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OPINION

A Quick Bible Study, Vol. 171: Flawed Bible Characters Blessed by the Lord – Part Two

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Tara Todras-Whitehill

Author's Note: All previous volumes of this series are here. The first 56 volumes are compiled into the book  "Bible Study For Those Who Don't Read The Bible."  "Part Two," featuring volumes 57-113, was published  in December 2022.

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Thanks for joining the second of an occasional new special series about “flawed biblical characters blessed by the Lord.” I write “special” because joining us again as guest co-writer is David Adams — my husband — who loves the Lord and suggested this topic.

To refresh your memory from Part One in early June, the purpose of this study is to remind us that God sometimes chose men (yes, usually men) with less than stellar character to lead His people, fulfill a greater purpose, or build His Kingdom on Earth. When reading this study, here is the question: “Does God use flawed men to remind us that, despite our shortcomings, we can still be footsoldiers and even generals in the Army of the Lord? 

With that question in mind, today we examine an incident in the early life of Jacob that revealed a significant character flaw as recorded in Genesis Chapter 25. However, later in Jacob’s life, the Lord renamed Jacob “Israel” when anointing him, father of a nation whose twelve sons became the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. The dramatic story of Jacob and his family could rival “Succession,” the streaming hit series. This ancient biblical saga spans Genesis Chapter 25 through Chapter 49 when Jacob dies. 

If you need a reminder about the family tree, Issac was the father of twins Jacob and Esau. The twin’s paternal grandfather was Abraham — who starred in Vol. 168, the first installment of “Flawed Bible Characters Blessed By the Lord.” Time to cue a famous and true cliché: “The apple does not fall far from the tree.”

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Jacob and Esau had an intense rivalry that began in the womb of their mother, Rebekah, where the twins engaged in a power struggle to be the firstborn son:

“The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ So she went to inquire of the Lord. The Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger’ ” (Genesis 25: 22-23).

However, God’s message to Rebekah that “the older will serve the younger” did NOT happen. As discussed below, Jacob double-crossed his “older” brother — barely “older” since Jacob grasped Esau’s heal when Jacob emerged from the womb — but still part of God’s greater plan. The note in my NIV Study Bible offers the following explanation: 

“The ancient law of primogeniture [the firstborn son receives at least a double share of the father’s property when the father dies] provided that under ordinary circumstances, the younger of two sons would be subservient to the older. God’s election of the younger son [Jacob] highlights the fact that God’s people are the product not of natural or worldly development but of His sovereign intervention in the affairs of men.” But, “not in an arbitrary way but according to his own perfect will.”

Thus, God, knowing the future, wanted Jacob, the younger twin, to be the patriarch of Israel instead of Esau. So, can we think that God “allowed” Jacob to engage in unethical behavior toward Esau to ultimately achieve God’s plan for Jacob to spawn the sons who would lead the twelve tribes of Israel? What was Jacob’s first act of deceit that eventually resulted in Jacob reigning over his older brother? We read:

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“The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Genesis 25: 27-18).

What follows is a critical plot twist with consequences that eventually ripple through ancient Israel:

“Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, ‘Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!’ Jacob replied, ‘First sell me your birthright.’  ‘Look, I am about to die,’ Esau said. ‘What good is the birthright to me?’ But Jacob said, ‘Swear to me first.’ So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright” (Genesis 25: 29-34).

What does it mean that “Esau despised his birthright”? Again, refer to the footnote in my study Bible: 

“In doing so [despising his birthright] Esau proved himself to be ‘godless’ since at the heart of his birthright were the covenant promises that Isaac had inherited from Abraham”  (See Vol. 168 about the covenant that God made with Abraham.) 

Moreover, in the New Testament book of Hebrews, Esau’s decision to give up his birthright was revisited in Chapter 12, subheaded “Warning Against Refusing God.” The passage reads,  

“See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done” (Hebrews 12:16-18).

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Of course, that reference in Hebrews could be construed as slightly contradictory since God allowed Jacob to conspire against Esau, using food as an enticement when Esau was “famished” after a day of hunting. And more confusing since, initially, God told Rebekah that “the older will serve the younger” when the twins were in her womb.

Add this seemingly confounding contradiction to my list of “Things to ask God about” if I am blessed to enter His Kingdom.

Later, in mid-July, we will continue this fascinating story and learn how young Jacob committed the most egregious, cunning act of trickery against his father and Esau. 

“Spoiler Alert #1”: Jacob deceived Issac into giving Jacob the all-important ”blessing” along with most of Issac’s wealth due to Esau as the firstborn son. Worse, Isaac had to admit that Jacob duped him and told Esau, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

How did Jacob manage to pull that dirty rotten power play? “Spoiler Alert #2”: Mother helped. Recall we read earlier that “Rebekah loved Jacob” more than Esau. So, stay tuned or read Genesis Chapter 27 if you can’t wait.

And remember, God allowed Jacob to prevail over Esau for His greater purpose.

Myra Kahn Adams is a conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. Her book, "Bible Study For Those Who Don't Read The Bible," reprints the first 56 volumes of this popular study. "Part 2,” with the same title, reprints Vols. 57-113. Order it here.   

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Myra is also Executive Director of SignFromGod.org and the National Shroud of Turin Exhibit. Both are educational donor-supported ministries dedicated to building a permanent Shroud of Turin exhibit in Washington, D.C. See Shroud exhibit news and visit the life-sized Shroud replica in D.C. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com

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