Reading: Genesis 25:19-34
Here is another extracts from The Glory of the Story, my father’s devotional introduction to biblical theology in the form of 366 daily readings which show how the Old Testament story is fulfilled in Christ. The Glory of the Story is available as a Kindle book for $2.99 from amazon.com and £1.99 from amazon.co.uk. I’m posting extracts from the chaper on the story of Jacob, usually on the first Monday of the month.
After twenty years of marriage Rebekah finally conceives, but has a difficult twin-pregnancy. The antenatal in-fighting of the babies (22) foreshadows the life-long conflict that is to follow. Even as they are born there is no let up. The second baby comes out clutching his brother’s heel and is named Jacob, signifying ‘grasper’, ‘deceiver’. Though twins, their characters develop quite differently. Jacob is a stay-at-home of quiet disposition, while Esau is a man of the open country and a skilful hunter. The prophecy given to Rebekah is the fulcrum for their story: ‘Two nations are in your womb … and the older will serve the younger.’ (23)
The LORD warns that the usual conventions of society are going to be overturned. In this case the younger twin, Jacob, would continue the line of God’s purposes, with the implied opposition of the stronger son, Esau. This would lead eventually to the separate nations of Israel and Edom. The way Isaac and Esau disregard God’s word for their own preferences governs how the story develops.
One day when Esau is famished he requests of his brother, ‘Quick, let me have some of that red stew!’ Jacob replies ‘First sell me your birthright’ – your status as head of the family (30-31). Jacob may have been prompted by a belief that there is a significant future for him in God’s purpose. If so, his acceptance of God’s role is commendable, even if the means he uses leaves much to be desired.
Esau, on the other hand, fecklessly embraces the present and the tangible at any cost. He goes through with the choice (33) and walks away unconcerned (34) – clearly no where near to death! (32) The narrator’s final comment is not ‘Jacob cheated his brother,’ but ‘Esau despised his birthright.’ Esau is saying, in effect, ‘If clinging to my inheritance rights means present hunger and pain you can have the lot, Jacob!’
The letter to the Hebrews is written to Jewish Christians who, facing persecution and social ostracism, are being tempted to revert to Judaism. They are exhorted not to be like Esau and forego their spiritual inheritance in favour of their present comforts (Heb. 12:16). It is an exhortation that is always relevant.
Read Hebrews 10:32-39. We can live through great difficulties when we are sure about the ultimate outcome.