Summary: Like Jacob, we are often tempted to think that we know better than God, and to trade His promises in for a simple bowl of red stew.
Date: Sunday, July 14, 2002
Author: Rev. Jonathan K. Twitchell
As we approach our scripture text in Genesis 25 this morning, we find that the promise given to Abraham is once again in jeopardy. Isaac has grown and married, but Abraham has passed on without ever seeing one of his grandchildren. Poor Father Abraham, after seeing the promise given, challenged, renewed, and challenged again, finally sees Isaac get married. But, unfortunately, Abraham goes to the grave without knowing if the Promise would be fulfilled. For, you see, Rebekah, like her mother-in-law Sarah, was also barren. Can you picture Isaac and Rebekah--hoping and praying to see a child born before Abraham died? Surely, they wished to produce another heir to the Promise of God. And yet, despite the fact that Isaac had a miraculous birth, and that God had divinely directed Abraham’s servant to choose Rebekah as the wife of Isaac, there were no children.
And so, Isaac does the only thing he can do. He prays to God and asks Him to open Rebekah’s womb. God responds miraculously, not just with one baby, but with two baby boys. Isaac and Rebekah should have been so happy, even overjoyed at the prospect of two bouncing baby boys added to their family, but something seemed wrong with the pregnancy. The babies constantly wrestled inside Rebekah. Scripture tells us that they jostled each other so much that Rebekah asked God what was happening to her.
In Genesis chapter 25, verse 23, we read what the Lord says to her:
23b “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.”
I’m not sure that God’s response was of much comfort to Rebekah. Surely, she was amazed at the prospect of giving birth to twins, but then to have God tell her that they would both be fathers of great nations should have come as a shock. And then, to be told that they would always be at war with one another would be enough to break any mothers’ heart. To add to the great surprise and shock, Rebekah was told that it would be the younger child who would receive the greater blessings.
Sure enough, even in childbirth Rebekah could see the struggle between her sons. Esau was born first, red and hairy, and Jacob was quick to follow, holding on to Esau’s heel. The two boys were very different. Esau grew up to be a great hunter. He liked to be outdoors, away from home, demonstrating his skill and strength. Jacob, on the other hand, was a homebody, living among his family, watching after the affairs of the home. He was a great cook, and seems to have spent much time with his mother attending the affairs of the household.
Scripture tells us that Isaac had a taste for wild game and so he loved Esau more than Jacob, but that Rebekah loved Jacob more than Esau.
29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)
31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”
32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
33 “But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.
So Esau despised his birthright.
I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time understanding Esau in this story. As the oldest son, Esau had the birthright, which meant he was destined to inherit a double portion of his father’s estate. He would receive twice as much land, flocks and servants than any other siblings. Not only that, but he would be able to pick out which part of the inheritance he received. On top of all that, as the firstborn, Esau would have inherited the covenantal promise of God given to his grandfather Abraham, and extended to his father Isaac. You remember the promise of God given to Abraham don’t you? The promise recorded in Genesis 12, verses 2 and 3?
2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
And then, there was the promise in Genesis 13, where God said that Abraham’s offspring would be as numerous as the dust of the earth. And in Genesis chapter 15, God said that Abraham’s descendents would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.