Jacob and Esau, Genesis 25:19-34
Isaac, who had received the promises, is blessed with twin sons. Before they are born, in verse 23, God tells Rebekah that the boys will grow to be two nations, but that the younger would have the preeminence. We are not told why this is so, but we do not question God's right to choose. Although twins, the two boys seem to be just about as different as two boys could be. Esau, the firstborn, is a hairy, red-skinned outdoorsman. Jacob, however, is a mild, smooth-skinned man who stays close to the tent and cooks. Esau is a man of action; Jacob is a thinker. Foolishly, the parents choose their favorites (verse 28): a practice that would wreak havoc in any family. In keeping with his character, Esau is evidently an impatient man. He comes home from the field hungry one day, and sees food available, and is not willing to wait for something else: he decides he must have some of the food that Jacob cooked. Jacob wants Esau's birthright, and Esau gives it to him in exchange for a bowl of lentil stew. To understand the magnitude of this exchange, we must remember that their father, Isaac, is a very wealthy man, having inherited everything that was Abraham's (Genesis 25:5). The birthright of the firstborn son was a double portion of the inheritance. (In other words, upon Isaac's death, his wealth would have been split into three equal parts, with two going to Esau and one to Jacob.) So Esau exchanged a fortune for a bowl of stew. We see that he was a short-sighted man, ruled by his passions and the desires of the moment. This exchange between Esau and Jacob becomes an object lesson for us today. God has offered us eternal life through Jesus Christ. In order to attain that, we need to be willing to subordinate our desires to His will, as Jesus taught us in Matthew 7:21-23; 26:39-42. How often we see people who decline God's offer of eternal life, because they are unwilling to forego the desires and ambitions of this life. Esau provides us with an object lesson that helps us to see just how foolish such an attitude is, Hebrews 12:14-16.
Jacob Steals the Blessing, Genesis 27:1-40
In his old age, Isaac prepares to bestow a blessing upon his firstborn son - the son whom he favored, verses 1-4. Although God had ordained that the younger son should have the preeminence, we find Isaac intends to bestow the preeminent blessing upon Esau. Rebekah, for her part, was not willing to wait and see how God would work this problem out; instead, she takes matters into her own hands, and devises a scheme to trick her husband, verses 5-13. Jacob willingly goes along with his mother's plan, and carries out the deception of his father, verses 14-27. In this way, Jacob received the blessing that Isaac wished to give to Esau, verses 27-29. When Isaac realizes what has happened, he also realizes that he cannot take the blessing back; it is from God, verses 30- 33 (see also Hebrews 11:20). Esau is distraught, and pleads with his father to change his mind - but it is to no avail, verses 34-40. Isaac cannot repent of a blessing that came from God (Hebrews 12:16-17). And again, we are brought back to our lesson: if we treat the things of this life as though they are as important as eternal life, then we will not see heaven. As for Rebekah and Jacob, they only appear to get away with this deception; in reality, they suffer consequences. We soon see Rebekah bereft of her beloved son (28:1-5). And we see that Jacob's conniving ways come back to haunt him: he is deceived by his father-in-law (29:18-26), and then most cruelly deceived by his own sons (Genesis 37:23-36).
The Promises to Jacob, Genesis 28:10-22
As Jacob travels toward Haran to find a wife, he settles down for the night with a stone for a pillow, verses 10-11. Then he dreams of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, with angels going up and down it, verse 12. Heaven, of course, is where God is, and earth is the abode of mankind (e.g. Ecclesiastes 5:2). In this dream, the Lord stands above the ladder and extends to Jacob the very promises that He had made to Abraham and Isaac, verses 13-15. (Jacob reveals his immature understanding of the nature of God in verses 16-22. Thankfully, Jacob grows in this, and later in his life has a better appreciation for his Creator, as can be seen in 32:9-10 and 35:1-3.) Jesus identifies Himself to Nathanael as the fulfillment of Jacob's dream in John 1:47-51. The connection between God and us is broken by our sins, as in Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:23. Jesus, in paying the price for sin, gives us the opportunity to reestablish fellowship with the Father, Romans 5:6-11. Thus, He is the Ladder that reaches from earth to heaven.
God gives Jacob the name Israel in Genesis 32:28. Jacob has twelve sons (Genesis 35:22b-26), and they become the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel.