Genesis 25:19-23, “This is the genealogy of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Abraham begot Isaac. Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian. Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If all is well, why am I like this?’ So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her: ‘Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.’”
Genesis 25:24-28, “So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau (means “hairy”). Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob (means “heel-catcher). Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”
Two boys born from the same womb indeed proved to be vastly different individuals. The oldest of the two “Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field.” Hairy was the quintessential outdoorsman. He lived off the land. He was self-reliant and self-sufficient. He was a man’s man who sported a big beard. He wore Carhartt, hunted with a bow, and dried his own jerky.
I imagine Esau was a jack of all trades. When he wasn’t hunting or spear fishing he was tinkering on his Chevy or brewing his own beer. He was wild - a free spirit… Fun to be around, but impulsive and even reckless. It’s not a surprise Isaac took a liking to Esau.
On the flip side, you have Jacob the younger. We’re told he “was a mild man” who, in stark contrast to his brother, preferred “dwelling in tents.” Understand, while Jacob may not have been as adventurous or rugged as his brother, in no way does the text imply he was a pansy.
As a matter of fact, this word “mild” or as you’ll find in the KJV “plain” is only translated this way in this one particular instance. Nine times in the Old Testament you’ll find the word translated instead as “perfect” - two times as “undefiled” - and then one other as “upright”.
The idea is that Jacob was a good kid. He was the model child! While Esau was running around the woods killing things and getting into trouble, it was Jacob who was home doing his schoolwork. While getting rambunctious Esau to clean his room or for that matter take a bath was like pulling teeth, organization and sanitation were never a struggle for Jacob. With this in mind, it’s really not a surprise Rebekah took a liking to Jacob.
If we can all be honest for a minute… There is no doubt that within a multi-child home moms and dads inevitably have children they end up naturally possessing a unique connection with. I know you don’t want to admit you have a favorite, but let’s be real - you do!
Of your crew there’s that one kid who’s personality or liked-interests meshes organically with yours making the relationship effortless. In contrast, you also have that other child who’s personality and interests are so different that the relationship can be challenging.
Let me explain why this is a natural occurrence… You see the child you tend to mesh with the easiest often possess a personality opposite yours and is more like the person you married - while the child you butt heads with ends up having a personality less like that of your spouse and more like you. Kids do get their genetic makeup from the two of you.
With the exception of non-genetic motivators like a sickness, emergencies, or criss, more often than not dads and moms tend to connect with the opposite children. Rarely do their favorites end up being the same. Wives draw close to the children most like the man they married, and husbands gravitate to the children most similar to their wife.
Think about it… Who’s personality was Esau more like? Isaac or Rebekah? The answer is undoubtedly Rebekah. Don’t forget she was a women tenacious enough to approach a complete stranger, strong enough to water ten camels on her own, confident enough to rock a nose-ring, and adventuresome enough to leave everything she knew behind in order to travel 500 miles to marry a man she’d never met. You want to talk about a free-spirit.
Who’s personality was Jacob more like? Isaac or Rebekah? The answer is clearly Isaac. Because he was raised an only child, Isaac was a momma’s boy - so much that he’s still living in Sarah’s tent when he gets married at the age of 40 (the original 40 year old virgin)! Like Isaac, Jacob will prove to be a thinker, introspective, contemplative, deeply spiritual.
“Isaac loved Esau” because Esau was like Rebekah, and “Rebekah loved Jacob” because Jacob was just like his father Isaac. And yet, while there’s nothing wrong with this natural tendency, in our text we do see a serious problem had developed within this home…
The way these phrases are presented in the Hebrew not only imply Isaac and Rebekah each had a son they were uniquely drawn to, but the text indicates each had a son they loved more than the other. Isaac preferred Esau over Jacob and vise-versa.
Understand… There is nothing wrong with a parent “liking” one kid more than the other, but you’ll be causing a whole lot of strife within your home and damage to your children if you (as a parent) are actively “loving” one more than the rest… If this natural connection leads to special treatment it will yield animosity and manifest negativity in the lives of your kids.
For example… In the Adams household it’s never been a secret that Natalie is Daddy’s little prince and Mack has always been mom’s baby. To this day Nick and I are still in therapy!
Here’s my point - Though favoritism tends to be conditional… Love, by design and it’s very definition, is an unconditional action. Yes, it will take more work and muster to actively demonstrate your love towards that kid who’s just like you and who’s personality is therefore grating; and yet, it’s because they’re just like you that actively loving them will become the mechanism by which you will grow and your capacity for genuine love deepen.
The truth is that God gave you a mini-you for the specific purpose of forcing you to deal with your own issues. God literally put another human being into your life with your same ticks and personality flaws in order to work those very ticks and flaws out of your life. That kid grinds on you because there are areas in your life God is wanting to smooth out.
Avoiding time with that kid, giving preferential treatment to the other you get along with more easily, and in the process loving one over the other will not only sow a toxic seed in your family that will grow a root of bitterness and yield nothing but rotten fruit in your home…
But making such a mistake will, at the same time, rob you of the work God is seeking to accomplish in your life! I’m just like my Dad and I can’t tell you how often I’ve pointed out to him that the friction in our relationship is simply God’s way of making him a better man.
Before we move on there is another aspect of Esau and Jacob we might as well discuss now. In Romans 9:10-16 Paul writes, “When Rebecca had conceived by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, ‘The older shall serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.’
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For God says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’ So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.”
Here’s the interesting question and often the cause for controversy surrounding this passage… If before either Esau or Jacob were born God predetermined that Jacob the younger would be favored over Esau the older, then can’t the argument be made that God was picking and choosing favorites independent of anything Esau and Jacob had or hadn’t done… That Jacob was loved because he was elected and Esau hated because he wasn’t?
In some extreme theological circles the precedent of this text is even carried out to make the argument that Jesus didn’t die on the cross for all men, but only for those elected by God. They claim a full atonement, but only for a limited number of people God willed beforehand.
Additionally, proponents of this viewpoint also say that because God’s grace is demonstrated independent of a person’s actions and since some like Jacob are chosen and others like Esau rejected, it’s then only logical that God’s grace isn’t for all, but only the elected few.
The problem with building such an argument from this passage in Genesis as well as Paul’s reference to it in Romans is that it misunderstands the nature of what God was actually saying to Rebekah while both Esau and Jacob were struggling within her womb.
God’s original statement, “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger” should not be seen as God’s determinant will overriding the future freewill decisions of both Esau and Jacob. It’s bad hermeneutics to conclude that God was establishing their destinies without either boy possessing the ability or opportunity to have a say.
Instead, this statement given by God to Rebekah was prophetic - based entirely in the foreknowledge of God. Because God is absolutely sovereign existing outside of time and space… Because His infinite nature necessitates He knows the beginning from the end and the end from the beginning, God was simply revealing to Rebekah through the mechanism of prophetic knowledge what He already knew would happen in each boy’s life.
Even before they were born God could already see their story-arcs… He could see the decisions each would make and how those decisions would manifest… As a result of Esau’s free-willed decisions God knew He would sell his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup. Beyond this, God also knew this birthright would be deeply important to Jacob.
Also keep in mind, the election of Jacob by God over Esau pertained to which of the two lineages the Messianic line would descend. Just because God chose Jacob over Esau didn’t mean Esau was somehow damned. Consider that while God choose Isaac over Ishmael as the promised son, Ishmael came to a saving faith in his own right.
Additionally, the way this statement that “God loved Jacob, but hated Esau” is translated is also misleading. According to John Calvin, “The real thought is much more like ‘accepted’ and ‘rejected’ more than our understanding of the terms ‘loved’ and ‘hated.’”
It’s interesting and also clarifying that in Hebrews 12, God spoke to Rebekah knowing ahead of time that Esau would “be a fornicator” and a “profane person… who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.” Did God create Esau to “be a fornicator” and a “profane person?” Did God preprogram Esau to be the kind of man who’d “sell his birthright” because His carnal nature was more important that his spiritual heritage? No! Esau choose to become those things.
You see… God could say Esau would serve Jacob because He knew what kind of man Esau would become and the fact he’d eventually sell his birthright to his brother. Please understand… God didn’t hate Esau. He hated the man Esau would become.
In Hebrews 12 we’re also told that “afterward, when Esau wanted to inherit the blessing, was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.” The idea isn’t that Esau was prohibited from repentance by God. The idea is that, while Esau deeply regretted his decision, he never found an opportunity ideal for repentance.
I believe there are many people who simply overthink all of this because they fail to accept the fact that God’s sovereignty can coexist with man’s freewill. The truth is the Bible clearly presents examples of both. Personally, I don’t find any of this deeply problematic.
Does God know who will go to heaven and who will go to hell before they’re born? Yes! He knows because He’s already aware who will ultimately respond to the moving of His Spirit and choose to place their faith in Jesus and He knows who will also choose to reject Him.
Additionally, just because God knows some men will accept His grace while other men will refuse it doesn’t mean God declines to demonstrate that grace to all men anyway!
The reality is that you will be hard pressed to provide me any specific example in Scripture where divine sovereignty eliminated the need for human responsibility. The fact that God knows your destiny doesn’t change the fact you have a choice in said destiny. “Zach, have I been predestined for salvation? Well, I don’t know. Have you accepted Jesus? If you have then you’ve been predestined. If you haven’t - choose Jesus and be predestined.”
If you don’t choose Christ, what then - what does that mean? While God knew before you were born you’d choose hell, does that mean Jesus’ atonement was not available for you… That His grace was never something you could have received… That your life was not redeemable… That you’ve always been damned… That God destined you for hell all along?
No! Not at all. The reality is that even knowing before you were born that you’d choose eternal separation instead of reconciliation, I believe God still loved you so much that He sent Jesus to create a way for you to be saved… Sent His Spirit to draw you to the cross…
Placed representatives across your path to practically testify of a better way… Gave you sun rises, sun sets, cool breezes, full moons, Planet Earth to awaken you to His presence… And He did all of this knowing you’d reject Him anyway! Why… Because He loves you that much!
You see… No man or woman, who in their freewill chooses hell over Jesus, will ever be able to blame God - that God predetermined their destiny… That they never had a chance… That they would have if only God had! Even Charles Spurgeon (who I believe takes election to far) concedes, “Your damnation is your own election, not God’s.”
I don’t want to go off on a tangent, but the problem I have with the removal of man’s freewill and the notion that “for God so love the world that He gave His only Son” only describes a segment of the world He chose beforehand is that it makes God out to be the ultimate tyrant. If man has no choice then man’s never possessed a choice making this entire human cluster-dump of an existence completely His doing.
Seriously, creating human beings specifically destined to live in the torments of hell for all of eternity with no choice otherwise is not only completely inconsistent with what I know about Jesus, but in actuality presents my Savior as more of a totalitarian elitist only interested in the well being of those He chooses as opposed to the broken masses He created!
In such a dynamic where God rejects someone before they’re even born, grace is no longer free for all men to accept and enjoy, but is instead relegated to an entitlement reserved only for those who’ve met some undefined criteria established by God. Honestly, I find such a presupposition nothing more than a bastardized version of the amazing Grace of God demonstrated to all men and accessible to any who’d place their faith in Jesus!
Regardless and moving on… This is what we know. God had chosen Jacob the younger to receive the “birthright” over Esau the older - though Esau should have been the natural recipient. And just so you know, according to Deuteronomy 21 and 1 Chronicles 5, the “birthright” was more than just Isaac’s stuff - The “birthright” was Isaac’s position as the spiritual head of the family and therefore the one in which the Messianic line would follow.
Genesis 25:29-34, “Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.’ Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright as of this day.’ And Esau said, ‘Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?’ Then Jacob said, ‘Swear to me as of this day.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.”
Literally, everything about this story is wrong. First, Esau sold a “birthright” that wasn’t his to sell (before they were born God already chose Jacob). And yet, as David Guzik observers, Jacob’s actions were even worse because he “was guilty of scheming in the flesh to gain something God said was already his.” Esau may have “despised his birthright,” but Jacob was guilty of seeking to earn something God had already given him.
Once again… The amazing nature of God’s grace is that His favor has already been given to you. You don’t have to work to earn it or scheme to procure it. All you have to do is live as though you have it - cause you do! Sadly, Jacob was seeking to attain something God had already given him, because He failed to trust that God would make good on His promises.
How were you saved from sin - Your works or Jesus’ work? If you believe it’s only through Jesus’ work on the cross, then you’ll trust that work to be sufficient and reject any human work that claims to play a role (i.e. the Sacraments, Baptism, Tongues, Confession, etc.)
How do you now grow in Godliness - Your works or the Spirit’s work? If you believe life-transformation only occurs as a work of God’s Spirit, then you’ll trust that work to be sufficient and reject any human work that claims to play a role (i.e. Christian Legalism).
While Esau despised his birthright, Jacob’s sin was graver because he failed to trust in God’s ability to fulfill His promises. He was scheming to achieve something he already possessed! Understand, when you rely on anything other than Jesus for salvation and God’s Spirit for sanctification all it reveals is your lack of faith in God’s ability to work.
Genesis 26:1-5, “There was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar. Then the Lord appeared to him and said: ‘Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.’”
Wait a second… God says to Isaac, “Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws!” What Abraham is God referring too?
The one who didn’t obey God when He was commanded to leave behind his family in Ur which led to a prolonged detour in Haran? The Abraham who quickly left the land God had promised when a famine arose just after he arrived? The Abraham who lied about his wife Sarah being his sister not once, but apparently repeatedly throughout his life?
Oh it must have been the Abraham who ends up giving away half of the land God had given him to his nephew Lot because they couldn’t settle their differences. Or the man who decided to expedite God’s plan of providing a son by sleeping with Hagar - only to then fail to rail in his vindictive wife who was treating this innocent girl with brutal distain.
Yes… Abraham had several moments when he was obedient to the commands of God (like when he took Isaac to Moriah to offer him as a burnt offering); and yet, seriously, as it pertained to obedience, the case is clear Abraham failed more than he obeyed!
So how is it that God can make such an audacious claim about Abraham - especially following 13 or so chapters that give us the full story? The answer… Because Abraham had placed his faith in a coming Savior, God had already declared him righteous - meaning all of his sins and failings had been scrubbed from the logs. That’s the power of grace!
Friend, if you’ve placed your faith in Jesus, I want you to leave this morning knowing this one reality… No matter what mistakes you’ve made in the past… No matter how grave those mistakes might have been… No matter the consequences those mistakes might practically yield… Whether those seasons of disobedience occurred before you came to Christ or occurred afterwards… If they’re sins of the past or the ones you committed this past week… Or for that matter the ones you’ll inevitable commit in the week to come…
Know this… God evaluates your life under one simple criteria… Because you placed your faith in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross you are righteous in His eyes! In spite of all those things in the past, today, how does God see you - righteous! Regardless of whatever mistakes you’ll make this coming week, when you return next Sunday how will God see you - righteous! That my friend is what the Gospel is all about - why Grace changes everything - why “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!”
No Additional Links.