Lessons From The Life Of Jacob:
Part One - Jacob, The Plain Man
Genesis 25:27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.
For nineteen years, Rebekah was barren and had no children. Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife. In their twentieth year of marriage, God answered his prayers and Rebekah gave birth to twins. While these boys were struggling together in her womb, God made a promise to her - that the eldest son would serve the younger. The line of the younger son would be the one that God would bless and cause to prosper.
Genesis 25:22-24 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.
This blessing would also include having the Messiah be his direct descendant. God chose Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation; then Isaac, the promised son, instead of Ishmael. Now the Lord indicates to Rebekah that her younger son would be the next in the line of Christ (the Messiah).
Genesis 25:25-26 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.
When the children were born, Esau was first (ie. the elder), and Jacob was the younger son. According to Godís choosing, Jacob would be the son which would receive the blessing.
After he came out of the womb, he took hold of his brother's heel.
"Before birth, Jacob and Esau had contended; and at birth, Jacob grasped his borther's heel. This latter action was interpreted to mean that Jacob would trip up his brother and take advantage of him. The prediction proved true." (Pentateuch, The Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Wiersbe)
"There was a manifest contest in their births. Esau, the stronger, came forth first; but Jacob's hand took hold of his heel, Gen. 25:26. This signified, (1.) Jacob's pursuit of the birthright and blessing; from the first, he reached forth to catch hold of it, and, if possible, to prevent his brother. (2.) His prevailing for it at last, that, in process of time, he should undermine his brother, and gain his point. This passage is referred to (Hos. 12:3), and hence he had his name, Jacob, a supplanter." (Matthew Henry)
He was aptly named Jacob, which means supplanter, which Strongís Concordance defines as: to seize by the heel; figuratively, to circumvent (as if tripping up the heels); also to restrain (as if holding by the heel). Webster's 1828 Dictionary gives this as one of his two definitions for supplant - To remove or displace by stratagem; or to displace and take the place of. These descriptions would be very true of Jacob's life before he came to know the Lord - in his relationship with Esau - and would affect his life for years afterwards!
Genesis 25:27-28 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Here we see the potential for further problems to develop. Each parent had their favourite son - and the consequences of their favoritism would soon follow.
Esau was a fornicator and a profane (ie. godless) man, who had no interest in spiritual things - nor in his birthright. When a man is living for sensual appetites, he does not care for the things of God, for His Word, or for God's hand of blessing on his life. In this case, Esau saw no benefit in some seemingly far off inheritance (the double portion that would have been given to him as the firstborn - see Deuteronomy 21:17), but rather chose to live for the here and now - whatever could fulfill him now, not later.
"Esau pictures the man of the world who despises the eternal and lives for the temporal." (Chapter By Chapter Bible Commentary by Warren Wiersbe)
Hebrews 12:16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
He did not care for any of this. All Esau cared for was living for the present, satisfying his hunger, and hunting in the field.
Esau preferred to live in the wild and prosper by his physical skills, whereas God says Jacob dwelled in tents. This is referring not simply to a desire to live at home, but is actually stating he was living for the promises of God regarding the Promised Land, as the following passage clarifies:
Hebrews 11:8-10 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
What puzzles me about this verse in Genesis 25 is Godís description of Jacob: he was a plain man Ė this is spoken in contrast to Esau, who was known for his cunning and living by his hunting skills. Strong's gives this definition for plain - pious, upright. Webster's defines it as: Artless; simple; unlearned; without disguise, cunning or affectation; without refinement; as men of the plainer sort. He specifically mentions Genesis 25 as a reference for this use of the word. Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary states that plain means: straightforward; guileless. This has to be Godís description of Jacob until this point in his life Ė he was pious, feared God, and was not known for deception (ie. he was without guile) until the events that next unfolded in his life. Then his manner of scheming and supplanting became a way of life for him.
"Jacob was a man for the other world. He was... an honest man that always meant well, and dealt fairly, that preferred the true delights of solitude and retirement to all the pretended pleasure of busy noisy sports." (Matthew Henry)
Though unsaved at this time (I do not believe he got saved until he dreamed about the ladder to Heaven - more on this later), Jacob had an interest in spiritual things, and desired that God's blessings would be upon him. Unfortunately, he relied on his own scheming to (attempt to) get what he wanted in life, rather than trusting that God would work out His plan in His own timing. The Lord had already stated that it would be Jacobís. It was a matter of waiting upon God to bring this to pass. Unfortunately, Jacob was impatient in spiritual matters.
"The 'birthright' had three elements:
(1) Until the establishment of the Aaronic priesthood the head of the family exercised priestly rights.
(2) The Abrahamic family held the Edenic promise of the Satan-Bruiser Gen. 3:15. --Abel, Seth, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Esau.
(3) Esau, as the firstborn, was in the direct line of the Abrahamic promise of the Earth-Blesser Gen. 12:3." (Scofield Study Bible)
Jacob realized that Esau did not care for the spiritual blessings, and when the opportunity presented itself, Jacob talked Esau out of his birthright - which Esau willingly gave up. All he cared for was satisfying his own appetites, living by his physical senses (what he could see, feel, taste, touch, and smell) - not spiritual realities (which only could be seen and touched by faith).
Genesis 25:29-34 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.
"Jacob's pious desire of the birthright, which yet he sought to obtain by indirect courses, not agreeable to his character as a plain man. It was not out of pride or ambition that he coveted the birthright, but with an eye to spiritual blessings, which he had got well acquainted with in his tents, while Esau had lost the scent of them in the field. For this he is to be commended, that he coveted earnestly the best gifts; yet in this he cannot be justified, that he took advantage of his brother's necessity to make him a very hard bargain (Ge 25:31): Sell me this day thy birthright... It is egregious folly to part with our interest in God, and Christ, and heaven, for the riches, honours, and pleasures, of this world, as bad a bargain as his that sold a birthright for a dish of broth." (Matthew Henry)
"Luther points out that Jacob's purchase was not valid because he was attempting to purchase what was already his. And with equal correctness it may be asserted that Esau was attempting to sell what was not his." (Genesis: Men Of Faith by Charles M. Horne)
Jacobís sin was not in his desire for the birthright or the blessing Ė in this he was not being covetous, as these were already promised to him by God. His sin was in not trusting in the Lord to work it all out according to His perfect plan, and resorting to his own scheming to get it. What seemed like a good opportunity to Jacob to get the birthright only developed into further problems down the road.
Catch those little foxes, Jacob, before they spoil the vines! (See Song of Solomon 2:15)
January 27th, 2005