Day 10  Genesis 27:1-38 ... The Cheater

If Abraham is renowned for faith, his grandson Jacob is renowned for treachery.  A twin, he was born with one hand grasping the heel of his brother who preceded him, and his parents memorialized that scene by giving him a name meaning “he grasps the heel,” or “he deceives.”

In ancient times, the oldest son had two clear advantages: He would receive the family birthright and the father’s blessing.  The birthright, like an inheritance document, granted the right to be in charge of the family and its property.  Jacob got the birthright away from Esau by striking a bargain with his brother who was on the verge of starvation (chapter 25).

For most people of that day, the blessing represented a kind of magical power that conveyed property from one generation to another; for Isaac, it represented far more.  He was transferring to his son the covenant blessing passed down from his father Abraham, a blessing that would one day produce a whole nation of God’s favored people.  This chapter records one of Jacob’s most elaborate tricks: a ruse to get from his tottery father the blessing that rightfully belonged to his elder brother.

As you read these stories, you might find your sympathies leaning toward poor Esau, who got tricked out of his blessing and sold his birthright for a hot meal.  But the Bible comes down clearly on the side of Jacob.  Esau is blamed for “despising his birthright” (Genesis 25:34; Hebrews 12:16).

Jacob, willing to lie, cheat, and steal to get in on God’s blessing, would have flunked anyone’s morality test (Genesis surely does not commend those tricks-Jacob had to pay dearly for them).  Yet his life offers up an important lesson: God can deal with anyone, no matter how flawed, who passionately pursues him.  The story of Jacob gives hope to imperfect people everywhere.

Point to Ponder: In Old Testament times, names like Isaac ("laughter") or Jacob ("grasper") carried great significance.  What kind of descriptive name would fit you?