A long time ago in a galaxy not so very far away (in our own, as a matter of fact), there lived a man and a woman. As with many other stories, this man and woman had everything they could want except a child. This was a serious thing, because the man carried a very special blessing that was intended to be passed on to his son just as it had been passed down to him. As they grew older and older, the man and woman grew very concerned that they would never have a child to inherit the special blessing. The man finally prayed earnestly that his wife could have a child...and to their surprise and joy, soon they realized their prayer had been answered and God had granted them a child.
Except that when the child grew big enough for the woman to be able to feel movement, she was dismayed that she seemed to have a wrestling match going on inside her. After days of being unable to sleep and having her ribs hurt from little feet drumming on them, she finally said in exasperation, "I can't endure this! Lord, what is happening inside me?"
And then a very special thing happened. God himself spoke to her, right to her just like a friend would. He said, "You are carrying two different nations inside you, two sons who will both become very strong peoples. But the younger is going to become much stronger than the older and the older will serve the younger."
Of course, she was both excited and worried, because in those days, having twins who survived was very rare. Not only was she going to have two babies - after so long without children - but God had specifically said that the youngest son was to be the inheritor of the special blessing her husband was expecting to pass down to his oldest son. To their people, the oldest son was the most special child of all children, the one who was just naturally the favorite and who was given the inheritance as a matter of course. Younger sons had to work harder and weren't given all the special attention oldest sons got.
She went to her husband and told him what God had said and her husband marveled that they would be having two sons. But he didn't say much about God's prophecy regarding older and younger sons. It didn't mean much to him yet; and two sons were a miracle enough - plenty of time for them to grow and receive his blessing.
After a time longer, it was time for the two babies to be born; and sure enough, the woman had two strong, healthy baby boys. Everyone laughed at the story of their birth, because the older son came out red and feisty and with a lot of dark hair...but the quieter younger son came right after him with his little hand clutched around his brother's heel. Twins aren't usually born that way - there's usually at least a little space between one birth and another. But this younger son sure didn't want his brother leaving their secure little home inside their mother without him.
When the proud father watched his two little boys begin to grow and change, he began to think about what his wife had told him before their birth and what God's prophecy meant. His feisty, strong, wonderful oldest son was not the inheritor of the special blessing. But of the two boys, the father admired the older son right from the start. The father was a quiet man himself, but he couldn't help but laugh and be proud of his older son's energy and precociousness as the boy grew. How could this son not be the Inheritor?
His wife, on the other hand, had a much easier time with the younger son - who did not like to practice shooting arrows at prize goats and who did not regularly sneak out to do things she told him not to - and she grew much closer to her younger son than the older. And she did not forget that this was the child of the promise, the special one who would inherit the blessing. No matter how much her husband favored their oldest son and treated him with the honor of his birthright in spite of his shenanigans, she looked at her younger son and said, "This is the one God said would be stronger."
The boys eventually became men. The older was one of those manly men who spent all his time out hunting and drinking with the guys and chasing the girls without a care in the world; the younger was quieter, reading and tending to things around the house and even turning into a pretty decent cook. His older brother was a bit scornful of this, but he just shrugged his shoulders at his wimpy twin and kept decorating with more antelope horns from his latest hunt. As for the younger son, he admired his brother's skillfulness, but the thing he really wanted was to inherit from his father as if he were the older son. He wanted to take on his father's responsibilities and manage the household - which was quite large and wealthy by this time - and raise strong healthy sheep and run the family business. It was not a very likely dream, though. He was the younger son and younger sons don't inherit. The shame of it was, the older son really didn't care to learn the family business. He found it boring. He would much rather be out shooting deer.
But in the meantime, the father was growing more and more uneasy. He loved his younger son, of course; and actually, he and his wife worried quite a bit about the older son's careless attitude and the way he didn't seem to care much about being a wise administrator (not to mention his taste in girls)...but he was determined that his older son should not be disgraced by having the Inheritance go to the younger son. It just wasn't right. It wasn't DONE. If he should pass the Inheritance down to his younger son, it would be like he was telling the whole world that his oldest son had displeased him and he was so irresponsible he wasn't worth the position he was born to. It would be a terrible disgrace and the father could not see how he could hurt his son that way. Perhaps his wife had made a mistake. Maybe she hadn't understood what God was saying all those years ago.
The wife was worried, too. She saw how foolishly her older son was behaving - when he ran off and got married to an air-headed local girl without even a proper wedding, she was ready to disinherit him herself - and she knew she had not made a mistake in what God had said. He had spoken so clearly. The younger son was the one who needed to be blessed with the Inheritance. It became a bit of a sore point between the man and the woman, because the man stubbornly stuck to his determination to give their oldest son the Inheritance and the woman believed it would be a disaster to try to ignore God's instructions.
Finally, the day came when the husband realized it was time to pass on the Inheritance. He was very old by then and his eyesight had failed so badly he had to have his studious younger son do all the accounting for the family business. He wasn't able to run the household as he should anymore, which meant he had to make his final decision.
And he stuck to his decision: his older son would get the Inheritance.
His conscience pricked him a little. He knew it was not wise to ignore a prophecy God had given his wife. But he just could not see depriving his older son of his rights.
So he called his oldest son in and told him to go bring him a very special dish: freshly-caught venison prepared in a stew. This meant the oldest son actually had to go out and shoot the deer, which was going to take a while: but it was custom back in those days for there to be a task for the son to complete before he was considered worthy of the Inheritance.
The woman sat beside her husband as he sent their son off in search of venison and knew the time of reckoning had come. But she did not try to argue with her husband that day. She had said all she was going to say. So she got up and left quietly and went to find her younger son. She made the special stew with goat instead of venison and she tied the skins neatly to her son's arms so that her blind husband would not realized that his much-hairier older son was not the one serving him the special meal. And while she did it, she prayed that God would forgive her for tricking her husband and that her husband would forgive her too.
The trick worked. The old man ate the stew, was only a little suspicious that the bearer of the stew wasn't his older son, and finally took a deep breath and prepared to give away the inheritance. It was a legally binding thing, this special moment, this special blessing. And finally, finally, he was going to give it to his beloved older son.
And he didn't just give a blessing to pass on the Inheritance. He gave the most binding, complete one he could come up with - and he'd been thinking about it a long time - with not a single loophole in it. He didn't just pass on the Inheritance, but he deliberately gave his son his brother as his slave and said every single bit of the Inheritance would be his, nothing held back, nothing left over. He didn't leave anything at all for his younger son. He knew when he was saying it that he was being defiant and even unnecessarily harsh to his faithful and quiet younger son...but he was very determined. There was one prophecy that was not going to come true, he promised himself.
Then it was all done and his son took the dishes and left, the proud bearer of the Inheritance. The man settled back tiredly and closed his blind eyes, ready for a nap. Part of him was very satisfied. He had provided for his oldest son. He hadn't disgraced him. Another part was suddenly uneasy, though. Had it really been necessary to be so very thorough? He could've passed on the Inheritance without making one brother the slave of the other. That had perhaps been a little unwise, he thought.
Then the door opened again and he smelled a familiar smell, heard a familiar voice. "Father, I'm here with the venison you asked me for!" his oldest son said in his rough, boistrous way. "Sit up and eat it so you can give me your blessing!"
The old man began to shake. He knew immediately what had happened. He had been tricked. The prophecy had come true. He had irrevocably and completely given away the Inheritance...to his younger son. Just as God had said so many years ago. He had made his beloved older son a slave to the younger and he had left nothing at all behind. In his defiance, he had cheated his older son of even the small portion that usually belonged to younger sons. It was all his fault, because he had been so determined to do things the way he wanted to instead of what God had planned.
This is a true story. The man's name was Isaac and his two sons were Esau and Jacob. And in the end, Isaac's refusal to accept that Esau would not be the son who inherited God's promise to be the Chosen Nation caused Esau's line to actually die out. Today, there are recognized descendants of Jacob, the Younger Son, in every nation on Earth. God himself states his name as "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Our Messiah was born from that family. But Esau the Older Son literally ended up with nothing. If there are Edomites left in this world, they are few and scattered and no longer identified by their father's name. Isaac was very thorough in that blessing in his attempt to circumvent God's plan; so thorough that there really was nothing left to give his favorite older son after the trick was discovered.
I'm not completely sure what the ultimate lesson is here for us. But I do know that it had never occurred to me before how defiant Isaac really was in that blessing. He had to have known of the prophecy. Rebekah his wife must've told him. But he was blinded by his love for his son and the fact that he thought he knew better than God who should inherit the promise. That's certainly something that's easy to do, thinking that whatever God's doing here must be a mistake.
God doesn't make mistakes. No matter how hard it is for us to figure out what he's doing, trying to correct him or make his plans bend to ours will always end up far more disastrous than anything we could've imagined.
And as kind of a funny footnote: I've always found it interesting that the "Man's Man" Esau had only five children while his quiet, bookish, homebody brother Jacob...had thirteen. Don't overlook the quiet men!
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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