The Liar, the Hunter, the Blessing
Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
Jacob and Esau were twins. Esau was the first born which meant he was entitled to a double portion of the inheritance. Once Isaac passed away, Esau was to become the head of the family. To be given most of what your father had built, in this time period, was very valuable. Jacob would still get an inheritance but he would have to build his own legacy. However, before they were even born, there was a prophetic message that the older son will serve the younger. God told Rebekah things would not go according to plan with her children. I’m sure those words must have stuck with her as she raised her children. She probably thought about it all the time as she watched her toddlers grow and interact with one another.
We read that Esau was very rugged and became a skilled hunter. He spent most of his time outdoors and was very close to his father because Isaac loved to eat wild game. We also read that Jacob was “content to stay among the tents” which I guess translates to “was into arts and crafts.” Isaac connected more with Esau than with Jacob. It’s no surprise then that Rebekah favored Jacob over Esau. I’m sure she took notice of Isaacs favoritism which caused her to compensate for Jacob so he wouldn’t feel slighted. The prophesy about Jacob ruling over Esau probably also moved Rebekah to treat Jacob with a higher status than his brother Esau.
One day Esau returns from hunting empty handed and finds his brother Jacob cooking red stew. Now, to me, red stew does not sound all that appealing. However, Jacob was the “artsy” one in the family. That stew was probably some incredible recipe he had been working on for weeks! It probably smelled as good as it tasted. It must have, because Esau agrees to sell his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of it. Esau tells Jacob that he is starving and is going to die if he doesn’t eat something (probably an overreaction) so Jacob takes advantage of the situation and sells it to him. This agreement was probably more of a “yeah sure, whatever you want” rather than an actual contractual agreement in Esau’s mind. However, this is our first insight into how important the birthright was to Jacob, and how insignificant it was to Esau.
The way the birthright was given was in the form of a blessing that the father would speak over his firstborn son. When the day finally comes where Isaac is about to pass away, he asks Esau to hunt him down some of the wild game that he loves so much. He tells Esau that after he has eaten the food, he will give Esau the birthright. Rebekah overhears Isaac’s plan which prompts her to inform Jacob. Isaac was practically blind in his old age, so Rebekah covered Jacob in hair and cooked Isaac a meal before Esau could return. Jacob ends up deceiving his father into giving him the blessing by impersonating Esau. When Esau finds out, he vows to kill Jacob for stealing the birthright from him after their father passes away.
Jacob runs away to his distant relatives to escape his brother’s wrath. He leaves the only home he’s ever known. He leaves behind his dying father and soon to be widowed mother. He abandoned everything he was familiar with all for a blessing; a prophesy that he would be successful and favored by God. He knowingly chose to lie and cheat in order to steal the birthright and consequently had to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder in fear that his brother would seek revenge. Jacob was all in when it came to this blessing. That is why, even today, people refer to God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Not Esau.