Rebekah deceived her husband to divert Esau’s blessing to Jacob (See Gen 27:1-29), and on the surface it’s difficult to understand why. Her deed went against all the cultural and religious tenets of the time, and yet it happened, and changed the course of history. But, before we go into that we need to know history and what it was she was diverting.
Gen 27:1 – 31:13
N A Neyland 2010 & 2016
The Promise or The Way of Holiness has been on God’s agenda since He made the world and since Adam was developed and brought into being.
Life whether in Eden or out of it, in God’s economy, was, is, and always will be, a matter of holiness and righteousness – being wholly committed to God and following his laws, statutes and principles.
Dispensations have been given over time to reveal further truths, and systems and types have been developed to provide clearer understanding and patterns to follow, but The Way remains the same.
After they were dispatched from the Garden, Adam and Eve passed the Way onto their children, and a very narrow lineage of Godly progeny followed it. It even came through the flood.
Passing ‘The Way’ down to Abraham was a major part of a God’s plan to create a righteous world and allow blessings to flow from God to mankind and from mankind to mankind, and not just to the odd individual who happened to believe. God wanted them all to believe and receive blessings, beginning with his selected few, his seed, showing the way.
‘The Way’ was designed to bring the best behaviours and relationships to Earth; nation with nation, peoples with peoples; and yet apart from a few individual families, man’s resistance to anything but his own will prevented this.
When Abraham sought the finest wife for his son, Isaac, he was quite specific about the type of woman he had in mind and the region and family from whence she should come, and God provided the rest (See Gen 24).
But, how did Rebekah change from a valued wife (See Gen 24:67) to a husband deceiver? And indeed it was a deception, of the greatest magnitude.
Rebekah was handpicked by God to fill gaps in Isaac’s life: to be his bride, his friend, his wife, his lover, his hedge, his confidante, and the mother of his children. Rebekah was specifically selected, much like Sarah, to take the baton as the wife of the patriarch of the Promise.
She was to assist Isaac in passing it down to their children and children’s children, and therefore maintain the all-important DNA thread of righteous Promise through the generations. It was not an ordinary life and it is evident Rebekah understood that. God designed her and prepared her solely for this role.
Rebekah was always a faithful wife, however to comprehend her moment of deceit against he whom she was meant to obey, we must first understand who it was she was meant to obey first.
God charges all children of the Promise to obey him, both those prior to Christ and after him, which includes us. Problems develop in couples, families, churches, and pastoral training grounds, when the age-old argument arises of wives needing to obey their husbands first and foremost, implicitly.
The question here is; Are married women believers required to obey their husbands first, or God first and husbands next, if the two are contradictory on a matter? In scenarios like this, how are we meant to interpret the divine order of marital headship?
Furthermore, what does ‘faithful’ mean in this context, and how do we interpret that?
God spoke to Rebekah of her children in the same way He spoke to Mary the mother of Jesus regarding her child – privately; and Rebekah had resolved the issue within herself of who shall be the next Patriarch of the Promise long before it arose; and anticipated its difficulties and accompanying ferocity.
God told Rebekah, whilst she was pregnant, that two nations were in her womb and, interestingly, two manner of people; and, which one of them was meant to be the nation and people of the Godly promise.
She was determined not to have God’s promise invalidated, or allow it to be cast underfoot, just because of some natural father-son bond, even if it was her husband’s!
Though Rebekah loved Jacob, she also knew Isaac loved Esau more than Jacob. It may have been Esau’s manliness, his rough and tumble nature, his ability to be a man’s man that appealed to Isaac, and the fact that he could make a brilliant dish of venison exactly how his father wanted it.
I suspect he would have been interesting to talk to and full of great stories, and a person one couldn’t help admiring: a trap many fathers could fall into in overlooking the lack of spiritual commitment because of the high regard for their sons natural abilities and captivating company. Did Isaac?
Esau was Isaac and Rebekah’s firstborn and naturally they both loved him; but Gods’ message was always on Rebekah’s mind. As the children grew they developed their individual natures, but only Jacob followed the promises God gave to Abraham.
Because of that, it was only Jacob who was entrusted to be involved in the lineage. In today’s language, you could call Jacob a committed believer and Esau a non-committed churchgoer.
Esau would have attended the family sacrifices, readings and prayer, but hypocritically. His heart was elsewhere, and where your heart is so is your treasure. To support this point and draw him further away from the promise, he married carnal women from tribes that should never have been involved with this, or any, Godly family so intimately.
It’s not really the type of gift a good son would present to his devout parents, and one that caused them intense grief (Heb. ‘bitterness of spirit’). So deaf was Esau to godly teaching, he did not even understand the concept of marriage despite his parents’ teaching and encouragement that would have occurred over many years.
I expect every person who has carefully read the Isaac-Esau story has puzzled over the ‘blessing’ situation and wondered how Isaac, a strong man of God who was vastly blessed himself, and who would have been well versed in Christ’s ministry (the culmination of the Promise), could ever give away the blessing to a wrong person.
Even if Isaac was in a state of drunkenness, which I am not inferring as I think scripture would have mentioned it, the issue is difficult to fathom e.g. isn’t it the Patriarch who we should be able to trust?
Isn’t it the Patriarch who should be given the dreams and directions from God?
In fact, I’m sure several questions arise in the minds of readers about Isaac that remain unanswered in this mystery: Did Isaac have a blindside when it came to Esau, e.g. could Esau do no wrong? Was Isaac innocently following cultural history to hand it over to the eldest who came from the womb?
Maybe he was trying to square up the balance sheet, given that Jacob had already taken the Birthright?
Had Rebekah ever informed him of her prayer and God’s answer?
Maybe Rebekah had mentioned it and Isaac wasn’t a man who would listen? Or maybe Isaac became obstinate in his old age, as many people do? Or, in spite of his love for Rebekah, maybe he wouldn’t listen to a mere female on such important matters of paternal and masculine significance? Or maybe Isaac was merely following God’s law to the letter regarding the rights of the firstborn? God distinguished the firstborn who opened the womb as a specific blessing to parents (see Deut 21:15-17), which it should be.
The Father-Son bond between Isaac and Esau was clearly strong, and perhaps too strong for Isaac to see this most basic hierarchical requirement of The Way. The light should have gone on when he found that Esau had sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of pottage, due to hunger; and Isaac’s emotional ties should not have diminished his ability to select the right person for the job.
The unholy child
Hunger is an influential anxiety, and one that Isaac himself, as well as Jesus, David, Moses, Jacob (later when the famine came), and many more heroes of the faith had to endure in their times, and yet Esau tells us he couldn’t withstand the desire to eat?
This is demeaning to the high esteem of the birthright.
What is also quite demeaning is the price he paid. Esau didn’t just buy the pottage from Jacob for the right price or even a fraction of the right price.
In fact he didn’t seem to negotiate at all, he went and sold his entire birthright – part of his future, for an immediate gratification of one of his desires: and the reason he sold it? He didn’t understand it; where Jacob did!
Scripture tells us that Esau literally despised it (Heb. ‘to disesteem)! To add weight to the degree of Esau’s despising, the pottage was in fact a simple vegetarian stew, and something Esau would have also despised as being below his standard; not even a real meal; something you ate when you could find nothing better.
In his eyes, about the same value as a peanut butter sandwich might be in ours. The birthright was dung to him except for the financial benefits and ego value.
Hunger is an interesting desire. It affects all of us. Education through modern science gives us knowledge of the natural drug ‘dopamine;’ a brain chemical that can kindle episodes of fierce craving until satisfied, and which appeared to be working authoritatively in Esau on that day.
In the reward centre of the brain, dopamine levels control one’s appetite. Notwithstanding the drug’s power, it would be a very base* fellow indeed to be so severely dictated to by a craving – for anything, that he could so easily give away part of his inheritance.
Trading away something else for food can be understood, but surely not his first-child birthright?
Prior to selling it, what Esau failed to see all through his life was that the birthright, which he thought was his, was never his, but on loan to him.
He was merely the caretaker of that birthright, as was his father Isaac with his birthright, Abraham with his, and as we all are with what we are given by God. There is no difference in testaments on this issue. For our era, we are also caretakers of the birthright Promise.
Rebekah was so sure of what she was doing that she was prepared to stand in the breach between Isaac’s wrath and Jacob. Rebekah said “Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice…” (See Gen 27:13)
This is not a light-hearted statement to utter, and one that very few people in biblical history have had the bravery or foolishness to come out with. Moses put his life on the line when he stood in the breach for the children of Israel; Esther also stood in the breach for Israel, before the king; and on the other side of the coin were the foolish who slaughtered our Lord when they said, “ His blood be on us, and on our children.”
Even though Moses’ breach was between God and man, Esther and Rebekah still knew the consequence of their statements, and the possible ensuing penalties.
History shows us that Esau was spiritually carnal with a fleshly mind and fleshly aspirations. He demonstrated that reality several times:
Most obviously, when he sold his birthright;
When he married his Hittite wives;
When he blamed Jacob for the deception of stealing his blessing, which he was understandably most upset about, and so threatened Jacob’s life, but was also very careful not blame himself (See Gen 27:36). Esau held onto a victim’s mentality (poor me…);
Once he realised his father could not and would not reverse the blessing, or do anything with the situation to favour him, he went out in his bitterness, anger, and disregard for his parents, and took wives from the tribe of Ishmael – a tribe outside the promise, and an antagonist son of Abraham.
And, later in life, after he had eventually received much from God and became rich, he casually dismissed the death sentence he had previously pronounced upon his twin brother, along with the rage and hatred he had for him, now that his lust for material blessing had been satisfied (See Gen 33:9).
No wonder God hated him (See Rom 9:13)
The resultant agony
Not only is it heart-wrenching for believing parents to end up with a child who has been raised with all the right values, scripture, prayer and the like, and then turn his back on it all, but it is corporately irresponsible, and in fact negligent, for a patriarch to appoint the promises of God to the fate of being in the hands of a carnal leader. The historical books of Kings and Chronicles are filled with this very matter.
That is why it is important to diligently know each step of your children’s lives each day or week, and not accept the rhetoric or lip-service so often given by them, telling you what they think you need to hear. If they are to be Heirs of the Promise, then they need to truly believe in the immutability of God’s counsel and certainly not in their own abilities and laws, and have their hope in Christ as the true and only anchor of their soul.
Parents have a God-demanded responsibility to be diligent in this matter, and to ensure, as best they can, that a Christ-following son or daughter is the result of both theirs and God’s labours. The last thing needed by believing parents is a “… profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meal sold his birthright;” and, like Esau, possibly create an entire genealogical branch of family descendants who deny God, and whom God denies.
Some may say that, due to Rebekah’s message from God regarding her boys, the way Esau developed and the path he took was unavoidable and his God-given fate; perhaps one he couldn’t avoid even if he had wanted to. If this were the case, then that in itself exonerates Rebekah from any Godly disobedience despite her marital disobedience.
Could Esau have diverted his future toward a Godlier ending? Considering his prophecy, I think he could have. Part of the prophecy says the elder shall serve the younger.
This I feel could be looked at a couple of ways at least: not only as a long term prophecy about two future nations and peoples, namely Israelites and Edomites, and how they will interact; but also as two brothers in the same family where the leadership is a little reversed.
I think if Esau were more humble, Rebekah’s prophecy could very well have been a policy arrangement for their youth and future. Scripture tells us that a servant can enjoy many rewards of his master, including many of his blessings from God. Thus Esau, through humility, may have been permitted to enjoy many of the trappings of his younger but appointed brother; and then Esau’s offspring may have been less belligerent to Israel throughout their generations.
But then, how difficult it is for an elder to serve a younger in any era of life, let alone when birthrights and blessings had so much weight attached. Moreover, how can a mother tell a carnal son with an anger problem about a prophecy where he loses his blessing?
“Her children arise up, and call her blessed…” (Prov 31:28)
We all should!
The ‘Supplanter’ – Jacob – (Added 2016)
Jacob’s name, given him by his parents (and I am guessing more his mother than his father), means ‘Supplanter’. When we look in Strongs concordance (H3290) at the meaning of the name, Jacob, it means ‘Heel holder’ or ‘Supplanter’. In the Hebrew-Chaldean lexicon it is stronger, stating, ‘taking hold of the heel, Supplanter, layer of snares”.
Based on this and what Jacob did to arrest the blessing from his brother, Esau, many preachers and biblical writers have termed Jacob a deceiver. I have read and heard some quite derogatory remarks from both well-known and not so well known preachers about this hero of the Faith, such as, “God chose Jacob not because of his character but in spite of his character”.
I think these writers, at least at the time of writing, lacked understanding of the importance and weight of those tasks, and what really occurred. I think if they had another look they would see something different.
When Jacob, the second born, was in the womb, his calling was to supplant the firstborn, his brother, Esau, and take the headship. This changeover of power was emphasised by an act of God and recorded in the Word, when, as they were being born, Jacob physically grabbed the heel of his brother.
I doubt this strange occurrence would have been recorded at all if God had not spoken about it to Rebekah. In a birth situation, who would bother recording that?
So, what do we make of this? We have a child who was named at birth as a Supplanter. But was this the determinant of his character? Or was it simply a one-off, very challenging task he had to complete at some future stage in his life?
When we have a characteristic, it is ineradicably sown into our activities. It will be seen in our actions or words many times during our life. It is an indelible part of us. With some undesirable characteristics, mostly those we pick up during life, we can initiate change and rid ourselves of them; however many characteristics have been placed in our DNA and cannot be changed, thus creating who we are.
Either way, I do not believe deception was a part of Jacob’s character any more than it is yours and mine; but simply a tool needed on the day to get a difficult job done without any way around it.
Clearly from scripture, Jacob was uncomfortable with the way Rebekah was setting up Isaac for the ‘sting’. I don’t think Jacob liked it one bit, but carried it out based on God’s prophecy to his mother and all the encouragement from her over the years. It was a spiritual necessity that was meant to come to pass, which both he and his mother had to wait and watch for over many desperate years.
Now this was the time. This was where they had to put all their faith on the line. They may have hoped, like Jesus in the garden, that their task would be removed from them if it were possible; but, like Jesus, it was not possible, and they had to walk through the fire of prophetic circumstance just as he did. Because of this one act, Jacob has been maligned ever since.
Contrary to the current consensus, Jacob was upright in heart.
Gen 25:27 states… “And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.”
Plain, in this instance, does not mean he dwelt in or on the plains of the region or being plain and ordinary. According to Strong’s Concordance (H8535), it means, ‘complete, morally innocent, having integrity, one who is morally and ethically pure’.
This is not the description of a deceiver.
Furthermore, when we look at the same word in the Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, it states, ‘whole, upright in a moral sense’
Again, Jacob would not have been described as plain, in this sense, if his nature were that of deception. Deception is not a part of moral integrity or innocence, or ethical purity. It is about the worst character quality one can have. It is the ‘guile’ spoken of so distastefully throughout the Word, and the one that betrayed our Saviour.
So how do people arrive at a possible incorrect consensus?
If we have a look the same scripture in the world’s presently most popular version, the NIV, used by preachers all over the world, we see a description which immediately and powerfully typecasts both boys, The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents.
The description of Esau looks reasonably correct, but the description of Jacob, the boy whom God chose, paints a thought that doesn’t at all resemble the original intent of the translators.
When the Lord has asked us to meditate on scripture, we cannot formulate a satisfactory outcome if what we are meditating on is not scripture in the first place.
To underpin some writer’s negative judgments of Jacob, they have even gone to the extent of quoting Esau; using the scripture when Esau was speaking to his father in Genesis 26:36, after he begged his father to bestow a blessing upon him following Jacob’s deception, “And he said, is not he rightly named Jacob? For he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing…
Firstly, bible students and preachers should not be quoting Esau, the spoilt, anger-ridden, morally bankrupt creature whom God hated, and expect to get the truth.
Secondly, as stated earlier, Jacob did not deceive Esau two times as Esau is attempting to intimate in the quote – namely, once out of his firstborn Birthright then out of his heir-apparent Blessing. Jacob knew he needed to arrest the Birthright from him first, so he simply cut a deal to which Esau agreed; and he did agree! There was no deception from Jacob involved in this situation at all. In this biblical quote, Esau is the deceiver.
Thirdly, If Jacob were a natural Supplanter, we would see it recorded in other times and scenarios in his life; but we don’t! Just like we don’t consider Abraham and Isaac to be ongoing deceivers, when both of them attempted to deceive Kings Abimelech and Abimelech about their wives being their sisters, (Gen 20:2 & 26:7 respectively), neither should we with Jacob.
We do not have any scriptural proof about Abraham and Isaac’s ongoing deception; we all just agree they lied in these instances. Likewise with Jacob, we have no proof of ongoing deception. In fact, Jacob was more righteous in his deception of his father, than either his father or grandfather were in their attempted deceptions. At least he was doing it for the Kingdom sake.
If his nature were one of deception, it would have manifested itself when his father-in-law, Laban, deceived him out of his first love, Rachel, substituting her for Leah: then forcing him to work another seven years for Rachel – being fourteen years in total. A deceptive nature would have been looking for payback time; but Jacob’s nature didn’t!
Again, when Laban through those fourteen years had deceptively changed (reduced) his wages ten times (Gen 31:7). All through this, we do not see any glimpse of deception from Jacob. If that were his nature he would not have been able to hold himself back.
He would have been drawn back to deception by the powerful bands of habit. Yet, we see his habit was to display righteousness all the way through. He did no unrighteousness despite being financially broke after fourteen years of work and many blessings going to the wrong person, his father-in-law.
At the end of his fourteen-year tenure, and trying to feed his growing family on the shameful wages, there was still no sign of deception; just another offer; this time to Laban; dissimilar to the one he offered Esau for the Birthright, but nevertheless, an offer.
In fact, the offer was similar to that of numerous Bible heroes, where they rely upon the blessings of almighty God to demonstrate His divine power and keep His promise.
To commence this miracle, Jacob told Laban to separate all the multi-coloured animals and take them away, and leave Jacob with the single coloured animals. Laban, wanting to ensure he would come out a clear winner, took them a distance of three days travel.
Then from that seemingly impossible mark of having only single coloured animals, Jacob proclaimed that he would take from that flock, as his payment, only the multi-coloured animals that would come from the mating. Was that an impossible task? Laban must have thought Jacob was out of his mind and jumped at the opportunity, thinking he would hardly need to pay Jacob at all when he eventually departed.
Jacob knew it was difficult but not impossible, so he got to work and applied what we would call today intelligent up-to-date husbandry, and left the rest up to God. From this, the Lord blessed him with a multitude of the exact animals he proclaimed, and the rest is history.
In this bizarre and seemingly impossible case, God did the possible, again!
The BIG question: Why do it that way at all?
Questions arise consistently about why God created this difficult pathway for Jacob. Why couldn’t Jacob simply be born first? This would have saved much anxiety and family issues. However, we need to look at the spiritual context to appreciate what God is very graphically telling us in this story.
‘Heir to the promise’…this was the weight and burden Jacob carried throughout his early life as the true heir to the throne to come. If we see Jacob as the spiritual and Esau as the natural, we also see the prerequisite for Jacob to arrest the role from Esau.
Moreover, we have a foretaste of our own roles in becoming the Overcomers, arresting our lives from natural control to spiritual control, written about in the book of Revelations.
Rev 2:7 To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
Rev 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
Rev 2:17 To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
Rev 2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations
Rev 3:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
Rev 3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
Rev 3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
And last but probably the greatest:
Rev 21:7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Jacob did overcome. He overcame every insidious fear and every desire to do wrong in all his trials and circumstances, and became that son and heir of his generation to which God called him whilst in the womb. A quiet boy from birth, he overcame to take the Kingdom, as was prophesied.
So, instead of denigrating Jacob by following the common theme of writers and preachers, maybe we should challenge them and fight for Jacob: and maybe we should focus more on what God has asked us to do; which is identical to what he asked Jacob to do; and that is, to overcome the natural in our own lives to gain the spiritual.
*Base Fellow: I have come back to this point, and have realised that I, at times, have been as base as Esau ever was. In fact, this entire article was written in arrogance, as I had not included myself in Esau’s tribe throughout the thought process. I had to ask myself the question, would I be selling my birthright slowly but surely, and as surely as Esau, if I didn’t put my all into my calling?
It is something I should not forget and a lesson in pride to me. I feel the article is now almost worthless without this footnote. Personally, my only hope in life was being redeemed at Calvary by the saving blood of Jesus Christ, and being born into His family: but once in the family, I am meant to bring my calling to fruition, and not despise it. Is a Calling a Birthright under another name?
Called, Chosen, Faithful. There are three simple words in our calling, but how many of us in history have despised them? We can re-term them ‘Pilgrims, Warriors, Saints,’ but how many of us have ever grown out of the Pilgrim stage, let alone fought one decent battle as Warriors, let alone become Saints (Holy Ones)?
How many of us in history have procrastinated and not brought our calling to fruition? Many are called but few are chosen! God states that He has many instructors (and implies that he really doesn’t need any more) but not many fathers; therefore there have been many of us, maybe multitudes, throughout the years who have despised our birthright due to not realising its significance and the honour attached to it, and the need for it to eventuate. We can lightly esteem it, and mostly through selfishness.
I acknowledge that God hated Esau and loves us, but what are his actual thoughts about those of us who do nothing or very little with what we have been given?
A matter of law worthy of note:
The lives of Isaac, Rebekah, Esau and Jacob were lived prior to Mt Sinai and the official giving of the Law, and yet, Genesis 26.5 clearly reports that Abraham “obeyed God’s voice, and kept his charge, his statutes, his commandments, and his laws”.
So the Manual of Life was unambiguously operating when the two boys were born. It was merely overhauled at the Mount and broadcast to the masses. Jacob learnt God’s law and obeyed it, whilst Esau made his own law and lived it. At the end of life one received a prize whilst the other a punishment.
Hebrews 11:20 “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.”
The point of this scripture is to show that both Esau and Jacob received the type of blessing that corresponded with the state of their hearts in relation to God. Let us heed the warning.
A matter of birthright and blessing worthy of note:
The OT patriarchs had within their responsibilities the provision for the broader family.
This broad patriarchal administration encompassed the wife and the unmarried sisters as well as the sons and their families: the married sisters being given off to the new husbands’ families.
This is where the birthright and the blessing come into play, and both were given to the firstborn. The birthright was a special anointing and thanksgiving, due to the firstborn being considered the beginning of the strength of the father. The birthright had the double portion attached.
The blessing was for leadership, and both normally went hand-in-hand. The double portion received by the firstborn son was for specific needs following the death of the father. The first portion was for himself and his family, whilst the second portion was necessary to take care of his new broader patriarchal obligations.
However, in extreme (but righteous) circumstances, there were exceptions to the rule, as the current patriarch could change either the birthright or the blessing, or both.
For instance, with Abraham and Sarah, although Ishmael, the son of the concubine, was the firstborn to Abraham, Isaac was the firstborn to his actual wife and therefore took precedence.
Years later, in Gen 49, when Jacob was distributing to his children, Joseph received the birthright and double portion through his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who each received a portion of the Israel nation, having geographical areas named after them.
This would have gone to Reuben, except for his wickedness. And, as we know, the blessing of leadership went to Judah, where we saw them many years later leading Israel into battle and working closely with the Levi priesthood.
Now that we understand the importance of the birthright and blessing a little better, let us look again at the Isaac-Esau picture. The patriarchal responsibility (and the accountability that comes with it) that Isaac was going to hand on a platter to Esau, was very clearly going to the wrong person, as at that time the patriarchs were both natural and spiritual head.
Esau would have taken the family on a long journey away from God, worshipping anything and everything but God. As it was, Esau’s children grew up godless, angry and self-centered, like their father, and were a thorn in the side of Israel every time they crossed paths. He didn’t care about God, as he had no god but himself. He would have fitted in well in the time of the Judges, where it is written; every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
Our eyes are now opening to the full burden and gravity of Rebekah and Jacob’s task, and the desperate need for victory at all costs. This weighty patriarchal burden is still with us today. We see God’s expectation and demand of fathers is as alive as it ever was, to lead the family, from the front, in the paths of righteousness toward his throne.
When we fast-forward from Jacob’s youth to his old age, we see as stated earlier, he didn’t make the same type of birthright decision as his father. He removed the birthright from Reuben for laying with his father’s concubine, and gave it to Joseph via his two boys, Ephraim and Manasseh.
With this transferal, Joseph received the double portion within Israel.
1 Chron 5.2 Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph’s.
Even when laying hands on Ephraim and Manasseh at the time of that transferal, Jacob again transposed the birthright and leadership from the elder child Manasseh to the younger Ephraim (Gen 48:13-20).
It is necessary to explain the distribution where the blessing went from Reuben way down to Joseph, the 11th son. Those were the days when God seemed to allow more than one wife. Jacob had two legitimate wives, two concubines, twelve sons and a daughter. Rueben, being his firstborn, through his first wife, Leah, was entitled to the birthright and the blessing. However, due to his unbecoming conduct, he lost it to the next firstborn, which was Joseph, through his second wife Rachel.
Although Joseph was the 11th son overall he was Jacob and Rachel’s first child.
Fast-forward again to the New Testament, and we see another interesting transfer, between Jesus and his disciple John. When Jesus was on the cross, he handed the safe keeping of his mother, Mary, to John. The word states, When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household. After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” (John 19:26-28)
This is also one of those scenarios we often ponder. Why John? Was it because he was the beloved disciple? Maybe Jesus thought John would take on the charge better than the others.
Why did he appear to love him so dearly? He lay on the Lord’s chest at dinner. They had a wonderful and deeply spiritual relationship, but why him and not others?
For instance, why not Nathaniel (Bartholomew), in whom was no guile? Wouldn’t that be a good choice? A melding of guileless hearts?
Or maybe the close relationship was deeper again, to the point that he thought of John as the firstborn of his ministry?
Jesus was the firstborn of Mary, and stepbrother to numerous siblings born to Joseph and Mary. Matt 13.55-56, Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?
These were not cousins, as some mischievous commentaries attempt to portray, but immediate kin.
According to Jewish law, Jesus would become the heir to the birthright and blessing. Despite being the Son of God and not Joseph, he was considered the son of Joseph; “Is not this the carpenter’s son?
However, he was due to relinquish this responsibility through death, and needed to appoint another patriarch.
Why not James, his next sibling? He would have been around 25-30 years old and probably capable of having the honour passed down to him as the leader of the family. Or maybe James wasn’t a believer at this point, like Mary was, and Jesus wanted to ensure the reigns were handed over to a believer, as in the Jacob and Esau transposition?