29 Jacob and Esau define themselves

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Please read Gen 25:27-34 beforehand

  •  Privilege of growing up as a rich man’s children

Isaac inherited all of Abraham’s estate who had been a rich man with a multitude of slaves. His two sons therefore would not have had to work hard to put food on the table.

Esau availed himself of his abundance of leisure time by taking up hunting as a sport. The fact that Scripture states that his brother was a peace-loving man, seems to implicate that Esau was not a peaceful quiet type of person. (In modern terms: he would prefer a good fight out somewhere, above sitting at the hearth reading a book). Adventure was in his blood.

As for Jacob, he was the quiet type of person. His natural inclination was to stay at home, but he was by no means a lazy nobody. Judging by his later life at his uncle’s farm, he was an excellent farmer and a very hard worker; certainly a son doing proud to any father. He showed great promise for the future of the Isaac estate. But, but … he had some nasty flaws in his personality as will be seen later.

 Favouritism, a small fox that destroys the family vineyard

Both Isaac and Rebekah were guilty of giving preference to one son above the other. 

Isaac’s favourite was Esau, because he brought home such nice tasting game which Isaac would savour while listening to his stories of stalking game and narrow escapes when meeting up with lions. Rebekah’s blue-eyed-boy was Jacob for he was a solid, dependable person and would become a fine family man building the Abrahamic lineage as God had promised.  They would both, after some years, pay dearly for this favouring of one child above the other.

But children do differ?

It is of course possible that parents, because of the different personalities of their children, feel more drawn to the one than to the other, but they should keep that to themselves, not allowing it to become apparent.  As image bearers of God, the perfect Father, all their children should be equally precious, receive an equal amount of attention, love, gifts and opportunities.  A child that feels rejected, might not reach his full potential in life, because he sees himself as inferior. 

But what then should we do when one child lives an exemplary life, while the other ever so often embarrasses his family?  Even in this case, the parents should make it quite clear that while they appreciate the one’s pure walk and denounce the other one’s wayward way of life, as children, they are being loved equality.

  •  A golden opportunity

This incident was, as far as can be deducted from the context, not planned by Jacob beforehand; it just happened unexpectedly, as when Eve was tempted by the snake in Paradise. 

Jacob had just cooked a flavoury pot of lintels, when Esau returned from the veldt, tired and hungry.  On seeing and smelling this delicious dish, Esau begged Jacob for a serving.

Jacob had probably, for many years, been vexing himself and contemplating what he could do regarding the problem that his elder brother, Esau, and not he, could rightfully lay claim to the right of the first-born.  That right usually entailed that the firstborn son would inherit at least a double portion of his father’s estate, and, on top of that, after his father’s death, would take up his position as head of the family.  Jacob could not accept this.  He was jealous of Esau. 

The fact that his brother had day by day, from dawn to dusk, been chasing after game while he, Jacob, had to take care of his father’s farming activities, only aggravated the matter. 

Then again, there was also the prophetic words spoken by God to his mother, that he would rule over his brother.  So, he must have often reflected on how he could get the better of his brother to bring this about.

And now, suddenly, here was the opportunity of a lifetime.  In a flash he saw it and snatched it.  Did he not know his brother? Did he not know how impulsively he could act?  “First sell me your birthright,” he replied nonchalantly, craftily, while stirring the contents of the pot, then lifting the spoon and letting the tantalizing broth drip back in.  There was no hint of brotherly love; it was blatant exploiting of his brother’s need. “Business is business; I don’t mix religion with my business!”.

“Oh well, I’m going to die and what will the right of birth avail me then,” Esau retorted in a devil-may-care way without contemplating for a single moment on the mountainous implications of his words.  He lived only for the here and now.  He wanted his needs to be gratified immediately and justified his action by making his problem to be greater than it was. He was certainly not facing death because of his hunger.

The costliest soup ever sold

Jacob was now halfway through the gap but wanted to clinch the deal irrevocably. “Declare that under oath,” he insisted sternly (while perhaps sipping some lintel soup, looking in the distance and smacking his lips). 

And then, then, Esau took the oath!  Within a few seconds, he had squandered his precious birthright … for a bowl of soup.  He ate, drank, got up and left, giving no further thought to his horrible deed.  For a few minutes of pleasure, he had lost the privileges of a lifetime. 

On top of it all, the Lord God was a witness to this transaction and His comment was that Esau was an unholy man who despised his right of birth (Heb 12:16).

Heaven must have shuddered for this was a picture of how trillions of human beings through the ages that had gone by and those still to come, would lose their eternal inheritance.

The “Esau” choice comes at an awkward time

Be prepared: the Esau choice comes to every person in his own way but, it comes so unexpectedly! Eve was out “shopping” for food when se met the devil.

This fragment of Scripture is especially applicable to the life of every young person.  Should a matric class (the final school year), three or four years later, have a re-union and would, one by one, relate what had happened to him or her during that period, they would be divided into two groups: the Jacob’s and the Esau’s. There will be those that had gained a degree or were established in an occupation, looking forward to a bright future, over against those that will be embarrassed, ashamed, sitting with a dirty empty plate of erstwhile lintels in front of them; lost opportunities which they would never be able to retrieve. 

It is ironic that a person has to take his most important decisions, not at the age of 45 or older when he had already acquired some knowledge of life, but between the ages of 15 and 25 when he is so much driven by emotion and desire.  It is at that age that he lays the foundation for the next 40 to 60 years of his life and often for eternity.

If you make light of life, living irresponsibly or even recklessly, life itself will mock you.   It is so wonderful that God gives each one of us absolute freedom of choice, but, what a tremendous responsibility that is. 

It is as if you strap yourself into the cockpit of an aircraft and, without training and all on your own, have to take off on a flight that will last for many years and traverse many storms before reaching your destination.  Therefore, be sensible and wise, even when you are still at school, and ask the Master Pilot of souls, the Lord Jesus to come and live inside of you and take control of your life.

(On the matter of God’s predestination of Jacob and Esau, we will possibly comment in a later study guide.)