Beginning of the End


Jacob and Esau

This chapter is based on Genesis 25:19-34; 27.

Jacob and Esau, the twin sons of Isaac, present a sharp contrast in character and in life. Before their birth, the angel of God foretold how different from each other they would be. In answer to Rebekah’s troubled prayer, he declared that two sons would be given her. He opened to her their future history, that each would become the head of a mighty nation but that one would be greater than the other, and the younger would have prominence. BOE 80.1

Esau grew up loving to please himself, centering all his interest in living for today. Unhappy with restraint, he delighted in the chase and the life of a hunter, yet he was his father’s favorite. This elder son fearlessly ranged over mountain and desert, returning home with game and exciting accounts of his adventurous life. BOE 80.2

Jacob, who was thoughtful, diligent, and always thinking more of the future than the present, was content to live at home, occupied in caring for the flocks and working the soil. His mother valued his patient perseverance, thrift, and foresight. His gentle attentions added more to her happiness than the boisterous, occasional kindnesses of Esau. To Rebekah, Jacob was the dearer son. BOE 80.3

Esau and Jacob were taught to regard the birthright as a matter of great importance, for it included not only an inheritance of worldly wealth, but spiritual pre-eminence. The one who received it was to be the priest of his family, and in the line of his descendants the Redeemer of the world would come. BOE 80.4

On the other hand, certain obligations rested on the possessor of the birthright. The one who inherited its blessings must devote his life to the service of God. In marriage, in his family relations, in public life, he must consult the will of God. BOE 80.5

Isaac made known to his sons these privileges and conditions and plainly stated that Esau as the eldest was the one entitled to the birthright. But Esau had no love for devotion, no inclination to a religious life. The requirements that accompanied the spiritual birthright were an unwelcome and even hateful restraint to him. Esau regarded the law of God, the condition of God’s covenant with Abraham, as a yoke of bondage. Determined to indulge himself, he wanted nothing so much as the freedom to do as he pleased. To him power and riches, feasting and partying, were happiness. He gloried in the unrestrained freedom of his wild, roving life. BOE 80.6

Rebekah remembered the words of the angel and read the character of their sons with clearer insight than her husband. Convinced that the heritage of divine promise was intended for Jacob, she repeated to Isaac the angel’s words. But the father’s affections were centered on the elder son, and he was unshaken in his decision to give him the birthright. BOE 81.1

Jacob had learned from his mother that the birthright should fall to him, and he was filled with desire for the privileges it would confer. It was not his father’s wealth that he craved; it was the spiritual birthright that he longed for. To commune with God as Abraham had, to offer the sacrifice of atonement, to be a forefather of the chosen people of the promised Messiah, to inherit the immortal possessions included in the covenant—these were the privileges and honor that he earnestly desired. BOE 81.2

He listened to all that his father told him concerning the spiritual birthright, and he carefully treasured what he had learned from his mother. The subject became the focus of his life, but Jacob did not have a personal relationship with the God whom he revered. His heart had not been renewed by divine grace. He constantly thought about devising some way to get the blessing that his brother held so lightly, but which was so precious to himself. BOE 81.3