We live in a society big on weddings. Huge sums of money are poured into making the day as special as it can be. According to ‘You and Your Wedding’ (yes there is a magazine called ‘You and Your Wedding’ and a website) the average spend on a UK wedding in 2014 was £20,983. It seems to be a lot of money when many couples live together and would get married if only they could afford it and others struggle to pay for somewhere to live. Perhaps the saddest thing is that very little attention is paid to the actual marriage. It isn’t unusual for couples to enjoy a lavish wedding only to split up shortly afterwards. It isn’t that I dislike weddings; I love them but a good marriage is far more important.
Isaac and Rebekah were a match made in heaven. Their love story in the last chapter was something beautiful but they faced many challenges in the lives and didn’t always deal with them wisely
Their first crisis was childlessness. As we have already discussed with Isaac’s parents, it’s a terrible trial for any family but for Isaac and Rebekah it was even more acute. Isaac carried the promise made to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:4), therefore they had to have children. Isaac was forty (25:20) when he married Rebekah and sixty (25:26) when the twins were born. Twenty years of waiting but unlike his parents, Isaac didn’t try to ‘help God out’, they waited in faith, prayed and God was faithful.
The struggle within families is a big part of the Genesis story and we can see it going on in Rebekah’s womb. Before the twins were born the Lord told Rebekah;
“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.”
So the Lord knew all about these babies before they even were born. ‘The older will serve the younger’. The names are important (or at least Jacob’s is), Esau means ‘hairy’ because he was covered with hair while Jacob means ‘he grasps the heel’ because he was born holding on to Esau’s heel but the term also means a deceiver. As we shall see, it was an appropriate name for Jacob. I have an image in my mind of Isaac introducing his sons; ‘have you met the twins, Hairy and Grasper?’
The narrative moves quickly to Jacob and Esau as young adults and they could not have been more different;
“Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents.”
To make matters worse, Isaac and Rebekah took sides in what would become a bitter rivalry;
“Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”
Matters came to a head when Esau returned from hunting famished and Jacob, who was cooking some red stew, refused to give any to Esau unless he sold his rights as the firstborn. Esau’s reasoning is explained and it seems reasonable enough, what good is the birthright if he starved to death? So he made the fatal error and sold the birthright to his brother. Neither of them come out of this with much credit but the narrator gives a devastating indictment on Esau; “So Esau despised his birthright.”
I imagine that were I ever to meet these twin brothers; Esau would be the one I would warm to. He is a brave, spontaneous, outdoor type whereas Jacob is a sneaky mother’s boy. Why did God choose either of them? What we can say about Jacob is that he was desperate to be part of God’s blessing even if his methods were all wrong. Esau on the other hand was a man who always preferred the ‘here and now’ to the ‘hereafter’. He could have sung the Queen song ‘I want it all and I want it now.’ Would he really have starved to death without the red stew? I very much doubt it. He smelled the stew and had to have it no matter the cost. He would have fitted in well in 2015 in the UK; ‘let’s do it and not worry about the consequences’.
“See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.” (Hebrews 12:16-17)
Saviour, if of Zion’s city, I through grace a member am,
Let the world deride or pity, I will glory in Thy name;
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure, all his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion’s children know.
(Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken – John Newton)