Jul 10 2011

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Jacob and Esau – Family Conflict Begins

Jacob feeds Esau

Trading a Birthright for Stew

Jacob and Esau –  Part 1

The Bible story of Jacob and Esau reveals family conflicts that had ongoing consequences for years to come.  Isaac’s wife Rebekah had a difficult pregnancy in which two twins struggled together inside her. She spent time asking God why she felt so awful, and the Lord revealed to her that her two children would each be the father of nations. He said that the older one would serve the younger, even though in their culture the older son became the head of the family.

When the twins were born, the one who came out first was “the oldest.” The older had red hair all over him. His name, Esau, means “Hairy.” The second twin came out right behind him, holding onto his brother’s heel. It was as though he was already trying to pull himself in front of his brother. He was named Jacob, which means Supplanter. Perhaps Rebekah was recalling what God had said about the older serving the younger when his name, Jacob, was chosen. To supplant means to take the place of another through force, schemes, or strategy.

Perhaps this choice of a name set Jacob on a course to deceive. Names are powerful, and their meanings can influence a child on a spiritual level that many parents do not understand.

The boys grew into men who were as different as night and day. Esau was an outdoors man who loved to spend his time hunting and in the fields. Jacob was a mild mannered home boy. He learned to cook and preferred to stay around the tents instead of going out into the fields to work.  Unfortunately, Isaac and Rebekah contributed to conflict between their sons by playing favorites.  Isaac loved Esau the most because he came home with wild game from his hunting expeditions, providing some delicious meals for the family. Rebekah favored Jacob and perhaps encouraged his tendencies to stay close to home and to her.

Jacob was a keen observer of Esau’s weaknesses and may have plotted for a long time over how to take what rightfully belonged to Esau. He wanted the “birthright,” which would entitle him to the main inheritance from his father.

When siblings try to put themselves ahead of each other, conflict builds.  Without repentance and forgiveness, their relationships with each other will continue to deteriorate.  Parents can intervene, modeling and teaching their kids to get along and to forgive. But it seems that Isaac and Rebekah did not try to resolve the problems between their sons. In fact, as we will see in Part 2, Rebekah contributed to Jacob’s desires to supplant his brother.

From observation, Jacob knew that when his brother returned from working outside, he was tired and famished. Jacob cooked up a delicious smelling red lentil stew and fresh baked bread. As Esau returned to the tents, he was drawn by the savory aroma of the food. He begged Jacob for some stew, saying he was starving. Jacob said something like, “Sure Esau, you can have some if you sell me your birthright in exchange for it.” Esau must have valued the instant pleasure of filling his stomach over the long term value of a future inheritance from his father. He immediately made an oath that released his birthright to Jacob. Jacob must have gloated as he served Esau the lentil stew and bread.

The roots of family conflict and its destructiveness were growing.  In Part 2 we will see a family divided by deceit.

Is there conflict within your own family? Don’t let it keep growing. Get help from Christian books, your pastor, or a Christian counselor.  Find ways to stop conflict from creating walls that will devastate your own family.



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  1. Jacob and Esau – The Divided Family » Daily-Devotionals.com

    […] Part 1 we discovered that the unresolved conflicts between Jacob and Esau were fueled by their […]

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