humanly impossible births during their lifetimes. Rebekah’s case, however, was unique in that, her pregnancy yielded “twin boys”, named Jacob and Esau.
Scripture tells us that there was strife between her two sons that began, even before they were born, and in fact, while they were still in the womb. This, now famous, conflict continued on throughout most of their lives, and even carried over into the lives of their descendants in future generations. In fact, much of the suffering of the Israelites, who were Jacob’s descendants, came at the hands of the Edomites, who were Esau’s descendants. These storied conflicts are prominently chronicled throughout the pages of the Old Testament, from Genesis to Joel (Joel 3:19).
Here in Genesis 25, verses 19-34, we see the very origins of this conflict between two brothers who, even in their physical appearances, were strikingly different (v.25). The LORD had already foretold to Rebekah that she carried within her womb, two rival nations. HE also told her that the descendants of her firstborn son, Esau, would be the servants of her younger son, Jacob.
In this story of Jacob and Esau, there is some confusion among many people today concerning the difference between “birthright” and “blessing”. However, according to biblical tradition, and, in Deuteronomy 21, verses 15-17, the birthright is determined by the “order” of the births of the sons within a given family. It is the right of the firstborn to receive a “double portion” of his father’s inheritance. This is something that is laid out in the “Law that was given to Moses by GOD HIMSELF”, and therefore, could not be altered by man.
In this account of the early life of Jacob and Esau, we see that, because Jacob was able to recognize the value of “the spiritual” over “the physical”, where his brother Esau could not, he was able to gain Esau’s “birthright” away from him, by way of his own willingness to let it go, and not so much by Jacob’s trickery.
This act of aggression by Jacob had absolutely nothing to do with Esau’s “blessing”, however, because the father, Isaac, still retained the right to “bless” his sons in any way he saw fit. That is why, later on, when Rebekah and Jacob deceived an aging and blind Isaac (Genesis 27), and stole Esau’s “blessing”, they took something from him that they had absolutely no right to, whatsoever.
ESAU SELLS HIS BIRTHRIGHT TO JACOB
As Isaac and Rebekah’s sons grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, while Jacob was more of a homebody, or, as we might say today, “a mama’s boy”. Isaac loved Esau in particular, because of the wild game that he would bring home, which he loved to eat. However, on the other hand, Rebekah favored Jacob, who enjoyed staying close to home and helping her with chores around the house.
One day when Jacob was cooking some “red” stew, Esau arrived home tired and hungry after one of his hunts. Here in verse 30 we see the origins of how Esau got his nickname “Edom”, which means “red”, as he requests from Jacob, a bowl of this aromatic, delicious looking red stew. Jacob then cunningly replies, “All right, but you must trade me your birthright for it”. Surprisingly, a hungry Esau replied, “Look! I’m dying of starvation! What good is my birthright to me now?” Jacob then insisted, “Well then, swear to me right now that it is mine”.
Then Esau foolishly swears an oath to Jacob, agreeing to thereby sell all his “rights as firstborn” to his younger brother. He ate the “lentil stew” (and so the stew apparently didn’t even have any meat in it) and went on his way, totally indifferent to the fact and ramifications of what he had just done, all because he placed no value on spiritual things, as his younger brother Jacob did.
When Esau ceded his birthright to his brother Jacob that day, we are shown a picture of someone, who was seemingly, totally indifferent (didn’t care one way or the other) to the far-reaching effects, and impact of his decision. He seemed to have no idea that he had given up the right to become the father of the Jewish nation, GOD’s chosen people.
Jacob, on the other hand, whose name means, quite literally, “the supplanter”, or “one who replaces”, would go on to father the twelve sons, who would give birth to the twelve tribes of the coming nation of Israel. This marked the beginning of the rivalry, in earnest, and it would forever change, and quite literally destroy, the relationship of their families for generations to come.
Rivalries brought on by jealousy and deceit, are as old as humanity itself. The tragic case of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:6-16) give us our earliest glimpse of the destruction that these things can have on family relationships. Many siblings since, have contemplated, and even carried out murder, or suicide, because of their feeling of being unequal to their brothers or sisters.
We as parents must be able to address our children’s behavioral problems early, in a positive way that emphasizes their strengths, and moves their minds away from those habits and behavior that can one day bring harm to themselves and to others. Our goal must be to alter their negative behavior, while, at one and the same time, preserving their positive self image.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander