The Birth of Jacob and Esau
Open Your Bible
Genesis 25:19-34, Genesis 26:1-35, Hebrews 12:14-17, James 3:13-18
When I was seven years old, my family went to Disney World. At the time, we lived in Virginia, which meant that in order to get to Space Mountain, we had to drive from the D.C. area all the way to Orlando. To survive an eleven-hour drive with three daughters under the age of fourteen, my parents came up with a plan. They told us that when we got to Disney World, we would all get $50 as spending money, but that any misbehavior during the drive would lead to a deduction from that amount. And so the drive began.
A few hours later, their plan had backfired. Rather than sitting quietly, trying to maintain our $50 allowances, my sisters and I had devised a game of our own, in which we attempted to provoke one another into losing more and more of their allowance. Anytime one of us misbehaved, my mother would take out her notepad where she was keeping track of deductions. While one sister sulked, the other two would pull down an imaginary lotto-lever and shout “cha-ching!”
We weren’t all that nice to one another. But our misbehavior pales in comparison to the sibling rivalry recounted in the story of Jacob and Esau, twin brothers who came out of the womb as enemies. And their parents were no help. From the beginning, Isaac and Rebekah chose favorites, and that favoritism only stoked the enmity between these brothers.
At stake in this passage is Esau’s birthright, the inheritance he stood to receive as the firstborn of his family. Knowing the value of that inheritance, Jacob plotted against his older brother, as if land and money were a finite resource. Meanwhile, Esau didn’t place adequate value on his birthright. He was “immoral and irreverent,” selling “his birthright in exchange for one meal” (Hebrews 12:16). Know this: favoritism and strife is not God’s plan. In fact, the Mosaic Law will later forbid a father from favoring a younger son merely because he comes from a preferred wife (Deuteronomy 21:15–17). But for now, we see that Jacob uses the means at his disposal to manipulate his way into wealth.
God is not interested in breaking up families over dollars and cents. Perhaps the greatest problem with Jacob and Esau’s behavior is that they both forgot God’s character. They forgot that the same God who blessed Isaac also blessed Ishmael. God never runs out of goodness. He does not “dock” us for misbehavior, nor will He look favorably upon those who provoke others into deceit. God’s goodness exists equally for His dearly loved children. We know this, because Jesus calls us His friends (John 15:!5).
Jesus, the most favored Son of all, gave us the right to become His brothers and sisters, His co-heirs to the kingdom (Romans 8:17). He is willing to share the blessing. He knows there is more than enough blessing to go around.