7: Selling Your Birthright; Stealing the Blessing

Posted on : Sep 4th, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

It’s only been a few years, though it feels like ages ago, that the political slogan “Traditional Family Values” was used by religious and political conservatives as a Biblical imperative against gay and lesbian people adopting children or having the right to marry. In fact today, the last gasp in the “defense of [heterosexual] marriage” argument comes from those who insist that children will be emotionally damaged if they are not raised in a family with a mother and father. Obviously, these folks do not know their Bible very well. In fact, I’ve always been confused as to how anyone could support “traditional family values” using the bible. What tradition are they referring to?

In our journey through Genesis we’ve encounter the first two brothers (Abel and Cain) of the first heterosexual couple (Adam & Eve). Cain murdered his brother, Abel. Is that the traditional family value that was to be upheld? And then there is good old Lot, as in “the only righteous man in Sodom” (and Gomorrah). This fine upstanding soul offers his two daughters to be gang raped by the angry crowds. Is that the traditional family value we are to uphold? Then a few chapters later, Lot’s daughters get him drunk and have sex with him. That’s incest, right?

Then there is Abraham. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, “gives” him her servant, Hagar, and Abraham has sex with her and conceives a child, Ishmael. Later Sarah gets pregnant with Abraham and has her own child, Isaac. With the birth of Isaac, Sarah insists that Hagar and Ishmael be banished to the desert. After Sarah dies, Abraham “takes” a third wife, Keturah, and has six boys with her. Since Isaac was “the kid who counted,” “Abraham gave all his possessions to Isaac. He had already provided for the children of his concubines and sent them away to the east, out of Isaac’s way.” (Gen 25:6). Abraham had concubines in addition to his wives? Yup.

And then Isaac marries Rebecca and they have twins: Esau and Jacob. Esau is the first born, so he is “the heir apparent.” [Think Prince William and Prince Harry.] Isaac adores his first born, Esau and Rebecca adores Jacob. Jacob is the first “Momma’s boy” in the bible. Esau and Jacob fight from the second trimester of pregnancy and it never stops. (Don’t quote me on the exact trimester, but it’s close.) Even at birth these twin boys come out fighting. Esau is a rugged, hairy guy. His name in Hebrew means “Rough One.” Jacob came out grasping Esau’s heel, so they name him “Jacob,” which literally means “Heel Grabber.” However, this word actually implies deceit – as in someone who intentionally grabs someone’s heel to trip them. Esau became a hunter and Jacob preferred to stay at home and cook with this mother. Is Jacob the first gay-boy mentioned in the Bible? Could be.

Anyway, this fierce rivalry between the two brothers only increased during their lifetime. One day, Jacob was home “cooking” a fine stew. (The Hebrew here is a play on words. It means both “cooking” and “plotting” – as in “cooking up trouble” or “stirring up” trouble.) Esau came in from hunting and he was famished. He said to Jacob, “Let me have some of your red stew (lentil stew)”. Jacob replies, “Not until you sell me the rights you won from being firstborn.” Esau was so hungry, he swore a promise and sold his birthright to Jacob!

Years later when their father, Isaac, was near the end of his life, Isaac summoned his older son, Esau, and asked him to go hunt some tasty game and prepare a fine meal for him. Isaac said, “Bring it to me to eat, and I will give you my special blessing before I die.”

Rebecca (Isaac’s wife and the twins’ mother) overheard this conversation and concocted a wild scheme in which Isaac, who is old and nearly blind, is tricked into passing on his special Blessing to Jacob. Yes, Jacob stole his brother’s blessing in addition to buying his brother’s birthright.

Isaac and Esau are both furious when they discover what Jacob and his mother have done. But in those days, once a birthright was sold or a Blessing pronounced, it could not be changed.

If you are reading this far, you’re probably asking, “So where is he going with this?” Exactly!

While most of us today don’t follow these “biblical traditional family values” of birthrights and blessings, many of us sure spend a lot of time fighting our siblings for parental attention and begging God for that “special blessing.” This story in its own way shatters the traditional family values that were practiced at the time. Regardless of birth order, it shows that we are all equal and equally blessed by God. We don’t have to “steal” God’s favor to get a blessing. We are all blessed. In God’s realm, there is no hierarchy of privilege, and no one is more valuable than any other because of the way they we are born, or their birth order, or anything. That’s a message we can’t hear often enough.



~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Genesis 27: 1-45

When Isaac was so old that his eyesight had failed, he summoned his older child Esau and said, “My child!” “Here I am,” answered Esau.

Then Isaac said, “As you can see, I am so old that I could die at any time. Take your gear, your quiver and bow, and go out into the country and hunt me some game. Prepare a tasty dish for me, the kind I like, and bring it to me to eat, and I will give you my special blessing before I die.”

Rebecca (Isaac’s husband and the mother of the twins) overheard the conversation while Isaac was talking to Esau. So when Esau left for the wilds to hunt for game for Isaac, she said to Jacob, “I just heard overheard Isaac tell Esau, ‘bring me some game and make a tasty dish for me to eat. I intend to bless you in our God’s presence before I die.’ Now listen close, Jacob, and do what I tell you. Go to the flock and bring me two choice kid goats, and I’ll cook them especially for Isaac. You then take it to your father so that he will give you his blessing before he dies.”

Jacob said to his mother, “But Esau is hairy, and I am smooth-skinned. What if Isaac touches me? I’ll be a trickster in his eyes, and I’ll bring down a curse on myself instead of a blessing.”

Rebecca answered, “Let your curse fall on me, my son. Now do as I say – go fetch the tender young goats.” So Jacob fetched the goats and gave them to his mother and she prepared a delicacy, just like her husband Isaac liked.

Then Rebecca took Esau’s clothes, the best clothes she could find in the house, and gave them to her younger son Jacob to wear; then she took the skins of the young goats and covered his hands and the hairless parts of his neck. Then she handed her younger son Jacob the tasty dish and the bread she had prepared, and Jacob carried the tasty dish and the bread to his father, Isaac.

Jacob said, “Father!” “Here I am,” replied Isaac.   “Which of my sons are you?”

I am Esau, your firstborn,” Jacob replied. “I have done as you have told me. Here, sit up and eat some of the game, so that you may give me your special blessing.”

“How did you find it so quickly, my child?” asked Isaac.

Jacob replied, “It was the Most High God, your God, who let things turn out in my favor.”

Isaac told Jacob, “Come closer, then, and let me touch you, so I can tell if you really are Esau or not.”

Jacob moved close to Isaac, who touched him. “The voice is Jacob’s” said Isaac, “but the hands are Esau’s.” Isaac was confused because Jacob’s hands were hairy like Esau’s.

“Are you really Esau?” Isaac asked.

Jacob replied, “I am.”

Isaac said, “then bring me the game to eat, and I will give you my blessing.” Jacob took Isaac the game to eat and some wine to drink. Then Isaac said, “Come closer, Esau, and kiss me.” Jacob approached Isaac and kissed him on the cheek; and when Isaac smelled Esau’s scent on the clothes, he gave Jacob his blessing.

When Isaac finished the blessing, Jacob left his father’s presence – just as Esau was returning from hunting. He too had prepared a tasty dish which he took to Isaac, saying, “Isaac, sit up and eat the tasty dish I have prepared for you, so that you may give me your blessing.”

“Who are you?” Isaac asked.

“I am Esau, your firstborn.”

Isaac, trembling greatly, said, “Then who was it that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came in from hunting, and I blessed him! Now that blessing must remain on him!”

When Esau heard this, he cried bitterly and loudly. “Father, bless me too!” he said.

Isaac said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

“He isn’t called ‘Heel-Grabber’ for nothing!” said Esau. “This isn’t the first time he has deceived me. He usurped my right as the firstborn, and now he robs me of my blessing. But do you have no blessing for me?”

Isaac replied, “I have made Jacob elder over you and set all his sisters and brothers under him. I provided him with wine and grain. What can I give you, Esau?”

Esau said, “Do you have only one blessing? Bless me as well, father!” and Esau wept loudly.

Isaac replied to Esau,

            Your dwelling place must be far from the earth’s riches,

                        Far from the heaven’s dew above.

            You will live by your sword,

                        and you will serve Jacob.

            But the time will come when you will brandish that sword,

                        and you will tear Jacob’s yoke from your neck.”

Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing Isaac had given him. He thought, “It won’t be long before we will be mourning Isaac. Then I will kill Jacob.”

When Rebecca learned what Esau was planning, she called Jacob, “Esau is making plans to murder you. Now, Jacob listen to me: Leave at once for Haran, where my brother Laban lives.   Stay there for a few days until Esau’s anger cools. When his anger turns away from you and he forgets what you did to him, I will send word to you to return. Why should I lose both of you on the same day?”

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