This article was first posted on 05/09/2011.
It has been heavily edited and covers a lot of ground.
The story is found in Genesis 25-31.
One of the churches we were going to at the time had Saturday night services. The pastor was talking about relational issues between husbands and wives, and this night he threw Jacob into the mix. He, of course, had to do a quick overview in an attempt to explain what interactions “created” this man Jacob we read about. In other words, what were the family dynamics that made him respond to situations the way he did? I remember thinking, some are blatantly obvious, what else can there be?
The pastor opened with, “The story equates to a broken man. A man that looks to a woman, Rachel, to bring him wholeness.” I did not take the best notes as my mind went racing off to find the origins of some word the pastor had focused on.
You may not be into humor, but this transition about words reminds me of a movie I watched years ago called, The Three Amigos. The movie is about three comedic American actors around the 1940’s, finding themselves in old Mexico. There was a point in the film where the bad guys were sitting around the fire while trying to assess the situation; when one of them says, Mi Jefe, I have seen them, and there is a plethora. To which the jefe responds, I do not think you know what plethora means. Do not use words for which you do not know the meaning.
What am I trying to say here? I listen to pastors, and teachers throw out words as though what they are saying is the authoritative definition of that word. Unfortunately, I am frequently disappointed, for as you look into a good concordance, you usually find that there are multiple meanings for the word, proving that perhaps they should not use words for which they do not know the meaning. Occasionally, you find that the word they chose is in opposition to the context. I will simply say, that I can’t wholeheartedly see the association between Rachel and Jacob’s so-called search for wholeness if that is what he did; and yet, as I edited this post for readability, I found so many fascinating things that comprise this family. Things that many would bring little more than reproach in most peoples eyes. Essentially, I keep seeing that God is in control. If you take one thing away from this, I hope it is that God is in control.
Let’s start off this look at Jacob with a strong shocker!
We are all broken, and though we may not want to admit to it, most of us are looking for something that dulls the pain and takes our mind off of it for at least a few moments. Sometimes that thing that dulls the pain takes the form of a woman. Why, because, for several reasons we won’t talk about, she quiets the storm momentarily?
If a man were honest, he would tell you that there is little that removes all the hurt inside. It is moments like this you need to get real. You know the moment – it’s those times you stand there looking at yourself, and you see the pain. Scripture itself tells us that all of creation is crying out for redemption, so how can you be excluded; you can’t.
Romans 8:22-23 NASB For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23) And not only this but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
What do we know about Jacob?
Esau, the first-born becomes a man, a very hairy man. Jacob, of course, was born second. When you are young, this second child thing is not that important to you. But, depending on how you were treated in the home there may be a massive sibling rivalry problem, that in some cases lasts a lifetime as a result of the favoritism was shown toward the elder brother in this case. For example, your father makes sure that you understand the position that you do not hold, and it’s not first-born. You are taught that the older will rule the family when the father is gone, and the eldest son will get the lion’s share of any inheritance; this being born first could work in the opposite as well, as oftentimes the eldest is held to a higher standard and takes more punishment for mistakes they did not make (I speak from experience on this one.)
Whatever the case is with these two we do not know, but there are clues.
Genesis 25:23-26 NASB The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.” 24) When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25) Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. 26) Afterward, his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.
Esau was first-born, but then there is this prophecy given in a dream, how the older will serve the younger.
Gen 25:27 NASB tells us: “When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents.”
What does Gen 25:27 mean when it comes to Jacob?
While one was always outdoors and active, the other seems to be busy cooking and cleaning the tent. In the eyes of a father that wants to pass on the family business, Esau is the boy you want to brag about in the marketplace. If this was the case, this incessant bragging has to play a role in the character of Jacob.
Outside of speculation, we do not know, at this point, what made Jacob such a conniver. Some would begin an argument at this point, and to a degree, they would be correct, but then, who do we have as a deceiver in this family? Issac is one of those who described his wife as his sister. For the sake of space, I have not included the full text here. I suggest you look it up. Genesis 26:7-13.
Genesis 25:28 LITV And Isaac loved Esau, for game was in his mouth. And Rebekah loved Jacob.
Here is what we have next.
One day, Jacob was cooking some stew, when Esau came home hungry and said, “I’m starving to death! Give me some of that red stew right now!” That’s how Esau got the name “Edom.” Jacob replied, “Sell me your rights as the first-born son.” “I’m about to die,” Esau answered. “What good will those rights do me?” But Jacob said, “Promise me your birthrights, here and now!” And that’s what Esau did. (Genesis 25:29-33 CEV)
While you probably do not pick up on a dominant attitude with most translations, there is no doubt that it is there. Interpretations range from a polite please; to I am starving give me, or feed me.
Here is an example of a similar attitude that Jesus spoke of.
The parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus. Both characters have died. However, Lazarus is now comforted, and the rich man is now demanding, pretty much just as he had always done, that Lazarus is sent back to warn his family. This parable is an example that probably escapes most people, because the interpreters inserted the word please, as though the rich man was now polite when it was his custom to order people around; and, he still thinks that he can order Lazarus around.
And he said, Father, it is my request that you will send him to my father’s house; (Luke 16:27 BBE)
Esau, though probably not on the verge of death, is hungry enough sell his birthright to Jacob.
- Doesn’t this imply that the birthright issue has been part of Jacob’s thinking for a long time?
- If you felt confident that you were going to be taken care of by your father then why would you steal what was not meant to be yours?
Apparently, Jacob did not feel very confident.
So Esau sells his brother his birthrights.
Sure he did (in a sarcastic tone,) apparently Esau believed these were meaningless words and had no intention of giving up what was his. Besides that, how do you enforce an illegal sale (where are the witnesses,) with a father who is the only one who has the right to give it, and who is probably not that fond of Jacob anyway?
Genesis 27:1-4 LITV And it happened when Isaac was old and his eyes were dim for seeing, he called his elder son Esau and said to him, My son! And he said to him, Behold me. 2) And he said, Behold! Now, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. 3) And now please lift up your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go to the field and hunt game for me. 4) And make for me delicious things, such as I love, and bring to me, and I will eat; so that my soul may bless you before I die.
If Esau had thought he had thrown away his birthright, why did he act like nothing was wrong when his father said, “that I may bless you before … my death.?
He knew what those words his father would speak meant; and, he knew what they meant to Jacob.
Now we add Rebekah into the mix.
Genesis 27:5-6 GNB “While Isaac was talking to Esau, Rebecca was listening. So when Esau went out to hunt, 6) she said to Jacob, “I have just heard your father say to Esau,”
It would seem that she knew about the deal that Jacob had made with Esau, and, she has decided that she is going to make this deception happen. The turmoil that was about to begin started long ago with these words:
Genesis 25:23 LITV And Jehovah said to her, Two nations are in your womb; even two peoples shall break from your body. And one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
Under the category of things we don’t know:
- Does she remember those words Jehovah spoke to her all those years ago?
Are those words the motivation for what she is about to do?
- Or, is she merely a player in this plan God has, where we do what we think is beneficial for the moment, and yet God is directing every move regardless of how it looks?
- Do you suppose that she is aware of the grief she is about to cause, or the humiliation Issac is about to face as he is tricked into blessing the wrong son, according to tradition?
Rebekah makes her move to protect Jacob.
Genesis 27:8-10 NET. Now then, my son, do exactly what I tell you! 9) Go to the flock and get me two of the best young goats. I’ll prepare them in a tasty way for your father, just the way he loves them. 10) Then you will take it to your father. Thus he will eat it and bless you before he dies.”
Sometimes, even the best of schemers forget a detail and so Jacob includes that possibility.
Genesis 27:11-12 NASB Jacob answered his mother Rebekah, “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man and I am a smooth man. 12) “Perhaps my father will feel me, then I will be as a deceiver in his sight, and I will bring upon myself a curse and not a blessing.”
Rebekah is willing to bear the blame.
Genesis 27:13 NASB But his mother said to him, “Your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.”
There is little about what happens next that is believable, and yet it does. Sheepskin, with all that hair, a voice had to be decidedly different, and Esau was not the cook. The trap is set, and the deception works.
Genesis 27:14-29 NASB So he went and got them, and brought them to his mother; and his mother made savory food such as his father loved. 15) Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. 16) And she put the skins of the young goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17) She also gave the savory food and the bread, which she had made, to her son Jacob. 18) Then he came to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” 19) Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn; I have done as you told me. Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me.” 20) Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have it so quickly, my son?” And he said, “Because the LORD your God caused it to happen to me.” 21) Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come close, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22) So Jacob came close to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23) He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. 24) And he said, “Are you really my son Esau?” And he said, “I am.” 25) So he said, “Bring it to me, and I will eat of my son’s game, that I may bless you.” And he brought it to him, and he ate; he also brought him wine and he drank. 26) Then his father Isaac said to him, “Please come close and kiss me, my son.” 27) So he came close and kissed him; and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him and said, “See, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed; 28) Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, And of the fatness of the earth, And an abundance of grain and new wine; 29) May peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you; Be master of your brothers, And may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, And blessed be those who bless you.”
While the premise is that we are supposed to be looking at Jacob, we have spent a lot of time on Rebekah. However, taking a serious look at what makes us dysfunctional forces us to consider background information; Rebekah and Issac play a huge role in that background. Consider how much dysfunction a child, up to about the age when they learn to say NO, has buried within them. It would seem none, as they have to learn to be liars, and deceivers, as Jacob did. And his parents taught him.
Consider another huge factor, sin. I bring this up because of the legalists among us, as they try to tell you that sin pushes you to do what you do. But consider, in the garden did Satan push Eve? No, he deceived her. So, when Adam then partakes, was he pushed? No, and neither was he deceived, he merely followed his wife’s lead. Sin is little more than missing the smallest of bullseyes as you go through your day, the process of which is a perpetual task that sometimes borders on the impossible. Sin then is that motivation to do what we want to do, and sometimes I grow weary of trying hit the bullseye on targets that seem to be several hundred yards away and no bigger than the head of a nail.
Stay tuned as part two has Jacob getting out of the house and fleeing toward Uncle Laban’s, as he looks for the woman of his dreams, maybe.