Twins were born, probably not all that common, but not completely unheard of I’m sure. Hairy Esau was born first, but Jacob came out “with his hand grasping Esau’s heal” (Genesis 25:26). As a father of four daughters, I can identify with how very different siblings can be. In this case, Esau is the wild hunting man–perfect match for the SEC. Jacob hangs out around the tents, I can picture him reading books in the library, thinking of ways to build the family business while Esau is out hunting.
The narrative in Genesis 25:29-34 provide a glimpse into the relationship between the brothers. Esau comes in from a hunt a little too hungry and commands Jacob to give him some stew. Jacob sees an opportunity and says, “First sell me your birthright…Swear to me first.” The text simply says, “So Esau despised his birthright,” but I’m sure there was more happening in this scene, probably some words that didn’t get printed in the narrative. Psalm 7:15 includes:
“Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit they have made”
This was no casual soup-to-birthright swap, this was Esau’s character epitomized by this particular event. God loved Jacob (Israel) and hated Esau (Edom) (see Malachi 1:2, Romans 9:13).
Genesis 26 reveals Isaac’s faithfulness to God and the rewards that are proffered to him as a result. Interestingly, in 26:7-11 we see the, “she is my sister” trick work for Isaac as it did for Abraham. I’m not sure what to think about this as it simply slips by in the Scriptures as a means to an end. Isaac and Abimelek reach an amicable arrangement and ultimately Isaac makes a very public treaty with Abimelek’s commander, “Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they went away peacefully” (Genesis 26:31).
Isaac becomes wealthy and prosperous without bloodshed or aggressive behavior. That alone is a valuable lesson to gain from these chapters. As I skim over the text that talks about Isaac I get the sense that he was magnificently obedient to God. When confronted over water rights issues, he dug another well. “He moved from there and dug another well, an no one quarreled over it” (Genesis 26:22). In our modern, often pushy society, we see many examples where the aggressive business-person is greatly successful, but that’s only because they are the ones that attract attention. When we read books like Good to Great, we learn that success doesn’t require arrogance. Just like Isaac, we can receive blessings through obedience.