So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents.
After Isaac pleaded with God for his wife Rebekah to become pregnant, God answered and allowed Rebekah to conceive (verse 21). Rebekah conceived twins—two boys. One of these boys would receive the physical blessings given to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3.
Rebekah was given a prophecy that the two boys in her womb represented “two nations” (verse 23). One nation (the younger brother who would receive the birthright blessings) would be stronger than the other, while the older would be weaker.
The first twin to be born was Esau—making him the firstborn and automatically the assumed inheritor of the physical blessings. Esau apparently was a unique infant, being born with hair all over his body. The name Esau means “hairy.” The second-born infant was named Jacob, meaning “supplanter.” This name foreshadowed the negative character traits that would characterize Jacob before he was renamed Israel.
We then fast-forward to the men Esau and Jacob became. Esau grew into a “skillful hunter.” He could be described as a rugged outdoorsman. Jacob, on the other hand, is described as “a mild man.” He was not naturally rugged or drawn to the wild; instead he herded sheep and goats. It is also possible that the phrase “dwelling in tents” refers to Jacob being an intellectual and attending schools (see Soncino Books of the Bible comment on Genesis 25:27).
Unfortunately, a very unhealthy dynamic developed in this family. Isaac and Rebekah each had a favorite of the twins. Isaac preferred Esau (being drawn to Esau’s ruggedness and ability to hunt and prepare wild game), and Rebekah preferred Jacob (perhaps for his more intellectual and domestic nature). This dynamic caused major problems in this family, as we will see in tomorrow’s commentary.
To learn about the keys to successful parenting, read our article “Parenting Advice.”
Tomorrow on the Daily Bible Verse Blog: “Esau Sells His Birthright.”