jacob and esau’s exchange

image courtesy of ecoki.com

[This is a series on famous exchanges in the Bible.  The first post (and by far the best one so far) in this series can be found here: adam and eve’s exchange.]

the situation

Esau comes home from a long day out in the bush (that’s what we call it here in Africa), and he’s starving.  Jacob’s been cooking some soup, and Esau asks for a bowl of it.  Jacob’s response:  “Swear you’ll give me your birthright.”  Esau does, and then he enjoys some soup.

what I don’t like about this story:

  • The kid brother duped his older sibling. I think we all know this isn’t how it’s supposed to work.  One of the God-given privileges of being the oldest brother is the ability and the right to use deceit, cunning, and pretense in order to take advantage of younger siblings.  Jacob should’ve been doing his brother’s chores for a week in exchange for a “super valuable stick I found in the woods.”  Esau should’ve been tricking his kid brother into eating dog poop.  It wasn’t supposed to go down this way.  The Law of Siblings states as much very clearly.  And none of us can argue with The Law.
  • It was a bowl of LENTIL soup. There wasn’t even meat in the bowl.  What were you thinking, man?  I mean, a bowl of bacon stew… with cheese in it… maybe.  Maybe.  But lentils!?  Lentils are like beans, only smaller and cheaper.  We use them for cow fodder, Esau.  Lentil soup is NOT worth a birthright or an inheritance.
  • Shouldn’t Jacob have been doing something manly? I’m convinced if he didn’t go hunting with Esau, he should have had a manly reason to stay home.  Fixing the tractor, mending a barbed-wire fence, cleaning out the stables, or manicuring his rugged beard, maybe.  But he was making soup.  Lentil soup.  Sissy.

k-mart.  400 oak Street.  k-mart.

When Esau came in from the fields on that fateful day, he had no understanding of the value of his birthright.  I’m reminded of the movie, Rain Man,* in which Dustin Hoffman won an oscar for playing Raymond, an institutionalized autistic savant.  Raymond memorized phone books and addresses and could count cards in Vegas like a — well, it’s probably said of others that they count cards like “Rain Man.”  But despite Raymond’s extraordinary intellect, he didn’t understand money or anything about how it worked.

Charlie: That’s amazing. He should work for NASA or something like that
Doctor: Ray, if you had a dollar and you spent fifty cents, how much would you have left over?
Raymond: About seventy.
Doctor: Seventy cents?
Raymond: Seventy cents.
Charlie: So much for the NASA idea.

Doctor: Ray, do you know how much a candy bar costs?
Raymond: ‘Bout a hundred dollars.
Doctor: Do you know how much one of those new compact cars costs?
Raymond: ‘Bout a hundred dollars.

properly placed value and worship

When Esau came in from the fields on that fateful day, he had no understanding of the value of his birthright.  And the ability to determine and properly place value is critical in life. Without a correct understanding of what is truly important, it’s difficult to have any “quality of life.”

  • I might trade my compact car for a candy bar.
  • I might exchange my diploma for some gas money.
  • I might sell my younger brother for a donkey.
  • I might give my praise to someone who doesn’t deserve it.
  • I might worship that which is not worthy of worship.

Worship starts with placing value. When we set one thing above all others, we are deeming it valuable.  And we must properly place value in order for our lives to function as they were intended.  God is the only being worthy of worship, the most valuable entity in all the world.

If we can’t properly determine and place value, our lives are gonna’ be all messed up.  And proper placement of value requires that God be praised.

* You’ve got to see this movie if you haven’t.  It’s quality.  Probably the best acting you’ll see from Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, both.



Filed under exchanges

12 responses to “jacob and esau’s exchange

  1. The Old English for worship is “worth ship–the act of declaring worth.” Great post.

  2. randy morgan

    as always, brett, you are amazing…love your insights (don’t get haughty, by the way).

  3. Very good stuff. I was able to teach on that same passage a few months back. Thanks for sharing some insight into the passage that I hadn’t thought of.

  4. if it were rice and lentils with onion and potato – I might be swayed. MUST be properly spiced.

  5. Ike

    God said He hated Esau… yet we say God loves everyone. Explain?

  6. Jason Miller

    Would love to know where exactly it says God hated Esau. I’ve never seen it before, which doesn’t mean it’s not there, but only means I haven’t seen it. Can you help me out here?

    The only thing I’m aware of that the Bible states God hates is divorce, and that is in Malachi 2:16. Otherwise, I’m at a loss.

    • Ike

      [Malachi 1:2-3] “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

      Romans 9:6-12

      But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. 9 For this is the word of promise: “AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.” 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” 13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”

  7. Contextually, the word used here carries the sense of loving less. The New Living Translation reveals this sense:

    Malachi 1:2-3 (New Living Translation)

    The Lord’s Love for Israel
    2 “I have always loved you,” says the Lord.

    But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?”

    And the Lord replies, “This is how I showed my love for you: I loved your ancestor Jacob, 3 but I rejected his brother, Esau, and devastated his hill country. I turned Esau’s inheritance into a desert for jackals.”

    This passage is discussing God’s blessings for Jacob’s descendants and his judgment of Esau’s descendants. This action of God was marshaled as evidence of his constant love for Israel.

  8. Steve Holmes

    nice blog, and interesting observation: “Worship starts with placing value. When we set one thing above all others, we are deeming it valuable. And we must properly place value in order for our lives to function as they were intended. God is the only being worthy of worship, the most valuable entity in all the world.”

    Some related comments:

    “I will live this day as if it is my last.
    I have but one life and life is naught but a measurement of time. When I waste one I destroy the other. If I waste today I destroy the last page of my life. Therefore, each hour of this day will I cherish for it can never return. It cannot be banked today to be withdrawn on the morrow, for who can trap the wind? Each minute of this day will I grasp with both hands and fondle with love for its value is beyond price. What dying man can purchase another breath though he willingly give all his gold? What price dare I place on the hours ahead. I will make them priceless!” (Greatest Salesman, Og Mandino, p75)

    from a more philosophical point of view: “Teleological measurement has to be performed in and against an enormous context: it consists of establishing the relationship of a given choice to all the other possible choices and to one’s heirarchy of values. …In the spiritual realm, the currency – which exists in limited quantity and must be teleologically measured in the pursuit of any value – is time, that is, one’s life.

    Since a value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep, and the amount of possible action is limited by the duration of one’s lifespan, it is a part of one’s life that one invests in everything one values. The years, months, days or hours of thought, of interest, of action devoted to a value are the currency with which one pays for the enjoyment one receives from it.”
    (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Ayn Rand, p33-4.)


  9. Pingback: mercy, not sacrifice | aliens and strangers

  10. Pingback: rahab’s exchange: the lie | aliens and strangers

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