The Bible tells us the story of Esau and Jacob which is almost as sad as one of the two brothers: Cain and Abel, but it’s about someone else…it’s about Isaac and Rebekah’s twins. Esau and Jacob, Esau is the firstborn with full rights, and Jacob is born the youngest. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife because she was barren¹. The Lord answered his prayer, and Rebekah, his wife, became pregnant. The children were still beating in her womb before they were even born.
The story of Esau and Jacob can be found in Bible in the Book of Genesis, beginning in chapter 25. The twins summarize that although they were twins, they were so different: like two flowers of different species. Esau was destined to be the firstborn but was tricked by his brother into giving up his birthright for a lentil. And so God was angry² and loved Jacob and hated Esau because He had other plans for him…God had some promises that He made to Abraham.
The first was born red and his whole body was like a cloak of hair; that’s why they named him Esau. After that, his brother was born, holding onto Esau’s heel with his hand. Therefore they called his name Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to his two sons. As the boys grew up, Esau became a skilled hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a quiet man who lived in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he ate his catch, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Where is the story of Jacob and Esau found in the Bible?
And when Isaac was grown old, and his eyes were dim, he called Esau his eldest son and said unto him, My son. And he said, Here am I. Isaac said, Behold, I am grown old, and know not the day of death. Take thy tools, thy quiver, and thy bow, and go out into the field, and bring me some venison³. Make me food, as I like, and bring me food, that my soul may bless you before I die. But Rebekah heard what Isaac said to his son Jacob and told him. So Esau went to the field to hunt something for his father. And Rebekah helped Jacob to earn his birthright by deceiving Isaac and Esau.
For once, while Jacob was making soup, Esau came home from the field tired and hungry. And Esau said to Jacob, Give me some of that reddish soup, for I am tired. That is why Esau was also called Edom. Jacob answered him: Sell me first your birthright. I am dying, said Esau, what good is my birthright? Swear⁴ to me first, Jacob asked him. Esau swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil soup; he ate and drank, then got up and left. So Esau disregarded his birthright.
How are Jacob and Esau different in what ways are they the same?
At the heart of it is a work of God’s salvation, a great mystery, the two representing the two peoples: Christianity and Judaism as Paul the apostle recalls: God has 2 sons: Israel and the Gentiles. And although Israel is the firstborn and would be due to all the gifts, yet because Israel has not acknowledged God but the Gentiles, the Gentiles take over this birthright. Paul says, however, that the world will not end until the Jewish people know God.
Jacob differs from Esau in his quiet manner. And Esau was the one with the blood of a hunter. They are alike only because they were born on the same day.
In a sense, Rebekah is enacting a plan to acquire Jacob’s birthright, an ungodly plan, because Esau sold his birthright. This also brings to mind the people of Israel who, though they received all the gifts of God, did not know God’s Son. That is why Esau disregarded this right.
Why was Esau willing to give up his birthright?
Isaac, as a father, though old, tries to make sure he gives his blessing to the right people. The first time he asks him: Who are you? Then again he asks him how he found the game so quickly. Isaac tries to convince himself that he has the right man in front of him and gropes him. And again he asks him if he is Esau and again he lies. Isaac tells him to kiss him and he smells the clothes and blesses him. The father of the two different twins had several opportunities to realize he was deceived but God did not open his mind by allowing it because it was His work. It was meant to be.
Esau was willing to give up on his birthright because he was very hungry. He wanted to give up his birthright when his brother offered him a bowl of lentil soup, which probably contained the best venison, onions, and herbs.
Jacob is said to be the one who grabbed Esau’s heel, Esau being born with Jacob clinging to his heel as a foreboding sign that though he was born first, he was destined to be the first to God’s blessing, because of his unrighteousness he would not have his share of it, like Israel and the Gentiles.
Key Verse related to their story
The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.
How did Jacob and Esau reconcile?
Jacob said one night: The God of my father Abraham, the God of my father Isaac. You, O Lord, who said to me, Return to your land and your birthplace, and I will see to it that you prosper. I am too little for all the mercies and for all the faithfulness which thou hast shown to thy servant: for I have crossed this Jordan with my rod only, and behold now I make two camps. Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau. For I fear him, lest he comes and smites me and my mothers and children. And You said: I will see to it that it goes well with thee, and I will make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which, being so much, cannot be numbered.
Esau and Jacob were reconciled because of God’s plan as Jacob was returning to the land of his birth. And when Esau comes to meet him with 400 soldiers. Thus God’s plan to bring the twins together after 130 years took place.
Sadly, Esau disobeyed God by not valuing the right to be the firstborn. He swore and sold his birthright to Jacob. But all this happened under the eyes and guidance of the Highest.
What is the message of the story of Jacob and Esau?
Isaac is at the end of his life, and as you probably know, in Jewish law, the birthright was very important, he inherited his father’s authority and a much larger share of the inheritance than the other children, about two-thirds. Isaac tells Esau, knowing full well that he is the firstborn, to hunt something, because we told you that he was a good hunter and very handy, and Jacob was gentle and quiet.
The message of the story of Esau and Jacob in the Bible is that if we want something, we have to fight for it, and God is planning everything inside before we were even born.
The biblical passages show that this peace of mind was a peace of mind that came from virtue, it was a man who lived with God’s will doing good, unlike Esau who hunted, with a more violent and eager to rule character. Rebekah plays a role in this event, she overhears and strategically urges Jacob to steal Esau’s birthright. At first reading, for those unfamiliar with Scripture, it appears that Rebekah tricks Isaac with Jacob. Before we consider that Jacob is stealing his birthright, let’s not forget that Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a plate of food.
- Rebekah sent Jacob away from home to safety, believing that things would soon return to normal. But time passed and Rebekah never saw Jacob again.
- After losing the firstborn honor, Esau hated Jacob, his brother, and decided to kill him after their father’s death.
- The last time the twin brothers are remembered we see them together at their father’s funeral. Esau completely abandoned his plan to kill Jacob after their father’s death.
When Jacob decided to return home, he sent Laban after him, and Esau planned to go out ahead of him with four hundred soldiers to kill him. As they both sought to take his life, God intervened twice to save Jacob: He gave Laban a dream in which He commanded him not to harm him because he was chosen by God, and then He appeared to Jacob personally and blessed him. God hated Esau because of his choice.
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