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What the Bible says about Jacob and Esau
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 25:22-23

God put this in perspective for her. In these two little babies were the seeds of two great peoples who would become populous and powerful nations that would compete with each other for many generations to come. When we consider that this contentious relationship has directly and adversely affected many nations throughout history, along with the resultant sufferings and deaths of millions of people, it is no laughing matter.

Notice that in His explanation, God predicted who would ultimately prove dominant: the younger, whom we know as Jacob or Israel. The apostle Paul comments on this in Romans 9:10-13:

And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, "The older shall serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."

The apostle uses this situation to illustrate that God's choice, or election, is based entirely on His grace, not on any kind of human merit. The human reasons often advanced for the ongoing strife between the descendants of Esau and Jacob are therefore groundless, as God for His own purposes has chosen to show favor to the nations of Israel and not to Edom. However, despite their being denied national greatness, Esau's descendants are not without hope of salvation, though they must swallow their pride and admit that "salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22), through the Messiah, who descends from Judah, son of Jacob (see Matthew 1:2, 16; Luke 3:23, 33-34; Hebrews 7:14).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part One)

Genesis 25:24-27

From the outset, these two characters were complete opposites. One was red and hairy, and the other was probably paler and smooth-skinned (Genesis 27:11). One enjoyed the outdoors with all its activities, while the other felt most comfortable indoors, perhaps engaging in more studious enterprises. Esau seems to have been driven to pursue one particular enterprise, hunting, with all of his energy, and he was no doubt quite skilled in it. Jacob, however, is described as a "mild man," which in Hebrew suggests he was a complete person, that is, he had a well-rounded personality and could divide his energies among a number of projects and interests. He was a man of great ability in several areas.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part One)

Genesis 25:28-34

As the two became young men, their talents and personalities became evident, and it is here that another dimension enters into their rivalry. It seems that their parents played favorites, as unfortunately occurs too often in families. Such favoritism only heightens the competition between siblings.

This is the account of their first significant conflict, and the differences in their personalities come to the fore. Jacob had a nose for opportunity, and once he recognized that Esau was in a position of weakness, he started negotiating. He was very much a businessman and a wheeler-dealer, trying to get the advantage of his rival, but especially in the areas that really matter. Thus, he made a bold stroke, reaching for the birthright, that is, the double portion of inheritance that came to the firstborn.

By his reply, Esau showed that he had little grasp of the worth of the birthright. In fact, he valued his life far above his inheritance. He said to Jacob, in effect, "Look, if I survive, this birthright may be of some profit, but right now I will trade anything to live." In essence, he counted his birthright as worth no more than a meal! Esau's major problem was that he could not properly discern what was truly important. The Bible's portrait of him suggests that his complete attention fell on whatever was before him at the time, and thus he took no thought of the future, whether of blessings or problems or consequences. In wits, then, he was no match for cunning Jacob.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part One)

Genesis 27:34-37

Even realizing what Jacob had done, Esau did not truly understand what had happened. He cried out, in effect, "It was all Jacob's doing! I don't bear any fault in all of this!" God looks at it a bit differently, however. As Paul explained, God had already chosen Jacob, and though He certainly did not approve of Rebekah and Jacob's tactics, He allowed the blessing to fall on Jacob because it fit into His purpose.

Hebrews 12:17 says that though Esau earnestly desired the blessing, "he was rejected," for he did not have the strength of character to handle it for God's purposes. He had already shown that he "despised his birthright," and God judged that he would have eventually shown the same scorn for the blessing. Esau is a classic example of a despiser of good (II Timothy 3:3).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part One)

Genesis 28:12-17

Jacob entered this encounter with God as a result of taking the birthright and blessing from his brother Esau through deceitful chicanery. Esau was so indignant, he let it be known that there was a contract on Jacob's life: He was going to kill him.

So Jacob did what anybody would do in that situation—he fled. He decided to go to his mother's relatives, to Laban in Syria. On the way, he stopped at the place described in verses 12-17. Here he encountered God.

Jacob saw a ladder in a dream stretching into heaven, with angels ascending and descending. Verse 13 is very important: "And behold, the LORD stood above it."

"The LORD stood above it" is a mistranslation. The Revised Standard Version, the Revised English Bible, and the New International Version all translate this to say that God stood beside him. God stood by Jacob at the foot of the ladder, not above it.

In other words, God came down the ladder; He revealed Himself as being there. This is why Jacob said, "God is in this place," and why he named it Bethel, meaning "this is God's house." Not that God is in heaven, but that Jacob's God was right there—that was His house. Consequently, Bethel became a shrine in later years.

Jacob did not merely have an encounter with God, but something happened to Jacob himself. He arrived a man with a price on his head and the guilt of many deceitful tricks. He was guilty of stealing, and in one sense of the word, guilty of a sin that was worthy of death. God in no way condoned his actions, yet He had chosen Jacob even before he was born, while he and Esau were still in the womb.

At Bethel, God confirmed that He had chosen Jacob and that He would follow through with him nonetheless. Jacob arrived a man with a price on his head and no future. He was transformed so that he had a future and a hope with which he could live. He was so encouraged that he promised that he would tithe to God all of his days.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Seeking God

Obadiah 1:17-18

The theme for verses 17 and 18 is found in Malachi 1:2-3:

"I have loved you," says the LORD. "Yet you say, 'In what way have You loved us?' Was not Esau Jacob's brother? " says the LORD. "Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated, and laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness."

God's choice is supreme. He made His sovereign choice of Jacob over Esau before either had done anything. They may have struggled in the womb, but He made His choice prior to their developing any character. He chose Jacob, and that is the end of the matter.

Obadiah writes in verse 17, "But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions." This verse introduces an interesting distinction: "On Mount Zion [is] deliverance," but the end of verse 18 says, "No survivor shall remain of the house of Esau." The destinies of these two peoples are total opposites. Whereas God loves Jacob and allows a remnant to survive into the Millennium, no one survives of Esau.

There is no way to know how absolute this pronouncement may be. Will there be, perhaps, some few Edomite survivors counted among those who are converted—who become part of spiritual Israel, in effect? Perhaps, but certainly all the proud and gloating of Edom will be completely annihilated.

Verse 18 tells us, "The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame." "The house of Jacob" may refer particularly to Judah, and "the house of Joseph" would then refer to the rest of the nations of Israel, led by the Joseph tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh. In any case, it indicates the entirety of Israel. Zechariah 12:6 contains similar language, in which the governors of Judah will be "like a firepan in the woodpile" and "shall devour all the surrounding peoples." Edom will be one of these devoured nations.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part Five): Obadiah and God's Judgment


 




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