So here’s the thing. We all know Esau, right? He wasn’t exactly noted for intelligent decisions. The guy was blunt force trauma on his own destiny. He became popular in his neighbourhood for selling his birthright for red stew. (Genesis 25:30) That’s how he got the nickname Edom. Edom means “red.” But we’re rushing ahead of ourselves. Let’s go to the very beginning.
The household dynamics of the Isaac family was a most interesting one. Isaac you’ll recall was the sheltered only child of the very beautiful wife of the very rich businessman, Abraham. He married his adventurous and beautiful cousin, Rebekah. She was from a rich home too. Funny thing was, Isaac didn’t toast her directly. His father sent his trusted head servant Eliezer to go get him a wife from northern Mesopotamia – largely today’s Iraq. Isaac was forty at this time, and he was in deep mourning. His mum, Sarah had just passed away and he was kind of mummy’s boy. His father figured he needed another woman in his life.(Genesis 24:67)
To be fair Eliezer expressed some doubt about the whole arrangement. The distance was much – 640 km. Would take 11 hours 28 minutes by road today. It’s about the distance from Lagos to Abuja. And they didn’t have cars in those days, they used camel express. “But what if I can’t find a woman who is willing to travel so far from home?” Eliezer had asked. He obviously didn’t reckon with Rebekah. She was not only willing to travel that far from home, she packed her bag to leave the very next day! (Genesis 24:54-59)
The marriage produced two kids – Esau and Jacob. Twins actually. It was a difficult pregnancy. First Rebekah struggled to conceive – she waited 20 years; and when she finally conceived, the two kids started fighting, right there in her tummy! They didn’t exactly have scanners at Canaan Maternity so Rebekah didn’t know she was pregnant with twins. She thought her baby was a restless kick-boxer in training. It was God who told her she was pregnant with twins. (The “little things” God does…Giving us information to calm our fears). This is what God told Rebekah: “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples butting heads while still in your body. One people will overpower the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23 MSG)
Well, the kids were born and they couldn’t be any more different. Esau was “reddish” and hairy,“ as if snugly wrapped in a hairy blanket.” For his hairy nature, they named him Esau. (Genesis 25:25) Onomastically, Esau sounds like a Hebrew term for “hair.” His brother on the other hand was smooth, like a model for Gillette shaving foam advert. (Genesis 25:26) Esau was impulsive and instinctual. Jacob was deliberative and strategic. Esau was the outdoorsy type. He’d do well in the TV series, Survival. Jacob on the other hand was more of a Dragons’ Den type. The family was split right down the middle, each parent had a preferred child. And it was kind of a paradox. The sheltered businessman father loved the wild outdoorsy son with no negotiating skill whatsoever. The adventurous mother loved the cerebral indoor-type son. Thus the parents loved what they were not. Isaac loved Esau, Rebekah loved Jacob.
Now, in that prophecy God had said the younger son would dominate the older son, which meant Jacob would rule over Esau. But Isaac sought to reverse the prophecy. When he realised he was close to the grave he decided to bless Esau and make him preeminent. As precursor to the blessing he instructed Esau to hunt him wild game and prepare his favourite meal, after which he’ll bless him. His exact words were quite telling, and it shows a deliberate attempt to subvert God’s will: “Prepare my favourite dish, and bring it here for me to eat. Then I will pronounce the blessing that belongs to you, my firstborn son, before I die.” (Genesis 27:4) Which means he didn’t agree with God’s decision. He felt Esau should have the blessing as firstborn, not Jacob. Which is kind of strange. He was a beneficiary of subversion of the natural order himself. If natural order had been followed his half brother Ishmael would have received the blessing, not him. (Genesis 21:10) God makes a technical distinction between firstborn and first son. The designated first son receives the blessing not necessarily the firstborn. Same thing happened with Ephraim and Manasseh, Isaac’s great grandchildren. Ephraim the younger son was designated first son. Blessing is not according to natural order, it’s by grace. It’s not by human effort it’s the covenant of mercy. So it doesn’t matter how many people are before you in the natural order, grace is what determines the blessing. Grace subverts natural order.
When Rebekah overheard the conversation between Isaac and Esau she set about her own scheme. To divert the blessing to Jacob she scripted costume drama. She instructed Jacob to get her two goats from the family stock, went into the kitchen and prepared a meal. Then she got Jacob to don Esau’s clothes and to camouflage his smooth skin with goat hair. Esau was that hairy. She wanted to deceive Isaac that Jacob was Esau. This was high-risk stuff but Rebekah was no stranger to risk. Remember she had followed an unknown man to marry an unknown man in an unknown country. When Jacob pointed out the risk involved she simply said, “Let the curse fall on me, my son.” (Genesis 27:13) It was a bold all-in gamble. But why she ask Jacob to don Esau’s clothes? It’s because Esau had strong BO. He didn’t use Sure deodorant. Donning his clothes was olfactory camouflage. Isaac was blind by this time so he relied on other senses.
When Jacob showed up with the meal Isaac was suspicious. Wild game don’t offer to be killed, you have to chase them and that takes time. How come this meal was so fast? He reached out to feel Jacob’s arm to make sure he wasn’t being duped but the goat hair proved adequate. But then there was the issue of voice. The hand was Esau’s but the voice was Jacob’s. And so he asked, “But are you really my son Esau?”(Genesis 27:24) Even after eating the meal he remained suspicious. So he asked Jacob to come a little closer, to kiss him. The BO ruse worked and so he pronounced the blessing. It was a comprehensive blessing and it contained these two lines: “May many nations become your servants, and may they bow down to you. May you be master over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.” (Genesis 27:29) In other words, if Rebekah ever remarried and bore children after his death the pronouncement will bind even those children. But this whole thing was nothing if not hair-raising drama. Jacob had barely left Isaac’s presence when Esau showed up! The moral from this is that it’s good to give constant feedback on assignments. If Esau had informed his dad he was back from the hunt before going to prepare the meal Jacob would have been caught!
And so food played yet another role in the determination of Esau’s destiny. Here was a hunter being hunted by food. Remember he had earlier sold his birthright for food: “What good is birthright if I’m dead?” he had said. (Genesis 25:29-34) For selling his birthright for food the Bible called Esau a profane person. (Hebrews 12:16) And that’s how we got to know about “Esau Syndrome.” It means “trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short term appetite.” (Hebrews 12:16 MSG) That’s the danger in carnality. Never trade away your blessing for carnal gratification. You will have regrets, like Esau. (Hebrews 12:17)
Esau became the nation of Edom. The Hebrew word translated for his “reddish” hair (admoni) forms the word play for Edomites, Esau’s descendants. Seir (Joshua 24:4), Bozrah (Isaiah 63:1) and Sela (2 Kings 14:7) are Esau’s patrimony. Sela is Petra today. It’s in Jordan. The reddish sandstone cliffs are characteristic of Esau’s primary colour. Jacob of course became Israel. Israel and Edom would struggle throughout history, just as the prophecy said. The Edomites notoriously refused Israel passage through their land on their way from Egypt. (Numbers 20:17)
But here’s one last thing. During the inter-testamentary period – the years between the Old and New Testaments when Greek became the common language, the Edomites became known as Idumeans. With the rise of the Roman Empire, an Idumean whose father had converted to Judaism became king of Judea. That Idumean was King Herod. He was the tyrant who ordered the massacre of thousands of kids just to get Jesus. (Matthew 2:16-18) And so did the prophecy concerning Jacob and Esau roar to life in the New Testament – Esau going after Jacob’s cardinal descendant, Jesus. Today the Edomites are no more, but Israel remains. Esau is no more.
But what if Isaac had blessed Esau instead of Jacob? Truth is, it was virtually impossible. Anytime man pits himself against God, God wins. No man can subvert the will of God. But let’s imagine the improbable happened and Esau received the blessing. Then Esau would have subdued Jacob and finished him off. Herod the descendant of Esau would have succeeded in killing baby Jesus the descendant of Jacob. And there would be no salvation for mankind!
If you’ll like to give your life to Jesus, please pray this prayer: Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus Christ died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.
© #Illuminare Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.orgAnytime man pits himself against God, God wins. Click To Tweet