"And the LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger." ~ Genesis 25:23
In this prophecy from the Lord, it is Esau, the eldest son of Isaac and Rebekah, who would serve Jacob, his younger brother. The Bible account of Jacob and Esau includes Esau selling his birthright to Jacob and Jacob misleading his father Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau.
Read the Bible account of Jacob and Esau and discover their importance in the Old Testament.
Who Were Jacob and Esau?The prophecy of Jacob and Esau shows that God's purpose in salvation stands on the basis of His calling, and not on the basis of works, either good or bad (Romans 9:11). For God foreknew which of the two sons would believe the word of promise given to Abraham. Jacob embraced the faith of Abraham, whereas Esau rejected it. Both were called, but Jacob alone responded to the call through faith.
The Jews came from Jacob, and those who respond to God's calling, as Jacob did, are the children of God. Those who do not embrace Abraham's faith are like Esau. Christ came through the genealogy of Isaac and Jacob, as found in Matthew 1:2, "Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers."
The Book of Genesis talks of the relationship between fraternal twins Jacob and Esau, sons of Isaac and Rebekah. Genesis 25:26 states that Esau was born before Jacob, who came out holding on to his older brother's heel as if he was trying to pull Esau back into the womb so that he could be firstborn. The name Jacob means he grasps the heel which is a Hebrew idiom for deceptive behavior.
"When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob."~ Genesis 25:24-28
Esau Sells His Birthright to JacobEsau was the older son. so the right of the firstborn was his. This right taught the firstborn to embrace Abraham's faith. But he despised this faith, because of his fear of death. He despised the very faith that could save him from death. "See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears." (Hebrews 12:15-17)
"Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, "Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!" (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, "Sell me your birthright now." Esau said, "I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?" Jacob said, "Swear to me now." So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright." ~ Genesis 25:29-34
Isaac Blesses JacobThe Lord is present everywhere and fills all things. Thus Isaac would give the blessing of the firstborn in His presence. The blessing of the firstborn gave the eldest son a double portion of his father's inheritance. He would also become the ruler and head over his brethren upon his father's death, and be responsible for the welfare and administration of the family.
"When Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called Esau his older son and said to him, "My son"; and he answered, "Here I am." He said, "Behold, I am old; I do not know the day of my death. Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me, and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die." ~ Genesis 27:1-4
Rebekah hears the blessing intended for Esau.
"Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, "I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, 'Bring me game and prepare for me delicious food, that I may eat it and bless you before the LORD before I die.' Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you. Go to the flock and bring me two good young goats, so that I may prepare from them delicious food for your father, such as he loves. And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies." ~ Genesis 27:5-10
Jacob pretends to be Esau in order to receive his blessing.
"But Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, "Behold, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing." His mother said to him, "Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, bring them to me." So he went and took them and brought them to his mother, and his mother prepared delicious food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her older son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And the skins of the young goats she put on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. And she put the delicious food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob." ~ Genesis 27:11-17
"So he went in to his father and said, "My father." And he said, "Here I am. Who are you, my son?" Jacob said to his father, "I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me." But Isaac said to his son, "How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?" He answered, "Because the LORD your God granted me success." Then Isaac said to Jacob, "Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not." So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, who felt him and said, "The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau." And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau's hands. So he blessed him. He said, "Are you really my son Esau?" He answered, "I am." ~ Genesis 27:18-24
Jacob receives his father Isaac's blessing.
Then he said, "Bring it near to me, that I may eat of my son's game and bless you." So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, "Come near and kiss me, my son." So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said, "See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed! May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!" ~ Genesis 27:25-29
Esau's Lost Blessing"As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, when Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, Esau his brother came in from his hunting. He also prepared delicious food and brought it to his father. And he said to his father, "Let my father arise and eat of his son's game, that you may bless me." His father Isaac said to him, "Who are you?" He answered, "I am your son, your firstborn, Esau." ~ Genesis 27:30-32
Then Isaac trembled very violently and said, "Who was it then that hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate it all before you came, and I have blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed." As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry and said to his father, "Bless me, even me also, O my father!" But he said, "Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing." Esau said, "Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing." Then he said, "Have you not reserved a blessing for me?" ~ Genesis 27:33-36
Isaac answered and said to Esau, "Behold, I have made him lord over you, and all his brothers I have given to him for servants, and with grain and wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?" Esau said to his father, "Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father." And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: "Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow restless you shall break his yoke from your neck." ~ Genesis 27:37-40
Read related articles about the life of Jacob and Esau:
Rebekah sends Jacob to Mesopotamia to avoid Esau's intention to kill him. In his travel, the Lord visits Jacob in a dream known as Jacob's Ladder.
In Mesopotamia, Jacob meets Haran and his daughter Rachel. Read the Bible Story of Jacob and Rachel.