All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Birthright Battles
Based on Genesis 25, 27, and 28

Looking at the story of Jacob and Esau through the eyes of the ancients, we see Rebekah still suffers the horrific shame of being childless after almost 20 years of marriage. She has no status as a wife or a person. This is considered a curse from God!

Isaac pleads for a son, and his prayers are answered. However, Rebekah’s pregnancy is terribly painful because of the violent struggle in her womb. God tells her she’s carrying twins, and that the younger will receive the birthright—a double portion of the inheritance traditionally reserved for the oldest—and will become the family’s spiritual leader.

Esau is born “red” (either hair, complexion, or both) and is excessively hairy. The second twin comes out holding Esau’s heel—an act that gives Jacob his name, suggesting “one who trips up, or deceives.” The ancients believed children’s names reflected their destiny. Esau loves the outdoors and becomes a mighty hunter, but Jacob stays close and becomes a shepherd and farmer. Unfortunately, Isaac favors Esau, while Rebekah favors Jacob.

Expensive Stew

One day, Esau’s hunger and his brother’s cunning meet in an exchange of his birthright for a pot of red lentil stew.

“Give me some stew,” Esau begs, and Jacob agrees—if he’ll give him his birthright and confirm it with an oath.

Some time later, Isaac calls Esau. Now old and blind, he asks him to hunt and prepare some venison before he gives him the birthright blessing. Rebekah is listening and knows this is wrong. God stated the birthright would go to their youngest son!

She quickly tells Jacob to slaughter two kid goats for his father’s meal, and instructs him to trick Isaac into giving him the birthright blessing.

Jacob objects. Esau’s very hairy, and he’s not. He might be found out and cursed!

“Then I will take the curse,” she answers.

Dressing him in Esau’s clothes, Rebekah uses camel-goat skins (whose silky black hair resembles human hair) to make him feel like Esau. But Isaac is suspicious. “Who are you, and how did you get the venison so quickly?” he asks.

Jacob lies about his identity and claims God brought him the game, but Isaac insists on touching and smelling him. Sufficiently convinced, he finally pronounces the full birthright blessing of the covenant on his son.


As Jacob leaves, Esau enters with savory food, ready for his blessing. Realizing he’s been deceived, Isaac begins to tremble violently, and Esau bursts forth with a bitter, exceedingly long, and loud cry. He begs Isaac for a blessing, but since the birthright blessing has been given, Isaac only ends up foretelling Esau’s future—a blessing that, in reality, is a curse.

Esau plots to murder his brother after his father dies, so Rebekah, fearing for Jacob’s life, hatches a plan. She complains to Isaac about Esau’s Canaanite wives. “Send Jacob to find a wife from our clan,” she proposes.

Before Jacob leaves, Isaac pronounces the Abrahamic blessing—including the Messianic element—on his son (see Genesis 12:3 and 28:4).

Notice how God communicates directly with this family in spite of their flaws. Amazingly, each family member chooses not to follow God’s express commands. Looking through the eyes of the ancients, we realize there are no agnostics or unbelievers here. There is also no human choice or legal recourse when it comes to the birthright. What God determines, happens. And so much power resides in this blessing that even Esau, who despises it, anguishes over its loss.

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Was I spinning? It must have worked.

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