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Bible verses about Parental Manipulation of Children
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 27:16

Genesis 27 recounts the story of Jacob's tricking of the elderly, blind Isaac into giving him the patriarchal blessing instead of bestowing it on his older-by-mere-minutes twin brother Esau, who was the rightful heir. The "she" mentioned here is Rebekah, Isaac's wife and the mother of the two young men.

Part of the background of the story is that the two parents played favorites (Genesis 25:28): Isaac preferred Esau and his "manly pursuits," while Rebekah favored Jacob, who is described as "a mild man, dwelling in tents" (Genesis 25:27), suggesting that he was more refined and that his aptitudes were more mental than physical. This favoritism put the couple at odds on at least one score, who would inherit the patriarchy after Isaac's death. Isaac evidently thought Esau the better candidate, since he was the older and stronger. His wife felt Jacob better suited to the position, being more cunning and skillful in business and management. It also spurred rivalry between the sons.

Jacob had revealed his cunning when he had bargained the birthright from Esau some time before (Genesis 25:29-34). He made cynical use of Esau's famished state to finagle the lucrative—even precious—birthright from his brother, who the Bible says did not value it highly enough: "Esau despised his birthright" (Genesis 25:34; see Hebrews 12:16-17). The birthright was the firstborn's double portion of inheritance. (Jacob later passed this birthright on to Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh; see Genesis 48.)

Earlier in Genesis 27, Isaac had sent Esau out to hunt for game to make his favorite stew, after which he would pronounce the blessing on him. Rebekah knew that this gave her time to make her own stew from the meat of young goats to imitate Esau's dish and to prepare Jacob to disguise himself as his hairy brother (see Genesis 25:25). Jacob was a "smooth-skinned man" (Genesis 27:11) by comparison to Esau, so he would need, not only to wear his brother's clothes so that he smelled like him, but also to apply hair to the backs of his hands and neck to make the ruse work.

So, Rebekah evidently adhered the skins of the freshly killed kids to Jacob's hands and neck, perhaps even sewing them to her son's cuffs and collar so that Isaac would never think that the hair he felt was not genuine. With the short time she had to work with, she went to great lengths to ensure that Jacob received the blessing—and even then Isaac nearly guessed the truth when Jacob could not imitate Esau's voice well enough (Genesis 27:22).

Perhaps what God said in Genesis 25:23 motivated Rebekah: "Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger." She knew that God had ordained Jacob to lead the family (see Malachi 1:2-3; Romans 9:10-13). However, like Sarah before her, Rebekah took matters into her own hands rather than allowing God to work matters out so that Jacob would receive the blessing in a more ethical way.

Who knows how He would have worked it out—maybe Esau would have despised the blessing too or Isaac would have been warned by God not to bless Esau but to bestow it on Jacob at a later time. It is a moot point now. God included it in His Book so that we can learn lessons from what actually happened—lessons about the use of trickery, favoritism in families, getting ahead of God, making assumptions about what He is doing, priorities, selfish ambition, parental manipulation of their children, how one lie begets another, and so forth. We can mine a wealth of wisdom from the rivalry of Jacob and Esau.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh


 

Proverbs 29:12

This proverb is the first of a set of three that runs through verse 14. The general theme concerns the integrity of government, while the middle proverb, verse 13, deals with the obvious fact that both ruler and ruled are equal in the sight of God. There is also a progression among the three verses from negative to positive, passing through the neutrality of verse 13. One can also see that wicked officials who become oppressors of the poor meet their match in a ruler who leads with integrity and truth.

Our concern, however, is with verse 12 specifically. A little understanding of the way a royal court works—in fact, any seat of leadership—will help explain how this happens. If the ruler bends an ear to gossip, insinuations, misrepresentations, unfounded assertions, manufactured "facts," or any other kind of falsehood, his administration will be founded on sand. His advisors and officials will soon learn that the easiest way to influence and power in the government is by telling the ruler what he wants to hear rather than what is actually true. That is how the game is played. In a very short time, the whole government will be corrupt. In other words, the underlings adjust themselves to their leader, and thus the Roman saying, Qualis rex, talis grex (“like king, like people”).

The New King James translates this verse as a conditional statement: "If . . . [then]." However, the Hebrew makes a plain statement of fact, as the Contemporary English Version renders it: “A ruler who listens to lies will have corrupt officials.” Wherever they are found, hierarchies have this property: The whole governmental structure reflects that character—or lack thereof—of the leader at the top. As American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it, "Every institution is but the lengthened shadow of some great man." This can be a wonderful asset when the man at the top possesses sterling character—and a terrible liability when he is corrupt, out of his depth, or a fool.

Parents need to be especially careful because of this fact of human nature. The children will not only reflect the attitudes, speech, and behaviors of their parents, but they will actively learn how to function under their parents' leadership and manipulate them to get what they want. And this happens much earlier in the children's lives than most parents realize; toddlers may not be able to articulate what they are doing, but they know when tears or smiles or some other trick will make mom or dad do their bidding. Many a mother has told a friend about an incident with her child, "The baby was just so cute that I had to give in!" The baby had won and learned how to make the mother dance to his/her tune.

The overall lesson is that a person in authority must lead by seeking the truth in all matters that come before him. It is foolish to decide a matter based on initial reports or only one side of a dispute, even if it sounds right. He should not act before taking the time and the effort to discover independently whether matters are as they have been presented. If a leader takes this prudent path, those under him will soon learn that it does not pay to tell falsehoods that will be found out, leading to their ouster. In an atmosphere of truth, corruption finds it much harder to gain a foothold, and everyone under such an administration of integrity has a greater opportunity to be satisfied.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh


 

 




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