Skip to comments.The Consequences of Child Favoritism (Jacob and Esau)
Posted on 10/06/2018 4:01:31 PM PDT by pcottraux
The Consequences of Child Favoritism
By Philip Cottraux
The Bible is timeless. Despite being thousands of years old, it still can teach us profound lessons about ourselves. Setting aside just their historical truth, its stories contain universal metatruth on the nature of man. Specifically, the story of Jacob and Esau is perhaps its most cautionary tale on the danger of dysfunctional family dynamics.
Like his father Abraham, Isaac and Rebekah had trouble conceiving. And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was inteated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived (Genesis 25:21). After twenty years, she was finally pregnant with twins; but before they were even born, Jacob and Esau had trouble getting along. In ancient times, the firstborn was always the most honored child and automatic family heir. But the Lord prophesied to Rebekah that her children would be different: And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from they bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people, and the elder shall sere the younger (verse 23). When they were born, Jacob grabbed Esaus heel on the way out, foreshadowing how he would always be there to trip his brother up. The name Jacob means the Supplanter or Heel catcher.
The real tragedy of Jacob and Esau is how their parents played favorites, and what this did to them as adults. Verse 28: And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob. Esau was clearly disconnected from his mother while Jacob was lacking a fatherly bond. The connection with two parental figures, one father and one mother, is crucial to ones development and necessary for adult stability. Not being loved as much by one or the other is a recipe for disaster. Throw in two jealous brothers and the results can be catastrophic.
But even the reasons for loving one child over the other were trivial on the parents parts. Isaac only favored his eldest for his culinary talents. Jacob was clearly a man of the tents, a mommas boy who was never allowed to venture out into the dangerous hunting fields. But Rebekah was merely preparing her son for a power play. The overbearing mother who pits one child against another has a toxic relationship with her children. I guarantee you that when Jacob met Rachel for the first time many years later, he immediately fell in love with her because she reminded him of his mother.
These cycles of abuse tend to repeat themselves with each generation. Is it any wonder one day Jacob would play favorites with his own sons, loving Joseph and Benjamin, the children of his favorite wife Rachel, over the rest? He was only acting out what he had been taught from his own parents.
It cant be underestimated how important the birthright was in the ancient world. All Isaac had was to be passed down to Esau. Its hard for us to understand today, but for desert nomads traditions like this were everything. But Esau was careless. After coming in from hunting, his scheming brother was able to convince him to sell it. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me (verse 32)? This was a sacred covenant given to Abraham by God, but Esau gave it up to satisfy his hunger one time.
What were the long-term consequences? If you step back you can see the plan of God in its fullness. Abraham was to be the father of a chosen people. The purpose was to birth a nation from whom the Savior, Jesus, would come into the world. As the firstborn of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, Esau was next in the lineage. But he passed that to Jacob. So God would have to use Jacobs descendants rather than Esaus to redeem mankind. Thats a huge price to pay for a pot of lentil stew.
Despite the prophecy that one day the elder would serve the younger, Rebekah couldnt wait on the Lord. The only thing Esau had left was the blessing he would receive when Isaac died. Old and stricken with years, Isaac asked his son to go hunt and bring him venison. But Rebekah hatched a scheme for Jacob to receive the blessing instead. With Isaac nearly blind, she would disguise Jacob with Esaus garments, goat hair, and the scent of the field, to then enter the tent with venison to deceive his father. Genesis 37:30: And it came too pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. When the deceit had been revealed, Esau cried bitterly. And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? Bless me even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept (verse 38). But there was only one blessing, and Esau had missed it. I cant help but think he was paying a price for selling his birthright earlier. His pitiful cries remind me of those who will end up in hell, pleading to God that now they are ready to believe. But it will be too late. They had plenty of chances during this life, but now all hope is gone and hellfire is their eternal sentence.
The paradox is that God had foreseen that Jacob would have dominion over Esau. But not having faith to let God do it Himself, she got ahead of Him by taking matters into her own hands. By her actions, the Lords will had still been done; but now she would pay a heavy price. Her impatience would prove disastrous on her family. Esau had been driven to murderous rage. Verse 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 brother Jacob.
When Rebekah heard of her sons plans, she warned Jacob to flee the camp for his life. Her last words to him are heartbreaking: Until thy brothers anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: (verse 45). But she was lying to herself; she would never see Jacob again. She was so determined to make her favorite son the blessed heir that her actions would make her lost him forever. Theres bitter irony in that, but its the price manipulative mothers pay for what they do to their children. Galatians 6:7: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Unlike most stories in the Bible, there are no heroes or villains in this one. Everyone is guilty. Isaac favored one son over the other. Rebekah was a manipulator. Jacob was a deceiver. Esau was careless.
But the consequences for Esau were much more far-reaching. Rather than being blessed, his descendants were cursed. His sin of throwing away his birthright would multiply over the next generation, then the next generation after that. The Edomites were some of the most vicious, warlike people in the Old Testament, the enemies of Gods people for centuries. The Amalekites also came from Esau, and they ferociously attacked the Israelites immediately after the Exodus, targeting women and children. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt (1 Samuel 15:2). The consequences of one sin can stretch far beyond what you would ever expect on your future generations. The never-ending war and death between modern Israel and the Arabs has its roots all the way back to Abrahams adultery with Hagar. You never know the curse you could be placing on your children with just one act of disobedience. Romans 9:13: As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
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Heel catcher - wow! The things we miss - not knowing Hebrew!
was what ?
“These cycles of abuse tend to repeat themselves with each generation.”
My parents and my wife’s parents always tried their best to keep things equal when it came to gifts and stuff. So that has been passed down to our kids.
When they were little we would whisper to one of them “Don’t tell anybody - but you’re my favorite.” But loud enough so the other kids could hear, and with a wink. They all “got it”. And when they were very little the next one would come over and say “Okay - say it to me now daddy!”
Now that they are older they don’t always get it, and that we are trying our best.
Neither Jacob nor his mother understood that, if God promises to bless you, you don’t have to cheat or steal to get it.
In fact, you can’t steal a blessing anyway. Having attempted to “steal” Esau’s blessing, he wound up leaving with nothing at all, and Esau inherited everything. Jacob wound up working for 20 years for a guy who cheated him over and over... and yet once God made good on his promise to bless him, cheating him was pointless. He got his blessing in spite of what his father-in-law did.
You do note that cheating seemed to run in that family, everyone cheating everyone. The father-in-law cheating Jacob, the wives cheating each other and their father, their sons selling one another out. God evidently didn’t choose them because they were the most noble people, but because he saw what they could be, not merely what they were.
I’ve often wondered, in a good way, the line from Jacob started with a great deception, and perhaps deception is part of their nature. When one contemplates things like the last Temple, how the legal bloodline of David was preserved through Mary and the virgin birth, the art of deception, in a positive way, becomes apparent.
And the experts are perpertually guilty for jumping to conclusions, just like Esav did when he flew off the handle in assuming that he received an inferior blessing.
Jacob needed to hold Esav back, and Rebecca was a visionary.
Her last words to him are heartbreaking: Until thy brothers anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: (verse 45). But she was lying to herself; she would never see Jacob again.
She wasn't lying to herself, it's a long view prophecy of rectification. Everyone is going to forget and learn to laugh over the epic misunderstandings and be willing to start fresh. Laughter is the best medicine. Life from the dead. No laughter, no inheritance.
Jewish understanding: Esav is Western Civ, the Christian world.
"When we rise above the root of evil and perceive the Divine plan in its entirety, then there is no longer any difference between Haman's curse and Mordechai's blessing -- both are part of God's plan for human history."
Rebecca made the first Purim costume, dressing up Jacob in Esav's "Sunday best."
As far as the reference to Romans 9:13...
12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
Jacob ---> mercy
Esau ---> compassion
This whole process reminds me of Spock causing the two identical androids to short circuit. Death by illogical input.
"I love you, but I hate you"...
"But we're identical!"
Gotta laugh. That's where Isaac comes in.
—Heel catcher - wow! The things we miss - not knowing Hebrew!—
Yes. “Heel-gripper” = “Supplanter” because when someone is ahead of you running a race, you can grab the guy’s heel and trip him up, or pull him backwards so you can take the lead. Very clever.
Well I don't know Hebrew either, but a good study guide or commentary can go a long way...
Dang weak R button!
Words of wisdom.
If cycles of abuse repeat themselves, the same is true of love, respect, discipline, balance, stability...all the things we want of our children. Despite all the human race has been through, there are still a lot of good people here.
Unfortunately, I’m an only child and I don’t have any children so it looks like my familial cycles, good or bad, stop with me. :(
Good points, but lots of things added onto The Bible and assumed in your article about the people, what they thought and what motivated them. They may likely be true, but we just don’t know for sure
They are stories.
A true story involving God’s purpose and plan for the salvation of mankind.
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