Fairview Baptist Church
This Sunday School Study Guide is provided
free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.
It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for
sale, without permission from the copyright holders.
Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – Spring 2016
Study Theme: Beauty
From Ashes: Redeeming Your Broken Moments
What This Lesson Is About:
The focus of this study is on relation- ships that are damaged when both
parties are not looking out for each other. Jacob and Esau can help us see
how restoration is possible even after a long time of hostility.”
Redeemed From Poor Choices
Redeemed From Broken Relationships
Redeemed From A Critical Spirit
Redeemed From Crippling Doubt
From Devastating Failure
Redeemed From An Unbelieving Past
humility is critical to restoring relationships.
Genesis 27:41; 33:1-11
Can Destroy Relationships (Gen. 27:41)
Displaying Humility Can Rebuild Relationships
Be Willing To Forgive and Move Forward (Gen.
Jacob and Esau were the twin sons of Isaac (the son
of Abraham and Sarah) and Rebekah. The
twins had been in conflict with each other since before they were born
(Gen. 25:19-26). Jacob convinced Esau to trade his birthright to Jacob for
bread and a bowl of lentil stew (vv. 29-34). The struggle between the
brothers climaxed when Jacob, with the aid of his mother, tricked his
father into giving him the blessing of the firstborn son meant for Esau.
Fearing Esau would murder Jacob, Rebekah arranged for Jacob to live with
her brother Laban in her homeland of Haran, where he remained for 20 years
(27:1–31:55). After that time, Jacob returned home with his family,
uncertain as to the reception he would receive from his brother.
SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide;
LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville,
We don’t always get our own way in a
relationship. A person who feels like he is continually getting the
“short end of the stick” can develop ill feelings toward the other
person. Relationships are damaged when both parties are not looking out
for each other. The relationship between Jacob and Esau is a prime example
of this, but they also offer us an example of what happens when humility
becomes a part of the relationship.
SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs
Commentary; Family Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1
LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Can Destroy Relationships (Gen. 27:41)
41 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had
given him. And Esau determined in his heart: “The days of mourning for
my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
Humility Can Rebuild Relationships (Gen. 33:1-4)
1 Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming toward him with 400 men. So he
divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two female slaves. 2
He put the female slaves and their children first, Leah and her children
next, and Rachel and Joseph last. 3 He himself went on ahead
and bowed to the ground seven times until he approached his brother. 4
But Esau ran to meet him, hugged him, threw his arms around him, and
kissed him. Then they wept.
is the setting for this passage?
do you think were some thoughts and emotions that may have surfaced in Jacob’s
mind when he saw Esau coming with a large attachment of men?
precautions did Jacob take that suggest he was motivated by his old mindset of
strategy did Jacob employ to defend his family against Esau and his force?
though Jacob took those precautions, where did he position himself that suggests
he was willing to take responsibility for his actions?
did Jacob demonstrate humility?
did Esau respond to Jacob?
positive character traits were displayed by both brothers when they once again
met that set the stage for restoration?
was the positive motivation for their behavior?
What are some obstacles that are likely to
hinder you from demonstrating humility?
Why do you think they are likely to be a
What do you think is
the most striking about Jacob’s and Esau’s behavior?
How are you likely to
respond when you think you have been wronged?
Lessons in Gen. 33:1-4:
and trials are essential elements for the development of humility.
is sometimes demonstrated by the most unlikely people.
are more likely to be rebuilt when there is a mutual display of humility.
Willing To Forgive and Move Forward (Gen. 33:5-11)
5 When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he asked, “Who
are these with you?” He answered, “The children God has graciously
given your servant.” 6 Then the female slaves and their
children approached him and bowed down. 7 Leah and her children
also approached and bowed down, and then Joseph and Rachel approached and
bowed down. 8 So Esau said, “What do you mean by this whole
procession I met?” “To find favor with you, my lord,” he answered. 9
“I have enough, my brother,” Esau replied. “Keep what you have.” 10
But Jacob said, “No, please! If I have found favor with you, take this
gift from my hand. For indeed, I have seen your face, and it is like
seeing God’s face, since you have accepted me. 11 Please take
my present that was brought to you, because God has been gracious to me
and I have everything I need.” So Jacob urged him until he accepted.
on this whole passage, which brother do you think appears as the more dominant
one in this exchange?
you answer is Esau, does that surprise you?
If so, why?
two questions did Esau ask (vv. 5, 8)?
you think Jacob’s answers helped advance reconciliation between the two
brothers? Why, or why not?
what ways did Jacob seek to make amends with Esau (vv. 6,7,8b)?
did Esau respond (v. 9)?
on verse 10, how did Jacob seek to gain favor in Esau’s sight?
did this gift offering represent?
did Jacob describe the spiritual experience that came to him by seeing Esau?
was the bond of reconciliation between Jacob and Esau sealed?
Do you think forgiveness must be accompanied with
moving forward? Why, or why not?
you think insincere forgiveness leaves walls standing between the two parties?
If so, why?
do you think must motivate both parties in order to have a godly reconciliation
and move forward?
do you think are some things a believer must do to lay the groundwork for the
reconciliation of a broken relationship?
do we lose by avoiding damaged relationships rather than seeking restoration?
Do you think there is a
relationship between humility and forgiveness?
If so, how would you
How do we put an attitude
of humility and forgiveness into action?
Lessons in Gen. 33:5-11:
relationship that may be healed is worth the risk of someone being the
first one willing to show humility.
demonstration that one is willing to forgive often results in the gracious
acceptance of that forgiveness.
We are never
more like God than when we are willing to forgive.
Jacob and Esau let many years
go by before their relationship was restored. Perhaps you have had a
similar experience. Or maybe a relationship in your life has only recently
experienced a strain that needs to be healed. Consider how God has spoken
to your heart as you studied these passages. Which application will you
adopt this week?
your part. If you are living with a
damaged relationship, examine to see if any of your actions have caused
the damage. If so, stop rationalizing your actions. Admit to yourself and
to God the hurt you have caused. Apologize to the person you hurt and seek
go of the grudge. If someone has hurt or offended
you, let go of any grudge or bitterness, and forgive. By forgiving, you
are not saying the offense doesn’t matter, but you are refusing to hold
that offense against the person any longer. Forgive even as God in Christ
has forgiven you (Eph.4:32).
an agent of restoration. Ask God to help you be a
healing influence in a broken relationship between two people you know.
Spend time in prayer before you make the first contact. Be sensitive to
each person’s needs, and be patient to allow God to work in His time to
bring about restoration.
What are the implications of
these truths for your life? THE
CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.
Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Focal Passage from three different translations of
King James Version: Genesis
Genesis 27:41 (KJV)
41 And Esau hated Jacob
because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his
heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my
Genesis 33:1-11 (KJV)
1 And Jacob lifted up his
eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he
divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids. 2
And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her
children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost. 3 And he passed
over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came
near to his brother. 4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him,
and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept. 5 And he lifted
up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are
those with thee? And he said, The children which God hath graciously given thy
servant. 6 Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children,
and they bowed themselves. 7 And Leah also with her children came
near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they
bowed themselves. 8 And he said, What meanest
thou by all this drove which I met? And he said, These
are to find grace in the sight of my lord. 9 And Esau said, I
have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself. 10 And
Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then
receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I
had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me. 11 Take, I
pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt
graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it.
The Message: Genesis
Genesis 27:41 (MSG)
41 Esau seethed in anger
against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him; he brooded,
"The time for mourning my father's death is close. And then I'll kill my
Genesis 33:1-11 (MSG)
1 Jacob looked up and saw
Esau coming with his four hundred men. He divided the children between Leah and
Rachel and the two maidservants. 2 He put the maidservants out in
front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. 3 He
led the way and, as he approached his brother, bowed seven times, honoring his
brother. 4 But Esau ran up and embraced him, held him tight and
kissed him. And they both wept. 5 Then Esau looked around and saw the
women and children: "And who are these with you?" Jacob said,
"The children that God saw fit to bless me with." 6 Then
the maidservants came up with their children and bowed; 7 then Leah
and her children, also bowing; and finally, Joseph and Rachel came up and bowed
to Esau. 8 Esau then asked, "And what was the meaning of all
those herds that I met?" "I was hoping that they would pave the way
for my master to welcome me." 9 Esau said, "Oh, brother. I
have plenty of everything—keep what is yours for yourself." 10 Jacob
said, "Please. If you can find it in your heart to welcome me, accept these
gifts. When I saw your face, it was as the face of God smiling on me. 11 Accept
the gifts I have brought for you. God has been good to me and I have more than
enough." Jacob urged the gifts on him and Esau accepted.
New Living Translation:
Genesis 27:41; 33:1-11
Genesis 27:41 (NLT)
41 From that time on, Esau
hated Jacob because their father had given Jacob the blessing. And Esau began to
scheme: “I will soon be mourning my father’s death. Then I will kill my
Genesis 33:1-11 (NLT)
1 Then Jacob looked up and
saw Esau coming with his 400 men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel,
and his two servant wives. 2 He put the servant wives and their
children at the front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last.3
Then Jacob went on ahead. As he approached his brother, he bowed to the
ground seven times before him. 4 Then Esau ran to meet him and
embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both
wept. 5 Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, “Who
are these people with you?” “These are the children God has graciously given
to me, your servant,” Jacob replied. 6 Then the servant wives came
forward with their children and bowed before him. 7 Next came Leah
with her children, and they bowed before him. Finally, Joseph and Rachel came
forward and bowed before him. 8 “And what were all the flocks and
herds I met as I came?” Esau asked. Jacob replied, “They are a gift, my
lord, to ensure your friendship.” 9 “My brother, I have
plenty,” Esau answered. “Keep what you have for yourself.” 10 But
Jacob insisted, “No, if I have found favor with you, please accept this gift
from me. And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the
face of God! 11 Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has
been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.” And because Jacob
insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift.
Commentary for the focal passage comes from four sources: “The Old Testament Survey Series: The Pentateuch,”
“Believer's Bible Commentary,” “The Complete Biblical Library
Moody Bible Commentary,”
and is provided for your study.)
Lesson Outline — “Redeemed From
Broken Relationships” — Gen.
Can Destroy Relationships (Gen. 27:41)
Displaying Humility Can Rebuild Relationships
Be Willing To Forgive and Move Forward (Gen.
Old Testament Survey Series: The Pentateuch: Gen.
Animosity Genesis 27:41-28:9
Despair was replaced by malice in
the heart of Esau. He planned to murder his brother as soon as Isaac died. While
Esau did not share the faith of his father, he nonetheless loved and respected
him. He did not wish to do anything which might hasten Isaac’s death (27:41).
Esau did not keep his intentions to himself. Somehow Rebekah heard of his
murderous plan. She summoned Jacob at once and strongly urged him to take refuge
with her brother in Haran until Esau’s anger subsided. Rebekah obviously
anticipated a short separation. She would send for him the moment she was
convinced that he was no longer in danger from his brother. Rebekah worried that
if Esau killed Jacob, he would forfeit his own life under the principle of blood
revenge. Then she would lose both of her sons in one day (27:42-45). Rebekah did
not mention Esau’s plot to Isaac. He probably would not have believed her
anyway. She chose rather to raise another matter of concern, viz., where would
Jacob get a wife? She knew full well that Isaac loathed the Hittite women Esau
had married. If Jacob married a Hittite woman, life would be absolutely
unbearable. Rebekah wanted Isaac to send Jacob away, for then Esau would not
interfere (27:46). Isaac summoned Jacob and commanded him not to marry a
Canaanite. He was to depart immediately for Paddan Aram and take a wife from
among the relatives of his mother. Isaac had another blessing for Jacob, and
this one he pronounced “in faith” (Heb 11:20). He said nothing of the deceit
used to secure the first blessing doubtless because he himself was not entirely
without fault in that incident. The second blessing is similar in some respects
to the first. El Shaddai (God Almighty) would make Jacob a community of peoples.
The ultimate fulfillment of this prediction awaited the Messianic age when
Gentiles became part of the new Israel of God. Jacob would inherit all the
blessings of Abraham, including the land in which he presently resided as an
alien. With these prophetic words of blessing, Isaac sent Jacob on his way
(28:1-5). For the most part, Esau appears in these narratives as a spiritual
dimwit. When he heard of the marriage commands his father had issued to Jacob,
he realized how displeasing his Hittite wives were to his parents. Esau took a
third wife, this time from among the Ishmaelites. The text does not indicate
whether or not she was a believer. Esau probably did not care about that. He
aimed to please his father by marrying someone who was connected, albeit
loosely, with the covenant family (28:6-9). Isaac’s long life was filled with
unhappiness. His faith, like that of his father, was tested again and again. A
barren wife and the disappointment with his older son tested the progeny
promise. A famine in the land and the conflict over water with the herdsmen of
Gerar tested the land and blessing promises.
with Esau ( Gn 33:1-16).
Spotting Esau and his four hundred men coming in the
distance, Jacob prepared his family. The concubines and their children were put
in front, then Leah and her sons, and finally Rachel and Joseph. He planned to
introduce his family to Esau in the order of their importance. Jacob himself was
out in front of all his family. Here is a new courage which is further evidence
of the transformation. As he approached his brother he bowed seven times to the
ground, a custom attested in the literature of the ancient world. Here is a new
humility which points again to the change in Jacob (33:1-3). Esau would have
none of this exaggerated homage. He ran to Jacob, embraced and kissed him. The
two brothers wept. Esau was surprised to see Jacob’s family, and was anxious
to meet them. One by one the concubines and wives with their children came and
bowed down before Esau (33:4-7). When the introductions were over, Esau asked
about the several droves of livestock which he had met as he approached
Jacob’s camp. Jacob explained that these were gifts which he wished to give to
his brother. The transformed Jacob possessed a new generosity. Esau would have
none of that either. He had accumulated his own material wealth. He needed
nothing which his brother was offering. Jacob insisted, however, because this
amicable reunion deserved such celebration. Seeing Esau’s face was like seeing
the face of God! Finally Esau agreed to accept the gift (33:8-11). Esau then
offered to accompany Jacob on the remainder of his journey. Jacob, however,
rejected this offer on the grounds that he had to move his children and
livestock very slowly. Jacob urged Esau to go on ahead. He would join his
brother in Seir later. Esau then offered to leave some of his men to assist in
the journey. Jacob again declined, citing the favor of his brother as more than
enough compensation for the generous gifts. So Esau departed to return to Seir.
The text does not record Jacob’s visit to Seir (33:12-20).
SOURCE: The Old Testament
Survey Series: The Pentateuch; By James E. Smith; College Press
Publishing Company, Joplin, Missouri.
Bible Commentary: Gen. 27:41; 33:1-11
27:41-46. Esau planned to kill his brother Jacob as soon
as his father would die and the period of mourning would end. When Rebekah
learned of this, she told Jacob to head for her brother Laban's home in Haran.
She feared not only that Jacob would be killed but that Esau would run away or
be killed in a blood feud, and she would lose two sons at once. However, to
explain Jacob's departure to Isaac, she said she was afraid Jacob might marry a
Hittite, as Esau had done. Jacob expected to return soon, but it was not to be
for more than twenty years. His father would still be living, but his mother
would have passed on.
33:1-11. As Esau
drew near, Jacob lapsed back into fearfulness and merely natural behavior,
arranging his household in such a way as to afford maximum protection for those
he loved most. Jacob bowed himself to the ground seven times as he
approached his brother. Esau, by comparison, was relaxed, warm,
and effusive as he met Jacob first, then Jacob's wives and children. He
protested mildly against the extravagant gift of livestock but finally consented
to accept it. Jacob seems to have shown undue servility to his brother, speaking
of himself as his servant. Some think that he resorted to flattery and
exaggeration in telling Esau that seeing his face was like seeing God.
Others think that the face of God here means a reconciled face.
33:12-17. When Esau
suggested that they travel back together, Jacob pretended that this would be
impossible because of the slow pace required by the children and young
animals. Jacob promised to meet Esau in Seir (Edom), although he had no
intention of doing so. Even when Esau tried to leave behind some of his
men to travel with Jacob's household, the latter refused the offer without
revealing the real reasons—fear and suspicion.
Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990,
1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Gen.
27:41. Esau could not forgive Jacob and
his animosity grew until he began making threats (when among his friends) that
as soon as Isaac died and the days of mourning were over, he would kill Jacob.
He may have been a little self-righteous in thinking he would spare his
father’s feelings by waiting until after Isaac died.
27:42-45. When Rebekah heard about
Esau’s threats, she called Jacob in and told him how Esau was scheming
revenge. She was afraid that if Esau killed Jacob, Esau would have to be put to
death, so she would lose both her sons. So she commanded Jacob to flee for his
life to her brother Laban in Haran and stay with him a few days until the heat
of Esau’s anger would subside. She thought time would heal Esau’s wounds and
he would forget. Then she would send for Jacob and she would enjoy having him
home again. What she did not know was that she would die before Jacob returned.
Actually, all four who were involved in the schemes of this chapter suffered.
Esau lost the blessing. Esau’s delicious food never tasted good to Isaac
again, Now that his spiritual eyes were opened, he never had the same fellowship
with his favorite son Esau. Rebekah never saw her favorite son again. Jacob had
to flee alone with nothing but what he could carry on his back. He would have to
work hard, be deceived by his future father-in-law, and by his own sons.
Esau and his 400 men came in sight Jacob distributed his wives and children in
an order that if anything happened, the maidservants and their children would
get the brunt of it while Rachel and Joseph in the rear would be in the most
protected position. But this time, Jacob went on ahead to be the first to meet
Esau. Nearing Esau, he bowed down so his forehead touched the ground. Then he
went on a few steps and bowed again. Bowing seven times indicated a completeness
of humility and was customarily done before kings.
33:4. What a wonderful change Jacob saw in Esau as Esau
ran to meet him, hugged and kissed him. It was a very emotional encounter as
both wept. Esau’s hatred was replaced with generosity and love.
33:5-7. As Jacob responded to Esau and presented his wives
and children he gave God the credit for giving them to him by His grace—His
undeserved favor. Each of them bowed down humbly.
Esau asked about the gifts sent ahead to him, Jacob confessed they were meant to
seek Esau’s favor. Esau replied that he had much (plenty, an abundance,
enough). This reply may have been oriental politeness, but it was typical of
Esau. In this entire interchange between Jacob and Esau, Jacob keeps giving God
the credit, the praise and the honor. Esau never mentions God once. “I” have
enough—this is the statement of a person who thinks he does not need God. That
is another reason for calling Esau a “profane” (that is, a secular) person
(Heb. 13:16). Esau was not an atheist; he simply left God out of his life. Then
he called Jacob his brother, and told him to keep the gifts for himself.
insisted that Esau keep the gift (minchah, a gift or offering for a king or for
God; the same word is used in Genesis 4:3-4 and Leviticus 2:1-15). Behind the
hug, the kiss, and the tears of Esau, Jacob saw the face of the one true God,
the God who had blessed him and given him everything he needed. In verse 11
Jacob calls this gift or offering, “my blessing.” Since Jacob continued to
insist, Esau accepted the gifts and Jacob was satisfied. Again, God was faithful
to His promise.
refused Esau’s offer to accompany him on his way because Esau’s 400 men
would be anxious to get back home, and would want to push on faster than Jacob
could go with his flocks and children. There is no record that Jacob actually
went to visit Esau in Seir (Edom), though he may have. Some Jewish rabbis say
the final fulfillment will be in the days of the Messiah (what we call the
33:15. Jacob also refused Esau’s offer to leave some of
his men with them. Perhaps Esau thought Jacob needed protection and his men
could act as guards. But Jacob was just happy to find favor in Esau’s eyes.
The fear of Esau had been in the back of his mind for 20 years. Now he was
relieved because all of those fears had been unnecessary.
Esau left, going south toward Seir, the mountainous country south of the Dead
Sea, Jacob went west toward the Jordan about five miles and built a house and
made shelters for his livestock, calling the place Succoth (“shelters”).
Complete Biblical Library Commentary - Genesis. Copyright ©
2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.
Moody Bible Commentary; Matthew 5:43-48:
Body: Jacob Strives for a
27:1-46. The story of Isaac blessing
Jacob emphasizes the transference of the patriarchal blessing. This single
narrative section (26:34-28:9) uses the word "blessing" in either a
noun or verb form 28 times in the NASB. As a background to this present
narrative, it begins with Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of
stew (25:29-34). The birthright appears to have included the blessing of the
firstborn. For this reason, Heb 12:16-17 correctly equates the birthright with
Now that Isaac had grown old (at least 100, since
Esau was born when Isaac was 60 [see 25:26] and was married prior to this at 40
[26:34]) and his eyes were too dim to see, he decided that it was
to time to pass on the patriarchal blessing before he died (27:4).
Although Isaac lived on for many more decades, seeing all 12 of his grandsons by
Jacob (see 35:22b-27), this was now the crucial moment when the "path of
redemption"—the genealogical line that would carry on the Abrahamic
covenant—was decided, since preeminence in the covenant was bound up with the
patriarchal blessing (see also 49:8-12). Since Isaac intended to bless Esau, it
may be that Rebekah had not yet revealed to her husband God's birth oracle,
indicating His choice of "the younger" son over "the older"
(25:23). Rebekah's silence is consistent with the two parents each favoring
different sons. However, it is more likely that Isaac knew of the birth oracle
and of Esau's sale of the birthright but was choosing to ignore these facts in
granting the blessing.
So Rebekah, rather than trusting God to accomplish His
purposes, when overhearing Isaac's intention, initiated a plot to deceive her
husband into blessing her favored son Jacob instead (27:5-13). At Rebekah's
direction, Jacob succeeded in stealing the blessing by presenting himself as
Esau to the touch and smell of his blind father. He used the deceptive stratagem
of wearing Esau's clothes and counterfeiting Esau's hairy arms by wearing goat
skins (27:15-17). When his brother found this out, he pointed out that Jacob
(whose name means "he supplants" had again lived up to his name, for
he has supplanted me these two times (referring to Jacob trading red lentil
stew for Esau's birthright [25:29-34] and then to deceiving Isaac into granting
the patriarchal blessing, v. 36). When Esau's plan to avenge himself on Jacob by
kill[ing] him was reported to Rebekah (v. 42), she urged her
favored son to take refuge with her brother Laban until Esau's fury
would subside (v. 44).
Readers often see this story through the eyes of
Esau—emphasizing Jacob's culpability in deceiving his father and stealing the
blessing. Nevertheless, the narrator wants to emphasize that all four parties to
this story are guilty. Isaac and Esau are guilty of deliberately overlooking
God's intended recipient of the blessing. Isaac chose to ignore Esau's sale of
the birthright and the birth oracle. Esau chose to ignore that he willingly sold
his birthright. Rebekah and Jacob are guilty of deliberately deceiving to
achieve their goal of blessing. Rebekah deceived her beloved husband by
preparing savory food and using clothing and hairy goat skins to present Jacob
as a counterfeit Esau to blind Isaac. Jacob somewhat begrudgingly went along
with his mother's scheming to achieve his goal of being blessed. Jacob's
deception was wrong not because he stole the blessing—it was rightfully his
because he had already purchased it. Rather, his deception was wrong because it
lacked faith in God to accomplish His will without Jacob's human deceit and
manipulation. Thus, God, who had sovereignly decreed that "the older shall
serve the younger" (25:23), accomplished His sovereign purpose despite
human failings. Once again, the blessing of God was unmerited but still given an
act of divine grace and election.
Though Rebekah's deception of Isaac was clearly
condemnable, she was not a completely ill-natured person, and—no doubt feeling
guilty over what she had done—her words and actions in vv. 45-46 evince a
tender concern for her ailing husband. Rather than informing Isaac of his
favored son's intention to kill his brother, which would undoubtedly have caused
the patriarch great distress (by the phrase you both [v. 45] she is
probably referring to Jacob and his frail father, not Esau), she exhorted him to
send Jacob away for the single purpose (not pretense, since the goal is
valid—even spiritually requisite) of finding a wife among their relatives back
Although the narrator never explicitly condemned Jacob's
deceitfulness, the events of Jacob's life show that, by manipulating his father
instead of trusting God, he brought suffering to himself and others. First,
Jacob, a homebody, now had to flee his home. Second, as the favorite son of
Rebekah, he never saw his beloved mother again. Third, Jacob would be exploited
by his uncle Laban even as he had taken advantage of Esau. Fourth, even as his
father's blindness was a veil to enable Jacob to deceive, so Laban used a veil
over Leah's face to deceive Jacob (note how both Isaac and Jacob say they were
deceived, 27:35; 29:25). Fifth, just as Jacob deceived his father using Esau's
garments, so his sons would deceive him using Joseph's garments (37:32). Sixth,
Jacob was miserable at the end of his life (47:9) in contrast to both Abraham
(25:8) and Isaac (35:28-29) who both appeared to have been satisfied with life
when they died.
Jacob's Restoration with Esau (33:1-17)
33:1-4. Having received the blessing from God, Jacob still
anticipated difficulties with Esau. As he saw Esau arriving with what appeared
to be a war party (v. 1), Jacob next acted nobly, placing his wives and children
behind him so that he could meet Esau first. After he passed on ahead of them
and approached his brother, he bowed down to the ground seven times
before Esau (vv. 2-3). In a totally unexpected act, Esau ran to meet him and
embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept (v. 4).
After years of bitterness and even threats of murder (27:41), Esau was
reconciled to his brother. This was the result of God's work in his heart and
not of any manipulation by Jacob.
introducing his family to Esau (vv. 5-7), Jacob gave Esau gifts and insisted
that his brother take them (vv. 8-11). Jacob also declined Esau's offer of an
escort back to the land out of concern for his own children and his flocks
and herds at their slower pace (vv. 12-15) and perhaps in part out of
fear, lest Esau experience a change of heart. Thus, Jacob returned to the
promised land, settling temporarily in booths in a place named Succoth
(booths), east of the Jordan River and north of the Jabbok River (v. 17), in the
opposite direction of Seir, where Esau had gone (v. 16).
This story of the reconciliation of Esau and Jacob was designed to
identify the transformations of both Esau and Jacob as works of God. Esau was
changed from threatening to murder his brother to a desire to be at peace and
even provide protection for him. This was clearly the work of God in answer to
Jacob's prayer in 32:9-10. Jacob was also changed from a schemer to a follower
of the Lord. This is evident in his bravery, going before his family to meet
Esau (33:3), his humility, bowing before Esau (33:3) and his generosity,
insisting that Esau take his gifts even though it was apparent that Jacob was no
longer in danger (33:10-11). Jacob's behavior became the model for Israel-like
Jacob, they would be able to conquer and settle in the land of promise only if
they were to rely on the Lord for the victory.
Jacob's Restoration to the Land (33:18-20)
33:18-20. In a
brief epilogue to the story of his reconciliation with Esau, Jacob is depicted
as settled back in Canaan, the land of promise. He settled in the city
of Shechem, about 20 miles (32 km) west of the Jabbok River, and there
purchased land from the sons of Hamor just as his grandfather Abraham had
purchased land near Hebron from the sons of Heth (23:1-20). Most significantly,
Jacob built an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel (v. 20), meaning
"El (is) the God of Israel." "Israel" at this point refers
specifically to Jacob (as opposed to the later nation). This act of worship
emphasized Jacob's spiritual transformation. When Jacob left the land, he vowed
that if God kept His promise and brought him back, then He the God of his
fathers would be his God (28:21). Throughout the Jacob narrative following that
vow made 20 years earlier, Jacob always referred to the Lord as the God of
Abraham and the God of Isaac but never as his own God. Now, with God having kept
His promise and returned him in safety, Jacob, in naming the altar, finally
identified the Lord as his own God. Jacob's spiritual transformation is now
complete—he is not perfect and will still have his struggles, but he is
clearly now a man of God and a follower of the God of Israel.
SOURCE: The Moody Bible Commentary; by Michael
Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham; © 2014 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Database
© 2015 WORDsearch.
blessing (v. 41)—The family patriarch called upon God to grant
abundance, health, wealth, wisdom, and descendants to his son. Isaac’s
blessing of Jacob passed on God’s blessing of Abraham (Gen. 12:2-3).
times (v. 3)—In the ancient world, bowing was the established,
proper ceremonial approach by subjects to their rulers or superiors. Bowing
seven times expressed extreme courtesy and deep respect.
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
forfeited his birthright to his brother Jacob for the sake of a meal of lentil
stew and bread (Gen. 25:29-34). The birthright consisted of the special
privileges that belonged to the firstborn male child in a family. Prominent
among those privileges was a double portion of the estate as an inheritance. If
a man had two sons, his estate would be divided into three portions, and the
older son would receive two. If there were three sons, the estate would be
divided into four portions, and the oldest son would receive two. The oldest son
also normally received the father’s major blessing. Indeed, the Hebrew word
for blessing (berakah) is virtually an anagram of the word that means both
birthright and firstborn (bekorah). Legal continuation of the family line may
also have been included among the privileges of the firstborn son. Deuteronomy
21:15-17 prohibited a father from playing favorites among his sons by trying to
give the birthright to other than the firstborn.
Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers;
ssayyoo): Personal name whose
meaning is not known. Son of Isaac and Rebecca; elder twin brother of Jacob
(Gen. 25:24-26; 27:1,32,42; 1 Chron. 1:34); father of the Edomite nation (Gen.
26; Deut. 2:4-29; Mal. 1:2-3). At birth his body was hairy and red “and they
called his name Esau” (Gen. 25:25,30; 27:11,21-23). The second born twin,
Jacob, father of the nation Israel, held Esau’s heel at birth (Gen. 25:22-26);
thus depicting the struggle between the descendants of the two which ended when
David lead Israel in the conquest of Edom (2 Sam. 8:12-14; 1 Chron. 18:13;
compare Num. 24:18).
From the first
Jacob sought to gain advantage over Esau (Hos. 12:3). Esau, the extrovert, was a
favorite of his father and as a hunter provided him with his favorite meats.
Jacob was the favorite of his mother Rebecca.
As a famished
returning hunter, Esau, lacking self-control, sold his birthright to Jacob for
food (Gen. 25:30-34). Birthright involved the right as head of the family (Gen.
27:29) and a double share of the inheritance (Deut. 21:15-17). This stripped
Esau of the headship of the people through which Messiah would come. Thus, the
lineage became Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Having lost his
birthright, he was still eligible to receive from Isaac the blessing of the
eldest son. Rebecca devised a deception whereby Jacob received this blessing
Jacob for all his problems failing to realize that the character flaw revealed
in his selling of his birthright followed him all of his life. Esau received a
blessing, but neither he nor his descendants were to occupy the fertile land of
Palestine (Gen. 27:39). At age 40 he married two Hittite wives (Gen. 26:34-35).
Years later the
two brothers were reconciled when Jacob returned from Mesopotamia. Esau had
lived in the land of Seir. As Jacob neared Palestine, he made plans for
confronting his wronged brother and allaying his anger. Esau, with an army of
400, surprised Jacob, his guilty brother, and received him without bitterness
reconciled brothers met again for the final time at the death of their father
(Gen. 35:29). Though their hostility was personally resolved, their descendants
continue to this day to struggle against one another.
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary;
General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.
All We Know
is professor of religion emeritus, William Carey University, Hattiesburg,
SAU WAS BORN
TO Isaac and Rebekah, along with his twin
brother, Jacob, after Isaac prayed that Rebekah could have children.
Esau was considered the firstborn
because he was the first to come from the womb.
Before her sons were born, Rebekah received from God a prophecy that the
younger son would take the place of the older (Gen. 25:21-26).
records of their births and early lives portray Jacob and Esau as being
radically different from each other. For
example, their names were given for different reasons—one for looks and the
other for action. Esau’s name
reflected his appearance. He was
born with a red complexion, or possibly red hair, and was hairy all over.
The name Esau comes from the verb asah,
which means to be covered with hair.1
Jacob, on the other hand, was named for the action of grasping the heel
of Esau (v. 26).
the personalities of Esau and Jacob were different.
The description of Esau as a “cunning hunter” (v. 27),2 in
Hebrew literally means “a man knowing hunting,” or “a man knowing game.”
This suggests Esau learned the methods of hunting by studying the nature
of the prey. The text further
describes him as “a man of the field” (v. 27), indicating he not only knew
the places where he could hunt, but that hunting took priority in his use of
time. The description of Jacob as
“a plain man, dwelling in tents” (v. 27) served to heighten the contrast
between Esau and his brother. Jacob
seemed naturally suited to the life of a shepherd; Esau did not.
Esau’s preference for hunting was not conducive to the life of a
shepherd because hunting trips took him away from family and flock.
the event that best revealed Esau’s personality traits occurred when he sold
Jacob his birthright. Being
Isaac’s firstborn, Esau was in line to inherit the patriarchal birthright and
the blessing. On one occasion,
however, Esau returned home from hunting exhausted and desperately hungry.
Jacob had made some pottage of lentils and Esau asked for some of it.
Jacob wanted the birthright and seized the opportunity to wrest it from
Esau. Later Deuteronomic Law
provided the inheritor of the birthright to receive a double portion of the
father’s estate (Deut. 21:17). Exactly
what the recipient of the birthright received at this point in history, though,
Regardless, Esau without hesitation agreed to sell his
birthright to Jacob for a portion of the pottage.
At first reading, one might conclude Esau acted impulsively on the spur
of the moment.3 That he
sold his birthright by taking an oath (Gen. 25:33), however, might suggest that
instead of making a rash decision, Esau made a deliberate one.4
Because herding and hunting were not compatible, the statement, “thus,
Esau despised his birthright” (v. 34) could cause one could ponder whether
Esau ever desired his birthright.
the pottage was red, Esau was given the name Edom (v. 30), which means “red.”5
The nickname was so dominant that the descendants of Esau were called
Edomites and the land where they lived, formerly Mount Seir, was known as Edom
(36:8). Centuries later, Obadiah
prophesied against the Edomites (Obad. V. 1) because they stood by and watched
an enemy break through the walls of Jerusalem and capture some Jews, whom the
prophet referred to as Edom’s brother (v. 10).
though Esau despised his birthright, he sincerely wanted to receive Isaac’s
blessing. Customarily, the father
pronounced his blessing in a solemn ceremony; the blessing was a kind of
prophetic wish in which the father declared favor and goodness upon his sons.
“The blessing is not only the good effect of words; it also has the
power to bring them to pass.”6
Together with his mother, Rebekah, Jacob conspired to trick Isaac, who
was nearly blind, into pronouncing the blessing upon Jacob instead of Esau.
The trick was successful; Isaac gave to Jacob the blessing that
customarily should have been Esau’s (27:1-29).
Hebrew words for blessing (birakah)
and birthright (bekorah) use the same
consonants, making them a virtual anagram.7
One might speculate, then, that by using these two words, Esau was subtly
reasserting his claim to the birthright at the same time he was seeking the
blessing. That he accused Jacob of
supplanting him two times (v. 36) could indicate Esau regretted the loss of his
birthright. Regardless, the picture
is clear; Esau deeply desired the blessing—and he hated Jacob for his
Earlier, Esau had shown disrespect toward his parents by
choosing wives from the Hittite women (26:34-35).
But after he lost his blessing, Esau married a daughter of Ishmael
marrying closer to the family, Esau might have attempted to ease Isaac’s
displeasure about Esau’s Hittite wives. More
than this, however, by marrying idolaters, Esau showed little or no reverence
event that helped define Esau involved his reconciliation with his brother.
After Jacob took Esau’s blessing by fraud, Esau determined to kill
Jacob after Isaac died. Rebekah sent
Jacob away to live with her brother Laban in order to save her son’s life.
Jacob remained with Laban for 20 years (31:38) and amassed wealth before
the Lord instructed Jacob to return home (v. 3).
the way back, Jacob knew he would encounter Esau.
Jacob sent messengers ahead to meet his brother.
The servants returned and informed Jacob that Esau had with him 400 men.
The purpose of the 400 men is not clear.
One could surmise that Esau was relying on their help to kill Jacob if he
threatened Esau. Upon hearing the
report about the 400 men, “Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed” (32:7a).
divided his family into groups as he went to meet Esau.
As he drew near to Esau, Jacob bowed to the ground seven times.
When Esau saw Jacob’s acts of contrition he went to Jacob, lifted him
from the ground, kissed him, and wept (33:1-4).
Thus, Esau demonstrated some good character traits.
He showed compassion toward his repentant brother, demonstrated
forgiveness toward him, and also showed a generous disposition as well (v. 9).
The personal reconciliation between Jacob and Esau was permanent; they
both participated in their father’s burial (35:29).
divine judgment of Esau was historically negative, as expressed by Malachi who
said that God “loved” Jacob and “hated” Esau (Mal. 1:2-3).
This is probably covenant language, which is best understood to mean that
God “chose” Jacob and “did not choose” Esau8 (cf. Rom.
all of Jacob’s faults, he repented and became a man whom his descendants were
proud to claim as their ancestor. But
no record of Esau’s repentance exists. Instead,
the writer of Hebrews described him as a profane individual who sold his
birthright for a morsel of food (Heb. 12:16).
Tragically, selling his birthright was the defining experience of
Esau’s life. His behavior is a
reminder that when people focus on the mundane and choose the pleasures of the
moment, they risk losing not only the treasures that the future might hold, but
more importantly, the blessings of God.
covered with hair) in Gesenius’ Hebrew
and Chaldee Lexion to the Old Testament Scriptures [Gensenius], trans.
Tregelles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), 658.
indicated otherwise, all Scripture quotations are from the King James Version.
in Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible
Dictionary [Nelson], gen. ed. Youngblood (Nashville: Nelson, 1986), 412.
“Israel’s Inheritance: Birthright of the Firstborn Son,” Chafer Theological Seminary Journal 13 (Spring 2008): 90-91.
Accessed April 21, 2014. Available from the Internet: www.chafer.edu/cts-journal.
red) in Gesenius, 13.
Blessing” in Nelson, 220.
in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, gen.
ed. Brand, Draper, & England (Nashville: Holman Bible Publ. 2003), 220.
Smith, Micah-Malachi, vol. 32 in Word
Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word Books, 1984), 305.
and the Edomites
Phillip J. Swanson
Swanson is pastor, Colts Neck Baptist Church, Colts Neck, New Jersey.
IF NOT ALL
children in Sunday School classes have heard the story of Esau and Jacob.
The stories focus on Jacob, the one who would carry forward the covenant
made between God and Abraham. As a
result, students usually know Esau only as the foolish brother of Jacob, the
last of the three named great patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Unknown to most of the children’s stories, the history of Esau
parallels that of Jacob, his younger twin brother.
Their lives remained a significant factor in Israel’s history, long
after their deaths.
Rivalry and Reconciliation
and Esau struggled with each other in the womb and throughout most of their days
and actually beyond, even though they eventually enjoyed a reconciliation.
At birth, Jacob held on to the heel of his twin brother, suggesting
Jacob’s desire to surpass or supplant Esau as the firstborn (Gen. 25:24-26).
His firstborn twin being “red” and “hairy” (v. 25), Isaac named
him Esau. Others, though, called
Esau, “Edom,” meaning “red.”
twins grew up and apart. Esau, a
man’s man, grew up as a hunter, roaming the countryside.
Jacob spent his time among the tents, with his mother.
Possibly because of different lifestyles, Esau became the favorite of
their father, Isaac, while Jacob found favor in the eyes of their mother,
Rebekah. The contest between the two
brothers continued throughout their adulthood.
of the first events the Bible records after describing the birth of twin
brothers involved the sale of Esau’s birthright to Jacob.
The birthright was a significant part of their ancient culture.
As possessor of that birthright, Esau was to receive first place in the
tribe or clan, as well as a double portion of their inheritance at the death of
their father, Isaac. Out of physical
hunger, Esau traded his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of “red stew,” a
thick bean soup (v. 30).
appeared to do everything in his power to alienate himself from his family.
At the age of 40, he chose to marry 2 Canaanite women (26:34).
Not only did it grieve the parents, but it further separated Esau from
his family. Still later, after
discovering that his marriage to the Canaanite women upset Isaac, he married yet
another Canaanite woman. Esau did
little throughout his lifetime to make his life easier or more peaceful (28:8).
Isaac was approaching death, time came for him to give his blessing to Esau, who
was still the first-born, even though Jacob had usurped his birthright. Jacob
and Rebekah conspired to trick Isaac. Esau’s
blessing went to Jacob instead (27:27-30). After
Esau begged his father for a blessing of his own, Isaac pronounced a blessing on
his eldest son (vv. 39-40).
to the blessing of Jacob, the blessing Esau received seemed more of a curse than
a blessing. Esau, as one might
expect, become enraged. While still
mourning the death of his father, Esau threatened Jacob with death as soon as
the period for mourning ended. Jacob
chose to flee.
Jacob went on with his life, prospering in the process, his mind probably never
wandered far from Esau and the vow Esau made to kill him.
Finally, Jacob’s day of reckoning came; his meeting with Esau was
inevitable. Instead of the murder
promised by Esau, their meeting brought about one of the great stories of
reconciliation in Scripture. Upon
meeting his brother, Esau ran to Jacob and threw his arms around the one he had
promised to kill (Gen. 33).
history of Esau’s namesake, Edom, did not end with the same harmony.
Esau, in Genesis 36:9, is named the “father of the Edomites.”
The prophet Amos, in declaring judgment to come on the nations around
Judah, described the relationship between Edom and Judah.
He called them “brothers” and proclaimed that Edom’s judgment was
deserved because they lifted their sword against their brother, the people of
God (Amos. 1:11).
boundaries of Edom appear fluid during the biblical period.
Generally, Edom’s territory extended eastward from the Arabah, the
desert between the northern tip of the Red Sea and the southern tip of the Dead
Sea. Their boundary extended to the
north until it met the southern boundary of their neighbor, Moab.1
Several Edomite cities the Scriptures mention, such as Ezion-geber, Punon,
Bozrah, and Temani, are all in a straight north-south line along the western
border of Edom. The concentration of
these cities suggest that the Edomites settled only a small portion of their
territory, east of the Arabah.2 Archaeological
evidence suggests that Edom existed as a relatively strong nation from the 13th
to the 8th centuries B.C. From
the 8th century onward, the nation declined in strength and influence
until its destruction during the 6th century.3
However, even without a king to lead them, the Edomites remained an
antagonistic neighbor of Judah.
Israel, and Judah
dispute and carelessness characteristic of Esau were always present in the
Edomites, even from the beginning. In
fact, the Edomites played a significant role in frustrating Israel in nearly
every major period of its history.
the earliest history of the Hebrews, the exodus, Moses sought permission from
the king of Edom to journey through his country.
The king flatly refused. In
order to reinforce his refusal, the Edomite king called out his army and arrayed
his force against the Hebrews. Moses
prudently found another path to follow (Num. 20:14-21).
the period of Israel’s united kingdom under Saul, David, and Solomon, Edom
remained a source of annoyance and war, though not always at their own choosing.
When King Saul assumed rule over Israel, he maintained the character of a
warrior king by attacking most of his neighbors.
Among others, Saul defeated the territory of Edom as well as the
Amalekites in the process (1 Sam. 14:47-48).
The Book of 2 Samuel indicates that David won his fame through a
victorious battle with the Edomites, killing 18,000 of them.
David thoroughly dominated Edom and brought them under Israel’s control
(8:13-14). Under Solomon’s rule,
Edom again caught an Israelite king’s eye.
Solomon built ships at Ezion-geber, which was in Edom’s territory.
Edom’s king, Hadad, who was among the few escaping the wrath of
David’s war, rose against Solomon. Along
with Rezon, king of Syria, the two kings tormented Solomon throughout his rule
(see 1 Kings 11:14-25).
the division of the kingdom following the death of Solomon, Edom remained
Judah’s antagonist. At times,
however, hostilities ceased. Edom
aligned herself with Judah when it suited her best interest.
When Jehoshaphat ruled as king of Judah, his counterpart in Israel, Joram,
requested that Judah’s military join with Israel and Edom’s king in putting
down a revolt instigated by the king of Moab.
Unlike earlier times, Edom’s king allowed Israel and Judah to journey
through his land and added his army to theirs (2 Kings 3).
Nonetheless, the battle ended in a stalemate and the combatant nations
returned to their own homes.
few years later any treaty that existed between Judah and Edom broke down, and
Edom rebelled against the tribute demanded by Judah.
Jehoshaphat, who had formed the alliance with Edom passed the rule to his
son, Jehoram. Jehoram attacked Edom
but was forced to retreat (2 Kings 8:16-24).
Second Kings 8:22 reports that Edom remained a thorn in Judah’s side
throughout the entire period.
Once Judah and its capital of Jerusalem fell, there was no
king in Judah to confront the Edomites. However,
Edom continued to find antagonists in Judah.
Prophets replaced Judah’s kings as national leaders, roles they had
assumed even before the destruction. Among
those who prophesied judgment on Edom were Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, among the
major prophets, and Joel, Amos, and Obadiah among the minor prophets.4
Obadiah directed his entire prophecy toward Edom, chastising them for
their part in Jerusalem’s fall and for plundering the Holy City following its
capture (Obad. 1-21).
Judah ceased to be an independent nation following the destruction of Jerusalem
and the exile of many of her leading inhabitants, Edom refused to fade from the
biblical scene. In the third century
B.C., an Arabic people known as the Nabateans took over the old territory of
Edom. The area south of Judah, later
called Idumaea, eventually provided a place for the Edomites west of the Arabah.5
Consequently, even though the Edomite nation suffered the same end as
that of Judah, their influence extended into the Christian history of the area
through a murderous king who was from Idumaea; Herod the Great.6
in Holman Bible Dictionary (HBD), Trent butler, gen. ed. (Nashville:
Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), 395.
2.J.R. Bartlett, “The
Moabites and Edomites” in Peoples of Old Testament Times, D. J.
Wiseman, ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), 229.
3.“Edom; Edomites” in The
Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, Avraham Negev, ed. rev. ed
(Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986), 122.
4.For example, see Isaiah
34:5-6; Jeremiah 49:17; Ezekiel 25:13; Joel 3:19; and Amos l:11-12.
5.John Bright, A
History of Israel, 4th ed. (Lousiville: Westminster John Knox
Press, 2000), 344.
6.“Idumea” in HBD,
By Gary C. Huckaby
C. Huckaby is Dean, college of adult and continuing education, Dallas Baptist
University, Dallas, Texas.
the name seems to whisper the hint of a desert wind with a touch of and
mystique. The Arabah is a desolate but ruggedly beautiful area stretching south
from the Dead Sea. The ruddy appearance of the terrain captures an impression of
the ancient people of Edom-the people of Esau.
In times past the Arabah was
the western boundary of Edom. The Brook of Zered served as its northern boundary
with Moab as the neighbor across the brook. These boundaries extended east and
south into the hill country to include Mount Seir.
Today, a sparse population of
“modern” Jordanians roam the dusty hills of Us region and tend their
meandering flocks as did the people of Esau in the biblical era.
Visitors to the area are struck
by its vast emptiness and yet an intense presence, especially at night. The
sands hide the footprints of centuries of sojourners who have walked this way in
loneliness and yet sensed God's nearness.
Esau was one of these. In a
metaphorical sense, the region symbolizes his W and his choices-eternal
emptiness or God's presence. Unfortunately, Esau held tightly to an empty
earthly existence, and let go of God. The legacy of that decision surfaced again
and again in Esau's heirs, the people of Edom.
Esau's story is simple but
dramatic. Born to Isaac and Rebekah, he was the twin brother of Jacob (Israel).
As the eldest son he would have received the birthright and a special blessing,
but he sold the former and lost the latter to his brother, Jacob. The hostility
from the situation resulted 'm tension between the brothers and their heirs.
There is more to the story. As
with many of us, Esau's life might best be described by his closest
relationships. The markers of his life's pilgrimage are carved with images of
his mother (Rebekah), his father (Isaac), his brother (Jacob), and his God.
Let’s examine each of these relationships and explore how the rest of the
Bible views them.
Rebekah was Esau's mother (Gen.
25:19-26). Yet, from the moment the two children wrestled in her womb, Rebekah
knew something was amiss. When she sought the Lord's counsel, He confirmed her
suspicions. The children would experience no harmony, not then, not ever.
Physically, she was to give birth to two nations (Israel and Edom); but
emotionally she would love only the one, Jacob (Gen. 25:23,28).
Although Esau was the eldest
son and deserved the rights due the firstborn, Rebekah chose to give her
attention to Jacob. She also determined to ensure that Jacob received the
birthright and the blessing. 'Me Bible does not record Rebekah's inner thoughts.
We can only imagine the various plots she devised- except for one (see Gen.
27:5-17 for Rebekah's scheme).
The conniving sibling, Jacob,
did not devise the plan to get his brother's blessing; Esau's mother was
responsible (Gen. 27:5-10). What rationale convinced Rebekah that she was
justified to weave such a web of deceit against her son? We do not know, but
Esau's marriage to the Hittite women may have had something to do with it (Gen.
Isaac, in contrast to Rebekah,
loved Esau (Gen. 25:28). He appreciated Esau's skill as a hunter (Gen. 25:27).
Although Isaac was troubled by Esau's marriage to the Hittite women, his love
for Esau or his love of savory game apparently caused him to "look the
When time came to pass the
blessing of the covenant on to the eldest son, Isaac was ready to bless Esau
(Gen. 27:1-4). Had Rebekah concealed God's revelation from her husband? Either
Isaac was unaware of the Lord's counsel before the birth of his sons (that the
elder would serve the younger, Gen. 25:23), or he chose to ignore the possible
implications. On the other hand, maybe Isaac did know about the prophecy but
disagreed with Rebekah about its interpretation or his heart may have been as
blind as were his eyes.
Whatever the case, Esau was
convinced his quiver would be filled with his father's blessings. Sent to fetch
fresh game before receiving his blessing, Esau returned to find that Isaac had
missed his mark; only broken dreams were left for the hunter’s house. Isaac's
love could not change the course of Esau's previous decision to forsake his
birthright, a decision made in the face of death with worse-than-death
The whole relationship of Jacob
and Esau, and all their conflict revolved around a bowl of red stew. For
whatever reason, Esau was starving to death. When Esau came to his brother for
help, Jacob was ready to claim the promise that the older would serve the
younger. Jacob probably had heard this many times from his mother.
Jacob asked for his brother's
birthright in exchange for the red stew. Esau apparently did not see the value
of something he could not enjoy in death; so he sold his birthright for the bowl
of pottage. Why was the birthright so important? Why would Esau be condemned for
giving it up?
birthright represented two blessings. First it is a double portion of the family
riches. For example, if six sons were born to a family, the property would be
divided into seven shares. The firstborn son then received two of the shares.
Did Isaac have nothing to offer
his eldest? Although Isaac inherited all of Abraham's property, possibly the
family had become poor. That Isaac ate wild game instead of mutton and Jacob
had to work for his bride may suggest severe poverty. Although this is unlikely,
Esau may have thought that he would receive little, if anything, for his
if poverty had been the situation, Esau would have had to ignore the second part
of the blessing: The birthright represented the continuance of the family line
with all the privileges and promises granted by God. When Esau said, “I
swear!” he not only gave up his property but also sold out his forefathers and
the future generations of his family. Essentially he was saying that the
covenant of God was not worth dying for. The ripples of this decision are found
throughout the Bible.
This situation was compounded by Jacob's stealing Esau's
blessing. Jacob, a man of peace and a herdsman, feared for his life and did not
want to face his brother, the hunter. Jacob fled north to Aram (Syria) at his
Despite the hatred that must have dwelt in Esau's heart,
he and Jacob were later reconciled. Some people have suggested that Esau only
feigned acceptance of his brother and was really waiting for an opportunity to
gain his revenge.
merit may be seen in this suggestion since the two nations, Israel and Edom,
exhibited the remnants of the brother's grudge throughout history. Edom suffered
more for the conflict than did Israel and is the subject of condemnation by the
Prophets (see lsa. 34:5-14; Jer. 49:7-22; Obad.).
Esau (Mal. 1:3). Spurned by his
mother and supplanted by his brother, was Esau a victim of a wrathful and
capricious God too? Or was he simply abandoned to suffer in his own
carnality and pride (see Rom. 9:10-18;)? Maybe the point is not hatred, wrath,
or even rejection, but rather mercy.
If we compare
Esau and Jacob, we do not find much in them worthy of favor. Only by the grace
of God was Jacob chosen. Only by the grace of God was Israel chosen. But then,
only by the grace of God were the disciples chosen to carry God's grace to the
world, and only by the same grace is the church chosen to carry God's grace.
Jacob and Esau's lives we find an example of the unwarranted mercy of God.
Did Esau deserve God's
rejection? Of course (and so do all of us); but would Esau have
appreciated God's mercy? Only God knows. Maybe that is the reason Jacob was
chosen and Esau was not.
the shadow of the conflict between Esau and Jacob extends across the pages of
the Bible all the way into the New Testament.
Edom's actions against Israel betray Esau's deep enmity, passed
from generation to generation. Finally,
Christ Himself encountered the age-old conflict when he faced Herod and his
sons, Idumeans (better known as Edomites), sons of Esau. Here the drama seems to
end in the face of overwhelming grace-and justice.
By Robert A. Street
Robert A. Street is professor of computer
information systems and Old Testament, Campbellsville University,
IF YOU WERE TO WRITE about a hero of the biblical faith, you would probably depict the
hero’s character as outstanding and without a doubt a model of proper action.
You would show that his faith was unwavering and steadfast. Your hero would be a
great man with unquestionable integrity, honor, and virtue.
That is not the image the Bible presents to us when we read about the
heroes of Hebrew faith. Rather, the Bible presents men and women who often did
questionable, if not disreputable, acts. The stories are not always flattering
and often show an all-too-human side of the heroes of the biblical faith.
The Name Jacob
The above description is especially true with Jacob.
Even his name gives a glimpse into his character. The Book of Genesis gives two
explanations of his name. When he was born (Gen. 25:26), the babe was said to be
holding on to his elder twin brother’s heel as if trying to stop his brother
from being born first. Thus from the beginning Jacob is seen as attempting to
supplant or replace Esau as the firstborn if Isaac and Rebecca. Later in Genesis
27:36, Esau said that Jacob’s name fit him for “he has supplanted me.” The
word “supplant” means to replace, to displace, to remove, or even to cut
Further investigation into the meaning of the Hebrew verb associated with
the name Jacob indicates that the basic idea is that of grasping and even
defrauding. Hosea 12:3 states that Jacob “defrauded his brother in the
womb.” Jeremiah 9:4 may be translated, “every brother defrauds like
Jacob.”1 Obviously, the biblical record presents a darker
side of the biblical hero. Those who defraud others are deceivers. Jacob’s
life, as shown in Genesis, supports not only the idea that Jacob was a
supplanter or deceiver but that he was himself often deceived.
Jacob as a Deceiver
The Jacob stories in Genesis are informative about Jacob’s character.
Even before the births of Jacob and Esau, Rebecca sensed that there would be a
struggle between them (Gen. 25:22-23). Jacob’s grasping at Esau’s heel at
birth leads the reader of Genesis to suspect that all will not be well with the
This is quickly confirmed in Genesis 25:27-34 in the well-known story of
Esau’s sale of this birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup. The birthright was
primarily related to property inheritance. If scholars are correct, then the
sale would mean that Jacob and Esau switched inheritances. As the first-born
Esau would have received a double share or portion of Isaac’s estate when
their father died. Through the legitimate, but definitely not honorable,
purchase Jacob would receive the larger share and Esau would then receive the
lesser share that was to come to Jacob. From Genesis 25:34 the idea that Esau
cared little about being defrauded or cheated is clear.
Genesis 27:1-45 has not only Jacob involved in deceit but his mother
Rebecca as well. Thinking he was approaching death, Isaac asked Esau, whom he
favored over Jacob, to go on a hunting trip to secure wild game for food. Isaac
told Esau that when he returned Esau would receive his blessing. The father’s
blessing passed on the right to rule or succeed the father. Rebecca overheard
the request and approached Jacob convincing him to deceive his father. Rebecca
cooked food to fool Isaac and dressed Jacob in Esau’s clothes. Though Isaac
suspected something was not quite right and did his best to discover the truth
(Gen. 27:16-27), the trickery worked.
Jacob received the blessing Isaac intended for Esau.
The blessing consisted of prosperity through the good of the land (Gen. 27:28),
servants and ruling over his mother’s descendants (Gen. 27:29a), and
protection (Gen.27:29b). From the content of the blessing, Isaac clearly
intended Esau to be the head of the family and to have the best of Isaac’s
When the deceit was uncovered, Isaac could not
repeal his blessing that was mistakenly given to Jacob since it was a blessing
given in the name of God. While this might seem strange, obviously Isaac felt
that the blessing was more than just a legal passing on of property and
authority. An oath or
blessing before the Lord was a sacred thing not to be broken. Though Isaac could
not revoke the blessing erroneously given to Jacob, he could and did give Esau a
lesser blessing. When Jacob received the best land, Esau got the poor land,
Where Jacob got the right to rule over the family, Esau was told that he would
break free from the rule of his brother. Where Jacob had divine protection, Esau
would live by the sword.
Esau’s reaction was that of anger and rightly so; he had been cheated.
Esau planned to kill his brother when Isaac died. Rebecca once again got
involved. She got permission form Isaac for Jacob to go to Haran and her brother
Laban. Though the official reason for the trip was to find a suitable wife for
Jacob, the real reason for Rebecca’s action was to get Jacob away from Esau
(Gen. 27:42 – 28:5). Once again Jacob was involved in deception and deceit.
A Turning Point
After Jacob’s being involved in deceiving others, his role in deception
changed from being the deceiver to being the one deceived. The change in his
role occurred after his encounter with God on the way to Haran. His dream
experience is recounted in Genesis 28:10-22.
Jacob as the Deceived
While Jacob was in Haran, he felt the other side of deception. The story
of Jacob’s working for Laban to obtain Rachel as his wife and being tricked by
his uncle is well known. After serving for seven years to pay a bride price for
Rachel, Jacob awoke to find that he had married her sister Leah. Laban simply
told Jacob that he should have known about the custom of the elder daughter
having to be married before the younger. Jacob, whose reaction was quite similar
to Esau’s reaction after the sale of the birthright, seems to have taken in
all in stride for he agreed to work another seven years for Rachel. However, he
didn’t have to wait the full seven years before his marriage to Rachel (Gen.
After 20 years with Laban (Gen. 31:41), Jacob felt a pressing need to
return to his father’s house, since the sons of Laban and even Laban himself
became hostile toward him (Gen. 31:1-2). Rachel’s departing action from Haran
was to steal Laban’s household gods (Gen. 31:19). Though Jacob deceived Laban
by not letting him know that he was leaving, Jacob did not know about the theft
performed by his wife (Gen. 31:32). Even his beloved Rachel deceived him.
As he returned to Canaan, Jacob was fearful for his
life (Gen. 32). Unexpectedly, when Jacob and Esau met, Esau greeted him not as
an enemy but as a long missing brother. Evidently, Esau has come to accept what
had happened and held no grudge against Jacob.
Like his mother and his father, Jacob seems to have favored one some over
the others. Joseph, the first son of Rachel, was his favorite son. Elevating
Joseph to a position above his brothers resulted in Joseph’s being sold into
slavery in Egypt. Joseph’s half brothers claimed that wild beast had killed
him (Gen. 37:29-35). The brothers conspired and deceived their father, just as
mother and son had deceived Isaac.
The final deceit, that Jacob endured, was caused by his favorite son.
When the brothers went to Egypt to buy grain due to a famine in the land of
Canaan, Benjamin, the youngest brother and the son of Rachel, was left at home.
Jacob was afraid something might happen to him (Gen. 42:3-4). In Egypt the
brothers unknowingly encountered Joseph. Having risen to a position of power in
Egypt, Joseph did not reveal himself to them. Even though Joseph permitted them
to buy grain, he demanded that one of them stay in Egypt as hostage until they
returned with the youngest brother, Benjamin. Joseph took Simeon, the second son
of Leah, as a guarantee that they would return (Gen. 42:18-24).
The return of Jacob’s sons to Egypt was not
immediate for Jacob feared losing yet another son (Gen. 42:36 – 43:17). In
Egypt Joseph continued to play tricks on or deceive his family (Gen. 42:18 –
44:34). But Judah’s pleading was too much for Joseph, and he revealed his
identity and invited the entire family to Egypt (Gen. 45:1-25). The deception
When the brothers returned home, they told Jacob
that Joseph was still alive; but Jacob didn’t believe it at first (Gen.
45:26-28). Convinced, Jacob with his family ventured into Egypt to live under
the protection of Joseph and the pharaoh (Gen. 46:1 – 47:12).
The deceptions and deceits that surrounded Jacob all
his life were at an end. The one who grasped at his brother’s heel at birth
did supplant his elder brother through trickery. The son who learned favoritism
from his parents learned to practice it with his own sons. Then the deceiver became the
deceived. The son who deceived his father was deceived by his sons, even his
H.J. Zobel, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids:
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980), VI:188.
Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention;
Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 1999
What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia
Question Found? What nation did God toss His shoes upon?
Answer Next Week:
week’s question: Who dropped dead as a stone on hearing bad news the morning after being
drunk? Answer: Nabal,
Abigail’s husband; 1 Samuel 25:36-37.