Summary: God works in the life of Jacob even through an intense feud with Esau.
Series: Essential 100
January 13, 2008
One of my favorite game shows when I was growing up was Family Feud. The show squares off two families against each other answering various questions based on surveys. The first family to three hundred points wins and gets to play for fast money.
The game show is a friendly feud between two families. However, there are feuds that take place within families as well. The Bible is filled with them.
Cain murdered Abel that feud ended badly.
Joseph was going to be killed by his brothers, but instead they decided to make a quick buck and sell him into slavery.
Absalom tried to kill David and take over the throne of Israel.
Adonijah opposed Solomon being the king of Israel and Solomon had him killed.
The Feud Begins
The intense rivalry between Jacob and Esau
Make no mistake that this feud began when the twins were born.
23 The LORD said to her, "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." 24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. 26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them. Genesis 25:23-26
God tells Rebekah before the twins were born that they were headed for conflict before they were even born. God had already chosen Jacob to carry on the line of promise. This would have made it easy for Rebekah to favor Jacob because God had told her about the destinies of her sons.
The birth is incredibly strange and shows a sign of what is to come. Esau was born first and his name means hairy. He will later be called Edom, which means red. Then Jacob is born holding onto Esau’s foot. Jacob means supplanter or one who follows on another’s heels. From the beginning there was a destiny of disagreement.
A lost birthright
27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 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. Genesis 25:27-34
Jacob schemes against Esau and looks for ways to gain an advantage in the conflict. Esau would become a hunter and Jacob would be a shepherd. Jacob sets up a situation where he can take advantage of Esau. At just the right moment, Jacob makes a pot of bean stew and uses it against Esau after a hunting trip. Jacob agrees to give him something to eat but only if Esau will sell his birthright. Esau gives up his birthright for a bowl of beans.
The birthright gave the firstborn son a favored position within the family. This would have included a double portion of inheritance, a role as leader of the family and a special blessing from the father. All of these things made the firstborn son to have a special place within the family.
A lost blessing
5 Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, "Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, 7 `Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the LORD before I die.’ 8 Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: 9 Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. 10 Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies." Genesis 27:5-10