It’s a bit strange to look at Genesis 25:29-32 with a fresh perspective and know that Jacob was blessed. Here’s the part I’m talking about:
“But Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright as of this day.’ And Esau said, ‘Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?’ Then Jacob said, ‘Swear to me as of this day.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.”
My initial reaction is dismay. How was this a binding agreement? What kind of man withholds food from a starving man like this? On first blush it’s easy to be on Esau’s side here. This poor guy lost his whole inheritance because of Jacob’s treachery. And it was treacherous, wasn’t it? Such calloused treatment of his brother. It defies our sensibilities that one like this was blessed by God.
It’s remarkable that Jacob got away with this, and that God honored such an agreement.
God Blessed The Agreement
This was a matter of prophecy. Notice what is stated in Genesis 25:22-23.
“But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her: ‘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.'”
In the end, God not only allowed it to happen, He sided with Jacob. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves on that a bit.
The actual blessing was not granted on the day they made the agreement to trade Esau’s inheritance for a bowl of soup. Isaac gave the blessing later, in Genesis 27. The blessing and the birthright were different, but inseparable. And Isaac gave everything to Jacob in a binding agreement that was restated by God in Genesis 28 (when God gave Jacob the same promises He gave Abraham).
And that’s more troubling than Jacob taking advantage of Esau’s weakness and hunger.
It’s troubling because of the way Jacob got the blessing. He lied. This wasn’t a “little white lie”. He went to great lengths to con his father. When the blind Isaac conferred the blessing, he thought he was blessing Esau when in fact he was blessing Jacob.
It might seem easily overturned in our court systems today, but not only did God allow it, He supported Jacob’s blessing.
How could that be possible?
Various Problems In Play
God had to choose one of them.
Let’s keep in mind that the blessing was going to continue on to someone, not because of that person but because of Abraham himself. Genesis 26:24 states:
“And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, ‘I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.'”
God’s plan was to bless the lineage of Abraham. In order to keep that promise, God limited Himself to choosing between two flawed men. It won’t be the last time, but there is no fault in God for making such a decision.
Jacob wanted it more.
I’m not making the case that intentions overrule ethics. The man manipulated his brother and conned his father. He was a crook. But look at Esau. Did he really want the inheritance? A bowl of soup was more important.
We don’t have all the information.
Did Jacob know about the prophecy made when he and Esau were still in the womb?
Jacob’s name literally meant “heel-catcher”, thus, “supplanter” (Pulpit Commentary). Did he take from that the fatalistic idea that he was destined to pull one over on his father? Was it a misguided plan to obey God’s will?
Was he remembering the “help” his grandparents tried to give God when Abraham took Hagar as a second wife?
There are a hundred questions we might ask, and they all illustrate the fact that we just don’t know it all. And that’s OK. Any who use this and similar passages to disparage God reveal only their own ill-will toward Him.
It Provides A Measure Of Hope For Us
We’re all flawed in some way. It’s not because flesh is evil. It’s because we take the easiest ways, because we were raised by flawed parents, and because Satan is good at what he does. But it’s been this way since Adam and Eve left the Garden. And God has made promises to bless us anyway.
If God can work through men like Jacob, find and nurture the good in him so that his faith develops along with his character, God can work through us and help us too.
Jacob was human. He was flawed. He did some bad things. But he also developed faith. There was a measure of it perhaps when he conned his father. It became stronger in time. And through him God was able to bless all the nations of the earth.
I’d like a part of that–to be used like that by God in spite of my flaws. I may never influence as many, but perhaps God can use me to bless a few others around me.
Seek Ways To Be A Blessing To Others
Don’t be afraid to seek ways to be a blessing to others. If God can use a con-man like Jacob, who knows what God can use you to accomplish?
I’m interested in your ideas about Jacob and the deception. It’s fun and educational to discuss such matters, so let me know what you think about it in the comments below!