Who Do You Want to Emulate?

Next to The Four Living Creatures, the series on Esau generated the most traffic to this blog since its inception. That tells me the question, ‘Why God Hated Esau’, is on many minds. So I’d like to share some afterthoughts on Jacob and Esau.

widows and orphansOne thing I didn’t know, but found out during Torah class, was that the whole reason the firstborn got the extra portion of inheritance was to take care of the widows and orphans within the family. That explains a lot about Esau’s character. He despised his birthright. He was a hunter. He had no interest in taking care of weaker members of the family. He didn’t want to be tied down with such a restraining burden.

For Jacob, this wasn’t a burden, but a responsibility. One he gladly purchased from his brother. Could it be that Jacob was testing Esau, to see if he would be up to the challenge of leading the family; was he willing to care for those who couldn’t care for themselves? If so, it was a pretty ingenious test. If Esau passed, Jacob could rest in the knowledge that the family would be cared for. If Esau failed, then Jacob wouldn’t have to find a way to wrestle the leadership of the family from Esau, but Esau would gladly give it up.

And speaking of wrestling, we see Jacob given a new name after wrestling with the Angel. Rashi said that in renaming Jacob Israel, God was giving the authority to him. That Yisra’el could mean ‘authority with God’ or ‘authorized by God’. That Jacob wrestled asking for a blessing that was already his. Why? He was about to face his brother and wanted to be sure God actually blessed him and given him the leadership and the covenant promise.

In renaming him, God did just that. What I never realized was that God named all three patriarchs. He renamed Abram to Abraham, Isaac was named before his conception, and Jacob was renamed Israel.

Then reading the book of Obadiah, we see that it laid out what God has to say about Esau and the Edomites.

In verse 17 God confirms that Israel is the rightful heir.

The house of Ya‘akov will repossess their rightful inheritance.

And in verse 18 we read that none of the house of Esau will remain.

None of the house of ‘Esav will remain, for Adonai has spoken.

How sad.

Rabbi Neil and Jamie LashIn our Torah class, Rabbi Neil Lash pointed out that there was a struggle in the womb. He threw out the thought that Jacob could have grabbed the heel of the foot that forced him down. In other words, Esau forced his way out by stepping on his brother.

On the other hand, we have Jacob. As he was returning to the land of the covenant promise, he prepared to meet his brother. Some say he sent bribes ahead of him. That could be, but it could also be that Jacob knew the value of what he had and wanted to share with his brother some of the blessing he received.

The series on Esau not only received a lot of traffic, but a lot of pushback on various platforms. The whole reason I delved into this man was because God used such a strong word in describing how He viewed Esau. With descriptors like ‘hated’, ‘rejected’, and ‘unloved’, I certainly didn’t want God feeling that way about me.

Now I know the push back came from well-intentioned people looking to defend God as a loving God, incapable of hating. I agree 100% that God is love. Yet He is also just. That doesn’t detract from His love, but solidifies it.

Take for instance a parent of a little boy. The parent loves him and has set rules up to protect him, to help him flourish and grow. But the little boy keeps breaking the rules.

Let’s say the parent keeps forgiving him without consequences. Will the child ever learn? Will he learn to keep himself from harm as he grows? Will he start making wise decisions? Will he flourish? Or will he keep making bad choices because there were never consequences? And what does that say about his parent? Did the parent really love him?

God really loves us. He has provided us with a set of rules that will keep us safe and cause us to flourish. He gave us His Son to pay the ultimate consequence for our disobedience. But like Esau and Jacob, we always have a choice – obey or disobey; repent or continue doing our own thing.

There is a time limit on our choices. As individuals it is the day of our death. As nations it is the Day of Judgment. Yes, God is love. And God is just. He gives ample warning and opportunity to turn around. But there is a day coming when all choices are final. And because God is love, He wants us to make the choice that will be best for us and for our descendants.

Having seen the end from the beginning, He warns us through Malachi and Obadiah that we should not be like Esau. Esau seldom made the right choice, causing God to be permanently angry with him. So much so that none of his people will remain.

This is something I have to take to heart. When I look at the two brothers, I see that both made mistakes, both made bad choices.

Esau never got out of these bad choices. And his children followed suit. Jacob, on the other hand, repented and followed God. Who do I want to emulate? Who do you?

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