Based on Genesis chapter 25 verses 18 – 24
Esau and Jacob
20 years! 20 years Isaac and Rebekah had been married and still no children! Somehow it seemed that the Lord wasn’t in any hurry to keep His promise that they would have countless descendents!
However, Isaac knew God had promised that they would have children, and, he also knew God would keep His promise … eventually … but it seemed that the Lord was waiting until they were desperate before He finally answered their prayer. (P) And one day, as Isaac pleaded with the Lord for Rebekah to be able to have children, the Lord answered Isaac’s prayer and Rebekah became pregnant! (PAUSE)
But right from the outset, Rebekah knew there was something different about her pregnancy. It seemed that the baby was always twisting and turning and struggling inside her. In fact, it got so bad that Rebekah went to ask the Lord what was going on. ‘Lord, why’s this happening to me?’
‘Rebekah,’ the Lord answered. ‘There are two children inside your womb and they are going to become two rival nations. One of those nations will be stronger than the other one, and, the descendents of the older son will serve the descendents of the younger son.’
So there was more than one child inside her! And already the Lord knew all about them and what would become of them! (PAUSE)
At the right time, the twins were born. But when they arrived – two very different children were born! The first one out was very red and covered in hair. They called him Esau, which means ‘hairy’! But the second child was nothing like the first, his skin was smooth, and when he came out, he was holding the heel of his older brother! So they called him Jacob, which means ‘he grasps the heel’ (P) – Jacob can also mean ‘deceiver’ – and that was to be a warning of things to come. (PAUSE)
As the years went by, the two boys continued to show how different they were. Esau loved the open country and became an expert huntsman with his bow and arrow. Unfortunately, he also became the favourite of his father Isaac, who loved the taste of the wild animals that his son caught.
Jacob was altogether different. He enjoyed staying around the home and – unfortunately he became the favourite of his mother Rebekah! It’s never a good thing for a parent to have a favourite child, and now both parents were rivals – with each of them supporting their own favourite son … where had the love gone that Isaac and Rebekah used to have all those years before? (PAUSE)
In those days, the older son, even if he was born only a few moments before his brother, inherited a much larger share of his father’s belongings when his father died! Not only that, he also became the head of the family, the one who would make all the important decisions for the whole family. It was called his ‘birthright’, because it was his right to have these things for no other reason than that he was born first! It was an important privilege and responsibility to be the older son, and even more so in this family because it was the son who inherited the ‘birthright’ who would also receive all the wonderful and special promises that God had first given to Abraham and then passed onto Isaac all those years before. (P)
Jacob was very unhappy that he’d missed all this blessing and importance by a matter of minutes! Maybe he wouldn’t have cared quite so much if he’d been born a few years later. But that’s not how it’d happened; he’d lost out because of just a few minutes! (P) Now, unfortunately, Jacob was a selfish little schemer, who looked for any and every opportunity to get his own way. And sure enough, the day came when he saw his chance to get what he wanted – and nothing was going to stop him.
It happened like this. One day Jacob was cooking a red lentil stew when his brother Esau came home – hungry and exhausted from hunting in the fields. Had Jacob known Esau was due back some time soon and so made the stew? Or was it just chance? We’ll never know. But one thing’s for sure; Jacob wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass him by.
‘Give me some of that stew Jacob, I’m starving.’ Esau said.
‘It’s going to cost you,’ Jacob replied. ‘I’ll happily give you some … as long as you agree to sell me your birthright for it!’
You’d have thought Esau’d tell his brother to stop being so stupid! But instead Esau replied. ‘Look I’m starving to death here, what good’s a birthright to me if I’m dead?’ But if he’d thought Jacob was joking – he was soon put right. Because when Jacob had served up a bowl full of stew – he held it just out of Esau’s reach.
‘Now swear to me that the birthright’s mine! You’re not having anything until you do.’
‘All right, all right,’ said Esau. ‘I swear the birthright’s your – I give you my solemn promise – now will you just give me that stew!’
Esau had sold his birthright – for a bowl of stew and some bread! He just didn’t care! In fact after he’d eaten his stew he went on with his life as if nothing had happened! He was the eldest son in a family that had been given incredible and wonderful promises from God … and just like that, he’d ignored the promises as if they were worthless and given away his right to become head of the family! He simply didn’t care!
But Jacob hadn’t finished his deceiving yet!