Jacob: 32. Jacob Born and Young

Genesis 25:30‑34  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 7
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Jacob: Jacob Born and Young
If scripture speaks briefly of Isaac, it has much to say of Jacob, as it had not a little of Abraham. Yet the difference between the divine accounts of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is marked and instructive. The grandfather was preeminently a man of faith, in whom God's call was conspicuous, head of a chosen race, as Adam of mankind. Isaac was distinctively the son of Sarah the freewoman; “in Isaac shall thy seed be called,” Abraham's child and heir. In wandering Jacob, supplanter of Esau yet wrestler of God, His merciful purposes for the earthly people appear in their rich and striking variety. Jacob gives occasion to the exercise of God's sovereignty as to the twin children of Isaac and Rebekah. For they being not yet born, nor having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him that calls, it was said to their mother, The elder shall serve the younger. It had been shown before in casting out the bondwoman and her son; but so it was now far more emphatically in Jacob chosen, not Esau. No flesh shall glory; in Jehovah certainly, as it ought to be. Is man only to think and talk of his rights? Sinful man! Has God alone no rights? Is He to be a mere register of man's wrongs? Ah! his wrongs, not rights: this is the truth, as no believer should forget from the dawn of a vital work in his soul.
Without dwelling long, we may notice the youth of Isaac's sons, already traced in the sketch given of their father. Esau did not become a sojourner in the land of promise; but, being at home there and without a heavenly hope, he made the early career of Nimrod his own, if he never thought of him. From the outset he was as unlike Abraham as one of the family line could be. His love of excitement and of reckless adventure made him despise the parental circle, and the monotonous duty of caring for the herds and the flocks. Others might look for the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God; but it had not the least place in Esau's heart. For him the present life was all, and the chase in particular as giving scope to courage and address in overcoming difficulties and gaining personal distinction. Therefore was he a cunning hunter, a man of the field; whereas Jacob was a homely or quiet man, dwelling in tents, with warm domestic affections; and he valued too the link with God, though with a heart as yet little if at all cleansed by faith. So the history appears to intimate for many a day.
But those who seek their pleasures without a thought of God like Esau do not find their own path free from the world's sorrow. And his extremity became Jacob's opportunity. The cunning hunter came in from the field without his venison, hungry and faint; and the keen edge of appetite, so whetted yet foiled, made him the more sensitive to the dish of red lentils which Jacob had cooked. And so he, who at other times would have been too proud to ask a favor of his brother, whom he heartily despised as a milksop, stoops to beg: “Feed me, I pray thee, with the red—the red there, for I am faint.” Quick as thought, without prayer to God, but full of that which his mind at least prized, Jacob makes his bargain: “Sell me now (or, first) thy birth-right.” Truly it was the “worm Jacob,” and different indeed from the “Israel” of a later day. But Scripture tells the truth; and the two men were seen as they really were “Behold,” said Esau, “I am going to die, and of what use can the birth-right be to me?” Why so impatient? Could he not hold out a quarter of an hour? The mother's tent was near; could he not wait long enough to ask of them who had never refused his cry of need—never put him off with a stone or a serpent?
No; he must have the tempting food on the instant. In his impetuous haste and self-will it seemed death to wait a few moments longer. Alas! Jacob took advantage of it; and brought in God, whom he himself was selfishly slighting, to bind Esau who had no fear of Him whatever: “Swear to me first.” And he did swear to sell his birth-right to Jacob. How fleshly the act on both sides! Instead of securing Jacob in the sight of God, it was part of those evil days on which he had to look back with shame and sorrow when grace really governed his soul. And it could do no more than widen the gulf between the brothers, rankling as it might, and not unnaturally, in his heart who was drawn into the oath by the pressure of a passing need. So Jacob gave his bread and dish of lentils; and Esau “eat and drank, and rose up and went his way” in the graphic terms of the history, with the solemn comment: “so Esau despised his birth-right.” What great moral principles are for us in these apparently simple tales of domestic life in early days! Let us not, like unbelievers, leave God out of the account: none can, save to his irreparable loss.