Jacob and his Tribes, Part 1 (The Covenant & the Cross #55) #VA6

Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 25:24-26 which reads: “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 threescore years old when she bare them.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul:

God often displayed His sovereign control through prophecies given on the threshold of new historical eras. For example, Adam and Eve; Noah’s descendants; Abraham; Jacob and Esau; and Joseph and his brothers. Jacob owed his supremacy to sovereign election, not natural rights. The prophecy found fulfillment as Esau’s descendants, the Edomites, were often subjugated by Israel, and at last were included in the Jewish state during the intertestamental period. God’s choice of Jacob (the younger) over Esau (the older) is an example of divine sovereign election. God deals justly with all, but He has mercy on some.

Though destined to supplant his brother, Jacob tarnished his name to mean “deceitful” through cunning efforts to gain his brother’s privilege. Esau was a profane, rough-and-ready man of the field who shortsightedly gratified his appetite and despised the family’s future inheritance. Despite his dishonesty, Jacob had farsightedness to value the inheritance.

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Martha Kilpatrick. She said: “Scripture has phenomenal power but unless you submit your mind to its inerrant truth, its power is largely lost to you.”

Our topic for today is titled “Jacob and his Tribes” (Part 1) from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

Although we are still in the section designated as the toledot of Isaac, the focus is beginning to shift. We have already noted that Isaac is a somewhat disappointing figure after the tremendous buildup in earlier chapters. Now we find that he is soon displaced by his son Jacob. In fact, after Abraham, Jacob is the most dominant figure in the book of Genesis, and in many respects, the rest of the book is about him. Like his grandfather, Abraham, Jacob is noted for God’s promises to him, although he himself does not appear to deserve them. Jacob is essentially the beginning of God’s fulfillment of His word to Abraham.

The story begins with the troublesome pregnancy of Rebekah, who gave birth to twins, Esau and Jacob. The boys were fraternal twins and were physically very different. The oldest had a ruddy complexion and lots of hair, so they called him Esau (“hairy”) Jacob, on the other hand, was smooth-skinned. As they came out of the womb, Jacob was grabbing the heel of his brother, so he was called “heel grabber.”

As they grew older, their differences showed up in a variety of ways. Esau liked to hunt and loved the outdoors; Jacob tended to stay home. Esau seemed to live for the moment, Jacob was always planning ways to get ahead. It is likely for this reason that the parents began to show favoritism. Isaac liked Esau, but Rebekah favored Jacob. This would certainly lead to trouble.


After the boys had reached maturity, we are told of a time when Esau had a bad day (perhaps several bad days) hunting. So he trudged back to the settlement with both his hands and his stomach empty. When he got there, he found that Jacob had made a lentil stew, the aroma of which seemed to fill the entire camp. The smell accentuated his hunger, and Esau asked for a bowl. Jacob made a bargain that in exchange Esau would give him the birthright. Starved, Esau agreed, ate the stew and bread, and then wandered off. The text states that Esau “despised” his birthright. Some have suggested that he did not take the agreement seriously. However, we soon learn that Esau was very aware that the birthright was no longer his.


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