The Birth of Jacob & Esau
Open Your Bible
Genesis 25:19-34, Genesis 26:1-35, 1 Samuel 14:47
Text: Genesis 25:19-34, Genesis 26:1-35, 1 Samuel 14:47
I have five children and one favorite. I subconsciously keep an active list of which child is ahead in the polls and who is pulling dead last. It changes from day to day, but I’ve definitely had days where I’ve felt like some are the apple of my eye and some are just bad apples.
This is actually the thing in my life over which I feel the most guilt and call to repent. I mean, what kind of mother picks favorites? So when the issue of favoritism comes up in Scripture, my eyes get big and my commentaries get opened. Maybe I’ll discover that it’s okay! Maybe I’m not such a bad guy after all!
(Spoiler: when I’m looking in Scripture to make myself feel better about my selfish choices, I am always disappointed.)
Do you pick favorites? Favoritism is actually a big theme in the Bible, and the birth of Jacob and Esau is almost too close for comfort. Isaac’s favorite son was Esau, the dark and hairy hunter who loved the outdoors. Rebekah favored the smoother Jacob, who kept to the tents and made a mean stew. On one hand, we’re busy judging the parents for picking sides; on the other hand, we’re joining in and choosing our own preferred brother.
God chose Jacob to rule Esau. He chose Jacob to receive His blessing and bear His covenant. He loved Jacob. Why?
Consider Jacob faults; he wasn’t the holier brother. He tricked his uncle Laban (Genesis 30:25-43), exploited his brother (Genesis 25:31), and deceived his own father (Genesis 27:36). Clearly, God didn’t choose to bless Jacob because Jacob deserved it more.
In fact, I doubt even Jacob himself believed he deserved God’s favor. Even though God had promised to bless him, he still schemed, fought, and scraped to take God’s blessing for himself.
Consider the night he wrestled with God. Jacob threatened the mystery figure, saying, “I will not let You go unless You bless me” (Genesis 32:24). Jacob was trying to snatch God’s blessing from Him instead of believing God’s promise to bring the blessing to him. (Any other snatchers out there nodding your head with me? There’s something inside me that wants to grab and take control instead of trust and wait.)
God’s promise to bless was not based on whim or selfishness, but upon His own loving providence. Before Jacob was even born, God affirmed His covenant with Jacob’s father, Isaac: “I will be with you and bless you. For I will give all these lands to you and your offspring, and I will confirm the oath that I swore to your father Abraham” (Genesis 26:3). Jacob’s blessing was secure, but he spent his whole life fighting for it, as if his security depended on his own efforts.
My security doesn’t hang on my frail attempts to control the world around me. In God’s good providence, He blesses and redeems us. Even the bad apples. We are just like Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Esau—our deceitful, favorite-picking hearts desperately need the transforming work of God’s grace.