In Genesis 25 we see two sons – the older a hunter, the younger a homebody. As a hunter, the older son would be gone from home a lot, seeking his prey. As a homebody, the younger son would be learning how to run the family business and worship the family God.
In that same chapter we see the same two sons. The hunter, back from a hunt, is dying of hunger. The homebody has a bowl of lentil stew. A bargain is struck, a legal trade made – a bowl of stew for the right of firstborn. Both parties agree to this legal transaction – the hunter swearing to it. The bowl is handed off, and at the passing of the father the firstborn rights will be surrendered.
But wait, something’s wrong. The father is old and dying. He calls his oldest son to him, sending him off to hunt. And upon his return, the father will bestow the blessing of the firstborn on him.
Did the oldest speak up? Did he tell his father that he traded away that right? Or did he simply go off on the hunt, knowing that if his father blesses him the deal he made years ago would become null and void?
You’ve read the story. You know how it ends. Esau goes off to hunt, but his mother overheard. She calls for Jacob and tells him what’s going on, and then comes up with a plan to ensure Jacob gets the blessing. Why would she do this if she didn’t already know that a legal trade was made between her sons? I think she knew. I think, out of love for her son Esau, she was giving him time to come clean with his father.
But as with his two Canaanite marriages, Esau disappointed her again. He never came clean and told his father the truth. And now he was on his way to a hunt that would result in a final deception of his father and ultimate heartbreak for her. And that would leave the family legacy in the hands of a dishonest, self-centered man who placed no value on the things that were important. So she convinced her younger son, the rightful heir to head the family, to help her make things right.
When Esau returns from the hunt to find that his scheme to steal back the right of firstborn thwarted, what does he do? He accuses his brother of being the liar, the deceiver. Was that true? Was Jacob the deceiver?
For too many years we’ve accepted this as fact. We have taken the word of a self-absorbed, godless, sexually immoral man as truth. We haven’t bothered to delve into the entirety of the story and realize Esau had no right to the blessing. That the very thing he accused Jacob of was what he was doing himself.
Here’s something else – could it be that Esau had this deception in mind the whole time he made the trade with Jacob? Did he think he could steal back what he legally sold? Or maybe he thought he’d just kill Jacob to get it back. I find it interesting his thoughts quickly turned to murdering his brother after his father’s death. Was this a knee-jerk reaction to actually losing the birthright? Or had it been a possibility all along?
We won’t know until we stand face-to-face with our Maker, but when comparing the motives and actions of the two sons, the deceiver is clearly Esau.
What can we learn from this? When we’ve made a bad decision, and are confronted with the truth, don’t be like Adam in the garden, or Esau in his father’s tent trying to wriggle out of it by blaming someone else. We should own up to the truth and accept responsibility for our actions and decisions. Integrity gives honor to God.
Be sure to come back for part four to see what final lesson we can glean from why God hated Esau.