Daily Distinctives, April 13, 2018 – Harry’s Red Stew

Being the oldest of my siblings I understand a few things about “birth-rights.” First, you get the right of making all of the mistakes first, which makes me a “born leader”. You’re basically your younger siblings extra parent. You always get shotgun when riding in a car with your younger siblings. You don’t have to wear hand-me-downs unless of course, you have older cousins (that is a whole other story. You always get dibs on the television remote control. You get to set the bar for your siblings. You have more baby pictures than any other kid in the family. You become the “coolest” in the eyes of your siblings’ friends. You get an instant ego boost when one of your younger siblings asks you for advice. You get to be the trial baby for your parents so they can learn to better raise your siblings. Your butt never touches the ground when you are younger as everyone wants to hold you. You visit the hospital more often than your siblings. You are the only kid in your family that will ever know what it was like to be an only child. On the flip side, there are some disadvantages of being the firstborn. For one, you get to be the guineapig for new rules and punishments, you become the built-in babysitter, you will forever be the role model, it is automatically your fault because you should have known better. The moment you get your drivers license you become a taxi for your younger siblings. You have to figure most things out for yourself. You get to feel the pinch and sacrifices when your younger siblings come along. And my favorite, you would not have siblings if it were not for you! The list of pro’s and cons could go on forever, but in the culture and time that I am studying today, the birthright carried with it the weight and responsibility but tremendous blessings as well.

[Gen 25:21 NKJV] Now Isaac pleaded with the LORD for his wife, because she [was] barren; and the LORD granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

There are many men and women in the world that are unable to conceive children and my heart goes out to them. My suggestion would be to do as Isaac did and plead with the LORD for the sake of your partner. As we see in this verse, Isaac pleaded with the LORD and the LORD granted his request. Of course, the LORD may see fit for you to remain unable to conceive, in which case you may just be called to be a foster or adoptive parent, in which case, this is a blessing in and of itself. But when we consider the times in which Isaac lived, as in the times of his mother Sarah, it was considered a stigma if you were unable to bear children.

Being the fourth in a generation of John Nicholas’ I know the pressure of having a child and carrying on the name. My son is the fifth and the burden is now on him…lol. But for Isaac, this the pressure was more than just having a namesake; he had this promise that through him would come a multitude and most importantly from his seed would come the Messiah. No pressure right? But isn’t that like us to carry burdens that are not ours to carry. It was not up to Isaac or Rebekah his wife to fulfill the promise. No, that was reserved for God. Still, we see that Isaac earnestly pleads with God to help his wife conceive. Now, this idea of pleading carries with it a strong sense of groaning outwardly with much emotion. It is like someone begging for their life. We don’t want to get the idea that this was some kind of simple prayer request. It would seem that Isaac desperately pleaded with the LORD and was consistent in his request, for the LORD answers his prayer.

I am reminded of the parable in Luke 18: 1-8 where the woman pleads with the judge and the judge finally gives in because of her persistence. The fact is that that LORD commands us in the present imperative to “Keep knocking, Keep asking, Keep seeking (Luke 11:9-13, Matthew 7:7-8). The idea here is that this was important to Isaac and so he treated his request as such.

[Gen 25:22 NKJV] 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.

My wife had twins and so she could probably speak to this better than myself. I can imagine having one child growing inside of you, but two of them doing somersaults and struggling against one another, that is another story. The closest I will ever get to know how that feels is at night when I fight with my wife and kids for that precious 3-inch piece of real estate that I call, “my side of the bed.” But think about it, this was a time before ultrasounds were available, and so it was not like Rebekah could run down to her gynecologist and get checked out. I think she does the right thing here though and is what we should all do before we do anything else; she goes and inquires of the LORD.

[Gen 25:23 NKJV] 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.”

The LORD responds to her with an interesting prophetic word. He tells her that two nations are in her womb. Two nations. I imagine it probably felt like two nations literally struggling in there, but the reality is that these two children would grow up and become two nations of people. From this, Rebekah understands that she has twins, and you can already see how she might favor one over the other as the LORD promises that the older of the two will serve the younger.

Now to this, I can speak as I am the father of six children of my own. My three older children were adopted by me when I married my wife and my three younger children were the product of our marriage. It would be easy for me to favor my biological children over my older children because they are actually from my bloodline. But I have always understood since I became a Christian that God does not show favoritism and neither should I. When I married my wife I had to make a conscientious decision that I would treat all of my children equally or fairly. Now, this does not mean that I treat them all the same. That would be foolish. Each of them has a unique personality and identity and require different treatment. Still, I show them all the same amount of love, time, and attention in proportion to what they require, and I discipline each according to their personalities. For example, my youngest is a hard head like her daddy, and so when she does something wrong that requires punishment her rebukes are a lot stronger than my second youngest daughter. I can look her cross and she gets it. Sharp rebukes would devastate her and so I have to be more gentle in my rebukes. My older children, who are now young adults, my correction has to be delivered in a special way too. I appeal to common sense with my older kids. With some of my older kids, I simply need to tell them that they should have known better and not to do it again, to which they comply. For some of my older kids, I have to spell it out for them so that they understand, then I have to spend at least half an hour arguing my reasons for having to explain it to them. But in my family, there is no room for favoritism. Favoritism can cause the other siblings to resent both you and the one you favor. It is not a good thing to get in the habit of doing. As we read on, LORD willing, we will talk more about this when we come to the life of Joseph.

Now, I would add that sometimes one or more of our children will behave better than the others. This is to be commended and used as an example through positive reinforcement, but I don’t ever say, “why can’t you be more like so and so…” This is not a healthy way to set an example. It leaves the one who is not “so and so” feeling inept and not as valuable in the eyes of their parents.

[Gen 25:24 NKJV] So when her days were fulfilled [for her] to give birth, indeed [there were] twins in her womb.

Nine months go by and Rebekah gets a confirmation that she does not have one big baby but two children, twins. She gives birth, naturally, I might add, and her two sons come into the world one at a time. Now, I can imagine she hearkened back to her conversation with the LORD and took note of which one came out first. And the Bible takes care to describe each in order.

[Gen 25:25 NKJV] And the first came out red. [He was] like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau.

Esau was a unique name, one which is disputed amongst biblical scholars. The meaning of the word “Esau” could be related to its Arabic root which means to cover, but could also mean “hairy” We know that his name is also attributed to the word Edomis which means “red,” and that certainly described his skin tone when he was born. Esau would, of course, become the progenitor of the people known as the Edomites. And so this little red, and hairy child comes out first and his mom nicknames him “Harry.” Not really, but that is kind of funny. Maybe she called him “Red,” I don’t know.

[Gen 25:26 NKJV] Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac [was] sixty years old when she bore them.

Now Jacob is another interesting name. Having a son named Jacob myself, I wonder if there is anything mystical about the names of our children. For example, if you name your child Frank, will they be quite frank in the speech? I don’t know, but my son Jacob used to amaze me as to how he lived up to his name…lol. Seriously though, the child, Jacob, would, indeed, grow into his name quite remarkably as we will see, LORD willing, moving on.

The name Jacob means, “one who grabs the heel,” or “one who trips up. Now, as a kid, I remember hiding under the bed and waiting for my unsuspecting siblings to walk by. I would grab them by their heels doing two things: 1) scaring them half to death, and 2) tripping them causing them to fall thinking that the monster under the bed was going to pull them under and eat them. I was a terrible older brother. But the name Jacob could be translated, deceiver or supplanter. Biblical evidence for this can be found in the story of Gad’s method of warfare in Genesis 49:19. The name implies deceit and as we will see moving forward, the name is quite fitting, all things considered.

[Gen 25:27 NKJV] So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents.

Esau was a wildman, much like his uncle Ishmael. It says here that he was a skillful hunter, a man of the field. He was the kind of kid that would come home and always here, “Boy go wash up before dinner, you stink!” Whereas, Jacob was more of a “mamma’s boy” and stayed at home. Perhaps it was because his mother coddled him knowing that one day his older brother would be his servant. I cannot say. It could simply be that the two had very different personalities and that is all there is to it.

[Gen 25:28 NKJV] And Isaac loved Esau because he ate [of his] game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Herein lies the danger of having favorites. As parents, I believe that we should love our children equally and not have favorites. I believe we should love as God loves, unconditionally. But here we see that each of the parents had a favorite. This probably caused no end to the name calling between the two siblings. As a parent, I have to always be cautious of making too big of a deal about what my kids do and rather focus on who my kids are. Sure, I applaud good deeds and behaviors of my children, but I try to always balance that out by saying how proud I am of all of my children. There are special circumstances where rewards and accolades are earned where the other children are left out, but in those instances, I like to encourage my children to rally behind the one who has had a success and be proud of them too. While it may be a personal success to one of my children it is a family success as we all want the best for those in our family.

[Gen 25:29 NKJV] Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he [was] weary.

So we have the hunter and the cook. I can relate to this because back in the day, I could shoot a freckle off of a fleas nose at 50 yards but I couldn’t cook to save my life. I used to joke around about how I could burn a salad. I loved to be out in the wild, I loved to hunt and fish and play in the creek and do what I considered to be guy stuff. This was what Esau was like. He brought home the meat but never cooked it himself. Jacob, on the other hand, was the mild-mannered, stay at home, and learn domestic things kind of guy. He would cook the stuff that Esau brought home. And so, Esau was out in the field all day long and comes home and smells the wonderful aroma of that red stew that Jacob made that was so delicious.

[Gen 25:30 NKJV] And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red [stew], for I [am] weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom.

As I alluded to earlier, the name Edom means red and Esau liked the stew so much that they gave him a nickname after it. If that was the case for me, I suppose people would have to call me “taco” or something. But Jacob was a pretty smart guy. He understood that Esau was led by his belly and so Jacob seizes the opportunity to make a play for the birthright. He knew that he was destined to get a smaller share of the blessings that would come when his father passed away. No doubt, his mother had shared with him the prophecy the LORD gave her about him. And so in his own craftiness, he puts a proposition to Esau that he knew Esau would play right into.

[Gen 25:31 NKJV] But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.”

So Jacob withholds the meal from Esau and bargains with him for his birthright. I have haggled with my siblings for something that they had that I wanted before too. Usually, it came along with some unrealistic request from my siblings like, “okay, but you have to promise me that you will do my chores for the rest of the week,” or something like that. And so I would get what I wanted and they would get in trouble for not doing their chores (as if I was really going to do them…ha!). This is probably what Esau was thinking.

[Gen 25:32 NKJV] And Esau said, “Look, I [am] about to die; so what [is] this birthright to me?”

I picture this as some kind of banter between the two of them. I doubt seriously that Esau would give up his birthright in reality for a bowl of stew. Esau did not take the request seriously and says, “What good is my birthright to me if I am dying of hunger?” Esau would not have died if he missed a meal, so it is most likely that he was just playing along with his brother Jacob. But Jacob presses the issue and makes Esau swear.

[Gen 25:33 NKJV] Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.

Now, while this was not legally binding, it could be considered so during that time. As we have seen in previous studies there was a whole lot that went into making a covenant. It involved an animal sacrifice and walking between the carcasses of the animals that were sacrificed. So, from that perspective, this was not a legally binding agreement. Still, a man’s word is his honor. But I think the more egregious thing that Esau did was make light of his birthright.

[Gen 25:34 NKJV] And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised [his] birthright.

By exchanging the promise of his birthright for a bowl of stew showed how little Esau cared for it. When people swore upon something, in this case, the birthright, they were, in essence, saying that the thing that they swore upon was of value to them. Esau was not concerned with the oath he made. To him, it was a mere obstacle that was between himself and stuffing his face. But this would come back to haunt him later and would set the stage for the fulfillment of the prophecy that God gave to Rebekah.

Prayer: LORD, to know that I am adopted into Your family is enough for me. That I have been grafted into your family is more than I deserve. Still, I know what awaits me as my inheritance is more than I could ever imagine. Help me to be mindful always of what awaits me so that I keep things in perspective. Help me to lead my family and not show favoritism to my own children. Help me to train them to show love and respect for their siblings. I especially lift up my youngest son to you now,  who is in the “cooties” stage of his life to treat his siblings with love and respect. Help me to point my children to You in all that they do. I ask these things in Your name. –Amen

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