Jacob and Esau: Deception, Bitterness, and the Sovereignty of God | alyssajhoward.com

Jacob and Esau: Deception, Bitterness, and the Sovereignty of God

Jacob and Esau were the first twins mentioned in the Bible. Sons of Isaac and Rebekah, these two came into the world after Isaac prayed asking God to give his barren wife a child. If you remember, Isaac’s mother was barren too. She was 90 years old when she finally conceived Isaac. So this was a story all too familiar for Isaac. But God gave him two sons. In fact, Genesis 25:23 describes them as “two nations.” Esau would be born first, but it would be Jacob who would be chosen by God to carry on the bloodline of Jesus. The older shall serve the younger…

Jacob and Esau: Deception, Bitterness, and the Sovereignty of God | alyssajhoward.com

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If you know the story of Jacob and Esau, you know that one day Esau came in from the field extremely hungry. He was so hungry, in fact, that he traded his birthright for a bowl of Jacob’s freshly prepared stew….

When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. – Genesis 25:29-34


Here are three spiritual truths we learn from the story of Jacob and Esau:


Our spiritual well-being matters more than our physical well-being.

Esau was hungry. Now, there is no doubt he was probably famished. (I mean, who gives away their birthright over slight hunger?!) But still, he traded his birthright for one hot meal. At that moment, his fleshly needs mattered more than his spiritual ones. He couldn’t see past his hunger to realize what he was actually giving up.

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. – Hebrews 12:15-17 (emphasis added)


Don’t allow bitterness to take root and control your life.

I find it interesting in the passage above that the author spoke of bitterness before speaking of Esau. Is it possible that Esau knew of God’s promise to Rebekah that Jacob would indeed be the one to carry out God’s promise? Do you think it’s possible that he noticed the favoritism shown to Jacob by his mother? He undoubtedly suffered from bitterness after this event as the Bible says he “despised” his birthright. The Bible doesn’t say where his bitterness began, but we do know these brothers had a strained relationship and their family dynamics were a little off considering each parent had their favorite child. Perhaps it was that root of bitterness in Esau’s life that caused him to make such a poor decision in the first place.


Remember that God’s plan always prevails.

The story of Jacob and Esau often puzzled me as a child. Why did God choose Jacob over his brother? The truth is that we simply do not know. For whatever reason, God chose Jacob before he was even born. And in the end, God’s plan prevailed.

And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” – Romans 9:10-12 (emphasis added)


This story contains so much trickery and deception. In a lot of ways, Jacob made some mistakes as well. He took advantage of his brother’s hunger and stole his birthright. He lied to his own father when it came time for Esau to inherit his blessing. And Rebekah conspired against her own son to make sure Jacob received the blessing instead! But what this tells me is that God’s plan always prevails… even when we make mistakes. He used the good and the bad to work all things together for His glory.

The story of Jacob and Esau serves as a reminder that in the end, God’s plan always prevails.


This post is part of a larger series called “Let There Be Light.” Join me as we journey through the Old Testament leading up to the arrival of Jesus, the Light of the World!


Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. - Hebrews 12:15


*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

**Photo by Ben White at ChristianPics.co


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