And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob. And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.(Genesis 25:27-34)
The book of Genesis is all about election, contrasting God’s choice and man’s choice. Abraham would have chosen Ishmael the firstborn, but God had chosen Isaac. Isaac had twins, and his favorite was his firstborn, outdoorsman,hunting son, Esau. But God had chosen Jacob, and stopped Isaac from blessing Esau as He had intended to.
Further into the story, Jacob favored Rachel as his wife, but God chose Leah to be the wife who was to bear the “Seed of the woman”through her son Judah.
Man choses one person, but God choses another, and often the choice of God presents an offense to unregenerate man. In this way the text of scripture actually reveals the (fallen) hearts of men.
It has become the conventional wisdom to this day, that Jacob cheated Esau, and was a lying conniver. But the scripture text teaches no such thing. No where does God accuse Jacob of wrong in the manner of his dealings with Esau, or even his father Isaac. But man does.
There are two stories in Genesis by which people commonly (but erroneously) draw the conclusion that Jacob cheated Esau; the incident of the pot of stew, and the incident of JAcob dressing up like Esau to gain the blessing.
In the account above, of Esau coming home from hunting, hungry enough to sell his birthright for Jacob’s stew, all that scripture establishes is that Esau was a profane man, without any sense of the spiritual or the holy. There is no indication of Jacob plotting and scheming to take anything away from his brother, he just happened to be making lentil soup, at the time that his brother returned from his hunt.
Esau was the firstborn, jacob and Esau both knew it. But there is no reason to doubt that they had both heard their own birth story and the prophecy which accompanied it. I don’t believe Jacob had to make the trade to buy the birthright, for God had already said that “The elder shall serve the younger”.
This story doesn’t establish Jacob’s duplicity, rather Esau’s profanity and unworthiness to receive the Abrahamic blessing. The epistle to the Hebrews warns us,
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.(Hebrews 12:15-17)
The lesson of this passage is that afterwards, Esau wanted to receive the blessing, (After he had profaned the idea of a birthright), but could not. There was nothing he could do to undo his situation,(Found no place of repentance). The incident of the stew didn’t disqualify him, it just served as an example that he was disqualified.
The second incident is a bit more offensive for people, leading them to judge Jacob as a conniver and cheat…the incident of Jacob dressing up as Esau and fooling his blind father.
I see why this is hard to take, but for those of us who believe scripture, we must ask, where does God in any way condemn Jacob or his mother Rebbekah for this incident? Esau certainly hated him for it, bitterly complaining that he (who had ‘sold’ his birthright for stew), had been cheated! But where does the author of scripture condemn him for this?
One of the ways I have learned to read the narrative of Genesis and indeed most of the Old Testament itself, has been by seeing these stories as a record of the attempted corruption of the “Seed of the woman” and the preservation of the same.
Why does Pharoah take Abraham’s wife? The devil wanted to corrupt the seed. Why did a later Pharoah seek to destroy Hebrew babies? Satan was after the seed! Why did Queen Athaliah destroy all of the children of her deceased son, the King of Judah and son of David? The Serpent was after the ‘seed of the woman’, but God preserved Josiah, the one child the Messiah was coming through.
The story of Jacob and Esau is not merely a morality tale, we are talking about the people chosen to bring into the world the seed of the woman who would save the world and crush the serpent! God had chosen Abraham, and Isaac, and now Jacob! Not IShmael and Esau! God chose Judah, who would come through Leah, not Rachel!
Isaac was intent upon ‘blessing’ his favorite son, Esau, with the very blessing of Abraham, even though he knew what God had said about the two twins. Rebekkah wasn’t going to allow that to happen, neither was Jacob.Look at Rebekkah’s deception in a similar way to the deceptive tale of Nathan to King David about the poor farmer and his only beloved sheep! It was a ruse to get David to see the error of his ways, and it worked!
Isaac’s blindness is shared by much of the world today. He couldn’t tell the chosen Son from the other brother.
There are massive demonstrations going on in European capitals on behalf of the Palestinian cause, and in support of HAMAS, and indirectly ISIS, by normally civilized people. Incredible expressions of hatred for Jews are being publicly demonstrated in Europe of all places!(Whatever happened to ‘never again’?).
This is because the impression still remains, that Jacob is cheating Esau out of his inheritance again! The “evil Jews” supposedly have cheated and oppressed the sons of Esau out of their “holy Land’, and millions are taking sides against them.
Isaac eventually was able to see. The book of Hebrews 11 tells us that Isaac blessed his sons by faith… . Once he realized what Rebekkah and Jacob had done he validated it by telling the crying Esau, “…He shall indeed be blessed…”, recognizing the hand of God.
Unfortunately the whole world has to take sides in the modern Jacob/Esau dispute, unwittingly fighting, not against the Jews, but against the God who brought them back into their ancestral land as He said he would.
For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.(Joel 3:1-3)