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Brotherly hatred: Jacob and Esau.

Updated on May 31, 2016
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Some rights reserved by o5com

A month before my fifth birthday, my peaceful existence was shattered. My mother went to the hospital and came back with my baby brother.

I didn't mind so much at first, but that kid was the bane of my existence. It got even worse when we moved to a new house. I had to share a bedroom with him.

Whenever I wanted some peace and quiet, he was there. Whenever I wanted to do anything at all, he was there. The Bible says, "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Didn't I wish I had a friend like that! My brother stuck around no matter how hard I tried to get rid of him.

But then one day, he made a comment that was really funny. Almost in spite of myself, I began to admire his sense of humor. Then I began to find other good points in him. After I moved away from home, I was actually glad to see him when I went back to visit. Now he's one of my favorite people. I guess that's not so unusual, either. Lots of boys squabble with their brothers growing up and then get along just fine as adults, but not everyone.

Twin brothers Esau and Jacob fought with each other from before their birth. Their mother Rebekah asked God what was going on. He told her that not only were two babies jostling in her womb, but two separate nations contending together. He also said that the older would serve the younger.

That answer must have been very unsettling. Middle Eastern society at the time and for many generations afterwards gave tremendous advantages to the firstborn. When God set up his covenant, he chose to subvert human systems. Society at that time chose the elder son, so God would choose the younger.

The twins were born, first Esau, then Jacob, grasping Esau's heel. As they struggled in the womb, so they struggled at birth and, we can be sure, the entire time they were growing up.

Esau grew up to be an outdoorsman, a hunter, the very manliest of men. Jacob stayed close to home, close to the security of the family encampment. Esau probably got the best of all of the physical fights. Jacob must have been very creative and subtle in retaliation.

Their parents made the situation worse by taking sides. Isaac loved the wild game that Esau brought home and loved Esau more than Jacob. Rebekah appreciated a son who stayed by her. She knew that God had chosen Jacob, and loved Jacob more than Esau.

One day Esau came home after an unsuccessful hunting trip, tired and hungry. The aroma of lentil stew wafted to his nostrils as Jacob stirred the pot. If Esau had loved Jacob, he would have said, "That really smells good. May I have some?" Instead, he said, "Gimme some of that red stuff." If Jacob had loved Esau, he would have seen how exhausted he was and said, "You look like you've had a rough day. Here. Have some of this stew." But of course, neither had any love or respect for the other at all.

God had said, "The older shall serve the younger." Rebekah must have told Jacob, whether she ever told Isaac or not. Jacob, a schemer, saw his chance. Esau demanded the stew and Jacob used it for a bargaining chip. He said, "First, give me your birthright."

That seems like a very odd exchange, but not without precedent. Historians and archeologists tell us that brothers in other families of the time sometimes transferred inheritance rights. But it usually involved long negotiations, and the younger brother had to pay a much higher price. Perhaps Jacob picked that moment to begin a negotiation, expecting Esau to make a counter-offer. Instead, Esau said, "What use is my birthright to me if I die of hunger?" So he swore an oath to Jacob, ate his stew, and got up and left.

There are a number of lessons in this story. I want to point out two of them. First, when God decides to do something, he doesn't need our cleverness to help him out. As Paul pointed out in Romans 9:11-13, "Before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she [Rebekah] was told, 'The older will serve the younger.' Just as it is written: 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated'" (NIV).

The account concludes, "Thus Esau despised his birthright." But didn't Jacob also despise the birthright and the blessing? He reduced them to commodities that could be bought, sold, or obtained by trickery. The book of Hebrews acknowledges him as a man of faith when he was an old man. If he had had faith as a young man, he would have realized that God intended to give him the birthright and the blessing, and he would have waited patiently for them. He would have trusted in God's grace and not in his own cleverness.

Judas apparently wanted to help God out. He was sure that Jesus was supposed to be the savior of the Jews, riding into Jerusalem on a white horse to chase all the Romans out. The trouble was, so he thought, Jesus wasn't moving fast enough. Perhaps if Jesus were in personal danger, he'd have a greater sense of urgency. God didn't need that kind of help.

In our own time, there was a man from North Carolina who was offended at the number of abortions in this country. He thought that doctors who performed abortions did not deserve to live. And so he decided to help God out and speed the process of judgment along by murdering abortionists. God doesn't need that kind of help, either.

Second, God can accomplish his perfect purposes through imperfect people. Actually, he has no choice in the matter. In Romans 3:10-18, Paul quotes five different psalms. The passage begins with these words: "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks for God. All have turned aside. Together they have become useless."

Jacob deceives Isaac

Giotto di Bondone
Giotto di Bondone

The four characters in our story are almost equally at fault.

Esau despised his birthright and gave it away for a bowl of stew. The Bible calls him godless.

Jacob used a moment of Esau's weakness to take what did not belong to him. Later, he obtained his father's blessing by deceit.

The two brothers held each other in utter contempt.

Isaac and Rebekah created that family dynamic by taking sides. Both of them loved one son more than the other.

After a while, I suspect they did not get along with each other very well, either.

But God accomplished his purpose in spite of them. Jacob founded a greater nation than Esau did and inherited the blessing of Abraham. The role call of the heroes of faith in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews mentions Isaac and Jacob, along with many other men whose names and deeds have been celebrated for centuries.

On closer examination, every single one of those heroes exhibits deep flaws. The story of every one of them speaks as much of missed opportunities as victory, but the writer concludes that the world was not worthy of them.

So it is with us. The story of our lives is likewise a story of sin and missed opportunities along with whatever victory we have known. Like Jacob, we act in unrighteousness by instinct, and by faith only after great struggle.

God does not call us to be perfect before he can work through us. He only asks that we turn to him in faith and trust. When we do, he produces in us a righteousness that does not depend on our works. God has a purpose for each one of us. He has begun a good work in us and is faithful to complete it.


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    • allpurposeguru profile imageAUTHOR

      David Guion 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      The "God of "Paul" is the loving Lord of the universe, the only rightful God, the risen Lord Jesus Christ, who came to destroy the works of the devil, including the "civilization" the devil raised up to oppose him. I don't have to wonder who this God is. He is my Lord and Savior. All other gods are spiritual counterfeits.

      You certainly have the right to your own viewpoint, and you obviously worship a different god than I do. That was evident in your first response.

      We will not continue this conversation in the comments to this hub, but I do thank you sincerely for your interest in it.

    • allpurposeguru profile imageAUTHOR

      David Guion 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      The "God of Paul" is the loving Lord of the Universe, the only rightful God, Jesus Christ raised from the dead, and he will judge us all. I don't have to wonder about this "God of Paul." He is my savior and will rescue the human race from this "civilization" that rose up at the orders of the devil to oppose him.

      You certainly have a right to your viewpoint, but I will not continue this discussion here.

    • Sagittarius 2012 profile image

      Sagittarius 2012 

      7 years ago from Canada

      I don't see any place in Genesis where Esau is calling Jacob "lord", so the weight is right.

      Does God has  different opinion about Eliphaz then Easton? You see, prolog and epilog of the Book of Job is written in prose and is attributed to different author then the central poetry part. Most likely it was written by Moses who being Israelite was not a big fan of the Edomites.

      There is nothing in the statements of Eliphaz what criticize God; Eliphaz was getting upset with Job being inpatient, not with God being unjust.   

      The best way to find out if Eliphaz was the son of Esau is to find out who was Job - and Esau.

      The best historical description of Job came from The Book of Job in Septuagint - LXX. 

      This ancient version of the Book of Job, chapter 42 verse 17, provides us with detailed genealogical information and social position of Job. However, this verse has been removed from the present Bibles.

      The Septuagint, LXX is the most ancient translation of Old Testament books to Greek, and consequently is invaluable to critics for understanding and correcting the Hebrew text (Massorah). 

      The Septuagint was translated into Konya Greek for the newly established library of Alexandria during the reign of King Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 BC.). Its oldest existing manuscript (Codex Vaticanus) was written in the fourth century AD.

      In the Septuagint translation of the Book of Job, there is a long subscription; similar subscription is found in Arabic and Coptic version of the Bible and it says:

      " 17 And Job died, an old man and full of days: and it is written that he will rise again with those whom the Lord raises up.

      This man is described in the Syriac book as living in the land of Ausis, on the borders of Idumea and Arabia: and his name before was Jobab; and having taken an Arabian wife, he begot a son whose name was Ennon. 

      And he himself was the son of his father Zare, one of the sons of Esau, and of his mother Bosorrha, so that he was the fifth from Abraam.

      And these were the kings who reigned in Edom, which country he also ruled over: first, Balac, the son of Beor, and the name of his city was Dennaba: but after Balac, Jobab, who is called Job, and after him Asom, who was governor out of the country of Thaeman: and after him Adad, the son of Barad, who destroyed Madiam in the plain of Moab; and the name of his city was Gethaim.

      And his friends who came to him were Eliphaz, of the children of Esau, king of the Thaemanites, Baldad sovereign the Sauchaeans, Sophar king of the Minaeans."

      You see Guru, the historical Eliphaz was the firstborn of Esau and was the king of Thameans. 

      The Ancestral Mother of Thameans was Timna of the children of Seir, mother of Amalek.

      Genesis 36 reads:

      " 10These are the names of Esau's sons; Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau, Reuel the son of Bashemath the wife of Esau.

       11And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, and Gatam, and Kenaz.

       12And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz Esau's son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek: these were the sons of Adah Esau's wife."

      Eliphaz was the oldest of the three friends of Job, and the book reads that he was much older then Job's father.

      When you look at the genealogy of Job, you see that Job was the fifth generation from Abraham.

      The Septuagint tells us that Job was the son of Zare and that he was the fifth generation from Abraham. 

      "And he himself was the son of his father Zare, one of the sons of Esau, and of his mother Bosorrha, so that he was the fifth from Abraam".

      Let's trace this genealogy from Abraham.:


      HAGAR (wife of Abraham) (Gen.16:3)                 

      SARAH wife of Abraham) (Gen.17:15)

      ISHMAEL (firstborn son) (Gen.16:15)                  

      ISAAC (promised son) (Gen.17:19) - Generation I 

      BASEMATH (daughter of Ishmael)    married     

      ESAU (firstborn son of Issac) (Gen.36:3)- Generation II

      REUL (son of ESAU and BASEMATH) (Gen.36:4) - Generation III

      ZERAH (son of REUL) (Gen.36:13) - Generaton IV

      JOB (son of ZERAH) (Septuagint-Job 42:17d) - Generation V

       Eliphaz, much older then Job's father, was the third generation from Abraham; he was the son of Esau, who was the son of Isaac and Isaac was the son of Abraham.

      Guru, you say that the God of Paul hated Esau; 

      no wander, after all the historical Esau, also known as Egyptian Osiris and Sumerian Lipit-Esthar, was the bringer of our civilization.

      It just makes you wander, - who was the hateful God of Paul?

    • allpurposeguru profile imageAUTHOR

      David Guion 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      The Hebrew word used for "lord" in Gen. 33 is frequently used in Scripture when one man addresses another. You are putting the wrong weight on it. As I pointed out before, God had a different opinion of Eliphaz' words than Easton does. But speaking of Easton, Eliphaz the Temanite was a native of a town that could only be named for Teman, son of Eliphaz, son of Esau--in other words, a later generation.

      Your first comment was that I was "deceived" by Paul, who was only quoting this passage:

      Malachi 1:2-5

      New International Version (NIV)

      “I have loved you,” says the LORD.

      “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’

      “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”

      Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.”

      But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD—even beyond the borders of Israel!’

    • Sagittarius 2012 profile image

      Sagittarius 2012 

      7 years ago from Canada

      11 Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need."

      And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it. 

      12 Then Esau said, "Let us be on our way; I'll accompany you." 

      13 But Jacob said to him, "[b]My lord [/b]knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. 

      14 So [b]let my lord go on ahead of his servant,[/b]

      while I move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children, until I come to [b]my lord in Seir." [/b]

      15 Esau said, "Then let me leave some of my men with you." 

      "But why do that?" Jacob asked.

      "Just let me find favor in the eyes of [ b]my lord." [/b]

      16 So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir."

      Guru, have you noticed who was the Lord and who was bowing?

      Let me know if you need more proof.

      Regarding Eliphaz, 

      Guru, not only Eliphaz was the son of Esau, but Zophar was the son of Eliphaz and grandson of Esau. 

      In Genesis 36 Zophar is called Zepho.

      "11And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar,[b] Zepho,[/b] and Gatam, and Kenaz."

      Eliphaz in Easton's Bible Dictionary 

      God his strength. (1.) One of Job's "three friends" who visited him in his affliction (4:1). He was a "Temanite", i.e., a native of Teman, in Idumea. He first enters into debate with Job. His language is uniformly more delicate and gentle than that of the other two, although he imputes to Job special sins as the cause of his present sufferings. 

      He states with remarkable force of language the infinite purity and majesty of God (4:12- 21; 15:12-16).

    • Sagittarius 2012 profile image

      Sagittarius 2012 

      7 years ago from Canada


      I study Scripture carefully and prayerfully, and this is what I got from It.

      Look first at the Blessing:

      "Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed. 

      28 May God give you of heaven's dew and of earth's richness - an abundance of grain and new wine. 

      [b]29 May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. 

      Be lord over your brothers, 

      and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. [/b]

      May those who curse you be cursed 

      and those who bless you be blessed." 

      30 After Isaac finished blessing him and Jacob had scarcely left his father's presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. 

      31 He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father.  

      Then he said to him, "My father, sit up and eat some of my game,  so that you may give me your blessing." 

      32 His father Isaac asked him, "Who are you?" 

      "I am your son," he answered, "your firstborn, Esau." 

      33 Isaac trembled violently and said, 

      "Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? 

      I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!" 

      34 When Esau heard his father's words, he burst out with a loud  and bitter cry and said to his father, 

      "Bless me—me too, my father!" 

      35 But he said, "Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing." 

      36 Esau said,

       "Isn't he rightly named Jacob ? He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he's taken my blessing!" 

      Then he asked, "Haven't you reserved any blessing for me?" 

      37 Isaac answered Esau, "I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?" 

      38 Esau said to his father, 

      "Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!" Then Esau wept aloud. 

      39 His father Isaac answered him, 

      "Your dwelling will be 

      away from the earth's richness, 

      away from the dew of heaven above.

      40 You will live by the sword 

      and you will serve your brother. 

      But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck." 

      Guru, as you have noticed,  Isaac said; 

      Genesis 27 (New International Version)

      “7 'Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing[b] in the presence of the LORD [/b]before I die.'”

      So, God was present during the Blessing, and as you can see, this blessing is spiritual one; not material (like the birthright), so, it was coming from God by the spirit of Isaac, and  Isaac had no doubt that he is blessing Esau and not Jacob.

      Now let’s read about the attitudes of  God from one of the books of Wisdom:

      Job 34 (New International Version)

      1 Then Elihu said: 

      2 "Hear my words, you wise men; 

      listen to me, you men of learning. 

      3 For the ear tests words 

      as the tongue tastes food. 

      4 Let us discern for ourselves what is right; 

      let us learn together what is good. .....

      ..... 10 "So listen to me, you men of understanding. 

      Far be it from God to do evil, from the Almighty to do wrong. 

      11 He repays a man for what he has done; he brings upon him what his conduct deserves. 

      12 It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice. 

      13 Who appointed him over the earth? Who put him in charge of the whole world? 

      14 If it were his intention 

      and he withdrew his spirit and breath,

      15 all mankind would perish together 

      and man would return to the dust. 

      16 "If you have understanding, hear this; listen to what I say. 

      17 Can he who hates justice govern? 

      Will you condemn the just and mighty One? 

      18 Is he not the One who says to kings, 'You are worthless,' and to nobles, 'You are wicked,' 

      19 who shows no partiality to princes 

      and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands? 

      20 They die in an instant, in the middle of the night; 

      the people are shaken and they pass away; 

      the mighty are removed without human hand. 

      21 "His eyes are on the ways of men; 

      he sees their every step. 

      22 There is no dark place, no deep shadow, where evildoers can hide. 

      23 God has no need to examine men further, that they should come before him for judgment. 

      24 Without inquiry he shatters the mighty and sets up others in their place. 

      25 Because he takes note of their deeds, he overthrows them in the night and they are crushed. 

      26 He punishes them for their wickedness where everyone can see them, 

      27 because they turned from following him and had no regard for any of his ways. 

      28 They caused the cry of the poor to come before him, so that he heard the cry of the needy. 

      29 But if he remains silent, who can condemn him? 

      If he hides his face, who can see him? 

      Yet he is over man and nation alike, 

      30 to keep a godless man from ruling, from laying snares for the people. ......".

      Now Guru, let's skip couple of chapters and read what Genesis 32 and 33 says:

      After 20 years of serving Laban, Jacob started back to his native land with his two wives, Leah and Rachel, two concubines and his many sons—the eponymous ancestors of the 12 tribes of Israel. 

      On the banks of the Jabbok, Jacob wrestled with an angel, received the name of Israel.

      Genesis 32 (New International Version)

      Jacob Prepares to Meet Esau

      3 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 

      4 He instructed them: "This is what you are to say to [b]my master Esau: [/b]

      [b]'Your servant Jacob [/b]says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now.

      5 I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, menservants and maidservants. Now I am sending this message [b]to my lord, [/b]

      that I may find favor in your eyes.' " 

      6 When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, "We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him." 

      17 He instructed the one in the lead: "When my brother Esau meets you and asks, 'To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?' 

      18 then you are to say, 'They belong to [b]your servant Jacob. [/b]They are a gift sent to [b]my lord Esau, [/b]and he is coming behind us.' " 

      19 He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: "You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 

      20 And be sure to say, [b]'Your servant Jacob [/b]is coming behind us.' " 

      22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 

      Genesis 33 (New International Version)

      Jacob Meets Esau 

      1 Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men;

      so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two maidservants. 

      2 He put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear.

      3 He himself went on ahead and [b]bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother. [/b]

      4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him;

      he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

      5 Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. 

      "Who are these with you?" he asked. 

      Jacob answered, "They are the children God has graciously given [b]your servant." [/b]

      6 Then the maidservants and their children approached [b]and bowed down. [/b]

      7 Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down.

      Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down. 

      8 Esau asked, "What do you mean by all these droves I met?"

      "To find favor in your eyes,[b] my lord,"[/b] he said. 

      9 But Esau said, 

      "I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself." 

      10 "No, please!" said Jacob. "If I have found favor in your eyes,  accept this gift from me. 

      For to see your face is like [b]seeing the face of God, [/b]

      now that you have received me favorably.

      11 Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and

    • allpurposeguru profile imageAUTHOR

      David Guion 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Since Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he cannot deceive. In any case, I did not base the article on Paul, but on the Genesis account.

      I can't imagine how you conclude that Esau didn't lose his blessing (see Gen. 27) or that Esau carried the Abrahamic religion. Job certainly descended from Esau, but the Eliphaz who visited him could not have been Esau's firstborn. He was descended from Esau through Teman. I find little excellent in his words and (see Job 42:7) neither did God.

      Please study Scripture carefully and prayerfully. Unfortunately and with all due respect, it is you who appear to be deceived.

    • Sagittarius 2012 profile image

      Sagittarius 2012 

      7 years ago from Canada


      I'm sorry, but you have been deceived by Paul. 

      Esau gave away his birthright, material property, however, he never lost his blessing, the spiritual part.

      Look at the blessing and follow the story.

      Esau was the carrier of Abrahamic religion. 

      His firstborn son, Eliphaz (Name meaning "God his strength"), one of Job's visitors, gave us excellent lesson about who is our God.

      Job himself was descendent of Esau, read Job in Septuagint LXX.

      From history and archeological excavations we know that Esau is the same person as Egyptian Osiris and Sumerian  Lipit-Esthar, bringers of our civilization.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lessons indeed. I'm a first born and struggling with the idea that God chooses to bless a deceitful and conniving second born. God's ways are not our ways and we do not need to have done right to be blessed nor to have done wrong to miss out on a blessing. God's plans shall be fulfilled in spite of our likings.... Great

    • b4u2c profile image


      9 years ago from The Kingdom of God's Dear Son

      I agree with Judah's Daughter and itakins... Great Hub! A major burden lifted from me as I got to the end of the hub. Very powerful presentation! Thank you!

    • itakins profile image


      9 years ago from Irl

      This is a fantastic hub,thank you.

    • Judah's Daughter profile image

      Judah's Daughter 

      9 years ago from Roseville, CA

      Wow ~ Welcome to HubPages! This was an incredible read and a very encouraging lesson. Thank you ~ it was a blessing! You've got a fan!! I look forward to reading more and more!


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