"Jacob Have I Loved"

Here's how the story is usually told:

"Isaac and Rebecca had twin boys. One was bad and one was good. Esau was the good boy and Isaac really loved him. But Jacob was a rascal, always getting into trouble when he was a kid. He was a very tricky boy that's why he was named Jacob, which means "supplanter and deceiver". When he was a teenager he tricked Esau out of his birthright. The birthright was the inheritance. Isaac was very wealthy and Jacob was a bit of a money grubber so he tricked poor Esau and stole his birthright from him. Not only that Jacob lied to his poor old dad and Rebecca helped him in his lies (what a bad mother!). Later Jacob wrestled with an angel and the angel changed Jacob's name to Israel. From then on Jacob was a good boy, well, at least better then he was before."

Sound familiar? About 90% of this is incorrect. Let's start from the beginning and see where the problem starts.

Gen. 25:23

Here we see a prophecy given that the elder (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob). Then Rebecca gives birth to the twin boys. Esau is first. He is rough and hairy so he is named Esau. Esau in Hebrew means rough and hairy. Jacob comes next. He is holding on to Esau's heel on the way out of the birth canal. So he is named Ya-ah-cove. That's how babies were named in ancient times. Yahcove in Hebrew means "One who grabs by the heel" It does not mean supplanter or deceiver as many notes will tell you in your translation of the Bible. Think about it, what mother in their right mind would have a baby and look at their new born infant and say "Now there's a supplanter if I ever saw one. That baby is a deceiver, I'll tell you that!" I know it sounds ridicules, but that's exactly what we are taught in Sunday School. Esau was named simply by how he looked and Jacob was named simply for what he was doing.

Let's read on.

In chapter 25:27 we begin to learn about the character of the 2 men. It says "the boys grew up and Esau became a skillful hunter a man of the open country while Jacob was a plain man dwelling in tents." Notice here it says man not boy (We'll get more into their ages later).

So here we get an understanding of what these 2 men were like. Esau is the outdoors type, kind of a man's man. But Jacob is kinda plain (some translations say "quiet man dwelling in tents") he seems almost boring and a bit of a mama's boy. Let's look at that word "plain" in Hebrew. This word in Hebrew would be pronounced "TAWM". It is used 18 times in the Old Testament.  It is translated by the KJV (King James Version) with these 3 English words

1. Perfect: Job 1:1

2. Upright: Prov. 10:29

3. Undefiled: Song of Solomon 5:2

Of the 18 times it is used these 3 words make up 17 of those times. One time (and one time only) the word TAWM is used as the word "plain" and that's when describing one of the Jewish patriarchs. Why did the KJV translators write "plain" instead of upright, undefiled or perfect? Because when the KJV was being translated England was in the process of driving out the Jews from their country and confiscating everything the Jews owned. So the translators weren't about to say anything nice about the Jews if they didn't have to. So they slanted the translation when they could get away with it. This was one of those times. This scripture should've said "And Jacob was a (perfect, upright or undefiled) man dwelling in tents" What a different picture that would've given us rather then "plain". We never would've gotten a misrepresented story concerning Jacob had we read this from the very beginning.

Let's go on to the next part of the story... the birthright.

There are 3 parts to the Birthright given to the oldest son.

  1. A double portion of the physical inheritance: goods, land, flocks etc,

      Ref.: Deut. 21:17 Divided by the # of heirs + one: double to the first born

  2. The spiritual birthright as priest/minister over the family.

       Ref.: Exd. 28:1 Arron, oldest son

  3. The special blessing

       Ref.: Gen 27:26-41

Esau did not sell his physical birthright. When Isaac died, Esau received his double portion of his father's wealth (Gen. 27:29). Jacob did NOT receive the double portion.

What was the spiritual birthright for the descendants of Abraham? It was the right to have Messiah born through that line!! In other words, if you received the spiritual birthright... Yeshua (Jesus) would be your great great etc. grandson. This was of no concern to Esau because there wasn't any money involved. He says "what good is this birthright to me? (Gen 25:32) But Esau did want the special blessing. With the special blessing went: "I will bless them that bless thee and curse them that curse thee" (Gen 27:29) Also included in the special blessing was material prosperity... Esau did want that!

Let's go back for a moment to when Jacob was cooking the lentil stew. What was Jacob doing cooking this stew? Every year there was a yearly memorial. A pot of this stew was to be cooked by the eldest son and he was supposed to fast for that 1 day. At this meal special words or actions of the one being remembered are recounted so that the coming generations will not lose their heritage and the knowledge of their forefathers. Isaac conducted these yearly memorials of Father Abraham as long as he was healthy enough to do so. He stopped when his eyes had dimmed and he grew too weak to perform the ritual. He was about 136 years old at that time. (Gen.27:1) When Isaac was too old to act as priest of the family, Esau should've then taken over the spiritual leadership of the family. But was Esau doing that? No! He was out hunting in the field. Who was cooking the stew? Jacob. Who cared about spiritual matters? Jacob. So let's look at really happened here.

Here was Jacob, taking care of the spiritual aspects of the family while Esau was out doing what he liked to do...hunting. Esau comes in and says "Quick give me some of that stew I'm starving" (Gen 25:30). Jacob says "Sell me your (spiritual) birthright" (vs 31). Esau says "Look, I am about to die," Yes I'm sure Esau was hungry after fasting for the whole day while out in the fields and he should've continued fasting for the rest of the day. But you don't die of starvation from fasting for 1 day. He's clearly exaggerating here. And he says "what good is it to me?". It was of no good to Esau, had it been about money, it would've done him some good in his thinking. But this was nothing to him. What good would he get out of something that wouldn't benefit him in the here and now? This man was a profane man. Sound harsh? Hebrews 12:16 "Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person such as Esau, who for one meal sold his birthright"

It seems to me that many people have this entire story backwards. I'm given the impression that Esau is this poor guy who is swindled by his clever brother. That' many people's opinion. What's God's opinion? Whatever His opinion is, that should also be our opinion right? (Malachi 1 vs 2) "I have loved you says the Lord, but you ask "How have you loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother says the Lord yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated" You can interpret God 'hating' however you like, but it is clear that he didn't care for Esau much. And notice God didn't say "I hated his sin". I'm not saying we should go around hating individuals but I am saying that if God says He loves Jacob and He hates Esau, I wouldn't want to be the one to put down and degrade Jacob and uplift or defend Esau. God was clear in expressing how He feels and I'd rather be on His side.

Now some people will say to this, "That was in the Old Testament, when Jesus came it was all about love, not hate. Here's my reply: Romans 9:13 (New Testament) "As it is written, Jacob have I loved and Esau I have hated". God felt so strongly about this He had it repeated 2000 years later in the Book of Romans for all to see.

Let's clear up one other thing. Did Jacob steal Esau's birthright? Did he trick him? Did he deceive Esau? No he did not. What does the scripture say?

(Gen 25:31) Jacob said "Then SELL me your birthright". He didn't steal it, Esau SOLD it to him, he even swore an oath! Esau wasn't going to die from not eating for 1 day, he didn't have to sell it to Jacob. He didn't care about it so he sold it for a pot of lentils. Again, he sold it to Jacob fair and square. No one was twisting Esau's arm. Who was really trying to cheat? Esau was! later we find Esau going to get the birthright, the birthright he had already sold! He sold it then tried to renig on the deal. Who was trying to cheat who? Jacob was simply trying to get what was already his. Did he lie to his father Isaac? Yes he did, he lied 3 times. Ever wonder why Isaac was so persistent in trying to find out if it was really Esau he was talking to? First he says "Who are you?" he then questions Jacob again suspiciously, then finally asks Jacob to come over so he can feel his arm to see if it's really Esau. Why all the suspicion? Because it had already been foretold that the elder (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob). Isaac knew! He was trying to bless Esau, his favorite son, even though he knew God didn't want him to. Rebecca was trying to get Jacob was he was supposed to have by helping him. Was she right for doing it in this manner? No she wasn't, but she was far from being a bad mother. What she should've done was allow God to take care of this Himself. But you could see how she would've been concerned that her husband was going to go against the will of God. She was a fine wife, mother and woman of God.

Let's move to the next point. Then you hear people say "Well, after he got his name changed to Israel, then he became a better guy". Let's take a look at that. First of all Jacob never got his name changed. Abram did. Notice when Abram's name was changed to Abraham, what was he then called throughout the rest of the Bible? He was called Abraham. But this isn't so with Jacob. Why's that? Because Jacob's name wasn't changed at all, he was given a title: A Man Who Is A Prince With God- Yis ra el (Israel). That's what Israel means. That's why we see later on it where it says "I am the Father of Abraham Isaac and Jacob" Not Abraham Isaac and Israel" You never see that anywhere. That's because God never changed Jacobs name! When God changes a name, it's changed forever... like Abraham's.

So, did Jacob do some wrong? Yes, he did. He lied to his father 3 times. There is no excuse for lying. I have lied in my life and there wasn't any excuse for that either. But here's another thing to notice. These 3 lies of Jacobs are the only sins recorded concerning Jacob. For all we know, they may have been the only sins he ever committed. If this is true, then it wouldn't be hard to see Jacob as a perfect man, a TAWM man, dwelling in tents.

Let's recap-

1. Jacob doesn't mean supplanter or deceiver.

2. Jacob didn't steal the birthright, it was sold to him

3. Did Jacob get the physical birthright ie. the money? No, Esau got that.

4. Was Rebecca a bad mother? No, she was trying to get Jacob what rightfully belonged to him.

5. Was Esau the poor kid who was tricked out of his inheritance? No. Esau, the old man, got his money and still tried to cheat Jacob out of what Esau had sold him.

6. Did Jacob get his name changed? No, Jacob was given a title, his name was never changed.

7. After he was given a title, did he then "straighten up"? No. Jacob was good from the beginning, he was a perfect man, an undefiled man, an upright man, he was a TAWM man dwelling in tents.

8. Will many have to apologize to Jacob when they see him in Heaven? Yes, I think they will.

This deals with the ages of Esau and Jacob at the time of the birthright story. These twins were not teenagers as you might think. They were old men.... 76 years old!

How old were the brother's when the birthright story took place?

A. We have to start with the age of Joseph in Egypt and work backwards.

  1. Gen. 30:46-47 Joseph was 30 years old when he became #2 in the land under Pharaoh; 37 at the end of 7 years of plenty.

  2. Gen 45:6 In the second year of famine the household of Jacob came to Egypt, Joseph is now 39 years old

  3. Gen. 47:9 In the second year of famine, when Jacob came to Egypt he was 130 years old

  4. Subtracting Joseph's age of 39 from Jacobs age of 130 we find that Jacob was 91 years old when Joseph was born.

B. Now to the years Jacob worked for his uncle Laban.

  1. Gen 29: 18-26 Jacob worked 7 years for Rachel: but Laban gave him Leah instead.

  2 Gen 29: 27-28 Jacob agreed to work another 7 years because he loved Rachel so much

  3. Gen. 30:25-26 Joseph, firstborn of Rachel. Jacobs eleventh son; was born at the end of Jacob's 14 year contract with Laban

  4. Since Jacob was 91 when Joseph was born we know he was 77 years old when he came to his uncle Laban. 91 minus 14 years = 77

  5. Gen 31:38 Jacob agreed to work another 6 years after Joseph's birth; returning to Canaan at 97 years old (7+7+6= a tottle of 20 years working for Laban)

  6.  Since the journey to Padam Aram would take less then one year, Jacob was about 76 years old when he fled from Esau because of the birthright.

By Stanley Chester