The Record of a Family Tragedy

Genesis 25. 20-26; 27. 1-40

The old man called his favourite son, and sent him out to hunt. He was encouraged by the assurance of the paternal blessing and felt that at the end of the day he would have the blessing that he as the eldest son should rightly have. His day had come. Had Isaac forgotten that God had declared that the elder son would be subservient to the younger, Gen. 25. 23? The events of that day provoked a crisis born of years of favouritism, forgetfulness, materialism, and deceitfulness, not in one but in all four members of the family.

Think about the father: Isaac

When he was younger, faith in the promises of God to his father Abraham had led him to wait patiently for a Godappointed wife, through whom the promises to the family could be fulfilled. When after twenty years during which, sadly, Rebekah seemed to be barren, Isaac had gone to God in prayer about the matter, Gen. 25. 21. God answered that prayer. Isaac must have known about the prophecy to Rebekah about the twins, v. 23. Did he also know about Jacob’s cunning in taking the birthright from Esau? Esau’s protest seems to suggest that he did, Gen. 27. 36. And yet, the old father persisted in preparing to give the best blessing to the elder son.

Perhaps, too, the mere satisfaction of the special meal, which he had thought was Esau’s venison, lulled his senses and his judgement. If so, then it was a serious error. The paternal blessing was spoken with divine, prophetic authority, and Esau could by no means reverse it, Heb. 12. 17. But it was given to Jacob by no spiritual discernment or submission on Jacob’s part, only by divine overruling.

Consider the mother: Rebekah

Years before, the God-appointed bride for Isaac had promptly left her home in a leap of faith inspired by the testimony of Abraham’s servant. Twenty years later, after a long wait for motherhood and now disturbed by the restlessness of her still unborn twins, she too had gone to God in prayer, Gen. 25. 23. In answer to her confusion the Lord had told her plainly that, ‘The older will serve the younger’. Now, alarmed by what she overheard Isaac say to Esau, she does not seek the Lord, asking Him to ensure the fulfilment of His prophetic word. Instead she relies on her own cunning. What a shameful trick she dreamed up! Her blind and elderly husband could not see whom he was blessing, and probably would not notice the different taste of the meat that he thought was venison. The crude disguise of clothing and skins was risky, but it worked! The one sad consequence of which she could not have thought was that it also broke up the family.

Be warned, parents! First faith, like first love, can get left behind. The slow attrition of continuing family cares and tensions may undermine our spiritual life until our attitudes to people and problems are scarcely different from those of the world around even though, unaware of what is happening, we maintain the outward show of a normal Christian life. What then can our children see in us of the meaning of our Christian faith?

Now consider Jacob: the younger of the twin sons

Jacob was Rebekah’s favourite, Gen. 25. 28, but God called him a ‘worm’, Isa. 41. 14, and had chosen him, not out of favouritism but out of pure, unmotivated sovereignty, Rom. 9. 10-12. In due course the Lord would transform him into ‘Israel’, but in the present scene the younger son, weakly collaborating with his mother’s wicked deceit, mimes and lies his way to success without a thought of God. Then he had to fly for his life; and his mother may never have seen him again. The succeeding chapters describe a man still very far from peaceful trust in the Lord and His word. He now seemed a lonely stranger and cast upon his own wits to survive.

Finally, spare a thought for: Esau

There was, later, a streak of generosity found in Esau, Gen. 33. 3, 9, but he was at heart a materialist to the day of his death. To him the birthright meant little, for it was all future, and he would die seeing nothing of it, Gen. 25. 32. On earth his father was nomadic and could leave him neither house nor lands; only his flocks and herds, his tent and money. Isaac, like his father before him, ‘looked for a city whose builder and maker was God’, Heb. 11. 9-10, 16. Theirs was to be a heavenly inheritance. Esau wanted food, and now, 25. 29-32, not, ‘pie in the sky by and by’. Esau was also a murderer at heart, 27. 11, and his unforgiving, unforgetting hatred was the first cause of his brother’s exile.

Younger person, you will do well to watch yourself! Do you secretly despise your Christian parents’ simple faith in God and His word; keeping up the show of church membership and activities while in your heart you are as worldly as Esau, Heb. 12. 16? Someone described Jacob as, ‘a worm wriggling in the dust of deceit’. Behind the facade of family loyalty and Christian standards, are you in fact a liar, a cheat, a self-seeker, too easily led into dishonest activities?

Parents are sometimes blamed for juvenile delinquency, and it would be difficult to exonerate Rebekah here, though Jacob was by no means a ‘juvenile’ at the time of our story. All four members of the family, father, mother, younger and older son, contributed equally to the final breakdown of confidence, loyalty, love, and mutual consideration, which ought to have held them together in the midst of the pagan families around them.

Had they continued to trust and fear the God of their father Abraham, it would not have happened. Read and be warned, it could be happening in your family!


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