ESAU SELLS HIS BIRTHRIGHT TO JACOB
"Speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another" (Ephesians 4:25).
I Jacob's High Evaluation of the Birthright that Esau Despised
1. Esau's and Jacob's respective vocations in keeping with their dispositions, [Genesis:25:27-28].
2. The satisfaction of a present hunger more important to Esau than the prospect of future blessings, [Genesis:25:29-30]; [Hebrews:12:16].
3. Jacob's farsightedness and craftiness in securing the birthright, [Genesis:25:31-34].
II Jacob's Acquisition of Esau's Blessing, through Deceit
1. Isaac's plan to bless Esau, [Genesis:27:1-4].
2. Rebekah's selfish desire for Jacob's welfare, and her plan of deceit, [Genesis:27:5-17].
3. Jacob's adoption of his mother's plan to deceive his father, [Genesis:27:18-25].
4. Jacob's blessing, [Genesis:27:26-29].
III The Lie Revealed, and Esau's Remorse
1. Esau's return from the hunt, and his expectation of the blessing, [Genesis:27:30-31].
2. Isaac's reaction an indication of the seriousness and finality of the blessing, [Genesis:27:32-33]; [Hebrews:12:17].
3. Esau given a blessing inferior to Jacob's, [Genesis:27:34-40].
Our last lessons in the Old Testament brought us up to the end of Abraham's life. Before his death he sent his servant, Eliezer, to Haran to secure a wife for his son, Isaac; and, as a result, Rebekah became the wife of Isaac and the mother of twin boys, Jacob and Esau. Esau was the elder of the two and entitled to the privileges that, by custom, went to the first born of every family. This was called the birthright because it belonged to the eldest son, solely because of his position in the family, and not by reason of any special gifts with which he might have been endowed.
The birthright gave the eldest son a certain authority and prestige while the father was alive, but its value increased immeasurably after his death. Families in those days were units, tightly knit together for purposes of convenience as well as for safety; and during the life of the father the eldest son was second in honour in the family circle ([Genesis:49:3]). He was also given a double portion of his father's goods ([Deuteronomy:21:17]). Later, when the Lord established the tabernacle worship, the eldest son was to be set apart for God's service ([Exodus:22:29]). God chose the Levites, instead, when they alone of the twelve tribes stepped out from the idolatry of the golden calf at Mount Sinai ([Numbers:8:14-17]).
God had not, at this time, imparted His law to any particular people, and, divine worship, was carried on by each family, through its family head. (Genesis:8:20;:12:8). This, too, became the responsibility of the eldest son when the father died. The holder of the birthright also succeeded the father in the government of the family; and later, of the kingdom, when the Israelites became a nation (II Chronicles:21:3).
Jacob was about 70 years of age at this time, and had surely seen his grandfather, Abraham, for he was 15 when that great man died. As a boy, no doubt Jacob had heard Abraham tell the story of God's wonderful dealings with him and the glorious promises for his posterity, and Jacob must have become intensely interested. He could not help being reminded that it was Esau, the first born, who was the heir and the channel through which these blessings would naturally flow.
In this particular case, however, it was the design of God that the elder should serve the younger ([Romans:9:10-13]); and God would have brought that to pass in the way He thought best, in His own time, and in a manner consistent with His own perfection. According to God's plan, Jacob, the younger, was to be the father of the family that eventually would be the means through which the Messiah should come. The mother, Rebekah, knowing God's plan ([Genesis:25:22-23]), took the matter into her own hands and influenced Jacob to use deceit to bring it to pass in what she thought was God's time.
We can see a vast difference between these two men. Esau was a man of the field, and a hunter; while Jacob was a man who dwelt in tents and tended cattle and livestock, being of a milder and gentler disposition than Esau. Esau was not a far-sighted man and was concerned only with the things at hand, the incidents of the moment. This tendency reacted against Esau in the matter of his birthright, for one day when he came in from the field, hungry and weak from his exertion, he agreed to give his younger brother that birthright for a mess of pottage. Jacob, being a far-sighted person and having, above all, a desire to have the birthright for himself, tendered the offer that was accepted. The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that Esau afterwards regretted his bargain and sought to regain the birthright but could not ([Hebrews:12:16-17]).
Covenants, in those days, were made with all seriousness and usually were sealed, or declared final, by a feast. The fact that Esau ate Jacob's pottage of lentils was in itself a testimonial that their agreement was final. Once made, a contract would never be broken, even though it proved to be unwise.
We can see a vast difference between those men and many men of today in this regard Individuals, in their personal lives; corporations, in their business affairs; and nations, in their international dealings -- all regard very lightly their covenants one with the other. It is very easy for a man and wife to secure a divorce, thinking that in doing so they are declaring void the vows that were originally taken for life. Too many corporations will quickly cancel their agreements, unless they are legally prevented from doing so, if the officers of the corporation can see a way to make more money. International treaties and understandings are hardly worth the price of the paper they are written upon.
Some time after this transfer of the birthright, Isaac became fearful that his illness would soon cause his death. He decided to make arrangements that his family would be well cared for. He called Esau and told him to go into the field, kill a deer, and prepare some venison. Then he promised to give Esau a blessing. No doubt the purpose for the feast of his favourite meat was to seal the covenant, or blessing, as well as to satisfy his hunger at that time.
But Rebekah loved Jacob; and after overhearing the conversation between Isaac and Esau, she conceived a plan that would give the blessing to Jacob. It was a plan of deceit, and before their lives were over both Jacob and his mother paid dearly for their fraud and deception. The only thing commendable in Jacob, through all this, is the value he placed upon the birthright and parental blessing, and the desire he had for them, contrasted with the careless way Esau neglected his birthright, which should have been a precious thing to him.
Esau's birthright was only a type of the real birthright that God has for His own. We find from the story of these men's lives that their individual experiences with God were separate from this transfer of the coveted family privilege. But many people, like Esau, despise their birthrights. The young often do!
Some young people are children of godly parents and because of that fact are the recipients of many priceless privileges. The prayers, examples, and other influences of a Christian home are blessings that are denied to many young people. But the birthright that is God given is not ours because of our birth into a family of godly parents. It is ours individually by the new birth -- the adoption into the family of God. Without that experience of salvation we are heirs of no good thing, but as sinners are only entitled to eternal punishment.
A few popular denominations teach that children born in so called Christian homes are entitled to the rite of Water Baptism and by that are sealed for God. But God tells us that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans:3:23); and the only inheritance we have, as sinners, is death: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel:18:4). Satan wins a major victory when he can get men to believe his lie that they are Christians because of their earthly parents' righteous lives; but the Word of God refutes the devil's doctrine and shows us plainly the way by which we must be saved if we would inherit eternal life.
Guard well your birthright! Do not sell it for a "mess of pottage" or some other trifle of the world. Some have done so and then have "sought it carefully with tears" but have failed to regain it before being ushered into the presence of God to answer for their life on earth.
1. What were Esau's and Jacob's respective vocations?
2. What was Esau's great sin against himself' and the rest of the family?
3. Memorize Hebrews:12:16, 17.
4. Was Jacob justified in the use of deceit because he was prompted to do so by his mother?
5. Was the fact that God had told Rebekah of His plan for Esau and Jacob a justification for her deceit?
6. What was the real blessing that God intended for Jacob's posterity?
7. In what way did Jacob suffer for his deceit?
8. Which one of the sons was married, and, how were the wives received by the family?
9. What kind of blessing was given to Esau when he came in from the hunt?
10. Why was the birthright so important?