“Does anyone know who Jacob was?”
Shirlee glanced around the Sunday School room, waiting to see who would put up a hand. “Yes, Ginny?”
“Jacob was one of the Patriarchs. God loved him dearly, because he was such an upstanding and Godly man.”
“That’s right, Ginny! Today, we’re going to learn about when Jacob was born, and his brother Esau, and how Jacob earned God’s favor through shrewdness.”
Isaac married Rebekah when he was 40 years old. They tried and tried for twenty years to have a baby, but she was barren and couldn’t get pregnant. So, Isaac begged God to help, and He blessed her with twins.
The two fought in her womb, so Rebekah went to visit God and ask Him why. (Genesis 25:20-24)
“Went to visit God? How did she do that? Did she go up to Heaven?” John demanded.
“That’s what the Bible says, John. Genesis 25:22, She ‘went to inquire of the Lord.’ And He answered her!” Shirlee was ready to share God’s prophecy.
“But how did she know His address? Did he have a condo nearby?” The whole class snickered . . . and Shirlee glared.
“It doesn’t say, John. I would assume she went to the temple and prayed.”
“What temple? It wasn’t built until Solomon.”
“The altar, then!”
“So the God that would only show Moses His butt because showing him His face would kill him (Exodus 33:17-23), sat down for a cup of tea at the altar with Rebekah?”
“God visited with Sarah and Abraham as well, John. Remember? Maybe people got weaker as their DNA got corrupted by sin over the thousands of years since the universe was created. May I please finish the story?” Shirlee was getting annoyed, and John knew better than to keep after her when she was annoyed.
God told Rebekah that there were two nations in her womb; and that the elder (and his descendants) would serve the younger. Behold, when she delivered some time later, she gave birth to two babies!
The first out was red and hairy all over, and they called him Esau. The second was grabbing Esau’s heel on his way out of Rebekah’s mommy cave! They named him Jacob.
Esau grew up into a skilled hunter, and his father Isaac loved him dearly for it. Jacob preferred the tent life in the encampment, and Rebekah loved him best. (Genesis 25:24-28)
“So you’re saying Jacob was a Mama’s boy?” Mark was smirking. He always looked for a way to slip a zinger in here or there.
“No, Mark, I’m saying Rebekah loved Jacob more than Esau!”
Ginny started fidgeting and twirling her hair. “But I thought parents were supposed to love their children equally. That’s what Pastor always says!”“Stop twirling your hair. If you twirl your hair, you will develop trichotillomania and end up bald! You don’t want to look like Sine-Aid O’Connor, do you?” Ginny dropped her hands to her lap and fiddled with her pencil instead. “And the Bible nowhere orders parents to love their children equally. You’re confusing God’s Word with Dr. Spock.” Shirlee couldn’t stand these ridiculous New Age parenting ideas.
“The guy with the pointy ears?” Ginny looked genuinely puzzled as the class laughed.
“Ginny, Dr. Spock is that New Agey child psychiatrist who wrote a bunch of how-to parenting books. Mr. Spock is the illegal alien on Star Trek.”
“Oh! I thought he was legal. Being an officer and all.”
“Maybe he did go through proper legal channels . . . Oh, never mind!” Shirlee snapped. “We’re not here to talk about Star Trek!”
“Shirlee, do you think Mr. Spock would go to Heaven?” Mark seemed intent on derailing the discussion.
“Not being real, no, I don’t think he’d go to Heaven. And if he was, since he couldn’t experience love, then he couldn’t love Jesus and would have to go to Hell.” Shirlee sighed. “Now, can we please stop discussing fictional characters and get back to Jacob and Esau?”
One day, Jacob was boiling a lentil stew, and Esau came back from hunting. He was really tired and hungry, and begged Jacob to give him some of the stew. (Genesis 25:29-30)
Shirlee paused, excited about the moral lesson she was about to impart. “Now, pay attention! This is one of the times Jacob did something that earned him God’s favor!”
“Well,” John pondered, “I expect that Jacob generously gave the stew to his brother, just like Jesus said in Matthew 25:34-40, that whenever a Godly person helps any person in need, it is just like helping Jesus Himself.”
“Yes, that must be it,” Ginny agreed. “That’s the Christian thing to do. Pastor always says we should help anyone who asks for our help!”
Shirlee looked at the rest of the class. “You all think that’s what he did?” All the children nodded their agreement. “Let’s find out!”
Jacob told Esau, ‘Sell me your birthright in exchange for a bowl of my stew.’ Esau, who was so hungry he felt like he was about to die, figured he needed food more than he needed his birthright, and swore his inheritance over to Jacob in exchange for a bowl of lentil stew. (Genesis 25:31-34)
“But . . . but . . . That’s horrible! What kind of a person demands his brother’s entire inheritance in exchange for a bowl of stew?” Ginny looked like she was about to cry.
“A shrewd man, Ginny. A shrewd man, and that’s why God loved Jacob. Because he was very clever!” Shirlee’s eyes shone with the joy of the Lord.
“Dude, that’s sick,” John muttered. “Jacob’s a jerk.”
“You hush, and don’t call one of the Patriarchs a jerk! Just settle down and listen to more about Jacob and Esau. You kids and your chattering about nonsense like Star Trek and complaining about Godly morals not agreeing with yours is eating up storytime!”
A famine came upon the land, much like the one a few chapters ago when Abraham went to live in Abimelech’s land and whored out his wife (the second time, after he rented her to Pharaoh for a while). So God told Isaac to go and travel to the same land, at Gerar, still ruled by Abimelech, king of the Philistines.
God told Isaac that he would make the same oath to Isaac, that if he stayed a while in that land, he’d bless Isaac, and give various countries to Isaac and his descendants.
Isaac, knowing God was faithful and true, went to Gerar and told all the men there that Rebekah his wife was actually his sister, because he was afraid they would kill him for her, because even after 20 years of marriage, she was still quite pretty. (Genesis 26:1-7)
“Uh, Shirlee?” Ginny poked her hand up.
Shirlee looked up, with an expression that told Ginny the question had best be quick and on topic.
“If God visited Isaac in person, and made him all these promises, then why would Isaac be afraid he would get killed for his wife right afterward?”
“Because . . . Well, because he . . .”
“Good question, Ginny!” Mark suddenly looked interested. “Why would he be afraid and start telling lies? And isn’t that a sin?”
John, unable to resist, chimed in. “Maybe he was hoping to rent his wife out to the highest bidder, like his father did with his mother!”
“John!” Shirlee snarled.
“What? Abraham did it, like father like son, apple not far from the tree . . .”
“Hush your filthy noise! He was afraid for whatever reason, and so he lied. And he did not collect rent on her mommy cave!”
“Guess he wasn’t as shrewd as Abraham . . .”
“John, what did you say? That you want to polish the floor in all the Sunday School rooms this afternoon?”
“No, I said Abraham was shrewd . . .”
“Because I distinctly heard you say you wanted to stay after church and polish the floors. By hand, on your knees, until you can see Heaven in the reflection!”
John looked at the floor. The dull, pitted and uneven wood, loose and warped in places, didn’t look like it had been swept, much less polished, in decades. “No, I don’t think I said that, but I think I’d like to hear the rest of the story.”
“That’s what I thought you said.”
So Abimelech saw Isaac horsing around with Rebekah, and confronted him. ‘Surely this is your wife, not your sister! Why did you lie? What if one of the men had sex with your wife, and you brought a curse upon us through your lies?’
Isaac apologized and explained why he lied, so Abimelech told all the people not to kill Isaac or have sex with Rebekah. Because it’s often necessary to tell your men not to kill other men or rape their wives.
Isaac stayed and planted fields and had great success, gaining great wealth in herds and slaves. Abimelech, seeing Isaac was wealthier than the Philistines at Gerar, asked him to leave, so he moved with all his slaves and cattle and belongings out into the valley, and dug wells. Then fought with the locals over the wells. Finally, Isaac got to Beer-sheba and built an altar. God visited him and told him who He was, because apparently Isaac didn’t recognize Him (or maybe forgot), and made the same promises that He’d made earlier. So, they dug another well there.
Abimelech came and made a non-aggression agreement with Isaac, since he could see that God was favoring Isaac. (Genesis 26:12-33)
“I don’t see what all this has to do with Jacob and Esau,” Ginny moaned. “And it’s boring!”
“It’s called exposition,” explained John. “You know, backstory. Like the words in space scrolling across the screen at the beginning of a Star Wars movie.”
“Thank you, John.” Shirlee’s icy tone cut through the room like a knife.
Esau married Judith and Bashemath, daughters of Hittites. His parents, Isaac and Rebekah, were not happy with his choice. (Genesis 26:24-25)
“Why not? Were they ugly?” John could be shallow at times.
“I’m sure they were perfectly lovely girls, John. But they were Hittites. From another tribe.”
“Oh, so Isaac wanted Esau to marry a near relative, like he did?”
“I don’t know, John. The Bible doesn’t say, only that Isaac and Rebekah weren’t happy with Esau’s wives.”
Ginny wondered, “I thought marriage was supposed to be ‘one man, one woman’, like on those National Organization for Marriage buttons you always wear, Shirlee. Why is Esau marrying two women? Was he a Mormon? Maybe that’s why his parents were upset!”
Mark laughed. “Ginny, Mormonism wasn’t even invented yet! And if you think two wives is a lot, wait until Shirlee gets to Solomon!”
“Ginny,” Shirlee explained, “‘One man one woman’ is really about telling the homosexuals that they are second-class citizens not deserving of the rights the rest of us have. The Bible doesn’t actually say anything about gay marriage, for or against . . . It just specifies that marriage IS between men and women, and that intimate relations between two men or two women is not allowed. Which pretty much rules out them getting married. Now, let’s see the next clever thing Jacob does to earn God’s favor, OK?”
Just then, the church bells rang.
“Oh no! It’s 11:00 already! See, you children distracted me from the story so many times with your questions, that now we’re all out of time. We will have to continue with Genesis 27 next time.”
What do you think Jacob does to earn God’s favor? Vote now, then see if you’re right when Shirlee tells about Genesis 27!