How Jacob Stole His Brother's Blessing
Esau and Jacob
Genesis xxv: 27, to xxvii: 46.
Abraham died, his son Isaac lived in the land of
Canaan. Like his father, Isaac's home was a tent;
and around him were the tents of his people, and
many flocks of sheep and herds of cattle feeding
wherever they could find grass to eat and water to
Isaac and his wife Rebekah had two children. The
older was named Esau and the younger Jacob. Esau was
a man of the woods, and fond of hunting; and he was
rough, and covered with hair. Even as a boy he was
fond of hunting with his bow and arrow. Jacob was
quiet and thoughtful, staying at home, and caring
for the flocks of his father. Isaac loved Esau more
than Jacob, because Esau brought to his father that
which he had killed in his hunting; but Rebekah
liked Jacob, because she saw that he was wise and
careful in his work.
Among the people in those lands, when a man dies,
his older son receives twice as much as the younger
of what the father has owned. This was called his
"birthright," for it was his right as the oldest
born. So Esau, as the older, had a "birthright" to
more of Isaac's possessions than Jacob. And besides
this, there was the privilege of the promise of God
that the family of Isaac should receive great
Now Esau, when he grew up, did not care for his
birthright or the blessing which God had promised.
But Jacob, who was a wise man, wished greatly to
have the birthright which would come to Esau when
his father died. Once, when Esau came home, hungry
and tired from hunting in the fields, he saw that
Jacob had a bowl of something that he had just
cooked for dinner. And Esau said: "Give me some of
that red stuff in the dish. Will you not give me
some? I am hungry."
And Jacob answered, "I will give it to you, if you
will first of all sell to me your birthright."
And Esau said, "What is the use of the birthright to
me now when I am almost starving to death? You can
have my birthright if you will give me something to
Then Esau made Jacob a solemn promise to give to
Jacob his birthright, all for a bowl of food. It was
not right for Jacob to deal so selfishly with his
brother; but it was very wrong in Esau to care so
little for his birthright, and with it God's
Some time after this, when Esau was forty years old,
he married two wives. Though this would be very
wicked in our times it was not supposed to be wrong
then; for even good men then had more than one wife.
But Esau's two wives were women from the people of
Canaan, who worshipped idols, and not the true God.
And they taught their children also to pray to
idols, so that those who came from Esau, the people
who were his descendants, lost all knowledge of God,
and became very wicked. But this was long after that
Isaac and Rebekah were very sorry to have their son
Esau marry women who prayed to idols and not to God;
but still Isaac loved his active son Esau more than
his quiet son Jacob.
Isaac became at last very old and feeble, and so
blind that he could see scarcely anything. One day
he said to Esau:
"My son, I am very old, and do not know how soon I
must die. But before I die, I wish to give to you,
as my older son, God's blessing upon you, and your
children, and your descendants. Go out into the
fields, and with your bow and arrows shoot some
animal that is good for food, and make me a dish of
cooked meat, such as you know I love; and after I
have eaten it, I will give you the blessing."
Esau ought to have told his father that the blessing
did not belong to him, for he had sold it to his
brother Jacob. But he did not tell his father. He
went out into the fields hunting, to find the kind
of meat which his father liked the most.
Now Rebekah was listening, and heard all that Isaac
had said to Esau. She knew that it would be better
for Jacob to have the blessing than for Esau; and
she loved Jacob more than Esau. So she called to
Jacob, and told him what Isaac had said to Esau, and
"Now, my son, do what I tell you and you will get
the blessing instead of your brother. Go to the
flocks and bring to me two little kids from the
goats: and I will cook them just like the meat which
Esau cooks for your father. And you will bring it to
your father; and he will think that you are Esau,
and will give you the blessing; and it really
belongs to you."
But Jacob said, "You know that Esau and I are not
alike. His neck and arms are covered with hair,
while mine are smooth. My father will feel of me,
and he will find that I am not Esau; and then,
instead of giving me a blessing, I am afraid that he
will curse me."
But Rebekah answered her son, "Never mind, you do as
I have told you, and I will take care of you. If any
harm comes, it will come to me; so do not be afraid,
but go and bring the meat."
Then Jacob went and brought a pair of little kids
from the flock, and from them his mother made a dish
of food, so that it would be to the taste just as
Isaac liked it. Then Rebekah found some of Esau's
clothes, and dressed Jacob in them; and she placed
on his neck and his hands some of the skins of the
kids, so that his neck and hands would feel rough
and hairy to the touch.
Then Jacob came into his father's tent, bringing the
dinner, and speaking as much like Esau as he could,
"Here I am, my father."
And Isaac said, "Who are you, my son?"
And Jacob answered, "I am Esau, your oldest son. I
have done as you bade me; now sit up, and eat the
dinner that I have made; and then give me your
blessing, as you promised me."
And Isaac said, "How is it that you found it so
Jacob answered, "Because the Lord your God showed me
where to go, and gave me good success."
Isaac did not feel certain that it was his son Esau,
and he said, "Come nearer and let me feel you, so
that I may know that you are really my son Esau."
And Jacob went up close to Isaac's bed, and Isaac
felt of his face, and his neck, and his hands, and
"The voice sounds like Jacob, but the hands are the
hands of Esau. Are you really my son Esau?"
And Jacob again told a lie to his father, and said,
Then the old man ate the food that Jacob had brought
to him, and he kissed Jacob, believing him to be
Esau, and he gave him the blessing, saying to him:
"May God give you the dew of heaven, and the
richness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine.
May nations bow down to you and people become your
servants. May you be the master over your brother;
and may your family and descendants that shall come
from you rule over his family and his descendants.
Blessed be those that bless you, and cursed be those
that curse you."
Just as soon as Jacob had received the blessing he
rose up and hastened away. He had scarcely gone out,
when Esau came in from his hunting, with the dish of
food that he had cooked, and he said:
"Let my father sit up, and eat the food that I have
brought, and give me the blessing."
And Isaac said, "Why, who are you?"
Esau answered, "I am your son, your oldest son
And Isaac trembled and said, "Who then is the one
that came in, and brought to me food? And I have
eaten his food, and have blessed him; yes, and he
shall be blessed."
When Esau heard this he knew that he had been
cheated; and he cried aloud, with a bitter cry, "O
my father, my brother has taken away my blessing,
just as he took away my birthright! But cannot you
give me another blessing, too? Have you given
everything to my brother? And Isaac told him all
that he had said to Jacob.
He said, "I have told him that he shall be the
ruler, and that all his brothers and their children
will be under him. I have promised him the richest
ground for his crops, and rains from heaven to make
them grow. All these things have been spoken, and
they must come to pass. What is left for me to
promise you, my son?"
But Esau begged for another blessing, and Isaac
"My son, your dwelling shall be of the riches of the
earth, and of the dew of heaven. You shall live by
your sword, and your descendants shall serve his
descendants. But in time to come they shall break
loose, and shall shake off the yoke of your
brother's rule, and shall be free."
All this came to pass many years afterward. The
people who came from Esau lived in a land called
Edom, on the south of the land of Israel, where
Jacob's descendants lived. And after a time the
Israelites became rulers over the Edomites; and,
later still, the Edomites made themselves free from
the Israelites. But all this took place hundreds of
years after both Esau and Jacob had passed away. The
blessing of God's covenant or promise came to
Israel, and not to the people from Esau.
It was better that Jacob's descendants, those who
came after him, should have the blessing, than that
Esau's people should have it; for Jacob's people
worshipped God, and Esau's people walked in the way
of the idols, and became wicked. But it was very
wrong in Jacob to obtain the blessing in the way
that he obtained it.
Esau and Jacob