Family: Crisis amidst blessings: The story of Esau and Jacob

Family Times with Debo Akinyemi

 

Family
Debo Akinyemi

 Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him ;And Esau said in his heart , the days of mourning for my father are at hand ;then will I slay my brother Jacob. Genesis 27 verse 41

 

If a roll call of exemplary families were to be made, Isaac’s family would not make the list. In spite of being directly connected to inexhaustible reservoir of covenant blessing, Isaac’s family was traveling on a fast lane of self-destruction. it took God himself to redeem the family from the impact of self-induced gloomy and calamitous anticlimax

At the center stage of the macabre dance was Isaac himself who turned God’s blessing at his disposal in to a subversive weapon. He took petty partisanship too far, seeking to help his elder son Esau to appropriate his final blessing to the detriment of the other child. As was the practice in his days, Isaac waited till his last lap on earth to pass on his final words of blessing.  And this was what really made the matter worse for him. His failing sight and senile state at that time made it easy for him to be outsmarted as he gave the blessing to the unintended child. He could only gnash his teeth in regret as the shrilling cry of his supplanted favourite son pierced through his aged bones.

But Isaac was not the only one to blame or vilified for the backwash of that misadventure. Other members of the family were all individually guilty. In fact at the end of the day there was more than enough blame to go round everybody in the troubled family. Each member of the family had one terrible character flaw or the other that culminated in a common tragedy. For Isaac and his beloved wife, it was failure to rise above petty and parochial preferences. Isaac preferred Esau against God’s arrangement. From the get-go, God had predestined Jacob to  rule over and above his brother, Esau. And nothing could have changed things from the way God wanted it.The Problem was that Isaac and Rebekah would not just fold their arms and allow God’s will to play out supernaturally.

 

On her own part, Rebekah preferred Jacob, against the Jewish tradition that put the first son ahead of his younger siblings in matters relating to sharing of the family estate.  Having made their separate choice between the two sons, Isaac and Rebekah battled for the power lever as they struggled to outdo each other in the game of favouritism. Isaac made it so obvious that his heart , spirit and good wishes were with Esau just as Rebekah made no pretense that she was ready  to swim or sink with Jacob, come rain or shine or curse or even death.  ’’let the curse be upon me’’ she told Jacob when the poor boy feared his father might discover  their deadly plot.

This couple had their home sharply divided as each of their sons knew on whose sympathy he could count in any contest. It was so bad that the two camps made separate home cooking. Esau, a sharp shooter was fond of going to hunt bush meat of which he made sumptuous pepper soup, preferably for the exclusive enjoyment of his father. But Rebekah never failed to ensure that Jacob who was more of a home boy, had good nourishment from delicacies which she also preferably made for him.  it was one of such meals that Jacob used in arm twisting  Esau in into relinquishing his birth right.

Though the bible does not confirm it, I am sure Rebekah would have covertly masterminded the shady negotiation in which Esau traded off his birth right. So she and her pet boy got Esau at his most vulnerable moment. It was the case of a mother helping one of her two sons to snatch the destiny of the other. Too bad! It was cruel, ungodly and mischievous of Jacob to offer a meal of porridge as a price to procure his brother’s birth right. If I may ask, should a birth right be that cheap? But Esau, was   foolish, naïve, shameless and incontinent enough to accept the ridiculous offer. However, Isaac and Rebekah were to blame for the madness that transpired between Esau and Jacob. In a sane family, siblings would naturally share things, especially food, in common without string attached. In a sane family, the father would not conspire with one of his sons against the other. And also in a sane family, the mother would not pussyfoot and eavesdrop to intercept piece of information to help one of her sons to score life time victory against the other.

The dog-eats –dog antics made each person in Isaac’s home a predator waiting to prey on his target within the family. It was a family in which sense of consanguinity was completely lost along with the moral compass.

And it was karmic that all members of the family bore the brunt of their ignoble characters. They brought their blessed family heritage in to serious crisis which they all lived to regret. First and foremost, the two brothers became sworn enemies at least for years. In the midst of the crisis of confidence, Esau became a rebel with killer instinct while Jacob became a fugitive with no means of livelihood. He had to do menial job for his father in law for years   to survive. What a shame!.  Isaac went to his grave a frustrated and sorrowful old man while Rebekah was robbed of the honour of being buried by her favourite son.

family
crisis amidst blessings

The lessons to learn from these avoidable calamities are numerous. The first lesson is that at best, parents are mere custodians to their wards and not in any way in control of their destinies. Each child’s trajectory has been predetermined by God and any attempt by his parents to manipulate it, either for good or bad, would be counterproductive. This was what Isaac and Rebekah failed to realize. Isaac was probably not pleased by God given prophecy concerning his sons. So he sought to transpose their destinies so that the elder would not serve the younger as ordained by God. On the other hand, Rebekah seemed pleased by the prophecy since it was favourable to her favourite son, Jacob. So she probably wanted to help God to fulfill His words in the lives of her sons.

Both Isaac and Rebekah were doing what seemed  right to them the wrong way. They were also acting in crass ignorance. The two sons, being descendants of Abraham, were automatically bound to be blessed but maybe not equally. There was an extant covenant between God and Abraham to guarantee blessings for generations of Abraham’s offspring.  That was why at the end of the day Esau exuded so much confidence and radiance of prosperity at the re-conciliatory meeting with Jacob. He did not need the humongous gifts Jacob amassed  to pacify him. Esau was so blessed that he did need Jacob or anyone else to bribe him. It took serious persuasion and nudging from Jacob for Esau  to eventually accept the gift. Even then he must have accepted the gift more out of love and forgiveness than necessity.  ‘’ And he said, what meanest thou by all this drove which I met? And he said , these are to find grace in the sight of my Lord. And Essau said, I have enough , my brother;keep that thou hast unto thyself. And Jacob said , Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight , then receive ramy present at my hand ; for therefore I have seen thy face , as though

I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me. Take I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee , because God hath dealt graciously with me , and because I have enough. And he urged him and he took it’’ Genesis 33 verses 8-11 

Another lesson parents must learn from the debacle of Isaac’s family is that children should be raised with even handedness. It is wrong and tactless  for parents  to have favourites among their children. It is also bad to use the disadvantage or frailty of a child to advance the cause of the other. It is possible for the younger child to be doing better in school or more adept in home chores than his elder brother. The wise thing to do in  such situation is to use the strength of the stronger child to complement the weakness of the weaker. Favouritism depletes and erodes the familial bond that should hold the family  together.  It is an ill wind that blows no one any good.Thankfully, Jacob and Esau later resolved their differences, with the former realizing his fault and apologizing. But it is instructive that this took place in the absence of their parents. In essence ,this implied that the two brothers were better off without their partisan parents.

Siblings should be conscious of the fact that being products of the same womb means  being providentially bonded together permanently. Each of them would feel the impact of whatever he does to the other, good or bad. I f you work for the ascendancy of your brother to the throne , you would definitely become  the king’s brother. But if you work towards thwarting the prosperity of your brother, be sure that you would be associated with his misery. After all, you share the same heritage and family name. When Jacob callously hurt Esau and made him become thirsty for blood he [Jacob] was his [Esau’s] target. If he had not fled for his life, he would have long been dead ahead of the  manifestation of the blessing he stole from his brother.

 

It must also be noted that parental love and care are the joint, inalienable right of the children. So there is no point putting up heroics in order to outdo each other in cut throat competition for parental love. Truth is that bitterness that attends competition among siblings leaves dire consequence at his wake. Jacob thought he had successfully shortchanged his brother with a cheap plate of meal. But he eventually paid back a huge ransom to appease his brother. Besides, he was so awed by Esau’s new status that he started calling him ‘’my lord’’. By this obeisance, Jacob had inadvertently surrendered the birth right he stole, even if symbolically. Looking at the dimension  which the reconciliation between Esau and Jacob took, it was  a no winner-no -vanquished situation. The only losers were their parents who failed to hold their family together in camaderie. The  fire of kerfuffle that they stoked while they were alive was squelched completely after their death. What a pity.

Perhaps the biggest lesson to learn was from Esau. He momentarily lost sense of worth because of a portion of porridge. The most annoying thing was that his bag was bulging with his kill for the day. All he needed do was to persevere for some minutes while he made for himself a sizzling pot of soup. But he chose to sate his hunger at that moment at the expense of his destiny. Esau undervalued what he had and settled for something cheaper. Many Christians compromise their salvation for pecuniary considerations. Material gains obtained at the expense of our salvation are usually cheap. They are not worth losing our precious souls for.  The smiles you get today for denying Christ would turn in to tears tomorrow. When the day of reckoning came for Esau he wept sore. But it was too late to reverse the blessing already given out to his brother. Jesus Christ was hinting at the need to be abstemious or circumspect with physical nourishment when he said ’’man does not live bread alone’’

By Debo Akinyemi: He could be reached on 08069376368

About Gbenga Osinaike

Gbenga Osinaike is a 1992 graduate of Dramatic Arts from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He specialised in Play-writing. He also holds a Master of Arts Degree from the University of Lagos. He was Assistant Editor in Punch Newspapers from where he resigned having worked for 13 years to start Church Times Nigeria in March 2007. He is currently the Nigeria representative of US based Institute of Global Church Studies and also the Publicity Secretary of the Lagos, Nigeria Chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. He is married and blessed with two children.

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