JACOB, ESAU, and the birthright


Psalm 105:8, ESV

He remembers his covenant forever,
the word that he commanded,
for a thousand generations,


Genesis 25:19-21, NIrV

19 Here is the story of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac.

Abraham was the father of Isaac. 20 Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah. She was the daughter of Bethuel, the Aramean from Paddan Aram. She was also the sister of Laban, the Aramean.

21 Rebekah couldn’t have children. So Isaac prayed to the Lord for her. And the Lord answered his prayer. His wife Rebekah became pregnant. 


God promised to grow Abraham’s family into a great nation of people. But old Abe had a huge problem: his wife Sarah was very old and her body was unable to become pregnant. But even the impossible is possible for the all-powerful God of the universe. He gave Sarah a son at the incredible age of 90! When her miracle boy Isaac grew up and was ready to start a family of his own, he ran into the same problem. His wife, Rebekah, couldn’t have a baby, either! So Isaac the miracle child prayed that God would give his wife Rebekah a miracle child, too. And guess what? God did it again!

+ How old was Isaac when he married Rebekah? (vs. 19)

+ Why was God able to give babies to people who weren’t able to have them? 


Genesis 25:22-23, NIrV

22 The babies struggled with each other inside her. She said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to ask the Lord what she should do.

23 The Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your body.

    Two tribes that are now inside you will be separated.

One nation will be stronger than the other.

    The older son will serve the younger one.”


If you place your hand on the belly of a pregnant woman, you can sometimes feel it wiggle as the baby inside her kicks. But to Rebekah, it felt like her growing child was practicing karate in her body! Like Isaac, she prayed and asked God for help. God answered her prayer by giving Rebekah three bits of shocking news. First, there were actually two little twin ninjas doing karate in her body! Second, the future families of these two boys would grow into great big nations. And third, the firstborn boy would be stronger, but would grow up to become the servant of his baby brother.

+ What caused Rebekah to pray to God? (vs. 22)

+ How could God know what would happen to these twin boys in the future?


Genesis 25:24-26, NIrV

24 The time came for Rebekah to have her babies. There were twin boys in her body. 25 The first one to come out was red. His whole body was covered with hair. So they named him Esau. 26 Then his brother came out. His hand was holding onto Esau’s heel. So he was named Jacob. Isaac was 60 years old when Rebekah had them.


When the big day finally came, Rebekah gave birth to two boys, exactly as God said she would. But her twins were far from identical! Baby #1 was a hairy little guy. This fuzzy baby was red, so his parents named him “Esau,” a name that sounded like “red” in their language. When furry little Esau came out of his mother, there was something surprising stuck to his foot: his little brother’s hand! It was almost like this little guy didn’t want to let his big bro be born first! Because he had grabbed onto his brother’s heel, they called baby #2 “Jacob”, a name which means “heel grabber.”

+ God told Rebekah, “Your older son will serve the younger.” Which twin was older? Which was younger?

+ How old was Isaac when the twins were born? (vs. 26)


Genesis 25:27-28, NIRV

27 The boys grew up. Esau became a skillful hunter. He liked the open country. But Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac liked the meat of wild animals. So Esau was his favorite son. But Rebekah’s favorite was Jacob.


Isaac and Rebekah’s twin babies grew into men. These two guys acted about as differently as they looked. With Jacob and Esau, it seemed like God had made two complete opposites! Big brother Esau was a loud and outdoorsy guy who loved to hunt food for his dad. Little brother Jacob was a homebody. He enjoyed quiet days at home with his mom. As a result, Esau became his dad’s #1 dude and Jacob was his mother’s #1 man. This was a problem. While it’s fine to have a favorite food or favorite color, it’s always a terrible idea for a mom or dad to have a favorite child!  

+ Why was Esau Isaac’s favorite? (vs. 28)

+ What problems can happen when a mom or dad has a favorite child?


Genesis 25:29-34, NIRV

29 One day Jacob was cooking some stew. Esau came in from the open country. He was very hungry. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick! I’m very hungry! Let me have some of that red stew!” That’s why he was also named Edom.

31 Jacob replied, “First sell me the rights that belong to you as the oldest son in the family.”

32 “Look, I’m dying of hunger,” Esau said. “What good are those rights to me?”

33 But Jacob said, “First promise to sell me your rights.” So Esau promised to do it. He sold Jacob all the rights that belonged to him as the oldest son.

34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. Esau ate and drank. Then he got up and left.

So Esau didn’t value the rights that belonged to him as the oldest son.


In Bible times, a firstborn son had something called a “birthright.” When a father died, all he owned was given to his kids. The firstborn would be given double what the other kids received. Isaac was rich, so firstborn Esau’s birthright was worth more than a million bowls of stew. Despite that, Esau traded away his birthright to his little brother Jacob to satisfy his empty belly. This was as foolish as trading away the Mona Lisa for a slice of pizza! This terrible trade was the beginning of a lifelong pattern for the twins: Esau making foolish decisions and Jacob’s tricks causing tons of trouble for his family.

+ When Jacob asked Esau to sell his birthright, what did Esau say? Was this true? (vs. 32)

+ According to verse 34, how did Esau feel about his birthright?


Genesis 26:1-6, NIRV

1 There was very little food in the land. The same thing had been true earlier, in Abraham’s time. Isaac went to Abimelek in Gerar. Abimelek was the king of the Philistines. 2 The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt. Live in the land where I tell you to live. 3 Stay there for a while. I will be with you and give you my blessing. I will give all these lands to you and your children after you. And I will keep my word that I gave to your father Abraham. 4 I will make your children after you as many as the stars in the sky. And I will give them all these lands. All nations on earth will be blessed because of your children. 5 I will do all these things because Abraham obeyed me. He did everything I required. He kept my commands, my rules and my instructions.” 6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar.


In our world, there are sometimes seasons of way too much sun and way too little rain. When this happens, there's not enough water for plants to grow and not enough food for people and animals to eat. This is what is known as a famine. 

When faced with a famine, the people in Bible times had two choices: sit tight and hope for rain or travel to a far-off land and hope to find food. As a famine hit his homeland of Canaan, Isaac chose the second option. He prepared to pack up and head to the land of Egypt, hoping to find food and save his family from starving.

But before Isaac could step a single toe outside of the land of Canaan, he was greeted by a very special visitor: God! As he had done with Isaac's dad over a hundred years before, the Lord God came to speak with Isaac.

As you read the message God spoke to Isaac, you might have thought, "That sounds familiar! Where have I heard that before?" The four promises God gave to Isaac were the exact same promises he’d made to Abraham. God promised to give Isaac a great blessing, grow his family into a great nation, give his family the great land of Canaan to live in, and use Isaac’s family to be a blessing to the entire world.

God had a reason for repeating his promises. Isaac’s father, Abraham, was long dead. I’m sure Isaac wondered, “Now that my dad is gone, will God really do all those things he said he would do?” Repeating his promises to Isaac was God’s way of saying, “Yes! I’m going to keep every single promise I made to Abraham!”

As we continue our journey through Genesis, we’ll learn that Abraham and Isaac’s family was far from perfect. They made many choices just as foolish as Esau’s terrible trade. And they did many deeds just as tricky and unkind as Jacob asking his own twin brother to trade a million-dollar birthright for a cheap bowl of stew!

But God had no problem growing a great nation using mothers who could not have babies. With that same power, God was able to bless the entire world using a family filled with fools! Many years later, a special child was born into that foolish family. He was the many-times-great grandson of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Unlike those before him, he didn’t follow in the foolish footsteps of Esau or lie, cheat, and steal like Jacob.

That special grandson was Jesus, the Son of God! He came to keep God’s promise to use Abraham’s family to bless the entire world. He did it by rescuing us all from the forever death our sins earned us. As God’s Son, Jesus was completely perfect and totally powerful! These two traits made him the perfect person to save us! Since he never sinned, Jesus could die in place for our sins. And because he was all-powerful, he could pay for all of our sins at once, then rise from the dead to prove it!

+ Why was Isaac planning to leave Canaan, the land God promised to his family? (vs. 1)

+ Write down two of the promises God made to Isaac. (vs. 3-4)

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