God's covenant blessings and promises would pass to Jacob but not Esau. What was the difference between these two men? What does it mean for you?
This message is part of a 3 part series reviewing the family of Abraham and the covenant of faith. You can use these links to more easily find them on the site:
Passing on the Covenant to the Next GenerationAction & Events (Genesis 23 - 25)
- Sarah dies, Abraham purchases a tomb for her in Canaan
- Abraham plans for family succession. He arranges for a suitable wife for the son who will carry forward the covenant. He does not want him to marry into the Canaanite people. He understands that God wants the descendants of the covenant to remain separate.
- Abraham’s servant goes back to the land they came from to find a wife from among the extended family. He returns with Rebecca.
- Abraham dies, we get a wrap-up of all his descendants. But the only one we are hereafter concerned with is Isaac. God’s blessing pass to Isaac.
Genesis 25:19-23 Genesis 25:19-23  And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham begat Isaac:
 And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian.
 And Isaac entreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD.
 And the LORD said to her, Two nations are in your womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from your bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
American King James Version× two sons are conceived and born into the covenant family. But the blessing of the covenant would only pass along to one of them. Why?
We know from later on in the record that Jacob has 12 sons. The blessings and promises of the covenant pass along to all of them. Why wouldn’t both of Isaac’s sons share in the covenant?
Answer: because one of them despised it. Despise: means to regard as unworthy of one’s notice or consideration, to look upon with contempt, aversion, to consider worthless. It suggests an emotional response ranging from strong dislike to loathing.
God knew one son would grab hold of the blessings and promises of the covenant, and the other son would be indifferent. God didn’t force the older son to feel that way. He just knew in advance that’s how it would go.
Genesis 25:24-34 Genesis 25:24-34  And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.
 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.
 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was three score years old when she bore them.
 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.
 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.
 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:
 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray you, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.
 And Jacob said, Sell me this day your birthright.
 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he swore to him: and he sold his birthright to Jacob.
 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.
American King James Version× Esau didn’t care about what he was born to, and what might have been his.
Hebrews 12:15-17 Hebrews 12:15-17  Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
 For you know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
American King James Version× Esau was interested in hunting, fishing, chasing pretty women. He was a man’s man, his dad loved him best, but that wasn’t what mattered to God.
Esau knew abut the birthright, the promises, the covenant… he offered them as payment for a bowl of soup. He knew the truth and he didn’t care. Esau made his own decision, he chose poorly.
Some people grow up knowing the truth, knowing God’s plan, knowing our potential to have a place in it… and yet treat it as no big deal, they never really commit or buy in. I have watched many such people end up rejecting the truth, or resenting it because it interferes with the cares of life they become attached to.
We’ll see that Esau wanted to settle down among the Canaanites. He didn’t want to stand apart from the world around him. He wanted to fit in, be one of them, and enjoy what life had to offer.Action & Events (Genesis 26)
A famine hits the land. God talks Isaac into staying in the Gerar (Gaza) instead of Egypt Genesis 26:2-6 Genesis 26:2-6  And the LORD appeared to him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell you of:
 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you, and will bless you; for to you, and to your seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father;
 And I will make your seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give to your seed all these countries; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
 And Isaac dwelled in Gerar:
American King James Version×. Isaac prospers but the people of the area get jealous and keep taking his wells forcing him to move from place to place.
Genesis 26:23-24 Genesis 26:23-24  And he went up from there to Beersheba.
 And the LORD appeared to him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham your father: fear not, for I am with you, and will bless you, and multiply your seed for my servant Abraham’s sake.
American King James Version× Isaac returns to Canaan and God reiterates the covenant promises.
Genesis 26:34-35 Genesis 26:34-35  And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:
 Which were a grief of mind to Isaac and to Rebekah.
American King James Version× Abraham had been very concerned that his son not marry Canaanite women. He knew that if they went down that path they would become absorbed into the Canaanite people and cease to be a special and unique covenant people before God.
Hebrews 11:8-10 Hebrews 11:8-10  By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went.
 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
 For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
American King James Version×, 13-16 God’s people must remain separate. Which means you are going to stand out… people will think you are strange.
Esau’s starts cavorting with Canaanite women. He ends up marrying not 1 but 2 of them. He seems unconcerned or outright rebelliousness toward the whole idea of living as a separate covenant people. God’s prophecy is starting to unfold.
But, Isaac doesn’t want to face the facts. He is grieved by Esau’s actions but he still wants Esau to be the one to receive the covenant promises even though Esau has shown nothing but contempt for it. That’s not the sort of person God wants.
Genesis 27:1-13 Genesis 27:1-13  And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his oldest son, and said to him, My son: and he said to him, Behold, here am I.
 And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death:
 Now therefore take, I pray you, your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison;
 And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless you before I die.
 And Rebekah heard when Isaac spoke to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt for venison, and to bring it.
 And Rebekah spoke to Jacob her son, saying, Behold, I heard your father speak to Esau your brother, saying,
 Bring me venison, and make me savoury meat, that I may eat, and bless you before the LORD before my death.
 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to that which I command you.
 Go now to the flock, and fetch me from there two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for your father, such as he loves:
 And you shall bring it to your father, that he may eat, and that he may bless you before his death.
 And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man:
 My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse on me, and not a blessing.
 And his mother said to him, On me be your curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them.
American King James Version× Isaac’s intentions are suspect… he appears to be side-stepping Esau’s behavior and God’s revelation!
In old testament times a dying man normally gathered ALL his sons around him to bless them publicly, and lay out the succession in an orderly manner.
Why does he want to only bless Esau and not Jacob?
Why does he appear to be doing it on the sly? Rebecca only finds out by spying on him…
Isaac knows Esau is flouting the families wishes regarding not intermarrying with the Canaanites. Why put the covenant at risk like this? Isaac knows the prophetic pronouncement about Esau. Surely that should have put him on alert regarding Esau’s bad behavior and attitude regarding the covenant.
Why use vague language about his impending death (even though Isaac has decades left to live)… unless he’s trying to do the deal ahead of time, sneak it in while no one is expecting it… so Jacob doesn’t know.
Not only is Isaac physically blind he is blind to the heart of his own son… that he is unfit to be the one God’s promise can work.
Genesis 27:27-40 Genesis 27:27-40  And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed:
 Therefore God give you of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:
 Let people serve you, and nations bow down to you: be lord over your brothers, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you: cursed be every one that curses you, and blessed be he that blesses you.
 And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting.
 And he also had made savoury meat, and brought it to his father, and said to his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s venison, that your soul may bless me.
 And Isaac his father said to him, Who are you? And he said, I am your son, your firstborn Esau.
 And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Who? where is he that has taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before you came, and have blessed him? yes, and he shall be blessed.
 And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said to his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father.
 And he said, Your brother came with subtlety, and has taken away your blessing.
 And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he has supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he has taken away my blessing. And he said, Have you not reserved a blessing for me?
 And Isaac answered and said to Esau, Behold, I have made him your lord, and all his brothers have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now to you, my son?
 And Esau said to his father, Have you but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept.
 And Isaac his father answered and said to him, Behold, your dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above;
 And by your sword shall you live, and shall serve your brother; and it shall come to pass when you shall have the dominion, that you shall break his yoke from off your neck.
American King James Version× and so the covenant is passed along to Jacob. Isaac and Esau tried to pull a fast one on Jacob, in turn Jacob and Rebecca proved even sneakier. Scripture doesn’t explicitly condone or condemn what Jacob and Rebecca did. However they do reap as they have sown. Jacob must flee… Rebecca never sees her favorite son again… and soon Jacob the deceiver will himself be cruelly deceived.
What Was The Difference Between Jacob & Esau?
Both men had their sins… BUT, God can deal with sin, transgressions can be forgiven, consequences of sin can lead to repentance, lesson learned and growth in understanding. What God can’t work with is indifference. The idea that a person could have opportunity for great gifts and blessings and simply not care, not go for it, not lay hold of what is being offered.
Esau didn’t care… that’ why God didn’t want him. Jacob cared, he was going to do what it took to lay hold of the blessings God had to offer. Jacob would make a lot of mistakes along the way… but Jacob wanted it. That’s what God wants to see in the heart of a person Revelation 3:14-20 Revelation 3:14-20  And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things said the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would you were cold or hot.
 So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.
 Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
 I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
American King James Version×
Genesis 28:10-15 Genesis 28:10-15  And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.
 And he lighted on a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac: the land where on you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed;
 And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
 And, behold, I am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go, and will bring you again into this land; for I will not leave you, until I have done that which I have spoken to you of.
American King James Version× God confirms the succession of the covenant to Jacob… the man passionate enough to want it. Note: Jacob is willing to act. he vows to tithe as a way of acknowledging God, he is willing to travel to a foreign land to seek out a wife who is not a Canaanite.
- Jacob meets Rachael and falls in love which is going to make what happens next extra painful!
- Jacob the deceiver is deceived by Laban into marrying the older sister Leah first. Jacob then makes a deal to marry both women… again multiple wives is going to lead to lots of family tension and strife later on down the road, scripture does not condone or condemn the act, but clearly shows them reaping bad results.
- Jacob fathers 12 sons over the years… and becomes very wealthy
- Jacob realizes he needs to get away from Laban and return to the land God has promised
- Jacob prepares to meet Esau after all these years and wonders what will happen
Genesis 32:1-12 Genesis 32:1-12  And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
 And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim.
 And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother to the land of Seir, the country of Edom.
 And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall you speak to my lord Esau; Your servant Jacob said thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now:
 And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in your sight.
 And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to your brother Esau, and also he comes to meet you, and four hundred men with him.
 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands;
 And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.
 And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which said to me, Return to your country, and to your kindred, and I will deal well with you:
 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which you have showed to your servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
 Deliver me, I pray you, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.
 And you said, I will surely do you good, and make your seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.
American King James Version× Jacob never got the wealth from Isaac. He went out with nothing. But God blessed him with wealth and children. Nether Isaac’s willfullness, Esau’s anger, or Jacobs obvious shortcomings could render God’s blessing and promise null and void. The covenant plan of God was about to get back on track
Genesis 32:22-30 Genesis 32:22-30  And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok.
 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.
 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaks. And he said, I will not let you go, except you bless me.
 And he said to him, What is your name? And he said, Jacob.
 And he said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince have you power with God and with men, and have prevailed.
 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray you, your name. And he said, Why is it that you do ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
American King James Version× we are all called to struggle with God and with man… and to overcome. Verse 28 is a key scripture for understanding what scripture tells us about Jacob. How God could work with such a deeply flawed person. Jacob was not perfect, but he wrestled with God, he was going to hold on no matter what until he got the blessing. God is pleased by that kind of attitude and desire for what He has to offer.
Sin can be dealt with. Indifference is a much more serious problem in God’s eyes. Jacob wanted the promises and blessings of God’s covenant! How do you feel about the covenant God has made with you? That new covenant?
(don’t read )Genesis 33:1-5 Genesis 33:1-5  And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children to Leah, and to Rachel, and to the two handmaids.
 And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph last.
 And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.
 And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are those with you? And he said, The children which God has graciously given your servant.
American King James Version×Jacob finally meets and reconciles with Esau
(don’t read )Genesis 33:8-11 Genesis 33:8-11  And he said, What mean you by all this drove which I met? And he said, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord.
 And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that you have to yourself.
 And Jacob said, No, I pray you, if now I have found grace in your sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen your face, as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me.
 Take, I pray you, my blessing that is brought to you; because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it.
American King James Version×Jacob offers to restore to Esau the material blessings he took by deceit
(don’t read )Genesis 33:12-19 Genesis 33:12-19  And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before you.
 And he said to him, My lord knows that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die.
 Let my lord, I pray you, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goes before me and the children be able to endure, until I come to my lord to Seir.
 And Esau said, Let me now leave with you some of the folk that are with me. And he said, What needs it? let me find grace in the sight of my lord.
 So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir.
 And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.
 And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city.
 And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for an hundred pieces of money.
American King James Version×Esau offers to travel with Jacob… but Jacob diplomatically opts to stay separate and goes to set up his own place. Jacob wants to reconcile with Esau but not to take up his wayss and become one people with him.
Note: in the same way we should seek peace with the world as much as we can but not to embrace it.Dinah & The Canaanites
This final episode in this record of Isaac’s sons we see yet another situation arise where integration with the people of Canaan becomes an issue.
Dinah is one of the daughters of Jacob’s wife Leah. She decides to go hang out with the Canaanite women in the area. Note: we shouldn’t assume Dinah’s intentions are pure here. She gets in over head and is raped by a local Canaanite man. Jacob and then his sons hear about it.
Genesis 34:8-10 Genesis 34:8-10  And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife.
 And make you marriages with us, and give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to you.
 And you shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade you therein, and get you possessions therein.
American King James Version× The Canaanite ruler of the area says “my son loves this girl and wants to marry her, why don’t you move into our town and we can all be one big happy family”.
God does not want any of the covenant people to integrate with the Canaanites. The Canaanites are going to be punished and removed from the land and the land will go to the descendant of Abraham instead. A clean break with the abominations of Canaan are fundamental to the covenant of promise. God wants His covenant people to remain separate from the Canaanites.
The sons of Jacob deceitfully “ok, as long as you become circumcised”. Then when the men of Canaan are still recovering from the procedure and unable to fight, Dinah’s full-blood brothers Simeon and Levi swoop in and kill the all Canaanite men.
They rescue Dinah who was being held, and they loot the town carrying off all sorts of plunder. The sons of Jacob don’t intend to integrate but Jacob is not pleased by how they are going about it.Renewal of Worship & Purity
Genesis 35:1 Genesis 35:1And God said to Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar to God, that appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.
American King James Version×God says leave this place and go back to the location where I first appeared to you when you were fleeing from Esau. Let’s get back to basics.
Genesis 35:2-5 Genesis 35:2-5  Then Jacob said to his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:
 And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.
 And they gave to Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.
 And they journeyed: and the terror of God was on the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.
American King James Version× Jacob gets the message. There is going to be a renewal of worship and commitment to YHWH. We are going to get rid of all the idols and other junk we picked up from the Canaanites. We are going to declare a fresh start.
In the same way God wants all of you who partake of the new covenant to remain separate and get rid of all the debris from the world around you that you have picked up. Let’s use this year’s Passover remembrance stir us up to do just this!
Genesis 35:6-13 Genesis 35:6-13  So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him.
 And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared to him, when he fled from the face of his brother.
 But Deborah Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.
 And God appeared to Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him.
 And God said to him, Your name is Jacob: your name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be your name: and he called his name Israel.
 And God said to him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of you, and kings shall come out of your loins;
 And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to you I will give it, and to your seed after you will I give the land.
 And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him.
American King James Version× this rededication to the covenant by Jacob and his family is followed by a reaffirmation that the promises and blessings granted to Abraham are indeed passed along to his grandson Jacob.
AND, Jacob’s name is changed… Jacob which means the grabber and deceiver is now to be called Israel which means he who struggles with God.Conclusion
Desire and contend for the promises of God. Grab hold of what is offered to you in your covenant with God and don’t let go.
Maintain purity - do not become absorbed into the world around you. Remain separate and remain a special people called by God for His purpose.