Summary: Family secrets harm families. In Jacob's family, there was disunity and favoritism. Family secrets need to be brought into the open, where they can be dealt with. Families can change the way they deal with issues: truth, attitudes, and actions.
FAMILY SECRETS—Genesis 26:34-27:45
Are you familiar with the phrase, “the elephant in the room”? Imagine some people in a room, with an elephant in the middle of the room, but no one wants to recognize that the elephant is there. The people in the room talk about a lot of things, but no one ever speaks of the elephant. Sometimes the people are forced to crane their necks to see other people in the room, because the elephant is in the way. When people get up, they carefully step around the elephant, because they don’t want to cause disruption. If anyone would try to bring up the problem of the elephant, others would either say, “What elephant?” or “I don’t want to talk about it.”
The elephant in the family room is a good picture of family secrets. Family secrets are not things that no one knows about; the family knows, and often others do too. But no one talks about them or even admits to them, especially outside the family. No one dares to suggest doing anything about them.
Some family secrets revolve around individuals. Dad drinks too much. Mom has a spending problem. Sister is anorexic. Brother is addicted to pornography or video games.
Other family secrets involve family relationships. The parents fight all time. The siblings are cruel.
Some secrets would horrify anyone who knew: There is sexual or physical or emotional abuse. Others are more subtle: coldness, an undercurrent of anger, or no one is ever good enough
In today’s Bible reading, there is a family secret. See if you can identify it, and how it is handled.
Read Genesis 26:34-27:45
THE FAMILY SECRET: UNHEALTHY ALLIANCES IN THE FAMILY
The root of the problem was that the parents were not unified.
Isaac and Rebekah had an arranged marriage. Isaac was 40 years old, and Abraham was afraid that Isaac would marry a heathen woman. He sent his servant to his brother’s family in Mesopotamia, and the servant brought Rebekah back, to become Isaac’s wife. Rebekah was impressed by the extravagant gifts and wealth of Isaac, and Isaac thought she was beautiful. They truly loved each other, although they had some baggage in their tent:
“Isaac brought Rebekah into the tent of his mother Sarah…Isaac loved her, and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” Rebekah filled the void left in Isaac’s mind, after the death of his mother! Not the healthiest situation!
Isaac and Rebekah never seemed to come together. Maybe it began with Isaac: a long-time bachelor, an outdoor type, not one to be around home. Rebekah seemed smarter, more responsible, and maybe she told him what he should be doing. He ignored her, of course. It was easy for Isaac to be off for a couple of weeks with the sheep, or on a 3-day hunting trip, or to dig a new well—when Rebekah would remind him that the boys needed their father, and the lazy servants needed supervision.
Then twin sons were born, and as they grew, the parents naturally had their favorites. What outdoor-loving father wouldn’t love a skilled hunter like Esau? What emotionally-starved mother wouldn’t love such a sensitive boy as Jacob?
After a while, the children began to fill the void in the marriage. Esau lived out his father’s dreams of being wild and free, and he became more like a hero than a son. He was rarely disciplined by his father—just nagged by his mother. When Esau married Hittite wives, both parents were upset. (“They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.”) Yet Isaac never said anything to him; only later, “Esau realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac.”
While Isaac favored Esau, Rebekah showered all her love on her son Jacob. It was more like smother love: She became his protector, even from God:
“Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.” His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.” Genesis 27:11-13 (NIV2011)
The foundation of stability in a home should be the love and unity of the parents. But instead of pulling together, Isaac and Rebekah formed unhealthy alliances with their children. That was the family secret—and everyone avoided confronting it. They all knew about it, but everyone learned to maneuver around it.
Isaac’s way of dealing with the lack of unity was to take control, and ignore Rebekah. He was the head of household in a patriarchal society, and he decided to give Esau the blessing of a patriarch, while at same time restoring the birthright Esau so foolishly gave up.