“When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (Genesis 25:27-28)
Once again, the Bible tells very normal, familial stories. Here, the Bible tells the story of Issac and Rebekah, who are excited to be parents. In those ancient days, before ultrasound procedures, they must have been shocked and then thrilled to have twin boys. In that patriarchal society, the birth of a boy was to be celebrated more than a girl. To have twin boys was more than twice as blessed.
Anyone who has ever had twins knows that it can go one of two ways. They can either become so close that it feels as if they do not need anyone but the other. They can seem to speak their own language only the other knows. Twins can also be at odds. Being exactly the same age and if the twins are the same sex, competition can sometimes tear their relationship apart. This is want happened to Isaac and Rebekah’s sons, Esau and Jacob.
Isaac and Rebekah did not have the benefit of Dr. Spook’s child rearing manuals, and these two young parents made an age old mistake. The Bible tells us that Isaac loved Esau, and the gentler Jacob was loved by Rebekah. It sounds as if the family unit was all but split in two.
Esau was described as a man’s man. He was strong, rough-and-tumble. Jacob was gentle and smaller. In the hunter-gatherer society of the time, men where honored for their strength and hunting prowess. It is not too far fetched to assume that Rebekah loved Jacob because he did not get the love and affection from his father.
Have things changed all that much in all these thousands of years? Many families struggle with how to raise children. Some families struggle with embracing one child over another. In our society, today’s boys and young men who are gentle, are treated as less of a man at school and even at home. They are bullied, ignored, and made to feel somehow unacceptable. It is important that this archaic and cruel understanding of masculinity be addressed and transformed.
The story of Esau and Jacob continues for many chapters. It takes decades to restore their relationship. Through the years, they hurt each other unnecessarily. Their mutual pain bled over into many other relationships. Today, pray for those siblings who struggle to remain close and supportive. Also, pray for our society that mistakenly diminishes men for not fitting a certain stereotype. Gay or straight, some men spend their lives feeling unacceptable because they are not somehow, tough, or manly enough. Our society can do better. God loved both Esau and Jacob, but Jacob was uniquely blessed by God. We need to be sure to bless the Jacobs in our lives and affirm all forms of what it means to be a man.