Another couple of weeks and we’ll have gone through the entire book of Genesis!
Can I hear a “Woot, woot!”?
Seriously, though, I have enjoyed this study so much. I’ve caught details and made connections I haven’t before, and I’ve developed an even greater love for these stories of humanity’s beginning and God’s endless love.
What I’ve really enjoyed is diving a little deeper into some of those supporting people–those that are mentioned, but sometimes get lost in the background when we talk about big names like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Today we’re going to talk about two of those background people: Leah and Esau.
As we jump into chapter 25, things are changing. Abraham has died, and Isaac is left to carry on the family name as his wife Rebekah gives birth to twin boys, Jacob and Esau. Those boys were at odds even before they left the womb. They kept their poor mother up at night, wrestling in their confined space; and the rivalry only got worse as they entered the world.
I’ve always viewed Esau as a dramatic, whining wimp. Maybe that’s a little harsh, but he’s never had a good reputation in my opinion.
We first meet him as he returns from a hunting trip. Who knows how long he was out there trying to shoot some game; but when he comes back he is famished.
Jacob on the other hand has spent his time at home making up a stew. I can picture him taunting his older brother with the food, stirring it before gently lifting a spoonful to his lips and savoring the taste while Esau’s mouth waters. Esau asks his brother for a bowlful, but Jacob’s stew comes at a price.
“First, give me your birthright.”
Esau doesn’t even seem to give a second thought to the honor bestowed upon the firstborn: “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” (Genesis 25:32).
A little dramatic, isn’t it, Esau? Seriously, dude, just go inside the tent and ask your mom for some bread. Or go cook something yourself! Maybe the poor guy has been gone for days, and I should give him the benefit of the doubt that he really is starving; but I guess I’ve always pictured him returning from an afternoon excursion…
He seems to have little understanding or value of his birthright and quickly sells it away for a bowl of soup made by his scheming brother. The deal is made and life goes on, and Esau really hasn’t won any brownie points from me.
Until I reached chapter 28 and read something that made me pity him.
After Jacob steals the blessing of the firstborn (different than the birthright and stew incident), Jacob runs away to his uncle’s house to avoid the wrath of Esau. However, before Jacob leaves, Esau overhears his father’s admonition that Jacob not take a wife from the nearby Canaanites. Esau must have glanced at his two Hittite wives and felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. “So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath…” (28:8-9).
Deep down, Esau just wanted his father’s acceptance. He wanted his father’s blessing. He was just looking for approval.
Aren’t we all?
But he wasn’t the only one in seeking approval.
Once Jacob reaches his uncle Laban, his sights are set on Laban’s beautiful youngest daughter, Rachel. Jacob agrees to work seven years so that he can take Rachel as his wife. “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her” (29:20).
When the wedding day finally comes, Leah, Rachel’s older sister, is the one given to Jacob. Behind the veils, and under the cover of night, Jacob doesn’t seem to know the difference. (I’m sure a few extra glasses of wine could be to blame as well.) But when he awoke the next morning and saw Leah lying beside him, he scrambled out of bed shocked that the woman wasn’t Rachel, and angrily went to find Laban.
Laban explained that it simply wasn’t their custom the marry the younger daughter off before the older. Perhaps when he made that seven year commitment to Jacob he assumed he could marry his less attractive daughter off by then. When it didn’t happen, I guess he thought Jacob would be okay with getting a different woman. Or perhaps this was his plan all along. In an effort to calm Jacob’s anger, Laban made another deal with his nephew: agree to work another seven years and Jacob can have Rachel too.
I feel for Leah. How must she have felt being pawned off on Jacob? It must have been hard being married to a man you knew didn’t want you. Her only hope was that her ability to give Jacob children might win his affection. She has four boys. Each one is given a name reflecting Leah’s belief that the Lord has seen her affliction and given her a child to win her husband over. Only the last son, Judah, is given a name that means praise. When he is born, Leah simply praises God for he son. She seems content in the Lord even without her husband’s affection.
At this point I can’t help but root for Leah. She’s been through it but it seems her heart is truly resting in the Lord.
Then Rachel gets jealous. She is unable to have kids and blames Jacob for it. When he argues back that it’s God’s doing, not his, Rachel gives her servant Bilhah as another wife for Jacob, a surrogate mother of sorts. Bilhah has two sons, Dan and Naphtali.
Then Leah realizes she’s not bearing any more children, so she gives Jacob her servant. And so the baby wars begin. (Sounds like a reality TV show, doesn’t it?)
It’s a back and forth of trying to win approval, trying to prove themselves, trying to out-conceive the other wife.
Once again that desire to be loved and approved of is driving this whole circus.
How many times do we let ourselves get caught up in the drama and competitions of trying to prove ourselves to others? How many times do we let ourselves be defined by the opinions of others?
God’s already said who we are! We are His children–Beloved, Chosen, Wanted, Worth it! We are HIS! And His opinion is the only one that matters.
And more than His approval, He has given us His love. Freely, unconditionally, abundantly.
He has given us himself.
Live in that truth, dear heart. Stop letting the words of others have so much power over you. Stop thinking you need to win them over. You already have the Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, Savior of the world, on your side. Let His opinion be enough.
Live in His love!
Photo by Brittany Taylor