Story of Jacob, Esau demonstrates follies of favoritism

By Judy Brandon: Religion columnist

Last week I wrote about the frustrations of Mary and Joseph when they lost Jesus back in Jerusalem. They were like any other parents — frustration sometimes sets in when it comes to raising children.

There is another account of children and frustration. Except for Christ, the sinless one, the Bible details the failings and faults of its most well known families. Nothing is hidden — a murder (Moses and the Egyptian overseer) an adulterer (King David) and a liar (Abraham saying that Sarah was his sister). They were all sinners, some giving way to the same sins many times. Many stumbled and fell and did not lead godly lives.

The details of their shortcomings are in plain view for all readers to see.

One such situation was about parental favoritism in the family. Such was the case of Rebekah and Isaac.

They had twin boys, Jacob and Esau. But the problem was that Isaac, favored Esau, because he was the outdoor type. I suppose he liked to do the things that Isaac liked to do. Jacob was the opposite. He was more conformable around his mother and hung around the house. The Bible says: he “stayed among the tents.”

In the custom of the day, the oldest son received the blessing. So when Isaac was old and decrepit and nearly blind, it was time to bestow the blessing on Esau.

That’s when the favoritism thing became a huge problem. Rebekah wanted Jacob to get the blessing because he was her favorite. She heard Isaac talking to Esau about the birthright and his intent to give it to him.

These twin boys were different. The Bible says that Esau was hairy and Jacob was smoothed skinned.

Rebekah convinced Jacob to put a sort of skin of an animal like garment over his hands and arms so he would feel and smell like Esau. The old Isaac could not see well enough to tell the boys apart. He had to feel their features and listen to their voices.

So with the encouragement of his mother, Isaac faked his old dad out. He told his dad that he was Esau and was there for the blessing.

Isaac said that it did not sound like Esau but felt his arms (the hairy coat) and thought it was Esau. As a result, he gave the blessing to Jacob.

That might not sound like a big thing but the blessing was meant as an affirmation and an honor that meant high value was placed on the one being blessed and along with that came privilege.

When Esau found out that Jacob had stolen his blessing, he was furious and went to kill him. Jacob had to run for the hills for his life, fleeing to his Uncle Laban for protection. Rebekah lost her favored son and never saw him again.

What goes around really does comes around. When Jacob wanted to marry Laban’s daughter, Rachel, Laban tricked him.

Then later on Jacob was tricked by his sons. He was tricked with a coat. His boys dipped the beautiful coat that Jacob had given Joseph, his favorite son, in blood and told Jacob that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. Jacob tricked with a coat and then he was tricked with a coat.

For one parent to favor a child over another brings heartbreak and emotional hurt for a lifetime. What can we learn from the failings and sins of this prominent Bible family? Favoring one child over the other brings grief and we always reap what we sow.

The account of this may be found in Genesis 27.