Thursday, December 2, 2010

Genesis 25:27-34 Favorite Sons

"The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents.  Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob."  (Genesis 25:27-28 NIV)  Both Isaac and Rebekah showed favoritism toward one of their sons.  Considering Isaac's desire for wild game, it is easy to see why Esau would be his favorite.  Since Jacob liked to remain among the tents, he would naturally spend more time near Rebekah than his brother, who was a  man who enjoyed the open country.  The sad part is that both parents seemed somewhat self-serving in their show of favoritism:  Isaac would get his wild game, and Rebekah would get the company of her son.  Neither parent seemed to realize this fact:  by favoring one, they were leaving the other to think that he was less loved than his brother.  I am sure that Isaac and Rebekah loved both of their sons to some extent, but I am also sure that their favoritism was crystal clear to both sons.

One day Jacob was cooking when Esau returned from the open country.  "He said to Jacob, 'Quick, let me have some of that red stew!  I'm famished!'  (That is why he was also called Edom.)"  (Genesis 25:30 NIV)  Jacob insisted that Esau sell him his birthright before he would give Esau any stew.  'Look, I am about to die,' Esau said.  'What good is the birthright to me?' (v.32 NIV)  Jacob made Esau swear to him first, lest Esau eat and then change his mind about the birthright later.  So Esau did just that.  In a verse that is almost frightening in its ordinariness, the text says:   "Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew.  He ate and drank, and then got up and left.  So Esau despised his birthright." (Genesis 25:34 NIV)

We may think Jacob is extremely rude and self-serving to require Esau to do this when he was so hungry.  It certainly was not a loving, brotherly thing to do.  However, we do get the sense that this birthright was very much desired by Jacob, and very important to him, while Esau seems to have no concept of what he has just done.  I am sure that Isaac must have taught both boys about the covenant which God had made with their grandfather Abraham, and of the promises which were contained in it.  Yet Esau does not seem to be able to see any real value in this covenant.  He can not see that far ahead, beyond his immediate needs.  Even after he eats, he does not show any trace of regret for his hasty decision.  Some may think that Esau was starving and absolutely needed to eat, but it is doubtful that Jacob's stew was the only food available in the entire household.  I suspect that Esau was not starving in a literal sense, but just overcome by his desire for immediate satisfaction.  It probably seemed like it would take too long to prepare something himself.  This is probably why the text says that Esau 'despised' his birthright.  Compared to the spiritual and physical riches which that birthright conveyed, trading it for some stew was an insult to the God of the covenant.

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