Jacob and Esau

“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.” (Gen. 25:23, NIV) Those two nations were to come from Esau, the firstborn, and Jacob, whose name means “he grasps the heel” as he did when they were born. Even from birth it seems, Jacob wanted to be the firstborn. Jacob recognized that the birthright of the first son was not merely the inheriting of possessions but more so the authority and promises made to the father, which would mean inheriting from Isaac the promise God had given to Abraham.

Jacob was content among the tents (vs. 27), while his brother found fulfillment in the things of the “open country.” Their mother, Rebekah, was a woman who trusted God. She would have surely taught Jacob of God’s promises and his response to her prayers. Jacob was mindful and desirous of God’s blessing as seen time and again throughout his life. By contrast, Esau did not make spiritual things a priority. He did not recognize the spiritual value of his birthright when Jacob saw opportunity to obtain it by stew and an oath, “I am about to die. What good is a birthright to me?” was Esau’s reply. (vs. 32, NIV) Having legally come into possession of the inheritance of Isaac and Abraham, it is unclear why the deception of Isaac was thought to be necessary, but in it is evident Jacob’s spiritual priority.


This lesson is a mirror of the transition from the Jews to the Gentiles at the beginning of the Gospel Age. As Genesis 25:23 foretold, the elder should serve the younger, so the Gospel church, composed mostly of Gentiles and though younger, obtained the birthright of the Jewish house. The nation of Israel as a whole did not have spiritual priorities. In general they were focused on earthly gain. The Gentile believers, however, were eager to find mercy and to serve God and, as a result, were given the blessing of running for the prize of the high calling. God “is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6) Let the story of Jacob and Esau be a reminder to maintain our focus on spiritual matters, always seeking God and the blessings that come with serving Him.